Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Poison Doctrine: the Dichotomy of Armstrongism

A philosophical set of ideas may appear incompatible with the resulting behavior at first glance. This is the idea I want to explore with a personal story that occurred after I was grown, and that, to be fully understood would need detailed dissection of the background.

It will have to suffice that I was grown, but a non-functioning member of society. The repetitive process over so many years of ingraining law, loyalty and the lines of authority of church, minister and mother (whom I’ll call RPS) into my head, was deeper than I could imagine. RPS’s techniques were encapsulated in humiliation and pain via the whipping of the bear ass of the child bent over a bed, in which crying would add more lashes until crying ceased; and the sessions would continue until all negative facial expressions were gone, and a state of complete submission and acceptance of guilt was achieved. My Dad said she was better at brainwashing than the Red Chinese. See; Thought Reform (Thanks to Weinland Watch). He was right; To this day, when I feel guilty about something, the warm sensation of the post beating endorphins clearly manifests itself in the appropriate location.
RPS was first married to RF; whom she had returned to, because church doctrine didn’t recognize the divorce, nor did it recognize her second marriage to my father. I was declared illegitimate, and accepted the classification as part of my identity, which was shame personified. RF had a daughter; D around my age from another relationship, and she had two children while yet in her teens. RPS considered D to be a lower form of life than a maggot, but always smiled and spoke sweetly to D’s face. RPS gained D’s confidence, and when D decided to spend some time with her children’s father to try to renew their relationship, RPS volunteered to take the kids for a few months but wanted D to sign a document that gave her temporary legal custody. After D left, RPS moved to another state for a number of years, and sent word to D that she had actually signed away her parental rights, period. According to RPS, D had huffed glue while pregnant with the second child (a boy I’ll call T) allegedly resulting in behavior abnormalities, but distrust of authorities wouldn’t allow her to seek any professional help.

The whole point of taking the kids was to ‘save’ them from the ‘evil druggy’; but RPS only understood the carrot and stick method of child rearing, and she would turn up the heat by degrees as she sensed rebellion. The older child (a girl) was sensitive and submissive so her treatment was not harsh, but RPS claimed the boy was obstinate and incorrigible. His self-professed ‘savior’ was determined to eradicate the roots of ill behavior; I learned to what degree RPS would go, when she returned approximately 6 yrs. later.

I had been floating between places I could crash, which included my grandmother’s; GM. I was taking another shot at school, and GM needing someone to be with her, had RPS move in. One would almost not know that T (now 8 yrs. old) was there. Except for periodical screaming and butt beating sessions, he’d be virtually invisible except on Sabbath, where he sat quietly, and was always known as a remarkably “good little boy.”
At home, RPS would keep T seated behind a table with chairs arranged in a semi circle around him to hang blankets over to keep him isolated; he would bite his finger nails down to the quick, and gnaw holes in the blankets, on bits of linoleum, molding, or anything else he could lay his hands on. T would find ingenuous ways of acquiring little tidbits of things he’d hide like inmates in prison hide their contraband, which showed evidence of intelligence incompatible with the kind of brain damage we were told he had. He would never cry when he got beat, his face would just grimace in a fashion that RPS took as defiance, and would net him more of the same. As I said, she would work on a child, until she extinguished any sign of defiance, but it seemed as if this kid was beyond breaking. I was all too familiar with what was happening to him, and I was having a running head-trip because of all the conflict it was stirring up. Just trying to recognize how wrong this was didn’t come easy. I had been in total denial of what had happened to me as a child, but now I was face to face with the evidence. I always accepted that I was punished because I deserved it. But I didn’t see how this kid did anything to warrant what he was getting.

I got an opportunity to make a few dollars driving a classic car to the port at Baltimore for shipment to Europe, but before I left, RPS asked me to help put together a storage closet with a bed on top, with the dimensions 4x4x7. I did what she asked. One entire side was open when I left for the East coast, but when I returned, it had been ply wooded closed, and T was now kept inside. I was told that he was destroying things in the house, and defecating in odd places. This was turning up the heat in my head, but what really woke me up was my future wife’s sister, JD, who was over for some reason when T was having a tantrum. No crying, just insane screaming. RPS yelled at me, “Grab him.” Instinctively, I immediately obeyed, as I always had, and she wailed the holy hell out of him. JD almost came unglued after we walked outside to go where we had been going before this incident, and in the car she demanded an explanation of how I could do such a thing, and I could only shake my head and say,”I don’t know.”

I was trying to fix myself, and deal with my own educational deficiencies. When I had been making progress in the past, it seemed that RPS would pull some stunt in her eternal battle with the ‘evil world,’ and I would be left emotionally messed up, and unable to deal with school work, and this was repeating itself. Now she was in control of the roof over my head, and I had no job qualifications; but I could no longer stand by and do nothing, so I made an appointment to see the minister; MD. I described to him everything that was happening, and when I had finished, I sat their expecting some guidance, but got only silence. After an uncomfortably long pause MD opened up both barrels, and among the crap he unloaded on me was the direct order to cease and desist bad mouthing my mother, and that he didn’t want to hear any echo of this coming back to him from any source.

