Thursday, December 26, 2013

Armstrongism - It's A Misfit: Drawing Trees

There is a great blog story up today by a former COG member who responds to an article in United News, Treasure Digest: The One Snowman, where the author is proud that their children suffer by being "different."

Drawing Trees
I recently read an article on just this subject by a member of one of the many little groups that splintered off from the church Mr. Armstrong founded, titled Treasure Digest, The One Snowman  . Reading that piece brought back memories of being that little lonely girl, feeling lost in a culture that she was told was evil, being terrified of being found out for wanting some of the joy the other kids, and just being plain old confused by it all.

When I read the article again, I became angry at the tone and the theme of the piece. They acknowledged that their children endure ridicule and loneliness and even shunning for the faith of their parents. But they took that acknowledge as a matter of pride. They wrote:

“While I think we need to give our children credit for what they have endured for our beliefs, I also think there are important lessons that we adults can learn from the children and especially from the example of the one snowman.”
I don’t know if the writer of the piece ever stopped to consider that the reason why their child drew a snowman instead of Santa. They drew a snowman for the same reasons I drew what I did; because they were terrified not to. It wasn’t courage, or obedience or even faith that prompted me to not participate along with the rest of my class. It was plain old fashioned fear. We had a choice, to face the strange looks and whispered gossip from our schoolmates and the lack of understanding of our teachers and friends, or face the lectures and guilt heaped upon us by our parents, no matter how well meaning, and the ever hanging fear of what God would do to us for putting colored balls on a second graders rendering of a pine tree.


Byker Bob said...

The yellow highlighted paragraph says it all. The teacher and your classmates couldn't save you, and frankly, neither could your relatives. I wanted to be taken away and adopted by my aunt and uncle throughout most of my childhood, and it wasn't the sabbath and holy days that were the biggest reason for this. It was what my parents learned from the child beating booklet. (if you lurk here,, you are forgiven, Mom & Dad).

I am just so thankful the church didn't mandate homeschooling, as do many of the evangelicals of today. In fairness to the evangelicals, most of them practice grace-based family situations, but as it was in our WCG home, I needed that 8 hours of protection each day of school provided.


Anonymous said...

I hope you have reached out to your parents in these interim years following such harshness.
I have a similar background- what my parents learned from the WCG; and I often didn't wear my gym uniform at school so they wouldn't see the beating marks on my exposed bare skin. And trying to avoid attention, and not have others be aware of the severe pain of even sitting down in a chair at school.
What a sucky thing to endure from parents, but since we're aware their time is short and realize "That's what they thought best", is it not good to reach out to them in the final phase of their lives?

I fully realize that not everyone in somewhat similar circumstances will have the same answer.

Please forgive the anonymous response- I realize from your other postings that you seem to be against people anonymously.
(But I have my reasons.)

Byker Bob said...

Anonymous 12:29

If something like that is to be done, it has to be real, and it has to be right. I really wouldn't feel right about trying to fake a healed relationship, or normal familial love. That healing is certainly a gift I would like to receive from God, but it might not happen in this lifetime. If you are experiencing such healing right now, consider yourself very blessed.


Anonymous said...

I suppose you'd say I'm blessed in that regard.

You used the phrase, "healed relationship" which I did not use.

I wasn't talking about "complete healing", and I believe there are gradations.

In fact, when people talk of "complete healing", "complete transformation", etc, it makes me cringe.

I was talking about simple basic communication, and no mention of things more than that (like having a catharsis or a deep meeting of the minds).

I hope that makes sense. With that said, I'll leave and not broach the subject again.

Secular-Humanist Buddhist said...

The child abuse (physical and emotional) has to be the worst thing about these crazy COG cults. I would not urge people to feel more guilt because they can''t "forgive" their abusers. Perhaps better to study human psychology and try to understand what causes people to need some Hitler-like authority figure to tell them what to do and how to think. It might not entirely bring forgiveness but perhaps some peace when they understand what immature, needy fools their parents were to fall for this crap. If only people would get their heads out of the bible and think for themselves or study some science or something.

