There is a great new blog up about one man's journey through Armstrongism and out of the madness:
I turned 18 years old in Russia. What I wanted most at the time was to be a journalist. The jacket and the trip to Moscow seemed to be an auspicious start. Immediately after high school I went to work in the editorial department of the Worldwide Church of God, famous or infamous for its widely circulated magazine, The Plain Truth. I landed a job as an assistant editor for the church’s magazine for teenagers. They issued me a laminated press card just in time to declare my occupation as ‘journalist’ on my first passport.
When I wrote about the trip for the student newspaper at Cal State L.A. it was full of snark and posturing. I had a costume, and I struck a pose. I was a worldly correspondent, like Mel Gibson in The Year of Living Dangerously. I had even secretly snapped a few photos from the roof of our hotel in Moscow, a transgression that could have had serious consequences. In my imagination I was a true journalist, not like the propagandists at Pravda or Izvestia.
But even then I was embarrassed by my employer. I was an unquestioning believer in the doctrine of the One True Church, but I hated the name of our flagship publication. For me, the The Plain Truth was too cheesy, too on-the-nose. Not worldly enough. (I might have noticed that Pravda means Truth in Russian, but I didn’t see the irony then.)
A decade later, as I lived through the collapse of our cult, the educational field trip to Russia began to offer some lessons, a lens through which I could frame what was happening. As I understood it, reform in the Soviet Union began small, with a bit of openness to the world, a little glasnost, a little letting in of some light from the outside. There were deep social and economic forces underneath, but that new openness gave people a taste of intellectual freedom that couldn’t be contained. It would lead inexorably to a complete restructuring of the state, and then to the state’s collapse.
Herbert Armstrong died a few months before our trip, on Thursday, January 16, 1986. He was the unquestioned, absolute leader of the flock, the Apostle that God raised up to restore the final era of the One True Church in 1933. He was “the voice crying in the wilderness,” Elijah and John the Baptist rolled up into one, the faithful servant whose radio, television and publishing empire would at last preach the gospel to the nations, paving the way for the return of Christ.
There were stories of abuses, some of them well publicized. In a divorce case, Herbert Armstrong’s son accused him of molesting his daughter for years. Mike Wallace found enough financial and moral scandal to devote an episode of 60 Minutes to the church in 1979. But inside we had a word for people who made unpleasant accusations. They were “dissidents,” a word usually associated with authoritarian states. To label someone a dissident was to discredit and dismiss them with a single breath. My mother was a dissident.
When Armstrong died, his appointed successor began to let in just a crack of light. He lifted restrictions on women wearing makeup and no longer forbade the use of medical doctors. I’m certain he never realized how far most people would go when given just a little taste of freedom. I’m sure he had not the faintest idea how new technology, the internet, would open a flood of ideas and conversation that could no longer be centrally monitored and controlled.
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