Paperback Writer–A Review of Wade Fransson’s “The People of the Sign”

coverIt’s a dirty story of a dirty man–well, for the first hundred pages or so. Wade Fransson’s The People of the Sign is essentially a coming-of-age story set to Beatles song titles. That is, the chapters and the subheadings within each chapter of the book are titled after Beatles songs, most of which do a relatively good job of relating to the subsequent content. Some, though, require a bit of creative stretching (e.g., a recounting of Fransson’s ultimately less-than-fateful meeting with a prominent Swedish media personality comes under the heading of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”).

Born to a meat-and-p0tatoes Swedish immigrant father and an alcoholic mother who married too young, Wade Fransson’s early life was plagued by all the hallmarks of familial dysfunction, eventually culminating in divorce and custody disputes. At the tender age of nine he and his two sisters became the “victims” of the most common type of kidnapping: their father stopped by while their mother was out and said, “Come on, kids, let’s go to the mall!” But by “the mall”, he meant “Sweden”.

During his first year in Sweden, Fransson was introduced to culture shock, the cruelties of grade-school politics, and pornography. Within two years he had even acquired some life experience. Fransson brags that “in a little fort down the dirt road in the forest in back of where we lived, two thirteen-year-old neighborhood girls were experimenting with their feminine prowess, and I was a safe, somewhat exotic, and very willing boy.” (Frisky, young Swedish girls in a woodland fort, you say? Brb…)

But such sessions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, an older and wiser Fransson insists:

Those least emotionally able to handle such situations are most susceptible to exploitation, and after two sessions the girls suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. But they had gotten under my skin and left greasy fingerprints on my imagination. My battered and bruised heart had been wounded in a new way.

We feel your pain, Wade.

The young Fransson’s bittersweet adolescent idyll in a foreign land was about to take a turn for the weird, though. His dear old kidnapper (now working back in the States, having left the kids with relatives in Sweden), had started listening to Garner Ted on the radio, and soon found himself in the grip of the self-aggrandizing process of conversion to Armstrongism. We all know what happens next, of course: childhood indoctrination!

It’s probably important to point out here that Fransson dedicates (by my estimation) some 15 percent of the book’s volume to explaining the doctrines of WCG, parceled out in basically manageable chunks. Most of that explanation is framed approvingly by the author and betrays certain assumptions your dear editors do not share (that the Bible is authoritative, for one thing). This is not to suggest that Fransson comes across here as an enthusiastic promoter of Armstrongist fundamentalism, although he still apparently believes much of the mythos.

Custody concerns soon brought Fransson’s father back to Sweden to be with his children in person, under official threat of losing them. The subsequent reunion gave the new convert an opportunity to inflict his delusions upon his defenseless offspring. This manifested first and foremost, as it so often does, in the application of divinely inspired “child rearing” techniques (an imposition the author at one point describes as “unbearable” and productive of something less than a “loving environment”.)

In the Fall of the same year, the family attended the Feast at Minehead, England. Fransson describes the intoxicating effect of this youthful initiation into cult madness thus:

There I had my first exposure to epic, ninety-minute sermons explaining how human beings were at the center of the spiritual struggle between right and wrong, good and evil. God was looking for a few good men (and women) to showcase the right way of living through complete and total submission and obedience to Him and His One True Church.

We were at a critical juncture in history, the prophesied “Time of the End” immediately prior to Jesus Christ’s return as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” We were called into an elite training program to assist Christ in bringing the world into alignment with God’s way of life. The planet would fight against Him, but His rod of iron would bring humanity into submission to a re-education program similar to the one we ourselves were undergoing at the Feast. My vivid memories of the Feast include a night sick with fever, dreaming about giants fighting a titanic battle to gain control of the planet. Those sermons were heady stuff for an impressionable eleven-year-old.

This should be intimately familiar to any of us who are second-generation cultists. So should the fact that our indoctrination was not all dependent on direct instruction. The more insidious side of this psychological pincer involved the holding out of an artificial family to take the place of the one the doctrines themselves were at least partly responsible for turning into an unbearable, unloving environment. Fransson continues:

But on two nights during our stay, the rides and games were opened, and WCG kids had the run of the camp. Then our new family consisted of everyone in the park. The Feast was unlike anything I had ever experienced–an emotional life raft to a child lost at sea.

