Sunday, August 31, 2014

New Book by Monte Wolverton: Living 120: A Story of Good, Faith, Fraud and the Pursuit of Longevity

Chasing 120 on Amazon

Monte Wolverton has a new book out that is very loosely based on Armstrongism.

It is fiction but based on his experiences growing up in the old WCG. I think you'll recognize many of the main "characters" including the "villain" a former ad-man turned preacher & purveyor of health-foods, named Tyler Belknap. It's a page-turner!  - Laura Urista, Facebook

Amazon book review:

A highly successful but unscrupulous health mogul promises his followers 120 years of robust life if they stick to his “Bible-based” regimen and buy his products. Through his vast Wellness 120 empire, based in the Portland, Oregon area, the charming and charismatic Dr. Tyler Belknap has amassed a cult-like following of people who are working to achieve 12 decades of life. In nationwide infomercials and books, the fast-talking Texas adman-turned-preacher targets Christian consumers with Biblical-sounding promises of health and longevity. Many of his followers seem to enjoy improved health. But others suffer serious side effects from foods and supplements laced with exotic substances and GMOs developed in Belknap’s secret underground research facility in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Belknap and his cronies will stop at nothing to keep their edge in the market, bribing politicians and officials, coercing suppliers, sweeping dissatisfied customers under the carpet and crushing whistleblowers. In the midst of this culture of false promises and religious-sounding fakery, Belknap’s creative director Dave Whitman and his wife Marcia have enjoyed a comfortable life. Suddenly they find themselves at the center of a huge crisis when their teenage son suffers severe brain damage from one of Belknap’s psychoactive substance-laced foods. They must come to grips with the fact that the captivating and persuasive leader they have admired for decades is a crook—and that justice does not always happen in this world. Yet in spite of all that, they learn that life goes on and thrives—even though houses of cards in which we sometimes misplace our faith may fall around us.
Other commentary:
Monte Wolverton's first novel is a heady brew of faith and finances as people's spiritual hungers are exploited by an unscrupulous man bent on making money under the guise of making disciples. Chasing 120 will take you on a ride through the perils of greed, misplaced faith, and awakening to the truth no matter how painful. – Wayne Jacobsen, author and President of Lifestream Media
The novel is not just fun ... it's important. Even aside from the GMO conspiracies, I believe Wolverton's tale speaks to the deep disillusionment of so many people who've been burned by religious hucksters and corporate pop-gurus--people who've built empires on whatever vulnerabilities we carry in our woundedness. It's not enough to upset ourselves with the injustice of spiritual abuse. We need to ask what conditions set us up for it in the first place. What is the desperate need the charlatans promise to fulfill? Rather than just stealing false hope, might there be a good word that delivers true hope? Monte takes us there in Chasing 120, without platitudes or cliches. It's an excellent read that leads to some healthy thinking.  - Christianiy Without Religion/PTM


Byker Bob said...

Good on Monte. Insiders will immediately get it, and enjoy the novel, while those once ensnared by other hucksters will also profit from the insights.


Connie Schmidt said...

Much like how Shakespeare used fictional characters to reveal political truths in his day , Wolverton does the same here in his novel it appears.

Tyler Belknap , whose name itself reveals much ...Tyler being drawn from Tyler Texas, and Belknap from Belknap Springs Oregon, the site of the first organized FOT of the old Radio Church of God is the proxy for Herbert W. Armstrong.

Belknap uses infomercials, just like HWA to build his empire, and promotes a book called "The 11 Laws of Wellness", similar to the idea of HWAs "The 7 Laws of Success".

The key to the great mentors in my life as compared to those that have tried to use me or "harvest me" is that the great ones never took anything from me. Their guidance, love, truth, example, education were always intended to "set me free" rather than possess me. It always came without a monetary cost, or slave/master relationship, but rather, go forth and do likewise.

This is the litmus test I believe. Those whose purpose is to "possess you" and hold you in place by organization in order to HARVEST you for their own benefit, money or ego are simply USERS.

Goes on in religion, business and politics. Be very very wary of such types, it always will lead to disillusionment.

Ron Dart gave a good sermon once that I have listened to many times. In it , he states that "Disillusionment Is Good". The reason is because being disillusioned means you were actually in a DELUSION and now truth has entered. So thus, disillusionment is indeed a good thing, and the beginning of enlightenment.

