All Good Things

Dear readers, it is getting to be about that time. Time for me to bid you a fond farewell, as you read what will be one of my final articles for Delusion. Never the man to let a good opportunity go to waste, I’ve decided to use the announcement of my upcoming retirement from COG blogging as a platform from which to fire a parting literary salvo at one of my favorite Armstrongite ministers. I’ll do this by dissecting an article recently written by that minister – one that ties in nicely with the subject of making an exit.

The man is Stephen Flurry, PCG columnist and talking-head extraordinaire. The article is America’s Decade of Defeat, an otherwise unremarkable op-ed piece, laden with the usual half-truths, quotes taken out of context and the same boring talking points PCG has been regurgitating for years. Nothing new or special by any means but as I said, considering the subject of departure, this article was practically screaming for attention.

This piece is another in a long line of PCG articles focusing on the so-called “decline” of America. In it, Flurry mounts his editorial soapbox to critique US foreign policy, specifically the recent departure of US forces from Iraq. His article is a veritable smorgasbord of depressing terms (Defeat, decline, retreat, etc.), scripture slinging, trumpet-tooting (We told you so!) and the seemingly obligatory Herbert Armstrong quotes. It’s actually pretty remarkable that I was able to keep my eyes open long enough to read it, but I did. Such is my dedication to you, the reader. You’re welcome. ;-)

I’ll start by saying that I know Stephen Flurry to be a pretty smart guy. Saying that, I have a hard time accepting that he believes what he wrote. After reading the article, I also question just how seriously he takes his job. A title like “Executive Editor” carries with it the implication that Stephen is a Journalist of sorts. But with the journalistic integrity he displays here, I find this to be something of a joke. Then again, perhaps he can see the writing on the wall and is simply trying to pad his resume for the eventual day he finds himself seeking employment out in the real world? In any case, let’s begin.

Stephen writes:

“Joe Biden stopped in Baghdad this week to put a positive spin on the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq… But no amount of spin can change the fact that this pullout represents a shameful defeat for America in Iraq and an irreversibly massive setback in the war against terrorism.”

Right away, the games begin. The first trick used, is to call into question the credibility of a high-ranking US official (Joe Biden) by referring to his words as “spin”. Implying that the Vice President is sugar-coating things to make them look better than they are. Flurry uses this keyword twice. He also inserts another that will appear throughout the piece: “defeat”, this time, imbuing it with the power of “shameful”. Having set the proper tone of his article, he starts throwing quotes around:

“It may be some time before the full weight of this defeat is apparent in newspapers or on television,” the Weekly Standard wrote on November 7. “Its effects will be felt increasingly, however, as America’s leaders grapple with a rising and nuclearizing Iran and the reemergence of al Qaeda franchises in the Arab world.

Iran is already crowing over its conquest. Retreat from Iraq is only the beginning of America’s complete withdrawal from the entire region, said Iran’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Ah… The Weekly Standard! That defiantly conservative publication that’s always advertising on Fox News? If I recall, a unabashedly biased bastion of conservative colloquy (Hey, just like Trumpet…) Anyway, I went to their website to verify the quote (forgive my distrust, Stevie) and I noticed something: Standard, like Trumpet, has an agenda to push. How bout that?

Amidst the endless Anti Obama rants and inane babble, can be found a writing team that is seemingly falling over themselves to make the current administration look bad. Not surprisingly, this same publication was practically jumping through hoops to deify the previous President. (This article defending the invasion of Iraq, was particularly desperate passionate.) Oh, did they just quote an Iranian official? Great source! Flurry continues:

The Associated Press reported last month that Iran’s presence in Iraq is already visible. “It’s a natural step, most agree, for the only two Shiite Muslim-led governments in the Sunni-dominated Mideast to expand their relationship.”

The AP then concluded with this statement—one that could easily be mistaken for what the Trumpet has been saying for the past 15 years: “Ironically, it was the U.S. who opened Iraq’s door to Iran by ousting Saddam’s Sunni-dominated regime, allowing Shiite parties with historic ties to Tehran to rise to power.”

America opens the door, Iran waltzes in—and now Iran shows America the door!

Finally, the Associated Press! Now we’re getting somewhere. Unfortunately, he’s quote-mined the hell out of that article. What the readers don’t see are the quotes from many Iraqi citizens vehemently opposed to an Iranian incursion (political or otherwise). I’ll address that “We were right!” assertion in just a moment, but first, allow me to give readers some proper perspective. (From the same article):

Many in Iraq’s Shiite majority (are) wary of infringement of their country’s sovereignty and afraid of being overrun by the Iranian theocracy.

“We hated the Iranians. And there are still bad feelings… The government should not tolerate any Iranian interference, as our anger against them only gets worse when we hear about their deeds,” said Karim, a Shiite.

Experts and diplomats note that Iraq has stood up to Iran in a number of ways, including competition in oil production and crackdowns on militias attacking U.S. forces last summer. Iraq also has adhered to many U.S. and international sanctions against Iran.

Iraq’s Sunnis deeply fear Iranian domination and the potential they will be even further shut out of the political process.

As you can see, the Iraqi people (not just Sunni) have a deep dislike for Iran. The scars of war do not easily fade. How many Iraqi children lost their fathers to Iran in the 80′s? How many wives lost their husbands? How many Iraqi soldiers came back crippled? This sort of thing is not easily forgotten or forgiven and the Iranians know better than to think that it is. Stephen continues:

Ten years ago, President Bush promised to relentlessly march against terrorism “until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.

Sometimes facts are incompatible with your position. One way to get around that little problem is known as moving the goalposts. This quote, intended to establish another “failure” on the part of America, does so by attempting to redefine the concept of victory and showcase what we didn’t accomplish. These tactics reek of desperation.

In actuality, politicians make unrealistic promises all the time; the kind that make for great sound-bytes and help drive up the poll numbers. However, using such sound-bytes as benchmarks to gauge failure, (especially on a national level) is patently absurd.

Two months ago, President Obama was pleading for Nouri al-Maliki to allow a measly 3,000 U.S. troops to remain in Iraq… But the Iraqi prime minister sharply rebuffed the request and instead bowed before intense pressure coming from Tehran and the pro-Iran factions in Iraq.

