Saturday, October 5, 2019

Kieren Underwood: The Exclamation Mark Church of God!

The Exclamation Mark Church of God!
Kieren Underwood

Multiple exclamation marks," he went on, shaking his head, "are a sure sign of a diseased mind." - Terry Pratchett
"Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose." - Elmore Leonard

For a man claiming to be inspired by God, Gerald Flurry's books sure are boring as hell. To paraphrase a quote I can't quite remember exactly, "God tells us he called the weak and base, but do they have to be banal as well?" 
As a child growing up in the PCG, I always had a feeling Flurry was a bad writer. I loved reading. But not his books. I don't agree with other Christian writers like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, but at least they're interesting.
The years I spent at Herbert W. Armstrong College were probably the tipping point. I'd be sitting in my study chair, 6:00am and still groggy, trying to fit in the compulsory hour of Bible study (also known as: "Flurry's New Booklet" study). Then, bam--"This world will go through the most horrible suffering it has ever known!!"--smack--"The Laodiceans are going to have to face God's wrath!"--boom--"Joseph Tkatch Jr. is literally Satan!"--crack--"I am the new Elisha, bitches!!" Wait... I thought this book was about Daniel?
Not only would you have to sit through book-long rants against people you'd never met and the ever-immanent threat of The Worst Suffering Ever, you'd have to see it repeated in italics, all-caps, and then the most formidable format of all: the double size all-caps italics with multiple exclamation points. 
So I got to thinking the other day: just how many exclamation marks does Flurry really use?
Elmore Leonard, an author whose credibility comes from the fact that people read his books without the threat of the Lake of Fire, tells us to use no more than "two or three per 100,000 words of prose." Since most of Flurry's books are less than 50,000 words, we should be looking at one or two exclamation marks per book. 
I went straight to the first eBook on 16: God's Miracle Day. A quick search revealed 130 exclamation marks. Oops. At a mere 9072 words, this works out, according to Leonard, as an exclamation mark ratio roughly 716 times too large.  It also makes for an "exclamation mark to sentence" ratio of 0.23--every fourth sentence has one. 
I couldn't help myself, so I did the other books as well. Here are the results:

double click to enlarge

Flurry tops out near a 0.25 "exclamation mark to sentence" ratio. Take out chapter headings and external quotations I'm pretty sure Flurry could hit the 1-in-3 ratio, and then you could be in for a real nice reading rhythm. Calm-Calm-Shout! Calm-Calm-Shout! Just as you're about to fall asleep, you'd be hit with another exclamation mark wake-up call! No sleep for you! 

Some of the books which hit the high end of the ratio aren't ones you'd expect. John's Gospel--The Love of God tops the list with 24.7 percent of sentences ending with exclamation marks. God loves you--but he's really angry about it. The Epistle of James is second, with 23.7 percent, and taking third spot is The New Throne of David, which, of course, was unofficially ghost-written by Joel Hilliker. I wonder if he had to go through and add in extra exclamation marks just to give it an authentic Flurry vibe. 
I also wondered whether Flurry has been getting angrier over the years. So I sorted the books by publication date.

double click to enlarge

With the exception of Jordan and God's Church in Prophecy, Flurry seems to have become slightly angrier. From 1992-2000, Flurry sat at a 13.2 percent exclamation mark rate. Then, from 2001-2019, he took off, averaging 19.0 percent exclamation mark usage. 
On a final note, Brian Davis's The Administration of the Spirit, and Wayne Turgeon's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have exclamation mark rates of 10.0 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively. Armstrong started the tradition, and PCG ministers are continuing it. There you have it--real, definitive proof of Apostolic Succession. Except it's not inspiration, it's just tone of voice.

Backslidding LCG Members Skipping Services

Why is it that the boys in Charlotte cannot ever compliment the members of the Living Church of God and say anything encouraging?  They are always getting beat over the head for some offense.  They can never do anything right.  Ultimately though, it is not about people skipping services, but the fact that LCG's income takes a hit.

