Friday, March 31, 2017

PCG's Stephen Flurry Incorrectly Implies that the Yugoslav Wars Started in December 1991

Recently PCG's heir apparent Stephen Flurry has posted an article insisting that Germany lit the spark for the Yugoslav Wars in December 1991 by recognizing Slovenia and Croatia as independent states. PCG teaches that Germany is fated to become a military power which will conquer the United States.
In December 1991, Germany boldly defied global opinion and extended diplomatic recognition to Croatia and Slovenia—two states that wanted to break away from Yugoslavia and start a civil war. America and the rest of Europe protested the breakaway. But Germany, supported by the Vatican, imposed its will on the West, and war erupted in the Balkans. The conflict eventually spread from Croatia and Slovenia into Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. (Stephen Flurry, How America Helped Germany Conquer Europe, March 28, 2017.)
But there is a problem with this statement. The war started months earlier.

Slovenia fought its war of independence from June 27-July 7, 1991. After that the Brioni Agreement was signed and Belgrade agreed to withdraw the Yugoslav military from Slovenia. The last federal soldiers left Slovenia on October 26. Slovenia was already de facto independent before December 1991.

Armed conflict in Croatia began as early as March 31, 1991 with the Plitvice Lakes incident. On May 19, 1991 a referendum was held in which 94% of the voting public voted for Croatia to become independent. Croatia proclaimed independence on June 25. Belgrade went to war to bring Croatia back under Yugoslav rule. One particularly severe battle was the Battle of Vukovar which raged from August 25-November 18, 1991 in which Yugoslav forces besieged and eventually seized Vukovar. On the Yugoslav side 1,103-1,561 soldiers died. On the Croatian side 879 died. Also 1,131 civilians were killed. Furthermore 550 people went missing.

All that happened before Germany recognized Slovenia and Croatia as independent states in December 1991. Considering these things how can Stephen Flurry say that the wars started in December 1991?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

LCG Teaching that Apostles Brought "True Christianity" to Ireland (2002)

Banned by HWA has a post up stating that UCG had published an article in 2014 that portrayed Saint Patrick as being like the COGs today.

It has long been taught in the COGs that for centuries in the distant past the church in the British Isles was very much like the COGs until they were taken over by Catholics loyal to the Pope.

This idea may also be seen in LCG's writings as may be seen in Douglas Winnail's article "Early Christianity in Europe's Western Isles" (Tomorrow's World, November-December 2002.) However in that article it is insisted that the some of the original Apostles brought Christianity to the British Isles.
The widely accepted notion that Patrick first brought Christianity to Ireland is a fable—not a fact. Numerous historical sources state that the Apostles brought true Christianity to Ireland four centuries before Patrick!
Armstrongism was started up by Herbert Armstrong when he joined the Church of God (Seventh Day) and split away from them to start up his own organization which taught his own ideas often cobbled together from other sources in a syncretic fashion, often from other Adventist sources and the Jehovah's Witnesses. To say it is a continuation of some early form of Christianity in the British Isles is nonsense.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Localizing Armstrongism Outside the USA

Recently Banned by HWA featured an intriguing comment on James Malm's website which among other things shows how political messages taught within the COGs gets localized in different countries to fit in with the membership and keep the churches afloat.
... so many CoGs are so very political, taking strong stances on Trump, on tax dollars spent on abortion, on Obamacare etc. with their publications causing a major headache for their congregations abroad (e.g.the UCG in Europe refusing to translate the pro-Trump drivel that came from Don Ward recently so as not to lose their entire congregations).... 
(UCG-ers in Canada are always offended by the editorial in the Beyond Today magazine which implies frequently that taking tax money to pay into a shared pool for health insurance is a violation of “Thou shalt not steal” because the govt is stealing your money !! (Mike Kelley’s time-worn theme).

Saturday, March 25, 2017

LCG's Meredith: Hitler was Influenced by Demons (2001)

In 2001 LCG's leader, Roderick C. Meredith, speculated that Adolf Hitler was influenced by demons.
To enact His will among men, God uses His secret, invisible agents—righteous angels (and at times even fallen angels)—to influence, to deliver or to destroy. ... 
Evidently, God did specifically allow demons to possess or strongly influence the Nazi dictator. British author George Bruce wrote, "Can the mystery of the evil of Nazism be explained? Was there a Satanic nucleus at the heart of it? One interpretation of its nature that should be mentioned is the link between Nazism and the alleged attachment to black magic and occultism of Hitler and his inner circle, including Goering, Himmler, Goebbels, Ley and, in the early days, Dietrich Eckart and professor Karl Haushofer. 
"Hitler, according to what may seem to many people a far-fetched belief, was the medium through whom contact was made with supernatural powers of evil. Hermann Rauschning, who observed Hitler with a cold and analytical eye, declares that he was a medium, 'possessed by forces outside himself—almost demoniacal forces.' Rudolf Olden, political editor of the newspaper Berliner Tageblatt in the days of Nazism's rise to power, remarked how the overwhelming, almost superhuman Niagara of words that poured forth during Hitler's speeches sometimes reached a climax during which he literally 'spoke in tongues' and seemed possessed. André François-Poncet, French Ambassador to Berlin, also referred to this apparent demoniacal possession" (The Nazis, Hamlyn, 1974, p. 154). 
After citing a number of other observers who felt Hitler had dark spiritual help, George Bruce speculated, "And does not this theory of Hitler being dominated by evil supernatural forces throw light for the first time on the reason for Auschwitz, Treblinka, the deaths of six million Jews, the plan to murder 33 million of the Slav population of Russia, the readiness to sacrifice three or four million of Germany's young manhood in war and, finally, the long-term aim, reported by Fabian von Schlabrendorff, for the total and permanent destruction of Christianity throughout the world?" (p. 156). (Roderick C. Meredith, "How God Intervenes in Human Affairs," Tomorrow's World, September-October, 2001, pp. 6-7.)
Meredith then insists that even worse things are fated to occur.
Hitler's Europe was a mild precursor of what God's inspired Word prophesies concerning the future revival of a satanically influenced "Babylonian-Roman system".... It is a sobering thought to consider that some of the most important players on the world scene who are shaping our destinies cannot be seen. We need to be much more aware of the very real spirit world around us. And we must make absolutely certain that we are guided by the Spirit of God! (p. 7.)
Parts of this article are based from an article by Roderick Meredith that was published in the May 1985 issue of The Plain Truth.
At times, the Creator works through spirit beings he createdrighteous angels, and even the fallen angels—to bring about his will. ....
In his book The Nazis. the respected British author George Bruce asks: 
"Can the mystery of the evil of Nazism be explained? Was there a Satanic nucleus at the heart of it? One interpretation of its nature that should be mentioned is the link between Nazism and the alleged attachment to black magic and occultism of Hitler and his inner circle, including Goering, Himmler, Goebbels, Ley and, in the early days, Dietrick Eckart and Professor Karl Haushofer.  
"Hitler, according to what may seem to many people a far-fetched belief, was the medium through whom contact was made with supernatural powers of evil. Hermann Rauschning, who observed Hitler with a cold and analytical eye, declares that he was a medium, 'possessed by forces outside himself-almost demoniacal forces.' Rudolf Olden, political editor of the Berliner Tageblatt in the days of Nazism's rise to power, remarked how the overwhelming, almost superhuman Niagara of words that poured forth during Hitler's speeches sometimes reached a climax during which he literally 'spoke in tongues' and seemed possessed. Andre Francois Poncet, French Ambassador to Berlin, also referred to his apparent demoniacal possession." (Roderick C. Meredith, "Drought, Famine, War ...has God Lost Control?" The Plain TruthMay 1985, pp. 14, 38, PDF pp. 16, 40.)
There is a severe moral problem with this idea. If Hitler was influenced by demons then this would exonerate him of the unfathomably terrible and innumerable crimes such as the Holocaust that he committed and allowed to occur. If they are the fault of demon spirits then how can he be blamed? To minimize Hitler's responsibility for these most terrible crimes is clearly unacceptable and repugnant.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Reading PCG's Booklet, Daniel Unlocks Revelation: Part 1

Banned by HWA has revealed a letter Gerald Flurry published on February 3, 2017 demanding his followers send in money to fund the purchase of a privately owned airplane. In the letter it is estimated that it will cost about $9-11 million to purchase the plane and cost an additional $2 million per year to maintain it. In 2012 PCG's yearly income was about $19.5 million so  is a huge expense that he is placing upon tithing PCG lay members.

The road to this degraded spectacle of excess was paved with the various booklets that PCG's leadership has produced over the years. One such booklet was Gerald Flurry's 2005 booklet, Daniel Unlocks Revelation. Here Flurry asserts that PCG's doctrines are divinely revealed to the leaders and are not reached by simply properly understanding the Bible; denounce Tkach as a modern day Antiochus; insists that his PCG is the voice of (PCG's) God; complains that some people do not loath Germans as much as he does; alleges that a 1984 booklet was published without HWA's knowledge and makes other statements. You can read this booklet on their website.

This post discusses the original 2005 printing of this booklet.

Let us see what he has to say.

