Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ralph Levy Tells His Tale of UCG Termination

Circumstances of My Termination from Ambassador Bible Center

Since I have been asked on a number of occasions how events led up to my no longer being employed as an instructor at Ambassador Bible Center, I thought it might be helpful to writ...e a short note on the subject.

In the latter part of the year 2010 it was becoming obvious that a major crisis was erupting in the United Church of God, IA. Disagreement over the secret forum, the proposed/rescinded move to Texas, the proposal of a study group to review the functioning of our governmental system, the removal of virtually all of the Cincinnati administration, beginning in late June, the removal of the regional pastors, and the handling of the Latin American situation, all were leading up to very serious difficulties. Along with others I detested the idea of a split, but was coming to see it might be unavoidable.

During all of this I continued to teach my ABC classes, making virtually no reference to the Church situation in the classroom. Aside from occasional requests to the students that they pray about it, I said nothing from behind the classroom microphone. However, in private I did discuss my views and concerns. I was concerned about what I perceived to be a general move to politicization of the Church, manifested in a long list of matters badly handled by the Council of Elders (or, more accurately, by the CoE majority – how sad that term even has to be used!). The word “Church” and the word “politics” should never be mentioned in the same sentence; yet that was precisely what we had come to.

When Mr. Dennis Luker came into office in early July he asked me to be involved in attempts to resolve the Latin American impasse, acting as a communications conduit for him. I also gave my advice and input on a number of occasions from July till shortly after the Feast. I have known Mr. Luker for many years, and, though I didn’t hold out much hope, felt it was worth doing what I was able to try to bring about some sort of reconciliation for Latin America.

Once the Feast had come and gone and there was no direct invitation to the Latin American pastors to come in to Cincinnati to express themselves and to attempt to resolve the crisis in cooperation with the administration and Council, it was becoming clear there was now little hope. It was and is my view that, in order to speak of genuine attempts at reconciliation, it would have been necessary for all concerned to come and confer, with everything out on the table, and to seek a solution acceptable to all. After all, we had said multiple times “United works by consensus,” though sadly there was no such consensus concerning Latin America.

By early December, we were hearing claims from the Council that there had been “multiple attempts at reconciliation for Latin America.” Much as I dislike to baldly contradict other ministers, that assertion is simply untrue. I was present in the meetings with Mr. Leon Walker on August 11, and with Eduardo Hernandez on September 14. Neither of these was a real attempt at reconciliation. Had there been meaningful follow-up, it would have been possible to speak of attempts at reconciliation; yet there was no such.

About December 10 I let my emotions run away for perhaps the first time. I sat at my computer, and posted the following words on my Facebook wall: “Don’t be deceived. There was no attempt at reconciliation for Latin America.” I stand by those words, which were up for two minutes, before I thought better of it and removed the post. In those two minutes, someone read and took exception to the post and it found its way to the Church president.

On December 13, in the first of three meetings involving Mr. Luker, Mr. Gary Antion and me, I was called in. Mr. Luker read the Facebook post to me and I confirmed I had indeed written it. I also told him it was up for only two minutes. I then asked if he wanted me to resign. He did not demand my resignation at that point. I then raised the question of when my departure from ABC should be: January (semester break) or May (graduation). Mr. Luker thanked me for bringing it up, and told me he would put the question to the management team and get back with me.

The second meeting took place on December 21, again involving Mr. Luker, Mr. Antion and me. It was a short meeting in which he told me the management team had decided I would be leaving the employ of UCGIA in January and not in May. I accepted the decision, and that night wrote a letter acknowledging the decision taken, and resigning as an elder in UCGIA (though not as a minister of Jesus Christ in the Body of Christ). I turned in my letter the following morning, and then began to make the decision known.

Once the students heard of my impending removal, two of the student leaders sought an audience with Mr. Luker, and on December 23 (I think that date is correct) spent some time with him (I was told their meeting lasted some 75 minutes), requesting I might be permitted to remain till graduation in May. Subsequent to this I was informed the decision was to be “reviewed,” and that Mr. Luker wished to talk to me at the Winter Family Weekend in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Louisville event was busy so we never got to talk there. Once back in the office, in the last days of December, I requested another meeting to settle the matter. For everyone’s sake, not least the students’, it had to be decided once and for all.