And just like that, the young Fransson was hooked. He had been drawn into the fold, a misfit sheep to the slaughter, by the alluring fable of exceptionalism and the glittering promise of a place to belong. His story is ours.

But Fransson’s story also includes a trip through the mid-level management of the cult, the details of which I will let the reader discover on their own. Suffice it to say that the author recounts run-ins with such luminaries as David Hulme, Greg Albrecht, Gerald Waterhouse, and…David Lee Roth? Yep.

When I first agreed to review this book, I assumed I would be getting nothing more than a feel-good personal interest story, instead of the apparent holy grail of the wider anti-Armstrongist blogosphere (dirt on ministers) or what I really wanted (profound insights about Armstrongism itself). What I got instead was something wholly unexpected and much more useful. Certainly, Fransson treats the reader to a healthy dose of reminiscence (which is fine for those who like such things), but in doing so he inadvertently instructs the anti-Armstrongist in a much-needed lesson. It’s something I’ve been trying to articulate for some time now in comments on this blog and others, and it is felicitous that this review gives me a handy soapbox from which to preach my message in earnest.

The negative stereotypes of CoG ministry many of us have been exposed to are fantastically unrealistic caricatures. In the internecine battleground of the splinters we have been led to believe that the other groups’ ministers are “Laodicean” turncoats, rebels, and faithless mercenaries. Meanwhile, out in the anti-Armstrongist blogosphere, CoG ministers are typically denigrated as liars, frauds, or even servants of Satan. Common to both perspectives is the imputation of duplicity on the part of these ministers–and a lurid eagerness to lay upon them the burden of guilt for all our cultic travails. But do we have any good reason for this? Is the charge accurate?

Fransson describes his ministerial journey as one of nagging doubt, self-discovery, and ideological breakthroughs in the throes of epic institutional conflict. As Armstrong himself often said, truth is stranger than fiction. It is also more complex. While it is easy to cast aspersions on ministers after the fact, the hard truth is that this is nothing more than scapegoating: the vast majority of the ministry are/were not duplicitous. They were just flawed apes trying to be little gods in embryo, just like the rest of us. Often they were just doing what they thought was right. Just like the lay member, the minister is deluded–often a victim of indoctrination from childhood.

From the book:

Many I respected in the WCG and with whom I had greater doctrinal affinity had left, while others I respected, such as the Tkachs…were encouraging me to stay. I was re-evaluating my theological framework, which still held that the WCG was God’s true church, along with the mandate to follow Mr. Tkach as the duly authorized leader. At the same time, I was increasingly uncomfortable staying, since my relationship with God and the benefit of the Sign of the Sabbath was at risk.

Further on, Fransson notes “the agony that Mr. Tkach surely felt, knowing that change was needed, and that no matter what he did, people would be terribly hurt.”

The take-home from the odyssey that is The People of the Sign is a poignant one. We who have come out of Armstrongism have been the victims not of predatory ministers, but of a delusional belief system. And if we all like sheep have been led astray, then so too have the shepherds, for they themselves have been drawn from the flock. In the face of ideological revolution, lay member and minister alike register internal conflict and uncertainty.

Fransson does a wonderful job expressing these feelings in the last few chapters of the book, but throughout his story we are treated to the account of a living, breathing human being who happened to have wound up in the ministry of a CoG. Anyone who reads it and cannot empathize or, indeed, identify with the author is carrying quite the chip on their shoulder. Fransson’s purpose in writing The People of the Sign was probably not to expose the humanity of the ministry to an audience of haters, but to my mind that is the book’s most valuable accomplishment. And it is for this reason that I recommend it without hesitation.

The sad affair of the cults has been one of the blind leading the blind–a comedy of errors, an unfortunate farce, the blame for which cannot reasonably be laid at any person’s feet. Can even the cult-leader be blamed for the existence of the cult? Consider that without cultists, there could be no cult leaders. No, the fault lies in our all-too-human tendency toward credulity and the simultaneously self-aggrandizing and dehumanizing urge to belong, say, to a called and chosen few, a peculiar people–the People of the Sign.

