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**Do you have history in the Worldwide Church of God? Are you still attending one of its offshoots? Do you see cracks in the doctrine and want more information, or do you not know why you're still there anymore? Is there a hole in your heart and just don't know why God isn't granting you the happiness you were promised would come through tithing and following a man? Do you find that no matter how hard you try you cannot live up to your own standards, and you feel like a failure? Do you find your pursuit of God to be based on fear?
Investigate with me the answers to these questions and more!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Welcome To Escaping Armstrongism

Welcome to Escaping Armstrongism. Welcome new visitors and old. Welcome to those of my former congregation that have been peeking in. Please feel free to read and discuss. I want to take a minute out to warmly welcome you and explain a few things.
I should introduce myself to you. For the past 30 years I have accepted the teachings of Herbert Armstrong. I gave up family, friends, careers, opportunities of all strains and strands, all to accept what I truly felt was a calling from God to be a "firstfruit". It meant that much to me. Herbert W. Armstrong was the Apostle, and Worldwide was hijacked. I served on projects at church as often as I was able. I was a regular speaker. I was a faithful teacher of the ways. I gave sermon and sermonette, weekly and Holy Day. I know the teachings and I know the verses and I can promise you that I understood them as opposed to having just gone along for the ride. I did the research and could expound upon prophecy and matters of spirit. I was one of the truly faithful.

A couple years ago I was studying into a "minister" I used to call my own, his name is Ronald Weinland. I was impressed by the inexhaustible amount of deception that seeped from him. Yet his followers never seemed to get enough. It reminded me of the Trumpet whose writers mention their Editor in Chief Gerald Flurry at some 20:1 ratio over Christ. Ron's shameful error was publicly displayed when he touted his own books and predicted April 17th, 2008 would mark the opening of the first seal of Revelation. Death and hell never came. "It was all spiritual," he cried, "destruction will surely come by Pentecost!" Again, nothing. "Wait until July!" Still nothing. Now we are to believe God was merely putting out misinformation. The date was actually December all along! Certainly Ron was certainly no false prophet.

"Ahh!" I said. Here is the typical false prophet. Make a loud noise and fill people's hearts with trembling and fear; snatch up their money as fast as you can... until the time runs out. Then simply change the goal post and repeat.

"What fools his followers must be!" I chuckled mockingly. But little did I know, the joke was on me. Ron said he was the successor to Herbert Armstrong, but Herbert Armstrong wasn't like that. He would never make false prophecies, or change the law, or move the goalpost.
One day it dawned on me - oh, yes he would... and yes, he has.

This will probably startle some; turning you away from this blog in disgust. I implore you to hear me out. If you agree with me, then agree with me. If you don't then don't. But please give a man a chance to state his case.

I was studying one Sabbath evening, when I pondered the New Covenant. All at once, I "got it". An incredible torrent of joy washed over me. Jesus Christ DID magnify ALL THINGS! Our flaw was that we had only recognized the magnification of a few things.

For years I had studied with friends about how Herbert Armstrong was mistaken about some prophetic interpretations concerning the nature of Babylon the Great and the second coming of Christ. Time after countless time I sat through sermons hearing how Herbert Armstrong was either wrong or his teachings insufficient (eg. Harold Smith's 'Spiritual Compass' 1 & 2; Fred Coulter's 'Why God Hates religion' 1-5; Al Buchanan's 'Opening the Door' 1 & 2 among many others). If he was so wrong all the time, then was it at all possible that he could be wrong on salvational matters too? Could this joy be the evidence that God was answering my continual prayers for truth?

I studied late into the night, trying to see if what I thought was real or some elaborate emotional deception. Was I falling away? Was this Satan? Other horrible things feel pretty good, so joy wasn't necessarily proof. What did the ministers I trusted have to say? By the time I went to bed, I had managed to quench that joy and go back into believing Armstrong. Whew! A close call!

No man can be touched by the hand of God and go unchanged. I remembered the joy. I didn't know why I had none otherwise. Why was everything so academic? Why was it, when someone gave a message about joy, my friends and I all spoke afterwards about our confusion. Joy was a foreign language to us and everyone we knew. Even those who spoke about it didn't seem to really believe it. I started a study to prove all things. If HWA was correct, the evidence would be nearly unshakable. The writings of Alexander Hyslop were already proven false, could the rest stand?

I prayed to God to open my eyes to the truth no matter how it hurt. I prayed for Christ to let Himself in the door, since I didn't know how. Then I studied simple things, and found many inconsistencies. No one would answer my questions, however. Ministers, elders, older gentlemen - all expressed dissatisfaction with certain points but would not accept the whole was flawed. Some people insisted Herbert Armstrong was absolutely right about all things; some left our congregation over such things. There were problems in paradise. That perfect facade of Worldwide was clearly decaying - and fast! But to what end?

Many people were studying church government. One very close friend of mine even made it his personal area of expertise. He had proven to me conclusively that Jesus Christ is the Head over ALL THINGS and no man can come between us and our Lord. Ministers are merely helpers in our faith, not lords and masters and tyrants as they were clearly so in Worldwide. If Herbert Armstrong was wrong in prophecy, government, and small items, what else?

