Saturday, July 20, 2019

You Were Right To Join

Hello, dear reader. It's been a few minutes since I last posted. Truth is, I simply don't have the time anymore like I used to. Sometimes you just have to make time.

Today I want to give you two things - one that I almost never do, and one that I almost always do. First the one I almost never do...


You were right to join your Church of God group.
You heard me. You were right to join Armstrongism.

Have I lost my mind? No. (I don't think so anyway.) Hear me out. Let's take a closer look here. What was the situation? You were faced with a huge decision - given the information that you had, your choice was either deny what you were convinced was true -or- you leave the world behind and join a Church of God. You saw something - maybe the 4th Commandment - and you were challenged with what to do with it. You chose to go with what you had been convinced was true with the information you had. How can that be a bad thing?

It's no small decision, either. You sacrificed, you faced scorn, you swam upstream, you basically had to isolate yourself from society. And you did it all because you have respect for truth and faith in God. Personally, I can't fault that. In fact, I think that anyone who does find fault in that isn't thinking clearly about the human condition. We all have to do the best we can with what we have. We have finite knowledge and finite resources. What can be expected!?

So I say again, you were right to join Armstrongism. Bear in mind that nothing I write in this article will diminish this.

That's what I almost never do; I almost never say people were right for joining a COG. Now for what I almost always do...


I always seem to have a "but!" to throw into the mix. It's kinda my thing. And my "but" is - you have access to more information now. And the information you now have access to should not be dismissed offhand but considered in every bit as much gravity and importance as the information that convinced you to join, or remain in, a COG group. You didn't dismiss the COGs; don't just dismiss us, please.


Life tends to go in large circles and by being here at ABD you have arrived back once again at that very same decision point. My question is - how would your original decision have been changed if you had access to more information?

Back when you made your decision to join or remain in a COG, you had already in your possession a certain set of information. You had on one hand what you brought with you and already accepted as true up to that time, and you had in the other hand what you were being given by the COGs. Then you made the best decision you could at the time. No one can fault you! You know what you know and that's all you know. Ya know? Well, now you have at your fingertips all of the articles and experiences of the writers and contributors here at ABD.

We all faced and made the same decision you made. We were all once in a COG (either born into it or joined later). But then we were presented with more information that we simply didn't have access to previously. We each found ourselves at that same decision point once again, but this time with better information. We share that information freely with you.

Today, you have in one hand the things the COGs have convinced you is true, and in the other the articles in this blog which give you the rest of the story that the COGs left out.


I am not exaggerating when I say there are very important things you need to know that will completely alter the equation. There are things that were purposefully hidden from us by the COGs. Things they don't want us to know. What should one do with such information? Bury the head in the sand? Dismiss it outright? Refuse to listen?

We ask, what will you do?

So, you were right to make the decision you did. Nothing said here diminishes this in the least. You did the best you could at the time. So did we! But we offer you more information than what you had then. Are you willing to at least hear us out? Are you willing to prove all things and see if what we are saying is true? What if it is?

If no information in the world could possibly convince you to reconsider, then go in peace. We harbor no ill will here. But, we suspect you wouldn't be here in the first place if that were so.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11


Ekklesia said...

It's difficult for those in the COGs now. Most are 2nd and 3rd generation COG attendees. Generally, the leadership and ministry have been those that were born into the Worldwide Church of God or began attending with their parents some of whom were ministers/elders themselves. But, they are only about 5-10% of those who have ever attended a WCG/COG church service.
Obviously, almost all the ministry attended Ambassador College and made friends there. College friends often form lifelong bonds, but still, even those that attended Ambassador College and currently attend the COGs are only a fraction of those that attended Ambassador.
It is in this rarefied air that most of the current COG members live and breathe-- most have a family member that attended Ambassador or is currently employed in some capacity by the COG they attend. Those too young to have attended Ambassador often are leading songs or giving sermonettes which is considered a seal of approval and thus are further devoted to the organization.
I say all this because it is no longer simply a spiritual question or issue for those in the COGs. It also carries a huge familial and social weight. When confronted with the idea that the Sabbath is not necessary for salvation, the thought of the reaction from family and friends to discontinued observance of the sabbath will generally carry the day. They know that if they do not observe the Sabbath they will lose friends, position/duties, and at the least have strained family relations. They know they will be considered among those who have fallen away.
Better arguments and information is simply not enough to break the hold of an organization(s) that has a multi-generational hold on most. But, as you say, those that have seen behind the curtain and are visiting this site can be greatly helped in their Christian growth by the fine articles prepared and researched here.
My final thought is "change is hard". We know this; we changed and have come to know Christ in a stronger more personal way. We also know that when that change involves movement away from an organization that we now see hid information and evidently believed in the organization more than truth it is easy to have anger and resentment toward that organization. That natural response is looked upon as a sign that a wrong spirit is acting in those of us that now see what the WCG was. I think it is virtually impossible to avoid this entirely, but with time we can. Then we must simply let our authenticity and caring be our dominant response to those still in the COGs; almost everyone (including the leaders) was born into it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Martha, thank you for a well written blog. I was thrilled to see a new entry after nothing new for the last 3 months. This entry was well written and well thought out as they all are. I do, however, have mixed feelings about what you wrote. As someone who was dragged into the WCG at age 8 with full recollection (much because of home movies) of what life was like prior to our family joining the WCG, I have a difficult time accepting that my parents "did the right thing" in joining.

