Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Escaping Armstrongism - part II

A few weeks ago, I asked how we could help you, our esteemed readers. The answer I got is, people want to know more about what it is like to exit. Having done that once, I believe I can oblige.

This request turns out to be more complicated than I anticipated. There are so many variables. What is the best way to approach things? I decided to approach it in more than one way. In my last post, I started this effort by telling the story of how I left. My hope is that someone will find hidden in there some nugget of help; something to relate to.

This time, I am going to tell the story of how life went after I left.


It was late summer 2008. It had been a highly traumatic roller coaster of a year. I had just exited Armstrongism after three decades. The exit process took 6 years, starting in 2002. My life was upside down and backward. My beloved prophecy was gone, the bedrock of doctrine was gone, the Apostle himself was gone, and even the weekly Sabbath was gone - all victims of what would become what I like to jokingly refer to as "the patented As Bereans Did gauntlet". By this, I mean a whole new process of studying to allow the truth to be what it is - where we take as neutral an approach as possible, weighing all the evidence to see what holds up and what gets destroyed in the process. The cons far outweighed the pros for those items. They had to go.

I was afraid and excited at the same time. Everything seemed to be in extremes. Both north and south, but with no equator. I was blogging to try to make sense of it all. The world was filled with options, but I didn't know which way to go. It was like being in a large and energetic city ...watching your ride drive off and leave you there.

The only thing I was still sure about was Jesus and the paganism inherent in mainstream Christianity.
Rather, the only thing I was consciously aware I was still sure about was Jesus and the paganism inherent in mainstream Christianity. I had been in Armstrongism for so long, I didn't realize there was more baggage.

When you exit, you don't leave everything behind. I would guess you don't even leave half of everything behind. You might think you have, but it's hiding inside you. It's invisible until we run into situations that make us aware. That isn't necessarily bad, but it can be. I wrote a post called "How To Move Forward" where I write about the dangers. 

Learning about myself would be a recurring theme for the next several years of my life.


I was clearly going to need a new church. It was going to have to be something without all those unsightly pagan elements. It was going to have to be less authoritarian and not at all personality-centered. No more "God's appointed Apostle on earth" stuff. Catholicism was right out. Pentecostals? No way was I speaking in tongues. Out! Apostolic is basically the same as Pentecostal. Out. JW's was 100% out. Seventh Day Adventism seemed too personality-centered with their founder, so out. Not on your life was I about to go with some fringe Sacred Names cult, either. Totally the wrong direction. OUT! I needed to rethink this entire thing.

What I needed was something like Armstrongism, but not at all like Armstrongism. A place to avoid culture shock and buy some time while I wrapped my head around mainstream Christianity. A step-down detox. The only choice left in my area was the Church of God (Seventh Day). About whom I knew next to nothing save they kept the Sabbath and fired Herbert Armstrong.

I made a call to the local COG7 Minister. I was invited to attend the very next Sabbath. There was no interview, no home visit, no background check, no need to read material first, no correspondence course, none of that. Just show up and ...

... I honestly didn't know what.

The realization hit me. I had been doing 3 songs, opening prayer, sermonette, song, sermon, song, closing prayer, pot luck for so long, it had just become secondhand nature. I took it completely for granted until this situation made me aware.

What do other churches do? Is there going to be a sermon? Will there be a pot luck? Will there be a sacrifice and golden calf? Will there be singing?
Oh no! Singing!!
I didn't know anyone else's songs! You want to feel like a stranger and an outsider in a church, try not knowing their songs. And nobody there knew "Blessed And Happy Is The Man".

You see where this is going? I will spare you the details about every time this happened. Let's just say my first service was very uncomfortable.
And then came the sermon.

It started out mild enough. Familiar language with familiar Biblical principals about goodness and virtue. I started hearing a word I wasn't accustomed to: Jesus. For some unknowable reason, we in Armstrongism always call Him "Christ" or sometimes "Jesus Christ". You will rarely ever hear Him called just "Jesus". Yet, there was that name. Do you know what that Minister said next? (Of course you don't, I haven't told you yet.) He said it didn't matter to the COG7 what denomination people went to, they are our brothers in Christ if they have faith in Jesus. Then he said we just need to share our faith in Jesus with everyone.
The what? So, I'm not supposed to condemn people who think differently than me? I'm in a church that is nice to other churches? Share my faith? Does not compute! (More hidden baggage.)
Then he said, "Jesus Christ is the most amazing gift you could possibly receive. How could you keep such a gift to yourself? Share that gift with others. Share Christ!"

