Saturday, August 3, 2013

How Meredith Perverted the Sabbath into a Terrible Burden

Recently I went through the various cartoon on the All About Armstrongism blog. I found many of them very useful in summing up various aspects of life within HWA's WCG.

There is one cartoon about rushing to finish "work" before Friday sunset.

That was me many times when the Sabbath started Friday sunset. Many times I would be reading a good book but, drat, because of my understanding of what is forbidden (by HWA and Meredith's God) I would have to stop once Sabbath started and wait for the Sabbath to end.

This also interfered with some TV programs I was watching. There was this TV show I watched, but on Fridays the sun set while the show was on, so once I saw that the sun had set I would stop watching it in the middle of the show. In this way Armstrongism was isolating me from "the world."

But more seriously whenever I had to do something on the Sabbath I would constantly beat myself down in my head that I was not doing God's will. In my family I was the only one who embraced Armstrongism so in some instances I ended up needing to do things that I viewed as "breaking the Sabbath." They were not mean to me, but that was my situation.

I remembered what Roderick C. Meredith wrote in his booklet Which Day is the Christian Sabbath? Here Meredith turns the Sabbath into a great burden by perverting what is written in Isaiah to change the Sabbath into a twenty four hour, one day a week Armstrongism indoctrination session. (I later learned that "your own pleasure" cited in the quotation below actually meant, in the Hebrew, more like "thine own business", or "not plying your trade" as other translations have it. I will discuss more of this below.) I actually tried to follow what he said here for about eight years, 2000-8.
But cessation of labor is not the only requirement God makes. ...

Finally, to really understand how God intended the Sabbath to be used, look at what He said in Isaiah 58: "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight... not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth" (vv. 13-14).

So we are not to be doing our own pleasure on God's Holy Day. That means we aren't to be pursuing our hobbies or leisure activities. That does not preclude doing any enjoyable things on the Sabbath whatsoever, for we are to find DELIGHT in it. The point is that, whatever we do, God must be an intrinsic part of it. A family walk through a natural setting, for example, is a wonderful way to get in touch with the great God who made the beautiful creation we see.

When the seventh day arrives, we must stop pursuing our "own ways" (the things we normally do), seeking our "own pleasure" (just trying to have fun) and speaking our "own words" (the everyday things we talk about that do not involve God). This last one is often VERY HARD to follow because "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). To truly keep the Sabbath in the spirit, we must focus our MINDS on God and those things He wants us to be concerned with during His holy time. Then, as God promises, we will be truly blessed. 
I will be forever haunted by these terribly abusive words.

I wish I was exaggerating, but I will. 

Meredith said this is what God wanted and I trusted Roderick C. Meredith. I truly believed that he was the man most closely aligned with God. 

When he says "whatever we do, God must be an intrinsic part of it", he means Armstrongism. He does not mean Sunday keeping Christians who are demonized as bearing the mark of the Beast by keeping Sunday as a day of worship. It is my understanding HWA plagiarized this idea from the Seventh Day Adventists. That teaching automatically isolated me from the vast majority of Christians who could have shown me that Armstrongism was not what it advertized itself to be. 

So effectively for me I would always use the Sabbath to read the Bible, COG writings from LCG, writings of HWA and old WCG I could find on the Internet. 

In late 2000 I discovered Bob Thiel's website, and because he was already in LCG, the COG I had come in contact with, I devotedly followed his writings every Sabbath. LCG's booklets are mainly aimed at "the world" so they did not try to explain why one should join LCG as opposed to any other COG, like PCG, UCG, RCG, CGI or any other. But Bob Thiel patiently explained in his articles how each COG differed from each other and, naturally, he always concluded that one should join LCG and members of other COGs should stop scattering the brethren and join LCG. He also wrote many other things so I would pass the Sabbath away by updating myself on what he had written. 

