Monday, May 8, 2017

"Would HWA's Empire have been more successful, widespread and accepted if..."

Gerald Bronkar has asked the following question to be thrown out for comment.  This is a "neutral" question that would allow those in LCG and other groups to share their observations.

"Would HWA's Empire have been more successful, widespread and accepted if the heavy yoke of some of his church doctrines had been less onerous? 
His idea of God's rules presented many tough pills to swallow: Sabbath, holy days, tithing, divorce and remarriage, dietary laws, secret society difficult to get in, church government, etc.  If some of this had been relaxed, would he have had a greater impact---membership, income, fame?  Or was this actually his real attraction?  He sure knew how to make religion difficult. 


James said...

If HWA kept his hand from being the hand of oppression then yes he might have had a legacy for a century. But then some asshole would follow in his path and use the religion as a tool of oppression and terror. This is why Armstrongism can never be reformed. Oppression is part of its DNA.

Take note Ian. Armstrongism is like a bag of flaming dog shit on your front porch. Unwanted and unwarranted.

Byker Bob said...

He targeted a certain offbeat personality type, and obtained a level of commitment and loyalty that he would not have attracted if his teachings had been looser. The loyalties were to himself and his specific religious philisophy, not necessarily to Jesus Christ. That's why Armstrongism is called a personality cult.


Senior Citizen said...

I think the Pharisaical rules were the main draw. Most in the church are rebels looking for a cause and looking to stick it to their parents, families, etc., looking to be different and important.

Anonymous said...

As BB alluded to, I think HWA had a certain demographic in mind when he walked out of the Portland Public Libraray for the last time. Being a narcissist, he surveyed the population as a vast herd of cattle standing around waiting to be fleeced and butchered by the first man who could corral them. The demographic he had in mind was the one which he had an innate sense of how to fleece and slaughter. So he was only looking to corral these folks, and that's what he did. Had he been "more successful," I think that he might have had less success, since it might have entailed trying to fleece and butcher people he didn't have an innate sense of how to con, and the whole enterprise might have unraveled. He did what he knew how to do. Thank Zeus that none of his proteges have a much of a clue how to do what he did, and are thus only able to milk those HWA corralled for them (and some of their children).

Michael said...

Tough one...

But considering that HWA had carved out a specific niche among the religion of the day (apocalyptic personality cult), perhaps he actually had to be oppressive with lots of zany rules and authoritarian control in order to stand out and get as big as WWCG eventually did.

As I was too young I don't remember how it was when my mother was baptized, but growing up I remember emphasis was on "making it into the kingdom" and "escaping the tribulation" (= place of safety), and no authoritarian rule was too strict in that context. I think that people who joined HWA's group tended to be fearful of the future, and easily influenced by charismatic speakers who spoke with "authority".
So, that was the niche that HWA tended to find followers from. Had he been peddling more of milquetoast kinds of doctrines, he might have found the market already saturated, who knows.

nck said...

Btw. During the ages groups like that have been succesful now and then. It is called the messianic syndrome and revives in perilous revolutionary times whith large groups of people adrift like the 30 year war, the collapse of the byzantine empire, Savanarolas attack on the Medici corruption AND of course during the heat of the Cold War.


nck said...

People focussing on Armstrong or successors believing that they purposely preyed on people focus on the fish. While I like to focus on the sea.


NO2HWA said...

I think that if HWA had not been overcome with greed and power might have actually started a movement that would have great significance. Much like Joseph Smith and Ellen G White, Armstrong was a charismatic leader who instilled in his members a goal and a destination. He made people feel special and set apart and chosen by God. Having no theological educational, he surrounded himself with equally bankrupt men, like Meredith, Waterhouse, Hoeh and others. Meredith brought much of the legalistic nonsense that the church eventually adopted.

The major problem with Armstrong is beneath the veneer being a leader was his intense greed and desire to be known and seen by many. His arrogance knew no boundaries, which is evident in his continual disagreements with employment bosses as he grew up and with his fellow church leaders in the COG7. He taught that arrogance to many of his ministers and today the church is suffering because of that. Humility was never even a blip on Armstrong’s radar. Being a humble, foot-washing servant of he people was the furthest thing from his mind. Even if he had instituted more grace filled doctrines, his ego, arrogance and narcissism was bound to doom the church.