From Church of God News:

Gerald Weston writes in LCG’s latest update (Sept.19):
“… we notice that when a Holy Day falls between Monday and Friday, our attendances are lower than when a Holy Day falls on the weekend. Everyone should be prepared to take time off from work or school, as this is an annual Sabbath, a Holy Convocation (a commanded assembly – Leviticus 23:423–25). The difference in attendance is not great, but it is noticeable.”
Members are expected to make an offering on every annual holy day in addition to tithing. Not everyone can afford to take all these days off work, or is allowed to take their children away from school, and those who don’t attend might not send in an offering.
And some of those who do pay offerings in addition to tithes cannot afford to do so …
“… we take up offerings on these special days, and I hope all are preparing for this in advance. Sometimes people write checks for money they do not have in their accounts. Sadly, this costs them exorbitant fees, but what many do not realize is that fees are also charged to the Church. Please prepare in advance for these special days and do not give what you do not have.”
The Philadelphia Church of God expressed the same problem in 2018:
“Some members unfortunately have been over-generous. In processing holy day offerings and other donations, the business office has encountered more than 50 returned checks. A returned check ‘bounces’ because the amount written on it is higher than the amount available in the checking account. When banks process these checks, they stop the intended donation from going through and often charge the Church a fee.”
Its all about the money, plain and simple.  When will the boys ever wake up that their butt-numbing sermons are boring as hell?  Can anyone blame LCG members for skipping services?

Reminiscing: Lake of the Ozarks Feast of Tabernacles in the 70s/80s.

One of the "Holy Grails" of the Old Worldwide Church of God's Feast of Tabernacles was the Site which was located at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. It is this site I wish to focus on today on a more reflective post as the Festival 2019 draws near for those who celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. 

My memories are, you will understand, quite vague, as my time at the Feast of Tabernacles in the Ozarks was as a young child - 4 and 5 years of age. Yet decades on decades passed has not diminished many of the memories of the Ozarks in my mind. In fact, the details are as clear as ever -despite the fact this was so long ago. Perhaps my memories are shared by others who went there back in the 70s and 80s. Perhaps this post will bring back some memories. 

The Feast was hyped up to me as a child. My family had two weeks reserved for the Feast, so we took our time going there - and took our time coming back. The first year we went, we stayed on a beautiful lakeside cabin at the now-defunct "Lazy-D-Resort". The Second year, we stayed at an inexpensive twin-story motel called the "Scottish Inn" off Highway 54 - which, surprisingly, still stands today. 

There wasn't any lack of anything to do for young children on a vacation at the Ozarks. One of my biggest memories of the Ozarks was the Bagnell Dam - which still runs and exists much as it did back then. We were able to take a tour of the dam's powerhouse - a very frightening and loud place, I remember - and had no idea what the "two houses on stilts" on the dam's top were (turns out, they are massive cranes to lift floodgates). We visited a great Cave called "Jacobs Cave" just up the road a little bit - I can still remember the pitch blackness when they cut the lights, and the distinct "cave smell" that existed deep inside the bowels of the cavern. There was a little lady about my age I had a crush on at the time - whose parent ran the concession/gift area I still remember. 

There was also the "Strip" - an entertainment and shopping district just across from the Dam - which contained a lot of fun activities for the whole family. There was a mini-golf course which contained a massive "sky-slide", and bumper cars. There was an arcade which had "Skee-ball" - a delight for a pre-schooler and adult alike. Two large statues of Indians flanked each side of the highway. 

And, of course, there was the Tabernacle. A giant metal warehouse held all 14,000 of us Festival goers just outside of Route 54, right next to a tall water tower. There was never anything fancy about this "Tabernacle" - plain was an understatement. Yet, it did the trick for all of us waiting for a long, long time to get out of the parking lot when services were over. I also very clearly remember having picnics between services on the lawns of the Tabernacle - with egg salad sandwiches and potato chips. It was also at this site that I heard the infamous "Behind the Work" videos of 1981 and 1982. 

