Monday, July 25, 2005

The Low Down on Flurry Town: PCG 101

This is in part an answer to the person who posted a response to one of my rantings on That Prophet, Gerald Flurry. It is also an attempt to summarize just what family members and friends often struggle with when dealing with a loved one who becomes ensnared in such a group.

So much of what is written and discussed about Coggish groups becomes a mixture of opinion, fact and emotion. Generally speaking, whenever religion is brought into a conversation fireworks are soon to follow. Especially when one person feels that they know what God wants. People seem to have a bad habit of focusing on the minor points and clinging to them with all their might e.g. circumcision, dress length, and hairstyle meanwhile losing track of the big picture.

They forget to ask themselves the question, "If the God I believe in exists, what is he really interested in accomplishing here? What is the vision that He is working towards?" In my view human relationships are important, as well as the one we have with our natural environment. We cannot cast a blind eye to suffering and misery the world over and pretend to be doing "God's Work". Nor can we destroy the earth, and pretend that everything will be fixed at a later time by an invisible God with a magic sweep of His hand. That is irresponsible thinking.

Gerald Flurry is an ex-minister of the Worldwide Church of God. He was and is an ardent follower of Herbert W. Armstrong. There are many web sites exposing the details of Armstrong's ministry such as Ambassador Watch (ambassadorwatch.co.nz) and the Painful Truth (www.herbertwarmstrong.com). In essence Armstrong turned to religion in the early part of the twentieth century after many unsuccessful business careers. Unfortunately, we will never know how much he personally believed in the things he taught or whether his teachings were just a part of the overall marketing plan. Of course once the idea took off he had to keep going, and maybe did eventually start to believe himself.

Armstrong's church was initially called the Radio Church of God and he started a radio program in the 1930's. Armstrong's beliefs were tied closely to the Church of God 7th Day (hope I am not getting my flavours mixed here). He was accused at times of borrowing from other groups, and in particular of plagiarizing books like United States and Britain in Prophecy (from a similar work by J. Allen, Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright).

Much can be written about Herbert W Armstrong. I think some background is important in understanding Gerald Flurry and where he is headed in the future. I will leave out the details of Armstrong's personal life, as juicy as they are, and focus more on the brand of religion he sold.

Armstrong started preaching on air during wartime (WWII), and his message involved the impending return of Christ to the earth. [This didn't happen in case you are wondering] He continued with his message apparently unshaken with his lack of prophetic accuracy. His church taught against all things having a "pagan" origin: birthdays, Christmas--well pretty much every major Western holiday. He worked to establish a college in Pasedena California and cranked out ministers and trained followers to teach the corporate line and keep the lay members under control. His message was always one of urgency, Christ was always just over the horizon. The Church must prepare the world by announcing His arrival. And that needed money, lots of it, up to three tithes. That's right, up to 30% of your gross salary. In Canada where we can pay on average 30% just to the government, there's not a lot left over. Continual requests for special donations to the building fund or the jet fund or the hot tub fund or whatever was on Herb's mind at the moment were frequent.

There was another attempt at a second coming in 1972. That was a bad decade in general with Armstrong's heir Garner Ted Armstrong being sacked and disfellowshipped for being a sexual predator and bad for the corporate image.

Armstrong died in 1986 at the age of 93. His empire collapsed, and exploded as ministers fought for power and broke away to start groups of their own. That's where Gerald Flurry enters the picture.

Gerry views Armstrong as a father figure. Most likely because his own father was an alcoholic. Too bad he didn't have a better role model, this could have saved others a lot of problems. He holds Armstrong's writings as near scripture, calling the book Mystery of the Ages, "The most important book since the Bible". He has waged court battles to gain publishing rights, and lost. The Philadelphia Church of God ended up paying 3 million dollars to the Worldwide Church of God to gain the publishing rights. But these guys are spinmeisters, they turned a legal defeat into a great victory for God. I can just hear them saying something like, "God has provided a great victory, and has opened a window of opportunity for us to get MOA to the whole world."