Chapter 1
And astoundingly, we understand most of this book today—more than the Church ever has! (p. 4.)
But if PCG understands Revelation more than anyone else among all who are called Christians then why give any respect to them? If this is true it means PCG is greater than the Apostles.
Christ also wants to make sure of that—in fact, He spent His whole ministry trying to get us to honor the Father. He came to this Earth to declare the Father (John 1:18). Nobody on Earth understands that except the very elect! (p. 4.)
Here "the very elect" is a loaded term meaning "those in PCG". Once again Flurry claims that his PCG are the only ones on all the Earth that properly understands this. But in fact most of the other COG groups also place great emphasis on worshiping God the Father. They also have a Father focus just like PCG. Why does Flurry say untrue things?
If we don’t approach this with the right honor for God the Father, we will never understand what He’s doing! We’ll get lost like the Laodiceans, who have completely lost the God Family understanding. (p. 5.)
While those words are true regarding Tkach's WCG in fact the other COG groups continue to fervently believe in and teach the same God Family doctrine that HWA taught. Why does Flurry say untrue things?
There is a dramatic time emphasis here —when “one is” during the sixth resurrection of the beast! God sent an apostle (“one sent from God”) when “five are fallen, and one is.” God the Father sent Mr. Armstrong at a precise time to proclaim His message to the world when “five are fallen and one is. ” That means that God would send a man on the scene to understand events surrounding the sixth Holy Roman Empire—when “one is.” (p. 6.)
It is conveniently ignored that HWA taught that World War II would end with the return of Christ during those days.
And it was out of the Roman Empire that the Holy Roman Empire arose in A.D. 554. (p. 6.)
Outside of the COGs the Byzantine Empire is never referred to as the Holy Roman Empire. Armstrongism's insistence on calling the Byzantine Empire something else is yet another example of loading the term.
These prophecies were revealed to Herbert W. Armstrong. God would reveal much more to the PCG after Mr. Armstrong died. (p. 7.)
After Gerald Flurry established PCG he would change various dogmas and interpretations and release these new doctrines to PCG members as "new revelation".
Really, if we understood this one verse while Mr. Armstrong was alive, we could have realized that he probably would not have been alive during the final resurrection of the beast! (p. 7.)
It was widely taught by WCG's leaders that HWA would still be alive when Christ returned.
There is no way you can understand the book of Revelation without understanding the book of Daniel. Daniel 2 is the key to understanding Daniel 7. Daniel 7 is the key to understanding Revelation 13. Revelation 13 is the key to understanding Revelation 17. And the book of Revelation shows the time frame of all Bible prophecy. (p. 9.)
It was William Miller who taught this interpretation back in the 1830s and 1840s. HWA, Flurry and the other COG leaders are but imitating their predecessor Miller.
We will witness only one more head—then we can forget about the beast! Wars, terrorism, weather disasters—it will all be gone forever! When “the other” comes and finishes its work, Christ is going to come and rule forever! That’s what we need to get excited about most of all , not some titillating prophecy about the beast . (pp. 9-10.)
That would be a lot easier for PCG members to do if the PCG 1% did not constantly use "titillating" prophecies to get more members for PCG.
Revelation 17:6 shows the beast drunk on the blood of God’s saints. Many of the Laodiceans are saying nice things about that woman, but she has a history of murdering the people of God! That is what she does best! Yet the Laodiceans don’t have enough courage to tell this world what she is, even though that is what God has commanded us to do. (p. 10.)
While this may be true of Tkach's WCG the other COGs continue to fervently believe and teach that the Roman Catholic Church is the Woman described in Revelation 17.
Notice how God’s Church is intertwined with the beast. We are its number-one enemy. And those who are Laodicean—95 percent of God’s people today—will not be protected by God. They are going to die a bloody death and finally see—the hard way—just how deadly this murderous whore is. And hopefully they will believe God then and never forsake Him again. (p. 10.)
PCG insists that all those in the other COG groups are doomed to endure the Great Tribulation. PCG says the only way to escape the Great Tribulation is to join PCG and pay it three tithes for the rest of your life.
There is a two-pronged duality here. Antiochus is a type of both the spiritual and physical abomination in the latter days. First, an Antiochus is used by Satan to destroy God’s Church, spiritual Israel, from the inside. Then there is an Antiochus—leading the Holy Roman Empire—who destroys the nations of Israel. So there are two Antiochus types who destroy both spiritual and physical Israel. (p. 11.)
In 2013 Flurry would add to this dogma and insinuate that President Obama is another Antiochus just like Tkach and the future European dictator fated to conquer America. Essentially Flurry called Obama an Antichrist like figure.

Flurry later fear mongers about Satan and insist that he is very powerful.
God has an army of angels and saints. Satan has an army of demons and men—in this case sinning saints. In Daniel 10 is the example of Gabriel delivering a prophecy to Daniel and being attacked by Satan. Gabriel sent for Michael, and it took Michael and Gabriel 21 days to get past him! (Daniel 10:13). Satan has prodigious power! We really are in a spiritual war! The Philadelphia Church of God is fighting the same enemy that Daniel, Gabriel and Michael fought! This war is invisible. But the very elect are acutely aware of it! (pp. 11-12.)
Didn't Flurry just insist that PCG members should not fixate their attention on "titillating" stuff?
We are commanded to prophesy again as Mr. Armstrong did. The emphasis is on the warning—not the gospel, as it was with Mr. Armstrong. That is because time is so short and world events are extremely horrifying. We are in the period of time when Satan is cast down —the Laodicean era. We still preach the gospel to the world. However, we emphasize the warning that leads to the good news. The warning still points to the return of Jesus Christ—the good news of the coming Kingdom of God (or the gospel). This vision of Daniel 8:9-27 ends with the return of Christ. (p. 12.)
How confusing this is. One moment Flurry says not to focus so much on prophecy. Next he is talking all about such claimed prophecies.

Flurry then insists that Ambassador Auditorium was specifically mentioned in the Bible and he insinuates that it will later be demolished.
The place of God’s sanctuary was cast down. The International Critical Commentary says, “The word for place is rare, implying a construction.” Yes, it is rare: it’s talking about the Ambassador Auditorium. Mr. Armstrong called it God’s house—it was built as a place to worship and glorify God. It has already been destroyed spiritually, and I would expect that it will be destroyed physically as well. (p. 13.)
Twelve years later Ambassador Auditorium is still standing. It is now owned by a church unaffiliated with Armstrongism but it still stands.

Flurry then threatens the salvation of his followers by saying that if a PCG member fails to put one's heart into building up PCG he or she might lose salvation.
The priority in Daniel 8 is the work. When Satan destroyed that, he knew everything was destroyed. If we don’t do the work, the Church dies. The work, or open door, identifies the Church (Revelation 3:7-8). That is how you know where God is. You individually must put your heart into the work, or you will die spiritually! (p. 15.)
Such threatening language will frighten those convinced that remaining in PCG is the only way to be in contact with God.
Look how quickly the leaders in Pasadena got rid of Mystery of the Ages after Mr. Armstrong died! Joe Tkach Jr. said that Mystery of the Ages was riddled with errors—but in fact, it was critical to the work! We use it all the time; it is required reading for baptismal candidates. One Laodicean evangelist (who has since died) said it was essential to God’s work; shortly after that, his boss said it was “riddled with errors.” Then the evangelist changed his own thinking to agree with his human boss! We must have more spiritual depth and courage than that! (p. 15.)
And so it is revealed again that PCG uses HWA's last book as required reading for those wishing to be baptized by PCG.
He is leading us into spiritual warfare. He led us into a six-year court battle, and because we followed, we won the rights to print Mr. Armstrong’s writings and now the work is flourishing as never before. We would never do this work if we didn’t have a wartime frame of mind. Daniel had a 21-day battle; we had a six-year battle! That makes sense, because Christ is about to return and Satan is more wrathful than ever. We fight against Satan’s army—millions of demons. Are we aware of the invisible warriors? (p. 18.)
So Flurry boasts that PCG is now flourishing as never before after gaining the copyrights to some of HWA's writings. Twelve years later how true is this for PCG? Especially now that Flurry wants to add the financial burden of a private airplane upon PCG's expenses?
First, let’s look at the abomination inside God’s Church. When did the transgressors “come to the full,” spiritually? Certainly that happened in the court case. As it says in verses 11-12, they were saints who did fight for Christ, but then they turned and fought against Christ! The transgressors really came to the full then. If that wasn’t the peak of their evil, it was extremely close. That horror started when the son of perdition started putting the emphasis on the college. He destroyed God’s truth and began talking in enigmas and riddles. In the beginning of the WCG after Mr. Armstrong died, there were many doctrinal changes. Some of the ministers and people asked about those changes. The leadership would say, “Changes? What changes?” Then after they completely destroyed the major doctrines, they boasted about the changes. This evil leader, inside God’s own Church, is a type of Antiochus, whom historians describe as a Machiavellian diplomat—he had a monstrous skill at deceiving people. (p. 18.)
By "son of perdition" Flurry means Tkach.
Now he has been a “king of fierce countenance” in totally wrecking God’s Church—not with God’s government, but the government of the devil! (p. 19.)
If there was no one man rule as HWA established within WCG then Tkach would never have been able to change WCG the way he did. But Flurry sidesteps that issue.
We need to watch the European Union for a man stepping in and seizing control of that entity through flatteries. He is going to hijack the EU. We need to watch the great whore for signs of her riding the beast. Politics in Europe are going to shift dramatically to the right. (p. 20.)
Ironically PCG happens to lean far to the right themselves. Nevertheless PCG has often scare mongered that Europe will shift to the right and turn against the United States and conquer it.

