For just short of three years, I ran a web site that was highly popular with a very small demographic, writing about something that the vast majority of Americans and an even larger majority of potential international readers — we’re talking the 99.9999999% range — would have never even heard of. That topic was the various offshoots of a small Christian group, the Worldwide Church of God, with a peak membership of no more than 150,000, that imploded in the mid-1990’s when it changed all its distinctive, heterodox doctrines and began moving to mainstream, Evangelical Christianity. With that change, which the church leadership enacted in what many considered to be an underhanded, deceptive manner, the church membership dropped to roughly sixty thousand within a couple of years, then to thirty thousand in a few more years, as members sought newly-formed organizations that still clung to the Worldwide Church of God’s original teachings, left for mainstream Christian groups, or dropped out of religion altogether.
Herbert W. Armstrong
In the early years, there was a great deal of bickering and sniping among the splinter organizations about which group most faithfully adhered to the teachings of Herbert Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God. It provided fascinating, sometimes amusing reading, and having grown up in the organization and just dropped out of a philosophy of religion graduate program, I was hooked.
I started a web site, recruited fellow writers, developed a readership, and wrote almost daily about this or that church’s latest proclamation, declaration, or whine. As an atheist, I took a particularly smug tone, resorting often to heavy sarcasm and occasionally to outright mockery. Still, my pseudo-academic background led me to write several serious analyses of this or that organization’s claims and arguments, and I occasionally got comments about how the site helped this or that individual.
Then L was born, and I suddenly had no time. For some period before that my interest had been waning, but I hung on, convinced that what I was doing was somehow significant but doubting it was. Then, about eight months after L was born, after steadily decreasing posting, I called it quits with the following post.
I’ve been struggling–to find topics for this blog, to maintain my interest in all things Armstrong, to find time to care.
Truth be told, to care.
Jared said it best in a recent comment:
[A] moribund XCG is [not] entirely a bad thing either. After all, there’s only so much one can say about Armstrongism before you’ve said it all. (Source)
I don’t feel like I’ve said it all–there are thousands of words that could still be written about the phenomenon of Herbert Armstrong and the sect he formed. Yet, I really no longer have the interest or time to write anymore words about it.
I feel like Chicken Little, for our common XCG sky will continually fall. David Pack will talk about his web site statistics until the day he dies. Rod Meredith will provide critics with still more reasons to call him Spanky until the day he dies. Those in the upper echelons of the dwindling WCG will continue to talk about their amazing transformation until the day they die.
But I will not be commenting on them at that point, and I certainly won’t be commenting on them when I die.
About six months ago, I started preparing a final post, but I kept putting it off. I thought, “Maybe I’ll just write a little here, a little there,” for a while. Several have noticed and commented on this, and I have remained silent as to the cause of this dip in output.
My initial draft of this post might provide clarification:
Certain things in life force us to see things in a different perspective. Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, conversions–these are the kinds of things that make us stop and reflect on where we are, what we are, and most importantly, what we’re doing with the short time we have on Earth.
We have twenty-four hours in a day. We work at least eight of them; we sleep six to eight of them; we wash, shave, cook, eat, clean, drive, exercise and a million other forms of maintenance for another three or four a day. That leaves us with precious few hours a day for ourselves.
What do we do with that time?
Until recently, I spent time looking at, analyzing, and even mocking the beliefs and actions of a group of people I no longer have anything in common with.
Recent developments in my life now make that a less-than-ideal way to spend my free time.
The “certain event” I was referring to was the birth of my first child.
Since then, I’ve been of thinking about what I want my daughter to know about my own religious past. Truth is, I want her to know as little as possible. Because of shame? Embarrassment? Certainly not. I don’t want her to know for the simple reason that it no longer impacts my life. I can’t see much positive coming from me ever going into any detail with her about what I used to believe, about what her grandparents used to believe, about the fact that a true handful of people in the world still believe it. I don’t believe it, and that’s that.
And so, to quote one of my favorite authors:
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
To talk of many things–but not the XCG. And not here.