And that, my dear reader, was the first time in my entire life I recall hearing the Gospel. I had to go to the COG7, to the Sardis church of all places, to hear the Gospel.

That joy cranked up to 11. I felt it crashing like waves. I had to fight to maintain my composure because I was about to start crying like a baby right there in front of these people and my kids and the heavenly host and everyone. (There is a little dust in my eye right now just thinking about it.) I really could have that direct relationship with Jesus, just as my friend said. Jesus was trying to love me. If only I would let Him. He was trying to give a relationship to me. All I had to do was accept it. I had been too busy trying to earn it all this time. How could this have been there all along?

I spoke to the Minister later that week and told him how his words affected me. He was happy to help. We talked about my past and about the differences between the COG7 and Armstrongism. It was nice.

Piece by piece, the New Covenant in the finished work of Jesus Christ was coming in and it was pushing out the deprecated Old Covenant that never applied to Gentiles in the first place.
Yeah, it was going to be a hard day when I left this place. I only wanted a halfway house until I could acclimate to being on the outside. If it wasn't for those remnants of the Old Covenant they kept, I would just stay put.


I found myself at somewhat of a crossroads. I had a blog, I had an inexhaustible topic, and I had a choice. What should I do with it?

I was blogging to make sense of everything I had been through. That started to change into blogging about the flaws of the old system. I put up posts about prophetic failures, and I had in my pocket several posts about tithing and meats so those started going up too. Then there were the posts about Ron Weinland. It was the heyday of the latest prophet in all of history. I knew Weinland, you see. He performed my wedding. He once made the congregation take a written test. He allowed people to stay or kicked them out based on the answers. He had pre-printed letters ready to go for the people he expected to evict. I was one of two men passing them out, so I handed mine to myself. I was out. He was trying to gain sole control of the church's money. He needed to get the church corporation to vote him that control, so he was rigging it to where only loyalists would be there to vote. He called me later to tell me he made a mistake and I was back in. Oh, thank you, m'Lord! Thank you! I knew what a snake he really is. He wasn't fooling me at all. I had so much material to work with!

Was that really what I wanted to do? Write blog posts about former Armstrong things? There were quite a few other former Armstrongist blogs already. Aside from the ones I mentioned in my last post, there was Seeker's blog, James Pate's blog, Red Fox's blog, Felix's blogs, Mike DDTFA's site, Purple Hymnal's many sites, just to name a few. All of them were speaking out. Most of these blogs worked together. Felix even gave me the broken chain icon I still use. And it was nice to see regular commentors on the blog, like Third Witness, Henrik Blunck, Biker Bob, Bill Hohmann, Corky, and Doug Becker, among others. Perhaps this was a new community for me to join? That would be nice. I could use a community of people who understand what I went through. Maybe even understand what I was about to go through.
But what kind of blog would I have? There were blogs that focused on one thing, blogs that focused on many things, blogs that were light, blogs that were deep, blogs from people who were in Pasadena and saw how the sausage was made, blogs from people who had never been to Pasadena in their lives, blogs from atheists, blogs from Christians, and even a blog from a Marxist. All formers. All working in their niche.

I kept up on my studies on topics of interest. It wasn't hard to find things to study. Topics practically walked up to me and introduced themselves. Every day there was some new discovery. I was reading books like "Sabbath in Christ" by Dale Ratzlaff, God rest his soul, and "Difficult Scriptures" by David Albert. Clearly, I wasn't by any means the only one to see what I was seeing. Every time I opened my Bible study software, I would notice new things. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was that the entire book of Galatians, which I had read for decades, was surgically removed from every Bible on earth and replaced by an entirely different book. It was called Galatians, sure enough, but it was filled with this stuff about grace. It wasn't law-centered at all. In fact, it's against legalism. I suppose that's why we only read a couple verses at a time back in the old church.