The PCG holds to most of Armstrong's teachings and has added some "new truth" of its own. New truth is a code phrase for, "we're adding something new because the old thing didn't really make sense." No worldly holidays, Sabbath observance, following the Old Testament food laws, observance of the Old Testament Holy Days and tithing are standard operating procedure.

Flurry has a catalog of his own writings and publishes a magazine called the Philadelphia Trumpet. He also has a television program called The Key of David. There are a few internal publications for members only--the general public would view these as completely strange and not understand the many references and code words that are found. Flurry's key document is called Malachai's Message and he considers this to be the Little Book of Revelation, delivered to him by an angel directly from God. There is some evidence that it may have been delivered by the US Postal Service. Some allege that the book was plagiarized from writings by Jules Dervaes.

Flurry believed his initial message was to warn the Church (Worldwide Church of God)for straying from the teachings of Armstrong. He read a little further into his Bible, and found that his mission changed to warning the world, and Israel. Israel is another code word for the United States and Britain and several other western nations. This is all based on the group's belief in British Irsaelism. So Flurry's new mantra is that of a warning and watching work. He is watching the Germans (and the European Union) for us (considers himself like Winston Churchill), and warning us that the end is nigh. Flurry also considers himself a Prophet--That Prophet--most consider that a reference to Christ in the Old Testament.

Gerry has settled into his Edmund, Oklahoma campus, trying to rebuild what Herbert Armstrong once had in Pasedena. I read in his literature that he pegs 2010 as being a good time for the Great Tribulation to start. The Great Tribulation is the time of worldwide war and natural calamity just before Christ's return. Memebers in good standing will be shuttled off to Petra at that time. Petra is an ancient rock fortress in Jordan, mentioned (somewhat vaguely) in the Bible as a place of safety. The reference some believe is in a prophetic section of scripture that refers to the second coming and time of trouble for Israel. Flurry also predicts persecution by the state before that event (that's the worrysome part).

That is a high level view of what the PCG is all about. When you have a family member that becomes entrenched in the teachings of Flurry and his henchmen this obviously sends a shock through your mind. However, the COGs as far as I am aware have never been ones prone to violence (other than a good dose of spanking), and don't seem prone to harming themselves. There is a longstanding tradition of not seeking medical care. This is viewed as a test of faith and members often anguish over the final decision to seek treatment. It should be noted that Armstrong and others made good use of the medical profession while preaching a different message. They stopped publishing this belief after becoming concerned over legal challenges, and now publicly state that these are "matters of conscience".

What's he teaching? Flurry is teaching his followers that God has called them to be future leaders and teachers in God's Government. Once they are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit, to reject that calling (code words: "fall away", "return to the world", "become Laodicean")is to put your eternal life at stake. Those are the key hooks. For others there is the added social element or some psychological need for "living, loving, learning, leaving a legacy" at play. But I am not a professional so please consult one if you need medical help. Flurry really pushes the God the Father line, and to leave the church is both rejecting your Father and losing your eternal life. Those are high stakes for someone who is not highly motivated to leave.

Isolation is a key factor in breaking the group's hold. To counteract the actions of the PCG, someone needs to introduce alternate behaviour and get the person away from the group. In essence, re-programming, but I really don't like that word. Everything the member is being taught fights against that, for example,

-Satan is against all of us, he wants to destroy you, he will use family or friends to get to you (again eternal life is at stake here); Isolate, induce fear
-you need to study hard, attend services, do not attend family birthdays, holidays, etc.; Isolate, indoctrinate, modify behaviour

Personally things got to the point where my view of the world moved past that of the COGs in general. Reality didn't match what they were teaching, so I started to read outside the approved material. My personal relationships were straining at the seams, my family relationships had declined, my work life was impacted, and I needed to change. Everyone does not follow the same "exit strategy".

