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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Would UCG be a Good Fit for TBN?

Again, I'd planned to post another in a series of pre-written posts, but, always sensitive to the latest trend, and wanting to be on the cutting edge of all of the breaking news in COGdom, I thought it might be good to tackle this question.

The ACOGs believe that it is their "Great Commission" to preach the Armstrong version of the gospel around the world prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Yet, compared to the early pioneering efforts of both HWA and GTA, they are virtually invisible. It was once true that when one mentioned the name "Armstrong", there was instant recognition, and the ministry of HWA, or later GTA, was considered to be just as recognizable as that of Billy Graham, Rex Humbard, AA Allen, Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, and others. No ACOG splinter member in his or her right mind would even attempt to compare the World Tomorrow "cookie cutter" offspring of any of the splinter groups to some of the major evangelists of today, such as Joel Osteen, Pat Robertson, James and Betty Robison, Jack Van Impe, Charles Stanley, and a plethora of others.

If indeed, much of the shakeup at UCG is due to differing opinions on diverting funds to increased usage of the media, (and rumors of this type of discord have surfaced before), then it would be of interest to consider one of the primary scenarios available to them.

In the sixties and seventies, there were no huge Christian networks. Religious broadcasters negotiated directly with the management of the stations which they considered desirable in terms of ability to reach their core audience. Many of these broadcasters used what was called "clear channel" AM radio stations. In any given area, smaller, local AM stations were compelled to sign off, or finish their broadcast day at sunset, if they happened to be operating on the same frequency as the huge powerhouse 50,000 and more watt "clear channel" stations. The large stations would then "turn up" their power, giving them incredible coverage throughout their region. At ten in the evening, one could receive WABC, New York in Jekyll Island, Georgia. Or, WLS, Chicago in the mountain towns of Pennsylvania. On the West Coast, one could listen to
the Wolfman Jack program, broadcast from XERB, Monterey Mexico, up in Oregon! (Remember American Graffiti?). These "clear channel" stations were very desirable to radio evangelists, and if you happen to have a very old Plain Truth, you would see from the radio log that most of the stations carrying "The World Tomorrow" were such stations. But, something happened! With improved technology, the ability to broadcast in stereo, FM radio all but ghettoized AM radio, starting in the 1970s.

Paul and Jan Crouch suddenly came into the picture. They had a very small Television station in Orange County, California, which carried Christian programming. With much work, the support of the Christian Community, and the advent of satellite technology, they turned this into a powerhouse that revolutionized televangelism. Anyone who wishes to have any impact in terms of preaching the gospel today both recognizes, and is often overwhelmed by the incredible superiority of TBN around the world to any other Christian media capabilities.

Before I began to include TBN in my daily television watching experiences, I had focused on the word "trinity" in the acronym which defines the network. I had imagined that those who presented the individual shows were somewhat united in their doctrinal approach, probably, in fact, some of the evangelicals we had all heard about that seemed to be taking over the schools, the government, wooing Rush Limbaugh, and in general having a huge impact on the politics of the USA. But, that is simply not true. Many of the hosts or evangelists are evangelical, and some are Baptist. They preach classic Christianity, and are very mainstream. But, there are also Messianic Jews, who refer to Jesus as Yeshua, and tell of the blessings realized by those who keep the sabbath and holy days. Walter Pearson is Seventh Day Adventist, and recently has lectured not only on sabbath observance, but also on clean and unclean meats! Jack and Rexella Van Impe, Grant Jeffries, and David Jeremiah all base their ministry on prophecy and the end times. Now, they don't handle this topic in the angry, manipulative way to which we became accustomed, partially because they also believe in the Rapture. Considering the sheer diversity, I can picture ACOG ministers blending into this gumbo of Christianity. They would be accepted, no doubt. But, would they be as accepting of those who did not believe or preach their own views? That, IMO, would probably constitute the largest obstacle!

Many of the shows on TBN are funded by megachurches. The show consists of the evangelist's sermon or lecture the previous weekend (many have 4-5 identical services spread out over Saturday and Sunday). Some of the ACOGs, although geographically spread out, do have the same overall population as do these megachurches, which often, as it turns out, also believe in tithing. So, the financing would be there, and the financial picture would improve because viewers would also contribute, send in donations, and request CDs and monthly devotional booklets. Other shows are not set in a church congregation. Some are in the format of a variety program, others in the classic HWA form, in an office, behind a desk. Still others are organized in the talk show format. Again, there is no question that an ACOG evangelist would fit into all of this.