Wait a second… Wasn’t he just talking about spin? Stephen: Put. The. Irony. Down. Here, he’s engaged in the not-so-fine art of semantics. An objective author may have said “Obama asked“, Stephen instead chose “pleaded”. The same could be said for “measly” and “sharply”. Not only did Al-Maliki not “sharply rebuff” the request, according to the New York Times – Iraq agreed to let us to stay so long as we agreed to abide by their rules. How dare a sovereign country expect that of us? Sharp rebuff! Decline of America! The sky is falling! He was right! The end is nigh! Let’s build… an auditorium? He continues:

American power is now in full-scale retreat.

Oh no he did’ent! Stephens article was published in December of 2011. You know, the same year that the US turned Bin Laden into fish-food. The same year that US drones took out Gaddafi’s convoy in Libya. Or fast-forward to January, when the US decided to send a third Aircraft Carrier to the region. But never mind all that, Stephen says our power is waning. Who are we to argue with him?

America waged war against an elusive battle tactic, rather than confront the real enemy. It turned a blind eye to the “axis of evil” and instead targeted small fries—al Qaeda and affiliates, Saddam, the Taliban, etc.

First of all, I love how Stephen has magically transformed from small-time editor into master military tactician. I also love seeing him opine about the USA ignoring the “Axis of Evil” before going on to whine about… targeting Saddam? Wait a sec… Saddam, the leader of Iraq? I thought Iraq was in the Axis? At this point, the real question we should be asking Stephen is this: If you truly believe that end time events are prophesied to happen a certain way, and if you truly believe that God already has a plan in motion, why even bother to worry about (what you perceive to be) American military blunders in the first place? Continuing:

America’s military strength has been downsized and degraded. A generation ago, Codevilla noted, America’s Navy had 600 combatant ships. Today, it has fewer than half of that… And so the Pentagon mothballs ships, cancels a sophisticated remote-controlled artillery system and stops production on the F-22 fighter-bombers.

A generation ago, America was embroiled in a little something known as the Cold War. The USA had a vastly larger navy then because it had to contend with an equally obese Soviet Navy. Times have changed and the USA has adjusted accordingly. As for the F-22 cancellation? There were good reasons for that, as this article clearly demonstrates. But Stephen seems to be neglecting the fact that the current economic situation is a global affair. Numerous other nations are suffering military cutbacks. France, Italy, and *gasp* even Germany. With few exceptions, it is a safe bet that most militaries around the globe are being forced to make cuts. Are they all suffering “defeat” as well?

“And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them,” God says about our very day in Isaiah 3:4.

Ah yes, let’s look to the pages of the bible for an answer. Surely the prophet Isaiah will have something constructive to add to 21st century foreign policy decisions? While we’re at it, how would King David have handled things? Even better, maybe we could ask King Arthur to chime in. I’m sure Merlin is just full of good advice. Moving along:

Later in that same passage, He blames the leaders primarily for the mess we have gotten ourselves into.

Huh? Say that again? “He blames the leaders… for the mess we have gotten ourselves into?” Well, call me crazy, but when I get myself into a mess, I don’t blame others. But, who can argue with the impeccable logic and rationality of ol’ Yahweh? Flurry continues:

When the economy collapses—and we’re already at the beginning stages of that collapse—food and water will be scarce. Shelves will empty. God, it says, takes it away!

Don’t bother trying to figure out how this pertains to the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. It doesn’t. Let’s just say that even if the economy were to collapse entirely, and even if there were food and water shortages, It’s still quite a stretch to attribute that to the hand of god. More like the god of supply and demand. (Look it up, Stevie.) Continuing:

And notice what else is taken away: “The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.”

Now it seems as though Stephen is trying to shoehorn an entire bronze age passage into his defeat and decline theory. Sigh. For starters, Barack Obama is an incredibly eloquent orator. Where was this scripture 4 years ago when Dubya was giving speeches? Next, the US military industrial complex is well-stocked with cunning artificers, the people behind technology like unmanned predator drones. Those same drones that allow the US to strike their enemies with impunity, wherever they are, all while keeping their honorable soldiers (captains, ironically) out of harms way. Seems rather prudent when you think about it. And as for a shortage of Prophets? Is he kidding? He writes:

For more than two decades now, the Trumpet has been heralding the end of the American empire—and it has all been based on prophecies like this one in Isaiah 3.

They’ve been telling us all along! As did HWA who heralded the end of America decades prior. In fact, wasn’t 1975 In Prophecy also based on prophecies like the one in Isaiah 3? (Odd that PCG would neglect to purchase the rights to that little tome, eh?) And yet, America is still the most powerful nation on earth. Weird how they left that one out.

From the beginning of the war against terrorism, we told you that the United States did not have the “necessary will” to win the war (November 2001). That forecast was based on another prophecy—Leviticus 26:19.

And from the very beginning of my apostasy, I’ve been saying that Gerald Flurry did not have the “necessary will” to wear a pink polka-dotted jacket or clown shoes when taping a Key of David episode. This too was based on prophecy. (See how easy it is to be right?)

We told you early on that as active and aggressive as America would be in the war, in the end, its strength would be spent in vain (Leviticus 26:20). Now, everyone else is writing about it.

Don’t you just hate those Johnny-come-lately types? Always swooping in to steal your thunder? Considering that the only “everyone else” I’ve seen quoted contextually in his article - institutions like Weekly Standard and The Claremont Institute (Codevilla’s conservative think-tank) – are right-leaning organizations who essentialy mirror the PCG politically, I’ll take that with an appropriately large grain of salt.

“Do you think so great a fall could not come to so great powers as Britain and America?” Herbert W. Armstrong asked in The United States and Britain in Prophecy well over a half century ago. Back then, it would have been easy to scoff at the prophecies of God. Not now.

Au contraire, Stevie. It’s still incredibly easy to scoff at the prophets and their prophecies. Not only that, it’s actually a lot of fun!

