Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Leaving the Fold

There is an interesting conversation going on in a COG related Facebook page right now over how the church felt the need to control all aspects of the members lives.  The above quote is from Leaving the Fold by Marlene Winell

Being enveloped by a church that seeks to control every aspect of a members life leads to a false sense of security.  A person meets the warm approval of family members and friends and the church looks upon you favorable, if it is as nothing more than a money making entity.  But dare to step outside that cocoon and the world quickly changes.  Even though the person who has left is healthier, mentally, spiritually and physically, there is still the loss of approval that sometimes creeps in.

An excerpt from the book states:

It has been a wells established fact that those who are in fundamentalist groups, and the COG was fundamentalist to its core, are in it for security and for the sense of belonging to something special.

The Church of God has always presented its self as something special, called out, set apart from, God ordained.  That was the very thing Herbert Armstrong used when he rebelled against the church and started his own version, steeped in extra-biblical interpretations received though special revelations received in the public library or from his god.  His previous association was wrong and he was right. God had personally revealed to him the right and true way.  Those that bought into it were special and set apart from the lukewarm believers they left behind.

Continuing on from the above quote:

The church has always felt the need to have an answer for everything.  Why else would the church have produced hundreds and hundreds of "Letters" from the Letter Answering Department, or the countless booklets, books, magazine articles and hundreds of thousands of sermons.  Having one's questions answered provided a sense of relief knowing that one was no longer accountable and had no need to study or research further.  God's minister said it, so let it be done!

We see this today in the various fringe groups of Armstrongism.  Bob Thiel does it with sermons covering 10-20 different subjects at a time.  Dave Pack does it with 190+ new revelations from his god.  His members no longer need to think, just accept and they will be saved.  Gerald Flurry does it with his members when he threatens their salvation by daring to say "hi" to a family member who has left the fold.  Rond Weinland has led his members to believe they are so special that they will soon be gods, kings and priests in his world a few months away.   Rod Meredith has done the exact same thing by telling his members they are special and set apart from all other COG's. God is doing a special end time work with them exclusively. And then there is United, which has never quite been able to figure out what it needs to be doing, yet they are so special and called out, so much so that even Jelly has more followers than Jesus does.

Everything in the church seems to be exaggerated to the extreme. Doom, death and immediate obliteration is the game of the day for the church.  Members are constantly being warned about one thing after another. Famine, disease, parents eating children, concentration camps, invading Russian, Germans or Chinese armies, rampaging Muslims, all fear factors to maintain control.  As long as members stay together in the fold, they will fight and survive together because God will exclusively protect them.

We were always encouraged to "fight the good fight" and if we did then we had guaranteed entrance into the World Tomorrow where the lion would be dwelling with the lamb and we would be wielding rods of iron over our dominions or worlds.  that all sounds pretty good to this eon the "right" side of ht equation, but no so much for those being ruled over.  But that never mattered.  We were special. We were set apart.  We were God's very one chosen from billions of people. 

All of the benefits that the Church of God/Armstrongism offered always externals. Being kings, priests, world rulers and God was more important than the inner healing of one's heart and mind. Church members were and still are constantly berated as never quit measuring up. We were sinful slobs/worms that God was just itching to blot out.  The glorious rewards of the World Tomorrow were always just out of reach.  God always seemed eternally pissed at us, even more so than the deceived world around us.  It was our fault that Jesus never returned when he was supposed to.  We were not ready.  It was our fault that Loma Armstrong died from bowel blockage because the church was backed up with sin and rebellion.  That list can go on and on.

There's nothing inherently wrong with meeting human needs. However, in practice these needs are exaggerated and used to frighten potential converts into joining and to preserve existing membership. In fundamentalism, the dangers of life -- both now and in the here after -- are emphasised. Incredible threats and promises are made for heaven, hell and miracles here on Earth. The result is that people are disempowered by this approach to having their needs met. Since the source of all the benefits offered is external, requiring dependence on God and the church, internal resources atrophy. This process degrades the self and becomes a serious threat to human well-being. 

It all gets exhausting after a while trying to constantly measure up.  Our brains atrophy because our thinking has been done for us or we finally realize that we are worthless creatures and what's the point of trying any more.  The questioning stops and people just trundle on week after week listening to bland and boring sermons waiting for that "strong hand from someplace" to finally make things right.

In spite of all of that, there are individuals that never settle for the status quo and let that spark of questioning be given space to shine forth and they wake up.  They realize that so much of what they have been taught is not the "truth" and step out into the unknown where questions do not always need answers. Doubt, ambiguity and the gray areas of life then become learning places and growth.

Are you willing to live in doubt and ambiguity?


Anonymous said...

