Insights into Herbert W. Armstrong’s Techniques /
Co-worker and Member Letters / Part 4
Excerpts are from “Armstrongism Religion Or Ripoff ?” – by Marion McNair, Chapter 3, written in 1977
(Marion McNair was a member of the Worldwide Church of God who attained to the highest rank of Evangelist back in the 1950’s).
We have been examining Herbert W. Armstrong’s techniques for gaining control of our minds and our money. Although he is dead and buried, perhaps the most dangerous part of the man remains alive and kicking – his unscriptural ideas and his methods of deceiving his fellow man through spiritual intimidation and abuse. In Part 4, we will further examine the psychology behind his co-worker letters, looking at the “filling” portion of his letters.
(All that appears below, including comments, to “End of Part 4” is taken verbatim from Mr. McNair’s book, with the exception of minor spelling corrections, etc.)
The body of Armstrong’s co-worker letter is a flavorful, homogeneous concoction for addicting and mesmerizing the unwary soul. Ever so subtly one is led to believe or accept more of Armstrong’s suppositions:
1) The Devil has everyone in the world deceived except Armstrong and his adherents.
2) The Gospel hasn’t been preached (Greek – published) in over 1800 years – until Armstrong started his ministry in 1927.
3) Preaching the Gospel to the WORLD as a witness (Matt 24:14) will be done by some INDIVIDUAL human preacher – and Armstrong claims to be fulfilling it.
4) Mrs. Herbert Armstrong had a REVELATION from God by an ANGEL which told her, she and Herbert Armstrong were to fulfill Matthew 24:14.
5) The prophecy of Matt 24:14 is essentially the same as the prophesied Elijah of Malachi 4:5 and Armstrong is consequently identified as doing or fulfilling the Elijah prophecy.
6) Armstrong’s WORK is the only work of God in the world today.
7) Armstrong has been specially selected, trained and appointed by God to be a Watchman to fulfill the office of a modern Ezekiel (co-worker letter of March 28, 1966).
8) Armstrong’s mission is that of WITNESSING and WARNING – not that of making converts and saving souls.
9) Armstrong has a specially revealed understanding of prophecy.
10) The U.S., Great Britain, and the democracies of Europe are descendents of the northern ten tribes of ancient Israel.
11) The U.S., Great Britain, and the democracies of Europe will go into captivity and will be delivered by Christ at His coming.
These are only a few of the Armstrong suppositions. There are many, many more! And they are a powerful leverage which he uses to cause his adherents to give more.
But how does Armstrong bring people to believe and accept such suppositions? Surprising as it may seem, it has been partially made possible by the way Christian ministers have handled the matter of church holidays – Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc.
Serious Christian scholars know Christ’s birth date was not on December 25. But they fail to tell their congregations Christ exact birth date is unknown – and December 25 is only a traditional date on which they have decided to celebrate it. The people of the Christian congregation just take it for granted that Christ was born on that day. A similar misunderstanding surround Easter and Halloween.
It is quite easy under these circumstances for Armstrong to create a credibility gap between a person and his minister. Once this has occurred, it is usually just a matter of time until he is drawn into the body of Armstrong’s co-workers. There he is made to feel he has a DIRECT, ACTIVE part in getting “his” gospel to others.
He begins receiving Armstrong’s co-worker letter every month, as well as hearing him on the air and reading his literature. Very subtly he is fed the Armstrong suppositions. Once he begins to believe them, he can be pressured into larger financial commitments to the Armstrong cause.
Slowly he gravitates toward Armstrong’s church, as he is presented juicy doctrinal morsels, delightfully seasoned and delicately served on a guilded tray of propaganda. And thus, a large percentage of people having lost faith in their local pastor will become members of Armstrong’s church.
But, Armstrong does not, at first, teach the new adherent all his doctrines. There are generally TWO stipulations for joining the Armstrong organization:
1) One must repent – utterly abhor himself, abhor his own very body and mind as well as his sins.
2) In accepting Christ, he is required to make an unconditional surrender. This UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER which one thinks he makes to God, in reality turns out to be an unconditional surrender to Armstrong’s doctrines.
After becoming a member, the new adherent finds the real pressure is on. He begins attending church services under on of Armstrong’s local pastors.
This NEW CONVERT, with an attitude of TOTAL SURRENDER, now sits at the feet of a man who teaches him he must give a full tenth of his gross annual income to the church. This TOTALLY SURRENDERED convert later finds there is another TITHE to be devoted to religious causes. Then later he discovers still another TITHE to be devoted to religious causes. And then finally a TITHE of the TITHE. This may sound a bit bewildering but little by little it is accepted and practiced.
Suffice it to say that the member in Armstrong’s church will earmark between 25 and 30 percent of his gross annual income for religious purposes.
Now, take a look at the final ingredient in the CENTER FILL of Armstrong’s gold-getting sandwich. Yes, there’s more! It is yet another special co-worker letter which goes to Armstrong’s members. It is from these that he fleeces about 75 percent of his total receipts. Up to this point only Armstrong’s co-workers in general have been discussed – a group-classification of adherents which provides about 25 percent of his income.
Take a look now at his letters to the group from which he receives the other 75 percent – those members who have surrendered TOTALLY!
Following are direct quotes from letters written to this select group:
1) (Member Letter – March 2, 1967) “You KNOW that we are on a SEVEN YEAR (or longer) building program, that began less than four years ago, and has three or more years yet to go. And yet, YOU BRETHREN, who call yourselves GOD’S PEOPLE, have dwindled down to about HALF the amount of SPECIAL OFFERINGS for the BUILDING FUND you were sending in a year ago – though there are 30 percent more of us!
“THINK OF IT! How ASHAMED God must be with His Church! . . .
“LISTEN, Brethren – and listen HARD! Learn a LESSON that may save you from the Lake of Fire. Learn a basic TRUTH about how you are to develop character and GROW spiritually to INHERIT GOD”S KINGDOM! Learn a GREAT TRUTH! Learn what may mean your ETERNITY!
“Read this two or three times! UNDERSTAND IT!
“Some of you do not GO FORWARD spiritually with Christ, UNLESS I or YOUR LOCAL PASTOR , or SOME ONE PUSHES YOU! But our PUSHING will never get you into God’s Kingdom. Our PUSHING will never get you to the PLACE OF SAFELY for the Great Tribulation about five years from now . . .(1972).”
2) (Member Letter – September 1, 1968) “. . . MANY who DO have the ability (to give) . . . are GUILTY BEFORE GOD of shirking – of letting the SATANIC attitude of GET fill their minds . . . The only reward, later, will be DEATH in the LAKE OF FIRE!”
3) (Member Letter – May 5, 1969) “Now about the annual Holy Day offerings . . .Brethren I wonder if that (what you have done) is not doing almost exactly what Ananias and Sapphira did! . . .They professed that they put in the amount they sold their property for. Peter said THEY LIED to THE HOLY SPIRIT. They DROPPED DEAD! If YOU profess that what you put in the Holy Day offering is a SPECIAL HOLY DAY OFFERING, when it is only a regular offering, is not that about the same thing? Brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ I say I WOULD BE AFRAID to do such a thing!”
End of Part 4
Next time, in Part 5, we will continue with these abusive membership letters in which Herbert W. Armstrong accuses the members of the very thing he guilty of – the sin of desiring to GET rather than to give.