During the past several months we’ve published several articles on the subject of prophecy–specifically, the brand peddled by Armstrongism. However, to date we have not specifically written about one of the biggest pieces of Armstrongism’s prophetic pie—the doctrine of a re-emergent, militant Germany! Today, that omission is rectified. The inspiration for this article was a Key of David (KOD) episode by Gerald Flurry which aired on March 13, 2011, titled “The Rise of Germany.” The message is old hat to any current or former Armstrongist, but here’s a brief summary for the uninitiated: God has in the past, and will in the future, use the ancient nation of Assyria (identified as modern Germany by HWA and other proponents of British-Israelism) to punish the modern day nations of Israel (the US, UK, former members of the British Commonwealth, much of Western Europe and the nation of Israel in the Middle East) for their myriad sins. If you’re unclear about the nuances of the British-Israelite mythology, the articles by Casey Wollberg provide a thorough summary and refutation.
There is a slight problem, though: Not a single reliable source lends any credence to the supposed German-Assyrian connection! The Encyclopedia Brittanica, among others, lists the Germanic peoples as an Indo-European ethnic and language group which lived in what is now Denmark and southern Sweden as early as the late Bronze Age, from about 1700-600BCE. Unfortunately for the Armstrongist position, the old Assyrian empire was still around and being crushed by the Medo-Persians in 612-609BCE. Assyria was even strong enough to successfully revolt against Persian domination in 520BCE–something that would have been impossible if the vast majority of the populace had left their warm ancestral stomping grounds and gone exploring the frozen northern expanses of Europe. And this doesn’t even begin to address what would have to be an unaccountable abandonment of their well developed Indo-Iranian language and the immediate creation of an entirely new branch on the Indo-European language tree, namely proto-Germanic. Besides, countless histories (from those not biased by the presupposition of British-Israelism) show no migration of Assyrian people to northern Europe (but instead a contiguous presence in Mesopotamia.)
So what kind of proof is offered to counter the accepted historical record? The Armstrongist argument always starts from the bible (“The Bible says that Assyria will punish Israel in the end-times, so who is Assyria?”), but the main support trotted out by HWA was an utterly ridiculous idea about “national character.” Specifically, the ancient Assyrians were known for being brutally effective militarily, and cruel in dealing with conquered peoples. So HWA simply asked the question, “Today, who has a powerful military and a proclivity for cruelty?” In light of the horrors perpetrated during WWII, the answer seemed obvious: “Germany!” The idea that “national character”, or “ethnic character” and, in this case, military prowess, is somehow tied up in the DNA (or racial memory or something) is simply ludicrous, scientifically inept and unsupportable under objective scrutiny.
For an example, look at Italy. For millennia the Italians were a very minor player on the world stage–obscure and militarily weak. Then came Rome, and the expansion of one small Italian city-state to complete, unquestionable hegemony in Europe and the Mediterranean. But look at Italian military ability now. Not to be insulting, but the ancient Roman generals would fall upon their swords in shame if they were to glimpse their weak and pathetic progeny!
Yet the appeal of this ‘fear Germany’ message lies most deeply in fundamentalist eschatology–it is inseparable from the central doctrines of the Armstrongist movement for precisely this reason. Basically, it is broadly recognized that many biblical prophecies failed to come to pass in ancient times. HWA’s message was all about the modern fulfillment of these ‘end time’ predictions, so in order to make the concept credible he had to link players in the biblical stories with modern nations. British-Israelism provided a foundational concept which seemed to solve that problem. If you think of the US, UK, etc, as the Lost 10 Tribes of Israel, and think of the World Wars as fulfilling the whole bit in Matthew about “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”, with modern Germany standing in for ancient Assyria…you end up with a relatively believable explanation for unfulfilled prophecy, and simultaneously a terrifyingly powerful message relevant to a modern audience! Thus: “Fear Germany. They’re not done yet!” And yes, I skipped a lot of detail in order to get the gist across.