Some might be wondering whether this signals the end of my presence on the XCG scene. It does. In fact, I doubt very much that I will even “lurk.” As a famous, oft-misquoted teacher once said, “It is finished.”
I appreciate all the support I’ve received during this little two-and-a-half-year adventure. I thank all the fellow contributors who, throughout these last nearly thirty months, have helped to make the discussion here a little more balanced. I am grateful to all you regulars. You really kept the site going.
Most of all, I’m heartened by some of the comments of the past, folks telling me that I have helped them in some way. I appreciate you sharing those thoughts, for it gave me a certain joy that I will truly never forget.
But the time has come.
Best wishes to all, ill wishes to none, and I leave with the hope that if we ever meet again, we’ll have so much more to talk about than the XCG.
What had I accomplished?
I’d made several people mad: some sent me nasty emails or left malicious comments. Still, what could I expect? Wasn’t I doing the exact same thing with others’ beliefs? Some people threatened my web host with a lawsuit, but since the group in question was outside my scope of interest and never directly or indirectly mentioned on my web site, even a libel claim was ridiculous.
I’d inspired others to start their own web sites, and I’d provided apologists with plenty of material in turn for their own writing. What could I expect? With me criticizing them, they were right to criticize me, and since no leader or group was going officially to deal with a puny little hen like me, individual members took on the responsibility, inasmuch as the various churches officially allowed such activities.
But what about helping people? I’d always assumed that IÂ mustÂ be doing that, that IÂ must be helping others see the errors in logic that the various groups committed. Still, I only had a couple of emails. The comments to my farewell post provided a bit more information.
exrcg Â Â Â 08/22/2007 11:12 PM
thank you G — your site certainly helped me when i transitioned out of the cog world a couple years ago — it was a comment i made at that time, and i echo it again here. your efforts have been appreciated.
Jared Olar Â Â Â 08/22/2007 11:16 PM
I’ve been wondering when you were going to wrap it up here. Of course you told me before, after your daughter’s birth, that you were going to bow out soon. You hung on longer than I thought you were going to.
So long, and thanks for letting me have rather too much fun with Bob Thiel. Now go raise that little girl of yours and kiss [K]. Real Life is calling . . .
Lao Li Â Â Â 08/22/2007 11:41 PM
Thanks for all the work G.
The void between postings was a sign that time is short, we were in the gun lap!
Keeping something like this going can be the same as problems facing the COGs. Sometimes there’s some new input, but otherwise it’s just moving bones from one grave to another.
So long, and thanks for all the fish.
Church Corporate Critic Â Â Â 08/23/2007 12:12 AM
My thanks as well.
We wish you well.
You will be a much healthier person mentally.
Church Corporate Critic Â Â Â 08/23/2007 12:20 AM
I have a going away present:
The peer review team liked it more than is customary for such articles.
It too may the last of its kind.
Robert Â Â Â 08/23/2007 01:19 AM
So, I’m going to take this opportunity to plug my own blog, and I hope you won’t mind. It’s a little different than XGC for a couple reasons: 1) It feature the stories of people who were in or around WCG and who now have given up faith entirely, and 2) I pretty much let them write it, so I have had no problem keeping it going since 1997– Wow, 10 years!
Non-Believer Former Members of the WCG
Dennis Â Â Â 08/23/2007 09:21 AM
Excellent job G and yes, there is a time to move on as I know you have. The world will little note, nor long remember what you have done here…but I’m glad you’re in the neighborhood so we can have lunch and a good laugh from time to time!
And..for a limited time, if you act now, a free opportunity to finally be rubbed the right way by a former minister of WCG! Call now for a free assesment to see if you are sane enough to come to the office.
Best of all things to you and your family. I have a third little girl coming to the planet compliments of my son and daughther in law today, even as we speak.
charlie kieran Â Â Â 08/23/2007 10:30 AM
Best wishes G for you and your family. Congratulations on that little girl! This blog and a few others were a big help for me. My folks are still under the armstrongist thumb so I’ll continue to work on them in the meantime I just tell my kids not to pay any attention to what Pop-Pop says about God. For the most part I’ll be moving on as well although I’ll check in from time to time on Gavin’s site just to see what is going on. I just don’t have the time anymore and my fourth child is due in February.