As far as church-specific memories of the Ozarks, of course, there was Armstrong hollering about, echoing throughout the cavernous warehouse his kingdom proclamations. There was sitting on the grey floor with a "Little Professor" calculator and a gray etch-a-sketch. There was hanging on to the coat-tails of a parent - and the awe of so many people everywhere. And of course, the long, tiring days of double services. Yet, one of my most pronounced memories was hearing "Behold the Day Will Come" and shouting out to all who could hear over the singing that the day HAD come - the day of my birthday. It was a late feast that year. 

Looking now, the Ozarks are, in many ways the same, but also, in many ways, very, very different. The "Strip" is but a shadow of its former self. The Dam is still there but looks more utilitarian and un-explorable then it used to be. The Lazy-D-Resort cabins are gone, and so is the massive Sky-Slide and bumper cars. Yet, a few of the long-standing memories still stand - the tall statues, the fudge store, and even Jacobs Cave. 

The Tabernacle itself? It's now an indoor boat-storage warehouse for the ever-growing lake and boating industry of the Ozarks. Surprisingly, it still stands - another former ghost of itself - a ghost of an alternate universe of times past. Those who store their vessels within the walls of the Tabernacle would have no idea of what took place - and what we believed - within and around those walls. Yet those of us who were there remember. And remember well. 

Much like the other Church-owned sites - Mt. Pocono, Big Sandy, and Wisconsin Dells, Ozarks had its own flavor and its own distinctiveness all of its own. For Worldwiders - whether you were a child, or an adult, for over 14,000 of us, the memories of times long past still hold clear and strong for those who experienced the times and the season of fall on the Lake of the Ozarks. And it's these memories that the onset of Fall brings clear for those who lived to experience the Feast of Tabernacles during the Armstrong Era of the Worldwide Church of God.

Submitted by SHT

Friday, October 4, 2019

LCG Leaders Continue To Treat Members Like Uneducated Little Kids

Why does the Church of God and particularly the Living Church of God continue to treat its members like little children that have to be constantly reminded on how how to do things?

Appropriate church service attire

What Is Appropriate Dress at the Feast?
At Worship Services: In most modern cultures, coats, collared shirts, ties, and nice slacks are considered appropriate attire for men on special occasions. 1 Timothy 2:9–10 explains that ladies should dress “in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation.” Just because something is comfortable or acceptable in our modern society does not make it appropriate at Church. As we gather to picture Christ’s glorious reign on earth, our ladies should be careful not to dress in a manner that can become a distraction to others from the real purpose of coming to the Feast.
LCG men...please do not wear these anymore!

At the Beach: Appropriate beach attire for women and men is swimwear that is modest and in good taste. Following our Living Youth Programs policy, beachwear at the Feast for ladies should be a modest one-piece or a modest tankini (covering the mid-section), and for the men, no Speedo-type suits. 

The State of UCG At 25 Years: Stale Sermons, Bored Youth, Uninteresting Websites

Victor Kubik writes: The United Church of God is nearing its 25th anniversary. This time is proving to be one of critical reflection … Where have we been? Where are we now? And perhaps most importantly, where are we going? …
For 25 years now UCG has been struggling to find its purpose and mission.  After their apostasy from the mother church, the United Church of God has had one issue after another, even suffering a massive hemorrhage of ministers and members disgruntled by the corruption going on.  As hard as they try, they just cannot make a discernible impact upon the world or even with other COG's. Even with their new TV studios, they are still incapable of drawing an audience of potential money streams.
Dr. Ward noted that with the incredible experience of the Church’s youth camps, young people in the Church “may be so excited through their teen years” about biblical truth, but then comes a challenging “transitional period between high school and college and the first year of college” that often proves to be a difficult time to stay grounded and committed to the truth of God. It is during this critical transition time that young people can be in danger of slipping away …
Another issue UCG is having and as all of the other COG's, is their inability to keep their youth interested in staying in their churches.  Seriously, why should they?  When has the church ever truly cared about its youth?  Its focus has always been on money, strict doctrines, and insufferable sermons.  YOU, YES lessons and videos of a purple sock-puppet do nothing to keep the youth interested in church.
Thursday conferences, as Dr. Ward mentioned to the Council, are open and honest discussions, even to the point of admitting that sometimes the weekly church presentations in our congregations are “stale”. To build more energy and excitement into our weekly church meetings, Dr. Ward noted that “some of those things we could do – shorter sermons and more focused sermons and improving our messages – we really need to focus on … we really need more excitement and energy in the local churches.”
Stale?  Stale?  Try BOOOOOOOOOORING! UCG members on various Facebook groups complain regularly about how boring and dull UCG ministers are in their sermon subjects.  What more could we expect when they are sitll preaching the same sermons they were preaching while in the mother church decades ago?``It is almost 2020 and they still are stuck in 1986 mode.

