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Thursday, February 20, 2020
THE MISSING DIMENSION IN HERBERT’S AND GARNER TED’S SEXUAL TEACHINGS
How did many thousands of people come to regard the teachings of an incestuous pedophile and a serial adulterer on human sexuality as authoritative? That’s a good question, and one that is worthy of an answer or explanation! After all, most of us would expect someone who purports to be an expert on issues related to questions of morality surrounding human sexuality to be practitioners of what they preach.
The first point that should be made in answering our opening question is that the overwhelming majority of the folks who accepted the teachings of Herbert and Garner Ted Armstrong in this regard were completely unaware of their personal moral failures in this realm when they were introduced to those teachings. In the light of subsequent revelations about the private sexual lives of both men, however, it becomes more problematic in attempting to explain why so many folks continue to accept their teachings in this area. Again, one would think that their failures would cause their followers to take another look at their teachings on a subject that is so important to most humans!
It is more than a little ironic that Herbert Armstrong had the temerity to write The Missing Dimension in Sex after years of sexually abusing his own young daughter. “That is an unproven and scurrilous accusation!” his defenders will shout. For me, the fact that his son (Garner Ted) believed that it had happened (and confronted his father with it) is sufficient reason to believe that it happened. Moreover, even if we were to dismiss this allegation as “unproven and scurrilous,” how do we explain the circumstances surrounding Herbert’s second marriage and divorce?
Likewise, Garner Ted had the audacity to write about Modern Dating before being kicked out of church for his philandering ways. After ignoring his son’s marital infidelity for years, the problem finally became so severe (and so widely known) that Herbert was forced to put his heir apparent out of the church! Years later, after starting his own church, Garner Ted was famously caught on tape sexually propositioning a masseuse!
“Their moral failures don’t negate the validity of the moral principles which they promoted in their writings!” some of their defenders will shout. That may or may not be true but doesn’t it (at the very least) warrant us taking a closer look at the principles they advanced?
Herbert Armstrong liked to criticize what he referred to as the “New Morality.” In fact, his original treatise on the subject was titled God Speaks Out on the New Morality (for our purposes, we will not address the arrogance involved in presuming to speak for God). He decried the fact that, although science has swept away much of the former ignorance regarding the technical/mechanical aspects of human sexuality, these learned men had failed to account for God’s purposes and will in human sexuality.
As with many other aspects of traditional Christianity, Herbert believed that Catholic and Protestant attitudes toward sex were directly borrowed from the pagans. He wrote: “Christianity, following its first generation, absorbed the pagan dualism of Greece, and pasted the label ‘sinful’ on sex. Through the centuries since, the moral standards of the Western world were regulated by the Roman Catholic Church.” (Chapter 1, The Missing Dimension) “What, then, was the real source of this attitude of shame?” he asked. “It flowed on the tide of the Babylonian Mystery religion into the Roman world,” he answered. “It reached the Roman world by way of Greece, but it flowed, at an earlier date, into Greece from Egypt,” Herbert explained.
Was Herbert right about the source of Christian shame about human sexuality? Interestingly, HistoryExtra (the official website for the BBC History Magazine) informs us that “To the ancient Greek mythologisers, sexuality, love and sex were inextricably connected with the creation of the earth, the heavens and the underworld. Greek myth was a theogony of incest, murder, polygamy and intermarriage in which eroticism and fertility were elemental; they were there right from the start, demonstrating woman’s essential reproductive role in securing the cosmos, extending the human race and ensuring the fecundity of nature.” (see the article “A brief history of sex and sexuality in Ancient Greece”) The article, along with many other reputable sources, does not leave us with the impression that the ancient Greeks were puritanical about sexual matters.
Indeed, Mr. Armstrong later acknowledges that, according to the Bible, the ultimate source of human attitudes with regard to shame about our bodies and their functions was Satan. In the first chapter of Genesis, we read that God pronounced everything that “He” had created (including both genders of humans and their reproductive systems) as being “very good!” (see Genesis 1:36-31) In fact, the very next chapter concludes with the statement: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (see Genesis 2:25) It was only after they ate the forbidden fruit that “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.” (see Genesis 3:1-7)
Although Herbert delighted in denigrating and dismissing scientific notions about evolution and the interrelatedness of all life on this planet, the fact is that human reproduction shares a great many similarities with plant reproductive systems and even more with those of the animal life that shares this planet with us. Indeed, all sexual reproduction is characterized by a male gamete fertilizing a female gamete to produce a zygote – which then eventually develops into a mature form of whatever plant, animal or human we’re talking about. From a theist’s perspective, God has designed a wonderful system for the perpetuation of life on this planet (a system of which we humans have our own version). And, when we think of human reproduction in these terms, it seems absurd to characterize any part of that system/process as shameful, evil or unnatural!
Finally, Herbert had a great deal to say about the application of God’s law to the proper uses of human sexuality. In the end, his basic formula was that all sex outside of the institution of marriage is sinful. Was he correct? How should God’s law be applied to the phenomenon of human sexuality?
