I’m going to throw my two cents in at this point, if I may, even if it only bears indirectly on the subject at hand. If I seem condescending, please believe it’s not intentional. But there seems to be so much bitterness in the minds and hearts of those who did things because “Mr. Armstrong said so” that this old boy can’t keep quiet any longer. So out of concern for the many who live with deep resentment for doing things “because Mr. Armstrong said so,” here goes. I hope this will help reverse at least part of the ongoing tragedy of bitterness toward Armstrong.
For most, what I’m about to say is obvious. I’m not speaking to you; you already know these things. But there are those who are still shackled with bitterness and resentment over things they think they can’t change. This is addressed to them.
For those who let Armstrong’s teachings undo happy marriages or preclude seeking medical help for life-threatening health needs, the wrongs are too great to forgive in the sense of absolving him of all responsibility. The only forgiveness in those cases is the type, expressed in Hebrew but not in translation, that puts grievous wrongs on the back burner, to be resolved later. One will have to wait for the next life to heal those wounds. Armstrong has a lot of soul-searching ahead of him, and a whole lot of profound repenting and apologizing to those he severely wronged through his personal misunderstanding and pride. No doubt about it.
But still, everyone who did things “because Mr. Armstrong said so” made a huge mistake, particularly in a free country. Letting anyone else make one’s own decisions, when one possesses the capacity to think on one’s own, is running full-speed away from life itself — because despite all of those we blame, the decisions we make are still our own, and we must accept some of that responsibility. We are free people in a free country, and if we have allowed ourselves to be coerced, we’d best never let it happen again.
In America one does things because one examines the facts personally and decides accordingly. When facts change, one adjusts. Anyone who throws his or her life onto the teachings of spiritual tyrants (you fill in the blanks) is inadvertently begging for disaster. Attachments like these thwart the benevolence of God.
One cannot please God fully until he or she imbibes the attitude expressed so eloquently by Thomas Jefferson when he said: “I have sworn on the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” One cannot really take God’s side without that attitude.
Not even God could lead Israel to conquer Canaan with a slave mentality — because God doesn’t force people; He works through free men and women. For the conquest of Canaan (by then a collection of irreversibly perverse societies) God needed the minds and hearts of a people steeped in freedom — and that took 40 years of training, without distractions, vis-a-vie the leadership of God and Moses. Their freedom required a whole generation of study and application to cultivate the strength of mind necessary to conquer. Ex-Armstrongites could use some of that.
Herbert Armstrong allowed himself the perks of tyranny after some of his students convinced him that God’s government is exclusively “top-down.” Of course that kind of government is wrong. The relationship between God and Israel was and is one of covenant, an agreement between individuals requiring a measure of equality and de-centralized autonomy. One doesn’t cut deals with nincompoops, particularly when One is God.
Full individual potential cannot grow properly under tyranny. Tyranny is Satanic, if I may use so strong an adjective. And although Armstrong had no intention of exercising tyranny, he had been convinced that a tyrannical form of government was Godly. Hence, those who were close to him were far better treated than those who had to endure his much-smaller-minded underlings. The form itself gave twerps command when they would have done far better with mops and scrub brushes.
God is interested in developing free individuals who can form and shape their own lives, make their own decisions, learn from mistakes, and become all that a human being can be. That will never happen under the strait-jacketed aristocracies of dictators, benevolent or otherwise.
Apart from some wrong doctrines and applying an heretical form of the “divine right of kings,” Armstrong proffered one helluva lot of good stuff: a taste for abundance and high quality living, a brilliant outline for success based on both study and experience, and most of all, a vast Biblical knowledge, whether or not it was in-depth.
Today many of his former students are able to move into widely diverse areas of Biblical interpretation, from Roman Catholicism to Evangelical Christianity, from Orthodox Judaism to hundreds of knockoff versions of Armstrongism. I have to marvel at the degree to which free-thinkers have progressed from positions they had taken earlier in their Churches of God and Ambassador Colleges. Some will say it’s not all progress; I say, “True enough, but in the long haul it’s all quite harmless.” We cannot hurt this planet permanently; and before God or Messiah can teach us the truest ideals, we need to exercise our freedom to choose life or death, blessing or curse as we understand the choices should be made. It could be well be argued that we have that responsibility.
Armstrong should be praised, not blamed, for a great deal of what he offered. Yes, part of his spiritual palette was unconscionable. That should be obvious to all who have known or studied his teachings. But in this great and free country, everyone has always been at least theoretically free to choose his or her own path.
Today, those who have chosen to observe Biblical Holydays and the weekly Sabbath, at least in my opinion, have chosen a very good thing indeed. Why they have so chosen, I hope and pray, has been a matter of personal choice, about which they are personally convinced, their decisions being their own, and in no way based on “because Mr. Armstrong said so.” For those who have chosen otherwise, who have moved over into more conventional forms of Christianity, it must not be forgotten that Christians built this country. Ben Franklin and some few others were Deists, and very good ones, but in the main this great country is the product of mainstream Christians — and one dares not overlook George Washington’s deep involvement, not only in church life but also in Freemasonry. How about that! How many of us are as recognized for our greatness and contributions to America as George Washington?
Freedom, dear reader. Freedom. Don’t let it slip from those beautiful fingers of yours. They’re made to hold fast that which is good. Don’t betray your lives to anyone else’s opinions, including those of Herbert Armstrong, unless you are convinced on your own. Be humble enough to learn from everyone, and remember, “One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
JDSchroeder, commenting on Gavin Rumney’s Ambassador Watch blog in a bold patriotic way that there is a life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness after Armstrongism. More importantly, an awareness of freedom of choice and personal responsibility that needs to be vigilantly protected.
Edior’s note: Hey JDS, are you related to John Ross Schroeder??? I hope we’ll also hear from you again pretty soon!!!