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24 thoughts on “Paperback Writer–A Review of Wade Fransson’s “The People of the Sign”

  1. Obviously, my favourite quote: “Frisky, young Swedish girls in a woodland fort, you say? Brb…” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Interesting sounding book. Time heals all wounds (or at least most), and with those wounds usually goes the anger–years on, I think it is easier to accept that they were genuinely deluded, rather than cling to the “the bastards deliberately lied to me in order to steal my money and my future” mindset. I’ve been noticing this myself in my debates/research–the Christians of today who would be appalled at a Crusade or an Inquisition feel THEY are the True Christians…meanwhile, I’ve no doubt that most (if not quite all) those who participated in aforementioned atrocities would consider THEMSELVES to be the True Christians. Sure, there were some who manipulated the people for their own gain, but most of the people believed they were truly doing the Will of God–apparently, just like the CoG ministers.

  2. My name is Wade Fransson, and I approve this message.

    Seriously Casey, I greatly appreciate the time and attention you devoted to capturing the essence, and intent of my book, while also highlighting some unintended consequences. In my preface I explained that I hoped the book would help people, and it seems it might do just that, for at least a few.

    But now it’s back to work on my next paperback. It’s the sequel to the Sign, and it picks up where the first volume leaves off. It’s called “The Hardness of the Heart” and you might say, spiritually speaking, that it has a lot to do with the clinging wife, who doesn’t understand.

    Cheers!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Wade, and I’m glad you liked the review. I have a feeling some of our colleagues in the anti-Armstrongist blogosphere won’t take so kindly to my conclusions about the ministry and the accountability of the sheep; but, just to stir the pot a bit more, I think I’ll develop them into a full article! Speaking of which, I hope you’ll take the time to peruse some of our other material here. You might find it thought-provoking. 😉

      • Those within the COG movement will probably take even less kindly to it. It seems neither you nor I are preaching to any choirs.

        As it should be.

        I’ll definitely snoop around the site.

        Cheers!

  3. I knew Wade Fransson at Ambassador College and share like him a dramatic childhood connection with the Worldwide Church of God. The review of his book is well written. However, my view about cultism is broader than the reviewer’s. Every denomination is cultist to some extent, and so it’s just a matter of degree along a continuum. Of course every denomination was founded on the belief that they are at least “the most TRUE church” otherwise what be the point of separating from other Christians? I also agree that ministers and lay members alike are rarely “duplicitous”–even the leader of a so called “cult”–but rather all were equally “victims…of a delusional belief system”. And yes I agree “the fault lies in our all-too-human tendency toward credulity and the simultaneously self-aggrandizing and dehumanizing urge to belong”. However, once again, I take a broader view than the reviewer to include ALL of Christianity (etc), and even secular organizations in creating systems which all too often victimize people and to some degree delude people (mostly unintentionally). We ALL have to be on guard, although not paranoid, about the world around us in its many and diverse forms of seductive and/or manipulative beliefs and philosophies. Part of the problem in our culture is that we have been taught very little about critical thinking in the home or even in our school systems. If we are to go beyond the “Planet of the Apes” we need to progress in this area or we could end up self-destructing.

    • Nope. You’re wrong Richard. We are in total agreement on every point in your comment. 😉 You should read some of our articles on atheism, skepticism, and critical thinking. You might find them to your liking.

      • Hi Casey: Thanks. I’m a little confused. You say I’m “wrong” and then say you are in “total agreement” with my comments. As for atheists, for example, they are just as vulnerable to cultism in some form as anyone else since they too are human beings with a need to belong. We agree that critical thinking is a valuable skill.

      • Come on, Richard! 😉 I meant you were “wrong” in assuming that you take a broader view of cultism than I do, a point on which we agree. And, being an atheist myself, I’m well aware that certain kinds of atheist groups can become cult-like. I tend to steer clear of the presently burgeoning atheist movement for just this reason (and because I have seen first hand the signs of cultism in it). However, none of this speaks to the validity of atheism as a conclusion, as I hope you can appreciate.

  4. My experience is that the ministers in the WCG, United, etc were fully cognizant of what they were doing. I know they deliberately lied to me. I know they deliberately and knowingly lied to those I have known.

    There is also the witness of such as Bruce Renehan who encountered others during his research for “Daughter of Babylon” and noted that they all knew that the church history was rubbish. I personally know this from back in 1990 when I sent information about the Waldensians to Pasadena and they tacitly acknowledge they were wrong, but were going to keep teaching it regardless.

    The experience I have had with the stalkers in the WCG and United and the subsequent exchanges I have had with the Council of Elders and the ministers proved to me personally that yes, some of them are delusional, but immoral and unethical just the same.