In the quote below the bracketed section is in the original booklet.
I’m sure the false church will be working behind the scenes. Most likely, we will see a church leader come along who knows the German system and will help get the political leader in who can really swing Europe around—a good strong believer of this church’s doctrines. [This was written before Pope Benedict XVI, a German pope, was coronated.] That political emperor is out there now, looking for an empire. As world troubles become more frightening, the empire will be seeking an emperor. (p. 20.)
And later, unexpectedly for PCG, Pope Benedict resigned.
It’s not easy to look at things that way, but how important it is! Many young people want to marry—but how many want to marry someone who’s wrapped up in the return of Jesus Christ? What a wonderful mate that would be! What joy and success comes from having a mate, and being around people, who can help you build your life around finishing God’s work! (p. 22.)
Flurry insists Daniel 8 means Christ's return is very near.
Daniel 8:9-27 is all one vision. Here is the point of this vision : If the truth of God has been cast down, CHRIST IS ABOUT TO RETURN. If the place of God’s sanctuary has been cast down, CHRIST IS ABOUT TO RETURN. If an evil Antiochus rules God’s Church, CHRIST IS ABOUT TO RETURN. If there was a Malachi’s Message used to cleanse His Church , CHRIST IS ABOUT TO RETURN — in this last end, and now this last hour. (p. 22.)
Chapter 2

Flurry boasts that after Christ's return PCG members will conquer the world. Any opposition will be destroyed.
Nebuchadnezzar really uttered a prophecy of what will soon happen when the saints of God rule with a rod of iron! If people don’t bow down to the true God, they’ll be cut in pieces—and much worse! Nebuchadnezzar recognized that this was the way it had to be: he could see that no other god was as strong as this God—the same God who leads the Philadelphia Church of God today. (p. 28.)
And so often PCG vilifies other religions such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim community of somehow yearning to take over the world. And yet PCG teaches that they themselves shall do this after Christ's return.
How about us? If we don’t receive blessings, something is not right in our lives. Perhaps we aren’t passing our tests and trials. (p. 29.)
If something goes wrong Flurry insists it cannot be PCG's fault. If a PCG member pays the three tithes and endures financial problems because of this Flurry is denying that they could possibly blame PCG's practices for his or her problems.
God the Father wants a family. He loves the people of this world deeply. He wants to give them life —but they won’t accept it! God knows that, for most of them, it’s going to take a lot of correction before they’ll recognize His plan for them and accept an invitation into His Family. (p. 31.)
This denigration of humanity is a license for PCG ministers to treat their followers harshly.
God’s lukewarm people don’t honor their Father (Malachi 1:6). Already they have lost God’s family plan, which is the gospel! They don’t see God’s family plan in the book of Daniel or throughout the whole Bible. What blindness! They have lost everything. What a massive tragedy! (p. 31.)
Why does Flurry say untrue things? Many of the COG groups continue to teach and fervently believe in HWA's God Family dogma.
Human nature is not humble; it is self-willed, and we all have it! Don’t kid yourself! We don’t realize how self-willed we are, so God has to show us! God knows how to humble the proud. Sometimes He has to get out His paddle and correct us. He tries and tests us, because He is shaping and molding—He wants us to rule the world. We must respond to that correction in the right way. We want to be like Daniel and say God is my judge. We had better be humble people.

Those who walk in pride, God is able to abase. In fact, we should regularly ask God to humble us in His mercy. (p. 32.)
And so we see Flurry teaching his followers to loath themselves and even reform their minds to welcome being rebuked by PCG's leaders.
Nebuchadnezzar wrote part of the book of Daniel, including these verses. Sir Henry Rawlings was a famous historian. He found a document by Nebuchadnezzar where he recorded this exactly as Daniel did. (p. 33.)
Is this anecdote true?
Is there a better book in the Bible regarding trials than Daniel? These men were consistently tried and promoted, tried and prospered—it was an endless cycle. We too are being tried and tested, and we prosper and are promoted. God is judging us, grading us, evaluating us. God wants us to learn to let Him judge us and to totally put our lives in His hands, as Daniel did. (p. 35.)
Flurry uses the example of Daniel and his friends to insist that PCG's dogmas that members will get to be God Family members in the future are true.

Here Flurry tries his hand at divination using the names of Daniel and his three friends.
The Jewish names of Daniel and his three friends carry special significance. The letters in their names can be assigned specific numeric values: Daniel, 95; Hananiah, 120; Mishael, 381; and Azariah, 292. Those numbers all add up to 888. Seven is perfection. But 888 is above perfection —which is what God is! (p. 35.)
888 is indeed above 7, just like 8, 9 and 10. What bizarre words he says here.

Flurry insists that PCG's God want a house for God like HWA's Ambassador Auditorium. This indicates that as early as 2005 Flurry was contemplating the construction of Armstrong Auditorium.
So why would God want a physical house of God today? Because it is a type of God’s spiritual house. This physical building helps reinforce in our minds that we are called today for one purpose: to do God’s work—which declares His message. Otherwise, we would be called after Christ returns like all the rest of humanity. Today, we are the small firstfruit harvest to help God with the great fall harvest of all humanity. This is the understanding that the Laodiceans—95 percent of God’s people—never did get. Or if they really got that message, they lost it. (p. 36.)
Flurry insists that one can only be right with God by being in PCG.
There is often a strength if you “remember your roots.” What a dramatic difference it would make if spiritual Israel—the Laodiceans—and the nations of Israel would remember their roots—their history with God! Only they have roots worth remembering! (p. 41.)
Flurry constantly insists to his followers that they are the true royalty as they are fated to rule the world under Christ for a thousand years and even afterwards will rule over those born into the God Family after Christ's return for all eternity.
We are God’s royalty! We will rule over Nebuchadnezzar and the kings of this world. God’s people must focus on the throne we’ll be sitting on and on God’s palace. We are already kings and priests who outrank every king on Earth! (p. 42.)
Maybe PCG members should see how far this claim of privilege go and argue with the IRS about taxes. On second thought they should not do such a thing.

Flurry then insists that his PCG is the voice of God.
People must hearken to “the voice” of God. Where is that voice? Who is speaking for God today? That voice is being trumpeted by the Philadelphia Church of God today. (p. 43.)
This is not true. PCG have made many false prophecies. There is no need for us to think that PCG just might be onto something. They are not. They are but false prophets.

Flurry fear mongers about various nations to insinuate that they will somehow destroy the United States in the near future.
Who sends these enemies to destroy us? God does it because of our vile sins! ... The Holy Roman Empire is going to besiege modern Israel in all our gates and then destroy us.
You can already see this prophecy moving toward its fulfillment; the European Union is moving into South America, making trade agreements that are taking business away from the United States. Venezuela, which has exported oil to the U.S. for years, now wants to award those contracts to China instead. Why would Latin America, which is right on the doorstep of the only superpower left in the world, go all the way across vast oceans to find alternate business partners? (p. 43.)
Perhaps Venezuela's acts just might have something to do with the fact that an attempted coup d'etet nearly overthrew the government in 2002. President Chávez insisted that the United States government supported the attempted coup.
We are entering the “times of the Gentiles.” Russia, China, Japan and the EU are forming alliances against the U.S. and biblical Israel. The U.S. is being besieged! Deuteronomy 28 is being fulfilled right now! Soon America will find it impossible to import oil and other necessities—just as Moses and Daniel said. Britain and the Jews in the Middle East are suffering a similar fate. (p. 44.)
Little did Flurry know that the oil industry would later devise fracking which would help cause the price of oil to plummet. But it must be stated that there are widespread concerns about the environmental impact of fracking. For instance since 2009 an unprecedented wave of earthquakes has been striking Oklahoma. Some suspect the fracking might be a contributing cause.
Daniel did not understand his own book (Daniel 12:4, 9). Today God has given a deep understanding of Daniel through Herbert W. Armstrong and myself. God reveals His truth for the Church only to apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:5). Then those who support God’s true leaders help deliver the revelation to this world. All of God’s very elect are kings and priests in embryo, getting ready to rule this world. The kings of this world are about to be replaced. (p. 46.)
Gerald Flurry claims that he and he alone is able to present "new revelation" from God.
If the Laodiceans went through something like what Daniel and his three friends endured, would they survive it? Of course not! (p. 47.)
Actually many political and religious movements all over the world have endured all kinds of deadly persecution. PCG is based in the United States, a land with freedom of religion so PCG has never had to endure turmoil such as execution for one's religious practices.

