Richard was Herbert's most favored son that he had envisioned to be the leader of the church. He was the studious and devoted one, unlike his brother Garner Ted who was a womanizing, hard drinking and rambunctious young man.
Richard Armstrong was killed as the result of Alton Billingsley not paying attention to a divided road in central California. The resulting accident was a head on collision that sent Richard to the hospital in San Luis Obispo.
While Alton Billingsly was driving north on Coast Highway 101 in California at about 1:15 p.m. on July 23, 1958, Richard had his briefcase open, checking his list of people to visit and planning their next few stops. The four-lane, divided highway had merged into a two-way highway. Somehow neither of them noticed it. A half block or so to their left was another paved road running parallel to theirs; Mr. Billingsly supposed that to be the other two lanes of the highway. They moved over into the left lane—the lane of oncoming traffic—to pass, believing it still to be a divided highway. Just before they passed the car on their right, a Cadillac came over a slight hilltop. Mr. Billingsly swerved left, but the cars were moving toward each other too quickly. The oncoming car hit them head-on, just to the right—shearing off much of the right side of the car. Had Richard not dived toward the driver just before impact, he would have been killed instantly.
Although Mr. Billingsly was not seriously injured, Richard was taken to San Luis Obispo Hospital and placed in critical condition. His pelvis and right elbow were badly broken; his jaw was broken in several places with several teeth knocked out; his stomach and intestines were knocked up through the diaphragm against the left lung, collapsing the lung and shoving his heart over on his right side.
A week later, Richard’s kidneys were failing. They would have to move him to Los Angeles where they could hook him up to artificial kidneys. Because he was in traction, moving him could have killed him. So they carried him in a special bed that kept him in traction, slowly driving to Los Angeles in the middle of the night.
Here ends the "facts" that traditional church historians recognize. Before we turn to to the Philadelphia Church of God's fantasy interpretation, lets first look at the definition of what martyr is.
Merriam Webster defines a martyr this way:
martyrnoun mar·tyr \ˈmär-tər\
- a person who is killed or who suffers greatly for a religion, cause, etc.
- a person who pretends to suffer or who exaggerates suffering in order to get praise or sympathy
- a person who suffers greatly from something (such as an illness)
Full Definition of MARTYR
Malone continues on quoting Herbert Armstrong. Armstrong, in his typical fashion, turned the focus off of Richard and onto the membership. Richard's accident and impending death was a sure sign of faith. If Richard lived then the membership was proving that they had faith that Richard would be completely healed. If he died then the membership were guilty of having no faith. Even more appalling is that Armstrong used Richard's accident as weapon to make the members give more money!
- a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion
- a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle
He wanted God’s people to build faith from the experience. Driving from San Luis Obispo to L.A. the night of July 29, Mr. Armstrong said he struggled deeply to keep his mind in a state of faith. The Sabbath after Richard’s death, Mr. Armstrong debated going to Church services back at the college. “But then I realized it was my duty to attend …. I realized that some of the students had erroneously assumed that ministers were under such divine protection that no such tragedy could occur to one of them. Dick’s accident and death might shatter this faith. I knew I had to bring a message that would bolster and strengthen, not destroy, faith” (Autobiography, Vol. 2).
Another co-worker letter, dated August 28 of the same year, states, “Some had thought God would never let such a thing happen …. But nothing would please Satan more than to see us now lose faith.”
Can you imagine having a father that made your suffering into a tool of fundraising? This sadly was the main tool that Herbert Armstrong used continually over the years. He used the health of his son, his wife and other church leaders in order to extort more money from members. The sicker the person got the worse the membership was blamed for their lack of faith and support for the work.It’s no wonder why God, in the same chapter known as the “faith chapter,” goes into detail about the martyrdom of so many of His saints. The Church and its co-workers received perhaps the biggest lesson in faith it had ever received! In a co-worker letter written after the accident, before Richard died (on July 27), Mr. Armstrong scolded many of them for letting down in their prayers and offerings. “Co-workers, will you not only pray for my son’s miraculous and speedy recovery—but also for the financial salvation of the Work of God?” Throughout the letter, with the call for more believing prayers, Mr. Armstrong called for more faithful offerings. He said Satan had struck one of God’s “very chiefest laborers,” but that God’s Work needed more co-worker laborers “who help with their urgent heart-rending prayers, and with their tithes and generous offerings, regularly every month, or even every week.”
Does a person who dies early in life, without ever being tortured or persecuted for ones beliefs, make them into a martyr? Richard was not killed for his religion. He was not persecuted for the message he was preaching. Neither has any other living or deceased Church of God member over the last 80 some years. No government has jailed any leader for their beliefs and no one has died for their beliefs.
Flurry and Pack's personality cults are not being persecuted though they certainly are being mocked. That is not persecution! What this blog does, what The Painful Truth, Silenced and many others do is not persecution either. Pointing out the foibles and asinine sayings of church leaders is not persecution.
If Flurry, Pack and Thiel want to see REAL Christian being persecuted then they need to look no further than Syria, Iraq, India, Pakistan and Central Africa where Christians are being slaughtered for refusing to give up their beliefs. Those people are martyrs. There are no martyrs sitting in Wadsworth, Edmond, Cincinnati, Arroyo Grande, or Charlotte. Never have been and never will be.