Everyone of his splinter groups over the last 80 some years have been handed a golden opportunity to make things better, but they could not and have not. Instead we have egotistical liars like Malm, Thiel, Pack, Flurry and others that have taken Armstrong’s message and bastardized it further into irrelevance due to their self-serving ego’s.

Anonymous said...

HO2HWA's description of Herb validates my belief that Herbs constant 'beware of the evils of self esteem and competition' and similar, is the wolf talking to the lambs. He didn't anyone or anything standing in the way of his arrogant demands.

nck said...

I am flabbergasted at NO2HWA's balanced comment.
And actually I am not surprised regarding the hospitality he has been providing to many.

Unfortunately some of my comments got lost in cyberspace. They touched on the subject on how much of Armstrongism is "common practice" now in the evangelical community and current politics. (prophecy beastpowers, christian fot practitioners etc etc).

But I will readily admit that what I wrote about the relation between religion and current politics (last weeks executive order on "free speech" is beter expressed by Pam Dewey's latest blog entries on myth america. I am a big fan of hers. (I enjoy forgotten history and the root cause of current topics.)

In the end perhaps one of todays main social challenges and especially the rise of the robot will be how to keep the masses occupied and from going insane by being useless/or at best overcomplete. We are working on a lot of virtual reality solutions but perhaps we should just look at our ancestors who invented the best of virtual reality solutions and called it religion.


Anonymous said...

If Herbert Armstrong hadn't been such a dick and simply have stayed a local minister in the Church of God (Seventh Day), then it is safe to say that the WCG would have never been around to destroy many people lives.

Anonymous said...

When I was attending worldwide back in the 80's I had to drive damn near 2 hours to Sabbath services until my wife & I found a Seventh Day Baptist congregation half an hour drive from our home. The minister from worldwide told us we better not go or he would be forced to disfellowship us. He was a asshole about it.

Connie Schmidt said...

When you think about HWAs "first contact" with the COG7 Day, it is rather amazing that here was a guy who had only been in the church less than 5 years, and was still in his 30s trying to run things and "promote himself"! He was untrainable and certainly not humble, and was giving trouble to ministers who had been around for many decades.

HWA , if he had become a member of the WCG , say in the 1960s or 70s , would have been kicked out of the WCG as a troublemaker!

Even Bob Thiel or James Malm are more humble than HWA, which is an amazing thing to say about those two!

Redfox712 said...

If HWA actually cared about his flock instead of distracting them with his strange, esoteric ideas people would at least have remembered him fondly.

Anonymous said...

Insecure people living in troubled times will often look for an authoritative leader to tell them what to do, what to believe and give them hope for the future. These are often dependent personalities who want to be treated like children. They feel safe in this type of environment and authoritarian leadership. In their little family they can live away from the world to some degree and feel secure as they wait for a better world to come.

Anonymous said...

it is rather amazing that here was a guy who had only been in the church less than 5 years, and was still in his 30s trying to run things and "promote himself"! He was untrainable and certainly not humble, and was giving trouble to ministers who had been around for many decades.

This is not much different from what life is like in the splinters today. Ambitious young men in PCG compete to earn Lil' Stevie's favor, and once they gain his favor they rise high in PCG. Ambitious young men in LCG compete to earn the favor of Rod's kids, and once they gain favor with the family Rod raises them high in LCG.

Anonymous said...

As HO2HWA stated, the Armstrong's biggest problem was lack of humility. If they would have been more "Christ like", the members wouldn't have been mistreated.

The church would not have been so cultish, but rather reaching out to the masses as Christ did. Instead of the Sabbath, Holy Days, Dietary laws, the immortal soul, Heaven and Hell doctrines making us different, it should have been as Christ stated, "you'll know them by how they love one another".

And yet, even if the leadership was more like Christ, Jesus predicted the His followers would be hated and hunted down and killed. The COG's instead are despised by their cultish behavior.

Anonymous said...

Herbert Armstrong Was kicked out of the Church of God (7th Day).

Anonymous said...

nck, I especially like your 2:06am comment, and your others on this topic. I do agree with your view.

My dad joined RCG which was amazing because no one in my family going back as many generations as I know about was ever in the slightest religious. He had come back from fighting in WW2 in Europe, and had been gone for 10 years. Then he had a family and settled down, but I think he missed the excitement and a weird cult religion provided it. I followed along, still mired in the fantasies of childhood, I was a willing believer in the fantasies of RCG/WCG. It was an exciting religion, most of the members were young, most of the ministers were young and good looking (the 1960's). We were chosen, we were special, we were going to be leaders in the universe, the apocolypse was coming. It was good to be the member of an alienated exclusive group in the 1960's. The whole of society was rebelling, but we alone knew the truth.

