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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another post

My month is almost up, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my stint as guest editor. I want to thank all those who have commented and congratulate them on, as a whole, very substantive and well thought out comments. I hope you will have good points to add to this offering. Here it is:

IMAGE FIRST

by Allen C. Dexter

Just as my last article on hypocrisy appeared, the news coverage suddenly exploded about the new sex scandals bedeviling the Catholic Church – scandals which have since landed firmly in the lap of the Pope himself.

Worldwide wasn't the only entity immersed in hypocrisy. All religions, along with political parties, seem to be especially prone to the evil of hypocrisy.

Why is that so?

I'm sure we could dredge up a lot of contributing factors. However, I believe it all boils down primarily to the old adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Anyone who finds him or herself in a position of great power feels they have to do anything necessary to keep their followers and the public from noticing that they, like the famous emperor, might be lacking some necessary moral, doctrinal or intellectual raiment. They stand in danger of their followers and the world at large realizing that they aren't as perfect, wise and infallible as they claim to be.

When the claim is made that you and your organization is the only real representative of Christ, like the WWCG and the Catholic Church have maintained, the perceived need to deceive the faithful and the world at large becomes ever more urgent. When religion seizes control of political parties, the same phenomenon comes into play.

Thus, as soon as something unsavory rears its ugly head, damage control begins and “spin” sets in. If it can be completely covered up and kept from the public, so much the better. Otherwise, denial, obfuscation and questioning the honesty and integrity of the accuser is usually the next courses of action.

Of course, the possibility that the poor people might get offended, turn bitter and lose their salvation has to be emphasized. That gives a righteous and loving motive to the whole thing.

Any of us who spent any time at WWCG headquarters or were closely associated in any way with the ministry have witnessed this image building and deliberate fabrication in action. When we wrote letters to members and listeners and when we visited church members and potential members in the field, the image and welfare of the “work” was always foremost in our minds.

One graphic example of this occurred while I was assisting the pastor of the New York City church between late 1960 and the beginning of 1962.

There was one particular member, an African American young man, who didn't seem able to hold a job and support himself. He ended up homeless in the middle of a New York winter and caught pneumonia from the exposure. He ended up in the hospital, the very hospital where his sister was a nurse. I think she is the one who alerted the church to his condition and situation.

He refused antibiotics that he really needed to treat his condition and his sister appealed to the pastor to try to change his mind. This put him in a bit of a quandary, to say the least. He knew the adverse publicity and possible harm that could come on the church, but he had to uphold Herbert's radical doctrine.

His solution was to manipulate the man into saying he would not take the medication even if his minister told him to do so. He then told his sister that her brother had just told him he wouldn't take the medication even if he told him to. He thought it a rather clever way of taking the church off the hook. I often wonder if he still has that opinion. He seems to have disappeared into the ether, and I doubt he is or has been with any of the splinters.

No matter what excuse or justification may be employed, the fact of the matter is that religious organizations and political parties are first of all interested in their image. That image is the basis of their power and influence. Without that image, they fear they will lose their supporters and, ultimately, their lofty positions, power and income. Few have the moral courage to stand up and speak honestly and forthrightly under those circumstances.

26 comments:

The Painful Truth said...

I just want to take this moment to thank you Al for a job well done.
Bravo!!!

Purple Hymnal said...

I just want to add my kudos to James', for an excellent month of blogging, Allen! It's been interesting, to say the least.

The thing I find gratifying about the RCC finally being taken to task for its decades of abuses and coverups, is the fact that this totally invalidates THE major "Church of God" "Good News" prophecy.

Without the Roman Catholic Church to fulfill the role of the Beast Power, someone who isn't already indoctrinated to our former system of thought reform, is not nearly as likely to get sucked in, as when the RCC was considered a major, power-wielding institution.

Allen C. Dexter said...

Thanks for the good words.

