Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dennis on "Come September"

Memorial Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Rochester, NY
Where my journey began

Dennis Diehl - EzineArticles Expert AuthorI don't recall as a child either myself or my parents viewing the Presbyterian pastor as either "in charge" or "the minister" whose every view and idea, strange , weird or ill informed, had to be listened to and followed.  He was the minister. He taught the Bible, conducted services, visited the sick and maybe occasionally was asked to "counsel" someone on some topic but I am not sure that was a role he played either.   No one ever said, "the minister came over today," in sheer terror or "I'm getting a visit from the minister," as if something terrible or highly corrective was about to happen.  Every minister I ever experienced before WCG was just a nice guy, doing what he felt he was called to do or making his own choice to do it and presenting the Bible to us in a practical and meaningful way.  We did not follow him nor did he ask or expect that. None of them ever got up and announced after hours of sermon blather that they had come to see themselves spoken of in the Scriptures and they were either now a Prophet, Apostle, Watcher, Elijah, Zerubbabel or Joshua the High Priest.  We would have all died laughing, fallen out of the pews and fired him recommending counseling and medication I suppose.  

It took me awhile in the ministry to figure out that ministers in the WCG were a more authoritarian figure than in my experience growing up. They took their cues from HWA.  I was 18 when sitting in Harmony of the Gospels Class I heard Rod Meredith say, "There is God, Jesus, Herbert W Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong, myself and a few other leading Evangelists...."    I recall thinking how weird a thing that was to say.   I noticed that after "and myself" he could not come up with any specific names. 

My first experience with ministerial authority came when Rod Meredith had announced that if he was late for class, not to waste time waiting.  Someone should man up and lead a discussion until he got there.  So I did.  LOL!   It pissed him off evidently and when I went to lunch he was running track and called me over.  I thought he was going to say something nice but he asked me if I had repented of doing that...  Sure, fine, whatever.  That man confused me at times.  

My first experience with ministerial authority in the churches was in Minneapolis but I have to say those I worked with did not seem so inclined.  Some of my best memories and funniest days visiting was with Vic Kubik, now President of UCG.  I recall him once during one of his attempts to trim down a bit getting a little crazy around Passover for something missing from his diet.  Since it was past Easter and the chocolate bunnies were half price, he bought one and devoured it from ears to tale and we laughed our asses off.  We also knew we could stop anytime for a Whopper, fries and Coke for $1.19 on the road and it fit the budget.  Once we first visited a home that was merely a burned out hole in the ground.  There was a half burned piano in the hole.  Vic said, "I guess they are not home."  and again it was just fun and real.  The best was when we called on a new visit and sat in the kitchen talking for about a half hour before Vic asked them how they came in contact with the church?  They said, what church?   The people we meant to see lived next door......  Say what you wish, but have always liked Vic Kubik and where his heart seemed to be.  He's been the ONLY minister I know who puts the practical Jesus into practice with Life Nets.  I also was close to Denny Luker in the day and felt I knew his heart well though we did disagree along the way.  

It was in Chicago the next year I began to learn about following the minister and doing what your were told either in your personal life or as lead by "the minister" who ultimately knew more about the Bible than you ever could.   I was the understudy, so to speak, of a Regional Director who brought me into Chicago because he liked my grades in his Epistles of Paul Class.  That's where I learned to babysit, wash minister's cars, show up at all hours of the day and night and hang out at the YMCA.  I learned to drink in Chicago.  I learned to rate ministers as liberal or conservative, HWA men or prone to GTA.  It's where I learned NEVER to go through the door ahead of the RD and never to leave the sauna before the RD as "I might have something important you need to hear."  It was a freaking mess and I wanted out.  Dave Pack came  back into the ministry in Chicago and I really wanted out. 

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To make a long story short, all hell broke loose in Chicago in 1974, ministers were spying on ministers and taking license plate numbers at secret meetings that I had no clue I was attending.  LOL  I knew I was attending but I did not know they were secret.  I got fired one day in a phone call for guilt by association. Drove home to NY to see my parents and got rehired explaining I had no clue what the hell was going on. I still believed in what I perceived as my calling and spiritual perspectives.  I got transferred to Eire, Pa but on the way got a call to turn South and head to Findlay, Ohio where I spent 8 nice, leave me alone years, with wonderful folk.  Of course, the Corporate Church and "ministers to be followed," were into one damn scandal after the next and that is where I learned the fine art of denial.