(So when he left LCG to proclaim himself a Prophet in late 2012, even though I had long since renounced Armstrongism it still made me very mad. Why couldn't he do that earlier!? Why couldn't he have become disillusioned with Meredith in 1998 as many other GCG members did!? It could have saved me a lot of trouble.)

Later I decided it was not sinful to read non-fiction so I would often read historical books. COG leaders often write about various events in world history claiming it is all part of some divine plan only they fully understand. Reading about history would make me better see God's hand in history, I reasoned, and make me more knowledgeable about the historical topics COG writers discuss, so that is why I read non-fiction on the Sabbath. 

I found watching sermons a burden to me. My computer was not that powerful. I often had to restart it. They go for an hour and a half. So, around the end of 2001, I became set in reading COG materials and the Internet, LCG booklets I had ordered, the Bible as interpreted by Armstrongites, and non-fiction in order to better understand Armstrongite teachings about history.  

Also the false and inaccurate teaching of British Israelism also made me think I was an Israelite who needed to observe the Sabbath. That reinforced my conviction to observe the Sabbath. 

Little did I know COG members break the Sabbath all the time by working to go to church services, preparing potlucks for the congregation, and keeping the church up and running. 

It is impossible to keep this law, that is the problem that the doctrine of grace resolved by placing Christians under the unmerited favor of God who forgives our sins. 

It is impossible to keep the Mosaic law, not least because the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, making the sacrifices demanded by that law impossible to fulfill. The sacrifices were not separate from the moral laws as HWA taught, which was another idea he pinched from the Seventh Day Adventists.

Later, long after I had renounced Armstrongism, I read chapter ten of William Hinsom's book, Broadway to Armageddon and it cited this study paper produced by WCG leaders in May 1976.

On page 189 there is reproduced a page of this report which states:
The following statement of the Worldwide Church of God supersedes all material heretofore published on the subject.
On pp. 192-3 this paper discusses Isaiah 58:13-14.
Note: It should be carefully noted that the term "seeking your own pleasure" does not, in the Hebrew, have reference to personal enjoyment. The word "pleasure" is khephets in Hebrew. In the Jewish translation it is rendered "thine own business".
The New English Bible makes the meaning clearer than either the King James version or the Revised Standard Version:
"If you cease to tread the Sabbath underfoot, and keep my holy day free from your own affairs, if you call the Sabbath a day of joy...if you honor it by not plying your own trade, not seeking your own affairs..."
This translation shows the true intention of the words "thine own pleasure!" The Hebrew term rendered pleasure is often translated "desire" or "purpose" in other passages (cf. Eccl. 3:1, 17; I Kings 5:8, 9, 10, etc.). The Jewish translation speaks of "pursuing thy business" and "thy wonted ways". The Hebrew khephets is not addressing the question of pleasurable activities that are illegal on the Seventh day! If pleasure were not present, how could the day possibly be a delight!? 
This passage of Scripture has been erroneously applied to such activities as television viewing, swimming, listening to music, marital relations, and even reading the weekly comics in the newspaper!
Now this paper was not simply opening the door for just about anything. It is still firmly Sabbatarian. The paper balances itself by saying immediately afterwards:
Of course, any of these activities could violate the spirit of the Sabbath day if they were abused or overdone. They are not, by and of themselves, wrong. Any activity which interferes with or detracts from the joy, rest and spiritual intention of the day could be wrong. If an activity works against the spirit of the Sabbath, it is wrong, no matter what it is.    
I so wished I had understood this before, but in my position, in 2000, that was simply impossible. 

I trusted Meredith and this trust led me in a nightmare.

It was sad for me to see these words and to see that Meredith had dreadfully misinformed me causing me years of misery and false fear that I was sinning against God.

I tried doing what he said for eight years. It was a disaster. A complete waste of time and effort. 

I was not honoring God, but following the ignorant rants and ravings of a terribly confused false prophet who exploits his followers making them pay three tithes and extra offerings.

[Update: You can read William Hinsom's Broadway to Armageddon by going to Exit and Support Network.]

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