Thursday, June 23, 2005

Robert Brinsmead, Barefoot Bushman and a Church Picnic

Australia is a beautiful country. It's a contrast of tropical coastlines and hot dry desert. I hope to travel there someday to view first-hand its natural beauty. There are two Australians I would visit if I had the chance. The first owns a crocodile farm and I watch him frequently on television--The Barefoot Bushman. He's just plain cool, and it would be a great time just to follow him around for a day. The second played a large part in helping me think straight after many years of Armstrongism, his name is Robert Brinsmead.

Some reading this blog may know a bit about Robert Brinsmead. He was a Seventh Day Adventist minister, and a scholar of sorts. He made several religious transitions in his life, and published important articles on Christianity, the sabbath, and the historical Jesus. I believe that he transitioned to another world view since those articles were published in Verdict, but the material in those writings challenges the reader to think differently about Christianity. His writings are particularly relevant to Armstrongites given the historical relationship between the Chuch of God and the Seventh Day Adventist movement. Do a search on Gilbert Cranmer, William Miller and 1844, the "Great Disappointment" if you would like more information.

During the summer of 2001 I attended a local PCG church picnic. It was OK as far as picnics go, lots of food and a few interesting things to do. One of the activities was a softball game. I have played a lot of softball in my previous life as a non-cogger and I have always enjoyed the sport. This day, I thought, would be a great chance to play with my new found friends and share some laughs and a little exercise. Well it didn't quite work out that way. I had never played with a group of such bickering, whiny crybabies in my whole life! They complained about the teams they were on, they complained about the rulings of the umpire, they heckled each other on the field. I was shocked, expecting well-behaved, sportsperson-like behaviour and getting the opposite. I never forgot that moment and I think it served to drive a wedge between the PCG's false front and the real deal.

I couldn't resolve how people with the "Holy Spirit" would behave way worse than someone who didn't. It just didn't make sense. That's when things started to turn around and I began reading "outside" material and checking the facts more thoroughly. The PCG would claim that Satan got to me. I reviewed Church History, British Israelism (at the time there was new DNA-based evidence to the contrary), and finally Herbert Armstrong's sordid personal behaviour along with Garner Ted's history of debauchery. These men lived like millionaires on the tithes of others, some who lived in abject poverty and persecution. It never did make sense, and I was finally admitting it to myself. I was sorry for the things I inflicted on my family and friends in the name of this religion. Unfortunately, we can't relive history.

I did not go back. It was difficult for many months, internally rehashing the threats of eternal death and disgrace. Some things were actually true: was Satan really getting the best of me? Time passed and for once in a long while I felt truly free, like a great burden had been removed from my life. I had made the right choice.

Thanks Mr. Brinsmead for giving me the courage to question.


Monday, June 13, 2005

The Branch

Somewhere in the long list of appropriated titles for Gerry the Rockin' Prophet must be The Branch. For he has certainly crawled out onto a limb, and the axe is being sharpened.

Ambassador Watch noted an ESN article ( discussing a recent sermon tirade by Flurry. Those of us who are familiar with the PCG know that Gerry and company are defenders of God's Truth against a really, really mad Satan. According to Flurry, Satan knows his time is short and he is really irate. He is furious mainly with God's church, the WCG and its offshoots of course, and secondarily with Israel (primarily the US and British Commonwealth nations, and the remaining modern 12 tribes). So Satan is inspiring his church, the Catholic Church, and his own commonwealth, the EU, to smash Israel and persecute the Church of God.

Flurry is a prophet sent by God Himself to warn physical and spiritual Israel. His supporters are guaranteed a place of safety in Petra while the world fights a deadly nuclear war followed by Christ's return. Flurry contends that the PCG's work will lead a Great Multitude to repentance. Flurry also claims that his followers will be leaders and teachers in the World Tomorrow, and be universe rulers after the Millennium. Pretty good reward for a little misery in this current life.

And believe me, Flurry's Church is miserable. I spent some time there and only met one person that I would call happy with his spiritual surroundings. I would also call him dangerously delusional. And annoying.

Flurry teaches that the only way God can reach a stubborn humanity is to allow it to progress to the brink of destruction, and then intervene with force and capital punishment. Peace will flow from death and martial law. The lion will lay down with the lamb, unless there is a law against inter-species fraternization. If so, they will be barbequed and served at the Feast. He also preaches racial segregation for the good of humanity.

I have to admit that if an angry super-being appeared near me and started melting fellow humans I would take notice. I wouldn't offer any back-talk. But can't a reasonable person ask: "Why would an all-powerful, all-wise and loving being do this to his children?" This description seems more like Sauron (Lord of the Rings) or The Emperor, Dark Lord of the Sith (Star Wars) than an all-knowing, all-loving God of mercy and charity. "Gee Fred, I know you kept all of the other 9 commandments, but you were working down at the nursing home on Saturday's when you should have been listening to ol' Gerry over there." ZZZAP! Try the second resurrection I guess.

We will never really know whether Gerry takes all of this seriously or not. Some people get in so deep that they start believing their own tall tales after a while. They also motivate others to do the same. But with Gerry the branch keeps growing and growing, and so does his anger. Anger at a world that just won't listen to him and makes him feel unimportant. I believe that he really does want God to punish this evil world because it has inflicted so much pain in his life. He was an outcast suffering from the pain of having an alcoholic father. Herbert Armstrong provided an opportunity for Gerry to be someone. Someone with admirers and respect. We see that taking on new proportions: minister, pastor general, That Prophet, King, Future Ruler of the Universe and member of the God family.

Have pity on this man, but don't give him power over your life.