Finally, once one splinter made entry into the weekly schedule, and began enjoying success, there is no doubt that others would follow suit. In fact, some of the evangelists on TBN appear in one anothers' personal appearance conventions as featured guest lecturers. So, one could almost envision a Roy Holladay convention, in which Rod Meredith and Gerald Flurry are featured guest speakers. If one of the ACOGs succeeds in getting on TBN, it could actually end up reunifying the entire splintered Armstrong movement.

Clearly, there would seem to be an opportunity here, but somehow, I don't see it as ever coming to fruition. Within the Armstrong movement, there has always been the pervasive belief that there is "one true church", and that non-sabbatarian Christians are in fact "Christians, falsely so-called". This type of culture has isolated them from any type of Christian cooperatives, and it is a self-imposed three lock box. Following the Wisconsin LCG massacre, there was an outpouring of sympathy from the local Christian community. All ministers and members could seem to do was to complain about all of the "pagan" crosses used symbolically in this outpouring. When disasters occur, ACOG ministers warn members against sending any of their tithes to relief funds. While the World Tomorrow did appear during timeslots following the evangelists representing other church groups, it would be difficult to imagine an Armstrongite minister contracting with an evangelical network owner, or want to appear complicit with trinitarians, Sunday keepers, or cross wearers. The owners of the radio stations were secular. The owners of the Christian networks are competitors (read "Satan's People")

Is any of this even remotely being considered at UCG? I have no idea. Clearly, if the ACOGs are to survive and grow, they will need to come up with a more contemporary approach. We here on this website have a history of providing information for those who might be considering Armstrongism as their sole-source spiritual solution. I would suggest that we watch this situation carefully, and to be prepared to continue sharing our experiences in ways that help others avoid the toxicities which could come into their lives courtesy of these cults.



Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

None of this is even remotely being considered at UCG. The potential split, and the political discord, is down to the fact that they have secured a time slot during prime "infomercial" time on Sunday mornings, on Fox and ABC.

Given that Dick's sermon at the GCE last year was comprised mostly of "the Hebrew Roots Christians are ON OUR TURF" (yes, those are the actual words he used), I don't think the "One True Christian" outlook of UCG has changed significantly at all, split or no in the offing.

Ralph said...

My first thought is "Who Cares?".

Since all religions are wrong anyway, which ever one comes out the winner, you lose.

Religion is nothing more than a process by which we organize people into systems of relative obedience. In looking at the various religions that existed during the 18th and early 19th centuries, I was amazed at the extremelt mechanical processes they used. Many were extreme to the way they cut their food, down to the most minute details.

This produced great cohesiveness and a sense of purpose, and it also allowed for the development of wealth by frugal means.

Wesley pointed out that religion would contribute to its own demise, because the very wealth and success created by frugality and disciple would lead to hedonism and individual pursuits.

In the US, religion is a constant return to "first principles, an attemtp to re-capture meaning by discovering literally the mechanism by which we once became great.

In the heyday of the newspaper empire, as PRealities", mass movements were created right here in the US. The Hearst's newspaper chain were instructed by their boss to "puff" Billy Graham because he preached a homogenized religion of simple conversion that suited the purposes of newspaper control.

The effects of radio, however, was quite literally electrifying, and created a kind of "tribal drum" that attrcted a number of pocket groups, each with their own panacea to bring us back in touch with God.

HWA used radio to electrify us, and then depended on the older print media to organize our thoughts into the usual linear patterns that best served mass movements. Literacy and print media served to individualize us and add us, one to one, in a constant agglomeration. Radio, as Marshall McLuhan pointed out, imposed a kind of "fellow traveler" attitude. Radio revived more ancient sense of webs of kinship, tribal patterns of community.

The sense of tribal belonging created by radio could then be served by the older organizing print media: "send for our FREE literature!"

That, in itself, was electrifying. In a world where everything had a price, here was a man sending out all I could read for free, and I was an avid reader! I was also quite poor, so this seemed too good to pass up.

This same process is now practiced by televangelists, but TV is an "instructive" medium, one in which we detach ourselves from the speaker and watch what s/he has to tell us us, and then for grreater in-depth involvement, we send for free literature.

It's not the actual content of the message itself that's important. It's the subliminal process: You seek involvement and meaning. We offer you that at no cost. If you seek further involvement, then help us support this message to others by your freewill tithes and offerings.

Along with that, we see the support of government, taxes, permits to do what the Constitution says we can do without restraint, and we get into the habit of thinking that if we simply share the burden, we can cheaply change the world into a better place.

