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Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Did Mr. Armstrong Preach the Gospel to World Leaders?
Did Mr. Armstrong Preach the Gospel to World Leaders?
As it became clear that the end-time events would not begin during (or before) 1972, Mr. Armstrong then went on to claim that his new commission was to bring the gospel to world leaders. Many believed that he had both been given and fulfilled this commission. Others have stated that HWA merely used this claim as justification to spend lavishly on housing, furnishings, artwork, clothing, cars, airplanes, travel and entertaining and that his visits with dignitaries served no purpose in proclaiming the gospel to the world.
Can we determine from HWA’s own descriptions of these events (and from documented history) which claim is correct?
From Mr. Armstrong's perspective
Member Letter 7/30/73: "God has shown me HOW to present it [his gospel]... as a sensational NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT that affects their country... in such a way that their newspapers will PUBLISH THE NEWS—PRINT WHAT I SAY… I believe I can proclaim this true Gospel as something SO NEW—so STARTLING—so SENSATIONAL—that it will get big headlines in newspapers…"
"It’s NOTHING LIKE what missionaries have taught in those countries! They will not recognize any connection WHATEVER. It will not appear as anything competitive to THEIR religions.
In Japan it will be thundered to them as direct from the CREATOR OF THE JAPANESE PEOPLE. I will not say anything against their religions...
THAT’S OUR COMMISSION! Just the ANNOUNCEMENT of the soon coming KINGDOM OF GOD.. of course I must reveal this great announcement to these heads of state first…"
Ministerial bulletin 6/3/79: "Some weeks ago I authorized the formation of a new FOUNDATION—named the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation. It has become a necessary adjunct to this worldwide dimension of getting Christ's TRUE Gospel to the nations through heads of government…[a] whole new phase of the Work.
... One thing has been a serious handicap and caused me and my touring team no little embarrassment. We have had to say that we represent either Ambassador College, or Worldwide Church of God.
... This new Foundation is giving us great added prestige, credibility, and favor. It is something NO ONE CAN CRITICIZE. It doesn't sound 'religious'!"
From an opposing perspective
The following are some comments by Marion McNair, one of the first men to be ordained as an evangelist in HWA's Radio Church of God. He left the organization and wrote “Armstrongism-- Religion or Rip-0ff? ” after becoming disillusioned about Mr. Armstrong. From pages 60-62 of that book:
“Did the TWELVE APOSTLES, when they came to the attention of rulers, hide the fact they represented Jesus Christ? Did they not say, when confronted, "… we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard… and they spake the word with boldness…" (Acts 4:19-20). Verse 2 of this chapter shows exactly what they preached—"The resurrection of the dead through Christ Jesus."
But Armstrong does not represent Christ to the Japanese. He thunders to them as direct from the CREATOR of the Japanese people. Whatever false god they have in their minds is the one they will "believe" is sponsoring Armstrong. It could be Buddha, Confucius or the Imperial god (Shinto) but not Jesus Christ.
Is that what our Lord instructed? Did He say to go to a nation "in the name of its god"? But rather through Paul, "… whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…" (Col 3:17)
… Jesus said, "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words… of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh…" Christ wants His ministers to speak boldly in His name. He did not say, "Go ye therefore unto all the world and SNEAK the Gospel into every nation."
Was Mr. Armstrong's approach effective?
Did Mr. Armstrong actually have an impact on world leaders (and the world overall) through this with his “sensational” approach? Did he make headlines and get newspapers to print "the gospel message" that he had delivered?
From Mr. Armstrong's perspective
Member Letter 2/22/74: “And now, PUBLIC APPEARANCE CAMPAIGNS are planned already in THREE nations, sponsored by officials high in the governments of these nations. Already I have gotten the MESSAGE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD to audiences of 55 to 100 of each nation's LEADERS in banquets or dinners in India, Japan, Thailand, South Vietnam, Ethiopia, and the Philippines.
This is positively miraculous! It is GOD'S DOING!
