Monday, July 22, 2013

The Church of God and "We Are Special" Superiority Complex

All About Armstrongism has an excellent commentary up today about how "special" those in the Church of God considered themselves, while the world that existed all around them could have cared less.

This so true in Pasadena.  Years after the Auditorium opened and concerts had been going full blast, we regularly had Pasadena residents who just lived a few blocks down the street that had NEVER heard of the college OR Auditorium.  Most ignored the property and those that did pay attention thought it was all a quirky anomaly.

The same had to be true for the college and church headquarters. We believed it was God’s Headquarters on Earth and nearly worshipped it. Everyone else thought they were nice buildings with great looking gardens and grounds – and a strange religion for those who really wanted to dig into it. While internally we had universal implications of the property, externally, it was just buildings and it was just grounds. Members gasped at actually being on God’s property for the first time when they feasted in Pasadena. Others thought it beautiful property, but that was it. Most of what we felt and thought was in our heads, and our minds, as we turned it into the biggest Golden Calf since the days of Sinai.

Now, we face the reality that there really wasn’t anything special about any of it. Why? It’s demolished. Not just the campus, but the whole thing. Self-appointed leaders are desperately attempting with their whole minds and souls to resurrect what was destroyed, but instead their fighting and bickering and power plays are making a very mockery of the unity they are fighting to try to achieve. Some even take the worship of the campus to a whole different level in sickening idolatry of the buildings or materials themselves, using those materials to try to resurrect what once was.

But in reality, it was a small parcel of real estate that was said to be worth priceless money and needed at all costs – that was torn down and destroyed, and within just a few years, there will be nothing left of a hint of Armstrongism on that property as it turns into real estate and “regular people” take it over, finally. Our delusions were false. Our giving of our lives and money was pointless, and came to nothing. Some cannot and will not accept this, as I said, and try with their power to bring it all back. Their own delusions rule against reality, and it definately is beyond sad to see.

How I wish I could have been one of those neighbors across the street who didn’t care to know anything about the properties even though they were right there, then to be thousands of miles away and think God dwelled there like he dwelled in the Temple at Jerusalem in the Holy of Holies. I was deluded, I was delusioned. But it is better now to be where I am knowing the real truth. The truth that salvation is not dependant on how much you give to support a real estate program for a gospel imagined by a biblical illiterate high-school dropout and untrained theological huckster. The truth that in Pasadena, life went on as normal except between Orange Grove, West Green, Del Mar and St. John’s. The truth that the SEP Campuses of Orr, Big Sandy, as well as Pasadena were made with the same material as any other campuses. The truth that life in Armstrongism was, as big headed as we thought, not so special at all – and that we were so full of ego and pride and self righteousness – full of ourselves, thinking of ourselves as so big without realizing we were so small, and so empty, looking at life as a small box instead of looking out at the reality of the immensity of what we all missed. We put everything into the barrel of Armstrongism at that time and missed the world around us and our place in it.

The excellent observations can be read in its entirety here:  It's A Small, Small World


Byker Bob said...

That was always part of my problem in Armstrongism. I never wanted to be special as they defined special. Just wanted to be a regular guy who worked on his own cars and motorcycles, had a foxy ol' lady, drank beer, and listened to rock and country music.

SEP the first year cured me of any lust for authority. Man, campers were clamoring to even be known as an assistant, assistant monitor! Then if you actually got that, it didn't work like the church taught it would. It just meant that everyone resented you. So, the following years, I just had fun being a rebel, and let others learn their lesson about the bogussness of church authority.
The lesson helped keep me grounded during my AC years. Better to lay back and let people like Davey Pack get all the action.


Head Usher said...

To be fair, there is a segment of wealthy Pasadena bluebloods who were very grateful for the campus being there when it was. It effectively spearheaded investments that would, beginning in the late 70's start the process of restoring a once swanky turn-of-the-20th-century resort town into to the once-and-again swanky Old Town nitespot competing with other Los Angeles evening destinations. Some of them credit HWA's vision of what could be done with the embarrasing slum on their doorstep for the instigation to recreate what is today Old Town Pasadena. You could argue that it would have happened anyway, and I'm sure you would be right, but it probably would have happened later, and maybe not quite as well.

Now, that being said, those same bluebloods had no clue what what sort of delusional idiots their glossy neighbors really were, and how "Ambassador" was really just a PR campaign for a crazy cult. On the surface, it looked really good. I am sure they would have been horrified if they realized that the denizens of that campus thought it was the Most Special Holy of Holies on earth and that those denizens thought they were the Most Special Chosen and Glorious People on earth. If they had known that, I bet some of them would have wanted to have torn it down even way back then!

Douglas Becker said...

Edifice Complex has yielded to Edifice Wrecks.

Anonymous said...

In reading this post I was surprised at the indication that people in the Church of God considered themselves as "special" in the manner described and saw the buildings and grounds as compared to the biblical temple where the glory of God was revealed.
That may have been true in Pasadena, but it is delusional to think that us common people in the local congregations were all that awestruck about what went on in Pasadena. We all lived basically like the people in our communities with the exception of keeping some of the Old Testament traditions and customs. At least this was true in the congregations I attended.
There may have been a few who were rather unbalanced and got carried away by some of the rhetoric used to promote the building projects, but most of those that I know were just common everyday folks who believed they were living by what Herbert Armstrong taught was in the bible.
I do not know what Flurry, Pack, and other radicals are offering, but replicating what Herbert Armstrong and associates did will no longer cut the mustard since mega churches have sprung up in every community and offer a more balance religious diet for those who hunger and thirst for living by the book,
Honestly! Did people really think that way about being “special” and see the grounds and building as reflecting the glory of God?
A. Boocher

Anonymous said...