It's such a small price to pay! In the name of God, we only have to give up a small portion for the commn good, and then perhaps a bit more...

Never look at the content. Watch the process.

Ralph said...

My computer must have glitched in the passage above. It was supposed to say, according to Peter Drucker's statement in his book "The New Rrealities", Hearst told his editors to "puff" Graham.

Anonymous said...

UCG would not fit into TBN well, at least not now..
UCG's approach is presently too different from what TBN airs. Besides, UCG is dying. Their members and leaders are literally dying of old age, with precious little fresh tithe-paying meat to fill the void.
I expect that in the coming decades, they will change more toward mainstream beliefs, in order to survive at all. If, then, some charismatic preacher emerges within the UCG, they may finally fit in at TBN.

Don't get me wrong, though.
I do wish they'd fit in now, just so I could catch a glimpse of their show while watching TBN.
I occasionally watch TBN for entertainment purposes. They've got the best parade of hucksters on Christian TV, imo.
Hopefully, some day soon, Jan Crouch will once again be hawking the Christian Liposuction Seminars.
Meanwhile, I'll be praying that her team of hairdressers are Jebus-powered.

Anonymous said...

See, this is why Canada's religious network is better, IMO: Yes, there is a large amount of Christian programming, but Saturdays and Sundays, there are large blocks of time devoted to Muslim and Hindi and Sikh religious programming as well, as these three religions make up a large part of the Canadian "Mosaic", as Vision calls it. Interspersed throughout the week, there are also single programs ranging in everything from Tibetan Buddhism to Zen, and everything in between.

Broaden your narrow perspectives, Christians! You have fellow believers in the supernatural, outside of your own tightly-constricted requirements!

But, of course, since they don't meet YOUR requirements (the professing Christian ones), you don't view adherents of any of the above religions I've linked to, as "believers" at all....

Vision TV is also involved with/sponsoring World Religions, which bills itself "educational, cultural and spiritual encounters with the world’s religions. Explore a range of classes and programs enabling you to learn about the world’s religions informationally, experientially or both.

Come discover the People, Places, Practices and Philosophies that shape our world."

Christianity being only one very small drop, in a very large bucket.

Comparative Religion. It's a remarkable, fascinating, intellectually, and even (Dare I say it?) spiritually, enriching area of study.

Ralph said...

You can study comparative religion, but since all religions are equally wrong, what's the point?

Since by your statement, there exists no ultimate truth for any of us, there would be no point in studying religion for any valid concept of God. You can't get "there" from "here".

Now, would that merely include the biblical or christian God, or all Gods?

To answer the queston, you would have to point out some basic fact or decision procedure by which any God is superior to any other God.

Once you do that, there is no need for the variety. Everything can be uploaded into a computer system and we can explore truth in all its greatness from one source.

But wait a minute! There's that silly little Godel's theorem thing! There exists no axiomatic process by which we can place all truth in one package.

That being so, and since we can only demonstrate truth by actual proof, there's no need to explore the many facets of God via religion. You can't get there from here.

The Painful Truth said...

No one has realized that the UCG church mandarinism is not a line but a circle at which the unconscionable practitioners of prætorianism and illiberal hucksters meet. To properly place the United Church of God somewhere in that spectrum one needs to realize that they claim they were chosen by God as the trustee of His wishes and desires.

The term "idiot savant" comes to mind when thinking of the UCG. Admittedly, that term applies only halfway to it, which is that if they aren't purblind, I don't know who is.

They continually attribute to the social and psychological problems of our modern society through their superstitions and less than credible biblical prophecies.

To allow the UCG to produce a new generation of unrestrained crackpots whose religious opinions are far from being enlightened and challenged, is to allow unrestrained paternalistic factionalism!

So what do we do? As their church government is tottering, we must deal it the death blow an any cost.
Shift the power from those who benefit from oppression to those who suffer from it. Withhold your tithes!

Being shielded from the consequences of its bad judgment and bad behavior has made the United Church of God careless. Permitting the immoral apostates to continue to create a mass psychology of fear about the imminent end of the world, is tantamount to suicide for the membership.

Neotherm said...

The Armstrongists would not want to use the "pagan" televison media even if it made good economic sense. And I really doubt that TBN would permit rank heretics broadcast time.

I have heard nothing, sitting up here in the mountains, about the troubles in the UCG. But I think it is the destiny of Armstrongist groups to divide over and over again. And this means a reduction in resources and a narrowing of the scope of activities, such as preaching the Armstrongist gospel.

