Thursday, April 11, 2013

The COG Marine

Here is an excerpt from an article on the Painful Truth web site about "Image First".  Sadly this is not an isolated case in the Church of God.  This kind of behavior happened all the time and still does today in the various splinter groups.


Michael stood alone in the middle of the foyer of the Seattle Masonic Hall, people swirling around and past him without interacting with him, a solitary island in the midst of a sea of people. I noticed he was new and that apparently, no one was interested in getting to know him. It made me feel sad. I went over and introduced myself to him and began learning about him. Over the next few weeks and months, I had him over to dinner with my family several times and we even went and worked out together at the gym. I learned about this “good guy” and he had a lot of depth that most people would not expect.

Michael shared with me his story about how he entered into the Marines at the age of 30. It was a matter of honor that his mates referred to him as “the Old Man” because they respected the fact that he stayed in there with them even though they were mostly a decade younger than he. He wanted to be a Marine. His father was a Marine.

Before the Passover I had broken my toes and at the Passover Service it was Michael who was to wash my feet. He looked me in the eye and said, “I ain’t gonna mess with no broken toes,” whereupon he washed my one foot without the broken toes. I washed his feet.

It was during the Days of Unleavened Bread that he showed up in our apartment complex in the parking lot. My wife and I looked at each other in dismay at him on the heavy duty motorcycle he had ridden on. He was all excited about it. He was a sincere believer who was going to take his brother out in the woods and talk to him about his new faith. We didn’t say anything and hoped for the best.

It was shortly after this that we learned that he was on his way on his motorcycle to prepare to go out to the woods when he got clipped on his head with the mirror of a semi. It removed the top of his head and he ended up in a coma in the hospital. His face had not been affected so it looked like he was in a peaceful sleep.

Each day for nearly 40 days, I would go down to the hospital after work in the afternoon and would sit with him and talk to him because I had heard that those in a coma often heard those talking to him. I would describe the Spring afternoon and the sun shining. At the last, I was not able to get to the hospital and he had changed doctors. He died shortly afterward from the trauma. I believe it was about 40 days.

What I did not know is that Michael had shared our friendship with his family: His dad, mom, sisters and brothers. I was the only one from the church in to see him at the hospital. I had talked with his family when they were there and we got to know one another as best strangers could under such circumstances.

Because Michael was a Marine as was his father, he was given a funeral with full honors with Marines in dress uniforms giving the gun salute with rifles.

Afterward, I prepared an obituary for the Worldwide News. I learned that I had to give it to the minister. It was a paragraph and told part of his story of being in the Marine Corps.

It turns out that I gave it to Dennis Luker after services on the Sabbath. He told me that he had met the family and when they told him about me, he said to them, “Oh, he’s so quiet!”. This produced laughter from Michael’s family and they instantly knew that Dennis Luker knew neither Michael nor me. He was attempting to cash in on an opportunity by pretending to be someone and something he wasn’t and got caught at it.

Eventually, the obituary made it to the Worldwide News. It was a sentence long. It was a brief sentence at that. Michael _____ died…. That was about it. Name, no rank, no serial number. It was crisply impersonally efficient.

During my brief discussion with Dennis Luker, he did something odd: He stroked my stomach as if it were a bowling ball. It was weird and creepy. Very weird and creepy. Very very weird and creepy. I just stood there and allowed him to do it. After all, this was God’s Evangelist of the Worldwide Church of God — the very Work of God. Many of us had been conditioned to be subjected to authority without question — to accept what was truly unacceptable, because the Very God of the Universe would support them even if they were wrong.

I vaguely felt as if I had been raped.

You can read the rest of the article by Douglas Becker here:  Image


DennisCDiehl said...

This is a disturbing story on several levels. I am sorry the Marine did not get the recognition he deserved for his service and life.

I suppose not unlike the Unknown Soldier "Known Only To God." as far as Church was concerned

Leonardo said...

I’ve known some ministers/elders in the WCG who would take the time and effort to get to know each and every individual member in their congregations on a personal basis, but such men (or their wives) were exceedingly few and far between. And such were highly prized by me, because in most congregations I was ever in the vast majority of the local leadership couldn't have cared less about getting to know each "sheep" on an individual basis like this, their strengths, their vulnerabilities, their family backgrounds, their life situations, their most pressing needs, their current concerns and fears, etc. (Much like a real shepherd would his flock of sheep as explained in that old book A SHEPHERD LOOKS AT PSALM 23 by W. Phillip Keller, a wonderful book.)

A WCG pastor once told a true story of another area he had served in some years before: it seemed there was an older single man in that local congregation who got sick, and subsequently called the minister and asked him to come over to his place and anoint him. Though he had been a long-time, faithful member of the WCG for many years, still, this gentleman, being rather mild and quiet in temperament, was not one of the more outwardly impressive members. Few ever really took the time to chat with him at services. He worked as a lowly stockboy at a local grocery store, he didn't wear the finest Armani suits to services, nor drive the latest style of automobile, etc. You get the picture.

So the minister went over to his place of residence, just a small little run-down apartment building not exactly located in the best part of town. He knocked on the member’s door, expecting to be confronted by a smelly, sloppy, dirty, unorganized pigpen – but instead was quite surprised to find the place remarkably well-ordered and spotless. He anointed the member, and stuck around a little to talk with him, which the pastor openly admitted to have never done before. The minister was absolutely astonished at the level of insight into life this gentleman had. So much so that he ended up talking with the man for over four hours, I think it was. As the minister related this story in his sermon many years later, he said, almost with tears in his eyes, “Brethren, this man was by FAR the most deeply converted person I had ever met in all my entire experience in both the church and the ministry. And I can tell you he was considerably more converted that the pastor of his congregation, because I was that pastor!”

