Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We Were Right By Default

I was having a rather interesting conversation with some friends recently, and we were recalling back to when we were active, believing Armstrongists. We were recalling what our attitudes were like, and in what way we reacted when someone wasn't in agreement with us.
I wanted to talk about that a bit today.

We all seem to recall two general things, really: fear and pride.
These two words pretty well sum up what our attitudes were like before we found out how specious the teachings of Herbert Armstrong actually were.

I recall the sensation that I would get when someone would present me with anything not already within my belief system. I would feel fear and pride. Anything that didn't come to me from the pulpit, or church literature, or a trusted church member, was already wrong to begin with. We were right by default.

I was so prideful that I actually felt pity for anyone who didn't agree with me. Didn't matter what they were saying. Poor deceived souls. I was elect and they were not. I had the Holy Spirit and they had none. They would eventually learn how right I was ...in the second resurrection, that is. No matter what the topic, they were deceived and I was not, and it was only a matter of time until that was visible to everyone.
Even if the facts were nigh entirely on their side. Even if I had no response. I trusted that Herbert Armstrong [or you can substitute your favorite church leader] was an Apostle, a prophet, and directly inspired by God. If I was caught off guard, at least such pillars of "the truth" would never be as weak as I am. Would they ever agree with what I was being presented with? No. So what reason was there for me giving anyone a fair hearing?

Our hearts were so filled with pride! I say this to my own shame.
But don't forget the fear.

See, this pridefulness was all just a defense mechanism.
I recall that sickening, sinking tinge of fear that accompanied anything new. I couldn't ever help but wonder in my heart of hearts - what if I have no answer? What if they are right? What if this is a test and I don't have the wherewithal to pass it? Then one thing leads to another, one thought to another thought, down the slippery slope to the ultimate conclusion - what if I lose my crown?

Oh my! What fear! I had invested so much. I had sacrificed so much. I left friends for this church. I separated from family. I lost jobs. I passed up careers. I tithed too much. I preached too much. Everything I did and everything I was hung in the balance. The truth HAD to be that I was right and they were wrong. It had to! The alternative was simply too much for my heart to bear. Too much is at stake; I can't be wrong. We HAD to be right by default!

What did we do?

Enter the pride response, which answers all my problems by shutting down any possibility of us being wrong. Armstrong was right by default, and so was I, and that is that.

Now, I just let my cleverness come up with some pithy response and we'll seal that deal.
Any response. No matter how unworkable, no matter how impractical, no matter how irrelevant, no matter how it contradicts other things I believed. A quote from a church leader. A proof-text. A reference to some obscure point which was proven false 100 years ago. Any response at all would do.
If there is still no response, then there is always the nuclear option -- revert to ad hominem attacks.
Call the person a deceived pagan, perhaps a Nimrod worshiper, and dehumanize them. If they do not have any value themselves, then what value can their words have? We were the called and elect. They were only ever going to be second best anyway.

You can always read about how right we are in this church literature. Send away for it; it's free. I'll be going now!

Oh, dear reader, that is how most of us were, deep down inside. I don't mean just myself and my friends, I mean the whole of Armstrongism. These are the fruits of legalism - false pride and frustrated failure. But I want to warn you about this whole mess. These mechanisms cannot simply be turned on and off like with a switch. Once your heart learns to puff itself up as a defense against fear, then you will always react that way; even towards the ones you fellowship with.

Here is a typical scenario:
I didn't keep the Sabbath well enough. Is God angry with me? I'll plead for forgiveness! I'll promise to do better! Why isn't my guilt assuaged? Did God hear me? Will God ever forgive me again? After all, was it really all that bad what I did? It's not like I'm as bad as that other person I know from church. That person is worse than me. What I did is really small compared to what this other person from church does all the time. Compared to them, I'm looking really good. I feel better now, actually. Come to think of it, I'm better than this second person I know from church. They can't control their children. And just a few weeks ago I knew more about Deuteronomy than person #3 from church. You know, I'm not so bad after all. I'm actually kinda good, all things considered. I'm no Armstrong, but I'll be there in time. God must really think I'm special.

Do you see how fear becomes pride becomes judgment? It's circular. Beware of this!
The failures you point out in people outside of your church today, to prop your ego up, will become the failures you will point out in people inside your church tomorrow, to prop your ego up. Until you are a church of one. The only person in creation who can meet your own standards; intimately frustrated because inside you know that you can't meet your own standards.
Being right by default is a snare of the Devil and it does not please God! How much less does does it please Him to lash out in fear and pride against another, for whom Jesus died, dehumanizing and demonizing them simply so we can win an argument.

The truth is that the truth can handle itself. The truth is true. It is reality. Anything else is simply not reality. If it isn't true, then it doesn't really exist. That is why Satan has no real power. He is a liar and the father of it. Though he has the power to kill our bodies temporarily, he can do us no eternal harm. His lies are simply not true. They don't actually exist. But Jesus Christ is the truth! Trust in Him, not in yourself.
We can insist we have the truth, but if we in fact are wrong, then we in fact do not have the truth and we insist a lie. It doesn't matter how desperately we want something to be true. If it isn't, then it isn't. For you and for me as well! Insisting we and we alone have God's truth, when our words are little more than empty, prideful, self-serving rejoinders, is the very definition of delusion.
I implore you to always give someone a fair hearing. Judge rightly (JON. 7: 24)! If something is true, then it is true. Let it be what it is. Stop worrying about always being right and saving your own skin, which you cannot save anyway, and let go of that illusion of control. Give it all to God and He will sort it out.

I ask you, honored reader, to give us a fair hearing. What we here at As Bereans Did have presented you with may be contrary to what you have heard. What we present may be a bit scary. What we present may make you angry with us. But we plead with you - at least hear us out. We have tested what we write, and presented you not only with our opinions but with many explanations of why we no longer believe as we once did. Should we actually be right, then you won't want to miss out. If we really can demonstrate a point, for example that British-Israelism is demonstrably false and there are better explanations for those prophecies, then you would do well to take that to heart and pray about it. If still you must go away in disagreement, then go freely in peace.

Believe me, we know what it's like; we were there once too. Once we set ourselves aside and stepped into the New Covenant in faith, all that fear melted away. Don't take our word for it; try it for yourself and see!

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


Penny said...

I hope your honest words pierce through the armour of thought reform that is part and parcel of armstrongism based doctrine. It is such a tragedy that so many are blinded by this same pride and fear from seeing the pride and fear. A vicious circle that feeds on itself. Thank you for sharing with such honesty.

Martha said...

Thanks for bringing to light what I have only been recently able to see is a recurring theme in the COGs. Fear has been a big part of my journey, personally.

Almost two years ago, when I could tell that my views on COG doctrine were changing, I actually prayed to God that He would speed up the tribulation so that I would not have the time to "fall away." If that isn't a case study in the type of fear COG doctrines encouraged, then I don't know what is.

If we are always wondering whether we have been "good enough" to "make it", then we will constantly live in fear. It's only natural that we turn to tearing others down in order to feel better about ourselves. This dynamic is proven in studies on the typical playground bully, so why should we think adults are any different? Whether it's in our minds or actually verbalized, the damage is done in our hearts, and that's the biggest problem (Matthew 12:33-35).

Living in fear is not what God intended for us (2 Timothy 1:7). It is only once we are secure in God's grace and our salvation through faith in Jesus that we can begin to move past the fear and toward the life He intends for us.