America is still a superpower. We still possess the most advanced fighting force on the planet. We have a Navy and Air Force unmatched by anyone. With our carrier groups and refueling planes, we can project our power wherever we desire. With our drones, we can use the scalpel when we don’t need a sledgehammer. (Stephen, spare us a scripture quote about relying on horses and chariots…) As far as Iraq went, in a conventional military sense, we showed the true nature of our power. It took our troops less than 3 weeks to fight their way into Baghdad. When we left, we did so at our leisure, in a well-coordinated and executed drawdown. This is nothing like the chaos of a true defeat, such as the Fall of Saigon, but to Stephen, there is seemingly no distinction.

At the end of the day, the bottom line is this: the United States pulling out of Iraq is no more a defeat than my leaving the world of COG-blogging is a defeat. In both instances, we’ve simply moved on to something else. Me to a more interesting realm of blogging. The USA, to the next war on the horizon – which at this point, is looking more and more like Iran. And when that shit hits the fan, it’ll probably be a very, very good thing that we are not still tied down in Baghdad. But try telling that to Stephen Flurry.

Onward…

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38 thoughts on “All Good Things

  1. Its easy to see how the Stevie and his father “six-pack” and the other ilk of COG land put spin on the news. What Stevie forgot to mention is that there ARE thousands of contractors (mercenaries) staying in Iraq on a permanent basis. The removal of all U.S. troops from Iraq was because an agreement was absent to extend to them legal immunity. The U.S. contractors remaining will face their own legal and logistical uncertainty. Contractors have always lacked the criminal immunity from Iraqi laws that the U.S. military had enjoyed.
    So Stevie deceived his readers. Nothing new. We expect that from his ilk.

    “From the beginning of the war against terrorism, we told you that the United States did not have the “necessary will” to win the war (November 2001). That forecast was based on another prophecy—Leviticus 26:19.”
    Bullshit. War is about making money. Stevie and his crusty old fuck of a father just exploit the war as does Blackwater. Purpose? To make money by inducing fear into their sheeple.

    From Wiki about the future of American involvement in Iraq:
    http://tinyurl.com/Stevies-full-of-shit

    Plans for the future

    After the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq the US State Department is reportedly planning to more than double the number of its private security guards, up to as many as 7,000. Defending five fortified compounds across the country, the security contractors would operate radars to warn of enemy rocket attacks, search for roadside bombs, fly reconnaissance drones and even staff quick reaction forces to aid civilians in distress. The State Department plans to acquire 60 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) from the US military to expand its inventory of armored cars to 1,320 and to create a mini-air fleet by buying three planes to add to its lone aircraft. Its helicopter fleet, which will be piloted by contractors, will grow from 17 to 29.

    • James wrote:

      “US State Department is reportedly planning to more than double the number of its private security guards”

      It’s just like Vietnam (which was not an American military loss either) American combat forces pulled out in 1973 but they were replaced by the CIA and civvy contractors (think: Air America) who continued to operate on behalf of the South Vietnamese until the war actually ended in 1975.

      There is a bonus dividend that I forgot to touch upon, which is this: The ranks of the post-Iraq US Military are now filled to the brim with thousands of combat-hardened veterans. Just the people to lead our military into the future.

  2. Jace – I just discovered this site a few days ago and have thoroughly enjoyed the aritlcles and many of the comments. So I was sad to read you are ending your article contributions, but I hope this means you are moving forward to new, greater, better and more exciting things. I thought this article breaking down Stephen Flurry’s ridiculous assertions in his political and military analyses was great. You make great points, and you explain even how his choices in the use of his words creates a bias right off the bat. The average reader doesn’t easily pick up on a lot of that, we run through such an article getting the points but the damage is done because minds get manipulated. Bottom line, spinisters such as Sr and Jr Flurry should be overwhelmingly thankful to live in the greatest nation on earth where the freedom still exists to write such things against that said nation and keep your head. When Gerald Flurry first started his own Branch Flurrian I was getting his magazines and materials, and I read a bit of it. It made me sick, and all I could say at the time is “I hope he is not right.” Since then I’ve had plenty of evidence to convince me he is not, and I’ve had several friends trashed by his organization. Enough said. You know it all way better than I do. I was a little kid in 1975 but I will never forget the terror of those booklets and those drawings. The fact that there are people out there still trying to perpetuate that kind of thing onto people and children makes me feel tossed between crying and vomiting. I was sent notes from a sermon Flurry gave at his summer camp in which he described babies being pitch forked onto pick up trucks by soliders in the coming tribulation. If I had superpowers I would whisk those helpless kids out of that camp and onto a safe planet, far away from such madmen. I know what that kind of thing does to kids, I lived through it myself. If the hand of God was on Gerald Flurry and his types, surely it would be across his mouth.

    I also love your sense of humor, e.g. “let’s build an auditorium…” My best to you in your future endeavors.

    • Thanks Finn, glad you liked it! I still have a handful of articles to finish so I’m not out of the picture just yet.

      “I was sent notes from a sermon Flurry gave at his summer camp in which he described babies being pitch forked onto pick up trucks by soliders in the coming tribulation.”

      I’m pretty sure that sermon was given one of the three years I attended PYC. Such talk was the norm for PCG. I was there from the ages of 7-18, and couldnt begin to tell you how many times I heard about the pleasures of the soon-coming tribulation.

      Ah, memories!

  3. If the hand of God was on Gerald Flurry and his types, surely it would be across his mouth.

    I like that. I’ve never seen it put quite so eloquently.

    • Yes, I am still in UCG. I wasn’t aware of that, and the source hasn’t been cited in the link you posted. I wonder if it was just announced at a congregational level, or where.

      Churches of all kinds seem to attract individuals afflicted with mental illness, plus those just inclined towards conspiracy theories. Unfortunately the reverse also seems to apply – some people with mental illness seem to attract followings.

  4. “Churches of all kinds seem to attract individuals afflicted with mental illness, plus those just inclined towards conspiracy theories”

    Well, I can certainly confirm the latter. I’ve been working on an article about that subject for some time now.

    Based on your professional expertise, would you say that you’ve noticed a larger than “normal” number of mentally ill attending with UCG?