Why do the many follow the few as if they knew?  Why did I not say, "wash your own damn car," or "they're your kids, you take care of them."?   If you told me today not to walk through the door before you did, you'd regret it.   If you told me not to leave the room before you did because you might have something important to say, I'd laugh my ass off and tell you I'll see you when you get finished feeling special and important.  It was a game one minister used to pay in the sauna to stay until the last guy was driven out by the heart and he alone survived.  I knew his game and left early on purpose.  I suppose I didn't want to be labeled as having a "bad attitude" or mess up a chance to get out on my own away from the crazies.  

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In my experience, it was not uncommon for members from surrounding areas calling or writing and asking for help on how to cope with their ministers.  They called me to help them cope with Ron Weinland, Ron Reedy and Dave Pack.  They called to pour out stories about how they were treated by  a now Evangelist for LCG.  I always asked it they had talked to their minister personally about the problem or hurt.  By the time they called, the answer was always, "yeah right...not doing that again." It's also fascinating to me that these same types of austere or "don't you know who I am," types are STILL the ministers in the splinters.  They got PROMOTED and life is good.  Go figure....

I had a habit of visiting all the kicked out of the church by the last minister types when coming to a new area and most came back to church with a little encouragement and forgiveness for whatever grievous sin they commited previously.  I stopped by to see one woman not knowing I would be walking into a raging bee's nest of anger.  She yelled at me through the screen door about the Armstrongs spending and big idea about themselves and I just listened.  She then asked what I thought about that and I said that I agreed which I did.  She smiled and came back to church the next week.  It was hilarious. 

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The now LCG Evangelist who I replaced here in Greenville evidently felt women should not ask questions in church and should only ask their husbands Bible questions.  At least this is what one woman told me as she tested me on this issue when first arriving.  She asked if she could ask me questions whenever she wanted and that she had been told she could only ask her husband.  (It is in the Bible actually and worthy of edit or errasure).  I asked her why she would ask me such a thing.  She said, because "I want answers and my husband is stupid."   Again...hilarious and I said to ask me whatever, whenever.    

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Where are the brakes within such churches as Gerald Flurry's PCG or Dave Pack's RCG?  Why are there NO demands for accountability, balance and applying the principle of there being wisdom in the multitude of counsel when these types of men get their big ideas going at the expense of everyone else?  Can't they see what is going to come of all this ridiculous theology so called? What's with Restored Church of God current members who can't speak up?  You can't tell me they ALL believe everything Dave can come up with about himself and how the Bible points to him in his narrow and theologically under educated world. Of course the answer is , "He'd disfellowship me."  Why can't you say "So what"?

 Dave has arrogantly and openly admitted he will abide no disagreement and not permit "papers" to be written exploring other avenues of belief on topics that Dave has already decided he knows the one true answer to. Dave's Wonderful World Today was Hitler's dream.  Where is the internal discussion as to where a Dave Pack or Gerald Flurry is taking us?  I imagine there are a number of Ron Weinland devotees who, now that he is behind bars, will speak up as to what they always felt or disagreed with but never when he was around.  I guess we all do that at times out of one kind of fear or another. Fear can keep you in your seat and mouth shut. 

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I will tell you plainly that the Dave Pack's and Gerald Flurrys of religion are just men with strange and often weird ideas about themselves and theology.  They are neither special or insightful beyond measure. They may be loud or they may be intimidating, but they are just men. They may throw scripture around as if they were Peter, James, John or Paul in the flesh but they are just men.   I guarantee you, Gerald Flurry is not "that Prophet" of Malachi nor is Dave Pack any real incarnation or fulfillment of Haggai's Joshua. Herbert Armstrong was not really any end-time Zerubbabel nor was he any Elijah to come.  That is just theological bullshit. Both concepts and personal beliefs are stupid beyond measure and outside of their own followers all you'd hear from real theologians would be, 'they said what?  You're kidding me?"  In a very small and controlled world you lose your sense of self and all too often your common sense.  

Both men have made fools out of themselves making scripture mean what it never meant and never will mean. Those that put up with and never speak up to, as their resources both in mind and money, are sucked up to preach foolishness and analogies gone amuck are going to get really hurt spiritually.  There will be a lot of forehead smacking when they admit "I never really believed all Mr. Pack told us about himself," but never had the courage to say when he was saying it.  Trust me, I don't blame you. I know how that works but realize you will wish you had. Whatever consequence you are afraid you'd suffer for pointing out these men's folly is NOTHING compared to what you will have to deal with when it is obvious to all and no more denial allowed. 

