On June 28, 2011 the Edmond Sun announced that “Armstrong Auditorium’s 2011-12 performing arts series will kick off July 3 with the screaming thunder of F-16s from the 138th Fighter Wing of the Oklahoma Air National Guard … when four F-16 Fighting Falcons fly over the campus of Herbert W. Armstrong College …” Armstrong’s marketing director Shane Granger said the fly-over was “part of our Independence Day celebrations at Armstrong,” the Sun reported.
So the Pentagon is helping Gerald Flurry’s Philadelphia Church of God kick off their concert series. This might seem innocuous at first, but if we take a closer look, it raises some disturbing issues.
A Public Relations Campaign
A few years ago, the church’s leader Gerald Flurry told his members in a sermon that he was building the auditorium to “get us out of the cult status.” In other words, the purpose of the $20 million auditorium seems to be to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. The fly-over must be seen as part of Flurry’s attempt to get respectability. In this light it makes perfect sense, but when analyzed in light of the church’s teachings, it seems rather odd.
The PCG is ostensibly anti-war (this article by Armstrong himself explicitly sets out the “Philadelphia Standard” on war–to which PCG ought to be faithful, if it wishes to be seen as “holding fast” to what it was taught) and does not allow its members to serve in the military, so why would they want military jets flying over their campus in the first place? One might think that, as a matter of principle, a church that teaches that America’s wars are sinful would not want to be associated with the military in any way, shape, or form.
Unless you’re just using those jets to get you “out of the cult status”. Then it makes sense.
An Uncertain Sound
The next thing that seems rather odd is that the church’s apparently friendly relationship toward the Pentagon and their July 4 patriotism stands in contrast to their constant preaching against America and the military.
Who preaches that “America is doomed” and “America will eat its own babies (Ezek. 5:10)”? The Westboro Baptist Church? Right. Who else? Gerald Flurry and the PCG? Yes. According to Flurry, America is leading the world in sin, America’s armies will be destroyed by God, America is under a divine curse, and America will never win another war.
I also have to question if the church is really having an Independence Day celebration, and if so, why now?
I was once a member of this silly sect, but I don’t remember a church celebration on a national holiday. We only celebrated the weekly Sabbath and Old Testament Holy Days–that’s it. The exception, if any, would be Thanksgiving, but that was celebrated by members at home on their own initiative. To my knowledge, nothing was ever organized by the church to celebrate it, except maybe for the college students on campus.
So why did the church tell the news media they were having “Independence Day celebrations at Armstrong”. Just what were they celebrating anyway?
Just What Do You Mean, Independence?
Are we to believe that the church was celebrating the arrival of democracy in America? Hardly. No voting is tolerated in Flurry’s church, and the church does not permit members to vote in municipal, state, or federal elections.
Were they celebrating independence from the king of England? Not likely. The church believes that the British throne descended from the Old Testament kings of Israel, and that the kings of Israel and Britain actually sat on the throne of God himself. The church teaches that the authority of the British throne is divine, and that one must submit, at all costs, to GOVERNMENT, government, GOVERNMENT!
To put the historical events in church lingo, American “rebels” with a “bad attitude” and a “government problem” lost sight of the “headquarters focus” and overthrew the divinely instituted authority of the king of England sitting on the very “throne of the Eternal” himself. Following Satan, they abolished the “government of God” in America and set up their own “government of men” which is really the “government of Satan”. But the American rebels outdid even Satan when they went one step further and abolished “God’s form of government” as well, replacing one-man rule with rule from the bottom-up. I don’t see how a church which believes those things can justify celebrating the overthrow of that throne.
But if not independence from the throne, what was the PCG supposedly celebrating on July 4? Were they celebrating a victory in war? They don’t believe in war. They believe that fighting for your country is always a sin, that if we lay down our weapons in faith and sing hymns, God will defend us with armies of angels. Were they celebrating national pride? The Bible condemns pride. Were they celebrating freedom? What freedom? Church members cannot vote, cannot speak their minds freely, cannot read dissenting religious literature, and cannot disagree with church doctrine. They can be excommunicated for asking questions, missing a few Sabbath services, or losing their job. (The church will deny some of these things, but former members know the truth.) And, at any rate, what Armstrongists mean by “freedom” has nothing to do with independence–quite the opposite.