We were woefully prepared by our Church of God teachers. "Poorly catechized" is how Catholics would say it. We were told precisely what to think, but never how to think, or how to study, or what good source material is versus bad. (That was by design.) I remember abusing Strong's Concordance to get my will out of the Bible. You open it, find your target word, pick the best fit from the list of options to achieve the desired result, then off you go to demonstrate how the Bible translators were wrong. I am sorry, dear reader, that is not how Strong's or the Bible or even how language itself works. Translators might not always agree with one another, but Hebrew and Greek are particularly structured languages. It only works in certain ways. Strong's has instructions right at the front. We ignored them. I for one never even read the instructions until this point. We only wanted what we wanted, so proof-texting and cherry-picking was a way of life. I needed to exorcise that demon. Why not help others to do the same! 

I saw my niche. Someone needed to investigate the doctrines of the system, from a Christ-centered perspective. Investigate them, verify them, expose them if necessary. Showing my work step by step. I would help people by giving them access to different perspectives about the doctrines themselves, apart from the personalities. If Herbert Armstrong had only known how to study, per chance none of this would have ever happened in the first place. Oh, I might kneecap Weinland from time to time, or Meredith, or Flurry (they deserved it) but it wouldn't be about that. I wouldn't rely on the low road of Herbert Armstrong's personal failings. I would take the harder path of doctrine because I knew it could be done. Ratzlaff and Albert had proved it.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I admit I did wonder what the people in my old congregation would think. I could tell one or two of them were visiting the blog. I didn't want them to hate me. I was already called a deceiver by one of my best friends (the guy from the truck incident). That didn't feel very good. It's nothing at all to brush off when some stranger shows up and starts running their mouth off because they have nothing of value to contribute. But these people were like family. Well, they used to be. I hadn't heard a single word from most of them in months. They didn't call. They didn't email. They didn't send a hello through an intermediary. I talked to one of them every day because I worked with him. They could have sent a message through him, but they didn't. I made certain to send email from time to time to my one friend who knew what I was up to at Pentecost. Otherwise, nothing.

When you leave a legalist church, you get marked. All communication stops. It isn't some gradual losing touch, it's fairly immediate. Jarring. Only the people who don't yet know what happened will still communicate, and only until they find out what happened. Then they call you a deceiver and never talk to you again. Even when you message them your condolences on the death of their wife, they still won't respond. It's quite devastating to some people where the church constitutes their entire social order. I knew a guy who got marked and couldn't find a character reference for his resume.

Not me, though. I had a family outside the church, a blog, a job, and a new church. I was going to be ok. Was I marked? Probably not officially. I was in a kinder, gentler group - but none the less legalist. Well, we would have only drifted apart anyway.

Could I blame them? If they left and I stayed, I wouldn't accept their new ideas. How could I expect them to accept mine? Especially now that I was actively disassembling theirs! I understood and accepted their distance. I hoped using the name xHWA would help obfuscate things and protect us from each other. Plus, I tried not to write anything that would give it away (in a way, I'm still doing that right now). 


Certain topics were too much for me to bear, and worst of them all was (ugh!) holidays. The shadow of days loomed large on my mind as the year drew on. I still wanted to hate them.

The COG7 does not keep annual holy days. They don't see them as being directly tied to the Ten Commandments at all, and therefore were a novel introduction by Herbert Armstrong. It was one of the many reasons he was fired. No holy days? No starving at Atonement? No unleavened bread (I'm still eating bread of affliction, though). No second tithe for Tabernacles, at the place where the Lord places His name down the road from the go kart track? I was onboard with that!
Yet, they don't observe holidays either. How odd. No special days at all. Sounded .. bland.

Halloween came around again. It had been my tradition that, annually, when October 31st at 5:50 PM arrived, I would turn all the lights off and head to the grocery store to shop slowly for an hour and a half. I wasn't ready for all that trick or treating. I had not studied Halloween at all. It was too soon. Too Samhain-ey. Too much else going on. And clearly, I was still terrified from the years of indoctrination. I didn't realize it, but I brought with me from Armstrongism the notion of "once pagan always pagan". In a word - fear. I brought fear with me. (More baggage.) That's what going to the store on Halloween is, you see. It's fear. And I had a bad case of it.
Maybe some other time, guys. I need some canned goods.