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I'm not against leadership. I'm against stupid.  I'm not against being organized for a common good.  I am against being herded.   I am not against ministers and pastors.  I'm against those who are anything but helpers of people's joy and servants above all else.  
So...I dedicate this song to the last two weeks of August 2013 and the cooler theologies that now doubt will spring from the coming of Fall.  

See You In September
(The Happenings)

I'll be around each and every night
Reading your stuff 'cause you're just not right
Bye-bye, so long, farewell
Bye-bye, so long
See you in September
See you when the summer's through
Here we are (bye, baby, goodbye)
Saying goodbye to the crazies (bye, baby, goodbye)
Strange weird ideas... (bye, baby bye, baby)
Have taken you away (bye, baby, goodbye)
Have a good time... but remember
There is danger in the summer moon above
Will we see you in September
Or lose you to this summer's dumb?
(counting the days 'til they walk from  you)
(counting the hours and the minutes, too)
Bye, baby, goodbye
Bye, baby, goodbye
Bye, baby, goodbye (bye-bye, so long, farewell)
Bye, baby, goodbye ...

  Contact Dennis at DennisCDiehl@aol.com


Michael said...

enjoyed the stories and some of the WCG behind-the-scenes it reveals.
Having grown up as a church brat in Florida, Ohio and elsewhere during the liberal/hard-core conflict of the period you speak of, I got to experience various different ministers.
I'm reminded of the rumours that would circulate before the new one (or assistant) came in.
"He's much more laid back than ***"
in which case the sighs would be audible
"*** is right down-the-line, no-nonsense"
in which case, silent but palpable groans...

you either got lucky or there was going to be gnashing of teeth :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dennis for a good post. Very enjoyable and nostalgic!

I'll go to a point which I've been thinking of, which is that some Christian 'leaders' ask only like 3 basic things that their flock need to believe, and one is that they believe the Bible is "The Word of God".

That one pretty much flabbergasts me!

Here's what reminded me of that-

You wrote,
"She asked if she could ask me questions whenever she wanted and that she had been told she could only ask her husband. (It is in the Bible actually and worthy of edit or errasure) - See more at: http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/#sthash.vXpd4UlH.dpuf"

How could anyone consider the Bible to be "The Word of God"?

Surely, even most of the people who declare it as such reject the stupid parts, yet they still say it's "The Word of God"! I find this astounding!

WTF does "The Word of God" mean, anyway? It's obviously written by men, and many of the main players obviously disagreed with each other.

The only explanation I can come up with is that some people really really really want to believe, so much so that they are willing to overlook glaring mountains of evidence in front of their eyes that says "it ain't so" while they say "IT'S SO!"

The explanations I can guess as to why a person would accept such a dubious belief, is that some people do so for --
* Wanting to increase or maintain family cohesiveness
* Wanting to increase or maintain cohesiveness with friends
* Possible difficulty considering that currently-held beliefs might be wrong
* Possible rejection from one's cultural environment

NO2HWA said...


I think this is one of the best ones you have written lately.


Allen C. Dexter said...

I really enjoy your recounting of experiences in the WCG. The longer I was part of it, the more I saw through the double standards, hyprocrisy, doctrinal nonsense, etc. They actually did me a huge favor when they cancelled out our department. Got me out of the circus and set me on a course to sanity.

Anonymous said...

The church members of Mr. Pack's RCG, etc., should all walk out of the church service en masse, while shouting out "Shut Up, You have no clue about what you are talking about." What could Mr. Pack do? Excommunicate everyone? Their self appointed power trip would be over.

Head Usher said...

"...some Christian 'leaders' ask only like 3 basic things that their flock need to believe, and one is that they believe the Bible is 'The Word of God.'"

Yes, as I found a while ago, this is what "fundamentalism" was originally all about, only they finally settled on 5 things, not 3.

Fundamentalism is a product of the Niagra Bible Conference, which in 1878 created a list of 14 things a "true christian" had to believe to be considered by conservative bible thumpers as a "christian" at all. It was intended to be used in a militant fashion, as a judgmental measuring stick, to allow "true christians" to distinguish themselves from the "liberals" whose faith was being watered down by Darwinism.

