Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dennis muses...

“Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing”

Thomas Huxley

Remember when you "came into the truth"?   I certainly recall as a teen being asked "just how did you come to the truth?"   Decades later, of course, I came to realize it wasn't THE Truth at all.  It was A BELIEF for the time and it certainly was a then "Present Truth", but it was not the truth. It was what I thought was true, but it did not hold up to the facts as time and my own desire to know more played out.   There were many many more facts to sit down before yet to come to challenge my preconceived notions of that truth.  It did lead to an abyss.  I learned a lot.  Faith is what one has, it seems, before the facts sweep it away.  Faith is what one has in the world of mostly untestable religious beliefs and views.  If you could actually test it, it would not be faith.  

We are all familiar with the way one "proves" one's faith.  You give tithes and offerings and the scripture promises that this will be the proof of God's reality.  Just see how the windows of heaven open up for you.  Another way was to call for the elders of the Church when you were afraid you were going to die of some malady.  "And the prayer of faith will save the sick and the sick shall be made well."  There, that does it.  Of course that opened the door for endless and ridiculous views on the roll of doctors and medicine but I spare you. I can only speak for me, but I saw NOT ONE miraculous and obvious healing of a major illness that did not simply play itself out either to getting better or death.  I know..."Well duh, YOU weren't...."  We usually are left with getting the Deity off the hook for having not proved anything in this way by saying such things as one did not have the proper faith, we have to ask according to His will and it wasn't or you can't just give to get.   No matter, the Deity always comes off smelling like a rose no matter what and the poor human who was asked to prove something by doing something is still found defective in their faith or asking or dead..but thanks for playing. 

At any given moment in time, everyone is content with their present truth, or they would move on.  Churches are filled with good folk who totally accept what they hear every week no matter how untestable or untenable the story is. The members of Apostle Dave Pack's RCG are extreme examples of just how silly this reality can get.  Some feel that stirring of discontent and quietly reserve their judgment as they search out the matter as that is their nature to do so.  Most don't have that nature.  Like Dave Pack, who surrounds himself with "agreers", most Churches are filled with "accepters."   There is no curiosity that there may be more to the story or that the old old story may really be out of date for what we can know know.  What holds most in place with old old stories is the fear of being wrong or having to reconstruct a belief system that  eases the fear, quilt, shame and anxiety we thought we had gotten under control with the last belief system.  People get angry and very defensive when new facts challenge old beliefs.  They can easily dismiss the "facts"  as they would see them and cling more tightly to "the truth."  It's how we think and what we do when facts make us insecure or even angry.  One can know they are not dealing with the facts when all they can come up with is sarcasm, anger and accusations when starring into the abyss.  In my experience in the difference between religion and good research in a matter is that when good research is not as good as it should be, what was learned is added to the fund of knowing but then one keeps looking.  That's called progress.  When the research or understanding of the who, what, where, when, why and how of the Bible is brought into question, you deny the problem and kill the messenger. It is why religion is a stuck thing and the same, yesterday, today and forever. 

“It is not that I'm so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” 
― Albert Einstein

I can't help but wonder what is going through the mind of a Dave Pack after his most recent theological blundering about him being the real Joshua the High Priest of Haggai and the one true church that will be the magnet that retrieves all the poor disillusioned and lost COG splinter types.   While Mr. Pack may be able to buy a little time by reworking his puzzle or digging deeper into the code, he was very badly mistaken and deluded and simply is not the kind  of personality that can admit that.  He was correct, as he thinks, about the prophecy and the prophecy is still "on", but he was wrong in the TIMING.  It's always the timing isn't it...
Dave's God tricked him, or at least left him out of the loop on a few matters of importance in this whole matter.  I love the phrase he uses, "additional expansive elements."  There are always those aren't there when a man makes a fool out of himself and can't find an easy way out by simply saying, "I was mistaken."  Adding an "I apologize" would be unthinkable because that would indicate the mere humanness of the man and we can't have that.  We're talking Apostle and Joshua a High Priest as spoken of by Haggai the Prophet here! After all, if one is wrong about something as overarching and awesome as this, what else might they be wrong about?