Dennis: Congratulations on another grandchild and best wishes to your son and daughter in law.
It has been great reading posts from everyone!
Byker Bob Â Â Â 08/23/2007 11:23 AM
Well, G, we’re on the same page! I’ve recently found myself either satiated, or undergoing waning interest in all things ACOG, and have been visiting all the regular sites less and less over the past several months. That’s probably a good thing, because it indicates that everything is processed.
I really don’t know if there are any answers to all of the great philosophical and religious questions mankind has asked himself over the centuries. About all a person can do is to be kind to fellow man, and indulge in the pursuit of happiness.
Thank you for all of the thought provoking materials presented here, and the work that went into them. Best wishes for a good life for you and your family. It’s been fun being part of the xCG community and making some friends here.
paul Â Â Â 08/23/2007 05:29 PM
My daughter was born this year, and between that and graduate school, time is short. I understand your position; it would be impossible for me to do what you have been doing. It’s been a good time!
But as far as the XCG’s and my daughter go, it is my duty to protect her from such garbage. I have to shield her from the apocolyptic-paranoid-fearful-slave mindset of the in-laws who are in the LCG. I don’t want my girl’s mind poisoned. I don’t even want her exposed to the XCG Lite mindset of my mother. I’m an atheist now, and I won’t hide it from my daughter…but then again I don’t mind if my wife wants to raise her as a Christian, so long as she hears both sides and gets to make up her own mind. But XCGdom? Forget it. I don’t want that filth near her. In this vein, I still have an interest in the XCG’s. Keep an eye on the enemy.
Gavin Â Â Â 08/24/2007 01:50 AM
Shucks G, what can I say? You’ve been a much appreciated kindred spirit, and flown the flag for the power of free-thinking in a community known for a lack of just that. I understand the need to let it go. Thanks for everything you’ve done: XCG has been an empowering venture with a distinctive voice of its own.
Kia kaha: strength to your arm
Buffalo Â Â Â 08/24/2007 02:20 AM
Anonymous 666 Â Â Â 08/24/2007 09:47 AM
How long do we have?
boston blackie Â Â Â 08/24/2007 11:20 AM
Or you could announce your retirement, pop back in from time to time as a guest blogger on Gavin’s other “Coast to Coast” site and then surprise us all with a new format — just like some folks we know.Â Â Â Â =)
“Wanna take a ride?”
Best wishes there G, whatever you choose to do!
Mario Â Â Â 08/24/2007 01:31 PM
Thanks for being instrumental in our exodus from an (x)CoG G.
Congrats on your new arrival. Enjoy the moments, they go by so fast…
Peace to you and yours
John Â Â Â 08/24/2007 09:05 PM
Thanks so much G. Your site played a very important role in helping me exit the cult, and in convincing me that suicide was not the best path.
You and Gavin literally saved my life.
My best wishes to you and I hope life brings you many, many bountiful joys.
Frenchie Â Â Â 08/25/2007 09:22 AM
Congratulations on the birth of your first child … it is indeed a life-changing event.
You did say one thing that has total truth in it in your “good-bye” .
the fact that a true handful of people in the world still believe it
I know that you meant “just a few”
But it is the TRUE people of God who still believe and will continue to believe.
May you find your way.
Byker Bob Â Â Â 08/26/2007 01:50 PM
Oh, Man! What a cheap shot, Frenchie!
Actually, I hope that one day you and the rest of the deceived Armstrongites find your way!
Lao Li Â Â Â 08/26/2007 10:18 PM
My last posting… promise…
The winding down of this site was noted with apparent glee by Dr T, who to me implied sic semper infidelis. Au contraire, I found this to be a very balanced and temperately moderated site. On other sites, the moderator beat me to a jellied pulp at the sniff of my appearing positive about anything that eminated from a COG. As I may have said already, this site is open, COG-related discussion; most of the “correction” I’ve received has been empirical rather than imperial.
