Today is Martin Luther King Day here in the United States. There can be no better time to repost an article from the Painful Truth and Gavin Rumney's old page about racism in the Church of God.
Herbert W. Armstrong: Racist
By M.A.M.In the June-July 1981 issue of The Good News, there is an article titled “After 50 Years – Christ’s Apostle Still Ahead of His Time!” Like just about everything else published by the Worldwide Church of God about Herbert W. Armstrong, this is a lie. Herbert W. Armstrong was a man whose feet were firmly planted in the past. Within his church, Armstrong tried to re-create the world of his youth.
We can see the theme arise again and again in his writings. In Mystery of the Ages, Armstrong wrote, “I have lived through the horse and buggy age, the automobile and industrial age, the air age, the nuclear age and now into the space age. I have seen America live through the agrarian age when farmers walked behind their horse-drawn ploughs singing happily, and into the urban age when Midwest American farmers are groaning and fighting for more government subsidies to prevent the extinction of farm life. (page vii).” For farmers at least, the past was better than the present.
Armstrong’s love for the past surfaced again shortly after the murder of John Lennon. “In disgust, I left TV, but at 10 p.m., I tuned in for the LOCAL news. It was all eulogizing the ‘rock’ ‘musician.’ A local Tucson crowd of 2,000 had flocked to Reid Park bandshell to leave roses, and mourn for their dead idol. The local station had a lot about the ‘man and his “music.”’ (I had never thought of it as music, but a loud raucous SQUAWK and SCREAM with a fast beat - just an irritating noise.)
“Pardon me, please! Perhaps I never had any musical education, although I have played the piano since 8 years old. I must have been terribly misled, for I supposed that the singing of a Caruso or a Galli-Curci of my father's time or a Pavarotti or Beverly Sills or an Arthur Rubinstein of our day produced music. I guess I'm terribly out-of-date. I have heard roosters make a loud raucous squawk when being captured for a Sunday dinner when I was a boy, but I just never had been ‘educated’ to call that ‘music.’
“When as a boy I worked one summer in a flour mill, to the constant ‘beat’ of the machinery till it nearly drove me crazy, I somehow never realized that was ‘music.’
“Please bear with me in my ignorance.” I'll try, but it isn't easy. At least here he was being truthful. Armstrong was ignorant of popular music. A strong beat has been a characteristic of popular music since the rise of jazz, right after the first world war. Apparently, Armstrong was unaware of anything that occurred outside of the opera house since Caruso's time.
“I do remember, when I was in England at the college just before the mid-'60's, the Beatles were breaking into public notice. The had a new ‘way-out’ style, with an idiotic mop-topped hairstyle, with hair covering the forehead to the eyebrows, the ears and longer hair in the back of the head. The forehead is the seat of intellect - the mark of intelligence instead of animal nonintelligence. They started the style of male hairdo to turn evolution into reverse - man was becoming a dumb brute animal.”
The new music was just “a loud raucous SQUAWK and SCREAM with a fast beat - just an irritating noise.” The new hair style “turn[ed] evolution into reverse - man was becoming a dumb brute animal (The Worldwide News, “How The Beatles Changed The Culture of the Western World,” December 22, 1980, page 1).” These were not the reasoned words of an open-minded, enlightened man. They were the belittling comments of someone who refused to accept the present. If Armstrong did not like the way a person combed his hair, he resorted to name-calling and insults, even equating him to an animal.
On page 158 of The Missing Dimension in Sex, Armstrong again belittles modern popular music: “WHO determines what is ‘popular music’ today? The ‘teens.’ Even the radio stations who do not go to rock and disco music, in the main, play what is called ‘popular’ music. But is it MUSIC? Or is it a moan, a groan, a wail, a dirge, and a screech?”
