Sunday, April 17, 2016

If A Reporter Asked You to Prioritize the Beliefs of the Church, What Would You Say?



There is a comment on the Silenced blog in regards to the Withering Branches of the Church of God. It poses a great question in wondering how we would prioritize the beliefs of the church if we were asked by a reporter.



I remember the reporting following the tragic shooting at LCG by Terry Ratzmann. The news team was interviewing people outside to find out the basic facts, both about the situation, and about the group. When asked about their beliefs, one woman said, "We believe in keeping the sabbath." 
That got me to thinking at the time about the beliefs that I had been raised in. If I had to pick just one representative religious belief as an Armstrongite to tell a news reporter that I held, what would it be? And what would that answer say about me? 
What do Armstrongites believe, in order of priority? I think Armstrongite's beliefs are prioritized very tribally, according to what differentiates them from others. What is interesting about this is how these priorities differ from what arguably should have a high priority. 
Ask any Armstrongite, especially a minister, to list his beliefs in order of priority, and I guarantee you, you'll get sabbaths, holy days, tithing, clean and unclean meats, prayer and bible study. All physical rituals intended to symbolically communicate to god what an eager suck-up you are. 
Not in the Top Ten? Becoming christlike, overcoming, looking out for "the least." "Oh," they might say, "that goes without saying." Sure it does. It also goes without anything else. These aren't Armstrongite values. If you corner them, they'll pay lipservice to them, but that's about the beginning and the end of an Armstrongite's thoughts about these things. And not without good reason, since these things were not on ol' Herbert's list of priorities at all. But probably the vast majority of his followers are better folks than he was. Still, as a normal, decent human being, you only have a limited amount of time, energy, and attention, and the things at the top of your list of priorites will crowd out all the things further down. 
One thing Armstrongite doctrines arguably do not do is curry favor with the deities. Even if the god of the bible did exist, there's biblical reasons, as well as common sense ones, suggesting that his priorities would be very different from Armstrongite priorities anyway. If these rituals aren't appeasing any deities, then they aren't doing the members any good, and they certainly don't do anyone else who isn't a member any good. There's only one set of people who derive any tangible benefit from these doctrines. 
Yes, that's right, the "trunk" of the Armstrongite "tree" is a set empty rituals that don't do anyone who isn't a minister any good. These rituals have long served to reinforce tribal allegiances while keeping the cash flowing into church coffers. So the COG twigs have not fallen far from the "trunk" in this regard. The doctrines are the business model.
Guys like Vic Kubik, who are eager to keep their pension's nest feathered, are desperately trying to solve the problem of how to get more people to feed cash into their system. Maybe if they had a church that had a more practical set of doctrines as the "trunk" of its "tree," they would be able to succeed at this. However, we know they're between a rock and hard place in that respect. And that's what keeps the twigs so close. That proximity is also what ensures they'll keep withering. 
I was raised to believe in "keeping the sabbath." And I did keep it back then. But when I thought about it, if I had to say I believed something, keeping the sabbath, or any other ritual that I performed for the sole reason of trying to appease a deity, well, it just wouldn't be on any sincere list.

12 comments:

Black Ops Mikey said...

The most important real belief of the church -- the top priority -- is that members must do everything they can to maintain and expand the Luxury Fund of the cult leaders.

Anonymous said...

The number one belief listed if you would ask a minister would be, Tithing.

Anonymous said...


The Bible says that God made the seventh day of the week holy, the day after he created man. As Jesus explained, the Sabbath was made for man, not against man. The Sabbath was made for man, not just for the Jews, who did not yet exist at the start. God commanded his own chosen people the Israelites (all twelve tribes, not just Judah) to remember the Sabbath day in one of his Ten Commandments. Jesus went into the synagogue to teach on the Sabbath day as his custom was.

Yet, some people today who do not believe the Bible say that such rituals do not “curry favor with the deities,” and that they “don't do anyone who isn't a minister any good.”