Incidentally, the name of Flurry’s TV program, The Key of David, refers to this central “key” to HWA’s dogmatism enumerated in his book, Mystery of the Ages: Namely, the supposed identity of the Lost 10 Tribes and the relation of those nations to modern ‘Assyria.’ Without that “key” the whole movement falls apart–and as we will show, the Armstrongists have been forced to repeatedly re-draw the map in order to support their beliefs. In the KOD episode I’m talking about here, Gerald Flurry says,
“Herbert W. Armstrong was a lone voice crying out—even when Germany was in a pile of rubble—that they were going to rise again and be more powerful than ever before, and be a superpower, perhaps bigger than Russia and the U.S., either one of those two nations.”
What else could he have said, considering what he had already taught about Germany? Pointing out his post-war desperation for Germany to fulfill the role he had previously proclaimed it would is proof of nothing except to say that this is often the reaction of prophets when their prophecies fail–cling tenaciously to the predictions, but change the details to accommodate the failure. Besides, he had reason for hope. After all, most nations recover after being defeated in war, even those reduced to a “pile of rubble.” It would have been surprising had Germany not recovered.
Of course, he didn’t start out with that message when he began his flagship magazine, the Plain Truth, back in 1934. Back then, and throughout his Apostolic career, he was looking at the world around him and trying to make it fit with “bible prophecy.” His answer? WWI had fulfilled the Matt. 24:7 prophecy about “kingdom against kingdom”, and the Great Depression was, in fact, part of the Great Tribulation!
“Never before have all the nations been ‘in distress with perplexity’. It is truly a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation. So this is the tribulation, we have been in the tribulation since 1929 here in the United States, and since 1928 in Europe.”
He followed this up with a nice chart about how the world wouldn’t last beyond 1936 before the Heavenly Signs and Jesus Christ’s return to establish the Kingdom of God.
So. Yeah. When that didn’t happen, he started talking in the January ’39 PT about how “Mussolini’s soon-appearing re-born ROMAN EMPIRE is the “BEAST” power, and MUSSOLINI UNDOUBTEDLY IS THE “BEAST”!!” Not only this, but he proclaimed confidently that “MUSSOLINI WILL FIGHT CHRIST!” But this drastic shift in message should come as no surprise, since he started with his conclusion in mind (“This is the End, British-Israelism provides the formula for deciphering prophecy”) and extrapolated backward based on that. He tried to force current events into a biblical framework, just as Flurry does today. So his change of tune again in the Nov-Dec ’40 PT is to be expected: “At present, however, Mussolini’s star is fast falling, and Hitler’s rapidly rising…at present, Hitler looms up as the most likely candidate.” Candidate for what? To be the Beast! So, it went from compete confidence that Mussolini was the Beast to who is it now? Could it be Hitler? But it didn’t stop there! In the Sept-Oct ’41 issue, God’s End-Time Elijah was warning all who would listen of the impending doom of their time!
“PLAIN TRUTH readers know world events, before they occur!…Bible prophecy does indicate that Hitler MUST BE THE VICTOR, in his present Russian invasion!…Hitler will emerge from his Russian campaign stronger than ever, free to turn the entire might of his forces against Britain-and AMERICA!”
Yes, and as we all remember, the Panzer divisions and Luftwaffe crushed the stubborn Russian resistance at Stalingrad and moved on fairly swiftly to encircle Moscow—bombing the Kremlin to dust in the process. With the fall of Moscow, Stalin very wisely chose to end his own life…wait, what? No, sorry—it was the complete opposite, wasn’t it?
I could go on, and on, but there’s no need to beat a dead horse. However, to make this all a bit more relevant to the present, and tie it in to what Flurry was saying on the KOD, here’s something written by Herman Hoeh in a 1958 PT:
Germany’s coming Fuhrer-who will lead within probably 13 years from now a 10-nation union in Europe (Revelation 17: 12-13)-is ‘the king of the north’! He will ‘stretch forth his hand upon the countries; and the land of Egypt shall not escape’ (Daniel 11:42)…There is going to be a failing out between Nasser and his German supporters. Nasser’s Nazi advisers are yet to turn upon him. GERMANY WILL TAKE OVER THE SUEZ FROM EGYPT. Germany will take over Syria’s pipelines, now under Nasser’s control.