Jesus Christ said that the entire law could be summarized in two great principles: love of God and love of neighbor. (see Matthew 22, Mark 12 and Luke 10) Paul told the Romans that love fulfills the law. (see Romans 13) Hence, it seems like we would be on safe ground (in terms of Scripture) to characterize any behavior (sexual or otherwise) that is based on love and that doesn’t hurt/harm yourself or someone else as being comprehended within the boundaries of God’s law.
Of course, we are speaking here of God’s great fundamental law known to most of us a “The Ten Commandments.” But doesn’t one of those commandments specifically address the subject of human sexuality? Yes, the seventh commandment states “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (see Exodus 20:14) So, here we have a direct command from Almighty God that “He” expects us to be sexually faithful to the person we marry – that God expects us to honor the commitment which we have made to that person. Christ expanded on this when he told his disciples “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (see Matthew 5:28) Notice too that this cannot be interpreted as a blanket condemnation of all sexual desire (which the Creator had to place within us, if “He” indeed created us), because marriage is implicit in the very concept of adultery!
“What about all of those scriptures that deal with fornication?” my Armstrong inspired friends will ask. Just a little checking with Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (either online or in the printed form) will quickly demonstrate that both the Hebrew and Greek words which are translated thus into English encompass any sexual behavior which is considered deviant (and the Hebrew word also implies idolatry in the sense of God considering Israel to be married to Him). Many Christians are surprised to learn that it is human reasoning that has made this word mean premarital sex – that there is no specific condemnation in all of Scripture regarding human sexual behavior prior to that commitment being made to another human being!
As for procreation in marriage being the only justification for human sexual intercourse, Mr. Armstrong himself blasts that notion. According to him, there are three God-ordained purposes for sex: marriage, reproduction and “the expression of marital love and companionship.” (see Chapter 11) And, although Herbert doesn’t directly quote Scripture to back up his conclusion in this instance, common sense and experience inform us that there is much more motivating human sexuality than the desire to produce offspring.
Likewise, Herbert insisted that masturbation was also sinful, harmful and disgusting. He wrote: “On the other hand, masturbation is a form of PERVERSION. It is a SIN! It does harm the boy — or the man — physically, over a period of twelve to twenty-four hours by dulling the mind, even causing a partial blurring of sight, and acting as a partial anesthetic to the memory. Often a boy will experience absent-minded proclivities following masturbation.” (see Chapter 12) And, once again, no scriptural basis for this prohibition is listed (probably because you cannot find one in the Bible). As with many other of his teachings, Mr. Armstrong arrived at his conclusions about masturbation based on human reasoning – extrapolating principles based on scriptures dealing with other matters!
And remember the Greeks mentioned early on in Herbert’s treatise as being responsible for traditional Christian prudery about things sexual? The article referenced earlier in this post tells us that “To the ancient Greeks, masturbation was a normal and healthy substitute for other sexual pleasures – a handy ‘safety valve’ against destructive sexual frustration. This may explain why there are so few references to it in the literature: it was common practice and did not merit much attention.” Continuing, we are informed that “Other ancient civilizations celebrated masturbation too. For example, a clay figurine of the 4th millennium BC from Malta shows a woman masturbating. In ancient Sumer [the first ancient urban civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia, modern-day southern Iraq] masturbation – either solitary or with a partner – was thought to enhance potency. In ancient Egypt male masturbation when performed by a god was considered a creative or magical act: Atum was said to have created the universe by masturbating, and the ebb and flow of the Nile was attributed to the frequency of his ejaculations. Egyptian Pharaohs were required to masturbate ceremonially into the Nile.” (see HistoryExtra)
Can we begin to see that Herbert Armstrong’s notions about human sexuality were flawed and can hardly be said to be authoritative? Can we see that many of the very principles which he expounded upon in his treatise were based on flawed human reasoning and have little or NO basis in Scripture?
Think about the harm that these teachings have caused – especially among the young people of the church. I’m reminded of Christ’s admonishment of the Scribes and Pharisees “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (see Matthew 23:4) Can you imagine trying to live up to these standards as a young person who has begun dating? How ironic! Mr. Armstrong expected them to deny the very desires, appetites and hormones which God had placed within them! Yeah, I’m thinking a reevaluation of the acceptance of these Armstrong notions about human sexuality is long overdue!
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
From Exit and Support:
Saying Drought in Australia Was a Curse From God:
February 16, 2020
I been thinking recently about the bushfires in Australia. Flurry (and other similar people) would have people believe that the lengthy drought in Australia was a curse from God for people’s (the public’s) sins, and that God would give them rain when they repent of whatever sin was the cause of the drought.
I seem to remember that we were taught in the WCG that it is God who grants repentance. If only a “few” are “called now” and given the chance to “repent,” then why on earth would God be punishing the rest of humanity for their so-called sins when He hasn’t even granted them repentance?
Now there has been rain across the bushfire regions and the fires are effectively put out.
Did the people of Australia “repent” of their sins? No, probably not, but it rained anyway. There are floods now which are a natural result after a drought.
These religious leaders all seem to say the same thing in their literature and television broadcasts to suck people into their cults by saying the words, “You need to know.” No, you don’t “need to know” anything that they have to say.