    • This is a hard question to answer for any denomination of the COG’s… if you are perfectly mentally healthy would you even be a part of one of the groups to observe? And if you have been immersed in WW and the later groups all of your life, abnormal has long become the normal. In brief, as I could talk about this for hours, it has been my observation that there are all types of people in the churches, just as you find all types most other places in society… BUT – what is interesting to me is that those who I would consider more healthy than others tend to keep themselves somewhat aloof from the regular crowd at church. It’s similar I think with people of higher than average wealth within the churches. This is not to say that they are not friendly, outgoing, caring and concerned about others, but what I have observed is that they tend to think for themselves within the church structure, and they are there to explore their beliefs and understanding much more than to seek a social outlet or to conform to an organization for a sense of personal affirmation. I’ve observed they generally are not too concerned with what others think of them or their sense of a lack of conformity. People go to a church, any church, for a lot of different reasons, but I think the healthiest people go seeking intelligent discussion and interesting learning experiences. On the far opposite end are the people who are desperate for someone to “take care of their salvation” – wanting someone to tell them what to think, what to do, where to be, how to dress, what kind of car to buy, what color to paint their house, and how they can win (or buy) God’s favor, and how low to bow before the eminent dignitaries of the church. Bowing low allows them to feel a sense of personal humility, which they believe is pleasing to God. What is the most, the very most sad part of this configuration is these people, who are in need of the most help and encouragement, are generally the least to receive anything that will improve their mental state. Instead their fears and insecurities are milked to produce “fruit” for the church. Healthy people do not need this kind of affirmation from anyone or any group, religious or otherwise, and would never seek it out deliberately. I think it is interesting to note that Joel Osteen is the fastest growing and I think I heard the largest single congregation in the United States, if not the world. J Osteen seems like a nice guy, friendly and a good story teller, though he is about as theologically deep as an apple peel. But what Joel is offering to people that the churches have failed utterly to provide is encouragement. The sense of “you can do this, I believe in you, and God’s wants the best for you.” People, especially in the hard-line cults, are not used to hearing that sort of thing. They are used to God always being angry and always broke. WW and her daughters turned into a monster who would be satisfied with nothing less than human sacrifice. Sure, not all at once, but how many people have sacrificed their lives one week, one month, one year at a time until it adds up to a lifetime of giving yourself away, only to end up empty, burned out, disillusioned and abused. The COG’s dismiss anything like Joel’s message as a silly “prosperity gospel.” But what it is, actually, is a message of “God wants to give something to you” rather than “God is demanding everything from you.” And people are flocking to it like a starving humanity that has never seen food before. I am not a supporter of J Osteen or any other organized religion any more, I am just an observer and fascinated with what I see taking place here. And the contrast to my life in the COG’s.

      One other thing about the mentally healthy at church: they tend to be the least needy, and the more successful in life. The churches court these kind of people because they require the least service and potentially have the most to give. So their aloofness and failure to fully conform is generally tolerated because the church is a business and any good businessman knows that you take care of your more affluent customer and let them have their way, so they will keep spending their money with you. This is a double sword: because the healthier person is already better off, and he generally does not have to deal with the hassels and harrasment the little people get from the leadership, so he often does not fully see or understand what life is like for those less fortunate. After all, church is probably a great place for them: wined and dined by the ministry, their opinions sought after, first choice for pinochle parties and golf outings… I’ve lived and seen both sides of it, I know what I am talking about.
      I tend to think that churches, and the COG’s in particular, are the most class-structured units in our society. The mentally healthy person also does not hesitate to move on when he has had enough, and he generally does not experience the trauma and stress that his less fortunate neighbor does in making such a decision.

      Well, there’s a couple of cents worth of observation from me – hopefully nothing I said makes me sound mentally unstable :)

      • Finn, your posting is nothing short of amazing, as is Armstrong Delusion itself. Your assessment is right on the money (pun intended).

        If we consider both the DSM III and DSM IV, it seems clear that absolutely everyone who partakes of Armstrongism has mental disorder(s). If we begin with the obvious premise that Armstrongism is firmly rooted in British Israelism, whether members or ministers recognize it (because it is fairly hidden by this time, particularly by the UCG) and we affirm that everyone in Armstrongism believes in the false prophecies based on it, we can pretty much employ the Schizophrenia Delusional Disorder and folie a deux (shared psychosis) to classify leaders, ministers and members as being nuttier than Trail Mix. Everybody is nuts. Add to that the DSM III “Intermittant Rage Disorder” (which was omitted from the DSM IV because of too few observed occurances — but which will have to be reinstated in DSM V if it ever comes out, because of the discovery of the “Warrior Gene”, allele DARRP-32 variant TT / TC and those Colombine School Shootings so aptly covered in The Good News for nearly a year) and you have a totally mentally disfunctional group believing crazy stuff.

        Now officially, my private survey (which doesn’t have the requisite population to make it statistically signficant) indicates that there is a disproportionally large segment of those with bipolar disorder, clinical depression (including ministers… especially ministers) and alcoholism. The class society stresses are likely to stimulate a psychotic break among those with a genetic predisposition who might not have had one otherwise, but with the stress of being perfect in a land with three tithes on your gross income and limited time for yourself and family, the outcome is going to be predictible. Besides, with no one in the venue having a sound mind, how much reality could anyone have, what with men standing up giving false prophecies that members have to believe to be a part of the group and a segment of them claiming they never committed a major sin since baptism, one or two claiming to be Jesus Christ in the flesh by proclaiming themselves to be “That Prophet” and have some of the more severe groups proclaiming that medical treatment shows a lack of faith which disqualifies you from the mythical “Kingdom”. This is not a land of the rational.

        Then there is the class thing, with a hierarchy based on 19th Century Britain replete with King Herbert I, Queen Loma (God save the queen!), evil prince GTA, the lords and ladies of the Dukedoms, Earldoms and Fiefdoms populated with the lower caste of the commoners, all in something that looks a lot like the Princeton Prison Experiment. The royals had no real contact with the commoners. And, of course, the King just had to consort with people of his own level to go see other kings, prime ministers, presidents, leaders and so on for photo ops and afternoon tea. Our job as commoners was to support the Commonwealth on our backs and make sacrifice for the good of King and Country.