The third meeting took place on the last day of the year, December 31. Mr. Luker asked me what I thought. For not the first time, I stated I was willing to remain with ABC to teach the students till graduation in May. I would not use the classroom mike to discuss Church matters, but people would know privately where I stood. Mr. Luker then informed me the question had gone to the Council of Elders and they had decided my employment was to end on January 14, 2011.

So, was I fired or did I resign? Since I offered more than once to remain till May, and those offers were declined, I believe it more accurate to say I was fired from my teaching position at Ambassador Bible Center, after 11 ½ years.

On a more positive note, I am certain that education programs in God’s Church have not come to an end. As events unfold, we will see new (and, hopefully, better) education programs for the Church of God. Let’s all keep education in the Church on our prayer list. The best is yet to come!

Ralph Levy

Clean and Unclean Meats

Peter Ditzel has a new article about Armstrongism's fascination with unclean meats. When  you  look on-line you can find huge lists of forbidden meats that UCG and others put out to regulate people's lives.  Yet, this is just one of many list of rules and regulations that Armstrongism pick's and chooses from.  It's ok to live in homes with mold, wear mixed fabric's, stone your rebellious children,  not kick your wife out of the home during menstruation, etc., etc.,.

The Real Poison of Biblical Dietary Laws and "Health Secrets"

Peter Ditzel

Is the Bible a health manual? Are the dietary laws found in the Bible God’s ways of telling us what is healthy and unhealthy to eat? Or did God have an entirely different reason for putting these laws in the Bible? What’s more, do these laws given to ancient Israel have anything at all to do with Christians today?

Herbert W. Armstrong, the late founder and "apostle" of the Worldwide Church of God, taught that Christians must obey the laws of clean and unclean meats found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. On page 18 of Principles of Healthful Living, he wrote: "This is a basic law—a revelation from God to man about which kinds of flesh will properly digest and assimilate in the human system, and which will not" (Principles of Healthful Living [Pasadena, CA: Worldwide Church of God, Chapter Three 1958, 1978; Chapter Four 1979], version 1.0, May 1990 printing).

As might be expected, most of the splinter groups of the Worldwide Church of God that continue to follow Armstrong’s teachings have their requisite publications on clean and unclean meats. More surprising, perhaps, is the number of others—including physicians, dieticians, and cooks—who have written popular books that claim to reveal the health secrets God has stashed into the pages of the Bible. And, being the narcissistic, health-crazed society we are, these books sell well. In fact, it has become common for many Christians who do not strictly follow the Old Testament dietary laws to nevertheless think of them as health guidelines. They believe the meats listed as unclean in the Old Testament are not as healthful as other meats, and they also think that the Bible contains many other health secrets.

Clean and Unclean Meats

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Florida Drops Lawsuit Against COGaWA, Attorneys Going After Complaintant

Someone is going to be in deep doo doo!

From Abigal Cartwright's blog:

Update Regarding False Allegations Against CGWA. Today, the appropriate agency of the State of Florida contacted legal counsel for the Church in writing, and following their review of the Church's February 1, 2011 response to the fraudulent consumer complaint, the matter has been promptly closed, in favor of the Church. The Church will continue with its investigation to identify the harasser and will take appropriate steps to address any and all acts of harassment and defamation. The Church will also cooperate with any investigations by law enforcement to identify the suspect.

COGaWA Swiftly Responds To Accusations Made by "Sarah Luther"

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Division of Consumer Services
Re: Complaint From Sarah A. Luther Against
Church of God, a Worldwide Association, Inc.
Dear (name withheld):

Please be advised that this office represents Church of God, a Worldwide Association, Inc. (“Church”;), a Florida not-for-profit corporation. This communication is offered in response to a January 24 complaint against the Church by an individual who goes by the name “Sarah Luther” (Sarah). By all appearances, Sarah Luther is a phony name, and the Church is presently unable to ascertain her true identity.

The allegations made in the complaint are outrageous, false, and defamatory. Basically, the individual has made up these allegations out of whole cloth, and this appears to be a simple prank designed to harass innocent people. I realize that you do not often get situations that simple. Often times, agencies such as yours will receive consumer complaints that may have a kernel of truth, or some side of the story that is open to interpretation. This is not one of those complaints. This is complete fabrication designed to harass the Church, damage its reputation, and interfere with its finances. Unfortunately, the individual who filed the complaint has also wasted the time of your agency by causing you to take time away from your legitimate complaints and investigations.