The protaganoist in this story is much like you and I. Whether we are still believers or not, or Sabbatarians or not, the HWA empire was an illusion. Seeing how the victim of the story "Dave Whitman" discovers, and deals with the internal struggles of the corruption and lies he discovers likely will resonate with many of us in reading.

Whitman was the "creative director" of Belknaps empire. I sure Monte uses this character as a surrogate for both his father and himself , who indeed were some of the more "creative" minds in the HWA COG.

Byker Bob said...

I picked up some DVDs to watch over the holiday weekend, one of which was a heart-warming Ving Rhames Hallmark TV movie called "Little John". It is about the family of a Texas rancher whose daughter becomes pregnant while studying law at university. She then goes to a school for unwed mothers, gives birth, and gives up the child, disappearing soon after that. The nuns at the school contact the father/grandfather who adopts and raises the child, a boy, as his own. Thirteen years later, an aunt, living in L.A., by chance runs across a news item indicating that the daughter, a successful lawyer, has just been appointed as a judge to family court. The rest of the film covers the difficult path of reunification of the family, and the restoration of a healthy relationship.

This got me to thinking. Most certainly our lives are far too extreme to be treated in a Hallmark film. Picture a young 1950s couple scared by the threat of an apocalyptic holocaust, becoming involved in a cult which teaches that modern Israel, having forgotten its identity and culture, is about to be attacked and enslaved by Assyrians who have similarly forgotten theirs. The couple's children are raised as pariahs to neighbors and their school mates, are mercilessly beaten at home, are separated from their loving extended family because they are non-members or Laodiceans, and blow off their educations or hopes for a career, because the holocaust is supposed to hit in 1972. The end doesn't come, some of the kids end up leaving the cult, and begin struggling to repair the deep damages, which they now realize are also affecting their own children.

Following the death of the cult's leader, under the new leader many corrections are made, and the church becomes somewhat mainstream. However, just when there appears to be a ray of sunshine, the parents and some of the siblings reject the corrections and remain with groups that still hold to the original teachings, still revere their incestuous "apostle" and even yet anticipate the apocalypse, continually revising the date.

What made resolution possible in the Ving Rhames film was the fact that one bad set of circumstances surrounding an unreported rape had set off the events leading to the feud. Once there was more information available, the main characters were able to be educated from the mindsets which had caused the family dysfunction, and they came together to restore something of value. The problem the characters in our own personal movies face is that despite the failure of prophecy, despite the input of science and genetics, and despite witnessing years of incredibly bad fruit, some of the characters rigidly resist and refuse to be educated from their mindsets. No Hallmark movie is possible.


Anonymous said...

Read it over the weekend.

There are portions that are great, such as how Wolverton relates what happens to the teenage boy . . . and watch out for that mysterious stranger that calls himself "Josh." As Ms. Schmidt has pointed out, there are some details, and happenings, that will have we who have experienced life in the Armstrong Dimension nodding our heads . . . and smiling? Well, maybe.

Parts of the narrative, of what happens, are just written down (not presented as scenes, or with dialogue) and may remind you of CliffNotes. Overall, though, compelling enough to keep you in it -- and with an unexpected and good wrap-up, too.

Anonymous said...

Bykebob, you should have written "SPOILER ALERT" for those like me who may have wanted to see "Little John" without knowing how the ending goes, beforehand.

Yes, "No Hallmark movie is possible." for most of us- even those normal citizens who never were in COG circles.

Personally, I consider that to be a good thing. We can all be "small heroes", which is more realistic:
Making the best of what we have, not holding on to resentments toward others, and doing what we can to make this a better place here and now, (instead of the spiritually juvenile "Everything will be better in the Kingdom so it's ok to shun you now!" approach), is the way to go.

Byker Bob said...

Sorry, for spoiling, anonymous. I've got some unique and eclectic likes and dislikes, and it is somewhat unusual that another blogger would want to read a book, listen to some music, or watch a film which I've stated that I enjoyed. You know, perceived philosophical differences, as opposed to the merits of the art itself. Now you've got me rethinking things. Maybe there are some other bloggers out there that enjoy watching NASCAR races or renting DVDs of archival Grateful Dead concerts, as well.