    The damage they continue to do is based on the teachings they explicitly know as lies and they won’t give them up because… they want the boost to their egos and they want the money.

    Their behavior is consistent with the non ethic ethic of the end justifies the means and will go to any extreme to keep their way of life going.

    None of the question of whether or not these scoundrels are sweet innocents: The damage they do is the same either way. The only real difference is the level of hypocrisy at which they operate.

    “Moral Mazes” by Robert Jackall is an excellent review of what happens to these Corporate types, whether it is a traditional business or the Church Corporate.

    • Mikey, I’m sure your experience is valid, and I’m sure you’re recounting some things in a factual manner.

      But let me submit the following about your post, in what is intended to be a kind, but nonetheless firm, and direct manner:

      1) You lump “the ministers” together, in your opening statement, as though every one of them read whatever it was you sent “to Pasadena”
      2) You state “they all knew” when both Bruce Renahan and you must know that such a statement defies logic and likelihood.
      3) You state “yes, some of them are delusional” but follow up with the cognitively dissonant “they explicitly know as lies”

      So, in a nutshell, your point seems to be that they all play fast and loose with the truth for their own reasons.

      And while the three points I make above showcase that you haven’t proven your point about them, they certainly do showcase that your accusation does apply to yourself.

      I hope you’ll consider this and perhaps it will be helpful to you as a means to improve your thinking and writing going forward

      Cheers!

      • I concur with your objections, Wade. The thing that I’ve observed after a few years of doing this is that most of the “disgruntled” ex-membership seem never to have stopped to consciously consider that the ultimate cause of their bad experience with the cults is their own failure to believe responsibly. They deflect any feelings of guilt or inadequacy into an effort to lay blame on some easy targets: the ministers then must become for them the “liars” who made them believe propositions that were, in fact, always eminently vulnerable to refutation. To maintain this self-absolving fiction, they must insist that all ministers are duplicitous, for which, of course, they have and can have no real evidence. The anti-Armstrongist community was practically founded on such ad hoc character assassinations, and is essentially its stock in trade. When I first began scouting out this blogosphere, I found little I liked in the maelstrom of garish sensationalism, accounts of “abuse”, gossip, personal attacks, and speculation that characterized the genre. What encouraged me to enter it myself was what I saw as an overwhelming need for something that shifted the focus toward an examination of the teachings in question, one that exposed the flawed reasoning that got us all into this mess in the first place. That doesn’t relieve the “itching ears” syndrome, though, so, needless to say, we don’t draw the readership some of the bigger, more morbidly enticing sites can bring in. The real tragedy is that so many of these former cultists consider it sufficient to rage at the deceitful and abusive ministry: content that they have laid the blame elsewhere, they miss the lesson for themselves: stop being so goddamned gullible! I always ask and never receive an answer: From whence come ministers if not from sheep?

      • Casey, it will probably come as no surprise to you that I took great pains to write my book in such a way as to allow people on all sides of the issue to think freely (and hopefully deeply) about what exactly it was about the WCG, in particular, and or all rigid, self-referential belief systems, in general, that lead to things being less than perfect.

        It is my hope that “true believers” and “haters” alike will both read it, and benefit from the mirror-like properties I tried to invest in it – to see how they may, like a son or daughter, be carrying some of the negative traits of their parents (the WCG) whether they are trying to model what they believe to be good about them, or fighting against what they believe to be bad about them.

        And I think your use of “itching ears” in this context is highly applicable – but ultimately it’s not about the quantity of people you attract, but quality.

        Not that I’m appealing to a select few, or anything 🙂

  5. Why did you believe these “lies”, Douglas?

    I just turned a teen when my brother heard Herbert Armstrong on “The World Tomorrow” on radio. He was 7 years older than I was and I spent a lot of time with him. He believed on the Radio Church of God and I trusted his judgment. As a young teen without experience I had no experience with con men. Over the decades that has changed significantly as I learned about narcissists, psychopaths, nutjobs and finally sociopaths (which was the most difficult concept for me).

    My background is also in technology and in business where I was both involved in Information Technology and was a manager in various companies, the largest of which was Weyerhaeuser.

    With that background, I see the con man experience in a continuum without boundaries between and among religions, government, academia and the corporate world: The basic foundation is the same as nearly as I can see. The kinds of things I’ve experience out of Pasadena were the same or very close to Federal Way.