People need food, safety, belonging, self-esteem? Really? Who knew? I'm glad we have modern psychology to tell us. Now I know what I need to do. I'm going to the grocery store to get some food. (And I'm using my tithe money from now on).

Anonymous said...

Leaving the fold was the best thing I could have ever done for my family. Sure it was scary at first but what a blessing was. My children got a real education and are successful citizens in their communities where they work to make a difference in peoples lives. Real and true lasting friendships have developed instead of the superficial church friendships that exist at the whim of the church leader. Armstrongism is exactly like fundamentalism. It seeks to control lives to the point it destroys them

Anonymous said...

Your comment about the bumbling United Church of God was hilarious. Sadly I was part of the initial wave of members that went over to their side. What a horrible mess it turned out to be. We watched as the boys club took care of themselves first as they established UCG. Doctrinal purity was never the issue, financial security was. At that point they have done very well for themselves. They same sick abusive control issues they had in WCG just carried over into UCG. The day we left UCG was the best day of our lives.

Sweetblood777 said...

While a sense of belonging is strong in humans, people who gain this from others rather than their creator, will never really feel satisfied. Think of the relationship that the ancients had with the Creator. They didn't need the approval of other human beings. I think that true spiritual maturity comes when one reaches this point. Until then, one will never truly feel comfortable in their own skin, but will continue to rely on others for their happiness.

Anonymous said...

Well I would say that leaving LCg I never think of going back I realised the cultic ways they were practising, I am more bolder,assertive and aware of who I am, but sadly I have a horrible struggle with depression as I went to the church at a very young age and now in my thirties I realise what a fool I had been especially economically and socially, all but one friend from LCg I truly retained, it is like starting over life again from scratch but I have little support. NOt to mention health issues I choose not to deal with as I believed God would heal me and the list can go on. Talking with some members before and after I left helped me to realise it may be best for some to not leave as their minds are too far gone, it would be like peeling plaster off a brain that was on for too long. Finding out you wasted most of your life in a cult when you thought it was of God can be so traumatic for some they might not be able to cope without much support. Just like the matrix it is easy for some to take the blue pill. I have no regrets leaving LCG I realised most of the friendships were not deep and real just synthetic and based on whether or not you are apart of the so called one true organisation or church. Only two persons tried to sit with me like a human being to find out what upset me and made me leave. The members are not generally bad people I still love many of them but the brainwashing from the podium is intense yet subtle it can do some serious damage to minds, it is aimed at destroying real honest critical thinking, once they achieve that you are basically theirs to rule as they please or as they would say as God pleases. Yes I left but depression is not a pleasant illness to have to battle that is my scar I carry.Thank you all for speaking out.

DennisCDiehl said...

In the midst of absolute emotional chaos during my own messy transition between pastor and the freedom from all the drama and trauma it caused me, I had a very good counselor. In one session he simply summed up my entire "problem" and what to expect depending on my actions yet to be taken.

He said, "Dennis, you outgrow your boxes quickly. Everyone comes in a box and few even bother to explore the one they were born in. You have only two choices. You can stay in the box you were in and everyone will love you. They will support you in everything and be your friends. will be on on antidepressants the rest of your life because you will never again be able to speak up or be yourself. OR, you can leave the box you were in, which you have already done................but you go alone.

Truer words were never spoken. But thru the mud , the blood and the beer, I am happier and more at peace with everything than at any previous time. I have some regrets and guilts to go along with the journey, but nothing so good as the freedom to not worry or even care about the things that others poured into my head as if they knew.

Black Ops Mikey said...

Are you willing to live in doubt and ambiguity

The answer for Armstrongists is yes. Besides the obvious that most of the time Armstrongists came to the scam because they fell for the 'something for nothing' ideas spun by the sociopaths. Once trapped, they go through the downward spiral of throwing good money after bad in the vain hope they can rescue their 'investment' while attempting to respond to the emotional extortion portrayed by this blog article.

It's easy to fall for the Bayesian Trap.

Byker Bob said...

For all those in an ACOG: Be wise! Apostatize.


Ilija Korac said...

Boy you are worst than this people you are abusing that they are bad. What do you believe and who is you god and did you ever make mistake?

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what's said, but turning ones back on a abusive physical church doesn't mean one has to reject a relationship with God. Contrary to what these slivers teach, the two are not one and the same, but rather separate. A Christian is one who follows Christ. No church attendance is required. There's no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon 9:14. My covenant is always with God the Father and Jesus Christ. The corrupt COG organisation will never rob me of my clear understanding of that. No never ever. Even if you have to go it alone. You are never alone God helps those who call on Him. I loved God first I never loved HWA. The is a whiff, a stench a certain smell about WCG that I could explain. Maybe it is only me but you can practically smell trouble off them.