We recently got hold of the May 5, 2010 PCG Co-Worker letter. It was written much better than the most recent Co-Worker letter (about why Flurry is now an Apostle). This one is better because it has a very clear message: “He was right!”…and because he (Armstrong) was right and Bible prophecy is being fulfilled, then, basically, give the work your money lest you be left behind when everyone else goes to the place of safety.
In this letter Flurry plugs the booklet He Was Right and says how, well, “right” everything Armstrong said was. Well, was it? This is an important question, for if Armstrong was right—if prophecy is being fulfilled and the end truly is nigh—then we all need to start figuring out which WCG (now Grace Communion International) splinter group to support—and since there are at least 400, we better get a move on!
“A reunited Germany will dominate a soon-to-be-resurrected Holy Roman Empire! That was Herbert W. Armstrong’s keynote prophecy, which he forecast even as the flames from World War II smoldered amid the rubble of German cities.” These are the opening sentences for He Was Right. Most of us would recognize the above “keynote prophecy”. Who among us does not remember the astonishment our parents had as Germany recovered from the ashes of defeat? For us, it was maybe not so amazing since we weren’t old enough to see the most powerful nation in Europe brought to its knees…after it nearly succeeded in conquering all of Europe, Britain, Russia, and northern Africa. It was not so amazing for us to see it prospering since we did not see how terribly it had been bombed. But for many it was. That is why Mr. Armstrong’s prophecy that its resurrection to power (for the third time in a century) would happen was so striking—and frightening.
Unfortunately for us (and them) something had been forgotten.
“History repeats itself,” we are told. “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” we are admonished. How true it is. Because if these same people would have remembered–or knew (if they were new to the church post-war)–the truth of the matter, then the power of Armstrongism over our lives might have been avoided–just as many have said, “If Europe would have just paid attention to what was actually written in Mein Kampf, they would have known Hitler’s plans ahead of time and prevented the worst of it.”
One thing the sheep forgot can be found in the January 1939 Plain Truth, page 3 (PDFs courtesy of herbert-armstrong.org). “Mussolini’s soon-appearing re-born ROMAN EMPIRE is the ‘BEAST’ power, and MUSSOLINI UNDOUBTEDLY IS THE ‘BEAST’!!” (Emphasis is his, as you already know from experience.) Another forgotten bit was pg. 8 of the Nov-Dec 1940 PT, wherein Mr. A is careful to declare that the Bible does not say who the “Beast” is, so we shall have to wait and see. Why the sudden backing from his earlier assertion that “Mussolini undoubtedly is the ‘Beast’?” He tells you why: “At present, however, Mussolini’s star is fast falling, and Hitler’s rapidly rising…at present, Hitler looms up as the most likely candidate.” Without coming right out and saying it, he is admitting he was wrong about Mussolini in his prophetic fervor of just under two years prior, and that his authority for correcting himself comes not from any divine source, but from his observation of current events. (And he was also wrong about Hitler, of course.) He sounds like any old man of the world trying to make Bible “prophecy” fit into current news—not God’s divinely inspired end-time Elijah. Sure, many have said (like my dad), “Mr. Armstrong never claimed to be infallible.” True. However, when you think about it, shouldn’t a true prophet of the Living God be infallible with regard to his prophecies? Deut. 18:20-22 says if any man prophesies in the name of God, and that thing comes not to pass, then he is a false prophet.
Ohhh, well then, too bad Herbert. Thanks for playing “To Be a Prophet”! Time has shown you to be 100% wrong! Try again next time! Unfortunately for us, he did. But as you witness his tireless mulligans, remember Deut. 18:20-22, and the fact that none of the Old Testament prophets in the Bible ever had to re-do prophecies. This last point is especially important when you remember that many Armstrong supporters claim that being off in timing is unimportant. But, if you’ll remember, Mussolini is quite dead. So is Hitler. I mention Hitler because for quite some time Hitler was the Beast who was to conquer Jerusalem, and also for quite a while good old Herbert subscribed to the idea that “Hitler is alive and the Nazis have a secret base in Antarctica.” Yes. Seriously. And I bet you thought “I saw Elvis in a UFO” was a crazy conspiracy theory.
Ok, so, that was the first half of the first paragraph of He Was Right. What other goodies are there? They start off with “America’s Economic 9/11” and how Mr. A prophesied that back in the 60s, originally (I busted that myth in my recent History in Prophecy article), and more specifically in the 80s. I bet he did do a lot of talk about economic collapse and the fall of America in the 80s, since that was, until now, the worst economic time for us since the Great Depression. Of course, today’s crisis is worse than the recession of the 80s…but in the end it is not as bad as the Great Depression. Unemployment then was around 20%, and this time around has not yet hit 10%. So, not quite the financial apocalypse that was hoped for by the editors of He Was Right. And besides that, we lived through the troubled economic times of the 80s without the world coming to an end or America collapsing, so maybe, just maybe, this is all part of the economic cycle.
In the next section (“Is a World Dictator About to Appear?”), they talk about how Mr. A understood the prophesies of Rev. 17:10 even as far back as 1927! It talks about five kings that are fallen (supposedly allegorical of the seven resurrections of the Holy Roman Empire), one is, and the other is yet to come. “Herbert Armstrong came to see that the dictator Benito Mussolini was that one that is, at that time, in the 1930s, prior to and during the onset of World War II.” Well, no, he didn’t. We just read that in his own words…not in his double think memory from the 80s. At the time of his original writing he didn’t say “don’t worry—even though this looks terrible, fear not! This is only the harbinger of the yet to appear final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire (as prophesied in your Bible) that will fight the all-powerful Christ at his glorious return to this Earth!” If he had said that, then there would be some trifling “evidence” of his being something other than a down-on-his-luck advertising man who turned to religion for comfort (and possibly power, prestige, and riches) during the Depression. Not only did he not say that about Mussolini or Hitler, but he said in the June/July ’34 PT that “we have been in the tribulation since 1929 in the United States, and since 1928 in Europe.” Just for fun, look at the Aug ’34 PT…there’s a fun chart about the time-table of end-time events…we aren’t supposed to be here now. This is supposed to be the Millennium right now. So….he was right? Please.