Anyone who was single in the Worldwide Church of God would be aware of the courtship rituals enforced by the ministry. These were based on the dating “procedures” (See The Missing Dimension in Sex, page 154) Herbert Armstrong practiced in his youth. After all, if God’s Apostle followed certain “procedures,” they were God ordained and all should follow them. We’ve all heard them: date in groups, date in order to develop friendships, don’t date for the purpose of finding a mate, don’t be alone with a person of the opposite sex, don’t date outside the church, date widely. In theory, these practices would prevent one from marrying the wrong person or committing fornication. They would expose you to a wide variety of people, and develop your interpersonal skills. In practice, they made dating unnecessarily difficult, and made it much harder to find a mate by erecting all sorts of artificial obstacles. It also put you under a microscope because if you followed the prohibition against being alone with a member of the opposite sex, you had no privacy. In addition, the church was full of people who refused to mind their own business, and asked prying questions. If you were seen together at church services, rumors would sweep through the congregation. Last, but not least, you had ministers watching you, enforcing Herbert’s will on the dating question. Ministerial meddling was common. All of those I know who were single in the church had at least one serious relationship ended by ministerial diktat.
When Armstrong was a child, back in eighteen-ninety-whatever, women didn't wear make-up. Naturally, it follows that he wouldn't let women wear make-up in his church. To Armstrong, make-up was “physical colored dirt” that deceitful women wore. In his classic booklet The Truth About Make-Up, Armstrong wrote, “Its modern, popular and almost universal use today originated with the harlots of Paris. From there it traveled to the old redlight districts of San Francisco, Denver, New Orleans, Chicago, New York and other American cities. Then it was used by the streetwalker prostitutes to attract and seduce men.
“My wife remembered an incident that occurred when she was a little girl nine years old. Her father ran a small town general store. In the store she found two small packages of face powder, one white, the other red. She began to apply some of the colored powder to her face. Her mother saw her, and quickly took the powder away from her.“‘No, no! Loma,’ said her mother. ‘You mustn't ever put that on your face. Only the bad women use that!’”
Apparently, Loma found this incident so traumatic that years later, she was psychologically unable to confront her husband about his incestuous relationship with their daughter.
“My mother - before she died - remembered that she used to apply a little powder on her cheeks but didn't seem to remember at what time this custom started. But she did distinctly remember that her mother never once applied powder, paint, or any kind of cosmetics whatsoever to her face. She was a very virtuous and religious woman, and in her time "only the bad women" put paint or powder on their faces. My own mother very emphatically declared that no lipstick ever touched her lips - a fact in which she took great satisfaction.” Yes, only harlots wore make-up, while the spiritually pure kept their faces free of the colored dirt. If it was true, as Armstrong claimed, that in his youth only prostitutes wore make-up, it was true of all times and places.
With his adoration for the past, it is no surprise that Armstrong’s views on race relations remained unchanged from his youth. Segregation, bans on interracial dating and marriage, and the inferiority of the “Negro” race were things he took for granted. As his article in the October, 1963 Plain Truth demonstrated, Armstrong cloaked the racial prejudice practiced in the Jim Crow south with Biblical garb. His attempt to make racism Biblical is truly astonishing.
Armstrong went to his grave without changing his opinions on race. In Mystery of the Ages, Armstrong lays out his racial theories in a book published just a few months before his death. Support for segregation, a distaste for interracial marriage, and a belief in black inferiority are all on display in his final book:
“The subject matter of the chapter [Genesis 6] is the generations ancestry of Noah. Exceeding wickedness had developed through those generations, by Noah's generation reaching a climactic crisis that ended that world.