    The best resource of understanding the “Corporate environment” which is what we are really talking about, is “Moral Mazes” by Robert Jackall, who addresses, through his study, just how supposedly “good” and “moral” people end up like how we’ve seen WCG / CGI ministers. The so-called “morals” of the Corporation are adopted and what is right and moral is what “the guy above you wants from you”. Actually, it’s worse than that: It’s what the environment demands of you.

    The same pressures to conform have been experienced in the past. We can recount (ugh! gasp! Here it comes!) Hitler (so sorry) as the extreme example. Dr. Philip Zimbardo should have known better. His experiment failed in what he set out to do and succeeded in exposing the nasty side of the human condition.

    So sure, some of the ministers were “nice”, though maybe deluded. If the minister here had remained, I might actually still be in United. Fortunately, we had a psychopath come through and we were off and running. And even though some of the ministers may not have been extreme, such as the minister here who had an actual certification in counseling — a rarity among the WCG types — the problem remains (as those who have researched the Nuremburg Trials): Everyone was corrupted by the system which was set up by men with power but who had no integrity. Pretty much all those who had “positions” of “authority” were culpable, sort of like all those Harvard MBAs that worked for Enron. I note with interest that the “best” of the ministers were from rural areas and it looks like to me the “worst” were from larger population groups, Chicago being the most notable.

    What is so aggravating is that without fail in every case I’ve encountered personally, when I demonstrate the fact that the minister (such as Robert Thiel) is factually and scientifically in error, not one of them changes their position. I suspect it is for the same reason that those in “Moral Mazes” don’t: They are caught up in the system and, well, there’s all that money, power and narcissism contrasted with the threat that if they don’t go along with some of the most corrupt policies in their venue, they have so very much to lose. As I pointed out in News Flash: Herbert Armstrong is Dead!, or at least attempted to, motivations are often obfuscated by self-interest so the person making the decisions doesn’t even realize just how corrupt they may be. I hardly believe that sincere intentions will undo any of the damage.

    There’s another problem with the ministry: It is supposed to be, by Biblical standards, their job to know what is right and wrong. Just because they are sincerely wrong doesn’t excuse their incompetence: If they are responsible for death, it’s the subtle difference between Murder One or manslaughter — the person they killed is dead all the same.

    For example, the minister who was called by my brother who had a massive blood clot which killed him, was told to go to emergency. No attempt was made to help my brother who was in extreme distress. Anointing was not even mentioned. In fact, the ministers had a guide sent from Pasadena for the purpose of plausible deniability to follow in such cases. The Corporation’s position was that the minister was not to get involved to protect the soulless corporation, denying the normal course of what a normal caring responsible citizen would do to help someone in need: Protect the Corporation at all costs, even if it means that others must die. Certainly the principles of “The Management Trap” by Dr. Chris Argyris apply: 1) Lie, 2) Cover up the lie, 3) Cover up the cover up, 4) Make the whole thing undiscussible.

    Now as for human logic… where to begin? The problem with logic is that those skilled in it can build quite a complex interdependent consistent superstructure which is internally unassailable. One could argue (unsuccessfully, for the reasons that follow) that Herbert Armstrong did that with his cult religion. He had worked out, in his addled little mind, all the arguments and had supporting documentation to go along with his premise. There was one tiny little flaw: When matched with history, linguistics and science, particularly the science of DNA, the whole thing crumbles. Science uses logic, but includes experiments to test the logic. If one is of the opinion that all the problems can be sussed out through logic alone, they will fail once science peer review and experimentation kick in. Note Dr. Zimbardo, for example.

    Sure, some of the ministers may have been innocent at one time… maybe… through their carless incompetence, but that time is long past: I mean, come on, Ronald Weinland is convicted of tax fraud, for heaven’s sake. Robert Thiel has seen Banned! The folks at United have read what I’ve written, but still offer “The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy”. I gave a personally signed copy of my book “Assertive Incompetence” to Dennis Luker. You think he doesn’t know? Think again.

    Now as to the viability of Joseph Tkach, Senior, let me just say, I had one run in with him. He was nasty and vile. He engineered the pain and suffering that led to the mess of GCI and the implosion / explosion of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong. Near as I can tell from the evidence, he lied about everything, pretty much. His temper was legendary. He was not the kind of person you would think of as a church leader, let alone a Christian. His son has proved little better. I’ve had contact with these folks too and at best they are really quite delusional.