By 1895, probably as a result of members of the conference judging each other, bickering, and disagreeing over whether this point or that point should properly be called "fundamental" or not, they abridged it to just 5 things. These are the "fundamentals" of fundamentalism:

-Biblical inspiration and the inerrancy of scripture
-Virgin birth of Jesus
-Belief that Christ's death was the atonement for sin
-Bodily resurrection of Jesus
-Historical reality of the miracles of Jesus

Even though I was never formally taught this Protestant creed, you can find all of these, expressed in one form or another, in the not coincidentally monikered "Fundamental Beliefs" of the various splinters of Armstrongism, and also in the "Fundamentals of Belief" of the mothership, the Radio Church of God, later known as the Worldwide Church of God, the cult that most of us here are recovering from.

You can read more in a piece I wrote a few months back entitled, "Confessions of a Former Quasi-Fundamentalist."

Anonymous said...

Ron Reedy was a butt wipe. After he left your area I think that is when he was brought to Pasadena where he made life hell for those in his church. Disgusting man!

He was protected as a minister because of his relationship to the Tkach family.

Head Usher said...

"You can't tell me they ALL believe everything Dave can come up with about himself and how the Bible points to him in his narrow and theologically under educated world. Of course the answer is, 'He'd disfellowship me.' Why can't you say 'So what'?"

They don't all believe all the eyerollworthy trash that comes out the mouths of Davey, Geraldine, Ronnie, Meredith, and yes, even Kubik.

BTW, I know what you mean about Vic. He's a very personable fellow, and he's done more to help people in real ways than any other COG career minister I know of. But at the hands of the Party, he is also susceptible of becoming the next Adolf Eichmann, the unthinking company man who will take his pistol, load the magazine, place the muzzle against your forehead and pull the trigger, letting your body fall into the trench, and when asked about it later, casually use the defense that he can't be held responsible because he was just "following orders."

I know from my own experience that it's not just as simple as saying, "So what?" If Armstrongism were just a single hook, then you could simply say, "So what?" and remove the hook, and be done with it. But Armstronism is like 1,000 tiny hooks, each one with a barb on it, that one must divest oneself of, one hook at a time. Especially when you were raised in Armstrongism, you have to divest yourself of a lot of manipulative lies, manipulative relationships with family and old friends, before you are prepared to sincerely say "So what?" and mean it, and walk away with no fishing lines attached. It's as though preparing yourself to bear the responsibility for all the imaginary consequences that Herbert manufactured (those are the barbs, btw) that culturally were sold to us as being unbearable consequences, as well as the very real social consequences, means saying "So what?" 1,000 times, to 1,000 different things, not just once to one thing. And let me tell you, all the COG church people you know may seem like a safety net as long as you're "faithful," but as soon as you try to get out, they become a fishing net, designed to snag, entrap, and bind you. They think they're doing you a favor too. You have to cut a hole in that net, and a few people are going to get "hurt" in the process before you're ever going to get free. And it's not like you can ever really get a good bird's eye view in advance, and map out the problem you're facing. You're always flying blind, and it can be easy to lose hope before you break free.

I think the 1,000 tiny hooks analogy also explains Vic Kubik's behavior, and so many abusive ministers who are caught up even more deeply in the cult than the average tithepayer. He's got innumerable hooks in him too, and all those strings can make you into a marionette. It really doesn't take that much to convince other people that almost any act, any atrocity, even the extermination of an entire ethnicity, is somehow in the "greater good." And if there's one thing that my time in Armstrongism has taught me, it's that whistleblowers and escaping prisoners are treated little better in churches than they are anywhere else in the world.

Byker Bob said...

It would never be pleasant to be the lone voice of reason, balance, and sanity in an asylum. The more I learn of people's personal experiences in Armstrongism, the more deeply convinced I become that it was totally FUBAR, with no intrinsic redeeming value whatsoever. One of Satan's pet projects masquerading as God's church.


Anonymous said...

Every time I read the stupid things that the many Armstrongite gurus have put down in writing, I can't help but feel that perhaps I have become irretrievably stupider, just by a little bit, for having read it. They are slowly killing all of us.