To partially answer your question, A. Boocher, yes, some did. I'm not saying all did, but some did.

There were those who got emotionally tied to even the LETTERS of Ambassador Auditorium. That's why they are on the walls of the other one in Edmond. One guy said he got emotional when he saw the letters once again. You'd think they were just letters. WRONG.

Yes, there were those who literally though that was God's Land, His campus, and that did cause a special feeling, even in local congregations. As you said, there were those who didn't feel that way, and many of them, but there were also those who did.

It also varied from congregation to congregation based on what the local pastor was preaching. That too, had a lot to do with it.

It all varied. But it's not as delusional as you think to think of how "special" that people felt, and also of the significance of the campus.

If you don't believe this is so, then it shouldn't be such a big deal for these other campuses being built around the country, but take a look at the craziness. You can bet they felt the same way about the Pasadena campus at one point, too.

Byker Bob said...

The vast majority of the people in the congregations I attended looked to the Pasadena headquarters campus as being a foreshadow of the millennium. What else did they have in terms of church identity, considering the less than opulent rental halls in which weekly sabbath services were held? They bought the Envoy even though they had no relatives attending AC, just for more insight into this campus. Some deliberately transferred to one of the California feast sites so they could leave for the feast early and take a tour of the campus. They wanted to talk with the students not only of AC, but also Imperial Schools. Accidentally encountering, or actually meeting one or more of the high ranking ministers was the WCG equivalent of meeting a movie star or politician. Yet another shade of idolatry inherent in Armstrongism, one that is replicating itself in some of the splinters today as we speak.


Anonymous said...

When I was at AC in the early 70's, I went with a friend into a store on Colorado Bl. When the storekeeper found out that we were AC students, he said, "Oh, I heard that Ambassador College was a training center for the CIA." Funny then, but later when I woke up from the delusion, I thought, "If only!"

Head Usher said...

HWA preached that he was god's singular end-time apostle of jesus christ on this planet, that HWA and all that he had done was divinely inspired by jesus christ himself, this was the headquarters that jesus christ had built, and though it might not seem like much yet, it was the tip of the iceberg, the mustard seed if you will, for the future of all humanity. They thought they had found the one and only place in the whole world where jesus christ, after 2,000 years, was once again revealing himself and working with humans again. When jesus returned, everyone in the whole world was going to start following us, and we were "special" because we were lucky enough to have gotten in on the ground floor. We had the prestige of seniority. In Pasadena, this was just how everybody talked to each other. The propaganda was thick. Many people in Pasadena did think that the AC campus was destined to be at the center of future world events. HWA was "special," the campus was "special," and the people were "special." Flurry and Pack are building little replica headquarters because there are enough people who still, after all that has happened to show how untrue all that propaganda was, still want to believe it, and want to feel that they are a part of something "special" in that way.

Anonymous said...

Behold, the day will come,
The day of Herb our Lord!
In the Auditorium He shall stand,
and the church shall cleave in two!
There shall be a schism of mammoth size;
from the ministry you shall flee;
For Herb our God shall be King,
And shall rule over all the earth!

Behold that day shall come,
when all nations shall obey!
Those of all the nations that are left,
to Ambassador Gardens shall go;
They shall even go there from year to year,
and shall keep the Feast of Booths;
There shall be one God, Herbert Armstrong,
Who is King over all the earth!

Anonymous said...

Uncle Albert asks, "Honestly! Did people really think that way about being “special” and see the grounds and building as reflecting the glory of God?"

It was definitely that way where I attended the WCG at various times during HWA's reign, which included 3 New Jersey congregations, 3 New York congregations, 2 Pennsylvania congregations, and 1 Connecticut congregation.

It was also preached from the pulpit at every one of the FOT conventions I attended, which included Mount Pocono, Jekyll Island, and St Pete Florida, about 12 years total FOT's.

Anonymous said...

"What else did they have in terms of church identity...? They bought the Envoy even though they had no relatives attending AC."

That is SO funny, Bob!
So many families in the congregations I attended did so, too!
Ours was prominently displayed on our coffee table.
The latest Envoy was always kept on top of the coffee table, and the older ones were stacked up on the the coffee table's lower tier.

Only cult members would do such a thing!
(I've been to scintology's members homes and seen similar displaying of L Ron's books. I remember a tearful father telling me his son was in a cult and couldn't really afford the books when the son was out of the room and had gone next door to borrow something.)

Douglas Becker said...

Special in the sense of special ed: Armstrongists are so very special because their set of mental disorders are unique.

Allen C. Dexter said...

I can attest to the fact that Pasadena was special. It was "God's headquarters, and we thought it would endure into the millennium. I used to give tours to visiting members who were awestruck by the campus even berore all the magnificent buildings came along. Of course, they thought it special. They had sacrificed mightily to help build it.