    Now I have a son with schizoaffective disorder. My experience is that people can make up stuff in their head with delusions and make them all sound so very sensible, but, in the end, it’s all crap. For the sake of what’s left of my own sanity, I tend to avoid such people — which includes all of those currently in any of the WCG / GCI spit offs, because I know from experience (and long showers afterward) these people aren’t very good for me. The same could be said for the people I used to work for who violated the law in their own self-interest.

    I can certainly understand your objections, but take your pick: Nasty deliberate crooks or merely delusional dysfunctional incompetents?

    Near as I can tell, that’s not much of a selection.

    I don’t believe the lies any more and here’s hoping you can understand my short flashes of anger involving those who attempt to excuse and protect the liars rather than to expose them.

    One final thought: After Robert Thiel, I’m about ready to throw in the towel and totally walk away from anything Armstrongist. I don’t see that he has much excuse. It’s exasperating that people like that absolutely will not change in the light that they are shown to be completely irresponsibly wrong. It is also frustrating to follow the PKG — it’s clear that there isn’t anything short of a severe deeply felt personal loss that can ever get them to leave. Logic won’t do it. Science won’t do it. Facts won’t do it. It is a triumph of emotion over objectivity: They would rather follow a man than be reasonable. I’m fed up with the whole lot.

    While it is true that logic (and maybe science is a better tool), history, linguistics etc may influence a few to leave, unless we can move the bulk of the people to feel their personal loss, they will remain with their ill advised investment.

    • Mikey,

      Thanks for baring your soul here. Really. I know how painful that is, and yet it is the path to healing.

      I’m familiar with “Moral Mazes” from my time at Deloitte Consulting. In fact, I think you will find much that you agree with in the sequel to “The People of the Sign” – “The Hardness of the Heart” which details my travels through the splinters, while building a career in the business consulting and technology world, drawing exactly the parallels between them, which you outline above.

      So, not so surprisingly, you and I seem to have more in common than one would have thought.

      Where we differ, is your spin towards extremely negative and pessimistic judgments of others. The distinction between murder 1 and manslaughter may not make a difference to the dead person, but it is like the grand canyon of difference for the living. Both the perpetrator, and those who will ultimately need to forgive the perpetrator, for their own mental health.

      The reason my spin is towards the rose-colored-polyanna glasses side of things, is that it is, ultimately, healthier for me. That is not to say that I continue to be gullible, it is that I dig deep, very deep, my friend, deeper than you can imagine, to actually get and assess the facts. And it is a conscious choice to adopt a positive view of them.

      I think you’ll find, as science and physics continues to press upon the fulcrum between matter and spirit, that it will become a scientifically verifiable fact, that the “glass-half-full” folks are better off, by that proverbial grand canyon of difference.

      One more point.

      Again, I appreciate your post above, I enjoyed reading it, and I got a lot out of it. So let me leave you with one of my favorite lyrics, from one of my favorite bands – The Talking Heads. At the time it came out I was 19 – and as I was busting out of a looming addition to Alcohol and Drugs, while in the WCG, I imagined that this was a discussion on the mental state of Demons. Today I realize it applies to humans – pretty much across the board.

      I would have used it in “The People of the Sign”, had I been granted permission.

      You’ll see how it ties in with some of your conclusions.

      Songwriters: BYRNE, DAVID / HARRISON, JERRY
      Time won’t change you
      Money won’t change you
      I haven’t got the faintest idea
      Everything seems to be up in the air at this time

      I need something you change your mind

      Drugs won’t change you
      Religion won’t change you

      Science won’t change you
      Looks like I can’t change you
      I try to talk to you, to make things clear
      But you’re not even listening to me…
      And it comes directly from my heart to you…

      I need something to change your mind.

    • You missed my point. I’m not prescribing a strategy for influencing the sheep. I’m describing their culpability. Each of us is responsible for what we believe. Continuing this blame game won’t change that. If you don’t learn how to think critically, you won’t know how to think critically. Pretty simple. If you don’t learn the value of skepticism, you won’t know the value of skepticism. If you don’t know the value of skepticism and if you can’t think critically, you will continue to be duped by bullshit. Bullshit like Zombardo’s, for example. Keep blaming the ministers, and there will still be ministers, because the sheep among us will not have changed their behavior. Thinking that passing the buck was all that was required of them, they will continue to demand bullshit–and there will always crop up a supplier to fulfill the demand. The sin of the ministry is not corruption, insanity or abuse. The sin of the ministry is the sin of the sheep: growing the economy of bullshit. And ultimately it is not the ministers, but the sheep, with their demand for bullshit, who make the cults possible. They are the culpable party.