For the past few weeks, Sarah has been emailing various congregants and ministers around the country who either are, or plan to be, associated with the Church. We have become all too familiar with her antics. In each instance, the individual uses her fraudulent name and does not disclose her true identity. Each time this is done, a variation of the same sensational allegation is offered to the recipient (essentially, she is alleging that “officials” with the Church stole donations from another church organization). Even today, my office has received several calls and email messages from pastors from around the country concerning this ongoing harassment.

To be sure, please refer to the data she provided under the “Consumer Information” section of the complaint. The address she provides, 104 E. Main St., St. Petersburg, Florida 32040 is a nonexistent address (a simple Google search will verify). Also, the zip code “32040” is not even in the St. Petersburg area. Rather, the zip code is for a small town named Glen St. Mary, Florida, near Jacksonville. Thus, in addition to fraudulent allegations, “Sarah” has given you a fraudulent name, a fraudulent street address, and a fabricated e-mail address which has been constructed for the purpose of propagating defamation and harassing communications. If we identify this individual, the Church will be vigorously pursuing appropriate civil and criminal remedies in a court of competent jurisdiction.

In our investigation, we talked to the pastor of the Tampa Bay congregation of the Church, Mr. David Treybig. Mr. Treybig was also the pastor of the United Church of God congregations in the Tampa Bay area for approximately ten years prior to December, 2010. He does not know an individual by the name of Sarah Luther. We have no donors or congregants by the name.

I will now turn my attention to the substance of the allegations. The stated product or service involved is “assistance to ministers.” The date of the alleged offense is June 1, 2010, and the amount she gives as being in controversy is $150,000.00. You should note that the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, Inc. was not incorporated until December 23, 2010, which is approximately six months after the date of the offense which she gave. Thus, even based on the fraudulent information she has provided, the allegations are impossible. An entity is not capable of stealing money before it even exists. Further, the first organizational and planning meeting for the Church was on December 20, 2010. This entity was not planned or approved prior to that date. Finally, the figure “$150,000.00” appears to be yet another fabrication. In order to explain these figures and other allegations, Sarah’s true identity will have to be ascertained, and she will need to be interviewed. Unfortunately, she appears to have quite an imagination.

Going further to her allegations, Sarah states the following: “Multiple sources indicate that the Church of God—a Worldwide Association (cogwa) may have diverted a portion of donations sent to their previous employer, United Church of God (UCG) while they received a paycheck from UCG. It is believed these funds were used to finance their new organization, cogwa. Monies illegally set aside constitute one definition of embezzlement or theft by deception. (This complaint was completed at the recommendation of the Florida Attorney General).”

As these allegations are defamatory, it is understandable that this individual fails to identify her “multiple sources.” She also fails to identify the “previous employer” of the Church. She does offer a delusional and speculative (yet unsupported) belief that certain funds were used to finance the Church, and she goes on to offer the unsupported legal opinion that her allegations amount to embezzlement or theft by deception, which are allegations of criminal activity. Of course, the complexion of the latter allegations only raises the stakes for our anonymous complainer, as the inference of criminal activity makes the false statements defamatory per se (damages to the plaintiff are presumed in situations of defamation per se. See, e.g., Fun Spot of Florida, Inc. v. Magical Midway of Cent. Florida, Ltd., 242 F. Supp. 2d 1183 (M.D. Fla. 2002); Thompson v. Orange Lake Country Club, Inc., 224 F. Supp. 2d 1368 (M.D. Fla. 2002).

As a former prosecutor, I occasionally had the distinction of interviewing delusional individuals such as this who would fabricate patently ridiculous allegations and then ask me to act upon them. Thus, it is no surprise that the Florida Attorney General sent this individual elsewhere when she took her fish story to them. However, I would be surprised indeed to learn that they asked her to present her pitch to your agency and waste its resources.

You may be interested in noting that the Church was incorporated as a result of a disagreement with another church organization. Following a good faith disagreement with the leadership of the United Church of God, a contingent of pastors from that church organization voluntarily resigned (December 2010) and took steps to form the Church. However, in the process of doing this, the pastors left everything behind and did nothing to disturb the assets of their former organization. As is typical in church schisms and splits, some congregants chose to remain with the established organization, while others decided to associate with (and support) the newly-formed organization. In the case of the Church, congregants and donors who identify with the mission and cause of the Church have seen fit to voluntarily donate to the Church. It is likely that others, who continue to support the mission and leadership of the established organization, have continued in their financial support of that organization. Obviously, the Church does not sanction any unethical financial dealings. The leadership of the Church is unaware of any situations that would be even remotely consistent with the anonymous individual’s false statements. However, be advised that no such behavior would be tolerated or allowed within the Church. Interestingly, the separation between the United Church of God and the Church has been generally peaceful and respectful. While some individuals have been angry and hostile regarding the separation, these occasions have been isolated. For the most part, a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation has prevailed between the two entities. Nearly all of the ministers and congregants in the two entities continue to have friends and family in both church organizations.