If regularly recurring things like the Biblical Sabbath that has been around for about six thousand years now are of no value, and do not curry favor with God, then imagine how worthless unbiblical things like Sunday-keeping must be, other than to the Sunday-keeping “ministers” who collect money from their ignorant and sinful followers.

Questeruk said...

'Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbour as yourself.'

However, when a journalist is asking about beliefs of a church, what they want to know is 'what is different about your group' or 'what distinguishes your group from other groups'. It's in that context that things like Sabbath, Holy Days, food laws etc start to be quoted.

The journalists wouldn't be interested in a core value like my first sentence, because they would consider that's 'normal'. They mainly want to know 'what makes you different'.

Byker Bob said...

I've never had to speak to a reporter about Armstrongism, and I seriously doubt that I ever will. But, various people have inquired about my college education, or what religion I was raised in, and over the years, I've boiled it down to: "I was raised in a Messianic Jewish cult that taught that Jesus Christ would return in 1975". If that encapsulation gets me off the hook, I let it go at that. But some ask who the leader was, and what it might have been like growing up in such a cult. The most damaging aspects that I then describe involve the severe child abuse, the often death-dealing anti-medical beliefs, and the impoverishing three tithes and exploitative level offerings which were expected and enforced.

Honestly, I try to stay silent on this matter, preferring instead that people assume I was raised as a normal person in a healthy home environment. It embarrasses me to share information that belies past helplessness or victimization. As a natural reflex reaction that usually can't be helped, I have frequently found myself standing up for Jewish people, and for other persecuted minorities.

At this late date, I've accomplished the art of social blending for the most part, and in spite of the ancient background, people generally consider me to be a positive person, a problem solver that it's fun to have around. But during the Armstrong years, I was most likely seen as a "bad news Charlie" or weirdo, someone who could not be trusted. It is difficult to imagine the latter type shining any sort of Christian "light" which is probably why the old man prescribed a type of separatism in which the WCG became your de facto family.

BB

Anonymous said...


Victor Kubik and the disUnited Church of Godlessness: Tkach Apostasy Part II


Remembering and observing the Biblical Sabbath has nothing to do with Tkach suck-ups like Victor Kubik who really is just doing his current job in the UCG for the paycheck just like he did his previous job in the WCG under Joseph Tkach, Sr. for the paycheck.

"As Victor Kubik told Warren Zehrung at the UCG founding conference in Indianapolis when asked by the latter for an apology for having disfellowshipped and fired him from his former employment–'of course not, I was just doing my job.'"

"Victor Kubik is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees Joseph Tkach coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then Joseph Tkach attacks the flock and scatters it. Victor Kubik runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep" (John 10:12-13, Really New Up-To-Date Version With Modern Names).

Anonymous said...

Armstrongism: #1. The Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness.
That can also apply to all religions as well. Keeping the sabbath on any certain day is relatively easy and it also sends the message to anybody that notices that you have God's sign. But how effective is the sabbath in transforming bad people to good people? History answers that it can't and won't. Sure, you could convince others to join your cult and believe in sabbaths in the same way that you do, but how does that actually solve the problem? I am convinced that the sabbath is a man-made law! Simply because there is a wide assortment of characters, from evil to good, that keep and don't keep the sabbath. The keeping or breaking of the sabbath has no effect! We need to learn to obey the laws of nature that are impossible for us to break. As an example, we didn't put men on the moon by breaking the law of gravity. We achieved that competence by learning to obey the law of gravity with greater precision.
Even though I'm sure it has its faults, like previous beliefs, applying the scientific method to "Rules To Live By" could be a refreshing start.

DBP

Anonymous said...


“If A Reporter Asked You to Prioritize the Beliefs of the Church, What Would you Say?”


Good question, but it depends on which church the reporter is asking about. Here are some examples, which everyone ought to know by now:


THE PLAYBOYS

Incontinent Church of Fraud: This is a tiny little group of leftover rebels, sinners, and fools that believes in watching old television reruns of a dead babbler called “Teddy the Dink” to try to learn from the masterb in the wild hope that maybe they too can somehow get lucky with young co-eds, or at least with old masseuses.