Chapter 3

Here Flurry states that HWA did not uncover his doctrines from the Bible but instead these dogmas were divinely revealed to him. He threatens that if one does not agree then he or she might somehow apostatize like those in WCG who stayed after the Tkach Changes. This ignores the plentiful evidence showing that HWA merely synthesized various doctrines from other sources such as the Church of God (Seventh Day), Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and British Israelism.
The reason it is so dangerous to view this as something “Mr. Armstrong uncovered” is that it puts this understanding on a human level. Those men ended up following a human. That is the inevitable result of thinking on a human level: You will always end up following a human being, whether it’s yourself or another person. (p. 53.)
Flurry insists that one must be loyal to PCG in order to be right with God.
In our age, 95 percent of God’s people—and, shamefully, over 99 percent of His ministers—turned against God when a rebellious leader took over God’s Church. God’s government is a vital tool and a wonderful blessing, but human leaders can go astray. This puts a serious responsibility on each one of us to know where our Head—Jesus Christ—is. (p. 54.)
Flurry asserts that the publication of an 1984 booklet, History of Europe and the Church by Keith Stump, was done behind HWA's back supposedly by those who would later implement the Tkach changes.

Flurry complains that Stump is too sympathetic to Germany regarding the Treaty of Versailles.

Also noteworthy is his unusual reference to Nazi Germany as the "Holy Roman Empire" which is a part of PCG's loaded language. Outside of the PCG information bubble it is known that the Holy Roman Empire was abolished in 1806 after Emperor Francis II renounced the title to make sure Napoleon did not claim that title for himself.
Wait a minute. Was the Treaty of Versailles really “humiliating”? Perhaps some of the stipulations were too strong, but, after all, the world had just witnessed the death of 10 million people! And Germany started that war. For the most part, the Treaty of Versailles was right. Pushing it aside did not restore Germany’s honor! World War II wasn’t about righting the wrongs of the Versailles Treaty. That war was motivated by the Holy Roman Empire’s desire to rule the world! Politically correct language like Mr. Stump’s only perpetuates the problem. (p. 56.) 
Flurry complains that Stump mentioned that there were tensions between the Nazi dictatorship and the Vatican.
“For its part,” Mr. Stump wrote, “the Vatican is at first sympathetic toward fascism, though Pope Pius XI is critical of fascism’s use of violence.” Pius XI reigned from 1922 to 1939; he died at the beginning of World War II. He was replaced by Pius XII, about whom Mr. Stump says basically the same thing. Is that true—that these popes were against violence? No, not when it was inflicted on their enemies! (p. 56.)
Flurry seems to handle Stump's words badly. Stump said that Popes were opposed to fascism's use of violence but then Flurry then rhetorically asked if these popes were against violence in general. Based on what Flurry wrote in this passage it seems that he quotes Stump out of context.

Flurry then insists that persecution may come upon PCG for saying things like this.
You can envision that down the road we will become unpopular, because we are going to tell the truth about that history and end-time prophecy. (p. 57.)
The leaders of Armstrongism have constantly insisted that some sort of persecution will soon come upon them. Such things have never happened in the United States.

Flurry does not want to deal with the possibility that the Nazi regime did what they liked and disregarded what the Pope said about such things. Instead his anti-Catholic ideology is here reasserted. Contrary possibilities are ignored. Flurry asserts that the Roman Catholic Church "was riding and guiding" the Nazi regime.
Keith Stump wrote as though the church was trying to head off World War II. God’s version of these events is very different: He says the church was riding and guiding the beast! The religious leaders weren’t guiding the politicians as much as they would have liked, but there has always been a conflict between the church and the state over ultimate control of that empire. The church wants to run the show, and so does the political head. (p. 57.)
Flurry mentions that he calls the lineage of political entities that HWA labelled the "Holy Roman Empire."

Flurry insists that if Stump's booklet is correct then he, Gerald Flurry, knows nothing.
If that church played a “peacemaking role,” as Mr. Stump suggested, then I don’t know anything about history and prophecy! (p. 58.)
Flurry cites a book named Hitler's Pope to insist his anti-Catholic attitude is justified.
Keith Stump described the pope as being “keenly concerned about the Jews.” Hitler’s Pope was written by John Cornwell, a Catholic. It is unusually authoritative because he had access to the Vatican’s own archives. That is an extremely rare privilege, given only to a tiny few people whom it trusts. He wrote that Pius XII had a history of being anti-Semitic, and I believe this is accurate. (p. 58.)
Incidentally LCG's John Ogwyn cited this very same book in his booklet, The Beast of Revelation.
The Concordat signed between the papacy and Italy's Fascist government was a prelude to one signed four years later between the papacy and the German Nazi government. The role of the Vatican in establishing both Mussolini and Hitler in power is detailed in Hitler's Pope, the Secret History of Pius XII (John Cornwell, Viking, 1999). (John Ogwyn, The Beast of Revelation, 2000, Chapter 3, p. 24.)
Flurry insists that Stump's booklet was published without HWA's knowledge.
These Laodicean leaders knew that Mr. Armstrong would not agree with that booklet. So why did they write it? They were aware that Mr. Armstrong was nearly blind and would not read this booklet. That means they also had enough control over headquarters and this 91-year-old man to keep anybody from getting to him and exposing their satanic plot! (p. 59.)
He then insists that being right by joining PCG is worth giving up one's life. Such talk incites fanaticism.
If we do our job, the Laodiceans will humble themselves before our feet—return to what God revealed. God is going to make them know that He loved us. 
What is it worth, as a human being, to have God say, I’m going to make them come back to what you believe, and make them know that I loved you! Isn’t that worth dying for? (pp. 59-60.)
He boasts that those who "fight against" PCG will face repercussions from PCG's God. He boasts that the facilities of PCG are built by PCG's God. He also refers to the Tkach changes.
People had better be careful when they fight against us. Of course people will cause us problems—but the God we serve will have His vengeance! You don’t go up against the people God clothed with the sun without incurring repercussions from God!  
Yet these men from God’s own Church would dare write and speak as they did, sounding so unlike their Father and their Husband!  
Do we realize who we are? Who clothes us? Who builds our work facilities? How we answer those questions separates us from the Laodiceans. (p. 60.)
Flurry has long gone to great length to separate his followers from the members of the other COG groups who are demonized by him as Laodiceans and unworthy of even social contact by PCG members.

Flurry minimizes the problems of the Dark Ages by insisting that the "darkest part of the Dark Ages" will soon occur.
That is not just history. Ninety percent of God’s prophecy is being fulfilled in this end time. The darkest part of the Dark Ages is just now beginning to develop! (p. 61.)
He insists that it is not easy to promote his teachings but he boasts that the more PCG does so this will bless his followers.
It’s not going to be easy to proclaim this message. But we must do it, and the more we do it, the more we’ll prosper; the more God will promote us. (p, 62.)
Has PCG prospered since Flurry had these words published twelve years ago? It is still just another COG group stuck in its little niche, a minuscule imitation of WCG in its height in the early 1980s. And now Flurry wishes to impose the added expense of buying and maintaining a private airplane.
These people were corrupted by flatteries and vanities. They were saying nice things to each other: You’re doing such a good job—you’re such a wonderful minister—you have such a powerful vocabulary. Just remember to continue to prophesy not! They were led to destroy prophetic teaching so as not to be labeled a cult. What kind of future awaits people who do that? It’s so painful, you cry thinking about it! (p. 63.)
He boasts that PCG has "some pretty impressive exploits" in order to convince his readers to join his organization and pay tithes to it.
If you look at what God has done through His people year by year in this small work, you would have to say these are some pretty impressive exploits. But we will do many more heroic acts if we use God’s universe-size strength! The greatest work is still ahead. (p. 64.)
He insists that PCG's God is all powerful but then he mentions that many have moved beyond Armstrongism and that this can happen even to PCG members. (How convenient it is to rationalize away the fact that some PCG members leave.)
Right up to the very end, some of us will fall. Haven’t we all seen that happen? The word try in verse 35 means to smelt, like smelting metal—in a fiery furnace! It means a fiery trial. Even when people come into this remnant and understand, they can still fall. 
Should we be shocked if some leave? God says it will happen right up to the end. We are in a war. And in a war, there are casualties. Will you be a casualty? It will happen “even to the time of the end.” (p. 65.)
One sign of an authoritarian group is that they insist that there is no legitimate reason to leave the group.

Flurry insists that the US dollar is destined to fail.
Mr. Armstrong always believed the Holy Roman Empire would develop because of a crisis—mainly the failure of the dollar. Today the dollar is in real trouble. The chief economist at Morgan Stanley ... was reported in the Boston Herald to have predicted at a meeting with select investors that “America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic ‘Armageddon’” (Nov. 23, 2004; emphasis mine). [He] predicted a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that “we’ll muddle through for a while, and delay the eventual Armageddon.” That is a terrifying economic prophecy! We can be sure it is going to happen. The massively debt burdened American economy simply can’t continue very much longer. 
How long will the Armageddon be delayed? Until God’s work is finished. Then God will protect His people who did that work. (pp. 66-67.)
Twelve years later Flurry's dire proclamation that the dollar will fall is still practically impossible. The United States cannot be forced to default because the federal debt is denominated in a currency that it, the US government, produces. It is not possible for the US government to be rendered bankrupt. Interest rates on US bonds are very low because the financial world trusts it.