In conclusion, it is regrettable that the Church has been put into a position of having to respond to bizarre, ridiculous, and defamatory allegations such as this. It is also disappointing to realize that the resources of the State government have been wasted in furtherance of what appears to be a prank designed to harass individuals who are simply trying to worship and conduct their lives in peace.

Occasional harassment like this is to be expected by organizations such as the Church. Once a defendant is identified, the Church will be pursuing appropriate legal remedies in order to compel this individual to cease and desist from his or her wrongful acts, among other possible remedies. As you stated in your January 27, 2011 letter that accompanies the fraudulent complaint, it is the province of your office to protect businesses, including not-for-profit organizations, from groundless complaints. The Church respectfully asks that you seek any appropriate remedies against the anonymous individual who entered this groundless complaint. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me for further discussion.

Very Truly Yours,

Jason M. Ranew
Attorney at Law

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"...and the rest of the world are Muggles"

Here is an ex-COG member who is reaching more people in his weekly show than all 700 of the various splinter cults of Armstrongism are doing combined!

Felix ran a blurb on his blog a while back about this guy.  He is in the news again.

Here's the story of Glynn Washington.

Glynn has one of the fastest growing shows on National Public Radio.  Over 100 stations air it weekly and another 160 some are using excerpts from it as 'speicals.'  All of his shows are downloadable on iTunes.

Glynn was a product of Armstrongism and it's myriad of myth's, legends and stories of doom and gloom about the end of the world.

Washington believes his early passion for storytelling has something to do with growing up in an apocalyptic cult called The Worldwide Church of God. As a child, he was told that you had to be ready for the return of Jesus and the end of the world. Washington says that his time with the group meant that he heard many good storytellers explaining why doomsday had been postponed again.

“In a lot of ways, it was maybe good for me because it let me see the world a little bit differently, ” said Washington, who left the cult when he was 19. “You grew up thinking that you are Harry Potter, and the rest of the world are muggles. ”
Glynn had better be careful, diehard legalist Armstrongites consider Harry Potter a tool of  Satan.  They will not like his comment at all!  :-)

Read the article here:  Glynn Washington Takes His Oakland Based Radio Show to the Top

UCG Members Still Not Happy With HQ

UCG is currently in the process of holding a private meeting for it's remaining elders and ministers.  They are determining their future as a church and what their focus will be.  UCG members around the country are tired of not getting answers from UCG brass.  Will they be forthright in their answers after the conference?  COG history says

A sampling of complaints about the non-information flow follows:

After sunset last sabbath, Aaron Dean headed up a Q&A session after services in our hall @ Big Sandy, TX. We were not very many in number, but some in attendance were there just for the session, not the services, so more arrived for the Q&A than actually attended the worship service. And with few exceptions, most of us there had been to COGWA's services earlier that day, but wanted very much to hear from both sides, so we attended both. I hold Mr. Dean in the highest regard, which made it all the more difficult to listen to how the questions were circumvented time and again. He did say vehemently that admin's stance on the sabbath has not changed, but little else was responded to directly. It was quite frustrating for members to ask questions and get lengthy responses on unrelated topics. The questions went on for hours, so people trickled out throughout the meeting feeling no better educated about what was happening than when we arrived. He kept reassuring us that he just wanted to never discuss this subject again (or in the first place) and that we as members should never have been privy to any of it anyhow. I truly do not know if he was just reluctant to answer questions himself or if he was told to talk a lot but not SAY anything. The meeting left so very much to be desired, unfortunately. Aaron Dean seemed to be genuinely heartbroken about all that's transpired and my heart goes out to him as it does for the brethren in our congregation, but hedging the questions was decidedly poor form.At a time when we desperately need leaders to fulfill living transparently, so to speak, we apparently have none capable or willing to do this. And yes, I did say this at the meeting with Aaron Dean. We were quite disillusioned about the lack of information we were getting, which makes it difficult to sift through this mess we are all in now. And for what it's worth, I believe neither camp is blameless and scrupulously sinless in their words and actions. I have chosen (and admitted freely at the meeting) that I refuse to choose a side as God's people, MY people, are in both organizations as of this moment. My allegiance is not to a certain minister or a certain organization, but to a God and His called out ones--you know, the ones who are currently picking up the tab yet again for divisions wrought by others. I didn't cause this, you didn't cause this, but still here we all are.
One thing I do hear everyone saying no matter where they are attending is that they all want to 'move forward' now. I pray that we can, even if not collectively anymore. But one thing I know to be true is that we will keep having these same issues as long as we keep doing the same things. My earnest prayer is for peace as the dust settles, and to have discerning eyes as we watch the fruits of new and existing administrations unfold.
we had a Q&A in Tampa last Sabbath also. We don't yet know who our new minister will be, as the entire paid ministry in Florida left UCG. The circuits will probably need to be reconfigured; however, a minister most likely will need to reside in the state--somewhere. The Home Office simply doesn't have the logistical answers to some of the areas yet, and that may also be the case with Big Sandy (I don't know.) Several in our sister church in St. Pete are indeed attending both services for awhile without repercussions from UCG. It's a good question, though, and one that would be answered and acted upon according to, as you indicated, personal conviction. Many are confused and blindsided by this whole thing and need time to sort it out. They refuse to take sides until doing so. I just spoke with a member this past week who is doing exactly that.
Not being there I can't of course characterize how things went down. But I have been to q&a's held by Mr. Rhodes and I can tell you that we are never going to hear fully, publicly, the side of the council or of United Church of God.

Why? Because they have taken the stance that it is more important to absorb the abuse then it is to publicly criticize the individuals who have left. They want to leave the door open when and if those who have left decide to come back. They would rather be thought of as being in the wrong than to become a lighting rod for controversy.

Criminal Complaint Filed in Florida Accusing COGaWA UPDATED 2/1/11

The attorney for COGaWA has established that the complainant, Sarah Luther is a fake name.  
Here is one of his comments:

As a former prosecutor, I occasionally had the distinction of interviewing delusional individuals such as this who would fabricate patently ridiculous allegations and then ask me to act upon them. Thus, it is no surprise that the Florida Attorney General sent this individual elsewhere when she took her fish story to them. However, I would be surprised indeed to learn that they asked her to present her pitch to your agency and waste its resources.

If someone in UCG egged this person on to do this, the crap is going to hit the fan once more for United!
Read his entire letter here:  COGaWA Swiftly Responds To Accusations

Malm writes on his blog today:

A criminal complaint against four people associated with the recent split of the UCG has been filed by concerned private persons with the:  Division of Consumer Services Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  The complaint has since been assigned to a case manager, Ms. Ben Brown, and assigned Case # 1101-03172.  The complaint alleges embezzlement or theft by deception in possible diverting of money sent to UCG HQ over the past 18 months.

Only 10% of COG Members Have Higher Education?

Interesting comment today about education in the COG's.

2: A sect is a schism in the conventional religious body. A cult is a completely new faith. Religions offer three things, status and self esteem to members (intangible – appealing to the upper classes), health/wealth (tangible – appealing to lower classes), and spiritual (life after death – appealing to everyone). Upper classes are more able to master new cultures (as what happens with a cult) and are more able to acknowledge deficiencies in current religious orginizations. Sects are usually formed promoting more tangable things, which appeal to lower classes. There is a positive correlation between education and cult activities (such as eastern religions in the US), and a negative correlation between education and sect movements (faith healing, born again). In the US the major denominations have high levels of college education, but Protestent sects are not well educated (10% for Worldwide Church of God) while cult groups are the most educated of any category. Christianity, being a cult movement in the first century, would have the greatest appeal to the higher classes of the roman empire.  The Rise of Christianity

Monday, January 31, 2011

"Don’t divorce a wife because she is a profligate shopper..."

More wisdom for God's greatest messenger to women, James Malm:

Do not ask for money after he has just told you that the car broke down and he can’t afford to repair it!  You husbands must also learn that your wives have their problems and wisdom requires that an appropriate time be found to approach your wives. 

If a man offends his wife and she seeks symphathy (sic) wioth (sic) her mother and the two of them build the matter up and commiserates about what a bad husband you are;  after which a friend is told a one sided and inflated version and they tell another with their take on it, who tells another; while you have absolutely no idea of what is going on, until someone comes up to you and calls you names and says that you do not deserve a wife.  Is that right?  Is that fair?  Is that love? 