It couldn't last after the prophecies turned out to be false or totally mistimed, and then when the charismatic leader died that was the end. According to the book The True Believer by Eric Hoffer, the worse thing an extreme group can do is to modify its beliefs because then it doesn't appeal to the original members plus they get angry to see others not suffering for righteousness the way they did. Look at the Catholic church, it refuses to modify its beliefs and continues to survive despite many scandals.

Now the church is just a group of mostly older people who go to doctors and get divorced and remarried and still believe the world is ending, of course it is for them. And why would anyone want to join GCI when there are hundreds of churches close by that have similar messages without the baggage of a failed cult.

Gerald Bronkar said...

Most Sunday mornings, I attend a fundamentalist, evangelical church service (Calvary Baptist teachings) with my wife here in Riverside, Ca. I go to be with her, and have breakfast with friends. I am the one who changed my beliefs, so I do her the favor of not forcing her to explain to others what happened to my faith. I am not trying to fool anyone, so I don't feel hypocritical. My motivation is positive, and keeps me exposed to the Christian belief system. On occasion there may be a somewhat uplifting message, with the constant reminder that we are all sinners, and can never please God.

It is a huge congregation (mega-church) and easy to blend in and get lost. They make it very easy to be a part of their group. All you have to do is publicly admit you are a sinner and accept Jesus as your Savior, and presto, you are on your way to heaven. No major rules to follow. Of course they encourage you to tithe and get your friends and relatives to come to church with you. They have annual "crusades" at Angel stadium every August. No swords or blood, but quite a spectacle with lots of head banging music to attract the youth. Their focus is on young people, as they see the number of Christians in America dwindling.

They have three services every Sunday with thousands in attendance at each service, plus satellite locations. It creates quite a traffic jam. In the last year or so, I have noticed five or more burly well-armed men in swat style garb, with bomb-sniffing dogs on patrol before, during and after services. Is this a new trend? Ushers also inspect my wife's purse before entry is allowed. I suppose a show of force is not a bad thing, but it seems to preclude faith in Jesus. Oh well. The pastor may get some ugly email for making heaven too easy.

My point in all this is that they are big, rich and well-respected in the Christian community, unlike Herbert Armstrong, except for the rich part. In some ways just as nutty, but in a different way. I do believe they extend more help to the community than the WWCG ever did. Even here though, the main leader lives like King Herbert--but no airplane, yet.

I don't buy the religion, but most seem sincere, and generally bring a positive message to their followers. I believe they help people move away from drugs, alcohol, crime, divorce, anger, anarchy and hopelessness, so I am for, but not really with them.

Michael said...

Connie said:
"it is rather amazing that here was a guy who had only been in the church less than 5 years, and was still in his 30s trying to run things and "promote himself"! He was untrainable and certainly not humble, and was giving trouble to ministers who had been around for many decades.HWA , if he had become a member of the WCG , say in the 1960s or 70s , would have been kicked out of the WCG as a troublemaker!"

Good point, and par for the course for hypocrites like HWA.
Somehow HWAs example of introducing "new truths" that the 7thDay stubborn leaders refused to accept, thus requiring HWA to start his own group, was not for anyone in *his* group to emulate.

Wild musing: Most probably, HWA looked around at this church he joined, recognized how naive and docile believing members could be, realized he himself had much more charisma and conning know-how than these bozos running COG7day, and decided, "I'll show you guys how it's done". All he needed was some gripping new doctrines (US&BC, Holy day feasts, God reproducing himself, etc.) to distinguish his new church, and he was good to go....

Byker Bob said...

This is actually hilarious! HWA as the "rebel-outlaw" Pharisee! Clearly there was a different concept of coolness back then amongst certain personality types!


Anonymous said...

According to the JWs dissident YouTube videos, the JWs leaders in the 1920s introduced a tyrannical top down government structure. They decided to produce ongoing literature, with the bible reduced to a mere reference book rather than the core of their religion. Herbie must have observed all this, and concluded 'if they can get away with all that, why can't I?'
So the WCG was made in the basic image of the JW organisation, with some theological differences thrown into the mix.

nck said...


"rebel-outlaw" pharisee.

Yes BB.