MD had already put the screws to me. He had me reporting back to him on a specific quota of prayer, fasting and bible study as well as forced membership in spokesmen’s club. He had told me in no uncertain terms that when he spoke, I was to regard it as being spoken by Almighty God, so I complied, and more time passed. I was fighting depression of an order that barely allowed me to get through a day, and to try to ignore this barbarity was becoming impossible, so I fixed up a little room in the rafters of JD’s mother’s garage. If MD found out, the crap would hit the fan, so I had to park blocks away, and walk in by the cover of darkness.
So I began disobeying the minister, but it was either that or continue to see what was too sick to witness. Now I would just hide from it, and pretend it wasn’t happening. I was trying to deal with the authority issue, and my bible studies became self defense, as well as the start of a crack in my belief in Armstrongism. For the first time in my life, I began to think for myself, and to silence the endless loops of paranoiac sound-bites that had been infesting my brain. One act of disobedience, led to two which led to thinking that maybe the authorities weren’t synonymous with Satan, and maybe I should bite the bullet and finally do something about this abomination that was taking place.

I called CPS (Child Protective Services) and set up a meeting at a local fast food joint and spilled my guts, but I tried to extract, from the agent, a guarantee that they would simply go in and take the kids. The agent refused, and I chickened out, and told him I’d get back to him. Fortunately he took down my license plate number and soon after, they acted.
I wasn’t there, but I heard later that they came in with squad cars that blocked off every street for two blocks around, and went into the house in force and with weapons. But for some reason, they didn’t arrest RPS. They took photographs and statements and took the kids. There was no further action for several months.

Feast time came. I managed to get out of going, and I was asked to house sit at my Grandmother’s. No one seemed to guess that I had anything to do with what happened, so I was not yet the enemy. I continued to attend my classes, and the tension subsided to a reasonable degree. I came home one day to a circus in the front yard. I got out of my car, and had camera lenses and microphones shoved in my face, with a harangue of questions coming at me from all sides. They kept talking about a coffin sized box, and 6 or so years of imprisonment of a child. I told them there was no coffin sized box, but I had built a storage closet with a bed on top, and I didn’t know about six years of imprisonment.

The truth was bad enough, but these people were not even trying to be accurate. I was totally unprepared, and tired after a long day. I sat down on the porch and wiped my hand across my forehead and someone snapped a picture that, the next day, was on the front page of the local newspaper, and to my understanding was picked up by wire services and went worldwide. It was in papers in New York to various papers in Australia and Europe. The headline; “Son of women who kept a boy in a box defends mother.” When I went to school that day, all went silent when I walked into the room. Someone finally broke the silence and said; “hey, was that your picture in the paper this morning?” and; “I saw you on TV on the evening News.” This would not be the last time I made the news; it went on for the next 8 months.

I called legal services at headquarters, since there was no minister to talk to. I talked to a mister Helge, I believe his name was, and I told him my story, and that I had told MD all about it many months earlier. I might have heard a gasp on the other end of the line, they wasted no time. I think it was the next day they called me back and gave me instructions. I was to meet a lawyer in his office downtown, and I was to shut my mouth, and say not another word to the press. I kept my appointment, and the lawyer told me in no uncertain terms, that he was a lawyer for the church, and his job was to keep the name of the church out of the press etc. He made it clear that people like us couldn’t afford someone like him, and that the hundred thousand dollar retainer he received from the church meant that he would defend RPS, but he did this only to achieve what he was paid to accomplish, and that I “damn well better cooperate.”

Eventually the press found out about him, and no one could understand why such a high profile lawyer would take the case of such a ‘nobody.’ I never told anyone except my closest confidants, until now.
The lawyer succeeded in minimizing the headlines and plea bargained for a 30 day stint in jail for RPS. There was outrage among many people who were following the story. But it all eventually died out and is now forgotten, but the collateral damage and warped minds remain.
What is my point in all of this? To me it seems that every story has to have a lesson, and the lesson here is all about legalism. The church didn’t tell my mother to do what she did. They would not have sanctioned it. In fact my mother already had legalism down pretty good because she learned it from her father. See Granddad & the Old Testament Law. The WCG at the time attracted people of this persuasion, and maintained their view; strengthened it; kept the paranoia going, the ‘us against the world’ mentality; the ‘Satan is the god of the world, therefore the authorities are evil’ mindset; not to mention the overblown notion that a pot smoker is some kind of evil minion of a demon.

I think this story just illustrates that law, meant to create good, can in fact generate evil, as in Rom 7:10I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.” The best personalities I’ve seen, come from environments that concentrate on encouraging good, instead of harping endlessly on what’s perceived as evil. And I think this describes the Old vs. the New Covenant perspective. The creation of good can drown out the evil; it has in my personal experience. As long as I concentrated on how bad I was, I got worse. As soon as I just forgot about it and thought about good things, somehow everything I fretted about just seemed to melt away.

These types of parents create the evil they think they’re snuffing out.

A child loved, is child who loves back.


Weinland Watch said...

Wow. Just. Wow. I know how much that cost you. Thanks for letting it out.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting what you did. It's only when we reveal the inner workings of armstrongism that eyes can be opened to the reality of it. Your story is shocking. Unfortunately it's all too common in the families of the acog's. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm not brave enough yet to share mine, although I have shared parts of it in ex-cog forums (I don't have a blog).

Words can't express my compassion for you and your wife and the struggles you are experiencing, all due to armstrongism. What a testimony!

Again, thank you.

Glen Erickson said...

Thank you, Weinland Watch, and anonymous for your comments. It's good to shine a little light into some of these dark corners. I'll have to leave it at that as I seem to be some what brain dead today.

Russell Miller said...

After writing something like that braindead is normal and will pass. I don't have enough time to adequately process it because I had to go right to work, but I will be reading it again when I have more time. Thanks for sharing.

marypendarvis said...

wow,thank you so much for helping me keep my eyes on the truth