My recommendations cannot be specific enough to help in every case. I will say to keep the lines of communication open. Anger and ridicule only further the case for isolation. Rarely do individuals leave their existing community, Flurry does not require them to live on a compound. Discuss beliefs openly and educate yourself, so that you can challenge the group's ideas without getting lost in a maze of proof texts and memorized "facts" about the Bible. Keep it human, don't focus on the idealistic. I think I would be more aggressive if children were involved. They are losing years that time cannot replace.

So that's Flurry 101. Perhaps I will discuss more on doctrine and methods later in Flurry 102. Some searches on Google will no doubt fill in many gaps.

KTHO

4 Comments:

Anonymous Alikospah said...

I dipped a toe in PCG, for about 10 months. Then "That Prophet" was published and I had doubts, big ones. I mentioned my feelings to the deacon's wife, I rode with them to Sabbath meetings. She read the riot act to me, accused me of reading "dissident literature", etc. (How did she think I found PCG?) That was enough for me. No one disfellowshipped or "marked" me, I just quit attending and with great relief. God gave us a brain to use, not to allow it to be brainwashed. Flurry is poison.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Felix Taylor, Jr. said...

Amen alikospah!

I would contend that Armstrongites are very angry people in nature so therefore in a sense they are "mentally" violent as opposed to physically violent (except when one is spanked).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

To get out of Flurry's hold on membership, as well as those of other WCG/HWA-based sub-cults: you really strike at the heart of it all - isolation and an alternative behaviour and lifestyle. But there must still be another element: a jolt to wake up from the deep slumber that cult membership has brought upon the person.

I have been deeply entrenched into this HWA cult's WCG from 1972 until 1994 and continue on first with Meredith's Global, and later on with a small independent home fellowship group somewhere on this planet until 2004.

I was really so turned off during that year's autumn feast when the fellowship leadership tried to take control of my emotional swings even when I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and I was in bad mood.

I have already told them many times that when I am in emotional tantrums, the best way to deal with me is to ignore me. I actually left the fellowship to eat meals alone and refused to join them in their feast activities. But they keep on insisting I join them and commenting on my bad attitude of isolationism. (Can you take that? I was in bad mood, I isolated myself from them so that they needlessly become victim of my bad temper and my irrational perspective . . . and I turn out to be in bad attitude. I can't understand why these cult groups want to control even a person's bad mood. They want you to join their activities even if your bio-chemistry says otherwise. If I am not interested to join anything, since I am a free moral agent, there is no way you can force me to join, no matter how small the fellowship is and they are wanting in manpower.)

That feast was the last time I joined them. I continued on with my isolation. I studied the Bible on my own and discovered many unbiblical teachings of the HWA cult heritage groups.

The last straw was my discovery in the Painful Truth website that Hoeh doctored Church History so that COG groups would feel at par with Catholic Church in tracing their roots to the original Jerusalem church (if ever there was any). This was the biggest fraud the HWA cult group system has ever foisted upon its faithful followers like me. This was the turning point. People remain in that belief system hoping and thinking that a baton of authority was passed into a collective group as the chosen people and to whom Biblical promises were to be fulfilled. I cried to accept the fact that HWA and all of his cohorts are charlatans, and I am a charlatan myself! All these years of remaining faithful in that cult system cannot bring me physical and spiritual deliverance. I was duped!

So I think it takes one big jolt in a person's life to wake up and realize that he is in a cult. But since I was already in isolation, an alternative lifestyle and belief system is already in place.

I am still in the slow road to emotional and spiritual healing and recovery. But being on my own nowadays, without being under slavery of HWA-heritage group, I am thankful to God for liberating me from that cult group and from the cult mentality.

I wouldn't say it was totally wasted years. I learned how to pray, I learned what it means to depend on God for our daily needs ("God will provide ...), I learned concepts of loyalty and perseverance for a cause I think is worth fighting for, etc. I don't want to look back. I don't think I will ever rejoin that small home fellowship. I am very happy I am out of that cult group! Never again!

5:07 PM  

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