I, too, find the plight of the RCC very interesting. I have a great deal of contempt for the whole organization and its history. Being a bit of an old farm boy plainspoken guy, I've been inclined to refer to the Pope as "Ratshitslinger. That may shock some of my former associates who still adhere to the idea put forth by whoever Paul was that all leaders have to be spoken of respectfully. When you have no respect at all for them and certainly don't give credence to them having any legitmate authority, what are you going to do? Besides, I no longer care what the Bible supposedly says about anything.

Retired Prof said...

Let me add my hearty thanks as well.

You say you "no longer care what the Bible supposedly says about anything." Same here.

I enjoy some of the passages (Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther, and excerpts in several books) and loathe others (Job, Leviticus, most of the prophets, and anything attributed to Paul.) My reactions depend more on literary qualities than on moral or philosophical value, with maybe a bit of an exception for Paul. The same way I enjoy reading Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and Larry McMurtry but loath Charles Dickens, James Joyce, and Jacques Derridas. A matter of taste, more than anything.

Ralph said...

Of course it wouldn't matter whether or not you cared what the bible said, since there is obviously no decision procedure that can get you any closer to God anyway.

But Allen, at least you have refrained from the usual ad hominem attacks towatrd me, and I appreciate that. Well done.

Allen C. Dexter said...

Well, Ralph, I just don't like attacking anyone, especially those I know are sincere, no matter how hard a time I may have in following their train of thought, and I have had that difficulty with some things you write.

This is, after all, a forum for discussion and trading thoughts. I learned a few things from the comments you and others have made. It shouldn't be an intellectual battlefield.

One of my best friends, Ed Lain, who has his own creationist website, will always have a special place in my heart because I know he is just a terrific and loving guy. I don't care that his reality tunnel is far removed from mine. He feels the same way about me. How great it would be if more of the world could co-exist in such a manner.

One of the things that has really inspired me this month is to see the seeming rancor disappear from the comments section. I'm certain that has been very fulfilling to James as well.

Byker Bob said...

Unfortunately, many Christian organizations decide what they feel should be in force over Christians today, and then assume the responsibility not only of leading people to these things, but also enforcing them. And, of course, image becomes a very real way of continuing to sell the package.

To me, discovering that God "homeschools" has been key to my return to faith and belief. I'd previously been led to an Orwellian system of discernment by the WCG, and of course we know that the RCC and many other churches employ this as they insert themselves between the individual Christian and the members of the deity.

Douglas Becker used to utilize the phrase "church corporate" in his deconstruction and assessment of our experience at the hands of HWA, and I believe that phrase is really powerful in its capability to elucidate a certain blueprint for corruption. And, yes, it has to do with sleight of hand regarding supposedly voluntarily accepted authority in our lives.

BB

Allen C. Dexter said...

BB, I like that term, "church corporate." Thanks for bringing it up. Those two words say a lot.

Ralph said...

Allen, i well understand you may have some trouble with my thinking, and that is not intended as a put-down in any way. I'm just a country boy who came up with an unusual take on things, and I struggled the same as everyone else.

I suggest the problems most have with my writing is based on preconceptions. If I mention "creation" or "bible" it is automatically assumed "oh, one of those".

It has been a struggle for me, but one I am determined to continue.

Of ocurse, my drawback is that I love a good fight. it's the Scots-Irish in me. (Mostly Scotch).

I hope that there will be more of a willingness to hear from all sides and develop greater knowledge n all areas.

Ralph said...

BB, those are great comments. You and I share a lot of common ideas, and I think, in many ways, we all share, but we're VERY determined to make sure we don't get too cozy with collectivist opinions, and I actually respect that very much.

BB, you believe in God, but not the collectivist organizational God we once believed in. Others believe in no God at all, but I suggest they are simply refusing any human concept of God that would try to tell them how to live, and THAT IS GOOD!

I believe there is a God, but I am certain that God is not, and cannot, be contained within human authority structures.

Anybody read the recent(April) issue of "Discover" Magazine? It deals with subjects like free will from a quantum perspective. Very enjoyable if you get the chance to look at it.

Neotherm said...