RSK said...

Well, based on what I knew and observed, it seemed to me that "God's endtime Elijah Herbert W. Armstrong" turned more hearts of children and fathers against each other than the other way around. And still continues to do so, especially when one party in that equation gets caught up in a particularly separatist group and refuses to speak to the other on the grounds of not accepting some Apostle-wannabe enough.

Byker Bob said...

No need to leave, anonymous, and no offense given or taken. This is a subject that I've put a lot of thought into and examined from many angles over a number of years, and, I am certainly open to new ideas or techniques.

The optimum condition (or what some would call a worthy goal) would most certainly be a healed and loving adult to adult relationship, with unconditional love, and regular communication. We had such conditions as an example in our pre-Armstrong family, so that is the standard which was set early on in life. I can say that I have progressed somewhat on the ladder of gradations to which you alluded. Partial is better than none. In most of my friendships, I never have to deal with the condition in which each party believes that the other is deceived, with interactions being tainted by that. That is the stumper. When I use the quasi-religious term "transformation", the secular equivalent would probably be "educating out of a mindset".

This is a tough, tough subject, something which probably causes considerable vexation for many of us. It's easier for me to try to tackle pollution and global warming!


Anonymous said...


I too will need to remain in the "A'" list. Lost a lot of life from Armstrongism due to "ending world" etc as a youth. My father read the Plain Truth and I was informed about all the "happenings" and as a 16 year old when future should be viewed as super-duper was more of a apocalyptic drooper. Everything was impacted from decisions etc. Let talents (God given yet from my understanding) fade (mourn loss of self) but I am trying to catch up now at geezer status.

I have been "thinking" about some things (still with COGWA...would like to know your and reader takes on this...they seem nice) but s...still...things linger that don't add up. When I asked about Armstrong and devestation of lives it is the "we all make mistakes or forget it" type...forget about people's lives being ruined...then,,AND now? Hmmm.

I would welcome your responses because I really am "thimpkn" about in...why do I drive an hour and 20 min to services? WHay do all COGs seem to have same sites or Winter Family Weekends, schools, camps with same focus but we are discouraged to mingle? Too much tingle perhaps? Do they REALLY have any clue what it's like to be the ONLY one in family with calling? My guess Jesus and God sure did.

Thank you for allowing run you can guess..highly introverted, creative (another story).

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:28, if a relative of mine were to ask the things which you just asked, I would suggest to them that they make a list of the reasons they attend an Armstrong splinter. Is it for fellowship? Is it because of prophecy? Do you feel that Armstrongism has the truth about God's perspective on the English-speaking peoples? Is it the sabbath and holy days, unclean meats, and tithing? Do you believe HWA was God's end-time Apostle or prophet?

I believe those are the most compelling reasons why most of the people I've spoken with cite as rationalization for their attendance. That's what roped them in, and it's what keeps them there year after year.

There are some poignant questions each of us must ask. Do these teachings produce good fruits in peoples' lives? Are the prophetic things they are saying truly happening? Will they ever happen? Is there good reliable counter- explanation to some of the lynchpin beliefs, such as their beloved British Israelism? If the sabbath and holy days are your most important key, aren't there some loving Messianic congregations which preach those?

"We all make mistakes" is not a good excuse or explanation for a failed prophet or apostle, or God would have seen to it that that was also included in the verses at the end of Deut. 18. These people who told you that are just kidding themselves. The way you determine whether God is speaking through someone is that the stuff they say God told them to preach actually happens. I personally believe that the verses are there because God holds his children responsible to determine whether someone is or is not a false teacher or false prophet.

If you look at the work these groups are supposed to be doing, it is all winding down. There is not enough time left in our lifetimes for them to even get back the visibility that Worldwide had in it's heyday. If UCG had been on its way to reclaiming that visibility, the very formation of your COGWA just diminished and set that back perhaps decades. These people are thinking "Gideon" when they should be realizing "Gamaliel".

