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Monday, April 15, 2019
"You Cannot Adapt to Change"
Many years ago, at one of my assignments, I was called in for a promotion evaluation with whom I was working for at the time. Surprisingly, at least to me, I was rejected - even though on paper, it appeared to me I was qualified. The answer that I received in regards to the reasoning behind the Operation Manager's decision was one that blindsided me, because I had never considered this before in my life. I was told "You cannot adapt to change. We need people who can adapt to any situation."
Yes, I was blindsided. But only briefly, because after considerable time spent thinking upon this revelation to me, I realized that this individual was absolutely right. I was stubbornly, adamantly, and thoroughly opposed to any sort of change in my life - whether it is home, work, or - of course - with the Church. There are many reasons for this that are personal I will not get into here, but this was the truth. I could not handle change.
Of course, one of the reasons was the traumatic experience with "The Changes" back in 1995. At least, this is what I blamed it on. But when I thought about it, my avoidance of change went clear back to my earliest of years. One thing that the Church taught and enforced was the rigid adherence to unchanging ritual, structure, liturgy, and methodology. Many details of my life from birth forward through the Church were exactly the same, day in and day out, over and over again, from services to songs to scriptures to people - even conversations with some were the exact same week after week. This pattern of repetition was a set up to create a well-energized fear of the unknown, and a stout denial that anything can change and be good.
This culture of the negativity of change came directly from the religious culture of the Worldwide Church of God in many levels. What is it that we believed was impossible to change? I don't even know where to begin! Paganism - that can't ever change. The Law of Moses - nope, no changes there. Evolution - absolutely not - God does not change what He created. I'm pretty certain you could come up with hundreds of examples of things that we taught were either absolutely impossible to change, or could not turn from evil to good, or was satanic to think it could be changed, using the scripture "God is the same yesterday, today, and forever", citing that "He changeth not" to prove nothing can ever change. Everything is set in solid rock, and in black and white, and you cannot deviate to the left or the right from an established, unchanging line, or open a box to even consider that change might not only be a good thing, but could even be a God Thing.
Is it difficult to consider the fact that even though God Himself does not change (He is love, and His Royal Law is love), that his methodology and interactions can, and do change, based on a change of conditions around Him?
Here's a thought that will probably be considered totally heretical, but let's go there for a minute. Consider evolution. The Armstrong Position has always been that it started as one thing and cannot change. Are we then saying that God does not have the power to cause adaptations so his life forms may acclimate due to a change in an exterior environment? (I.E. - global warming, cooling, ozone, solar radiation, heat, drought, tropical rain). Are we to suppose that God is not able to supernaturally - by pure Spirit and intellect - cause a life form to adapt to survive? Why is this not considered a possibility? Is it because we cannot admit that a God of Order does not cause things to become disorderly? Is it because we cannot admit that God might do things in ways we do not know nor can we understand? Is it because if it is not specifically spelled out in black and white in Scripture than it is impossible for this to happen? God specifically said "With men this is impossible, but with God, ALL THINGS are possible".Why rule out all possibilities when God himself said all things are possible? Are we so dull and dense?
Here's another thought that will probably be considered equally heretical - man-made observance days not rooted in scripture. It is true that once, long ago in time, people rooted in pagan culture and polytheism of many thousands of gods and idolatry used days as an idolatrous replacement of the one true God they did not know - after all, Paul himself referred to God as "the Unknown God" when walking around ancient temples (I think it was the one dedicated to Apollo, correct me if I am wrong). After the days of Jesus, Christians were successful in converting the culture from days rooted in antiquity and paganism to days of worship to Jesus. Pretty much, it's the same reasoning the Churches of God have for their Winter Family Weekends. The days off are established, so, why not replace the days with something we can agree with? Except when it comes to voluntary observances of man to God - no, they can't do that because of how it was in the past at a time long ago and far away. Failure to adapt to change is what this is - failure to realize that things can and do change and can turn from bad to good.
And then there's the COG situation itself - the entire liturgical construct set up over 70 years ago that for some Churches of God has not changed one iota - a construct frozen in time from the 1950s to the 1970s, even sometimes down to the same suits, same briefcases, same hymnals, same sermons, same predictions, same everything, a mundane, unchanging methodology that is stuck on Groundhog Day over and over again. Except instead of "I Got You Babe", the song is "O God, Forsake Me Not".
The Churches of God - and Armstrongism in general - have been stuck in an anti-change mode which has lasted throughout the entire lifecycle of the Church from its conception, to rapid growth, to maturity, to collapse, and now in it's death rattles - change has always been, in theology, and in practice, a dirty word. Those who have the highest avoidance to change have been the most active to attempt to revive what time has changed to their chagrin and objection. This is why we have the likes of That Wadsworth Guy who is attempting at all cost to rebuild what once was. Same with That Edmond Guy who also is attempting to rebuild what once was. Change is evil, it seems that they think. They are unwilling in many cases to pursue new formats, new ways, new advancements, new technologies (many still stuck in radio and TV!!) - they are literally in a time capsule they have locked shut and cannot get out of. The world is moving on around them and they are retreating into their own little black hole of time and space. It seems they cannot adapt to change.
Is it too much to admit that they could be wrong? Is it too much for them to admit that things may not have been (Note: They weren't) exactly as they imagined they would be? Is it too much to see that in the reality of things in this realm that we habitate that things always change? And that those who are stuck in predetermined prepositions nearly always end up and turn out to be one hundred percent wrong? Is it too much to realize that the way we thought it was so just possibly could be a different so? After all, hasn't time proven the absolute fact that most of the way that we as the Church of God of Herbert Armstrong and Hirelings thought things were be did not prove out to come even close to that way? Or if on realizing that fact, will it be like that Star Trek computer on the Original Series that short circuited because it realized it was incorrectly programmed?
God does not change. He has always been love and rooted in love. This is, after all, His Law. When Jesus Christ however came - like it or not, Jesus changed EVERYTHING. Herbert may have taught nothing really changed except for a few until some later time still in the future (that should definitely have happened by now!!), but he himself could not accept any sort of change! (Remember STP?) It is only when one understands that Jesus Changed Everything that one can accept Changes from the Old Covenant to the New, from Death to Life, from life apart from God to life with God, and from the separation to the inclusion of Jews and Gentiles - even to the differences of worship and observances between the two.
But don't feel bad. The Apostles had just as much trouble - as did the Jewish Christians - of accepting change as well. And Paul faced the brunt of this with persecution, divisions, rejections - and even prison time. It's easier to go back to the way things were than to change to a new normal. But this is exactly what Jesus demanded - change. Repentance. Not going back to the way things were, but learning new ways of faith, of hope, and of love - the things of the Spirit that the way things were could not even come close to fulfilling. No wonder Jesus said he came not to bring peace, but a sword - because Jesus well knew that people would yell "WHO MOVED MY CHEESE!" when the cheese got moved.
Until the Churches of God come to the point where they can admit that things don't always happen in the well-constructed solid concrete box the way they imagined they would, and instead look at the foundation which for over 70 years have always been shifting sand, they will continue to reject common sense and established, verifiable truth because of their inability to adapt to change. A lesson that for many Splinter Leaders will never get through their thick, stubborn, prideful, and spiritually uneducated heads.