Church of God News makes this astute observation:
Is Donald Ward correct in supposing that young people in the Church are excited through their teen years about biblical truth, but then slip away when they leave home? Could it be that children get bored much earlier with “stale” sermons and dull music styles, but continue attending until they are no longer obliged to do so by their parents?
What is their fondest memory of the youth camps? – the messages of “exciting biblical truth”, or the sports and social activities? Admittedly, young people flock to the corporate churches’ Winter Family Weekends – but do they go for the services and bible seminars, or for the sports and social activities?
COG youth have always flocked to the summer camps, not for the biblical "instruction" they got but for a chance to get away from home and to have fun with their peers.  It is more about fun than the stale and boring Bible junk they receive.  That is why so many flock to the annual Christmas weekends the church masquerades as a "family weekend".  They can play with their peers and secretly enjoy Christmas, while sitting through yet another insufferable Bible study or sermon.
Jim Franks of COGWA said recently that, “For the past 18 months, our unique visitors to Life, Hope & Truth has leveled off at just under 500,000 per month. This is about half the number we were getting at our high point. We are investing resources to develop a strategy to increase our numbers. There are some technical things that we can do with the Internet, but we also realize the need for more compelling articles that get people’s attention …”
How about dumping the boring subjects and have stories and articles relevant to 2020 instead of the canned crap of the past?  How can anyone find the current version of UCG as "compelling?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

All Along the Watchtower

All Along the Watchtower
"All along the watchtower,
Princes kept the view,
While all the women came and went —
Barefoot servants too.
Outside in the cold distance,
A wildcat did growl.
Two riders were approaching, and
The wind began to howl." --Bob Dylan

There are a great many religious leaders who have or do fancy themselves to be watchmen for the world. They see their mission as one of protecting Christian values against the wiles of the devil and the society which "he" has inspired. They stand along the wall and sound the alarm when they see threats approaching the city of the saints. Of course, they believe that they have been assigned this task by Almighty God. Moreover, most of these Divinely appointed sentinels believe that they will personally welcome the king back into the citadel when he returns.

Did they get all of this from a burning bush? Did God speak to them in a dream? Did a voice from heaven thunder these instructions? NO, they claim to get their commission from Scripture!

Chief among the passages which they love to quote are several from the thirty-third chapter of the book of Ezekiel. One of their favorites is "Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself." (Ezekiel 33:7-9) Of course, they often fail to mention that they are referencing a record of the story of a long dead prophet's message to the people of ancient Israel. Likewise, they often fail to account for why their message is needed when almost everyone in the world today have access to the exact same Scriptures that they do!

Continuing with Ezekiel, the message which the prophet was instructed to deliver was that "The righteous behavior of righteous people will not save them if they turn to sin, nor will the wicked behavior of wicked people destroy them if they repent and turn from their sins." (verse 12) Now that does seem like a worthwhile message, and one that could fairly be said to apply to all times - including our present day. Even so, the message has been delivered! There it is in Scripture. We just read it together. You can go get your Bible and read it for yourself in one of several English translations of the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic (or in one of the hundreds of other languages into which those same Scriptures have been translated).