I have always believed they joined because they failed to do their homework. Though I will grant that in the late 60's and early 70's there was very little information available about the WCG. Herbert and Garner Ted were careful about talking about their own cult's teachings on their radio and tv broadcasts. They even fooled some sincere Christians into believing they were perfectly orthodox! And with the way they kept such a low profile with not allowing their congregations to advertise their meeting places and services times and restricting visitors from attending, they managed to slip under the radar very nicely. But when you are a child growing up in such an environment where everything you remembered that made family life special was suddenly yanked away, and your parents turn abusive on you whenever you commit the "unpardonable sin" of making THEM look bad in front of church members, well, hearing that they made the right choice seems a bit too much like being told to "get over it", which I've been told by my parents for the last 4 decades since we left. BUT....I am appreciative of you presenting the other side of the coin here. My parents did really believe they were doing the right thing. They did eventually leave when they found out that the church wasn't what it claimed to be. They did eventually embrace true life-changing faith, though they erroneously gave too much credit to the WCG for that. But thank you for the thought provoking blog, though I may question what appears to be a "one size fits all" approach.

The Seventh Day Baconater.... (you know who this is)

xHWA said...

No doubt this is a very difficult thing to accept after the fact. I encourage you to keep trying to see this from your parents' perspective at the time they decided to join, rather than from the advantage of your current hindsight. Part of healing is coming to terms with what happened. There is no peace in dwelling on how the past should have been different.

I've been out almost 11 years now and I still wonder how I could have ever been so blind. What's more, how could me parent be so blind. But the truth is, we weren't "blind" so much as we were indoctrinated. It didn't help at all that there were no good resources to counter Herbert Armstrong. We did the best we could with what we had at the time. The cure for indoctrination isn't just more information though. Truth is, a mind won't accept that. I know that people tried to present information along the way and we rejected it. We didn't have anyone we trusted to gently help us see what we refused to see.

It took me all this time to come to the point where I could write this post. I wanted to share that with others. I wanted the readers to know ABD isn't here to attack them like a bandit on the road, but to walk along side them in their journey.

Martha said...

Dear "Seventh Day Baconater"...

Thanks for your kind words. It was actually xHWA who wrote this refreshing piece, but I must say I agree with him.

I can't imagine the pain the transition from mainstream Christianity to Armstrongism caused you. I know the shock and confusion it caused in my own family... and at least my children got upgrades in the tradition department. I am not going to pretend that I understand. I was born into Armstrongism and continued in the tradition for many years after leaving home. It was the norm, and, unfortunately, remains so in most of my extended family. There was no loss or culture shock on my end, so perhaps this is an easier pill for me to swallow.

I agree with xHWA that those who joined WCG thought they were doing the right thing. I can't fault this, since the Bible tells us that what is not done in faith is sin. They gave things up and risked relationships. They lost their jobs for what they believed was "the truth". They suffered ministerial abuse, far worse than most of us know today. Back then, it really felt like the world might be coming to an end. Now, those who came in after 1975 make me wonder, but on the other hand, things were manipulated and hidden so well that maybe it was not obvious.

There was also not much homework to do. The Internet was decades away. There was no cohesive way for people to compare notes, even to compile notes. The few people who were "on" to WCG were Protestants, whom we were taught to distrust. The powers-that-be could write off any negativity as persecution. I'm sure there were whispers, but who would you check with who wouldn't put you on some kind of list? And once you were on a list, you were on the path toward being disfellowshiped. Cut off from everyone you knew. Since the church was "it," you were practically condemned to the Lake of Fire.

There was little avenue for homework until the Internet became pervasive. Even then, more than a decade later, I was almost afraid to enter the Google search: "Is XYZ a cult" that led me to As Bereans Did. If that was my experience, in the 2000s, with an alphabet soup of COGs to bounce between, I can't fault those in the 1970s and 1980s.

