Insights into Herbert W. Armstrong’s Techniques /
Member Letters / Part 5 (Conclusion)
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).
In Part 5, we will conclude our examination of Armstrong’s abusive use of the Member Letter, starting where we left off, with sample letter number 4. Looking back, I find it AMAZING how much abuse just to raise money Herbert W. Armstrong was willing to dish out, and how willing we were to accept it!
What we can gain from the reading of these letters is not an increased disgust with Herbert W. Armstrong, but a heightened awareness of the various means by which many were and still are manipulated, both psychologically and emotionally. I believe it is evident that in each of the following letters there is a kernel of truth present – otherwise the writer would not be able to go on to “set the hook” emotionally. The manipulation and redirecting of the thought process that subsequently takes place is what we need to focus on and learn from if we are to protect ourselves from ever letting it happen to us again.
Part 5 (Conclusion)
(All that appears below, to “End of Part 5” is taken verbatim from Mr. McNair’s book, with the exception of small spelling corrections, etc.)
4) (Member Letter – June 29, 1969) “What, then, is the WORST, most TERRIBLE sin? . . . It is that which cuts you off from . . . INHERITING and SHARING with God ALL THAT HE HAS! . . . Could it be that EVEN YOU are putting some of these things ahead of HIM – or ahead of YOUR PART in HONORING our God with this EXTRA SPECIAL BUILDING FUND . . . I cannot authorize (certain buildings) unless the statement of intentions (promised money) amounts up to $200,000 per month. . . ”
5) (Member Letter – March 30, 1970) “This was suggested this afternoon by Mr. Stanley Rader, our legal counsel and financial advisor . . . go to your local bank and borrow whatever you are able – from $100 to $1,000 . . . giving it to the work, and paying it back monthly yourself – in ADDITION to continuing to send in your tithes and offerings.”
6) (Member Letter – September 3, 1970) “. . . it seems MOST OF YOU have cut down on – or quit altogether – sending in SPECIAL OFFERINGS for the building and property fund . . Also the THIRD TITHE fund has been slacking off. The number of members is INCREASING, and these funds ought to increase also.” (This THIRD TITHE will be more fully explained later).
7) (Member Letter – April 12, 1971) “THINK what a great work has been generated! And yet, WHAT A SHAME that I have to tell you it is facing a financial CRISIS, in which we may even have to STOP publication of The PLAIN TRUTH!”
8) (Member Letter – December 27, 1971) “AT LAST! And this time IT’S OFFICIAL! . . . The ground breaking ceremony for construction of the superb HOUSE FOR GOD (. . . but will be known by the public as . . . the auditorium of Ambassador College. . . ) . . . is set definitely for Friday, January 14th, 1972! . . . The contract has been let, and we are now bound. To pay off the balance of this financing, we have to meet payments of $200,00 per month for the next few (ten) years.”
According to notes taken by the author, Armstrong indicated while speaking before local Pasadena church members, the financing was to run for TEN YEARS – making a total of TWENTY-FOUR MILLION DOLLARS PAY OFF INCLUDING FINANCING.
9) (Member Letter – May 31, 1972) “I cannot longer delay telling you that we now face a crisis even more serious than we faced at the end of February, 2 1/2 years ago. I had to ask you, then, even to go to your bank and borrow what you could pay back within 2 years on a monthly repayment basis . . .I simply have to tell you brethren that we now face an even more desperate crisis, and reluctant as I am to do so, I am forced to ask you to respond once again as you did . . . (borrowing money from their local banks and giving it to Armstrong – Paul said, even God does not expect you to give what you have not got. But apparently Armstrong does).”
10) (Member Letter – August 28, 1972) “Now, AS NEVER BEFORE I call on you, by the authority of JESUS CHRIST, to get back of this Work as NEVER BEFORE . . . to sacrifice for it as never before!”
11) (Member Letter – October 27, 1972) “There is no ‘success story’ I verily believe, in the annals . . . equal to what has been accomplished in this great work . . . the number one REASON . . .God has put YOU into His Church. . . to help GIVE . . .Our Mission is NOT to CONVINCE the world, not to SAVE the world NOW – it is to TELL the world what is going to happen whether they believe it or not . . .We have had no GUIDELINES. We cannot organize or operate like activities, organization, or businesses in this world. . . Yet the building of . . . (this) church. . .has become a ‘success story’ probably unparalleled IN THE ORGANIZATIONS OF THE WORLD.”