        As for the rich, wealthy and well to do, their experience, as you say, was and is quite superior to that of the poor. If you want the ear of Dennis Luker, be wealthy. His son and daughter married the daughter and son of a millionaire in the church. He also has spoken oft of his concern for salary, retirement and his condo in California. He has a record of abusing and persecuting the poor. I’m sure that many others have stories about such things involving the royals from other ACoGs: If you are rich, it’s the good life with freedoms and if you are not, good luck! The more you have the freedom to ignore the ministers and leaders, the more attention they will pay to you. (And in this regard, for several years I had a much better salary than Dennis Luker. That doesn’t mean much when you pay three tithes on your gross and have to pay for your own transportation. I’ve found though, that I don’t really have to worry about having enough to live on in retirement.)

        As for wanting someone to tell them what to think, what to do, where to be, how to dress, what kind of car to buy, what color to paint their house — in the Sixties, it wasn’t a matter of wanting: The ministers demanded that we submit every little decision to their approval. Young singles could neither own cars or their own homes unless the minister decided there was a very good substantial reason to. People couldn’t get married and even date certain others without ministerial approval. Careers often had to be approved. Ministers would come into homes and check the cupboards for white sugar, white flour and white rice (ironic, since whites were the ones in the church with status because of racism). Young single ladies were subject to ministers wearing white gloves checking the top of door frames for dust to see if they were living up to their potential. And the ministers were the “tie breakers” in any domestic dispute. The spying was recorded and sent to headquarters to be used appropriately to make or ruin people’s lives at whim.

        If you think that’s sane, you should get your head examined.

        When I’ve related this to my procession of psychiatrists at Group Health (they were all good, but there was a turn over) they all indicated that the Armstrongist community is crazy. Most of them indicated that this was extreme and they really hadn’t heard anything quite like it. And, of course, my regular doctor sent me to Behavior Health because he was concerned that I had PTSD.

        My final thought: If you want any modicum of sanity, avoid Armstrongism.

      • Interesting theory. I was poor but mentally stable, and, like David apparently, wiser than my elders. I never sought counsel and I made my own decisions–and I was pretty much left alone by the ministry (except with regard to a certain girl–but even then, I basically brushed off their presumptuous interference and continued doing what I thought was right). I never saw my experience in the cult as an abusive one, and I never considered that might be because of some kind of unexamined privilege. But you could very well be right: much abuse may accrue to one who is in the habit of constantly going to the ministry over every little thing and then fretting over what they tell them to do. And if that one is poor, the “counsel” (i.e., incompetently derived and often nonsensical, browbeating imperative) is likely to be brusque rather than respectful.

        I like to use the metaphor of sheep vs. lions. Sheep seek to be led about and are most afraid of having to think independently. Lions are just the opposite: they are most comfortable as their own masters and they feel like they are in the cult for their own reasons (which have nothing to do with finding a place for themselves in some social group). The former are most likely to keep slurping up the bullshit (after all, they can complain about their gustatory choices later–as though they weren’t begging for it in the first place) and the latter are most likely to write erudite letters of disapproval to the head guru in charge the moment he compromises their principles.

        I don’t really have much sympathy for sheep, to tell the truth. They perpetuate, more than anything else, the existence of cults–and if they ever break free, they whine incessantly about abuses they once craved, but never bother to investigate the delusions that caused it all. If it was all lions, the likes of Flurry would have been eaten alive long before he ever got started. That’s why I like to promote more leonine traits–like critical thinking and skepticism–while bashing the sheepish ones–gullibility, irrationality and authoritarianism. I think it is possible to become less sheep-like and more lion-like, so I really appreciated one thing about that otherwise unimpressive, predictable, formulaic new Robin Hood film: the engraving, “Til lambs become lions”. My rather hopeful conceit is that humans should never be in the position to have wool pulled over their eyes.

  5. Based on your professional expertise, would you say that you’ve noticed a larger than “normal” number of mentally ill attending with UCG?

    Well, that is an interesting question. I guess by saying that churches seem to attract people with mental illness it certainly implies a larger than “normal” incidence of mental illness in UCG. But that could be an illusion because the cross-section of the general population that I encounter in UCG is different to what I would encounter if I just hung around with people I made friends with in other contexts, or to what I would encounter among colleagues, and certainly to what I would encounter among patients. But yes, the perception I have is that the incidence of mental illness in UCG (and other churches I have attended or visited) is higher than in the general population.

    The church environment may also reduce a certain amount of inhibition individuals may otherwise have to express ideas they would expect not to be accepted elsewhere. So there is that factor, too.

    because the healthier person is already better off, and he generally does not have to deal with the hassels and harrasment the little people get from the leadership, so he often does not fully see or understand what life is like for those less fortunate.

    That is a very interesting point, which could potentially explain a lot of the enormous disparity that seems to occur between different individuals’ experiences of different churches – one experiences systemic abuse, another sees all happiness and light. As someone who is a believer and still attends UCG, which has had its own share of accusations of abuses, I have tended to understand this in terms of predatory infiltration. I believe there are some people who see churches as a soft target for vulnerable people and deliberately associate with churches as a source of easy victims. This has certainly been the case with child sexual predators who take positions of trust in schools, scout organisations, charity organisations and churches. Such predators know how to identify victims who will be vulnerable, compliant and easily manipulated. Working in mental health I find people tend to be either never a victim or repeatedly a victim – and I think that is because predatory types seek out certain characteristics in their victims.

  6. Mikey wrote:

    “Then there is the class thing, with a hierarchy based on 19th Century Britain replete with King Herbert I, Queen Loma (God save the queen!), evil prince GTA, the lords and ladies of the Dukedoms, Earldoms and Fiefdoms populated with the lower caste of the commoners, all in something that looks a lot like the Princeton Prison Experiment. The royals had no real contact with the commoners. And, of course, the King just had to consort with people of his own level to go see other kings, prime ministers, presidents, leaders and so on for photo ops and afternoon tea. Our job as commoners was to support the Commonwealth on our backs and make sacrifice for the good of King and Country.”

    This is well put, very picturesque, but Camelot it was not. Not even as much fun as The Princess Bride.

    I do remember some of the edicts against white flour/white rice/white bread stuff… which are today some of my favorite food stuffs. I do like the brown eggs though, they are righteous, dude. And more than once I snuck the maraschino cherry out of a can of fruit cocktail, which was rather forbidden, you know.