The human ego bound up in religion and even more so in the kind of ministry run by a Dave Pack simply can not allow itself to be wrong.  Apostle Pack can no sooner be wrong than he can lose. Herbert Armstrong never could either.  He got out of accepting the fact he was wrong by insisting that "God has revealed new truth."  "New Truth" is what you come up with in religion to excuse the mistaken notions of the old error.  When a man speaks the words "New Truth" in religion, it just means he is making adjustments so he won't lose too many folk and income over his mistaken notions of himself or what he thinks he sees in scripture about himself or his calling.  For a man in this day and age to see himself spoken of in the Bible is insanity.  It never ends well.

In the Bible one is challenged by ...

I Kings 18:21

Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." 

...but there are many more than just two opinions in this world.  Either/or is not the path to truth either.  In the text it says "but the people said nothing."  Good on them!  Perhaps they were unsure of the outcome and were holding off a bit..  Perhaps some liked Baal and the Priests .  One never hears about  the Priestesses in the tale who were not killed and probably were the prize for the winning god.  This tale may have been a pissing contest between two gods who wanted to date the same girl.   But the idea here that there are just two choices , one of which is "the truth" is simply not how life works.  Besides, the God of Elijah who did such things and demanded much from the people has given way to new concepts of God and new truths about the evolution of that god in our world today.  If Jesus was the "God of the Old Testament,"  ( *He was not nor ever claimed to be) he since had discovered much new truth about himself and changed His and perspectives big time. 

Dave Pack, as do others, implies that you are either in his truth, which of course is identical to the true God's truth, or you are not.  His infinitesimal and insignificant Church is the True one.  Everyone else, in all the other true ones aren't true at all. If they don't follow Dave they aren't even sincere and if they are in ministry, they are of the devil.  Personally I have never met anyone in any church who admitted to being in the wrong or false church. It's just not how we think when we join ourselves to something.   What a silly mess these men make of religion.  Humans minds don't get much smaller than this.  Small minded folk fight back with "Some people are so open minded their brains fall out."  That works better for me frankly.  I'd rather have my brain filled up and flowing over than atrophy. As I have noted in the past, men like Dave Pack never liked or read a book they didn't write. Book is being generous.  They are the Booklet Churches of God.  In Dave's case, it is the Plagiarized Booklet Church of God.  Or maybe the Xerox Church of God. 

Sitting down before the facts as we can best and possibly know the facts of anything is not what grown men usually do in a religious context.  The Bible is FULL of warnings and threats to not do that. It's why things are labeled as "a mystery" but it also means stay in your place.  "We see in part," also works to keep one in place because it implies there is no real  reason to "search out a matter" and besides, that's only for Kings and Apostles to do, but it also really just means, stay in your seat.   You haven't lived until you read Dave Pack's article on why truth can only come through Apostles.  Actually he keeps an arms length from saying much about it himself as the whole thing is just HWA quotes on the topic.  Dave has some wiggle room but he won't ever use it unless he gets desperate to seem like he will take the views of others into consideration. After all, this is the man who tells us as if it was a good thing that in his world, there will be no study papers, no committees and no theological discussions that he does not come up with first.   One grows in Dave Pack's kind of grace and knowledge and not your own. 

 Most religious folk don't really grow in knowledge.  Most COG types don't grow much in grace much either.  It's a dirty word.  They certainly don't do it as a little child though they would have you believe they do.  Most people don't give up their current truths because they are , to them, eternal truths and not subject to examination or change.  "I change not" is often taken out of context to justify the stubbornness and arrogance we see in such mindsets.  

Few are willing to stare into the abyss.  Some call it "the dark night of the soul."  Some, "a midlife crisis..."  Either way, not to stare into that occasional abyss is a formula for getting stuck thinking one has all of life and all things God figured out.  Very few realize that just because the Bible says this or that, does not mean that is really the truth of the matter. "God said it, I believe it, that settles it for me," is a slippery slope when one is forced to consider whether a real God or just Priests and Prophets said that for their own reasons or in a delusional state.

Most don't like where starring into the abyss of religion or theology can take them.  They are told the same thing over and over and over and over, week after week after week after week until there is no room to sit before anything and reconsider it.  How many sermons and "Refreshers", which were exhausting, did I sit through where all I could come up with was "Oh God...not this again."