All I would suggest, though, is that if you do end up making some changes, forgive and walk on. Don't let what HWA taught about bitterness become the only true prophecy he ever made. Don't give him that remaining power over your life.

Head Usher said...

I can empathize with you entirely Anon7:28.

Surface "niceness" isn't the question, is it. It's more the matter of where do these ideas take us? Increasingly better places where lives and relationships become increasingly enriched, or increasingly worse places where lives and relationships become increasingly ruined? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to briefly survey the shattered and decaying remains of HWA's legacy to figure out which end of the spectrum his ideas have been driving people toward.

However, I would say the same is true of conservative religion in general across the entire expanse of human history. Conservative feelings and attitudes seem to lead inexorably toward intolerance and bigotry toward other people, and hypocrisy in your own private sphere. It's the religiously conservative who sort everyone out into "true believers" and "false believers." They are the ones who can read god's mind (as well as yours). And they are the ones ultimately trapped by the fact they aren't able to perform any better than the people they make a career out of condemning.

And then there's the cognitive dissonance. You follow the recipe and instead of the wonderful light fluffy white cake everyone raved about, you get a heavy, steaming pile of stinky poo. But everyone tells you that's the wonderful light fluffy white cake. Why? Because that's the only thing you're "allowed" to get when you follow "god's recipe."

I see COGWA moving in Meredith-y directions and becoming more like LCG (more stultifyingly conservative) while UCG I see as moving in slightly more liberal directions (though they're so conservative to start that it's unlikely they'll ever become liberal in society's terms). But Jesus was a liberal, not a conservative. He railed against the hypocrisy of the conservative establishment of his day. He talked about graciousness, tolerance, forbearance, charity, mercy, etc. But conservative religion has room in it for none of these things, except perhaps as a garnish. All it has room for is surface "niceness," while a river of judgment and negativity flows underneath as though that's what Jesus was talking about.

Of course it doesn't add up. It never added up, but sometimes it takes people like you and me longer that we'd like to admit to realize that. When you say, "why do I drive an hour and 20 min to services?" what I hear is, for whose benefit am I doing all of this? My own, or somebody elses? I am guessing the only benefit you're deriving from the situation these days is to not be condemned by the people for whose benefit you're doing everything else. Been there. Leaving didn't turn out to be as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Anonymous said...

Greetings Anon 7:28
I see there are comments that have some good advice, but there is a question that you may not see here.
The some questions that many people hesitative to think about. Do I really believe that God exists or am I following someone else’s belief? Am I committed to following this God I believe exists or am I just following what other people tell me about Him? Is my faith in people or is it in something higher than that?

If you have not resolved these questions all religion fall short of fulfilling its intended purpose. If can in all honesty believe there is a God and your committed to Him and Him alone you will find the answers to all of the other questions.
I can say that I speak from a 82 years of experience.
A. Boocher

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts and thank you for your insights. Curious though on your feelings about COGWA's focus on if you leave the church and the way or believers that you will not be a first fruit or in Kingdom. You mentioned you did leave...this is a heavy anvil to toss aside and I am sure many have gotten through this.

Again I appreciate so much your insights from those who have "been there" as you appropriately put it. It's a if saying you want to leave the church...not God...quite the struggle. And, once you leave (you looked back from the plow) you are no longer considered His or elect who "know" as they say.

UT, The Reigning Being of Being Banned by Banned by HWA said...

Armstrongism was, and continues to be, a perverted abuse machine. However, I'm in favor of granting all the pervs and perps of Armstrongism absolute forgiveness - regardless of the church rank of the criminals or whether they be familial offenders.

I'll always enjoy ridiculing the Armstrongist abusers and their foolish ways but, I truly hope they all find peace and a better way of life. I do feel sorry that they all have been so wickedly deceived.

