Saturday, March 14, 2015

LCG's Richard Ames Lashing Out at Coverage of Brookfield Massacre (2005)

Shortly after the massacre of seven Living Church of God members in Brookfield, Wisconsin Richard Ames wrote a commentary entitled "Brookfield and the Critics". (Please note: It is from a certain false prophet's website.)

So soon after the darkest days for LCG what did Ames say about it?
In the case of the Brookfield tragedy, the police had a responsibility to determine the immediate cause. Some of the media quickly attempted to invent or find "sinister" practices of the Church. The police concluded that Church practices and sermons were not the cause, but that the killer himself was the cause.
Of course the killer was the cause. Without question he bears the blame for the massacre. The murderer is responsible. No other person within or without LCG bears responsibility.

But this leads to another question: Why did he decide to murder people? What motivated him?

Considering how seven people died it is only responsible that the media try to determine what lead to or contributed to his decision to commit murder in order to keep the public (and not least the victims) informed about the circumstances surrounding the massacre.

So what is the media supposed to do when they discover that LCG is a strand of a religion called Armstrongism that has often been described by others as a cult for decades?

Naturally they try to determine what motivated the murderer. When they hear that apparently the murderer was frustrated at not having a wife and then they further learn that Armstrongism has a long history of telling members to only marry within the church they happen to be in, and that these groups (including LCG) do not have that many members, how could one not at least bring up the possibility that restrictions regarding who can marry whom might have contributed to the murderer's atrocious decision? Of course it is impossible to be sure because the murderer killed himself to evade justice.

As far as I can tell the media did not even uncover the whole story. As far as I know no one in the media even mentioned Roderick C. Meredith's role in imposing HWA's draconian rules on divorce and remarriage that were enforced until 1974 and caused numerous marriages to be torn apart for no good reason. The media never even uncovered that sordid horror from Armstrongism's history with which Roderick C. Meredith was intimately involved. 

What is the media supposed to do when they learn that Armstrongism has a long history of preaching that the end is near and yet it always fails to happen? Who would not get frustrated and resentful about such things? 
Even so, some critics, within and without the Church of God, have tried to blame the Church. Church members have been quick to discern where the media have been in great error, misrepresenting the doctrines, practices and history of the Church, and getting many facts wrong in their rush to report quickly. Yet even some who wisely see the error of the media’s rush to judgment have themselves rushed to judgment regarding the reason for the Brookfield tragedy. Some assume that the Brookfield tragedy is a specific sign that the Church is receiving correction for specific infractions, though the critics disagree among themselves as to what those infractions are.
What are these "many facts" that the media have got "wrong"? What "practices and history" of LCG are supposedly being misrepresented?

It is true that Armstrongism has a long history of trying to control who may marry whom. It is true that Armstrongism has long preached that the end is near and yet it never happens. None of this justifies or excuses what the murderer did in the slightest. Rather people naturally yearn to have answers about why such a monstrous thing occurred. If some these lines of inquiry appear to reflect badly upon LCG's leaders maybe LCG's leaders should address these issues instead of moaning that people are making stuff up when, as far as I can tell, that is not generally the case.

This is an issue of life and death. Frankly people cannot afford to worry about upsetting LCG's leaders while trying to determine what led to the massacre.
Yet even some who wisely see the error of the media’s rush to judgment have themselves rushed to judgment regarding the reason for the Brookfield tragedy. Some assume that the Brookfield tragedy is a specific sign that the Church is receiving correction for specific infractions, though the critics disagree among themselves as to what those infractions are.
What heartless individual has said that LCG deserved the massacre? I have no idea. It would not surprise me if some silly Armstrongite might say something callous and immoral like that but I do not know who Ames could possibly be talking about here. I cannot help but wonder if this is another straw man? I would love it to have anyone who said such a terrible thing named and shamed but I am unable to do so. 
One problem with most of these criticisms is their dogmatism and absolutism. Each critic is totally convinced that his or her identification of a specific cause is absolute. Such an approach is, to say the least, arrogant, and fails to understand the breadth and depth of God’s approach to human suffering. There may be many reasons for a tragedy, all of which cannot be identified by any single person...
This is a straw man. As far as I can tell coverage of the massacre was neither dogmatic or absolute. Many high demand groups love using a black and white mentality to justify controlling their followers lives. Ames is letting this black and white mentality fool him into thinking people are just attacking LCG when what they are really doing is asking questions and trying to find answers.

Ames ends his commentary with the following words.
This event also encourages us to mourn, to examine ourselves, and to humble ourselves. Thus the Church will fast as a body on April 9, 2005. At the same time, Christ is opening new doors for the gospel to be preached. He is the judge, not self-appointed critics. He has corrected the Church and will correct the Church. He uses His faithful servants and saints to go forward in faith to do His Work and His will.
I find myself disappointed to see that in this commentary Ames chose to lash out at people saying uncomfortable things about LCG's doctrines and practices instead of listening to this criticism in order to reform LCG into a more wholesome, less dogmatic and more loving group.

One thing that can be said about Richard Ames is that he certainly knows how to present himself in a more genteel manner than Roderick C. Meredith. But here we see him lashing out to protect the power and privilege he enjoys within LCG.

Although many people have been badly affected by Armstrongism a few people, a numerically small elite, have had the time of their lives with Armstrongism and have gained power and privilege from the movement HWA created. One of them is Richard Ames.

Ames went to Ambassador College. Armstrongism gave him a wife, who happened to be Roderick C. Meredith's sister. Armstrongism gave him a living to provide for his family. After HWA's death he got to be one the presenters of The World Tomorrow. He was in HWA's place presenting The World Tomorrow. To rise up in the ranks must have been professionally rewarding and fulfilling. As Meredith's brother-in-law he was perfectly positioned to join Meredith in creating the Global Church of God and later following him into LCG.

But then this massacre occurred. Suddenly many people who ordinarily ignored LCG were asking questions and looking for answers to explain this massacre. They started talking about things that presented LCG in a bad way. Ames clearly did not like this. And that would seem to be why he wrote this commentary.

Ames complains that the media was misrepresenting LCG thus presenting them in a bad light. But his commentary well succeeds in making LCG's leaders look terribly short sighted regarding the massacre and of peoples' attempt to understand what happened.


  1. From the accounts, I conclude that it was a product of anger.

    I think the appropriate question should be "what makes people in the LCG angry?".

    My experience: When people lie to you and you find out they are lying to you, you become angry.

    It's pretty universal.

    The only difference is the scale of the response.

  2. Without breaking a sweat, I can think of some factors which would cause anger that were historically prevalent in Armstrongism, but are not present at least to the point of being corporately institutionalized within mainstream Christian churches.

    1). Anger amongst those raised in ACOGs as a result of excessive, abusive, and unfair punishment during adolescence.

    2). Anger at the personal circumstances which false prophecy has caused in their lives, such as deficiencies in education, career, and health.

    3). Anger at the nearly totalitarian church government practiced intrusively in members' lives.

    4). Anger or frustration at the constant demand for additional financial support in the face of the shrinking American middle class.

    5). Anger over doctrines which are easily proven to be based on poor research, and lies.

    6). Anger at being trapped through the usage of constant fear inherent in the Armstrong prophecy mold.

    7). Anger over the lack of leadership and hyper-ego which has lead to the constant splintering, causing fracturing even amongst families who are believers in the basic package of Armstrong doctrines.

    There is no question that these same factors would definitely cause or worsen depression, as well!


  3. Add to that anger that we've disproved Armstrongism and the Armstrongists act as though they haven't noticed and keep making up ever more creative excuses.