  6. And if we all like sheep have been led astray, then so too have the shepherds, for they themselves have been drawn from the flock.

    This is like saying Hitler was the bad guy manipulating his generals, the SS, and were just following orders as deceived hirelings.

    • Kevin, your statement is syntactically challenged and semantically incoherent. But I’ll take a shot at elucidating your meaning. You’re trying to say that my statement of fact (the ministers were drawn from the membership, and therefore they were deluded from the beginning) is like saying that Nazi SS officers and generals were deluded from the beginning. Yes! Precisely. That is just like what I am saying.

      But you need to take the analogy further to include the sheep of the Nazi cult–the German electorate who put Hitler and his party into power. Where would Hitler be without them? They fell for the Nazi delusion, slurped up the propaganda like so much bullshit, and became true believers. Apart from some courageous dissidents, the German people supported the so-called “Third Reich” with consummate passion! And they must, did, and do shoulder the blame for their part in this historic atrocity. They vaulted a destructive cult into power.

      The sheep of Armstrongism are to blame in exactly the same way, but they do not wish to be held accountable for their sin. I contend that they (we) should be. We should bear our guilt and learn from it to be more responsible in the future, instead of passing the buck and therefore learning nothing and changing nothing.

  7. Kevin, your statement is syntactically challenged and semantically incoherent.

    Fuck you for that. Snot nose kid.

    The German people didn’t know what they were getting by voting for Hitler. When they did there was little to nothing they could do. Because

    they didn’t rise up and protest does make them partially responsible for the holocaust. But without guns how were they to rebel? In the end it

    came down to their lives or those in the camps. This is a much different situation than some religious cult. I left the wcg when I figured out the

    scam and took others with me. It was the best I could do to make up for supporting the cult.

    As to the ministers, they knew the injustices taking place and participated in them. It was about the almighty paycheck and power over peoples lives.

    You write some interesting articles Casey, but your an arrogant ass the way you speak to people. Try modifying you attitude and I might start to post more.

    • “Fuck you for that. Snot nose kid.”

      Fuck you, too.

      “The German people didn’t know what they were getting by voting for Hitler.”

      Even if this were true, it doesn’t account for much. Most people don’t know what they’re getting when they go for the easy answer. Doesn’t make their irresponsibility any less blameworthy. But in actual fact, Germany was pervaded with anti-Semitism at the time, the Nazi party (which was the party with the most public support, mind you) was characterized by political violence, and the groups that resisted Hitler were unable to garner popular support. To say the German people didn’t know what they were getting by voting for Hitler, you have to ignore all of this.

      “But without guns how were they to rebel?”

      What they fuck are you talking about? The only Germans who weren’t allowed to own guns were Jews.

      “This is a much different situation than some religious cult.”

      It was your metaphor, dimwit.

      “It was the best I could do to make up for supporting the cult.”

      I’m sure it was the best you could do. Some of us, though, are capable of doing more. That’s why this website exists. Maybe you could be more supportive, instead of being a dick. The point of my arguments here is to get people like you to understand that blaming the ministry for our failure to think critically is not a solution to the problem of cults.

      “As to the ministers, they knew the injustices taking place and participated in them. It was about the almighty paycheck and power over peoples lives.”

      You’re a myopic fool. You don’t have the self-awareness to realize what you don’t know. But to me your ignorance looms large. You speak of “the ministers” as though they are a monolithic entity instead of a category of individuals. Here is what you don’t know. You don’t know each and every minister of every CoG personally. You don’t know what each one went through intellectually and emotionally. You don’t know each one’s motivations. You don’t know what kind of resistance they themselves have waged against whatever corruption they may have come into contact with. You don’t know you are better than any of them. You don’t know…much of anything that would qualify you to pass the judgment you have. But here’s what you do know–and what I know too. You know you allowed yourself to be fooled by a delusion. That’s your fault, and yours alone. And here’s what I know corollary to that. Your willingness to believe easy answers that lend themselves well to self-aggrandizement put you in the position of supporting a cult, and of helping to spread your delusion to others. That, too, is your fault. What do you think you should do to avoid making similar mistakes in the future? Answering that question is what we’re about here.

