Sharing a quotable quote on the nature of the experience we have had with the Worldwide Church of God/Armstrongs and all the many splits and schisms that have risen from the ashes of it all. It applies both to the specific cultic, for that is what it is, experience and can apply to a much larger experience for those who have gone on to question larger problems with religion. I believe one can at least see that the experience of personal sincerity, growth and change whether chosen or inflicted is a common one. The questions, that one who thinks about such things, experiences with organized religion and personality cults raise are common for those that question it. the reasons people stay put and the rationale behind their choices are both predictable and universal.
Some keep drinking from dirty fountains because it is what they have always done. They are used to it and besides, they are heavily invested in that fountain. They may have even helped dig the well, lay the pipe or chosen the design. Since we have to take the good with the bad, the quality of the water is acceptable as long as it doesn't make me specifically ill. I may feel badly drinking from it, but I'll never tell you because I probably just have an attitude problem anyway...
I hope you find the observations in the following to be familiar feelings and realities that have come from our common experiences with "The Church", and all it's current manifestations, good, bad and downright silly. It's a normal reaction that thinking and observant folk have as time passes and when one has experienced a less than satisfying church choice. If it resonates with you, you're alive and well. You are doing just fine.
"For a long time I was an ardent admirer of Dr. John Piper. I remember a sermon of Dr. Piper's in which he described God as a flowing fountain of delight. The Psalmist writes, 'Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him' Psalm 34:8 Piper said that we would praise a fountain, not by standing passively by, but by sticking our faces deep inside it to take it in its wonderful refreshment. We would stand up and shout, 'This is the best water I've ever tasted; come and have some with me!' He invited others to taste and see God's goodness."
But what about those of us who have left the fountain with a horrible taste in our mouths? We came to the fountain and drank as deeply as we could and, for a while, could not get enough of it. We loved reading the Bible and being instructed by it. We believed that it made us wiser than our counselors. We made our bodies our slaves so that they would honor God. We prayed without ceasing. We sought first the Kingdom of God. We confessed our sins and believed that God was faithful and just to forgive us our sins. We preached 'the Word' in season and out. We attempted to study to show ourselves approved. We fed God's sheep.
But then something happened. The fountain became foul to us. We tried to ignore the taste. We went back to it again and again hoping something would change. We opened the Bible and, instead of finding wisdom, we found violence and the justification of immoral acts. We found anti-intellectualism and backward thinking. We found oppression. Our prayers returned to us void. They bounced off the ceiling. We prayed harder and felt dumber for it. While we could still enjoy the fellowship of Christian people, we discovered what we liked about them had nothing to do with their Christianity but rather with their humanity. We found that we simply liked the people for who they were, not because they believed something about religion.
We weren't trying to 'leave the faith.' The faith was leaving us. We tried to hold on to the fountain but something had changed. It wasn't the fountain; it was our taste for it. We realized that the fountain wasn't a being; it was a religion. It was just dogma. It is like we had been drinking from it with our eyes closed and noses plugged. Somehow, though, we opened our eyes and unplugged our noses and discovered we had been enjoying filth. The fountain was a fountain of blood and other foul things. We realized we had spent most of our lives consuming a vile concoction.
We would have been happy to have simply left, but we couldn't help but want to pull others away from such a cesspool. We wanted to help them open their eyes and see what we saw. We wanted them to see the trouble the fountain was causing in the world. Quickly, however, we ran into opposition. We found that those still slurping away at the fountain with eyes closed and noses plugged resisted. They said that we were lying about the taste of the fountain or that we had never drunk from it in the first place. We told them to open their eyes, but they responded that eyes cannot be trusted. We described the filth to them, but even when they accepted that the fountain contained blood and other 'foul'things, they insisted those things were really good..."