You brought up another interesting point - that your parents were fooled, even coming from mainstream Christianity. This has been on my mind lately - what are these Christian churches missing in their teaching that so many could be tricked and lured from the pews? To be honest, I think many mainstream Christian denominations are confused on some points and miss the boat when they adopt the Ten Commandments and tithing. If those things still apply, then worshiping on the Sabbath is correct, and all of mainstream Christianity is wrong. I happen to disagree, but at least WCG was being consistent. This is a source of never-ending frustration for me in my own church. (this is not meant to start a discussion on the 10 commandments. Last time I checked, I haven't murdered anyone since leaving the COGs, and strive to a uphold a much higher standard than I did in my old life). Regardless, WCG doctrine was not consistent from year to year, region to region. I have found what was taught depended heavily upon your minister and your region. Pinning down actual doctrinal teachings was a little like nailing jello to a wall. As much pain as these things caused, I have to respect the faith behind it. They left everything behind for what they believed was truth. I only wish they extended us the same respect.

Martha said...

Ekklesia, your comments are on point. Facts and arguments are not enough to break the cycle. It's too easy for them to write us off as "deceived" or as agents of Satan. After several generations, Armstrongist practices are normalized in family culture. For those second, third and fourth generation members, It is frightening to think about what you risk when you leave. And the ministry... as much anger as I have toward some in the ministry, leaving would be even harder. Most are sincere and sincerely trapped.

I think you're right - Walter Martin's "Kingdom of the Cults" advises that the best way to break through the cultish mindset is to be an acceptable person that breaks through all the propaganda that the organization feeds the member about people like us. That is why ABD persists, even though life has had us limping along a bit lately. Unlike the organization, we don't hide damaging information, or pretend to be moral people that we aren't (aside from our pseudonyms, which we are advised to use for the sake of privacy, safety and preserving family relationships). We don't strive to be "acceptable people" purely for the sake of drawing people away or "winning souls." We strive to be "acceptable people" online and in real life because that is how Christ-followers act. We feel a special burden for those stuck Armstrongism, and would love to be able to help them as others have helped us. We pray that shines through - or rather He shines through in us - over time, and that in doing so, we may lead others to Him.

ekklesia said...

I remember thinking there were some spiritual issue influencing those that seemed overly upset towards the WCG. Some of those that got the most upset it seemed received the most from the WCG-- went to Ambassador College, worked at Ambassador Auditorium hearing the best music and performances among Pasadena elite, went on archeaological digs, etc.

Often these are the individuals who were most deeply planted in the WCG organization with family and friends also being within the organization. Yet, then they see the abuses of the organizational elite, the cover-ups, the deceptive additions and omissions of scripture. What can they do at this point? Just quietly leave? Quietly leave when they know that all those family and friends now believe they are deceived and lost and are no longer a part of the "chosen"? No, they get angry that this is how they are perceived. They get angry that friendships and relationships are destroyed simply because they have seen that the organization(s) is/are not special chosen of God and that many teachings are simply wrong. And perhaps even more onerous is just how obvious it is once the scales are removed from our can those in the COGs still believe this so strongly.

It strikes me that some COG members today will point to someone who has recently left the COGs or is leaving the COGs and judge them on how their life currently seems in some degree of turmoil as if God has pulled His blessings, but forget the far greater damage and turmoil in the lives and relationships when these same COG members or their parents first entered the WCG organization. Actually, because almost all those in the COGs today are now second and third generation much of the destruction of families is forgotten. I remember, however. It is hard to believe I believed this was what our Lord wanted.

Anonymous said...

To Ex-HWA and Martha, I want to thank both of you for your thought-provoking responses. Believe me, I do very much appreciate both. Both of you are very dear to my heart. I do want you both to know, that in my HEAD, I tend to agree with you both on just about every point you make. However, in my heart, I'm still hurting from the experience mainly because of the damage it did to my family that has carried over to this day, over 40 years later. My father held onto too many habits he picked up in the WCG to his dying day. The church made my mother an emotional trainwreck and she is still one to this day. It has driven such a wedge in our family, I can ask for divine intervention to take care of it. In my head, I know God is merciful. In my heart, I still ache. Sorry for sounding so dramatic. I think I need some bacon!

But thank you both again. It's such a privilege to be able to confide in both of you. God bless!

The Seventh Day Baconater

xHWA said...

Baconator, you know we love you too. The good thing in where you are today is - you have us and we have you. Your aching is legitimate, brother. Not in any way trying to even hint that it's not. It is! I just want something better for you than heartache is all. You'll get there. Maybe not on this earth, but this isn't the end of our story. And we'll sit together then and laugh about it all I'm certain.
God bless!