As cool as John the Baptist in its time of political and religious upheaval and confusion.

"The one paving the way for a "deliverer" in a rapidly changing society in novel and modern ways."

Despite all the advertisements and movies affirming the golden age of America it was changing like a whirlwind

A breath of fresh air from the established churches at the time. Although Charlton Heston was a powerful tool for affirmation of the same.

5:23 Your assessment is terribly flawed. HWA never intended to start a church. It was all about the (radio) work and a listening audience at home. Only after IRS regulations in the 1950's stipulated the definition of a tax exempt status the business managers of RCG recommended the rapid establishment of congregations. That is the recorded history of the RCG.


Anonymous said...

Herbs desire for power and recognition is well know. I find it hard to believe that he didn't want to establish a big church, but rather was pushed into it by the IRS.
Did the German equivalent of the IRS push Hitler to become chancellor of Germany?

nck said...


You would be surprised 2:09. I mean who else but Germany's IRS was going to pay for the Versailles treaty installments. (BTW the WWI payments to France and Britain only ended around 2007 as I recall when the last installment was paid for by the Bundesrepublik as Legal successor of the 1916 German Empire.)

But seriously.
One of the biggest critics of HWA on these blogs has a pet peeve that HWA lacked "structural vision". So I struggle with his perception and yours statement that HWA saw something in 1920 and coveted that same thing. Especially since the Watchtower society has church buildings as a signifier while HWA only built 1 Edifice dedicated to God.

-I don't for a moment think HWA desired power.
-I do believe HWA desired to educate and to communicate
-This personality type needs an AUDIENCE
-And it doesn't matter if that audience is in church out of church, in a tent, in a gold plated auditorium, at home listening to the radio or whatever.
-In the seventies HWA was absent from Pasadena for 360 days per year.

These are not the traits of a power hungry person.

HWA had a way of molding biblical verses and people in how HE saw things and supported his ideas. That's why wcg was like an exclusive club with a selection committee to establish if you had accepted those basic ideas.

HWA often said that things had not worked out the way he had envisioned it.
For instance Ambassador College in 1949 was different from the Lake Como College he had envisioned. He attributed that to how God had steered him. But critics would see it as proof of entrepreneurship lacking structural vision.

There are some recorded records that state that HWA had not envisioned that his increasing radio audience at one day would like to congregate with like minded people. In 1954 the IRS demanded the same in order to keep the label of a tax exempt church. (what the radio church of god claimed it was)


Anonymous said...

I disagree. Judging him by his fruits he was power hungry. You ignore that his ministers were tyrannical, even to this very day. He said over and over that 'government is everything.' He introduced the Roman Catholic hierarchical power structure with Herb being the de facto pope. Dave Pack (in one of his former booklets) quoted Herb in a ministerial letter, writing that they can be 'kings on thrones right now.' He knew he was unleashing thuggery and tyranny. Herb even defined the gospel as that of some future government. My bible tells me rather that it is salvation since Christ told His generation to 'repent for the kingdom is at hand.' Notice as well that the concept of rights and assertiveness is absent in Herbs church personal writings and sermons and church culture. He also reverted to verbal murder to boost his power with his 'beware of self esteem,' competition, and his murderous 'beware of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps' which is in fact commanded in the parable of the talents. His sermons hardly had any new material, with members driven up the wall with his non stop two trees sermon. Keeping knowledge away from your subjects is a trait of tyrannical governments.
So the body of evidence tells me he was a power hungry tyrant. Him being away from campus for 360 days a year, was him meeting with world leaders, something all power hungry people love.

nck said...


You raise interesting points. I will not debate your experience.

In my experience, the moment I walked away after 22 years, not a person contacted me. This would be unlikely in a true power system like Scientology. Even the US government would have informed if you had passed away after a while for tax purposes.

The legal framework for single man power was implemented through a change in the bylaws by Stan Rader in 1969 I believe.

Interesting discussion on the nature of power. Power and government.

What true democratic and enlightened services did the worldwide church of god sponsor like for instance the implementation of US mediation services and the 9th circuit court while judging from your experience those uneducated red neck ministers never "got it".

I guess good things can only be acquired or learned after sacrifice and the purging through fire.

That's why I am here to acknowledge people like the father of the person who liked my comment. Not to whitewash HWA but try and understand how those that have been purged through fire re -dedicated themselves in the service of peace. Unlike the child ministers lording it over without the sacrifice required for leadership.