So yeah, good things of incredible value sometimes come in unattractive, unconventional packages – and ministers might want to recognize that reality, especially those serving in the COG’s.

DennisCDiehl said...

After several years on this site, I have found that some paint with a very broad brush on topics such as "the ministers". I could paint with such a brush on "the members," but my personal view is that we are all just folks, flaws and all doing the best we can. That's how I grew up .

I know "too much" about lots of people. That's why I believe so firmly in the masks we all wear, and I do mean all. Religion causes people to mask up and even if one wanted someone to talk to etc, in religion you have to be VERY CAREFUL because anything you say can and will be used against you in a Church of God.

Lots I could say but we're all just humans and religion can often put burdens on people they can never actually face and work with because the price is too high in the herd.

Anonymous said...

Leona: this is not the appropriate place to write a book.

Leonardo said...

I agree with you, Dennis. For accuracies sake, every minister or member would need to be discussed individually on the basis of their own specific merits, which of course would be way beyond the scope of this blogsite. My point is that some generalities are valid on the whole. And the generality I drew in my comment above is that a rather large number of COG ministers aren't exactly known far and wide for their caring, sensitivity and other crucial human-relationship skills.

As I mentioned, I've known some who were true shepherds in every sense of the word. Such truly belong in encouraging, helping and healing professions, like the ministry ideally should be. While many others should perhaps have become Navy SEALS, or cowboys out on the western plains bringing in their cattle herds to slaughter in the rough and tumble elements of nature.

I realize all ministers could tell one story after another of the wacked-out members they’ve had to deal with through the years. I’ve heard a number of such mind-boggling accounts because many of my friends from AC eventually became involved in the COG ministry. The ministry it would seem to me would have a very high burn-out rate as a profession. It’s a very demanding and draining task.

You might be happy to know that last weekend I talked to a long-time COG member I knew many years ago, still back in the Detroit area, now with UCG. Anyway, I mentioned that I had talked with you recently, and this member remembered you very fondly, and had only the best of things to say about you from your days serving down in Toledo and Findley, Ohio – even kept referring to you as “Mr. Diehl” even though this person is retired now and probably older than you!

Leonardo said...

Anonymous 3:06 wrote: "Leona: this is not the appropriate place to write a book."

Well, Anon, all I can say is if you truly consider three or four paragraphs to be a BOOK, then that goes a long ways toward explaining your incredible lack of depth in what you so frequently say in your comments. Just a few paragraphs, and you're mentally fatigued and totally exhausted, such that you can never seem to muster enough mind power to say anything relevant in response, or that somehow would add to the discussion, but instead just shallow, unoriginal insults, and poorly worded at that. You might want to spend some of your money on a few mind-expanding books for a change, Anon, rather than on tattoos, pink hair die and body piercings. That way one day you might actually be able to say something here of value for once.

Anonymous said...

Hey, plasma dude, why are you always nipping at the heels of just one guy? Why not insult the rest of us? It could hardly lower our estimation of you at this point.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, what the fuck is your obsession with Leonardo? You follow him around like a stalker from one blog entry to the next.

Velvet said...

Luker was an evangelist? When did that happen?

"I’ve known some ministers/elders in the WCG who would take the time and effort to get to know each and every individual member in their congregations on a personal basis, but such men (or their wives) were exceedingly few and far between."

Agreed, but given the size of both congregations I attended when growing up (1200 and 300 members, respectively), I don't find it that surprising. My current congregation had 90 at its peak (I never attended here before the changes) with the goldfish bowl result (and the main pastor during those years is NOT remembered fondly by most), and he is apparently drinking Junior's Kool-Aid now (and wrote a shockingly anti-Semitic "thesis" to that effect).

All of the ministers and their wives who I remember as decent human beings remain so. Needless to say, the ones I remember with (much) less fondness are the ones who either went to one of the splinter groups, or started one of their own.

Byker Bob said...

The way they treated this awesome biker/marine is typical of the ACOGs. Unless achievements related directly to their myopic little cult, they just didn't count for anything. In fact, achievements considered worthy by "the world" were actually classified as detrimental because they might cause vanity. And, some of the ministers might actually become intimidated.

I admire Douglas for thinking outside of the box even back then and making the effort to be a friend and brother. One day, we'll all know that that really counted for something!


casper said...

leonardo, I liked your little story, and the story about the marine. My dad was in the WCG and just an ordinary member but very extroverted and outgoing. He was friends with anyone who would be friends with him. Unfortunately he had a somewhat flawed reputation and was never picked to be a deacon or whatever even though he was one of the best speakers at spokesmans club. But he befriended many of the lonely bachelors including some elderly men living alone. Almost every weekend he would go visiting many of these people and he took me along when I was only a child of about 10. I remember sitting in many old rooming houses drinking tea and sometimes wine and getting to know some of these men who actually were sometimes a lot of fun. It all sort of ended a few years later when I got older and a few of them asked my dad if they could date me...... ahhh. And then one of the old ladies on our visiting circuit complained we just came to eat her cookies -- I admit that was part of the attraction. A few years later my dad got thrown out of the Church for a bad attitude - he argued about things too much and was told his house was too messy and a Christian wouldn't live that way.

I really think the world as a whole mostly judges people on surface matters and appearance.
As far as ministers went, it was a mixed bag -- some were just beautiful people who would help anyone especially in the earlier years, the one I remember mostly was Dr. Benjamin Rea. We never had another ministers who was as loving as him.

Anonymous said...

In my 35 years of experiences in the WCG in Manila, the very HQ of the so-called Philippine Work of God (?), it is pretty obvious that if you are nobody or just average income earner reflectd in terms of tithe and offering contribution, the ministers and the elite members couldn't care less if you exist or not. You are just one of those being milked of tithes so that these ministers could live in comfort.