Two laws were said to be carried forward into the New Covenant along with the 10 Commandments - tithes and meats laws. They were said to be carried forward because they are seen in the Bible prior to Sinai. Could they stand up? Was this true?

I turned to tithes. After months of deep study and the writing of a 27 page Word document, I had proven to some that tithes were utterly unscriptural for the New Covenant. CONTRARY to Christ! Tithes are for Levites, and Christ put them away. God now wants 100% of us, not 10%, or 20%, or 30% of our income. Abraham never tithed regularly. He gave a tenth of the BEST of war spoils one time only; the rest he gave to the King of Sodom. That's not tithing. Others could not answer my questions without withdrawing to "That's not how I learned it." The greatest of all non-answers. Retreat to the authority of Armstrong rather than the Bible - how unbecoming those who have PROVED! (They had not proved.) One man I immensely respect told me, "I was blessed during third-tithe years, so I know it's required." That doesn't put meat on the tables of the thousands upon thousands who were not so lucky! I personally know a man who lost not one but two houses to tithes and suffers financially to this day from it. How does my good friend explain that? Certainly not from the Bible!

Then came a study about meats. I was asked online once if I condemn people who do not keep the Sabbath. I had to think for a long time. My answer - I cannot condemn anyone for any reason. Only Jesus Christ is the Judge. I set out to study meats and make such an argument that the people of the COGs could not condemn people any longer for what they ate.

If the two laws (meats and tithes) were carried forward then we should see clean and unclean meats in Genesis. Again, no scriptural evidence! Not even the Jews, who have had the written and oral Torah for over 3,000 years believe Noah had a meats law. Suddenly here comes Herbert Armstrong and he's supposed to know more about the Torah than the Jews? He was wrong about prophecy, wrong about tithes, wrong about government, and wrong about a host of small issues - but I am supposed to take his word over God's own Jews, the "keepers of the oracles of God"? 50 pages of Word document later, meats laws fell, and no one could provide convincing evidence against my 2 main points:

1) God never says "clean" and "unclean" in relation to food in Genesis, but rather they were clean and unclean for sacrifice.

2) Noah is indeed given all animals to eat in the first verses of Genesis 9.

I was very distraught about what I had found. Only the 10 Commandments were left. Only those 10 derivatives of the 2 main branches of the 1 eternal principle of love remained. Herbert Armstrong was wrong on "salvational" issues.

And then... the unthinkable struck. The one area I had never studied and never proved was suddenly set before me: Herbert Armstrong himself. I was introduced (without looking for this) to the truth about what sort of man he is, how he had an unbroken chain of false prophecy stretching decades, how 1975 In Prophecy was not his first major prediction of the second coming, how he had personal indiscretions I shudder to think about and will not mention here, how he made hundreds of thousands of dollars each year while his faithful lost homes, how he never directly preached Christ on those expensive trips abroad, how by the standards of I Timothy 3: 2-7 HWA was disqualified as an elder on no less than 9 points, and so much more... the painful truths kept coming; wave after wave of hidden truths kept from his followers over the years by men more worried about their incomes than the truth.

Still, no one had anything to say about my questions. One person told me to forget about Herbert Armstrong, he was nothing to my faith anyhow. Oh, what a misguided soul who doesn't even understand his own church. Herbert Armstrong called himself the "Spiritual and temporal leader of God's Church on earth". Herbert Armstrong is everything to the church he founded and built up. I knew what brainwashing was. I had never noticed it before, but I was a living a lie.

I pondered if the things I felt before about the New Covenant could be true. I accepted that Armstrong was wrong, and that Jesus is the Chirst and He magnified it all. Then, much to my surprise... the joy came right back! Just as potent as before.

Everything "snapped" into place. I "got it". I felt that ball of joy building up in my stomach. I had to talk to someone, I had to share my joy. I spoke to my sister and she encouraged me. My wife and I talked it over and she said it was the first time she ever understood the New Covenant. She "got it" too. I started to read about what Christianity was like in the first century. It was all true! Herbert Armstrong had falsified information about the first century church. Justin Martyr wasn't just a philosopher; he countered Trypho the Jew using only the scriptures. Mathetes countered Armstrong's teachings exactingly. Only a tiny fraction of what was given to first century Gentile Christians matched what Armstrong taught.

I had a choice - bury my head in the sand like I did before, or go forward this time.
It was time to leave that Church.

After researching many churches and coming to see much more, we went to the COG7. After the first church service, the minister 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!" Now that joy I had felt was so much more. I felt all of the emotions of freedom crashing like waves. I had to fight it back. Now there was truth, and joy, and freedom, and a closeness to Christ that I had never known was even possible. How could this have been there all along, yet I was too self-interested to see it? The flood of God's Spirit carried away all of that old Armstrongism and I stood there a new man because of it.

I had to start this blog to share this overwhelming flood of joy with you. I want to share the Christ I now know with you. This isn't paganism. This isn't "worldy". This isn't Satan's deception. I never knew there was a whole community of people who had gone before me into this joy, and we all say the same things! They have been supportive to me. They have accepted me without question or condition. And they have one mind with me that we should spread the love of Jesus Christ, Head over all things to those who love Him, to all of those people who want to find Him, but are trapped in fear by Herbert Armstrong.