Flurry then belly aches that "biblical Israel" (the United States and Britain and the State of Israel) do not share his negative view of the German people and the German government.
But biblical Israel likes to think of them [Germans] as harmless wild animals. Our nations do that because of their broken wills. They fear to face the extremely unpleasant truth. However, it’s only a matter of time until they must do just that. The only way these beasts go away is when they themselves are conquered. (p. 70.)
He complains that some readers think he is being alarmist with his denunciations of Germany.
If you think I’m being too alarmist, you need to study the history of the Holy Roman Empire and see what Satan is prophesied to do to physical Israel. Very soon, people who say what I’m saying now will be killed for doing so! Mr. Stump’s reasoning leads to the destruction of nations and of churches! Look what happened in God’s Church because of the synagogue of Satan! Spiritually, that Church has been totally destroyed. Mr. Armstrong warned us in the 1970s that history would repeat itself if we didn’t learn from that debacle. How right he was. (p. 73.)
Flurry prompts his readers to focus upon PCG's dogma of the coming Millennium continuously.
Get ready now for the return of Jesus Christ. That greatest event ever to occur in the universe is almost here. It is time for each one of us to wake up! Is this majestic, universe-rattling event a part of your daily thinking and acting? (p. 74.)
Flurry then insists that PCG members are not to be overly fixated on who will be the feared European dictator fated to conquer the United States.
“Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (verse 22). We live and yearn for this prophecy to be fulfilled. Our passion is not about who will lead the religious or political beast. (pp. 76-77.)
Then why did PCG's leaders so often fixate on Edmund Stoiber and, from 2009 onward, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenburg?

Flury ends this chapter insisting that most of us alive today will see (PCG's) Christ return.
What is amazing about these prophecies is that we are living through them now. Ninety percent of Bible prophecy is being fulfilled today. What an age to be alive! Most of us will get to see Christ’s Second Coming. (p. 77.)
This promise has been continuously made by HWA and his imitators since the 1930s. But they are but false prophets so their words will not be fulfilled.

To be continued...

(Update: August 29, 2021: Part 2 of this reading is now posted online.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

UCG Cites Early Catholic Writers to Prop Up HWA's God Family Doctrine

HWA and his imitators taught that immediately after the Apostolic era there was a great falling away in which apostolic Christianity (supposedly very similar to what HWA taught) was superseded and suppressed by what would eventually become the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches.

But despite this dogma UCG's booklet, Why Were You Born?, seeks to prop up the God Family doctrine (HWA's teaching that his followers are fated to become God beings as fully God as God is God though of a lower rank,) by citing several ancient leaders of the early Catholic Church.
While the biblical concept of deification or divinization, exaltation to godhood, is commonly ignored or dismissed in modern Christian teaching, this doctrine was well established among early theologians of mainstream tradition. 
Though the writings of these men are not always biblically accurate, the following quotes from their writings demonstrate that in the first centuries after the New Testament was written many still understood the clear implications of its teachings on this subject.... (Why Were You Born?, p. 20.)
After those words the booklet presents quotations from Justin Martyr, Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Athanasius and Augustine of Hippo to imply that they taught the God Family doctrine or at least something quite similar to it.

It is worth noting that when HWA began to teach the God Family doctrine he did not cite these early authors. Citing these early authors has the effect, intentionally or not, of obscuring the fact that the God Family doctrine is taught among the COGs because HWA proclaimed that to be the fate of those who followed him in his organization.

But HWA's teaching of the God Family was not original. It is widely suspected that he plagiarized this doctrine from Mormonism. Another possibility mentioned in a previous post is that he may have acquired the idea from the early Watchtower Society organization. However he acquired that doctrine he was not the first to teach such an idea,

It is unfortunate that UCG's writers should cite early Catholic writers to prop up the God Family doctrine when HWA did not cite them when he first taught that doctrine.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Watching Geert Wilders' Film, Fitna (2008)

After writing a previous post mentioning the far right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is known for his anti-immigration stance, I watched his 17 minute film, Fitna. This film was released on March 27, 2008. Wilders has recently lost the elections in the Netherlands.

I will not link to the film because it presents real life violence.

The film is quite vague which allows the viewer to perceive the situations mentioned in this film in a fearful manner when other approaches to these issues can be more helpful. It allows itself to be open to interpretation.

It mentions several verses in the Koran. Now it is well known that the early Muslims ended up fleeing Mecca and migrated to Yathrib (modern Medina) in 622 and after that there followed a war between Mecca and Medina ending with Mecca's defeat in 630. So it is not surprising that these circumstances should be reflected in the early writings of the Islamic religion such as the Koran. But there is no discussion of this at all in this film. There is no attempt to outline or describe what prompted these words. If one knew nothing about early Islamic history one would be utterly stumped and confused about those verses. Making people confused about historical facts is not helpful.

Part 1

It presents a verse of the Koran and shows one of planes hitting the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks. Does anyone think somebody just read those words and decided to do such a horrible thing? If so that would be quite incorrect. 9/11 was a criminal conspiracy committed by Al Qaeda. It was not committed just because someone read those words.

Footage concerning the Madrid bombing of March 11, 2004 in which 192 innocent people were murdered is shown. Immediately after that a Muslim cleric is shown saying that Muslims killing non-Muslims is a good but there is no evidence to note whether this individual had anything to do with that attack. Who are these Muslim clerics? The Madrid bombing was a clandestine, criminal conspiracy committed by a cell inspired by Al Qaeda but, it appears, not directly linked with the Al Qaeda terrorist network. So why are clerics who, as objectionable as their words are, shown next to images of that dreadful terrorist attack?

Part 2

Footage of a sword wielding cleric and a three year girl insulting Jews as "apes and pigs" is shown.

Footage of various terrorist attacks, including the bombing in London in 2005 in which 52 innocent people were murdered, are shown. What did those individuals have to do with those acts?

Part 3

The criminal murder of Theo van Gogh is mentioned.

Also the murder of Nicholas Berg by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist organization (which is now known as ISIL) is shown. Personally I wish this film did not show that most horrible and dreadful murder.

Part 4

A man is shown saying that if a Muslim should convert to Christianity he should be executed. Who is he? Where or when is saying that? Does his government enforce such things? The viewer is not informed of that context by the film.

Newspaper clippings of one ex-Muslim being assaulted and death threats against Ayaan Hirsi Ali are mentioned. Such things are most regrettable.

Part 5

The film shows a cleric standing beneath portraits of Khomeini and Khamanei talks of Islam being destined to be the universal religion. The film then shows President Ahmadinejad making grandiose statements.

One cleric is shown saying that Islam used to rule the world and will do so again. It should be noted that in the COGs it is often asserted that the Roman Empire and its alleged revivals used to rule the world. It might be helpful to view such words in that way. In the same way that statement is not literally true. There was never a time in which the whole world was ruled by Muslims.

"The Netherlands Under the Spell of Islam"

"The Netherlands in the Future?!"

It is a common trope of Islamophobia that attempts to live peacefully with Muslims or to accommodate them is somehow giving in to them or letting them dominate. Attempts to be culturally sensitive is presented as somehow shameful.

It is also a common trope of xenophobia to imagine that other people will somehow take over the whole society. That is seen in this film by stating that many Muslim immigrants have moved to the Netherlands then showing disturbing pictures under the alarmist caption, "The Netherlands in the future?!"

A graph of the number of Muslims in the Netherlands is shown. It is shown that in 1909 and 1960 the number of Muslims in the Netherlands was quite small and then in 1990 and then it mentions a completely topic in which it is stated that 55 million Muslims live in Europe. It seems odd to throw in a statistic for a completely different matter in such a chart.

Pictures of mosques in the Netherlands is shown accompanied with the words "Welcome to the Netherlands."

Right after stating that there are many more Muslim immigrants living in the Netherlands compared with 1909 disturbing images are shown under the caption of "The Netherlands in the Future?!" implying that some nightmarish future of fundamentalist extremist rule by Al Qaeda like extremists awaits the Netherlands.

Pictures of two gay men being executed by hanging are shown.

Children getting cut in a Shia Muslim ritual named tatbir in Arabic. Left unmentioned in the film is that it is a contested practice among Shia Muslims with some Shia religious authorities choosing to forbid it.

Women undergoing female genital mutilation is shown. This terrible practice designed to control female sexuality did not specifically originate among Muslims. Rather it is of ancient origins and pre-dates Islam. May the day soon dawn in which female genital mutilation is no longer committed.

A beheaded woman's head laying on the ground is shown. The film does not explain the origins where this disturbing image or explain the circumstances of this frightful incident.

Photos of women about to be hanged is shown.

Also footage of a burqa clad woman being executed is shown. I suspect that footage is from Taliban ruled Afghanistan but the film does not say.

These terrible things are presented under the caption "The Netherlands in the Future?!" How a minority of immigrants from many different nations could possibly displace and dominate a prosperous and flourishing society such as the Netherlands is utterly fanciful. This is a completely unreasonable fear.