FWIW, at my remote roost in Manchuria, I encountered students from a remnant Sabbatarian community. Their little congregation was perhaps the work of a (COGspeak) Sardis-era missionary, with whom their ancestors would have lost touch two or so revolutions ago. What a coincidence to be the first westerner ever encountered since then… Their first question was about the Sabbath being on Saturday, as in China the first day of the week is Monday…
Jared Olar Â Â Â 08/27/2007 10:27 PM
Yeah, I fliggered Bob Thiel would be sure to comment on G’s announcement. He says:
I thought that G was planning on phasing his anti-COG site out. I have long thought that those who are against the COGs would realize the truth, as in the last two sentences that he wrote above.
He means G’s comments, “Until recently, I spent time looking at, analyzing, and even mocking the beliefs and actions of a group of people I no longer have anything in common with. Recent developments in my life now make that a less-than-ideal way to spend my free time.”
But as usual Bob doesn’t see things correctly. If G were among “those who are against the COGs,” then he’d be motivated to continue this project. But he’s not “against the COGs.” He’s just in favor of things that are more important and necessary to life and happiness than the COGs have ever been or will ever be.
Then Bob says:
On the other hand, there are those of us who ARE COMMITTED to learning, growing in grace and knowledge, trying to get the good news of the Kingdom of God to the world, and wish to be part of the Church of God. So, the COGwriter site has no intentions of shutting down.
Oh goody. We were so worried that the Cooge Writer was going to shut down.
But since Bob is committed to learning, growing in grace and knowledge, trying to get the good news of the Kingdom of God to the world, and wishing to be part of the Church of God, that means there’s still hope that he’ll eventually see the light and leave the COOGEs behind.
Not that we’re holding our breath or anything . . . .
Lao Li Â Â Â 08/29/2007 06:32 AM
can’t resist… must respond…
Once during an episode of Batman, an Australian friend generalized that Americans overuse the prefix anti. Did you ever notice (like Seinfeld, perhaps) that Dr T usually puts in the anti when mentioning COG criticism or another COG that has a doctrine that doesn’t match with one of the LCG? Yet the comments appear fairly warming when it is noticed that some non-COG group has a doctrine that shows some similarity? The similarity should be no surprise, as it has been widely stated that HWA was revealled those doctrines when reading their literature… or the works of Allen, or Rupert, or Adolph…
Someone, somewhere posted that Bob’s site is not really different from this one; the difference is that when making comparisons, his metric is the LCG, and ours is reality.
Okay, resistance was futile. My last post, I promise…
See you next year in Beijing.
I’ll go help my Sardis students with their English…
Buffalo Â Â Â 08/29/2007 10:55 PM
G Scott wrote,
”[with]ill wishes to none”
Well, that’s great. What brought about the conversion?
Jared Olar Â Â Â 08/30/2007 10:06 AM
What brought about the conversion?
And what will bring about yours, Mr. Snark?
Buffalo Â Â Â 08/30/2007 04:08 PM
Ah, Mr Olar, by engaging in name-calling you prove my point while trying to make one of your own. Thanks. That means I need say no more.
Heather Ramsdell Â Â Â 08/30/2007 07:33 PM
Please get off MR. Pack’s back. Leave the Apostle alone.
Dr S Â Â Â 08/30/2007 08:26 PM
Please get off Mr. Pack’s back
Clever! Back. Pack.
Do not attack the back of Pack!
I’ve heard that before. Do all you guys plagiarize?
Now to think up something to honor Olar the Scholar.
Jared Olar Â Â Â 08/31/2007 12:03 AM
Ah, Mr Olar, by engaging in name-calling you prove my point while trying to make one of your own.
My snarkily observing that your comment is snarky proves your allegation that G Scott has ill will toward . . . somebody? Oooookay.