And many of these self-appointed watchmen ignore the principal focus of Ezekiel's commission which is recounted in the very next chapter of the book! We read there: "Then this message came to me from the Lord: 'Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign Lord: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey." (Ezekiel 34:1-10) Hmmm, that sure sounds like the political and religious leaders are a big part of the problem! In fact, it sounds like the people should have been watching them (we are told that God was watching them)!

 It might, therefore, behoove some of these shepherds/watchmen to reconsider their decision to apply Isaiah's commission to themselves: "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins." (Isaiah 58:1) Notice too, Isaiah's commission was specifically addressed to "my people" or "the house of Jacob" - not to the world at large or society in general. Perhaps, these shepherds would be better served by taking a second look at the commission which Jesus Christ gave to his church?

In the Gospel of Matthew, we read: "Jesus came and told his disciples, 'I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20) Maybe I missed it, do you see in this commission anything about serving as a watchman?

To be sure, Jesus Christ did instruct ALL of his followers to "keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected." (Matthew 24:42-44) Why must we (Christians) ALL be watching world events? So that false preachers and prophets won't deceive us! (Read the entire chapter)

As for Christians pointing out other folks' sins, I seem to recall that Christ had something to say about that as well. In the seventh chapter of Matthew, we read that Christ instructed his followers: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you." (Matthew 7:1-6) Seems like pretty good advice to me, and consider the source!

Finally, just as Dylan implies in the song for which Jimi Hendrix is remembered, many of us (Christians) believe that someone is approaching the walls of the citadel and "the hour is getting late." Nevertheless, many of us believe that he's coming to overthrow what's behind those walls, not protect and perpetuate it! What do you think?

Miller Jones

The one thing the Church of God has always been good at

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Do Preachers Believe What they Preach? Do the Preached to Believe All They Hear?

Yes, of course, most do but a genuine and critical thinker will have their moments. Then facts will either overtake faith or faith repress the facts in my personal experience.

Were and are men in the One Man Show Ministries  like Herbert Armstrong, Garner Ted,  Dave Pack, Gerald Flurry and Ron Weinland sincere? Did and  do they personally and sincerely believe, I mean deep down believe, that what they say, believe and do?  Do they ever have their moments?  Do you?

Do Dave Pack and Gerald Flurry really believe they are spoken of in scripture?  Did Ron Weinland really believe 2008 was it?  Does Bob Thiel really believe, I mean really down deep believe he is the One True Church on Earth and he it's one true prophet?  Does he ever doubt "double portion" threw him down a rabbit hole?

Do people really truly believe that others, not them, will burn and fry and scream and cry for eternity in a Hell fire or deserve being thrown off a cliff into the Lake of Fire?  Or do we just kid ourselves on that stuff?  Most I know have doubts but also fears expressing them. I can't imagine members in Pack's, Flurry's or Weinland's fanatical church believe all they hear.  Most just quietly wait with a "we'll see."  Why do they do that?  The price of being mistaken in Dave's church is going to be very high.

Here are a few opinions on the question "Do Preachers believe what they preach?"

"Is the sun a planet? Is the moon a star? Is the earth yellow and full and made of cheese? "

'I would like to think pastors believe in what they preach, but truthfully it is dependent on the individual pastor. The one thing we tend to forget is that the pastor is human which means the pastor is subject to the same temptations as ordinary people"

"Most do some don't. Those that don't just keep doing it probably because they're worried about what others would think. Also, they're obviously not there for "money" because you don't really become a pastor for the great salary that it pays"
"yeah they spend their lives convincing themselves"

In the interest of transparency and as long as I can look back on my own experience with the topic  It's only fair I answer the question myself. I'll be as brief as possible. 

As a teen, believing I was to be in ministry, yes I was very sincere and believed what I read. It was the Bible after all and I grew up with "the Bible says" in spades. I was a sincere believing AC student. An outsider for sure and I recall the first words out of my mouth to a Men's Club icebreaker were "I don't know all the church teaches or why but I have read enough to want to find out."  