Here we see the pattern Flurry follows firmly established. Because of British-Israelism, and because of the eschatology based upon it, the conclusion is already known. Now, since Hitler didn’t win WWII, and since claims of Hitler surviving and setting up a “secret Nazi shangri-la in Antarctica” (as Rod Meredith wrote in the May ’65 PT) have been shown to be as accurate as sightings of leprechauns, only the final conclusion provided by HWA remains: These are the End Times, and the remaining prophecies apply to the Nations of Israel and to the German-Assyrians. “So,” the Armstrongists ask, “what do we do now?” And the answer is predictable: “Well, let’s keep yelling about Germany, and reinterpreting the bible to fit current world events—all the while sweeping under the carpet how wrong we’ve been for the last…what is it now…about 76 years?!”
Thus we come to the beginning of the “Rise of Germany” episode of the Key of David, where Flurry is shouting about three German warships in the Mediterranean. And about the 600 (!!!) soldiers on the German ships! For what it’s worth, they were entering a war zone and might have needed those soldiers to help keep order when they carried hundreds of Egyptian refugees home to Egypt. I mean, 600 is hardly a force to make a successful landing or make much of a dent, militarily, in an already war-torn country. Besides, recent developments now have French Mirages and British Tornadoes bombing Libyan tanks, while the US Navy launches Tomahawks against Tripoli. And guess what? France was the first (or, at least the first European power) to recognize the Libyan rebels as legitimate against the objections of the ‘ascendant’ Germans!
So, can you see the pattern? Do you see what’s happening? Armstrong warned about a re-united, powerful Germany right after WWII because he didn’t know what else to do. He had succeeded in reinterpreting the bible, and reinventing his message in a way which pointed to Germany causing the Great Tribulation, and suddenly Germany was defeated! So, like any good cult leader, he chases away the specter of actually being wrong and boldly marches onward, his discredited banner flying proudly enough to shake off any clinging particles of shame or humility.
Seriously, though, how many prophets, or other men described as being called by God to deliver a message in the bible, ever did what Herbert Armstrong did? You can’t read anywhere in the bible of Isaiah, or Malachi, or Jeremiah, or anyone else ever prophesying “thus and such,” only to see them change their prophecy a couple chapters later in response to events not going according to their purportedly divine message.
Herbert Armstrong never claimed to be a prophet in the sense that he got new revelation directly from God. Instead, he claimed to have inspiration direct from God on the correct way to read/interpret the bible “in light of world events”. The fact the interpretation changed every time the political and military winds blew (until he found an interpretation he felt like clinging to despite all contrary evidence) should prove that Armstrong was just a man trying to make the world fit around his own prophetic delusions. If he was more than that, if he was really God’s Man, he would have told us Hitler would shoot himself in a bunker. He would have told us not to worry about the Cold War. And he never would have written 1975 in Prophecy—a book which is almost comic in its unflagging inaccuracy.
And now Gerald Flurry is just blindly following in the same vein—only with less originality and less clarity. At least Armstrong made much to do of the whole “if the nations of Israel don’t repent, then God will raise up the Assyrians to punish them”, etc. But Flurry doesn’t seem bothered by ideas of repentance or redemption for his fellow citizens. Nope, his philosophy is, “Just scare the people enough for the money to flow in.” In that respect, he has combined the apocryphal teachings of Armstrongism with the very pedestrian incantations of dozens of modern Conservative Christian preachers (i.e. ‘The Japanese quake, or Haitian quake, or Katrina, or any other future natural disaster, is God speaking to us of His great anger…’), thereby reducing his message to a mere parody of Armstrong’s, which is already comical as it is.
Now it has gotten so bad that whenever Germany starts doing well economically or politically, Flurry immediately proclaims it as a sure sign that they’re about to Take Over the World and the End Is Near! Conversely, whenever Germany does poorly on the economic and/or political fronts, the tune changes and the End Is Near because the Germans will seek a strong dictatorial leader to fix all their problems and thus rise to Take Over the World! The mental gymnastics to keep this sort of thing going, all the while forgetting that for 70 years all the prophecies have been wrong, must be absolutely exhausting! But like a gerbil climbing the rungs of a wheel, they have nowhere to go but in tautological circles: a sinister Germany implies the end of the age and the end of the age implies a sinister Germany.