Though, in actuality, UCG members actually have NO SAY in who rules over them. It's always the good old boys club voting in the same old boys in order to keep their power structure in place.
Vic Kubik writes about how African tribes elect their leaders. He marvels that the women do it! Can you imagine the UCG or any Church of God ever letting women vote the leadership in. Oh, hell no!
What voice do UCG members have in the process? They never have had any since the very first days that the good old boys met in the 360 SOG apartments on the Pasadena campus to plan their escape route and money supply when they jumped ship. They set themselves up, elected each other to positions of control, and still do it to this day. UCG members never had any voice in the process and never will, despite the words of Vic below.
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Living Church of God members must still be struggling to be unified and friendly with each other. Its another lecture on working together and avoiding contentions and divisions.
Once again they get lectured about pride. Seriously? Take a look around the prideful and ambitious people in Charlotte who stab each other in the back in order to advance up.
Humility? In LCG? Seriously?
Keys to Working Together: One of the challenges of life is learning to work together with other people—in families, on the job, and in the Church. The Bible gives us instructions and examples to help us accomplish this vital task. Jesus built bridges with others by referring to His disciples as His “friends” and encouraging them to “love one another” (John 15:12–17). The Apostle Paul, who had his own challenges with this issue (Acts 15:36–41), learned that we must focus on the mission to be accomplished and not on each other’s opinions, ideas, actions, and faults. He referred to those who assisted as “my fellow workers” (Romans 16:3) and “fellow workers for the kingdom of God” (Colossians 4:11) and “workers together [co-workers] with Him” (2 Corinthians 6:1). Paul also urged believing Christians to “be perfectly joined together in the same mind” and to avoid contentions and divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10–13). Solomon reveals that pride and ambition are sources of contention (Proverbs 13:10), while Paul notes that humility, patience, and understanding are keys for working together (Romans 12:16–18). As disciples of Jesus Christ and followers of the Apostles, let’s strive to love one another and learn to work together humbly and peacefully as “fellow workers for the kingdom of God.”
Have a profitable Sabbath,
Douglas S. Winnail
Monday, February 17, 2020
Philippians 4:8, NIV: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
OK, I can do that...
I was sitting quietly this morning, coffee in hand, and spending time with my therapist. Actually two therapists in the above 60 gallon "Goldfish Bowl". It also serves as a Television as I have not owned one in 20 years. Obviously with John Denver playing in the background many things come to mind. Turning 70 when I am 27 in my head also helps
Poems, Prayer and Promises
I got to thinking about my brother and all the years of a quick dinner after church and then off to the State Hospital to visit him. This was a weekly ritual. It was in that State Hospital in Newark New York much of the fixer in me felt the tug towards ministry. After all, it was the greatest story ever told and ending up in WCG is no mystery to me. With a blind, deaf and speechless brother, those Wonderful World Tomorrow scriptures beckoned. They don't speak of such things in the Dutch Reformed environment. You live, you stay in church, you die and you go to Heaven. That's it. Even Hell never came up with the Dutch.
I have recounted the brother story a number of times, so as to avoid the "here we go again" problem, I'll just leave the story at that. The experiences every week seeing what can go so badly wrong with humans, mentally and physically as they mixed them all together back in the day, needless to say, molded my worldview from about age 5 onwards. And too...it was the 60's.
That being said, I got to thinking about Dr Bob Thiel. Behind the scenes of his life, I know he, his wife and siblings if present have the same challenge , or at least I believe this to be so and correct me if I am mistaken, with a special needs child. I don't know the nature of it. But I do know the challenge it must be as a parent. I know the work it takes to keep up with it all and the extra care needed to keep the family together and thriving. I know it's hard mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The well meaning, I suppose, Presbyterian minister of my parents day told them at some point "Well, you must have done something wrong or you'd not have had a handicapped child". A bit enraging of course but that crack motivated my mom to spend the rest of her life being the perfect mom, perfect woman and perfect human being. She spent a lot of her life, it seemed, proving "I'm not dirty!" I miss them both, of course, but they made it to just under a hundred years old and died within months of each other as we suspected they would.
I also know how appealing the "Good News of the Wonderful World Tomorrow" can be and why one can end up not only embracing it because of our own special needs but because of having such a challenge in the family. It may explain a lot of the zeal to believe and do the right things and share that belief. We all do it as only the subjects and motives change I suppose.
That being said, credit where credit is due and all differences, and my own theological or weather related criticisms aside :), for the moment, I understand the quiet behind the scenes struggle and burden special needs children bring to the family table. This includes, of course, Mrs Thiel and any other children whose lives also are affected in many ways in such an environment growing up. It does bestow compassion , patience and a perspective that seeks hope that perhaps only those who have experienced it can understand. I have also seen it tear families to shreds with the stress and strain of it all.
I just wanted to honor and say something positive Dr Bob Thiel and family though in spite of our observations about the Wild World Church of God experience, splits and splinters.
My therapist says we're not finished, wrap it up and to pay attention, or she will move on to another appointment