From the time that I have been able to talk, I have had to explain about the doctrine and beliefs that Herbert Armstrong both concocted and plagiarized to create The Worldwide Church of God and the effect that it has had on millions of people all over the world.
Honestly, I'm sick to death of it.
But in the same way that someone with a very noticeable scar or missing limb must continue tell the story of their ordeal when they meet someone new who can't help but ask, so I am still explaining the false doctrines and sharing stories of rampant abuse, fraud, and neglect with people who are curious about the cult.
As much as I hate it and wish I could just "get past it somehow," I can't.
This is my baseline.
Coming to accept that truth was a difficult road to travel because I kept telling myself that there was some way I could "normalize" myself.
I so desperately wanted that to be possible, but you can't change the way that you were raised. The best you can hope for is to adapt and overcome. Our experiences make up our foundations and it's up to us to reinforce them with better building materials as we go along. But the original elements of the foundation will always be there, because you can't unbuild the house while you're living in it.
I was born into a cult and raised by a devotee of Herbert W Armstrong. Consequently, their teachings and beliefs are my default settings even if I no longer believe in, nor even approve of them in any way. Much like the Outlook Mail or Groove Music Player that you can't delete from Windows 10, so are the idiosyncrasies of the people who observe The Days Of Unleavened Bread, and know the the hymn"Blessed and Happy Is the Man" better than they know they know the song "Jingle Bells".
When Herbert Armstrong started his "Radio Church of God" back in 1933 he was a frustrated 41 year old "Ad Man" who couldn't stand the fact that his job consisted entirely of upselling the value of something he couldn't afford or someone in a better position than himself.
I think that is one of the main reasons he failed to make a profitable go of the advertising business and thus was forced to turn to the life of a con man trapped in his own con for the rest of his days. He could never conjure anything more important in his mind than his own ego and insatiable lust for "the finer things in life." Herbert may not have had a brilliant intellect, but he did learn what the internet would come to call the, "one weird trick" of being successful.
Even if you aren't great yourself, you can still rise above your peers as long as you can hide, or even destroy their potential.
So, how did he manage to do that?
The first step was to take away the idea of hope for the future of society. Because without a future, what use is potential?
In the late 1920s, while studying for his Nonexistent Pretend Theology degree at the Not Even A Recognized School of Any Kind, Portland Public library, Herbert Armstrong discovered a profound power that resides in the biblical narrative.
SOMETHING VERY BAD IS GOING TO HAPPEN AND PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SUFFER LIKE THEY NEVER HAVE BEFORE OR EVER WILL AGAIN.
We don't know when it will happen, but probably sometime sooner rather than later, so y'all best get your shoes on and be ready to flee whenever you hear the trumpets.
Now, most Christians would argue that the true power of the message of God is that of the sacrifice of his son Jesus to pay for the sins of all mankind. But the gift of salvation means NOTHING unless you first have to be saved from something terrible.
If you are in your backyard cooking burgers and watching the kids play and suddenly a fireman shows up and shouts, "I'm here to save you"and attempts to administer CPR to your dog, how are you going to react? You'll probably freak out a little and say, "thanks, man, but we are all good right now, please go away." You don't need him to save you unless you are about to suffer painful injuries and/or possibly burn to death. In which case he will become someone who earns a lifetime of your gratitude and praise for his sacrifice and courage coming to your rescue.
And to be absolutely clear, I'm not at all interested in discussing the validity or accuracy of anyone's faith. My purpose here is just to review the actions and possible motivation of a man who robbed, cheated, swindled, and stole the financial, intellectual, and creative potential of a few million people between 1933 and 1985.
Herbert discovered that the biblical description of "hell" wasn't really anything near as bad as what we could all expect if we tried to survive armageddon. In fact, Hell sounded like it would be a welcome respite from the torture and suffering of the last days before Christ's return.
And the more that Herbert thought about the subject of the end times, the more a question must have rolled around in his head.
"If the man sitting across from me thought that the world was going to end soon, what wouldn't he give to spare himself and his family from that pain and suffering? Could I get him to give me 10% of his annual income each year? Maybe 20% or even 30%?"
Herbert probably realized that the more strongly someone believed that The End Times were close at hand, the less they would care about preparing for their future financial security or reputation in the community.
A man who believes that Christ will return to Earth within the next 3 years has no motivation to spend 8 years getting a PhD. A family who thinks they will be going to a "place of safety" before the end of the decade, has no motivation to pay off a mortgage or save for a new car.
And why should someone not give most of their money to help "God's Apostle" spread the true gospel today? After all, in a few years all material possessions will all be worthless anyway, right?
I'm pretty sure that the ramifications of promoting this line of thinking never really crossed his mind.
But let me ask you this...
What does the constant reinforcement of the idea that Satan is about to take over the entire world and we are already surrounded by demons who are trying to separate us from our salvation do to your mental health?
You go ahead and ponder that for a while and I will meet you back here for Part Two of this discussion sometime soon.