The progressive fractalization of Armstrongist groups ensures they will never have a significant position in the broadcast media. Besides now people can access the web and find out all about Armstrongism. The cloak of secrecy has been lifted.

-- Neo

Questeruk said...

'For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Godel's theorem'

Allen C. Dexter said...

I don't know where UCG is headed, and I agree with Ralph in saying "Who cares?" Armstrpong's success arose from a unique time in our nation's history when developing technology coupled with naive vulnerability came together in just the right way to make the phenomenon possible.

I don't think the same thing could happen in this information age. Nevertheless, cults will not end. There will always be enough vulnerable people around to fall for another reliegious charatan. They just won't be able to get that big.

Ralph said...

Questeruk, you are absolutely right. It is also summed up in its biblical parallel Romans 8:7. Both of those statements tell us one thing: you can't get there from here.

If there is any truth to the "God experience", it would have to be similar to what BB describes, mystical and untranslatable into any common form of human organization.

OR, it exists as Paul said, with all decision belonging only to God because we have no such decision procedure available.

OR, there is no God, so all decision procedures amount to exactly the same forms of confusion we see today.

In either scenario listed above, we see exactly the same results: thousands of differing ideas concerning who/what God is/is not.

Of course, there is the possible alternative, that there actually does exist some humna system somewhere that actualy does represent God, in direct contradiction to Paul's statements of Romans 8 and 9, and Jesus' statement of Matthew 24:23.

But if the human mind is NOT enmity against God, and if we CAN demonstrate the truth o some organization, then it should e obvious to the simplest exercise of reason.

So where is it? If you can demonstrate it, you've jst proven the foundation of your own biblical beliefs wrong, because both Paul and Jesus said it can't be done. Catch-22.

So yes, the law and the prophets as authoritative sources over human minds is summed up in Godel's theorem.

And Allen is correct, I think. Since it was mass media that create mass movements like Herb and the other guys, that media no longer exists with any power.

There'll never be others like those guys, though there will continue to be small pockets of such beliefs.

But that, too, is an aspect of Godel's theorem. The more intensely you search for truth, the more undecidable propositions yo find, which creates greater diversity and individuation.

That God dude was pretty smart!

Byker Bob said...

This is one of those posts which I wrote to be considered by the general HWA/WCG/ACOG (whatever!) community, and not necessarily for those of us in "the choir".

I believe it illustrates basic flaws in the mentality and mindset of the splinters.

So, while this matter really may be inconsequential to those of us who post regularly, it should indicate to everyone on all sides of these issues why the Armstrong movement is dying. It supports what I'd posted earlier in the month.


Corky said...

"Would UCG be a good fit for TBN?"

In a word, NO! You have to have a syrupy voice with honey dripping from the corners of your mouth to be on that channel. It doesn't hurt to be as dumb as a box of rocks and crazy as a betsy bug either.

I kinda like the "icky, icky, ga-ga oma oma icky da-da" tongues speakers on there with tears running down their face though. It makes me feel good about myself.

Weeping for Tammuz, er, I mean Jesus, is all over the place but yet "in the flesh know we him no more" because he is at the right hand of the father in heaven. That just doesn't seem to go together.

I think Jesus is the only man alive who has a memorial service every year. I guess people forget that memorial services are for people who are dead.

Oh well, the mind of the Xian surpasses all understanding.

Morris Loess & Les S. Moore said...

Questeruk said...
'For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Godel's theorem'

Indeed. If you are new here and are intimidated by Ralph's manner of explaining Godel, this summary may help:

It could be that the universe came about by random chance.

Or it could be that the universe was assembled by a creator who took pains to mimic randomness down to the smallest detail.

Makes no difference which you believe, because in either case it is safe to assume that events happen at random.

Ralph said...

Morris, that's outstanding! Right to the point.

Is there biblical evidence that a creator is mimicking randomness?

Of course an obvious candidate might be "my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways".

Or perhaps "lean not to thine own understanding".

Or "There is a way that seemeth right to a man...."

Another candidate might be 1 Corinthians 1:27-29.

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise...."

What would appear, assuming that scripture is true, is randomness, or at best, "natural selection".

An honest mind, such as PurpleHymnal, or Retired Prof, or Allen, or even BB and Neo, would arrive at its own interpretation of events and meanings.

But the concluding result of it all would be increasing diversity of options, leading to greater freedom of choice.

In fact, the "great commission" which actually emerges from this is not to "join in an be just like other people", but to "come out and be ye a separate people".