      “You write some interesting articles Casey”

      You’re damn right I do. And so do my distinguished colleagues, all of whom are volunteers and are not paid for their excellent work.

      “but your an arrogant ass the way you speak to people. Try modifying you attitude and I might start to post more.”

      Try practicing what you preach. In the meantime, know that I don’t give a damn how often you post. As far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to keep reading and taking advantage of our services free of charge without engaging in any presumptuous admonishments.

  8. I have ordered the book. Here are my thoughts about Armstrongism and religion in general. I was never a part of a COG but I believe it caused some harm to members of my family. Anxiety (aka fear) motivates much of human behavior. Unlike other animals, we humans can contemplate our death and other dreadful future possibilities). Humans turn to several things to assuage their anxiety and give themselves temporary peace of mind. (Drugs, alcohol, relationships, sex, power, amusements, riches, other distractions all give temporary relief.) Religion and the promise of eternal life in a wonderful place with lost loved ones and a powerful Father Figure (Big Daddy in the Sky) is perhaps the most powerful drug of all to relieve that darned fear. The COG’s have thrived on and stoked up that anxiety for about 80 years now. They aren’t the only ones of, of course, but they had it down to a science for a long, long time. They seem to be crumbling but how many more generations can they damage people before they die out? I also agree that the leaders probably started out with the best of intentions but the rigidity of the COG belief systems and authority structure caused them to do “whatever was necessary” to maintain control and ensure their own survival. And, yes absolutely, secular organizations do exactly the same things at times. I worked for one for awhile—-a sick system.
    G.g.

  9. In reading this site and the comments above, I am struck by three points. First, criticizing the beliefs of the Church of God (which you label as Armstrongism) by attacking Gerald Flurry is akin to declaring democracy to be illegitimate based upon Zimbabwe’s recent presidential election. Mr. Mugabe’s regime doesn’t represent true democracy and neither does Mr. Flurry stand as an example of the Church of God; despite the fact that both claim to do so.

    Which leads to the second point: why were you there? The PCG represents one of the smallest groups in numbers which means that thousands of Church of God members (former WCGers and otherwise) have looked at the antics of Mr. Flurry and his son and even examined the so-called Malachi’s Message and found them to be utterly false (based purely on the Bible by the way). For the majority of us, this was enough to avoid the silliness of that group and its self-appointed leader. Why is it that you couldn’t see that?

    If you want to declare Mr. Flurry to be a nut bar, go right ahead. But the Bible, and frankly the doctrines taught to the Church by Mr. Armstrong, provided the vast majority of us in the Church with the tools necessary to dissect and disqualify the self proclaimed prophet years ago. Perhaps the fact that you fell victim to this man’s nuttiness speaks more to your understanding then anything else.

    Which I guess lead’s to point number three. If you didn’t understand the doctrines of the Church, how qualified are you to critique them?

    • N/A, it appears you felt you were on a roll and got a little overconfident. You know what they say comes before a fall. All three of your points are obviously predicated on a failure on your part to read much of anything here. But I’ll address them each in more detail.

      First, we are not criticizing Armstrongism merely by attacking PCG’s version. If you’d done some more careful perusing of the site, you’d have come across several instances of our having made some pretty compelling distinctions between Armstrongism Classic and Flurryism, so to speak. Besides this, I don’t know how you’ve missed our epic takedowns of everything from British-Israelism to Gap Creationism, all essential doctrines of Armstrongism taught assiduously by the old man himself–and all delusional nonsense. We have provided many basic and popularly understood avenues for navigating through this site’s articles and essays: it’s incredible to me that you don’t seem to have the wherewithal to utilize them.

      Why were we there? Simple. All of the editors of Armstrong Delusion were raised in the CoG, either initially in WCG (as in my case, for example) or otherwise. You ask why we couldn’t see through the silliness of Flurry (hint: we were indoctrinated from a young age). I ask you why you couldn’t see through the silliness of your fatuous guru, Herbert Armstrong, and the idiotic folderol he preached.

      As for your third “point”, I’d challenge you to an Armstrong-off any day of the week–including the Sabbath.

      Now, get reading, brave anonymous soul. I’d love to hear how you careen and sputter in an attempt to defend True Armstrongism from the thorough (yet loving) beatings it has already received here. 🙂

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