I felt strongly about being in the ministry because my dad shared with me AFTER I told him I was going to be in it and heading first to Minneapolis that when he realized his first born son, my brother, was as damaged as he was, dad prayed that , "If you give me a healthy son, you can have him."  Smultsy I know, but evidently I was God's answer to my dad's prayer. I have never been sure he should have told me that as it may have kept me in ministry longer than I personally wanted to be as the drama and trauma of WCG unfolded. 

I believed the basics. Second Coming, Baptism, preaching the Gospel, living the life, Holydays and Sabbath.  In hindsight it all pointed to a better future. It was the 60's and 70's after all. How much longer can this go on?

But over the years, I have to say I believed it less and less as I studied more and more into the origins etc of the Bible. The lost career wish of paleontology, cosmology etc that also was a part of me from my youth called to me and I lost my view of Bible literalism. I also saw contradictions and after pastoring thousands, religion didn't really change us much.

The ministry was boring to me personally as well. There was no room for innovation and dealing with the findings of science vs the Bible. Churches can't do that with set beliefs. It is the "faith restrictions" that keep it all in place. I don't think that way and learned that I truly am not faith based but rather evidence based in my thinking. I came into the church because it seemed to provide evidence but as I grew older, it was just faith not evidence that is was so.

I did not give sermons, however, on things I did not believe.  I skipped over British Israelisms, Divine Healing with no medical considerations, divorce and remarriage issues until they changed to what they should have been to begin with, The Place of Safety and whether the air in your tires counted as leavening...

At times I drank too much, a skill I learned mostly in my Chicago experience at 24ish. I never drank a thing until I went to AC and then sparingly "for my health."  The ministry?  Different story. I grew up around drink but I found that stress (I got caught up in "the East Coast Rebellion of 74", fired and rehired etc) made me withdraw and want to be left alone. Theological stress and the stress of the idealism of religion and actual behavior of humans was a challenge. I had no experience in it. It was not a part of my growing up religion and I had no coping skills. I did not sign up for all the shit WCG could dish out for minister to handle. 

I got a DUI  in the 90's when it all was reaching a bitter end for me, spent a night in a SC jail terrified and knew I had to get out of this whole mess and find some peace NOT in WCG and not in religion. It's hard to tell this but necessary. I accept my humanity and had no special feelings about being "the minister."  I never did drink much along the way. Just badly. I don't any longer. There seemed also to be a tendency in our history I was not aware of until it came up with others. In hindsight, I was badly handling the pressure and stress of seeing the church unravel and realizing I did not believe or have faith of any kind in any of it anymore.  Over drinking is a sign of personal stress and an indication that internal stress and issues are not being addressed head on. I tried pot in Oregon because it was legal and the store just down the street. I never smoked so opted for edibles. I soon could not recall what I just said or anyone just said so conversation was futile. I went to bed. Got that out of my system and curiosity! lol.  I have to say, the shops were set up like jewelry stores and pharmacies. Very cool. 

So the best I can say is that I personally was sincere until I wasn't. Transitions are messy. Mine was very messy. Divorce that my wife did not deserve and more experiences, out of "no one is going to tell me what to do" all reactions to letting others tell me how it all is when it was not. I found comfort and understanding in a relationship outside "the rules" because no one inside the church listened or cared much what I felt or thought. I did and she did. 

I learned several time over the years in ministry not to naively trust my peers or the administration with personal feelings, thoughts and challenges.  It just never turned out right. I was criticized for being depressed and getting professional help. The encouragers were never encouraging. 

 I did not stay for the pay. The pay was not all that great and I never made what my dad did at Kodak even. My parents died at just under 100 and I credit that to them living in the same house for 78 years in the neighborhood they grew up in, never having to move and attending a sane local church up the street with lifetime friends. I stayed too long because I did care about the local church people.  I found out they did not care much for me and it got easier to leave them behind too.  When WCG went Protestant, it simple was not going to happen for me. The Wheel of Religion had been reinvented for me. Joe and others thought it all was Jesus performing a great miracle. 