It is a fundamental property of Armstrongism to be deeply concerned about image. But this seems to be prevalent whenever and wherever people corporately disseminate information. Such concern is especially intense when image is directly connected to revenue. And, of course, Armstrongism has its roots in advertising.

-- Neo

Byker Bob said...

Ralph,

I believe you've proven to us that "the invisible things of God are seen...." regardless as to whether we choose to acknowledge them. You've made that abundantly clear through your dissertations on our system of law here in the USA.

I was once deeply interested in the Rolling Stones, and avidly devoured almost anything published that was related to them. One point, related to the Stones, and brought out by an author is that anarchy requires a non-anarchistic setting within which to function. I submit that this is true of atheism, as well. It is quite easy for an individual to thrive as an atheist here in the security and basic goodness of a nation founded largely on God's law, and system of justice. Thriving might present some challenges and prompt re-evaluation if the setting were changed to, say, The Sudan, The Congo, the Republic of North Korea, or Iran.

BB

Purple Hymnal said...

"Being a bit of an old farm boy plainspoken guy, I've been inclined to refer to the Pope as "Ratshitslinger."

I go for "Ratzi the Nazi" or "Herr Rathead", myself, personally. :-)

"Besides, I no longer care what the Bible supposedly says about anything."

Hear, hear! It's like a breath of fresh air, isn't it?

"My reactions depend more on literary qualities than on moral or philosophical value, with maybe a bit of an exception for Paul. The same way I enjoy reading Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and Larry McMurtry but loath Charles Dickens, James Joyce, and Jacques Derridas. A matter of taste, more than anything."

With the exception of the "Pauline" texts (which I just can't stomach), and with the Gnostic texts thrown in for good measure, I am in agreement with Prof on the rest of the above.

"I don't care that his reality tunnel is far removed from mine. He feels the same way about me. How great it would be if more of the world could co-exist in such a manner."

Depending on which parallel reality any given individual may be looking out onto, this might not always be possible. Certainly an excellent goal to strive for, but definitely not in our nature to do so!

"Such concern is especially intense when image is directly connected to revenue. And, of course, Armstrongism has its roots in advertising."

Agreed, Neo, and I would also add that the RCC and the old WCG both engaged in a lot of milieu control as well; in this Internet age, such control is now no longer possible; and that's all for the good, IMO.

Allen C. Dexter said...

Thank something (you choose) for the internet. I agree that it is becoming virtually impossible for the masses to be kept completely in the dark. That's what is giving the Chinese such a fit. The internet also contribited mightily to Obama's win in 2008.

I used to be a compulsive buyer of books. Not anymore. I can find just about anything I want to know by an internet search. Of course, there are some that still have to be bought and I do buy a few.

I also agree with Ralph that if there is something that could be called god, no human authority stucture can adequately contain or represent that entity.

Retired Prof said...

I didn't make myself clear before. The reason I make an exception for the Pauline epistles is not that I like them a little bit. I make an exception because I dislike them for their moral and philosophical content in addition to their esthetic quality.

Ralph said...

Of course you are entitled to your opinion on the Pauline epistles for whatever reason, but opinions, unfortunately, are like anal orifices, and mostly they tend to produce the same product.

Again, while it is your right to hold any opinion you choose, you miss some very pragmatic concepts regarding law in NT teachings.

For example, the difference between "inquisitirial" law and "accusatorial" law. Do you know the difference?

Without going into a lot of history, Jesus advocated accusatorial law, while Roman law was inquisitorial. Also, while European law is inquisitorial, American law is accusatorial, though traffic court is inquisitorial of necessity, which makes its validity questionable.

Accusatorial law is consistent with common law, and common law, "due process", existed before the Constitution, which makes the right of due process exist outside the authority of the Constitution, as stated by Justice Joseph Story.

While the U.S. is increasingly becoming inquisitorial in keeping with its corporate image, as both "Neotherm" and Allen point out, Jesus and Paul advocated accusatorial law without vengeance as a goal. IOW, both men advocated the right of individuals to settle their own affairs peacefully outside of government(Matthew 18;15-18, 1 Corintians 6), with government acting only in the necessity of vengeance.