    I did not know that in the 60′s young people could not own a car or house without special permission. But I did know a couple of people whose professional lives were ruined when they were ordered to quit their business and go into something else.

    The greatest irony I see in the whole thing is that the very book they claimed to give them the right and authority to do all that was done is so contrary to them and their behavior that any rational person ends up asking, “what???” Churches gather themselves together based on who they hate, not who they love.

    In the beginning God created man in His own image. Then man created religion, because he wanted god-like power over his fellow man. It worked for a long time, because eventually all the little people forgot what it was like in the beginning. So in the end certain men created God in their own image. It’s the circle of insanity.

  7. This is well put, very picturesque, but Camelot it was not.

    Didn’t suggest it was: Wonderland — as in “Through the Looking Glass” — off with her head.

    • I know you weren’t suggesting it was Camelot – just that your description reminded me of this kind of movie… It was a bizarre life that I doubt I could have made up in a piece of fiction if I tried. All those trips to foreign dignitaries at tithe-payer expense, we were told it was God opening doors for the gospel to be preached. As a kid, I was in awe of it all, until years later I realized that it was HWA’s money-splashing technique that was buying him the photo ops with all the royals and dictators and prime ministers. Meanwhile, the average church member was guarded away from HWA and could not even have a chance to shake his hand. I recall when I was in Pasadena I was blown away by how huge the security force was – and the thrill people had of seeing HWA rushing away from the Auditorium in his black limo… and I recall as a kid at some Feasts we would all drive out to the airport to “see” HWA’s jet parked on the tarmac. All this as a representation of the one who the Bible says rode into town to his death on a borrowed mule, brushing against the throngs of people with no fear for his personal safety. It’s insanity. And paid for at a very high price.

  8. If we consider both the DSM III and DSM IV, it seems clear that absolutely everyone who partakes of Armstrongism has mental disorder(s). …

    Mikey, you have absolutely not a clue what you are talking about. Regardless of what diagnostic criteria are present, making a diagnosis – any diagnosis – depends on there being significant distress to the individual or others and no exclusion criteria being met.

    You want to diagnose Schizophrenia on the basis of delusions. Where are the hallucinations, or the grossly disorganised behaviour, or disorganised speech, or the negative symptoms? Anyway, the DSM specifically excludes beliefs that are part of a religious movement in the definition of a delusion – and rightly so: There is a world of difference between someone who has schizophrenia and an otherwise healthy person who is part of even the most bizarre cult imaginable.

    • I’ve tried to talk him down before, too, Short. But, as I recall, you’ve done some armchair diagnosis of your own (Ratzmann, I mean). My contention has always been that you don’t have to be crazy to be harmful to yourself and others, and religious delusions (I’m using the colloquial form, here, alright?) often lead otherwise healthy people into some pretty insidious behavior patterns. What was it Voltaire said? “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” That holds true regardless of mental health.

  9. “There is a world of difference between someone who has schizophrenia and an otherwise healthy person who is part of even the most bizarre cult imaginable.”

    This is the first (and hopefully last) time I have ever agreed with you, Short-round.

    Let’s not make this into a habit, ok?

    That said, just because the Manual of Mental Disorders gives religion a pass now does not mean it always will.

    The believers have the numbers on their side, little else. People caving to peer-pressure/indoctrination may not be mentally ill, but calling that activity healthy would be a helluva long shot. In my book anyway.

    I now relinquish the armchair.

    • Giving religion a free pass is iffy. Since I have both worked for a County and have a son with Schizoaffective Disorder who has been in and out of mental hospitals for decades, I do have some understanding what the diagnostic criteria is. The DSM IV may be used for diagnosis, but when it comes to billing… well, that’s completely different: The ICD is used (I have the ICD-10-CM Draft). The DSM has lost a great deal of credibility and there has been a lot of comment on the failure of the DSM V Project, which has already been delayed because the whole thing has become dysfunctional. Psychiatrists are not Project Managers and it shows.

      Now then, when I use the DSM in these forums it is to specify that we are indeed talking about mental disorders, but I have no illusions that we could go to the County and make a case that members of a religion are a danger to themselves and others and have them committed. What I am talking about is that mental health professionals recognize the behavior that we are talking about and under certain legal specifications can take action under the law. It should also be noted that the DSM is used for diagnostic purposes and really has no basis for use as a treatment except as in certain cases like the Folie a Deux where the treatment is to get the patient away from the delusional person (which is what can be done for Armstrongists in many cases — if you get them away from the disease of Armstrongism, many of the symptoms — but not all — will probably disappear).

      So then, with that in mind, shall we look at 297.1 Delusional Disorder?

      The essential feture of Delusional Disorder is the presence of one or more nonbizarre delusions that persist for at least 1 month. Apart from the impact of the delusions(s) or its ramifications, functioning is not markedly impaired and behavior is not obviously odd or bizarre. The disturbance is not due to the direct physio0logical effects of a substans or general medical condition.

      It is surprising that Armstrong Delusion would reject the notion that Armstrongist Church of God ministers, administrators and members had delusions, particularly when there has been such an attempt (in the past) to demonstrate that such things as British Israelism is a delusion and certainly the false prophecies are delusions.

      shortfiction doesn’t seem to know what he (she?) is talking about because with Schizophrenia of the which Delusional Disorder is a part does not have to have hallucinations, but shortfiction would know that if he (she?) bothered to look it up. Armstrongism does satisfy the definition and none of the exclusions are violated. If shortfiction is a mental health professional, I certainly wouldn’t want him (her?) treating my son.

      Further, “the DSM specifically excludes beliefs that are part of a religious movement in the definition of a delusion” is something I just can’t find in the DSM. Would shortfriction care to give a direct reference? Where does it say that? Erotomanic Type, Grandiose Type, Jealous Type, Persecutory Type, Somatic Type and Mixed Type do not exclude religious belief. In fact, Persecutory Type of Delusional Disorder fits right in with the typical Armstrongist mindset.

      Armstrong is crazy nuts. There is even a minister / founder evaluated by a military psychiatrist as being a psychopath (although it was before Dr. Robert Hare and the PCL). And distress? No distress? Well, that’s just silly.