Lots to share. Some pretty crazy but on with the posting...  There were failings of practicing what I preached, but often what I failed in, I did not preach either. I found myself very willing to listen, support and share with others in both ministry and member the same things they failed to practice but said they believed. I know lots of COG people, member and minister alike who failed to practice what they preach.  It's the challenge of being human in a should/should not, must/must not culture.

The topic has been studied and the painful  questions asked.

"With the help of a grant from a small foundation, administered through Tufts University, we set out to find some closeted nonbelievers who would agree to be intensively — and, of course, confidentially–interviewed… For this pilot study we managed to identify five brave pastors, all still actively engaged with parishes, who were prepared to trust us with their stories. All five are Protestants, with master’s level seminary education. Three represented liberal denominations (the liberals) and two came from more conservative, evangelical traditions (the literals)" 

The quotations from the pastors are heartbreaking. In some cases, they’ve been entrenched in their faith for so long that they don’t know what else to do. As one pastor puts it, it’s like trying to switch your major when you’re so close to graduating: Why not just finish up what you started?
Once you’re locked into the role, it’s very difficult to leave. 
Here’s what one pastor said:
“Here’s how I’m handling my job on Sunday mornings: I see it as play acting. I kind of see myself as taking on a role of a believer in a worship service, and performing. Because I know what to say. I know how to pray publicly. I can lead singing. I love singing. I don’t believe what I’m saying anymore in some of these songs. But I see it as taking on the role and performing. Maybe that’s what it takes for me to get myself through this, but that’s what I’m doing.”
What do all these pastors have in common? The authors write:
The loneliness of non-believing pastors is extreme. They have no trusted confidantes to reassure them, to reflect their own musings back to them, to provide reality checks. As their profiles reveal, even their spouses are often unaware of their turmoil. Why don’t they resign their posts and find a new life? They are caught in a trap, cunningly designed to harness both their best intentions and their basest fears to the task of immobilizing them in their predicament. Their salaries are modest and the economic incentive is to stay in place, to hang on by their fingernails and wait for retirement when they get their pension." 
So I simply ask if Dave Pack, Ron Weinland, Gerald Flurry and all others of course, actually believe down deep the stories they tell and the views they have of themselves. How can someone believe such insane teachings to begin with? How can a man be so consistently wrong and still preach with straight face?  How can a man see himself spoken of in the scriptures? How can you demand people give up all and follow THEM? What's wrong with those who follow them we might also ask?  Or are they stuck in place having said too much with no way out?

Even Paul, who promised a soon return of Jesus and told people how it all was going to be for them and how they should do or not do this or that because of time being short, seems not have been able to admit or face the fact he was mistaken. No apologies. No recognition save for "I have fought a good fight...there for there is laid up FOR ME...." it seems. Why is it so difficult to say "I was wrong-I'm sorry-Please forgive me-I love you."?   It's hard to back out of a mistake gracefully.

So...Do they really believe it. Are they really untouched by their own humanity?
How about you?

(I'm gonna regret pushing the publish button)

Monday, September 30, 2019

My Best Teacher: And just for fun

Not one of the most memorable and best teachers and examples for me personally in my life was any fellow pastor and certainly not the Armstrongs.  It might have been my father of course. But looking back now and outside of my dad, it was Hidy Ochai, my karate instructor in Vestal, New York.  This is the only teacher I have ever met who was all that he appeared to be and lived the life he taught.  I honor him the most for his peaceful strength and philosophy of "No be there...BUT and IF you have to be there, then fight well."

Master Ochai turned down teaching Elvis karate when visiting Graceland and Elvis shot the Television with a pistol. He felt Elvis had a bad attitude and wasn't interested in teaching him his techniques after witnessing that.
Hidehiko "Hidy" Ochiai is a Japanese-born martial arts instructor, author, and actor. He is credited with establishing the Washin-Ryu style of karate in the United States in 1966. He was the winner of the United States Grand National Karate Championship five consecutive times.Ochiai was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame twice—as Instructor of the Year for Japanese Arts in 1979 and as Man of the Year in 1980. He resides in Vestal, New York...