Thanks. That means I need say no more.
Indeed, it doesn’t appear that you needed to say anything at all.
Byker Bob Â Â Â 08/31/2007 09:24 PM
I can’t believe that the zombies have finally gotten up the courage to attack just because G has stated that xCG has become a spent force.
What a bunch of tail gunners, just like their idol AMR.
Stinger Â Â Â 08/31/2007 10:11 PM
It’s good to see you going out on top, G.
So don’t let the religious bastards and other assorted spiritual clowns & bible freaks get you down. You’ve done a great work in exposing Armstrongism and the stupid self-righteousness that it breeds in these Pharisee clones that have that big A stamped on their foreheads (and their own little black book tucked away somewhere).
Heather Ramsdell Â Â Â 09/01/2007 10:09 PM
“Don’t let the religious bastards and other assorted spiritual clowns & bible freaks get you down”.
Venom spued from a moron. Leave Mr. Pack alone. Idiots
Dr S Â Â Â 09/01/2007 10:45 PM
Remember the prime directive: avoid ad hominem arguments
We only comment on what is said. Take it as brutally frank feedback.
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions” — Denis Waitley
Besides, Mr Pack loves it! He believes it’s persecution, one of his proofs that he is on the right track! (From one of his World to Come “broadcasts”.)
Jared Olar Â Â Â 09/02/2007 09:26 AM
Heather, how do you know David Pack is “the Apostle”? Did he receive laying on of hands from Jesus? Did Jesus tell him, “Feed my sheep”? Has his shadow healed the lame or the sick? Has he raised the dead?
What is it exactly, apart from David Pack’s say-so, that makes him “the Apostle”?
Big Red Â Â Â 09/02/2007 04:28 PM
G is doing the right thing. Raising a child is the hardest, most rewarding job a person can know.
I want to address some comments to Frenchie, Buffalo, Heather, AMR and the like.
First, the comment about you being tail gunners is true. You hear the website is discontinued, so you want to toss in some venal cheap shots at the very last moment. Doesn’t sound very Christian to me.
I don’t have the same antagonism towards Armstrong as some do. My experience in the old WCG was generally positive. I know that some people did get burned, however. I saw it happen.
During a FOT, Mr Armstrong said “so many of you people don’t get it.” Then he added “a lot of you ministers don’t get it.” That comment hit my brain like a thunder bolt.
After that comment, I stopped kissing the minister’s foot. I stopped looking for assurance from other people.
So many people were burned by bad pastors. So many people were burned by the people around them. Like Jonathon Livinston Seagull, I became free of that stuff. Thank you Mr Armstrong!
Heather? You want to call people morons and idiots? Then you still don’t get it! You’re still “in the flesh.”
Where were you when God created the universe? Where were you when God created life on this earth? Can you set the sun or moon in its orbit?
Yet you feel free to pronounce judgements on people that you’ve never met? Whom are you to presume such things? You better look at your own life, and take care of your own sins.
And the same goes for Bob Thiel. He thinks highly of himself, but he’s going to face a big surprise.
Dr S Â Â Â 09/02/2007 09:13 PM
Well said, Big Red!
There’re so many splinters, with so much to hide —
When we assess, they return and deride.
With AMR and Heather, with us their beef
Is that we choose not to hail to their chief.
That said, Big Red,
it’s time to go to sleep…
The comments show the nature of the web site, indeed all sites: topic X soon morphs to topic Y in the comment section. One post, in fact, had well over a hundred comments that were mostly about something entirely different. Still, there they are, the comments that still bring a smile when I consider them:
- your site certainly helped me when i transitioned out of the cog world a couple years ago
- Thanks for being instrumental in our exodus from an (x)CoG G.
- Thanks so much G. Your site played a very important role in helping me exit the cult, and in convincing me that suicide was not the best path.
You and Gavin[, author of a similar site,] literally saved my life.
All those hours of work for three comments? To help three people? One could of course make the argument that only three peopleÂ repliedÂ but that perhaps many more felt the same way.