“What was this universal evil and corruption? Jesus described that universal, corrupt evil as ‘eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage’ (Matt. 24:38). Eating food and drinking is not evil. Marrying is not evil in itself. There had to be wrong use and excess in eating, drinking and marrying - the evil was in the manner, and in the extent of eating, drinking and marrying.“It could only be eating improper food, drinking excessively of alcoholic drinks, revelings (Gal. 5:21), rioting, violence. Marrying, to be evil, had to be as in Genesis 6:2, when men ‘took them wives of all which they chose.’ There was rampant and universal interracial marriage - so exceedingly universal that Noah, only, was unblemished or perfect in his generations - his ancestry. He was of the original white strain.“It is amply evident that by the time of Noah there were at least the three primary or major racial strains on earth, the white, yellow and black, although interracial marriage produced many racial mixtures.“God does not reveal in the Bible the precise origin of the different races. It is evident that Adam and Eve were created white. God's chosen nation Israel was white. Jesus was white. But it is a fair conjecture that in mother Eve were created ovaries containing the yellow and black genes, as well as white, so that some of the children of Adam and Eve gave rise to black, yellow, as well as white.“The one man God chose to PRESERVE the human race alive after the Flood was perfect in his generations - all his ancestry back to Adam was of the one strain, and undoubtedly that happened to be white - not that white is in any sense superior.” So Armstrong says. But you’ll notice that he believes that Adam and Eve were white, and so was Noah and Jesus and the twelve apostles. Armstrong tries to convince us that the white race is not superior in his eyes, but he strongly implies that it is preferred in God's eyes.“If you are a livestock breeder, planning to enter your prize animals in a livestock show - perhaps at a state or county fair - you will be sure to enter only thoroughbred or pedigreed stock! Mixing the breed alters the characteristics.“God originally set the bounds of national borders, intending nations to be SEPARATED to prevent interracial marriage. Notice, "When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance [speaking of land or geographical boundaries], when he separated, [notice - he separated] the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people..." (Deut. 32:8).“But people wanted to intermarry - until there would be only ONE RACE!“That desire seems still inherent in human nature today!“Noah was of perfect lineage in his generations. His wife and three sons were of that same white strain. But Japheth evidently had married an Oriental woman, and Ham a black.“We know little more than stated above about civilized development prior to the Flood. (Pages 147-149, emphasis his throughout.)”Where he developed this theory, I don’t know. There is no Biblical support for this point of view. One can only conclude that these were the opinions with which Armstrong started, and he interpreted the Bible to conform to his opinions.
Incredibly, Armstrong predicted that the Kingdom of God would be segregated. God would appoint the resurrected Noah as his Minister of Racial Purity to supervise the separation of the races.
“Since Noah lived first, we now take a look at Noah. In Noah's day, the chief cause of the violence and chaos of world conditions was racial hatreds, interracial marriages, and racial violence caused by man's efforts toward integration and amalgamation of races, contrary to God's laws. God had set the boundary lines for the nations and the races at the beginning (Deut. 32:8-9; Acts 17:26). But men had refused to remain in the lands to which God had assigned them. That was the cause of the corruption and violence that ended that world. For 120 years Noah had preached God's ways to the people - but they didn't heed.“At that time, even as today, that world faced a population explosion. It was when ‘men began to multiply on the face of the earth’ (Gen. 6:1). Jesus said, of our time, right now, ‘But as the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be’ (Matt. 24:37) - or, as in Luke 17:26, ‘And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.’ That is, the days just before Christ returns. Today race wars, race hatreds, race riots and race problems are among the world's greatest social troubles.“Noah merely preached to people in his human lifetime. But Noah, in the resurrection, immortal, in power and glory, will be given the power to enforce God's ways in regard to race.“It seems evident that the resurrected Noah will head a vast project of the relocation of the races and nations, within the boundaries God has set for their own best good, happiness and richest blessings. This will be a tremendous operation. It will require great and vast organization, reinforced with power to move whole nations and races. This time, peoples and nations will move where God has planned for them, and no defiance will be tolerated.“What a paradox. People are going to be forced to be happy, to have peace, to find abundant and joyful living! (Pages 341-342.)”How would they be made happy? By not having to associate with those of other races. Armstrong blamed many of the world’s problems on the integration of the races. The cure would be the re-institution of segregation. The world’s problems would be solved by apartheid. In this and many other areas, Herbert was a man behind the times. He either couldn’t or wouldn’t change. Although he claimed to be God’s Apostle, when it came to race he was more like the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.