To wit:

Wake me up when September Comes
by Green Dave

Summer has come and passed
The innocent can never last
Wake me up when September comes

Davey's church wasn't built to last
Fourteen years have gone so fast
Wake me up when September comes

There goes my brain again
Falling from my head
Drenched in my pain again
Wishing I was dead

As my sanity is lost
I can't remember at what cost
Wake me up when September comes

Summer has come and passed
The innocent can never last
Wake me up when September comes

Seven thousand will return again
Like when Worldwide began
Wake me up when September comes

There goes my brain again
Falling from my head
Drenched in my pain again
Wishing I was dead

As my sanity is lost
I can't remember at what cost
Wake me up when September comes

Summer has come and passed
The innocent can never last
Wake me up when September comes

Davey's church wasn't built to last
Fourteen years have gone so fast
Wake me up when September comes

DennisCDiehl said...

Head Usher. I agree. I was speaking of Vic and I at 22 and he maybe was 24 or 25. The years separated us. I did have some issues along the way with him and he with me and the beat went on as both of us used to say. I do remember him always saying we had to "Crow and overgum" in he church. lol.

I was with another minister who when bugs hit the windshield would say, "ewwww, bet he won't have the guts to do that again." He also loved to say, "Shoot low Sherriff, He's riding a Shetland."

I had a mix of experiences.

Thanks Gary, I write usually from 6:30 am to 8 or so and then off to work or whatever. It falls out of my head and some is better than others I realize.

DennisCDiehl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DennisCDiehl said...

I was given a private tour inside Christ Church Episcopal here in Greenville today. It was started in the early 1800's and is very nice. The Tiffany stained glass windows were amazing and could easily be seen as Jesus as Sun God but I spared my host . lol. The Lord's Supper window actually had Mary depicted sitting on Jesus right hand as Da Vinci painted so that was cool. I did explain that when the person said, "who is that woman sitting next to Jesus!" Lol

I told them the church had one of the largest organs I had ever seen but somehow that didn't come out right....It's hard to talk about church organs without snickering or saying it wrong!

Beautiful church and was interesting and designed well to give the stable and other earthly feeling to a church service. Sure beat the Masonic Hall or YMCA. I'd probably like the Rectors and could have a decent theological and historical conversation with them as they, unlike the Flurrys and Packs of the COGs actually did the hard work of history and theology to be who they are and do what they do.

Byker Bob said...

That church, Dennis, there are quite a number of photos of the outside of the church on the web. It's quite an impressive building, even to someone who associates gothic buildings with classical music and Franz Kafka.

Looks like it is one of the centers of the town there, too, as they hosted the memorial apparently for those killed in July in the plane crash up in Alaska.

I could only find one photo of what I would guess to be the main stained glass window depicting Jesus. The worship area looks much like the pews in most Catholic Churches. I'm thinking our legalistic friends who are always in search of paganism would probably identify the beautiful steeple with Nimrod and Semiramis.

Is this part of your church hopping activity, or were you called to administer a deep tissue massage to one of the rectors?


DennisCDiehl said...

Hi BB,
Actually I have been "dating" a teacher at the CCE school so she wanted me to see it. She'd like me to attend once in awhile and I am not opposed to that. As you no doubt know, there is that deeper need for some quiet place to feel more connected to people and all our questions. I'd probably not do well listening to whatever but the contrast of Church surrounded by the cemetary right up to the door is cool. All the mayors and few governors along with some famous Confederate Generals etc are buried there. She keeps telling me the South with rise again I agree with her but only in the Resurrection lol.

Yes, the congregation has had TEN air crash deaths among members this past MONTH. The nine killed in Alaska last month were all members here. Terrible tragedy with dearly loved folk. Another died in a separate crash. I read the letter the Rector wrote the congregation. Very compassionate and practical man.

Byker Bob said...

I've dated teachers before. In fact, my last serious girlfriend was a very gifted teacher in the Head Start program. Without a doubt, teachers can often be very special people, and provide unique perspectives in our lives. Best wishes for happiness with your special friend.

I've come to regard church not as a repository for doctrine, and the enforcement thereof, but as somewhat of a spiritual library, or reference work. I've been keyed to look for the occasional nugget which can be extracted and used productively in life's daily situations. It is a way of accepting personal responsibility for one's own spiritual matters, as opposed to being spoon fed everything someone thinks one needs to know and then micro-supervised. Sometimes the best thing for which we can hope in a church is just a loving community in which to function.