Seemed like a proper time to dig up my copy of Ralph Woodrow's book. I never finished reading it from earlier. Time to change that.

Ralph Woodrow was a hero of sorts to us Armstrongists. To know Ralph Woodrow, you need to know Alexander Hislop. Herbert Armstrong and his lackeys, like Herman Hoeh, relied heavily on the work of Alexander Hislop. If there was a saint outside of the system, it was Hislop. His word was taken for truth. Ralph Woodrow wrote his own book supporting everything Hislop said. That earned Woodrow the status of a venerable sub-saint. Not a demi-god, exactly. More like a "hero of old" status, like Hercules. He was not a Hislop, but he was quite highly respected. Well, Woodrow had since recanted everything he ever wrote in support of Hislop. He wrote a new book called "The Babylon Connection", pointing out quite clearly the extraordinary level of nonsense that was Hislop's "The Two Babylons". Hislop's material was industrial strength, weapons grade, laboratory-pure bovine scatology. All of it.

So, you're telling me, Mr. Woodrow, that not only are there entire swaths of the Bible that I've never seen before that disprove half of everything I held dear for most of my life, but there are books out there which have been available to me and the ministry which disprove the other half of everything I held dear for most of my life?    Yes.


Christmas was fast approaching. I had learned a little about myself from Halloween. I recognized now my fear of "once pagan always pagan" meant I was still indoctrinated. I wasn't sure what to do about that. By this point, I was distanced enough from regular attendance in Armstrongism that I was feeling a bit cheeky. Maybe taking a liberty would help. I went out and bought some decorations. It was only some silver candles and a couple faux-crystal snowflakes (the snowflakes are on my mantle right this minute). Norman Rockwell it was not. But at the time it felt bold! Here is what I wrote about Christmas in my post "God Is Love":

"Next week is Christmas 2008. I have been out of Armstrongism for about 4 months. I suppose this is as good a time of year as any to do some introspection. I don't personally keep Christmas (but I no longer fear it). Perhaps it's the years of indoctrination speaking. Or maybe I *gulp* agree with Armstrong on the origins of the day and it really does bother me. If my conscience is bothered by something, then I shouldn't do it. I know that in the COG7, Christmas is frowned upon. I support them in every way. God bless them and prosper them. But I will have my own relationship with my Savior, thank you. (Nor have they ever tried to dictate to me. It's really not like Armstrongism there!)"

In that quote, you might see a bold, free, self-aware man being reasonable and level-headed about Christmas, blazing his own path in life. The truth is, inside I was highly conflicted. Notice how I had read through Woodrow yet still wondered if I agreed with Armstrong. How? Such is the way of the Armstrongist mindset. I would like to introduce myself. My name is cognitive dissonance.
Healing was clearly going to take time, courage, and effort.
Some other time, though. Not today.

I went to my mother's house and helped her set up her Christmas tree. It was such a bonding moment. I loved it! Made me feel like a kid again. But, when I went home, I was afraid. It was one thing to share memories at another person's house. It was another thing entirely to have that at my house. I was wondering if it was wrong of me to have those two faux-crystal snowflakes. WWJD? I was getting cold feet. Sometimes healing is two steps forward and one step back.

Seven years after this, a very good Armstrongist friend of mine called me. One of the Heretics Club guys. He hadn't contacted me in, oh, about seven years. I didn't even recognize his voice anymore. He said he loves me and supports me and believes in his heart I am a faithful and genuine Christian even still ...but please, whatever I do, just don't keep Christmas.
The important message that motivated this man (who loved me and whom I love to this very minute) to call me after so much time was, "Whatever you do, please just don't start keeping Christmas."
THAT is the power of our indoctrination against Christmas.
I appreciated his call for what it was. I knew it meant he cared. He genuinely meant well, and I thanked him for it. Haven't talked to him since.

That sentiment reflected who I was seven years earlier. In 2008, Christmas couldn't leave soon enough. I let it pass with barely a notice. Problem is, this was just delaying the inevitable. Other holidays were coming.