I know your fear. I shared it once with you. Now my old friends talk about me and wonder "why?" and say things like 'I was never called'. BAH! What do they know about me? I didn't leave them. I call out to them! Brothers, we were all deceived! Read this blog and see for yourself! Read your Bibles without the veil of Armstrongism and see for yourself!

And that, dearly loved by Christ, is why this blog exists. Please stay and read and let's help each other walk freely and boldly into the New Covenant.

The Lord bless you and keep you! Make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you! The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace! (NUM. 6: 22-27)

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about "joy" just today, before I read your article. I was thinking, "How can anyone outside of Jesus know joy? He is the Giver of joy. True joy, like love, and the peace that transcends all understanding, can only come from Him. Any other "joy" is a false joy." And I, too, have experienced that joy.

Thank you for a wonderful article.

J said...

Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your testimony and your story from bondage to freedom. Thanks again!

xHWA said...

God bless you all with His joy that transcends understanding. Thanks for the kind words. And thanks for the support.

Rev. KScribe said...

Glad to see that you escaped the Herbal poison known as armstrongism.

One thing to remember is that you will be attacked by some that will never even listen to what you have to say in all earnest. They are the ones full of hatred for all who dare leave their little cult of horrors. It is rejection of armstrong and leadership that is causing the coglet's to splinter and shrink, along with the fierce competition for those valued "Blue Ribbon" tithe payers.

Find your peace and keep it. Let no one person ever get you to doubt your decision. In this you may find who your real friends are within your former affiliation.

Peace to you. Great to see another escape the "cult."

Purple Hymnal said...

Now that's a powerful testimonial! Welcome again to freedom from Armstrongism XHWA, and know that you are definitely not alone --- we have all been where you are at this very moment.

As I said on Shadows, you will find that we all fall along different ends of the spectrum, from religious to non-religious, spiritual to scientific, and everything and anything in between.

What binds us all together is that we have all survived the same kind of mindset, the same put-off-till-tomorrow-whatever-you-can-because-that-kingdom's-coming-in-three-more-weeks-or-three-to-five-years-or-in-this-generation-brethren.....

We may have made it out to very different places in our own individual journeys, but the important thing is, we have made it out alive! We're free, every one of us, whether we choose a different belief system, or no belief system at all, we are completely 100% free to do so.

At least you are (and this is the key thing) facing your exit wisely, head-on, and dealing with any issues that arise as they occur. Don't do what my family did (and I tell this to everyone who tells me they are thinking of exiting their CoG): Don't go from "special chosen elect of god" to Christmas carols at full blast and "Cult? What cult? We never kept the Sabbath or the holy days, we're perfectly normal, you see?" without even batting an eye.

It was like flipping a light switch. For my parents, who had a pre-Armstrongism belief system to fall back on, it was the difference between taking one breath and then taking another.

It was much harder for me, born and raised in the church and knowing nothing else, and I am still, twelve years after the fact, processing my exit from a church that hasn't existed for ten years now.

I had to sweep everything under the carpet, and go along just to get along, without ever questioning what I had believed, or thought I had believed, or what I continued to believe (mostly about "the world").

You are taking a much more sensible approach XHWA, by facing it head-on, and I commend you for it, and wish you the very best of all things in the wonderful life ahead for you and your family in the Wonderful World --- TODAY.

:-)

xHWA said...

Thank you PH. I have made it my goal to help others, and that always has a way of helping one's self. I hope that perhaps I can find a way to be of help to you as well.

xHWA said...

I would have you know I am already being judged and abandoned by my "friends". I am officially "not called". Exactly as predicted, and right on schedule.

Purple Hymnal said...

So the object lesson in that, as difficult as it may be, is that they were not your friends to begin with.

I'm sorry. That sucks.

xHWA said...

Unfortunately, that is part of the experience, PH. :(

For those who are contemplating leaving - this has happened to everyone who has left before, it has happened to me, it will happen to you. Don't think it won't. Prepare yourself for the closest friends to distance themselves from you.
But don't hold it against anyone. That's just how it goes.

Purple Hymnal said...

"But don't hold it against anyone. That's just how it goes."

That's the key right there. Have you seen the Cult Recovery videos? 201 and 202.

The shrink in the videos belonged to a different sort of group, but I found there was a lot of value in what she had to say. I hope you can find something of value in them as well.

Or anyone else reading this of course. :-)

Southern David said...

You have a great blog XHWA. As a former pastor of Armstrongism it is always a great joy to see someone else leave the toxic system. I was a third generation Armstrongite. I escaped from the lunny bin some ten years ago. Life is such a joy now. You have some great material here. It’s very refreshing to read.

xHWA said...

thank ya kindly, David!

Anonymous said...

I kinda have been expecting this in a way...
But I reali dun think da world is going to end...start a new era maybe but the world is not ending.
That's not gonna happen till a thousand years later! Ok, I'm not sure bout that either but that's not the point! The world's not gonna end! Full stop!
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