Sunday, September 8, 2013

Thoughts on Carla Powers' Book, Matches in the Gas Tank

About two weeks ago I read Carla Powers' book about her life within HWA's Radio Church of God, Matches in the Gas Tank. Her website is at

I read through the book in about four days.

It is a very good book. Carla Powers is to be applauded for revealing this painful yet inspiring story to the interested public.

It well exposes how heartless and cruel the legalistic despotic ministers within HWA's group behaved. She describes at length how HWA's restrictive teachings caused her family to be isolated from the surrounding non-COG society. The tragic consequence of living within a high demand group.

Her story describes what the Radio Church of God was like before the turmoil of the 1970s. Many within the COGs, including some writers from LCG and PCG and others, claim that before 1970 all was well within the church led by HWA. One would get the impression that all was fine and dandy. A paradise of righteousness within a confused and sinful world.

That is nonsense. Actually in the 1950s and 1960s HWA's Radio Church of God/WCG was a cesspool of cruel authoritarianism that produced lives painfully restricted and fearful by the dogmas of HWA. Carla Powers' painful yet inspiring story reveals this to be the case. It is an urgent antidote against the selective, self serving nostalgia so many within the COG continue to believe in.

I gladly recommend this book.


  1. Hi Redfox

    I read this book too. Felt haunted by it for days afterwards. Am so glad that when my mother joined in the 70's we didn't pack up and head down to Big Sandy.

  2. I hope you don't mind if I do some flaming here about a review from

    The Radio Church of God had some cultish traits but it was not a true cult like Jonestown or Waco. I also think as one of your other reviewers wrote that Carla's chief obstacle was her alcoholic father. He became violent and mean when he was drunk. The religious organization made things worse, but did not cause the problem.

    First let us look at how "Take Back Your Life" defines as a cult:

    A cult is a group or movement exhibiting great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing, and employing unethical manipulation or coercive techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it), designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders, to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community.

    It never ceases to amaze me just how much lately people attempt to redefine (or undefined) such terms as "cult" or even "false prophet" (such as Richard Rittenbaugh did with Herbert Armstrong in "Fragmentation of a Sect"). The Radio Church of God was a cult. I was there. I know. I lived it.

    The second glaring issue is about alcoholism. Now it is true that alcoholism is an inherited liver defect which causes alcohol to be processed improperly in the body -- and in that regard, it is a disease, but not one for a 12 steps program to tie slaves to yet another addiction. It is easily treated: Don't drink alcohol.

    That said, it is absolutely the case (and Dennis Luker said this many times) that the irony is that people who never drank became practicing alcoholics after they joined the Radio / Worldwide Church of God because the RCG / WCG made it a "religion" to drink, with the powerful influence of the Armstrongs -- particularly Garner Ted Armstrong, but Herbert Armstrong drank to excess the more expensive stuff -- to excess. The whole Armstrong family were alcoholics because they inherited the mitochondrial genetics for it. Period.

    It is entirely possible that Carla's father would never had had any alcohol if it weren't for the Armstrong cult.

    Those who are alcoholics should trundle on over to to end their addiction instantly forever (if you are in the second or third stage of alcoholism ["Under the Influence"], you should seek medical assistance because you have serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies which absolutely must be treated).

    These people who comment often have hypothermia IQs.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

    I feel better now.

  3. Mickey,

    I can well understand how Carla Powers' book can do that. A lot of really nasty and infuriating things occur in that book. Not an easy read at all.

    Douglas Becker,

    It is good to expose the errors of those who wish to willfully forget how terrible things were and are within the COGs.

    I am glad you found this post useful.