Afterwards pictures of newspaper clippings are shown supposedly providing evidence that the Netherlands is being taken over by Muslims. Most concern serious topics that deserve attention.

However some of the clippings seem a bit odd. One mentions a school closing down during Muslim holidays. (Just one school?) I suspect the kids will just be happy not having to go to school for a day.

Another clipping mentions that Ankara wishes for Turkish to be taught in Dutch schools. What is wrong with encouraging people to learn another language?

One newspaper clipping mentioned in the British teacher in Sudan was compelled to flee the country after being accused of blasphemy. Left unmentioned is that many Muslim organizations condemned the British teacher's arrest.

Also what does this incident in Sudan have to do with promoting the teaching of Turkish which is mentioned in another cited newspaper clipping? The choice of topic indicates that viewing Sudanese and Turkish issues as being part of the same issues is arbitrary. What does Sudanese people have in common with the Turkish people? But the ideology of Islamophobia insists on viewing these very different peoples as part of some mythical collective which is supposedly menacing towards whites in the Netherlands.

The film makes the following statements near the end.
Muslims want you to make way for Islam, but Islam does not make way for you. 
The Government [of the Netherlands] insists that you respect Islam, but Islam has no respect for you. ...
Now, the Islamic ideology has to be defeated. 
Stop Islamisation 
Defend our freedom
The first sentence is quite vague and subjective. It can be viewed in differing ways.

Is it wrong to respect another person's religion? Again being accommodating and living in peace with persons of another religion is equated as being a shameful thing to do.

The film talks of "the Islamic ideology" but there is a wide diversity of opinions about many things among Muslims. There is no single "Islamic ideology" but rather there are many different interests throughout the Muslim world. The Muslim world is divided into many nation states each with their own interests. And even within each nation state there are many competing political interests. Some are right wing. Some are left wing. Some are rich. Some are poor. Some are religious. Some are very religious. Some are quite secular. Some live in rural areas. Some live in urban areas. They work hard and seek to advance themselves like anyone else. There is no single political interest uniting them all.

The film says, "Stop Islamisation." But what does "Islamisation" mean? This statement is quite vague and can easily be viewed in different ways by different people. But it is often the case that Islamophobic demagogues will present attempts to accommodate and to be friendly towards Muslims as shameful and a sign of somehow giving in to them.

The film says, "Defend our freedom" but it is seems that "our freedom" excludes people who just happen to be Muslims. This statements invites us to exclude Muslims.

Having watched this film I found myself perplexed to think that some take this film at face value. Events are portrayed in a simplistic manner. Muslims are presented as scary people. Muslims are presented as though they are hostile but this is not true for everyone. Practices are presented in a sensationalist manner often overlooking disagreements about such things within the Muslim world. Persons saying inflammatory things are presented alongside images of horrifying violence without presenting any evidence that they were involved in those violent acts. It is absurdly and hysterically implies that "[t]he Netherlands in the future" will feature frightful atrocities by (stereotyped) Muslims. The film seeks to shock the viewer but it is not that informative.

After watching it I find myself sadly persuaded that it is correct to classify this film as Islamophobic.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Armstrongite Promotion of the Land Sabbath (Shmita)

Recently Banned by HWA released a post about the writings of Paul W. Syltie highlighting a book of his he had published last year entitled The Bridge to Eden: The Arduous Passage from This Age of Chaos to the Next Age of Perfection (released July 10, 2016).

One of the sections of Chapter 6 is entitled "Farmers ... Keep the Land Sabbath." (Shmita in Hebrew.) This topic has been mentioned in a previous post concerning an article by PCG's Richard Palmer which promoted observing the land Sabbath. It is worth mentioning that back in the days of HWA's WCG some farmers actually tried to put that into practice and went bankrupt over it. Here is what Richard Plache had to say on this topic in a sermon in 1976.
Several years ago, we [WCG's leaders] finally discovered that one particular law that we'd taken from the old covenant, and we sliiiiiiiid it over into the new -- or if you like the word, "transplant." In case Dr. Christian Bernard may be here.

We took over into the new -- that was the seventh-year land Sabbath -- and we imposed that upon Christian farmers. We said it was a law. We said it was "a test of faith," didn't we? And farmer after farmer went to the wall financially and some went into bankruptcy!

Why didn't someone over the years say "wait a minute! Let's go back and study this law more carefully. It seems to me God is reneging on his part of the bargain." Because you see, God said he would give a three-fold harvest in the sixth year. But I know of not one case of a Christian farmer receiving a three-fold harvest in the sixth year. Now why then did we impose upon people their part of the bargain, and never, ever ask "why isn't God fulfilling his part?"

Oh, we are great "blue pencilers" of Law. We pick and choose various laws out of the old covenant that, somehow, we think are convenient, suitable, or should be imposed. We will take whole sections of Law and slide them -- or we will pick and choose parts of laws and them slide them. By what method do we do this? (Richard Plache, 1976 sermon, as archived by the Painful Truth.)
Consequently I feel compelled to advise against Syltie's idea.

Furthermore that teaching was given to Jews. Claiming that non-Jews are required to observe that teaching is taking the land Sabbath practice out of context. There is no need for Christians to observe that practice.

Furthermore there are conflicting opinions about the land Sabbath among the Jewish community. Some are secular. Some say it is a rabbinical obligation and therefore not a Biblical obligation. Some say it is a Biblical obligation.
There is a major debate among halakhic authorities as to what is the nature of the obligation of the Sabbatical year nowadays. Some say it is still biblically binding, as it has always been. Others hold that it is rabbinically binding, since the Shmita only biblically applies when the Jubilee year is in effect, but the Sages of the Talmud legislated the observance of the Shmita anyway as a reminder of the biblical statute. And yet others hold that the Shmita has become purely voluntary. An analysis by respected posek and former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef in his responsa Yabi'a Omer (Vol. 10), accorded with the middle option, that the Biblical obligation holds only when a majority of the Jewish people is living in the Biblical Land of Israel and hence the Shmita nowadays is a rabbinic obligation in nature. This approach potentially admits for some leniencies which would not be possible if the Shemitah were biblical in origin, including the aforementioned sale of the land of Israel. Haredi authorities, on the other hand, generally follow the view of the Chazon Ish, that the Shmita continues to be a Biblical obligation. ("Shmita," Wikipedia.)
Also some Jewish religious authorities allow some leniency in how it is observed. For example it become a practice to sell the land to non-Jewish owners during the land Sabbath so that the Jewish farmer may observe the land Sabbath.
The rabbis of the Talmud and later times interpreted the Shmita laws in various ways to ease the burden they created for farmers and the agricultural industry. The Heter Mechirah (leniency of sale), developed for the Shmita year of 1888–1889, permitted Jewish farmers to sell their land to non-Jews so that they could continue to work the land as usual during Shmita. This temporary solution to the impoverishment of the Jewish settlement in those days was later adopted by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel as a permanent edict, generating ongoing controversy between Zionist and Haredi leaders to this day. ("Shmita," Wikipedia.)
Considering the diversity of opinions within the Jewish community what right do the COGs have to make decisions on this matter?

And leaving aside the questions about how to observe the land Sabbath it is worth mentioning that the COGs stemming from HWA are not Jews and believe many things contrary to what is taught in the Jewish religion. There is no obligation for non-Jews to observe this practice.

But anyway there is no need for a Christian to observe the land Sabbath. It would be better if those associated with the COGs stop promoting this practice which was never intended for non-Jews.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

PCG's Positive Reaction to Anti-Muslim Film, Fitna (2008)

PCG has a long history of demonizing and scare mongering against Muslims. One particularly troubling article with this topic may be seen in article released in 2008.

Back on March 27, 2008 the controversial right wing, anti-immigrant Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, released a 17 minute short film entitled Fitna, which was presented the Islamic religion in a negative way. Just a few days later PCG published an article about it on their website. The author, Phillip Nice, is today the associate editor of PCG's recruitment magazine, The Philadelphia Trumpet. (Phillip Nice, "Fitna" Film Foreshadows Europe/Islam War, April 1, 2008.)

Nice condemns politicians for supposedly "bending themselves out of shape finding ways to accommodate increasingly belligerent Islamic ideology". Islamophobia is often used to condemn liberals as somehow collaborating with or being negatively influenced by Muslims.
"I don’t hate Muslims. I hate their book and their ideology.” Geert Wilders is a politician, but he’s not politically correct. While many of his Western contemporaries are bending themselves out of shape finding ways to accommodate increasingly belligerent Islamic ideology, Wilders is bent on showing the world “the real face of Islam,” as he told the Observer.
By saying he is not politically correct Nice is showing that the PCG leadership chooses to sympathize with Wilders.

Nice sympathetically describes Fitna as a shrill "SOS save-our-society distress call". One wonders if the society Nice would include Muslims in it? Will they be welcomed in that society like other religious minorities?
Head of the Dutch right-wing Party for Freedom, the outspoken Catholic has consistently made headlines with confrontational anti-Islamic rhetoric calling for radical mosques to be shut down, labeling the Koran “an inspiration for murder” and saying that if Mohammed were alive today, he would have him “tarred and feathered as an extremist and deported if he were in Holland.” His latest and shrillest SOS save-our-society distress call is called Fitna. And if Muslims didn’t hate Geert before, they do now.
Actually Wilders is agnostic.