12) (Member Letter – November 2, 1972) “. . . This Work . . . is geared to a pattern that demands constant INCREASE. IT CANNOT HOLD EVEN. It either goes forward, or it goes backward! We MUST . . . GET THIS GREAT WORK BACK ON THE PATTERN OF A 30% annual INCREASE in power and scope . . . Brethren, we have to face a VERY SOBERING AND SERIOUS SITUATION. Unless drastic CHANGES take place, we are going to have to reduce many vital phases of the Work, and eliminate others. That means seeing the Work . . .start going BACKWARD for the first time in 40 years! . . .Brethren . . .WE DARE NOT LET THAT HAPPEN . . . Brethren, I KNOW the CAUSE of our present situation. WE AS A CHURCH HAVE BEEN LETTING DOWN . . . That means that NOT ONLY God’s Work is in danger -MANY of YOU BRETHREN are in MORTAL DANGER! I say to you candidly, I know that some, if not MANY of you are in REAL DANGER of the LAKE OF FIRE! . . . Let’s not dodge the real issue – let’s not deny the REAL CAUSE – let’s not PASS THE BUCK! Our own personal, individual SALVATION is at stake . . .Jesus Christ has shown me THE REAL CAUSE – not merely of the present situation, BUT OF THE DIMINISHING INCREASE IN INCOME – and -consequently IN THE ENTIRE SCOPE AND POWER OF THE WORK these past three and four year! . . .I know that the ETERNAL LIVES of many – perhaps more than HALF. . . are at STAKE . . . ”
Why do “children of God” submit to this kind of abuse heaped high in Armstrong’s fund raising letters? They have been slowly bound by an invisible spun web of propaganda enclosing them in a cocoon of total submission. They have drunk deeply of Armstrong’s intoxicating chalice of suppositions. In the blur of their vision, tyranny and spiritual turmoil are glamorized as freedom and harmony.
Their stupor mistakes determination for inspiration, and transforms mights and maybes into infallible prophecies. In the giddiness of their spiritual deception the garment of a beggar appears as royal glamour.
They grope their way along the avenue of life until the day a psychological peel of lightning rends the skies in startling revelation that the True Prophet is the Savior Jesus Christ in the heavens!
Members of Armstrong’s Church support his efforts out of a sincere conviction that they are supporting God’s ONLY Apostle and Prophet doing God’s ONLY WORK for the first time in 1800 or more years (THE BIG LIE).
According to Armstrong’s own testimony those who support his work are the poor, and the middle class – not the wealthy or elite. There is a constant flow of letters to Armstrong from widows, pensioners, and recipients of Social Security all over the land – people who deprive themselves of needed food, clothing, and adequate shelter to give to his cause. The author has personally read hundreds of such letters in Armstrong’s offices.
Typical is a letter which Armstrong quotes in a Co-Worker letter:
(Co-Worker Letter – August 9, 1954) “. . . I have to sacrifice to send what little I do. I try each day to sacrifice a little more, to have a few more cents to send. I know that if I put God’s work ahead of my own personal need that He has PROMISED to supply my every need, and I am trusting Him for that. . . we must work harder than ever before, altho it seems my part is so little . . .$2.00 enclosed.”
That certainly is a fine, sacrificing attitude. By the tenor of the entire letter, it is easy to see this humble lady put implicit faith in Armstrong’s honesty and ability to administer her precious $2.00 sacrificial offering – to use it to the glory and honor of God in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The foregoing examples are sufficient to show how Armstrong attracts the really big as well as the small donations. Thus the pieces of Armstrong’s Financial puzzle have fallen into place. The picture it projects is a FIFTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLAR annual “take.”
But in the background lies a nagging question – does Armstrong use the offerings of the poor, the widow, the struggling farmer, and Mr. Average middle class to take the Gospel to the world as Christ commanded? That is a good question for our next chapter.
End of Part 5
And I think we all know the answer to the above parting question posed by Marion McNair. We have the benefit of the passage of time and the testimony many disillusioned ex-Armstrongites. It has become almost common-place knowledge among those who are willing to admit it that there was little accountablity demanded of the Armstrongs for the usage of the church’s income. After all, who would dare have the nerve to suggest that Herbert W. Armstrong be accountable to anyone but God himself. With the assurance that he was accountable to no one, it is little wonder that Herbert W. Armstrong and a few of those under him basically had free rein in spending. The misuse of these tithes and offerings has been well documented in numerous personal testimonies and articles, so we needn’t go into it at this time as it is all a matter of public record.
Hopefully we have gained a little more insight into the stratagems that were so masterfully used by Armstrong, to the detriment of us all. Let us file this knowledge away in a readily-accessible portion of our minds lest we ever again be tempted to allow a man to place himself between us and God.