      Nevertheless, people can be as insulting as they want to be and the result will not be that fewer people will consider Armstrongism as a result — not that the efforts of all of the blogs and websites so far are going to make very much of an impact at this point — it simply gives them an excuse to ignore any facts brought forth under the “well, you can prove anything” exclusion clause.

      What will make the impact is the continuing entropy resulting in splits, divisions, splinters, spit-offs, chaos, disorder, as the Universe itself winds down the whole thing without taking much notice and interest in it being, as it were, a veritable singularity black hole.

      If Armstrong Delusion isn’t going to support the premise that Armstrongists have delusions, I can’t, myself, think of a single reason for it to exist.

      Jace, you’re probably leaving at a good time. I hope that in the process, you will find what I found leaving Armstrongism completely alone for 3 years: Peace. No more chaos. No more delusions. Less grossly disorganized behavior. Less distress. The ability to focus on life without interference of gross mental noise. Jace, I think you will find it’s just plain more healthy.

      • a) No, you do not have to have hallucinations to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. But you do.have to meet more than one lone diagnostic criterion.

        b) Schizophrenia is schizophrenia; delusional disorder is delusional disorder. When you are talking about the DSM you can’t say one is “part of” the other. Both fall within the broad category of psychotic disorders.

        c) I don’t have access to a link in the DSM-IV text, but here is at least a reference to it: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15990520. Google is your friend. However, I know this because I studied the DSM-IV extensively. Your claim I haven’t read it is based on your own misunderstanding of my point

        d) Casey, I didn’t come up with a diagnosis for Ratzman, it was reported in the media.

      • “Casey, I didn’t come up with a diagnosis for Ratzman, it was reported in the media.”

        That’s what you said then, and it was as unsupported then as it is now. Just to test your claim, what was the diagnosis again? You should know you can’t get away with not citing your sources around here.

        The fact is sometimes people do crazy things on the basis of idiotic beliefs rather than on the basis of mental disorder.

      • There is more than one definition of “delusion”, Douglas. I’m not using the technical one because I don’t think it applies. I was deluded for a long time, but I was never delusional in the technical sense used by mental health professionals. On your logic, anyone who believes anything that turns out not to be true (not to mention anyone who behaves badly) would have a mental disorder. To my mind, that would be “giving religion a free pass”, since we hold people less accountable for their actions if they are insane. Part of our purpose here is to increase people’s sense of responsibility for the beliefs they hold. What you’re doing is taking attention away from the fact that poor reasoning can lead to delusional conclusions, and you’re doing it on the basis of a misapplication of technical terms. You need to realize that doing so is the exact opposite of holding people accountable for their delusions. We’ve hashed this all out before, of course, so I doubt you’ll be persuaded now.

  10. “Jace, you’re probably leaving at a good time. I hope that in the process, you will find what I found leaving Armstrongism completely alone for 3 years: Peace. No more chaos. No more delusions. Less grossly disorganized behavior. Less distress. The ability to focus on life without interference of gross mental noise. Jace, I think you will find it’s just plain more healthy.”

    Thanks Doug. The same could already be said after leaving Armstrongism itself in 2010.

    As for no more delusions? I’m simply leaving our small corner of insanity and entering the wider world of Atheist blogging. I will doubtlessly still have to contend with the deluded as I continue to lay waste to absurdities of all stripes (but mostly Christianity).

    As for armstrongism, there is only so much that can be said about that dying religion before it starts to get tedious. I’ve reached that point.

    • Jace, I hope you don’t trade one thing for another.

      Personally, I hope to be completely finished this year (I was targeting April, but I’m stuck on “Misery of the Ages” and there’s that Supreme Cult blog railing against Booby Thiel) and when I am done, Armstrongism, religion, atheism, even psychology and psychopaths, my expectation is that they will all be completely gone from my thinking. I want to build my technical expertise. I’m attempting to build a Metro Interface using HTML5 and have a Metro Interface package to add to Microsoft Studio C# to build a financial account utility like Microsoft Money, but having a better projection of income and expenses for budgeting with a feature to have a current accounting of outstanding financial transaction to reconcile with the financial institutions. I also have thousands of my brother’s 35mm slides to scan which he took 50 years ago, along with (perhaps some day) exploring the wonderful world of 3d printing. And then there’s Mikey. Will he pursue a different kind of Presidency after the November elections? We have plans. (That blog helped keep me halfway sane during the worst of times.)

      My life is full without pursuing this sort of thing.

      Jace, from my perspective, you’ve done a good job. I’ve appreciated it. Hopefully, you have learned something and been enriched.

      But I suspect that you won’t find true freedom until you are free from this kind of rubbish.

  11. Casey, my psychiatrist and I have had this sort of discussion. You are right if the delusions are standard ordinary stuff, you know, like believing that somebody-or-other would make a good president.

    The sort of delusion of which I was thinking is the sort which fits the criteria — it lasts more than a month. And it’s quite unreasonable to the point that even halfway reasonable people would sort of be uncomfortable with it. For example, paying three tithes on your gross income. Or 1975 in prophecy where you put your life on hold. Or believing that Herbert Armstrong is going to lead us all into the Kingdom.

    Also, as a point of clarification, the Delusional Disorder in the DSM IV is in the section which broadly covers Schizophrenia (which some people, if they actually had the DSM IV would realize).

    Of course, Folie a Deux always applies.

    You may be right, but it is doubtful that it really reduces my credibility with the masses. For one thing, the average Armstrongist clings tenaciously to his or her crazy belief system for no particularly good reason outside of the fact that they are addicted to the delusional con game in which they have invested their lives and to give up now would mean major loss to them. In fact, the average Armstrongist may actually be swayed by the idea that they are crazy (which they are) and need to get away from their religion to be half way decently sane (which they do).

    Casey, you should get the DSM IV. You might actually conclude (but you won’t) that anyone who believes anything that is not true or behaves badly has a mental disorder which, if you recall, includes the subset of mental illness, but not all mental disorders are mental illness. Especially prevalent in Armstrongism is Narcissism. Now the problem gets down to the fact that many, if not most, mental disorders are not necessarily criteria for either involuntary committal nor a crime for which an arrest may be made. You can’t put a person away for anti-social personality disorder. And heck, there’s even great disagreement about the DSM IV content, such as Dr. Robert Hare’s insistence that its got sociopaths and psychopaths mixed up.