Although Nice portrays Wilders sympathetically he makes no mention of Fitna's condemnation of the suppression of homosexuals in some Muslim societies. PCG condemns homosexuality as sinful.

Nice then describes the short film and mentions images of horrific violence shown in the film.
Fitna, an Arabic word that connotes a schism or conflict, is a provocative, if low-budget, 15-minute presentation that links six violence-promoting passages from the Koran with footage of Islamist extremist terror attacks. Flight 175 piercing the South Tower in a stomach-sickening orange explosion of fiery shards; survivors of the initial explosion limply hanging out of windows billowing out choking smoke; the falling man. A horrific clip of a thick, bustling throng of commuters at Atocha disappearing in a violent, blazing concussion. Warped wreckage of trains in Spain and double-decker red buses in London. Theo van Gogh’s stabbed body lying in the street. And worse: Executions; hangings; blasted, burned corpses; amputated bodies being dragged through the street; and ghastly beheadings. 
Curiously Nice never seems to wonder why this film would show passages from the Koran which were written long before living memory and these images of violence. This arbitrarily presents different things together. A viewer could think about how the film is constructed and wonder why Wilders and Co. chose to do this in this film. But such thoughts seems to have never occurred to the author.

The problem with showing images from these terrible events with passages from the Koran is that it simplistically implies that all Muslims bear some of guilt with such acts of violence wearing away the distinction between the guilty and the innocent. This also fails to take context into account. These terrible events such as 9/11, the terrorist attack in Madrid, the terrorist attack in London and the murder of Theo van Gogh are taken out of context. These ghastly acts were committed by Al Qaeda extremists and those who think like them.

Those blood thirsty extremists did not develop their warped ideology simply by reading the Koran. Their ideology was partly influenced by the ideas and teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328) and 18th Century Wahhabism. In the modern era Al Qaeda like extremism came into being arising from predecessors such as Sayyid Qutb and Abdullah Azzam. Their ideas developed into the current forms of extremism now familiar to the world through infamous extremists like Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. (More information on this topic may be seen in the 2008 book Al Qaeda in its Own Words, edited by Gilles Kappel and Jean-Pierre Milelli.)
Sprinkled into this gory, homicidal mix are clips of Muslims crying out: “What makes Allah happy? Allah is happy when non-Muslims get killed”; “Annihilate the infidels and the polytheists”; “Allah, count them and kill them to the last one, and don’t leave even one”; “Throats must be slit and skulls must be shattered”; “[The Jews] are the ones who must be butchered and killed”; “Even the stone will say, ‘Oh Muslim, A Jew is hiding behind me, come and cut off his head”; and “[The Jews] are apes and pigs.” 
Most of the quotes are from fanatical clerics. But that last one was from one of the most beautiful, precious 3-year-old girls you ever could see.
What the 3-year-old girl said is wrong, deplorable and anti-Semitic. But does it not occur to Nice that this 3-year-old girl is saying what she heard from others? She is imitating the adults around her. Why are they ignored in this passage? The author shows a strange naivety with this passage. He mentions what this 3-year-old girl said and it never occurs to him to wonder about what he sees. Does it not occur to him that this girl does not see the world as adults do? How could a three year child do so? He seems to just believe what he is shown and does not analyse what this film shows to him. He takes Wilders' film at face value and never presents any reservations about it.


It is a common trope of modern day Islamophobia to vilify mainstream politicians for wanting to live in peace with Muslims. Conciliatory acts and words are hysterically portrayed as somehow submitting and caving in to the political pressure of Muslims.

That trope is evident here as widespread condemnation of Fitna from the European Union, the United Nations and the Foreign Minister of Australia, Stephen Smith, is presented as being like a milder forms of the threats of violence that some had shamefully made against him. It is clear that Nice is not impressed with their criticism. Instead of trying to understand why these persons would be concerned about this film their criticism is presented as ignoring "a growing threat in Islam".
Outraged Islamists have reacted with e-mails, placards and rhetoric advocating a simple precept: Kill Geert Wilders. 
Westerners offered slightly softer denunciations, with the European Union, the United Nations, and political and business leaders criticizing the film as inflammatory and, as Australia’s foreign minister stated, intended to “generate discord between faith communities.” At the same time, many have defended the right to free speech—a right Islamists who carry “Freedom go to hell” signs couldn’t care less about. Although such blunt and provocative leaders as Wilders are toward the fringe of power politics, Europeans are recognizing a growing threat in Islam, and leaders like Edmund Stoiber, Pope Benedict and others are tapping that sentiment.
Nice portrays Fitna as a sign of a future cataclysmic war between Europe and "Islam" (inaccurately imagined as a single political interest). Note the hysterical and emotive language used to incite panic in the readers.
This is why Fitna foreshadows a conflict more dire than Wilders could ever imagine. Islam and historically Catholic Europe are on a collision course. And Europe is beginning to ease off the clutch and onto the gas.
Presumably this is the "Europe/Islam War" mentioned in the title of the article. This idea is quite similar to PCG's false prophecy of "race war," a racist claim that in the near future African-Americans will launch a wave of riots against the white majority in the United States. It seems a similar dire scenario is claimed to soon occur in Europe but instead of scare mongering against African-Americans the villain's role is instead given to Muslim immigrants.

But here "Islam" is inaccurately portrayed as a single political interest. But in reality the Islamic world is composed of numerous nation states which each have their own political interests and even within each of these nation states their differing interests. Some are rich. Some are poor. Some are right wing. Some are left wing. Some are religious. Some are very religious. Some are secular. Some place themselves in the middle. Some are nationalists. But this complex diversity is ignored and instead the Muslim world and Muslim immigrants are imagined as a single political interest which is presented as a sinister and violent threat to white Europeans.

Nice insists that Muslims will not integrate with the Europeans, Intriguingly instead of talking about Muslim immigrants he just uses the name of their religion to describe them. Their individual identities as distinct human beings are ignored.
Islam has integrated with its neighbor/host continent like hot cooking oil and water. Like a hijab-clad figure goes with a Frankfurt Internet cafe. Like ritual cuttings of children goes with a Provence nursery school. Like “honor” killings go with the Zurich evening news. Values and traditions like these seem out of place, to say the least, amid neo—yet classical—Europe.
Nice hysterically imagines that the result of "Islam's" (here meaning immigrants who happen to be Muslim) failure to integrate within Europe will result in Islam dying.
Something’s got to give. Islam cannot and will not be absorbed into Western culture. It will die before it does—literally. Islam will find that it can only push a German-dominated Europe so far.
How strange it is to see Nice making such bizarre and fanciful statements in response to a 17 minute short film from a far right Dutch politician. It seems as though Nice imagines some sort of catastrophe will soon occur to the Muslim world. Elsewhere PCG teaches that Iran will arise as the "King of the South" fated to be conquered by a European military superpower before Christ's return. Consequently it can be inferred that he is alluding to a supposed future war between Europe and Iran. That seems very unlikely. And even if some awful catastrophe were to occur it would not be a sign that PCG's Christ will soon return.

Nice then makes the hysterical claim that "radical Islam" is plotting to take over Europe
This can go one of two ways. Europe can allow the raging fire of radical Islam to push and push until it achieves its goal of taking over the Continent, as it has generously proclaimed well ahead of time. Or: fitna.
What hysterical nonsense. While it is true that some Muslims try to convert others to suggest that Muslims are plotting to take over the continent is quite unrealistic. Even if some Muslims wish to convert everyone it is simply not going to happen. That is an unreasonable fear.
For much of the 20th century, Herbert W. Armstrong forecasted the rise of a Middle Eastern power bloc that would push at and ultimately war against its northwestern neighbor in one of the most consequential actions of the next world war. Today’s headlines are fulfilling the early stages of that forecast on a daily basis. To find out more about radical Islam’s rapidly consolidating power and pushy agenda, as well as Europe’s ultimate response to the conflict, [and he advertises two booklets promoting PCG's dogmas.]
HWA predicted that Christ would return by 2005 in his 1985 book, Mystery of the Ages. PCG has removed that offending passage from their copies of that book. And despite HWA's evident failure to see the future Nice continues to try and convince others to believe that HWA could see the future.

However PCG are but false prophets. There is no need to fear their dire pronouncements about the future.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Critiquing John Chrysostom's Anti-Semitic Rant (Fourth Homily)

Continuing from Part 1Part 2  and Part 3 let us continue to analyse John Chrysostom's infamous series of homilies, Against the Jews, his denunciation of Jews and Judaizing Christians. Here we shall look at the fourth homily.

Around AD 387 the patriarch of Antioch, John Chrysostom, decided to make a series of homilies condemning Judaizing Christians who observed various practices of the Jewish religion. These homilies were later written down. Looking in retrospect these homilies are now viewed as a significant moment in the development of that dreadful hatred against Jews, namely anti-Semitism. 

Alas, even today this hatred still seeks to make itself felt as may be seen in the recent dreadful incidents of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and the vicious vandalism against Jewish graves. May those responsible for such terrible things be swiftly brought to justice before the courts of law.