Yes, there is currently a united Europe. Germany is a leading nation in that Union. So? We may yet see a militant German-led EU, but at the moment that is not the case—it doesn’t even look like a remote possibility, by all accounts that don’t have an interest in it being true, i.e., by all accounts that aren’t loony–and this is at least 24 years since the death of Herbert Armstrong, not to mention his prophecies from the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 1975 in Prophecy, etc. I’m not a prophet, and I’m not saying a militarily aggressive, German-led Euro state can’t someday form, but if it does form, it is not proof of the veracity of Herbert Armstrong’s prophecies! Yes, if you keep saying it will happen, then eventually the laws of probability will likely give you a win…but that can only be mistaken for a meaningful fact if everyone forgets the multitude of times you were wrong! I could say that an asteroid will destroy all life on earth. Well, sure, that seems a fair mathematical probability. Yay, I’m a prophet! However, if I say the asteroid Apophis will destroy the earth in 2036 and it doesn’t…well, was the Lord kind enough to allow the earth a little more time to repent and for me to preach to the masses that lest they repent then next time they’re done for? Or will this other line work on you? “Ok, so it wasn’t Apophis, but someday a giant asteroid will destroy earth—so says your Bible! Therefore I was right!” So, it wasn’t Mussolini or Hitler, but someday, eventually, Germany will take over Europe and America will be done for. Sure, but if so that’s only because of the historical fact that great nations/empires fall. The fall of the United States, if it even happens in anything like the context claimed under Armstrongism, won’t be because of God’s wrath–just as the fall of the Mongol Empire wasn’t.
However, I must make mention of page 11 of He Was Right. Herein is provided one of the strongest bits of “evidence” (thus far in the booklet) that maybe Mr. A was right after all. Here is quoted from a sermon by HWA given on Nov 27, 1982, where he is reading from the very first Plain Truth back in Feb. ’34. “Three or four short years ago many laughed and scoffed when we said that there would be another world war in five to seven years. They do not laugh and scoff today. Everyone knows the next world war is coming, and soon!” But unfortunately, what evidence we have of what he might have said “three or four years ago” is in the chart of the June/July ’34 PT, and it does not bode well for Armstrong’s prophetic acuity. Supposedly, the end of the age was going to be in ’36, with any further armed conflict culminating in Armageddon and Christ’s return. Also, from the history I’ve read, many already knew that the combination of the harsh terms of the WWI armistice upon Germany, combined with the Great Depression, would lead to another war.
The period between World Wars I and II was characterized by an effort to maintain an “uneasy peace” in Europe. After the 1920s, no one was under any illusions that Germany was not still a threat, though some were yet hopeful. The effort to keep Germany at peace with its neighbors escalated in 1932, when the so-called “Ten Year Rule” (a UK policy stating that another world war should not be expected for at least ten more years) was discarded–and reached a fever pitch when Hitler came to power and pulled Germany out of the League of Nations in 1933 (why didn’t Armstrong predict that?). Presumably it was for these geopolitical reasons (and not any attention on their part to Armstrong’s hysterical attempts at shoehorning then current events into Bible “prophecies”–since, after all, he hadn’t even started to do so yet!) that the UK dropped its plans for disarmament in 1934 and, in response to a rearming Germany, launched a rearmament of its own. Tellingly, it wasn’t until after or at least during these late developments that Armstrong began writing about an association between the obviously coming war and biblical Armageddon–and even then he was focused on the wrong “strong-man.” It doesn’t take a “prophet” to be prescient, and “the writing on the wall” doesn’t necessarily come from “above” (we would argue that it doesn’t even possibly come from above). And in point of fact, Armstrong was behind the curve with regard to the canny prognostications of his betters in the world of geopolitics. They were in the know, while Armstrong was in the clouds. Wrong, time and again! The only thing he got “right” was something everyone knew at the time: war was coming again to Europe. He certainly didn’t predict anything. And we know all of this from reviewing the available evidence.
But that’s one of the advantages of the modern world—the internet, and scanners. I’m sure 99% of those in the church in ’82 didn’t have access to that first issue of the PT, so they couldn’t see that Mr. Armstrong was simply quote mining his own work.
Perhaps there will be a part two, perhaps not. Really there’s no need to continue. Page after page has shown Armstrong to be off in his timing by 60+ years at best, to absolutely undeniably wrong at worst (with the latter being more often the case). But what’s worse than this is PCG proclaiming his “rightness” in an effort to frighten/inspire people to give more and more money to the work. In fact, a recent sermon from Stephen Flurry found him nearly screaming at the members to get a second job so they could give more to the work “because that is the only reason you are called out now!” (and they’re still in debt by $9Million). They’re saying, in effect, “Armstrong said all this for decades and NOW it is all coming to pass before our very eyes! The end really is close now…really!” They’re doing everything except saying “final gun lap”, and as I mentioned in my last article, they are glossing over how wrong he was for so long by saying “now, finally, everything he said would happen is starting to happen.” Except it isn’t.
So, at the end, we find them using the age old combination of fear, guilt, and awe of authority (Flurry is now an Apostle) to keep the people firmly in their place—because peasants and sheep need to mind their places, after all. Oh, and they need to keep supporting their oppressors financially (how else will these feckless charlatans keep food on their tables–by getting jobs themselves? God forbid!).