In the case of beatings or similar physical abuse: LEAVE IMMEDIATELY and  then go to your elder.  What if he is biased, or uninterested, or not helpful?  Tell him that you want to seek further help from higher up and then do so.  Do not go over his head without informing him. (i.e.  don't call the police)

Any woman who over spends and runs up credit bills is being selfish and not considering the overall welfare of the family.  [maybe she is just seeking attention?]  resolve to spend more time with her and bond mor (sic) completely with her!  Over shopping is usually a means of filling an empty void in lives, filling the basket or home is often an unconscious attempt to fill a life with meaning.  Don’t divorce a wife because she is a profligate shopper;

Of Gods and Men

Armstrongism has taken a great deal of effort over the last 70 some years to denigrate Catholicism in it's various forms. Most of the accusations are made in complete ignorance because the only book most Armstrongites have ever read about Catholicism is Hislop's Two Babylons.  It has such a toehold in conservative Christian groups in the US that Armstrong and Ralph Woodward both bought into it.  Woodward wrote his own book based upon Hislop's book and HWA's interpretations.  Woodward finally decided a few years ago to really start researching the claims of the book and found that it was filled with all kinds of errors.  Woodward wrote a new book refuting his previous book, called The Babylon Connection?  You can read an article Woodrow wrote here  called The Two Babylons: A Case Study In Poor Research Methodology

All of that antiCathoilic vitriol that Meredith, Thiel, Malm, Flurry and others continue to spit out does nothing except make themselves look like complete e idiots.

Below is a movie clip of a new movie about Catholic Trappist monks in Algeria in 1996.  Can you imagine any Armstrongite EVER taking such a stand?

Xavier Beauvoir’s Of Gods and Men is a beautiful, extraordinary achievement. Understated at all times, highly sophisticated and understanding of its subject, beautifully scripted, it explores the life and death of the Tibhirine Trappist community in Algeria in 1996, during the civil war. The monks live a simple, self-sustaining life of prayer, kindness and service. As the political situation deteriorates, they find themselves caught in a shooting war, driven by Islamist fundamentalists. The army offers protection of a sort, but this raises other questions for the monks - questions of calling and integrity as well as a basic issue about whether life in an armed camp is actually compatible with what they believe their community should be. Do they stay or do they go? As Dying, Yet Behold, We Live!

A quote from one of the brothers in the monastery:

If a day should come, and it could be today, to fall victim to the terrorism that seems to be engulfing foreigners in this country today, I would love my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and this country and also that the sole Giver of all life was no stranger to such a brutal ending. They should also associate my taking off with so many other equally violent but anonymous deaths. My life is no more valuable than any other, nor less. Anyway, it lacks the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to know that I myself am part of the evil which, sadly, seems to prevail in the world, even the evil that could suddenly befall me.  

I could not seek such a death, and I could not die happy to see these people, whom I love, indiscriminately blamed for my death. That would be too high a price to pay for what could be called the grace of martyrdom by an Algerian, whoever he may be, above all if he is motivated by what he may believe Islam to be. I know the contempt in which natives of this country are already held around the world. I also know caricatures of the kind of Islam that encourages Islamism.  

For me this country, and Islam, are something very different. They are body and soul. This is what I have always said publicly, as I believe it and have known and seen this theme in the gospel I learnt in my first Church, at my mother's knee. This I have practised in Algeria, and always from the start in respecting Muslim believers. My death could, plainly, give substance to the arguments of those who think I am just naive, or a starry-eyed idealist. But they need to know that this will finally liberate my most ardent curiosity, in that I may be able, God willing,to submerge my vision in that of the Father, in order to see his Muslim children just as he sees them. In this thank you letter, which says everything about my life from now on, I want to include you all, friends of yesterday and today, and even you too, friend of my last moments, who will not understand what you are doing.  

Yes, even for you, I genuinely want to thank you and bid this Adieu, commendation to God, May we one day meet again, in Paradise, as happy thieves, if it pleases God, Father of us both. Amen.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

UCG Resignations

"Why do you bother with the past? Forget about it."

"Why Do You Bother?  Forget About It!