I spent the winter pretty much the same way as I did the autumn - absorbing information, keeping an eye on who the latest 'Elijah for to come' was, and giving thanks for grace. I still had so much to learn. Aside from holidays, I hadn't tackled huge ideas like Trinity, church government, sanctification, soul sleep, the millennium, eucharist and transubstantiation, "true history of the true church", religious icons like the crucifix, how exactly to relate to the Old Covenant, etc. etc. etc. There were even mundane things to work through, like which Bible version I like best. Was the NIV really a cursed version written in the blood of sacrificed goats by a coven of pagans?
Another detail I needed to work through is precisely what is the real nature of Armstrongism. Is it a (come in close and I'll whisper this word into your ear) cult (gasp!) or not? I was heading toward a solid yes, based on what I was reading in a book about thought control by Lifton. That was a mighty big pill to swallow.

There are many things to endure when one makes such a large switch in religions like I was. As I said, you just don't realize until later. "My yoke is easy and my burden is light," still felt pretty good, don't get me wrong, but there comes a time when the high of conversion wears off and you begin to circle back around to the details once again. So many details!

The novelty of the COG7 was also wearing off. I would still recommend it to this day for people who are exiting Armstrongism! If you're leaving, consider going there. But it felt lacking. In my town, there is only a small congregation who were all related to one another and most of them were over 60. I actually started skipping services. I felt bad about that. I had a feeling my time there was coming to a close. But where was I going to go? I couldn't make up my mind.
No speaking in tongues, tho! Nope. Still can't get that movie "Cape Fear" out of my mind. Every time I think of speaking in tongues, I hear Robert DeNero yelling, "Counsellor!"

Meanwhile, I was building up a good friendship with Seeker from the As Bereans Did blog. We both seemed to have a healthy dislike of the Spokesman of the Two Witlesses. We discussed how we might partner our blogs to be more effective. We wanted to build a partnership with other blogs. We eventually changed our plan to having me come over and write for her at As Bereans Did. We would invite others to write with us.

I finished up my series on tithes and meats, said a few other words, and just like that, the era of having my own blog was over. My last post at Escaping Armstrongism and my first post here (entitled "Hello World" as a little computer programming joke) was March 16, 2009.

Easter was coming. I didn't like Cadbury cream eggs. I hated bunnies and eggs and pastels. I don't hate them anymore, but I still don't like them. OK! I still hate pastels. How many more times would I have to avoid these holidays? Yet, if I wasn't going to keep Passover like the Armstrongists do, remembering the Exodus, then what was I going to do? I was learning more about what the Gospel really is. I know there is no New Covenant requirement to keep any day. Yet I felt like it would be nice to do something. I could attend with the COG7 I suppose. I spoke to my brother. He is an Evangelical. He was attending a small non-denominational Christian Fellowship church at the time. He invited me to attend Easter services with him. I figured why not. I'm free to go wherever I want. I had never stepped foot in a Protestant church before, save for one wedding ceremony, so this was a good opportunity to see what it was like. And I'll get to learn more about Easter.

Remember all that stress I had over attending the COG7 for the first time? Multiply that. I chose COG7 because they were distantly related to Armstrongism. Evangelicalism was absolutely not. These were completely uncharted waters. Being with family was the only thing saving me.

What songs were these? Again, no "Blessed and Happy Is The Man". People were singing enthusiastically! We never did that. No burgundy hymnal, either. All the lyrics were on a big screen. Why do some people have their hands in the air? That really happens? I thought that was just for television. Why were some people randomly shouting 'amen' during the sermon? My hands are staying DOWN and I am NOT shouting amen under any circumstances.
It was so foreign. No, I was so foreign. This was their land. Yet, beyond all reason, something felt nice.

There was an "old rugged cross" at the front of the hall, draped in white. There was a singular focus in the messaging on Jesus and what He did for us. I didn't feel guilt. No one was bashing other religions as pagan, or arguing over 14th v 15th, or emphasizing how days start at sundown. Nothing in the message was designed to make me feel guilty. I didn't have to drum up a sense of sadness. There was no focus on Moses and the Israelites. This day was about victory and overcoming and glory and life. This day was about the Lord who lived and died and lives again. This was the culmination of everything the Old Testament hoped for. This was an expression of the grace and the Gospel I was coming to know.

It was about Jesus from start to finish. This is how Christianity should be. The entire world felt like springtime. Who would have thought a holiday I was told is pagan could bring me to the foot of cross. I took it all in, and it brought me nearly to tears again.