These homilies will also be of interest for those with a COG background. HWA taught that a "true church" kept itself separate from the Catholic Church and continued to observe the Sabbath. These homilies from AD 387 concern Judaizing Christians in Antioch and the surrounding region. Does John Chrysostom's description of these Judaizing Christians match what the COGs have taught about these supposed "true Christians" outside of the Catholic Church?

This particular homily was delivered near the time of the Feast of Trumpets. He spends most of this homily condemning the Judaizing Christians for observing the fast on the Day of Atonement. He also argues that the Jewish festivals in the Old Testament era were only supposed to be observed in Jerusalem and insists that the Jewish community's observance of these festivals outside of Jerusalem contradict their own religious laws.

He begins with more of his vicious talk against the Jewish community calling them "the most miserable and wretched of all men" and vilifies them as "more dangerous than any wolves".
AGAIN THE JEWS, the most miserable and wretched of all men, are going to fast, and again we must make secure the flock of Christ. As long as no wild beast disturbs the flock, shepherds, as they stretch out under an oak or pine tree and play their flutes, let their sheep go off to graze with full freedom. But when the shepherds feel that the wolves will raid, they are quick to throw down the flute and pick up their slingshots; they cast aside the pipe of reeds and arm themselves with clubs and stones. They take their stand in front of the flock, raise a loud and piercing shout, and oftentimes the sound of their shout drives the wolf away before he strikes. 
I, too, in the past, frolicked about in explicating the Scriptures, as if I were sporting in some meadow; I took no part in polemics because there was no one causing me concern. But today the Jews, who are more dangerous than any wolves, are bent on surrounding my sheep; so I must spar with them and fight with them so that no sheep of mine may fall victim to those wolves. (I, 1-2.)
HWA taught us that the true church observed the Sabbath. However John Chrysostom seemed most focused on these Judaizing Christians' fast on the Day of Atonement. If they observed the Sabbath John Chrysostom seems quite unconcerned about that.
Many days beforehand I am making your souls secure by exhorting  you to flee from that accursed and unlawful fast. Do not tell me that the Jews are fasting; prove to me that it is God's will that they fast. If it be not God's will, then their fasting is more unlawful than any drunkenness? For we must not only look at what they do but we must also seek out the reason why they do it. (I, 5.)
Scholars have argued that these homilies are directly mainly at Judaizing Christians, who observed certain features of the Jewish religion, rather than against the Jewish community per se. One can see why some would think that in this passage in which John Chrysostom denounce the Judaizing Christians who defend their practices as deserving "a stronger condemnation than any Jew."
But before I draw up my battle line against the Jews, I will be glad to talk to those who are members of our own body, those who seem to belong to our ranks although they observe the Jewish rites and make every effort to defend them. Because they do this, as I see it, they deserve a stronger condemnation than any Jew. Not only the wise and intelligent but even those with little reason and understanding would agree with me in this. I need no clever arguments, no rhetorical devices, no prolix periodic sentences to prove this. It is enough to ask them a few simple questions and then trap them by their answers. (III, 4.)
He insists that the Jewish festivals are not to be observed by Christians and that therefore any observance of the fast on the Day of Atonement by these Judaizing Christians is to be condemned.
Let me also say this to those who are our own-if I must call our own those who side with the Jews. Go to the synagogues and see if the Jews have changed their fast; see if they kept the pre-Paschal fast with us; see if they have taken food on that day. But theirs is not a fast; it is a transgression of the law, it is a sin, it is trespassing. Yet they did not change. But you did change your glory and from it you will derive no profit; you did go over to their rites. (III, 8.)
He then points to differences, namely that Christians and Jews observed different fasts.
Did the Jews ever observe our pre-Paschal fast? Did they ever join us in keeping the feast of the martyrs? Did they ever share with us the day of the Epiphanies? They do not run to the truth, but you rush to transgression. I call it a transgression because their observances do not occur at the proper time. Once there was a proper time when they had to follow those observances, but now there is not. That is why what was once according to the Law is now opposed to it. (III, 9.)
He insists that Jews should not observe the Holy Days since (he says) it was only supposed to be observed in Jerusalem with an animal sacrifice.
This is certain not only from what I have said but also from the prophets. What excuse would the Jews of today have when it is clear that the Jews of old never offered sacrifice, nor sang hymns in an alien land, nor did they observe any such fasts as they do today? To be sure, the Jews of old were expecting to recover the way of life in which they could observe these rituals. Therefore, they remained obedient to the Law and did what it commanded, for the Law told them to expect this. But the Jews of today have no hope of recovering their forefathers' way of life. In what prophet can they find proof that they will? They have no hope, but they cannot bear to give up these practices. And yet, even if they were expecting to recover the old way of life, even so they ought to be imitating those holy men of old by neither fasting nor observing any other such ritual. (IV, 9.)
Unlike some today he had no expectation that Jews would migrate to the Holy Land and create an independent state there. No such thing occurred until the modern era. However long before then the Jewish community had ruled that Jews were forbidden from standing where the Temple stood lest they should unknowingly defile the Holy of Holies.

He then asserts that God only ordered Jews to give animal sacrifices that that the Jewish community could be weaned away from giving sacrifices once Jerusalem had been sacked by the Romans in AD 70. (VI.)

He then addresses his flock and seeks to exhort them to tell the Judaizing Christians to stop their observances of Jewish customs. He talks of these Judaizing Christians "running off to the synagogue" indicating that these Judaizing Christians went to synagogues. That is very different from what HWA and his imitators had taught us what to expect from members of the supposed "true church."

He also states his low opinion of the theater as sinful and wicked.
But I must now exhort those of you who are here in church to show great concern for the fellow members of our body. I do not want to hear you say: "What concern is this of mine? Why interfere and meddle in other people's affairs?" 
Our Master died for us. Will you not take the trouble to say a single word? What excuse or defense will you find for this? ... I wish I could know which ones are running off to the synagogue. Then I would not have needed your help but I would have straightened them out with all speed. 
Whenever your brother needs correction, even if you must lay down your life, do not refuse him. Follow the example of your Master. If you have a servant or if you have a wife, be very careful to keep them at home. If you refuse to let them go to the theater, you must refuse all the more to let them go to the synagogue. To go to the synagogue is a greater crime than going to the theater. What goes on in the theater is, to be sure, sinful; what goes on in the synagogue is godlessness. When I say this I do not mean that you let them go to the theater, for the theater is wicked; I say it so that you will be all the more careful to keep them away from the synagogue. (VII,1-3.)
He viciously demonizes the Jewish community as being led by the devil. He also implies that these Judaizing Christians go to the synagogue to hear the trumpets blown during the Feast of Trumpets.
What is it that you are rushing to see in the synagogue of the Jews who fight against God? Tell me, is it to hear the trumpeters? You should stay at home to weep and groan for them, because they are fighting against God's command, and it is the devil who leads them in their revels and dance. As I said before, if there once was a time when God did permit what is against his will, now it is a violation of his law and grounds for punishments beyond number. Long ago, when the Jews did have sacrifices, they did sound their trumpets; now God does not permit them to do this. (VII, 4.)
He makes his displeasure at those of his flock who had allowed the Judaizing Christians to practice what they believed. Here he speaks directly to his congregation.
I blame the Jews for violating the Law. But I blame you much more for going along with the lawbreakers, not only those of you who run to the synagogues but also those of you who have the power to stop the Judaizers but are unwilling to do so. Do not say to me: "What do I have in common with him? He is a stranger, and I do not know him." I say to you that as long as he is a believer, as long as he shares with you in the same mysteries, as long as he comes to the same church, he is more closely related to you than your own kinsmen and friends. Remember, it is not only those who commit robbery who pay the penalty for their crime; those, too, who could have stopped them but did not, pay the same penalty. Those guilty of impiety are punished, and so, too, are those who could have led them from godless ways but did not, because they were too timid or lazy to be willing to do so. (VII, 7.)
He exhorts his flock to persuade the Judaizing Christians to no longer do such things and adhere to what he teaches. The great and powerful so often need ordinary people to get anything done.
Is it some great burden I am asking of you, my beloved? Let each one of you bring back for me one of your brothers to salvation. Let each one of you interfere and meddle in your brother's affairs so that we may come to tomorrow's service with great confidence, because we are bringing gifts more valuable than any others, because we are bringing back the souls of those who have wandered away. Even if we must suffer revilement, even if we must be beaten, even if we must endure any other pain whatsoever, let us do everything to win these brothers back. Since these are sick brothers who trample us underfoot, revile us, and rail against us, we are not stung by their insults; we want to see one thing and only one thing: the return to health of him who behaved in this outrageous way. (VII, 9.)
 And so we see once again John Chrysostom's bitter polemic against Jews and Judaizing Christians and his attempt to persuade the Judaizing Christians to cease listening to the trumpets on the Feast of Trumpets and to observe the fast on the Day of Atonement. But he still was not yet finished. He would produce four more homilies on this subject but the anti-Semitic hatred against Jews continues to contaminate relations and harms innocent people to this day. We must give no place to hatred including anti-Semitism.