Forgiveness is an individual experience. Some can just choose to let the hurt go while others say they've been seared too deep to forgive, even though they'd rather put it all behind them. I find strength in forgiving - that sounds nice but, I'm also too tuff a bastard to allow the perps to have any further ounce of power to continue wounding me.

Removing myself from Armstrongism protects me physically but, the only way I can protect myself emotionally, even though the baggage remains where Armstronism placed it, is by forgiving.

Forgiveness is your best offense and defense. You can work either angle to your advantage and it can be all about you. However, some of us can't help snuggling up with the concept of Grace when dealing with the vileness of Armstrong abusers.

Armstrongism can correctly define Grace as unmerited pardon but, Armstrongism can never come close to truly understanding Grace - or, it then ceases to be Armstrongism. The more a Christian comprehends Grace, the easier forgiveness becomes - and with it enters peace with the past and present.

Anonymous said...

I get the gist of this write up, but really, if Jews and Muslims and atheists can handle all this, why is it that we hear this maudlin refuse every year at this time. I don't keep the day and neither does my family, not faulting others for keeping it either, just not giving it any energy is all. Most of the stuff here is heart felt and deep, but the dealing with XMas and other days is just blah, blah, blah.

Head Usher said...

Well, I think the thing is, if they knew what they were talking about, would you be feeling like you're not getting what you need? Or feeling like you're driving an hour and 20 min to services in vain every week? Would you be thinking about leaving? Probably not. So, if they don't know what they're talking about the rest of the time, why would they know what they're talking about when they tell you you're "deceived" or "lost" or "not going to make it"?

In their way of thinking, they can only ever be "right" about everything, and in their book, you can only find God or be saved through that organization, even though they may contradict themselves in paying lipservice to there being other "true xians" in other places. The organization is God to them. If you leave them and their organization, you're leaving God, period. But that's not true. In fact, the organization has outlived it's usefulness to you (if it ever had any to begin with). All those things they say are empty threats designed to keep you tied into that system. Your participation helps to validate all the things they need to be "true," and if you leave, you're stripping them of a certain amount of validation. You have to realize that the responsibility to see to it that you are getting what you need is ultimately yours, not theirs. It's not your job to play some role in order to validate their system for them.

They have no idea what it is that you need in the first place. How could they? To stay is to be irresponsible, pushed around by "everyone else," and continue to allow them to take away your choices and run your life for you, as though you were a child. To leave is an act of responsibility. It is what you need to do to take care of your own self and to start finding out where you need to be and what you need to be doing now. They're not going to understand. We both know that. But they don't have to. The fact is, you know what you're doing, you're doing it for the right reasons, and your responsibility to look after your own best interests is yours and yours alone. Their simplistic, cliched, and dogmatic view of your best interests cannot possibly take into consideration the factors at play within the lives of a world full of people, or even just one. They can't think beyond what it is they need you to do for them to even consider what it is that you might need at this point in your journey. The responsibility to manage your life is yours, not theirs, and the consequences for allowing them to mismanage your life are also yours, not theirs. That's why you have to take the reigns back from them. That's why it doesn't matter what they say or what they think. You've got bigger fish to fry. I doubt it will be as bad as you think.

Byker Bob said...

Who says leaving a church is removing your hands from the plow? Usually a church misapplies that scripture as a scare tactic to mean leaving their corporate group. But, you are not baptized into a church, you are baptized into Jesus Christ. All of us have our questions and doubts from time to time, and even if worse comes to worse, we need to remember the parable of the prodigal son. It's how you finish the race that counts.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:28, there is church, and there is the body of Christ. Think of church as being a kind of library book that you can access as resource in your life of channeling Jesus, allowing Him to live through you. Church is supposed to be a help, or aid, providing spiritual guidance and nourishment. It is not intended to be an extra layer of government that places itself between yourself and God. On judgment day, your minister is not going to be standing next to you as some sort of spiritual attorney. He's also not going to be standing there accusing you.