THE APOSTATES

Graceless Community of Iniquity: These apostates believe in getting as far away as possible from anything Biblical, and getting into unbiblical and pagan-based things that Sunday-keepers would approve of. They believe with all their deceitful, hardened hearts in using grace as a license to sin. The top priority was to fulfil some prophecy about a great falling away.


THE TINY LITTLE BIG SHOTS

The disUnited Church of Godlessness: The top priority, above all else, was to get paychecks and pensions for the former WCG ministers who moved over to the UCG after their WCG jobs disappeared. It also believes that unmitigated, abject godlessness among the morally challenged attendees can work as a business model in the UCG, even though it failed in the WCG under the apostate Tkaches. It believes that with old Tkach people like Victor Kubik at the top now, the UCG can finish the Tkach's job of taking the people back into the world just by going a little bit slower than the WCG's sudden January 1995 shocker, which had proved to be too abrupt for some people. It seems to believe in splitting and splintering.

The Living Church of Fraud: It believes in the family business of RCM and of carrying on RCM's tradition of “doctrinal upgrades” to try to put RCM's own stamp on the church and to show that HWA was wrong so as to get back at HWA for once having exiled RCM to Hawaii for a number of months. It believes that almost nobody had ever heard of HWA and the WCG, but that the LCG can “shake the nations” with old RCM in a wheelchair and with less than one-tenth of the number of people that the WCG had. They also seem to think that if they beg enough, maybe God will give them as much as one-half of the rate of growth that he routinely gave HWA year after year, which would be an unbelievably huge increase for the LCG.


Continued below...

Anonymous said...


...continued from above.


THE FALSE PROPHETS

Philadelphia Church of Fraud: It believes in using HWA's name and photograph to try to lure, catch, and destroy anyone who believed what HWA had taught, and who had not gone along with the Tkach's apostasy. It believes in using numerous false names to worship a drunken runt. It also believes very strongly in sexual immorality and in trying to break up families and friendships. Its top priority is to try to destroy forever the former followers of HWA, and to do it in the name of HWA so as to leave them confused and discouraged.

Restored Church of Fraud: It definitely believes in the power of Bait & Switch: bait with HWA's old teachings, but then switch to DCP's new teachings. It believes very strongly in theft, theft, and more theft. It believes in money, statistics, and whatever DCP's latest sermon says about a topic. Its top priority is to lure, catch, and destroy any followers of HWA who had not gone along with the Tkach's apostasy, and who had not already been totally snuffed out by other devil-set traps like the PCG (see above). It also believes in helping to fulfil the prophecy that many false prophets (not just GRF) would come and deceive many. It believes bitterly and poutingly that anyone who believes what HWA had taught in the past, rather than what DCP teaches now, is an “idolater.”

The Church of Fraud--Preparing for the Kingdom of Fraud: It believes in fiction, especially prophetic fantasy fiction. It believes that logical thinking is simply much too hard, and that expecting prophetic guesses to come true on the given date is expecting too much. It believes in letting your mind drift and daydream and live vicariously by watching the vacationing and shopping of the leader when he is out of prison. It believes in clowns and their circuses.

The Continuing Church of Fraud: It believes in demons, pagans, and Nigerian scams. The Nigerian members sincerely believe in the gullibility of their American leader.


THE INDEPENDENTS

The Uncountable and Unknown Nobodies They each believe that their god is personally leading each one of them into a different set of beliefs. And, in a sense, they are finally right. They believe that they can believe anything, as long as it is not true, and as long as no one else currently believes it. They believe that any sort of unity whatsoever is for conformists, and that if you just have faith, like their faith, the (evil) spirits can help you to come up with something unique.

Steve D said...

Kubik said, "I was just doing my job"? Isn't that essentially the same excuse Nazi gave during the Nuremburg Trials, "I was just following orders."?

Anonymous said...

In Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) Dr. Kauffman is about to shoot James Bond when Bond tricks him and turns his gun on him.

Dr. Kauffman: Wait! I'm just a professional doing a job.

Bond: Me too.

Anonymous said...

Amusing, but where does that leave you, writer?