Since there seems to be little left to celebrate, why were they celebrating July 4 at all? Was the church’s July 4 celebration just a ruse to look patriotic? They do pay lip service to Armstrong’s teaching that a non-competitive patriotism is fine, but they don’t seem to be too clear on what kind of patriotism Armstrong considered sinful: as he put it himself,
But, you see, this natural human…love looks on those outside its extended self as its enemy. When we are thinking and speaking of national considerations, human nature is patriotic toward one’s own country–because then it becomes part of his extended self. And so there is a feeling of antagonism against another country, when brought into comparison with his own. Actually it is a form of HATE (The Plain Truth, Personal, Oct. 1964 (Vol XXIX No. 10)).
Warplanes would be a good symbol of that kind of national antagonism, and therefore not an appropriate display of the kind of patriotism Armstrongists would approve of, especially considering what we’ve already learned about the canonical Armstrongist attitude toward war.
So, since the PCG is, many would say, anti-USA, and seems to have nothing to celebrate on Independence Day, why would they tell the news media they are celebrating July 4?
Well, it might help them get out of the cult status.
Cozying Up to “the World”, Coveting Unearned Respectability
Even if the church were not so un-American, what ever happened to the separation of church and state? Should government jets be used to promote a church in the first place?
Another strange thing is that the Edmond Sun seems to be rather Flurry-friendly, promoting the sect’s concert series, making sure its readers know just when the concert starts, who will be performing, and what number to call to reserve tickets. Are the Edmond media unknowingly (or knowingly) helping Flurry get himself out of the cult status?
This is not just a church with a few peculiar doctrines such as keeping Saturday, refusing to eat pork, and keeping Old Testament Holy Days. This is a financially exploitative mind-control group run by an egotistical deceiver who calls himself That Prophet, a biblical code word for Jesus Christ. The people of Edmond have a hysterical dooms-day prophet right in their own back yard and yet they seem to be none the wiser. Anyone can bypass the PCG’s slick PR campaign and find out the truth about the cult with a little Internet research. It’s hard to imagine that the fly-over would take place if people in Edmond knew what the PCG was really like. This is a group that richly deserves the cult status.
Quite likely, another motive for building the Auditorium and launching the performing arts series was to divert the attention of church members from other issues. Some of Flurry’s prophecies have failed and his church seems to be on the decline. With the democratization of information made possible by the World Wide Web, the failures of Flurry and his idol Herbert Armstrong are becoming all too apparent.
The people of Edmond who attend these concerts are being used. They are being used to give respectability to an organization which most people, if they knew the facts, would regard as a cult. The musicians who perform at Armstrong Auditorium are being used in the same way–they are unwittingly helping this failed Prophet in his efforts to get himself out of the cult status.
But what if Flurry built an Auditorium and nobody came?
Fighting Edmond’s Prophet
If the people of Edmond would refuse to co-operate with Flurry’s plans for a successful concert series, some church members will wake up and see that the decision to build an Auditorium was not inspired by God after all. In this way, the people of Edmond can help free the child victims of this cult from a lifetime of mind control, fear, and financial exploitation.
Here are a few suggestions for fighting Edmond’s prophet.
First, search the Internet and read about Gerald Flurry and Herbert Armstrong. Learn about their deceptions, mind-control techniques, hysterical anti-American rants, faith “healings” that leave people dead (we like to call these faith-killings), plagiarisms, exaggerated claims of self-importance, and failed prophecies.
Second, warn your friends and family about this group.
Third, write to the local media and tell them you would like to see accurate reporting about the group, not cult-friendly advertisements for their concert series. You can start by hounding the Edmond Sun, who printed the
story ad about the fly-over (and other PCG whitewash jobs).
Fourth, don’t go to the concerts at Armstrong College. Above all, don’t take your children there.
The church leaders might impress with their fancy auditorium, military fly-overs, pleasant demeanor, clean-cut look, and family friendly image. But not all that glitters is gold. And we all know that whitewashed tombs are nothing but charnel houses.