    It really is a complex subject. I find the DSM IV useful in sorting out the bizarre behavior of those I encounter on a regular basis.

    More and more, I am leaning to believe that all religion is a mental disorder waiting to happen, but not only is that a point of view (which may — or may not — be delusional), but as you say, may end up reducing credibility. I find that it is more useful to concentrate on Armstrongism as the target rather than going full atheist on everyone because that is almost impossible to stomach. Your targeting British Israelism was effective in that regard.

    I am noticing that it seems like the effectiveness of blogs like this and websites such as the Painful Truth have lost their effectiveness. Today, such things are like a commodity like milk, bread or science fiction novels. Everyone is looking for infotainment which they do not believe really affects them and it’s here today and gone tomorrow as far as they are concerned. Even people tapped in to Ronald Weinland False Prophet who are still with the PKG are fence sitting. Logic doesn’t sway them. They sit on the fence waiting for some non event to not happen and THEN and only then the MIGHT consider they are in the wrong place. It is my suspicion that Armstrong will fizzle like that air mattress in the tent when I went camping in the wild of Washington state: Slowly, imperceptibly, over night — to find it uncomfortable to be sleeping on rocks and pine needles, only to get up and walk away.

    As for my logic, well… being an IBM Mainframe Systems Programmer for decades and negotiating that successfully does suggest that I may (or may not) know something about practical magic… er… practical logic. In my case, it had to work or sheriff’s deputies did not get paid. The downside is that in Armstrongism logic doesn’t apply. It’s made up of analogies (most of which don’t work). Analogies are the most sophisticated and highest plane of thinking. Analogies can make things really plain, but when they are wrong, they are (mostly) clealy wrong. I mix and match. It can be maddening to a purist logician. What I say actually is quite logical and — in this case — is based on the facts of the DSM IV, which everybody else is tossing and don’t seem to have access to and have the gall to say I’m wrong without being so very specific. There’s nothing like the suspicious point of view. Mixing that with analogies (knowingly) raises the complexity of analysis to an impossible degree. And too, I so very often say things which can be taken six different ways. Good luck in sorting it all out.

    In the meantime, it may give some very few Armstrongists pause, and, after all, as an ethic, doesn’t the end justify the means?

    • I don’t have my copy of the DSM available, it’s at work. But here is a direct quote from http://www.definedelusions.net/definitions.html with the reference:

      DELUSION
      “A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture (e.g. it is not an article of religious faith). When a false belief involves a value judgment, it is regarded as a delusion only when the judgment is so extreme as to defy credibility. Delusional conviction occurs on a continuum and can sometimes be inferred from an individual’s behavior. It is often difficult to distinguish between a delusion and an overvalued idea (in which case the individual has an unreasonable belief or idea but does not hold it as firmly as is the case with a delusion).” DSM-IV, p. 765.

    • “And too, I so very often say things which can be taken six different ways. Good luck in sorting it all out.”

      Well, Douglas, that’s not my job, actually. We agree on most things, but you’re wrong on this one. Armstrongists, as a class, aren’t insane. They’re misled by poor reasoning and ignorance, just like every other person who believes in deities, spirits, conspiracy theories, alternative medicine, pyramid schemes, etc. It’s all the same problem underneath and you won’t find it in the DSM.

  12. Reducing my opinion to rubble? Whatever. My objection is to you defending your argument with the DSM, which specifically contradicts that argument. Whether the DSM is correct in excluding religion you are welcome to argue.

    Casey, here is a newspaper reference to Ratzmann’s mental illness: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1683&dat=20050316&id=WSwqAAAAIBAJ&sjid=L0UEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6857,5340787 It is not where I originally read it – I have no idea where that was. It was nearly seven years ago, after all.

    • No, short. As I pointed out the first time, there’s no mention of a proper diagnosis. How could there be if he never visited a professional? The article only points out that people around him thought he suffered from depression. That could be correct; how will we know? As it stands, all we see here is armchair psychoanalysis–just like what Douglas is keen on. Maybe suicide bombers suffer from depression, too–but there is no doubt about the fact they believe things that lead them to murder others. The same seems to be true of Ratzmann. Point is, those unreasonable beliefs that don’t qualify as technical delusions are powerful stuff regardless. We’re better off as a society without them.

  13. There is another element relative to this discussion about mental health in the COG’s. I have never heard anyone bring this up before, perhaps it has been discussed but I’ve not come across it. It started back in WW days, and has become magnified with the scattering, reducing splinter groups: that is, the habit (often forced) of young people marrying within the church, or to be more specific now, the singular fraction of the church. To begin with, the teaching, often forced as I said, of marrying within WWCG meant that your opportunities were limited, and how many times did a person settle for someone less than ideally suited for them simply because there wasn’t anyone else? The two major problems running in the church’s history has been alcoholism and marriage problems. I have heard horror stories back in the AC days before my time that certain ministers and/or their wives would personally select a student’s or member’s mate – or if the kid had the nervy energy to find someone on their own, they would either approve or disapprove. The point is, that the inbreeding within the church caused a lot of the cult-induced mental problems to become inherited traits passed down to the children. Now with the micro-churches out there all trying to marry within themselves, some of the groups are literally all becoming related to each other. I believe this is causing an explosion of mental health issues within the COG’s. The quirky behaviors of the past years are becoming exaggerated abnormalities today. One group I know of has a very large ruling family, and many people eye the extended family members as mates for their children, wanting desperately to marry into the ministerial family. I don’t know how this affected members of PCG, I’ve never had anything to do with that group – but I do know they forbid to date or marry outside of their membership, including other members of the COG’s.
    I think this would make an incredible socialogical study for someone interested enough to pursue it. Just like the inbreeding of royal families for centuries produced such diseases as hemophilia, the church inbreeding is producing “diseases” of mind and personality. Has anyone else noticed this?

  14. Pingback: Where Does the Money Go? – Six Decades Later « Armstrong Delusion

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