Dennis Diehl - EzineArticles Expert AuthorIt is not uncommon for someone to tell me "Why do you bother with the past?  Forget about it."  I'd sometimes wonder that myself and know many who seem to be long gone from the WCG experience and yet still stuck or spinning within it.  

We keep up with the splinters and the antics of their ministers.  We, or at least I, listen to their sermons, not for edification, but to confirm that I am happy not to be a part of such foolishness.  I shake my head and chuckle when one such as David Pack, Apostle of the Restored Church of God, uses so many personal pronouns in sermons and begins many with "I don't think I ever given a sermon quit like the one you are going to hear today."  That would be a major hint to me it is all being made up as we go. 

Nothing is more humorous than listening to one of the very two true witnesses of Revelation get angry over people who throw paper on the floor or say the word "amazing" about a zillion times in every sermon usually in wonder at how stupid everyone else besides he and the 12 people in the room are. 

From "That Prophet" to "And yes brethren, I am an Apostle," I find it all rather fascinating now that I don't have soak in it or lay awake at night wondering what else is going to happen to shatter my idealistic belief that it once was to me the True Church of God and I had been called by the Deity to be both member and minister.  I really believed that and I think there in lies the key to the ongoing fascination.

Those who are the most sincere, in my experience, suffer the most when they learn their sincere seeking was misplaced. It accounts for our anger, sarcasm, keeping up and ongoing interest in that which proved to be less than encouraging. I think we subconsciously or very consciously wish to be some kind of vehicle for helping others through the process and coming out better and not worse for the whole experience.

Sadly, some literally ended their lives due to the instability all the upheaval produced in the place they sought solace and safety for their own mind and spirit. I know several ministers who died either deliberately or through the abuse of alcohol so often used to mask the pain, perhaps not realizing just how much it would actually magnify it.  I started down that path for a time out of the pain of separation from that which I loved and at times to mask the pain over the loss of those I love, but got off that train.  For every moment of "forgetting" there were a thousand of depressing recall that just made matters worse.  It is a treadmill one needs to pay very close attention to and just say no to.

There is more truth than the truth we know.  The God many think they know is not all the God there is.  It is the glory of a King to search out a matter, not just accept the ideas of others.  All these things are true.  And while it is incomprehensible for most Bible readers to grasp, there is more truth in life to explore than whatever truth is perceived to be contained in the pages of the Bible.  The Bible is not inerrant, was not written literally by any literal Deity, is not the "best book ever written," and does not tell us where we either really came from nor why exclusively.  

In the Churches of God, neither splinter nor sliver, their pious conviction coupled with their marginal information, training and education is not enough to qualify to tell everyone else what the Deity wants, demands, requires or thinks about us all. 
A few things I have come to know now that I wish someone had taught me back then when thinking I was "called" to be a minister.

Genesis 1-11 are purely mythological stories, mostly borrowed from Sumerian myths and given a Hebrew spin.

"Moses" did not write the Pentateuch but rather is a compilation of different authors mostly Priests during the Captivity of the 5th century BC.

There is no evidence that the dramatic events of the Exodus ever literally happened in history and that most of the OT is designed to give an insignificant cultic people an amazing pedigree.

Characters such as Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon may or may not have literally existed in history. 

Clearly, God "evolves" from a polytheistic Deity to a monotheistic one over a very long time and the people of Israel held on to many gods throughout history.  The Canaanite God "EL" of Genesis was talking to his Council of the gods, when he is quoted as saying "Let US make man in OUR image..."  He was not talking to a future incarnation of himself called Jesus.  When God said, "you shall not bring any other gods into my presence (what the words in Exodus really say,) He wasn't saying there were no other gods. He was saying don't bring them around me as I am a jealous God.  I don't like their competition.  Clearly, polytheisim was the norm. 

Concerning the NT, I wish I had understood that Paul's writings preceded the Gospels which is why he never quotes an earthly Jesus, tells of his life, healings, teachings, miracles or birth circumstances. Those tales had not yet been written in his lifetime.  Paul's Jesus was cosmic and hallucinatory and not any real Jesus he ever knew or met.  I also have doubts about just how much the Jewish Church under James felt Paul was anything but a charlatan.  Luke's rendition of Paul's life and calling is not the one Paul himself speaks of in his real writings.  Not all the books attributed to Paul were actually written by Paul.

The Gospel accounts are not coherent or harmonious. 

Jesus birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are two different stories
Mark never heard the birth stories of Jesus nor did John and Paul said he was merely born of a woman. 