God had a SPECIAL MISSION for His first-century apostles -- giving personal eyewitness proof of the RESURRECTION of Christ, as well as proclaiming the Good News of the KINGDOM OF GOD. From then until 1934, the Church existed, comparatively small in number, persecuted, unable to proclaim the KINGDOM OF GOD to the world.
When I go before kings, presidents, emperors, prime ministers, and the LEADERS of many nations, I go and am received as AN AMBASSADOR FOR WORLD PEACE...
I go in Satan's great disfavor -- in Satan's eyes and those he has deceived into being used AGAINST the Work of the living God, with no credibility. But in GOD'S EYES, and in the eyes of the nations' leaders, I go with great FAVOR, THE HIGHEST CREDIBILITY, and in high HONOR!”
Member Letter 12/18/79 : "We arrived [in Red China] on Sunday evening, December 2nd. On Monday evening I spoke for about a half hour at a banquet in my honor, attended by prominent members of the government and their wives. Tuesday evening I spoke again before the Diplomatic Corps, including ambassadors—many with wives—representing 76 (SEVENTY-SIX) other nations from all parts of the world, beside a number of high-ranking Chinese...
[HWA, quoting a memo by Stan Rader about the meetings] ... "The Vice-Chairman undoubtedly had been advised of your strong comments Monday night and again on Tuesday night. I believe that he knew full well that the United Europe and the cataclysm that would follow were directly connected with your comments about the 'Strong Hand from somewhere' that would save mankind from complete destruction and would be man's salvation and only HOPE."
From the perspective of the news media
THE JERUSALEM POST, 8/24/76 , page 5: “Herbert Armstrong has shuttled in and out of Israel and the Arab world in the last few years at a rate that would leave Henry Kissinger breathless.
Flying in his own executive jet, the 84-year-old fundamentalist church leader and philanthropist has visited Israel alone 50-60 times since 1965. He has visited almost as extensively in Arab countries. Unlike Kissinger, he has offered his Israeli hosts neither bitter truths nor hard alternatives—only goodwill and money. It is an offer neither side has been able to refuse.
Mr. Armstrong’s current visit is in connection with a $250,000 contribution for a playground in Jerusalem’s Liberty Bell Garden… “
Although Mr. Armstrong did make headlines, the subject of the articles was not the gospel of Jesus Christ and the facts regarding his travels led many to question whether he was qualified to be a representative of God.
This brings us back to the question raised in the beginning:
Did Mr. Armstrong actually preach the Gospel to world leaders?
First, even by Mr. Armstrong's own statements, it is clear that he did not preach the true gospel of Christ. His vague message about the “give” and “get” ways of life (and “a strong hand from someplace” intervening in world affairs) to diplomats and other government officials did not equate to delivering the Gospel of Christ, or even an announcement about the coming kingdom of God.
Second, HWA’s statement about being embarrassed to go before others while representing a church is an extremely troubling admission for one claiming to be Christ's only Apostle of the “one true church”.
Third, his well-documented life of luxury with his mansions, Rolls Royce’s, art work, and Gulfstream Jets - all financed on the backs of struggling church members - unlikely demonstrated any connection whatsoever to Christ (and his example of service to others) to those dignitaries he interacted with.
30 years later
For those ministers continuing to believe and/or promote the idea that HWA’s travels were both justified and effective… what proof is there in 2016? Of all the world leaders that HWA had visited between 1974-1986, how many are still alive or in power at this time? How many of them actually passed on a single bit of HWA’s message to their own citizens? How many newspaper headlines carried Mr. Armstrong’s message to the public? Can we truly say that any of the nations that he had visited were warned… or even informed?
Of the roughly 7 billion inhabitants of the earth at this time, how many of them have even heard of Mr. Armstrong? Being very generous, let’s assume that the answer is somewhere between 10-50 million people. That would just represent 0.5% of the world’s total population. And of that tiny fraction of individuals that do remember Mr. Armstrong, would the majority remember him for the message that he proclaimed or for the manner in which he lived?