In fact, the medieval catholic church practiced that very idea, but used inquisitorial law borrowed from Rome, and allowed the state to execute people by that same authority.

By reading the bible from your highly opinionated concept of Paul and Jesus, you miss many pragmatic truths that serve individual freedom under law.

Neotherm said...

One of the inducements to hypocrisy is the effect of having multiple objectives and not always being able to reconcile these different purposes.

For instance, in the evangelical movement in the US you find many people with the following profile:

Membership in an evangelical church
Belief in the supremacy of the White people
Extreme Right-wing politics
Anti-government
Anti gun control
Anti-semitism
Anti-Catholicism
No music but country and western
No dance but square dance
Belief that George W. Bush was ordained of God
Belief in plundering the environment


This list could go on. This is a fairly common profile to find in the Southern tier of states. If we label these people, for instance, evangelical Christians, we can easily find some hypocrisy. But it may be that we have not understood what they really are.
They are a melange of different goals, some of them contradictory.
Evangelicalism is just one "asset" in their portfolio. In fact, it may be there just for image building.

What were the real goals of Armstrongism? I think there were many. In fact, the theological pursuits of Armstrongism may have been subservient to financial pursuits. With that mix of objectives, hypocrisy will out.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Neo, those are good points. This is exactrly the points I have been making in regard to worship of God, however.

Look at the statement of Romans 8:7. Assuming that the natural mind is enmity against god and cannot be subject to God's laws, any attempt to organize according to "God's will" must inevitably result in just the kind of confusion you point out in your post. In fact, the attempt to organize any corporate image in God's name would fall afoul of the second commandment, which forbids not only statues and graven images, but iconic images, systems created by men to represent God to other men.

Purple Hymnal said...

"I make an exception[for the Pauline texts] because I dislike them for their moral and philosophical content in addition to their esthetic quality."

In that case, we are in complete, 100% agreement, Prof. :-)

Retired Prof said...

Glad we agree, PH.

And Ralph, a special thanks to you for reading the Pauline writings. I know they deserve close attention, and the fact that you give it to them relieves me of the responsibility.

Do you also read Milton's *Paradise Lost*, or do I need to find somebody else to let me off the hook for that?

The Painful Truth said...

Saw this link on a website that the "Living Armstrong" blog linked to.
http://www.hutaree.com/ezrafiles.htm

Look carefully at the background a tell me what you see. This is the group that goes by the name HUTAREE and were recently carted off to jail for plotting to murder law enforcement officers.

Living Armstrong also reports that they link to Dave Packs cult website. Read more:
http://livingarmstrongism.blogspot.com/

Ralph said...

Glad to do my part, prof.

Ralph said...

BTW, prof, purely by analysis of your response, and in the interest of perehaps other readers, your response in each case is purely subjective, based clearly in opinion, and has nothing to offer in regard to the probability of the truth or falsehood of the statement of Paul.

In fact, it could be regarded within the category of the ad hominem fallacy because it is designed to "attack" the author simply by a method of belittlement rather than focusing on whether there is any truth to his statements or not.

You may argue that all such statements of humans about God are subjective, but that is also what Paul says. The natural mind is enmity against God and canot be subject to God, therefore, we can reasonably conclude that any human statement about God would be purely a subjeceive interpretation, which would make your argument to show the truth of Paul's argument.

You slyly employ the "literary wink" (I'm a professor"wink,wink"), which is perhaps designed to show some knowledge or authority of something which youe either have no desire to prove, or you simply cannot prove. I'm inclined toward the latter. But then again, that's merely my subective opinion until you can prove otherwise.

Neotherm said...

Ralph:

You stated "In fact, the attempt to organize any corporate image in God's name would fall afoul of the second commandment, which forbids not only statues and graven images, but iconic images, systems created by men to represent God to other men."