So, is Germany on the rise? I’m sure they are—they are one of the stronger economies in Europe. The more important question is, should that worry us? Clearly not. Recently, we here at Armstrong Delusion received an email from a German reader. She was understandably upset at Flurry’s dishonest portrayal of her country. An unbiased look at the real face of Germany (as opposed to the Armstrongist caricature) exposes Flurry as an “End-Time” Don Quixote tilting at windmills.
The fact is the German people have been pounded from elementary school, for over 60 years, about how evil Hitler was, and how awful anything like National Socialism is. They have a fear and hatred of these things drilled into them from birth! Read anything on the subject coming from inside Germany (especially from around the 60th Anniversary of the end of WWII in 2005), and you’ll find a people whose natural nationalistic pride is weighed down with the baggage of how horrible their grandfathers were. The current generation in Germany is as different from their Nazi forebears as the current generation in the US is from those we call the Greatest Generation. In fact, not all Germans supported the Nazis in the first place, so a lot of those forbears have passed along a legacy of resisting evil.
Nazism is something that happened to Germany, not something Germany, as a nation, imposed upon the rest of the world. Hitler, it should be remembered, did not ascend to power legitimately, through democratic means. And the world, then, was a different place. Nazi sympathizers could be found all over the globe, many prominent ones in the U.S. That is not the case today for the world in general, and Germany is no exception. For Germany to become what Armstrongism demands of it would require a complete reversal of the entire Zeitgeist of the world, from one that resists tyranny and world domination to one that (like the world in which Hitler ascended) makes room for them. We’ve learned our lesson, and, in that regard, we’re all Germans.
But the ever-oblivious Flurry, by blandly generalizing Germany into a country of dupes awaiting the next Hitler (or worse), is merely flailing against a convenient mock-up of his own devising. In other words, he is talking about a fantastical Germany that only exists in the minds of those who believe in it.
The fact that a big deal is made of German warships in the Mediterranean in two thousand and eleven shows how fear of the defeated Nazis has been carried far beyond rational levels. Back in 1998, the New York Times wrote that when the Euro Zone was first being established, many powerful Germans actually went as far as the Constitutional Court to stop the abandonment of their long-standing currency, the Deutsch Mark. Why? The German economy was stronger than the proposed European economy, especially weighted against low performing members like Italy. But Germany went ahead. Why? Because of the baggage of their past. They adopted the philosophy of “European-ness,” as opposed to “German-ness,” even though it damaged their economy, just so the rest of the world could not proclaim oh no, it’s German nationalism on the rise! Each new Trumpet article, booklet, and KOD episode warning about Germany on the Rise is nothing more than a continuous stream of propaganda to support their hollow straw man fallacy, which is a particularly brainless form of argumentation. If this slander were directed at any people but the guilt-ridden Germans, public outrage and legal retaliation against this libelous (and, it could be argued, racist) defamation would be immediate and overwhelming.
So again we see the pattern of making the evidence fit preconceived notions: When Germany joined the EU, the Armstrongists tried to frighten us with tales of Germany gaining control of Europe through politics in order to better make war against America in the Very Near Future™. (Note: No matter the decade, a war-mongering Germany is always in the Very Near Future.) But if Germany had resisted joining the EU, the Armstrongists would have been jumping up and down about a “strong independent Germany defying the entire continent of Europe” in order to–you guessed it–better make war against America in the Very Near Future™. No matter what they do, the German people will always be a source of irrational terror for those who adhere to the Armstrongist worldview.
Aside from the “national character” argument, one of the main supports trotted out by Flurry in support of his fear laced message is the mantra that, “Germany has a history of starting wars.” Yeah? What European nation doesn’t? I’m noticing a distinct lack of fear of neo-Napoleonism even as we watch French fighter jets attack a North African nation. So, yes, let’s look at history—especially the history which shows what happens when an (apparently fairly clever) out-of-work advertising man finds religion, and then decides to found his own.