Master Ochai grew up on the outskirts of Hiroshima in during WW2.He recounted to me that after the Atomic Bomb destroyed Hiroshima he was led into town as a child by his father. They lived behind a hill that shielded them from the blast. He recalled seeing "little melted people" begging to die.

 He bore a scare that one rarely saw and only when he performed without his shirt that went half way around him from front to back. He said when he was a teen, another almost cut him in half with a  sword and he vowed that he'd never be that vulnerable again. 

I was asked to help him several times and the one time was just before leaving for the feast that afternoon. He's a small man and had me "attack" him in front of a High School audience on a wooden stage.  Next thing I know, he's got me up on his shoulders, spinning me around and throwing me to the wooden floor, which we are supposed to know how to do without dying. Needless to say I groaned all the way to the Feast that afternoon. LOL.  The good old days!  

I got transferred out of NY before getting the Black Belt but he did say that I had the heart of a Black Belt but not the experience. So we settled for Brown.  The mention of the Brown Belt to a rather unstable perspective member who was angry because I was not happy with his scripture covered hooded robe he preached in and blocked my way out of the apartment with "I know Karate" helped a lot.  I said that I had just come from my own Brown Belt class and just kindly stared into his eyes.  He let me pass.  Then he went ballistic. 

Anyway, just for fun and to honor my best life teacher because I can...

  I witnessed Sensei Ochai do this several times and it is genuine and extremely dangerous. He did not allow a student to be under his sword ever that I knew of. .  He always asked his son to do the demonstration with him. 

 When sparing with him once, he hit me and failed to acknowledge it as required. He stopped and said "Mr Diehl, I got you."  Unwisely and before thinking I said, "I did not see it."  Oops.... We quietly returned to sparing and within a second or two he had his foot up against my cheek and slowly moved my head to the side as he said, "Mr. see that?"  lol.  
"Yes, Sensei"
Don't Try This at Home

Anyone actually have another human being, in the church or out who qualified as your best teacher and example? Anyone get your through tough times or listen well?

Straining at Gnats and Swallowing Gnats: Rabbi Thiel Blows His Shofar on The Feast of Trumpets

Rabbi Thiel

"Yes, trumpets are blown on the Feast of Trumpets–which Jews later changed the name for their observance to Rosh Hashana.

It should be mentioned that some Jewish sages have pointed to the first day of the seventh month of the calendar, which begins at sunset September 29, 2019, as the day the earth was created. Others, like those the Temple Institute referred to, point to it being the day Adam and Eve were created. However, since Hebrew calendar rules do not  allow the first day of the seventh month to be on what we now call Friday (since the Sabbath is the next day), their sages pointing to human creation on that day makes no sense. According to the Bible, Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day of the week (cf. Genesis 1:26-30), the day we call Friday. Thus, some of their sages are in conflict with that.

Speaking of conflicts and dates, although the Jews claim the year 5779 ended at sunset today, that is actually off by a couple of centuries."

"New Covenant? New Testament?  Don't see no New Covenant.  ?What is this "New Testament" you speak of?"

"All that being said, the Feast of Trumpets runs from sunset September 29th through sunset September 30th in 2019. And we are about 2 centuries closer to the end of the 6,000 years than the Jews are proclaiming."
Rabbi Thiel

"200,000? Nope... Don't see no 200,000.  6000...That's it...6000."

"Ok, I got Good News and I got Bad News.
The Bad News is that we are 150,000 years to early and Salvation is unavailable to us. There is no "plan" for us. 

The Good News is we don't have to give up to 30% of our hunt to other tribes, walk to the coast for the Feast of Crude Dwellings during hunting season or, as single men, bring a watermelon to the tribal gatherings or go without food for a day to show the gods we are humble men.  We go enough without food anyway...  

We also, so I hear, are lucky we are too early for something called "Dearlordnotthisagainwe'veheardthisathousandtimes!?"

So we should rejoice in our misfortune."