Life in the typical Church of God and most fundamentalist churches is the formula for learning nothing because there is nothing more to learn.  But there always is....


When Moses, in the story, asked God who it was that he should tell the the people sent him, we have the hugely overblown and theologically analyzed statement of "tell them 'I am that I am' sent you,"  In that culture, when a man could trick the god into giving out his name, the man could have come control over the god.  In effect the God, knowing this, merely said in Hebrew, "it is none of your business who I am..."  It was not meant to be the huge doctrinal statement it evolved into.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for your efforts to help people avoid the heartache that often comes to good people who seek improvement, and in the process get caught up in dealing with people who cause harm.
In the past you've posted an excellent "bill of rights" (or maybe you called it something different- I'm going on memory) for those considering involvemet with a church.
Today I watched a video that's along similar lines.
Here's the link.

I've witnessed such negative changes in persons as a result of such things as joining churches/religions, as well as the result of involvment in various things such as self-help trainings and salesmanship trainings.
Oddly enough, these folks will typically praise what they've "learned" and speak of having become a person of greater integrity, although their actions belie such claims.


Head Usher said...

This is part of my problem with xianity, but also religion in general. Xianity is comprised of 1) reactionary factions such as fundamentalism that try to keep everything the same as they been for thousands of years, and 2) liberal factions that pander to whatever ideas happen to be trendy within the prevailing culture. The same thing holds true for other religions also, since a rapidly changing world is going to present similar challenges to any static belief system.

Despite all the new things that result from the interaction of science, technology, and culture, the only "new" things in xianity are reinterpretations of the old so as to downplay currently unfashionable xian ideas such as slavery, racism, hate speech, and the earth-centered planetary system. Other than that, religion is prettymuch closed, and any other new things are clearly labeled as "heresy."

If religion were "the truth" science would be playing catch-up to religion's foreknowledge, instead of religion having to keep adjusting itself to comply to new scientific discoveries, and the liberal rationalizations would simply be unnecessary because religion would be out in front of all these issues, having claimed all the moral high ground eons ago. The fact that it lags behind in both moral and scientific issues is very telling. In my opinion, as a wisdom tradition, xianity just isn't all that wise. So, at what point in one's life does religion become too intellectually claustrophobic to be tolerable? To me, it's an environment that's become absolutely stifling.

Byker Bob said...

What I've come to realize is that there are various resources out there which can help people to deal with their own humanness, external problematic events which effect them, and the ethics with which they deal with others. The problem is, people often resort to extremes, when mild adjustments would produce a more balanced approach. Armstrongism is just such an extreme, exhibiting the worst elements, including nearly total surrender of one's mind to a corporate entity which they equate with God. I mean, you can just take a perfunctory look at a James Malm, or a David Pack and instantly realize that any purported strength, if taken to extreme, becomes a destructive weakness. Yet, "gurus" teach total commitment, or the drinking of their Kool Aid, ie "totally buying into" it all.

There are some people who are helped towards healing by training, or a more structured life, but it doesn't necessarily follow that one size fits all in this. Years ago, I had a friend who had been raised in WCG, and was struggling at a certain point in his life. I more or less lost him as a friend when he joined the Church of Scientology. At one point, I even read Dianetics in an attempt to understand, and relate. I've recently learned that he went on to become an award winning digital colorist in the motion picture industry, and has enjoyed a stable marriage and family throughout the elapsed time since I last chatted with him. He is still a Scientologist. Obviously, he found healing, and has lived a successful life, though it is doubtful that any sort of friendship could be rekindled. Actually, his well-being is more important to me than being able to conduct a friendship.

There is a very small minority of people whose quality of life probably has been improved by Armstrongism. I shudder at the state one's mental condition would need to be in so that this could be true, but why else would there be unwavering lifers in that philosophy who even go to the extreme of hopping from group to group, rather than leaving it completely behind?