The "calling of God" would be exactly the opposite of what we naturally assume it to be, because the natural mind is enmity against God and cannot be subject to God's laws.

The result will be exactlyt the type of diversity resulting from all attempts to find meaning.

So, God or no God, your very best efforts always arrive at an apparent conclusion of randomness and diversity.

Ralph said...

I couldn't help adding to the above.

If, in fact, there happens to be a God out there looking for ruler types to teach others, would it make sense to look for those who simply go with the crowd, or, as true leaders, would he not actually select those who say, "Screw you, Jack! I'll make up my own mind! You don't tell me how to think!"

If God actually is like religion and government, this little group is damned.

I'm betting from the obvious evidence that if there is a God, he might be watching people just like us and perhaps even nodding with approval.

Neotherm said...

I have not read up on Goedel but I believe that his most famous theorem has to do with incompleteness rather than randomness. It states, in simple terms, every mathematical or logical system has a core assumption or collection of assumptions that cannot be proved by the system itself. My understanding of this is pretty tenuous.

Mimicing randomness is not true randomness only apparent randomness. Although I believe that evolution is true, I depart from most in that I believe it is telological. This latter is a Goedelic sentence. It cannot be proved by inducing principles from the natural system itself. At least not that I have been able to figure out.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

You are correct. It asserts both incompleteness and inconsistency in dealing with infinity, which would obviously have to entail descriptions of God.

However, in building on Godels theorem by a process called Algorithm Information Theory, Gregory Chaitin demonstrated, in his words, that there exists a profound randomness at the core of mathematics.

So, in trying to define a subject with such infinite implications as "God", you employ formal processes that must assume there will emerge random appearing results.

HOWEVER, I believe, like you, that evolution does reflect intelligence, and this is also true of emergent studies in epigenetics.

For example, viruses seem to operate in a random fashion, yet they also inform organisms of necessary genetic changes to their environment.

The cover of the April issue of "Discover" magazine asks, "Are you descended from a virus?"

I had proposed about a year ago, that our process of sexual reproduction resulted ultimately from viruses trading genetic information among organisms, resulting in fully adaptive life forms during the "Cambrian explosion"

The "Discover" article states that "Some viruses sneak DNA into a bacterium through its, um, sex appendage, a long tube known as a pilus. If that's not life, what is?"

Viruses act to "cut and paste" across genetic boundaries.

The article also states that: "Amoebas turn out to be great places to seek out new viruses. They like to swallow big things and so serve as a kind of mixing bowl where viruses and bacteria can swap genes".

The resulting swap among viruses gradualy built up "immunity" within various life forms, until the process slowed to allow those life forms to develop their own "cut and paste" to reproduce similar forms by "unzipping DNA and re-mixing genetic information sexually.

You and I and a host of other adaptive species are the result of this random appearing process.

Human life forms, however, tend to seek control of their environment by developing systems that successfully and collectively avoid change. That's why you see empires such as Egypt, Babylon, Persia, etc., but it is also why you see this little nation called Israel, quite adaptive, not only transforming and breaking apart such systems, but forcing us into continually more individual perspectives.

The system seems to operate in the same fashion, whether you are talking about DNA, biology, information, or civilizations. This used to be an aspect of what was called Chaos science, recognizing common patterns resulting from apparent randomness, such as the Mandelbrot fractal.

This is what finally conviced the atheist philosopher Antony Flew to accept the existence of a God.

Allen C. Dexter said...

Whew. Les, your comment finally got me to see a bit more of what Godel's Theorem was all about. I'm a simplistic kind of guy who likes to boil things down to a concept I can identify with.

Whether or not there was a first cause, or god, behind it, everything that exists seems to be organized confusion that resulted from random sorting out until things fit together in an order of some kind.

This is evidenced by our cratered moon and the sudden firefall over the Midwest a couple nights ago. The clockwork creation people like HWA liked to prate about just aint so. Viva la randomness.

Ralph said...

Yes, and I just read an article about the electric plasma universe. That totally challenges the mechanical clockwork universe of Newton.

Morris Loess and Les S. Moore said...

Neotherm is right, of course, Godel's theorem is about incompleteness. We skipped directly to randomness, the consequence most related to this blog, without connecting them. Too terse, we see.

Ralph clarified in a later post. Thanks, Ralph.

Ralph said...

Finally got it. "More is less, and less is more". said...

I am sure TBN and similar networks would be considered, but one of the shortcomings I think is that those kinds of networks have a limited audience, whereas there is more likely to be a better response from general stations and networks.

I do NOT think UCG is ready to go belly up, not yet anyway.