How is it that you extend this to iconic images? I read a primitive meaning into this that just says don't create idols and worship them. I was acquainted with an Ambassador College student who one time advocated that we should never create any image of anything under any circumstances. I think this would fall under the heading of sophomoric zeal.

Men representing God to other men is a really profound issue. HWA represented a God to us that does not exist. Likewise, some evangelicals can represent to others a very biased view of God. This is a big issue and one that I would have trouble tackling.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Neo, one of the more interesting applications of this is Jesus' teaching regarding "render unto Caesar". As the story goes, the Pharisees and Herodians approached him and asked a question designed to entrap him: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?"

If he said "yes" he was in trouble with the Sanhedrin, who did not accept the idea that Caesar should receive hard earned money. "Publicans"(tax collectors) were hated very much.

If he said "No", he would have been in big trouble with Caesar's people, and in fact, he was accused later of teaching not to pay taxes.

But here's where your question applies: Jesus found a coin and asked "whose image is on this coin?"

The Pharisees knew instantly that Jesus had directly referred them to the second commandment, and in doing so had connected law, taxes, images, and money.

They knew they could not challenge his answer, because he simply said "Render to Caesar that which is Caesar's".

Yet according to the 2nd commandment, what should be rendered? Nothing, nada, zilch.

As to the extreme position of no images at all, the commandment only refers to bowing down and worshipping or serving. By paying taxes to Caesar, who procalimed himself "son of God", an affront to all Jews, Jesus had pointed out that the image on the coins were a direct violation to the command, forcing people to bow down and serve an image.

The image, representing Caesar, and being passed from hand to hand, was an iconic image. As you will see in Daniel 2, there is an evolution of money described, from gold down to iron mixed with clay.

We know that gold and silver were forms of money, but as the metal cheapened, empires grew more powerful. For example, Babylon had a slow and unwieldy process of weighing gold or silver or commodities exchanged. Persia, however, not only added silver, giving them greatr power of money control, but also introduced coinage from Lydia, which was pre-weighed. The "handwriting on the wall" seen by Babylon's king, said "you are weighed in the balance and found wanting". That was the main monetary system of Babylon.

Greece, more de-centralized, introduced brass coins and Rome had discovered any metal with Caesar's image worked quite well for confiscation of property.

But the Daniel reference to iron and clay is interesting. Clay is used for insulators in electric transmissions, and clay has a component called sand, which also has a component called silicon.

But clay has another reference in Habakkuk 2:6, last part. The "clay" there actually represents pledges, loans, mortgqages on loans, by which the bankers extend their power. Sound familiar? It almost collapsed our economy recently.

Images used to rule people in any form are prohibited by the 2nd commandment.

Ralph said...

Also, Neo, this description of cheaper forms of money in the Daniel 2 prophecy correspond to a principle described by the historian Toynbee. He stated that history follow a process of "etherialization" and Buckminster Fuller called it "ephemeralization", which simply means doing more and more with less and less.

The more empires can cheapen money and reduce it to a "controlled substance", the easier power is maintained.

This, historically led to a greater centralization of government combined with religion, until electronic technologies and automation took over.

The all-at-onceness of electronic technologies that brought people together at the speed of light not only caused "implosion", it also empowered individuals against the mechanical processes of both church and state.

We've seen the obvious flaws of religion, and now government is beginning to collapse and be reduced to more individualized contacts among de-centralized systems.

This, in fact, creates terrorism as the new technological form of warfare, empowered by the internet, and the use of "low tech" weapons, allow individuals to be heard.

As Hoffer wrote in "The True Believer",

"The creed whose legitimacy is most easily challenged is likely to develop the strongest proselytizing impulse....It is also plausible that those movements with the greatest inner contradiction between profession and practice...are likely to be most fervent in imposing their faith on others...If free enterprise becomes a proselytizing holy cause, it will be a sign that its workability and advantages have ceased to be self evident".

The proselytizing cause of "free enterprise" today is actually corporatism, the power of giant conglomerates to freely pursue their own goals, even as individuals are more empowered against all such systems.