Friday, December 21, 2012

From Rakish Queensland Islander To Delusional Prophet

Andrew Martin in the late 1980s; during his years on Middle Percy Island, 
he became increasingly preoccupied with religion.

Here is a news story from Queensland about a man who's life was sent into a tail spin because of Armstrongism and British Israelism.

Religious fundamentalism and isolated, self-sufficient communities often go hand-in-hand, and Martin increasingly saw Middle Percy as a lifeboat in a world "drowning in sin". But how did an educated, carefree adventurer come to embrace such grim notions? Jon Hickling - who, with his wife, Liz, and their two young sons, lived on Middle Percy for 12 years - solves that abiding mystery with two words: egg cartons.

"The story Andy told us," he explains, "was that sometime in the late '60s, the Whites [former leaseholders] sent him over some egg cartons he needed on the stores boat. They were wrapped in a magazine from the Worldwide Church of God, led by someone called [Garner Ted] Armstrong. Andy wasn't religious up to that point, although he grew up in the Church of England, but when he unwrapped that magazine, and read it from cover to cover, he just went, 'Wow!' He felt like he'd been hit on the head by a thunderbolt and had seen the light."

Martin subscribed to the magazine, and became a convert to the church's theory, known as British Israelism, which holds that white races (especially the British) are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, and are God's "chosen people". Before falling from favour for his philandering, Armstrong - described by one US writer as preaching to a "subculture of lonely, frightened, disoriented Americans" - also had a worldwide radio audience of millions, including Andy Martin.

By the early '90s, with his physical health in decline, Martin had become unbalanced. "He believed he was being communicated with directly by God as some sort of prophet," Hickling tells me. "It was very interesting, to say the least."

The Hicklings were practical yachties who'd arrived on Middle Percy in 1989. They built their own house near the homestead - "We couldn't have lived with Andy; others tried and just couldn't cope" - worked long hours improving the island's gardens and infrastructure, taught their sons via distance education, and did their best to look after the evermore erratic Martin.

In 1996, Martin left the island, telling the Hicklings he had to return to England to warn the British people of God's coming retribution unless they changed their evil ways. He promised to contact Queensland's Department of Natural Resources (now Environment and Resource Management) and have the Hicklings named joint leaseholders in recognition of the effort and money they'd put into Middle Percy. But because the latest 10-year pastoral lease was soon to expire, the department declined - a fateful glitch the Hicklings weren't aware of until it was too late.


Douglas Becker said...

Yet another victim of the curse of Herbert Armstrong.

Byker Bob said...

This has an interesting parallel to the time when the AC Press, (which had then been sold to the W.A. Krueger Co.) began printing and mailing many of the Church of Scientology publications. At that point, a scientologist had actually been hired by Krueger's H.R., and began working with us in the mailing system.

I'd only known of Scientology by seeing that term on bumper stickers up to that point. I had just recently been leaving WCG, and really was not looking for another religious experience at that point, but did read the publications we were mailing, found it interesting that someone actually held to such beliefs, but had no desire to join up.

Based on my reaction to that, I seriously doubt that had I been exposed to WCG literature or TWT broadcast independently of my parental figures, that I ever would have been motivated to throw in with the Armstrongs. I'm really not a joiner, having always been (as my grandfather once told me) "too damned independent".

Herman Hesse wrote a novel about an independent man's spiritual journey, and called it "Siddhartha". About two years ago, a friend recommended that I read it, which I did during all the waiting process which always surrounds jury duty. I found considerable identity with the character in that book, and though I am not a Buddhist, feel that the main character's experience has a universal quality to it as regards us independent types.


Anonymous said...

Wow it's incredible how much pain and suffering GTA and HWA have spread all over the globe! I guess what this poor fellow turned into i.e. a sufferer of paranoid delusions and dementia says it all! And looking at the never ending dysfunction within the ACOGs it's not at all surprising really since who in their right mind would ever stomach the merry-go-round of the ACOGs doctrinal divisions, organizational splits and unbiblical worldview if they had looked into the future at the start and seen the true price they'd have to pay to believe or join them in the long run?!