Unresolved trauma is usually the stimulant needed to force people to rethink their core beliefs and or values. Some of us would think of the failure of 1975 as being sufficiently traumatic, or the continued failure of the Armstrong prophecy mode, the sudden absurdity of British Israelism in the face of science, or incest or tax scandals. The problem is that each of us as individuals has a certain threshhold of trauma, and apparently there are some with an unbelievable tolerance for it. It is not a thing easily understood.


Anonymous said...

Here's another article about something gone wrong in the 11 billion dollar a year "self help" industry.
It's an older article, but worth the read.

Here's the link.

What Ray and so many other other self-help gurus teach is almost exactly "The prosperity gospel" that most of today's Christian preachers preach on the popular Daystar and Trinity Broadcasting Networks on television- - (it's not surprising that this would appeal to many people, given the message is that you can become a better person AND make lots of money while doing so). The buzzwords are the same and there's very little difference between the two teachings, although one is secular and the other is not.

Byker Bob said...

The Ray thing struck close to home, because it happened in my particular neck of the woods. The linked article actually makes reference to Ray using the term "guru". The first time I heard that word back in my teens, I took an instant dislike to it, because I noticed that once someone was under the influence of a guru, you could no longer speak to that individual directly. In conversation, all they would do is to spout the teachings of their guru, and mostly act in his valence. They had lost or subverted "self", and not just for the sake of benevolence.

Ray was obviously pressuring people to act outside of their comfort level by assigning such tasks as functioning as homeless people. He did not do his homework properly, or put enough thought into the ways the assignments might affect specific personality types. There are certain things that not just anyone can do. As a motorcycle enthusiast, I never did get into color coordinated leathers and helmets with two way radios. Most of the time, I looked like a motorcycle gang member without the patch. My mere presence offended certain classes of society. If I were asigned ratty levis, a smelly sweatshirt, and tennies with the toes out, it would be no problem panhandling my way through the weekend. But, let's say some sochie lady from Bel Air or Beverly Hills were dressed in rags and sent out on the streets to fend for herself. It would probably be such an instantly devastating shock, that one could understand any number of bad internal reactions, although suicide seems a bit extreme. Clearly, better profiling needed to be done by Ray's group.

The prosperity gospel is spoken of with ridicule in many Christian Churches. It may seem funny to say this, but this type of gospel limits God to one way of mentoring to his children. I know that some people are mentored to through prosperity. However, it is unrealistic to see that as the only possible result of commitment to Jesus Christ. Large numbers of people need to learn lessons and kingdom skills that have nothing to do with prosperity. Life is an interactive process, not a vacuum thing, and regardless of intelligence, financial status, race, sexual orientation, or health status, there are ups and downs. Peoples' faith and belief systems, if balanced, often help them to deal with the roller coaster of life.


DennisCDiehl said...

Hi Norm, Thanks for you comment. It was "The Church Member Bill of Rights"

I know folk are sincere in their desire to know "the truth" I find more truth in the real world neurocience, quantum phyics , cosmology and paleontolgy as you know. Faith is just faith. It is really not testable in any way that would lead one to knowing the truth of matters, in my experience.

I know the temptation to refind religion after the WCG fiasco and while I can get emotional and wishful over any number of topics, I alway return to what seem to actually be and not what I wish was.

HD, one never finds science apologizing to religion. And it takes hundreds of years for organized churches to "recognize" the realities of science done well as we say. The RCC admits to the reality of evolution and the Episcopal Priest I spoke with admitted the Bible had problems if one was going to insist on inerrancy etc. He also knew of course that Genesis was not the how we got here . If I was an Episcopal Priest, I'd fit in just fine, evidently, as is :)

BB said: "Unresolved trauma is usually the stimulant needed to force people to rethink their core beliefs and or values."

That's exactly right Bob. It takes a push to grow or as I say, walking forward is merely a controlled crash. I would not be here if I had not been there. I would not have had the guts to examine my own deeply personal observations had WCG not made such a fool out of itself and me along the way. It motivates, or did me, to say, "if you guys can come up with all that and think to force it on me, I can take a better look at the doubts I have had for years about the Bible itself.

The 'prosperity gospel" is the kind of bullshit matierialistic religionists come up with to feel happy slappy good about it all. It is the most shallow of all gospel views. Fits Americans well.