The resurrection accounts are muddled and contradictory in major ways. They can't all be right and are not four different ways of describing a car wreck.
The Book of Revelation is a failed prophecy written just prior to the fall of Jerusalem under the Romans.  It is not a book for today and its expectations of the Kingdom of God to route the Romans failed.  

The story of Jesus is the same story as Mithras and Osiris and is astrotheological in nature.  All Sun Gods are born on the Winter Solstice and all take away the sins and darkness of the world which they overcome at Easter in the Spring. 

Christian apologetics get down right silly at times

Life is short....and lots more stuff like that.

So why bother keeping up?  Because it's fascinating and I have always loved the study of origins.  From where humans really come from (common hominid ancestors) to the origins of mythologies and ideas that spring from them, its all amazing.  I want to know what may be worth believing and what may be just plain silly or even harmful.  Much of what religion, not true spirituality, teaches or demands sucks the soul out people and is harmful in the long run.  Religion keeps you the same yesterday, today and forever.  There can be no progress when you know it all.  It is no coincidence the Dark Ages arose when the Church did.  

I may regret my WCG experience but I can't undo it.  Next time around...if, I want to be a Paleontologist.   You can't unring a bell.  So I may as well use it to learn from.  And perhaps if I can help just one person step out of the box and take a bigger look around, it will be worth it.  It is for me a challenge and fascination though the price of this education has been and will continue to be high.

To not accept what is, is insane.  To not use the experience to help others  grow through is a wasted experience. 


Contentious Women in the COG's

I have never understood how women in the COG allowed themselves to be treated like dirt by the 'all knowing' men that surround them.

Women have suffered under HWA, GTA, Meredith, Flurry, and many under their abusive husbands.  I remember many of the single bachelors in Pasadena who had literal lists made up on the qualifications that women needed to have before they dated or married them.  It is no wonder why many of them still are not married to this day.  They were weird!  Just plain weird!

Malm, on his 'Shining Light' blog is continuing his beat down on women.  Not only is his theology way off base, but his understanding of women is made many times in complete ignorance.  Sometimes I have to wonder if he is one of these perpetual bachelors that still has not had a relationship with a woman or if he is one of these bitter angry men who's wives left them when they got sick of the legalistic BS in the COG?

The church is espoused to Jesus Chirst(sic), the “Called Out” and are presently being watched and tested concrning (sic)their suitability to enter a wife type of relationship with our Lord. 

So what kind of wife does our Lord want? 

Brethren, we are all to become good wives for Jesus Christ! So, what is a good wife?

If I were choosing a wife today, I would not be looking first at appearance, or skills, or education, or intelligence.  The very first matter of concern would be: LOYALTY: can she be trusted. Will she be looking at others? Will she say yes I will do that and then not do it?   Will she use the Women’s lib type of self justification and say “I am a woman, I can change my mind whenever I want”?   Or is her word her bond?
Ladies, there is no excuse for mind changing or failing to keep promises or disloyalty.  Think about what you are committing to BEFORE you speak and then be faithful to your word.  To be chosen as a part of the bride of Christ, you men MUST do likewise.

One of the biggest problems is: Emotional Adultery.  Physical adultery is intercourse with another besides our mate, it is sexual disloyalty.  Emotional adultery is being emotionally attached to anyone other than your mate.  How many ladies remain emotionally attached to former friends or parents?  I am not saying don’t have friends or abandon parents; I am talking about putting their opinions and advice above your husbands. About having more respect for them than for your husband; about having more concern for them and putting them above your husbands in your affections and secret desires.  Such emotional adultery can include friends, hobbies, lust to shop and purchase, or anything that you alow (sic) to come between you and your husband  And you men, how many yearn for a former lover or friend, how many put you jobs, or hobbies, friends, or some sport above or much too close to the level of relationship you promised to  have with your wives?  

Brethren, there has been much emotional adultery among the “Called Out”.  You who are frustrated with your wives for admiring others, or spendind (sic) too much time with others and neglecting you, or for spending too much in selfish disregard of the family: look to your own conduct and example!

Hiow (sic) many of you fellows like to be hen pecked by a contentious woman: probably nobody!  You wives consider that and learn to control your tongues; you men learn the same thing and gain mastery over what comes out of your mouths.

You men MUST work at being GOOD WIVES of Christ; then you will better understand  what is acceptable conduct in the eyes of Almighty God.  You wives must also work at being good wives and mothers.