I gave myself permission to question Armstrong's prophecy and I was rewarded. I gave myself permission to question doctrine and I was rewarded. I asked God for the truth, HIS truth, and I was rewarded. I gave myself permission to participate in a religious holiday and I was rewarded. I found just as much value in it as I did in any of the holy days I kept in Armstrongism. And not a single rabbit or egg or Asherah Pole was involved. No weeping for Tammuz. I didn't gyrate even once. No one went outside to face the sun. Nobody baked cakes for the Queen of Heaven. Total silence on Nimrod.

The halfway house had done its job. I was finally free! I found a good home church. I could go anywhere I wanted, and I wanted to go to this church again next week.

The As Bereans Did team had one year to study Easter. I needed to get that gauntlet greased up. This was going to be a very big job.


I had been in one church for most of my life. The very prophecy that sucked me in was what helped set me on the path out. I learned to give myself permission to question. Turns out the prison had no walls. I had to abandon everything familiar and step out into the unknown. I got a blog. I spent several months in a rehab church. Now I was a Gentile Christian with freedom to go wherever I want and worship the Lord in Spirit and truth. I was finally free!

I still had much to wrestle with.

Why did God let this happen to me? Was I punished for some crime committed as a child? No, this was all my dad's fault. I was angry at him! My life was nothing like it would have been if only he had avoided this mess. How could he do this to his family? He was supposed to be wiser than this! Seeing large flaws in a parent can be traumatic. Wait. I did the same to my kids. It wasn't about my dad or his intelligence. Far smarter, richer, more powerful, more experienced, and more travelled people than I were sucked in. Tens of thousands of people were sucked in. It was indoctrination. The deceived don't know they are deceived. I could forgive my dad.

But why did God let this happen to me? Wait. Was there no good that came from it? Let's imagine I hadn't gone through this, I would have been a nominal Christian at best. Uninspired and uninspiring. Now I had a roller coaster ride of a life to tell about. I had a perspective you couldn't buy from Harvard. I had an in-depth knowledge of cult mindsets, the Old Testament, and best of all a deep appreciation for grace. I could really use this to help people. Using my powers for good instead of evil. I think that life gives all of us lemons. I would have had tribulations no matter what. "Pick your hard" as they say. This was mine. So, I made lemonade to give to weary people in the system. For free! And a few of those lemons I froze so I could throw them at the likes of Weinland and Flurry.

Here is what I wrote in my article "How To Move Forward":

"I advise you to take this with you - God allowed you to have the COG experience you did for a reason. What is that reason? Find the good, and be thankful to God for it. You can be miserable, or bitter, or fearful, or thankful. Be thankful! God has never abandoned you and it wasn't all for naught."

I had many paths to choose from. I could do nothing. I could turn around and go backwards into the familiar (I've seen people do that). I could let it beat me, and end up dead or insane. I could give up and be an atheist. That's an easy road, and there are lots of people ready to help you walk it. We don't call Armstrongism the atheist-making machine for nothing! Or, I could insist on Jesus Christ and go into grace.

I insisted on Jesus Christ and pushed forward into grace.

And here you are, reading about some of the things you can expect if you're going through what I went through. Your experience will be different than mine in many ways. Hey! We're all unique. My hope in writing this is you would recognize some familiarity hidden in here somewhere and find some nugget of value in my story that might be of help to you. I don't know what that nugget will be. I don't know what help it will bring. Maybe it's just the knowledge that you're not all alone in this. I have a gut feeling that telling my story will help somebody move forward some day. I have learned over the past 15 years to follow that gut feeling. Whoever you are, you're welcome.

As for the rest of those 15 years, you can read about my progress in the many posts here on As Bereans Did. God bless you, dear reader! May He guide you and guard you. May your path ultimately lead to Him. May you step into the New Covenant and find the freedom of the finished work of Jesus Christ!

The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can...


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


1 comment:

Jim said...

Thanks for this.

My holding place was getting involved with Christian members of my community and seeing their generosity and conversion even during disagreements. They lived the Gospel and wanted to share it, primarily done by example.

I began to wonder, "Could these people really not have the Holy Spirit when they were displaying fruits of the Spirit greater than those I've known in Armstrongism?"