I remember well when Joseph Tkach Jr, Eternal Head of the present, almost non-existant, Worldwide Church of God, said that from what they could tell, almost 40,000 former members were staying home from any church. Others have written well about this total mismanagement of the spirituality and sincere hopes that tens of thousands had invested in over the years in that particular church, so I spare you.
I would like to talk a bit about how one, such as myself, can go from being a minister in WCG, or any church for that matter, to an informed skeptic, with the hope that human beings, somehow, are spirits trapped in a limited five sensed carbon based wet suit of sorts, for now. No, I'm really not kidding! Very metaphysical I know, but then again, you never heard of a bunch of metaphysicists declaring war, Jihad and utter annihilation upon each other unless they repent or convert to each others “faith. " Most of the real history of Christianity, Islam and Judaism as practiced by those who rule over the believer is pure bullshit. Is it any wonder that people of faith, inquiry and hope simply want to be left alone?
Years ago I took a personality profile test found it so accurate, down to the kinds of gestures I use and why, that I suggest to Joe Tkach that all ministers and leader types take one. This, from my naive perspective, might just prevent sending the same, ill placed and probably not really called to serve anyone but themselves type ministers from going on and on and hurting one congregation after another. WCG had this very bad habit of transferring it's problem ministers rather than confronting them. They said no to testing. Now I know why. People hate the insecurity that comes from knowing they aren't as special as they think they are.
Being out of the loop, it took me years to figure this out. It took me years to admit that what I was seeing in WCG was happening as my ENFP personality, which is Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Perceptive, also is founded upon the idea that people like me are negotiators, ministers, counselors and even massage therapists, but simply hate conflict. Or as my son said so aptly said once, “dad, you'd take a stabbing lying down. " That hurt, not the stabbing, but the fact he was right. It's my loathing of conflict I have found that some, like Dave Pack, leader of the Restored Church of God, and others, who are what I would consider abusive, personality driven and more narcissist than shepherds, actually thrive on. Or as Stanley Rader, personal counsel to Herbert Armstrong once said, “I don't care what you say about me, just spell my name right. " True narcissism. And so I dismissed in my mind what my heart was telling me was so and went about the business of pastoring people in concepts I still had faith in, even if I could see that the higher up one went in the business of religion, the more your brains turned to shit and you forgot where you put your spirit.
But even more than that, even more than losing faith in a particular church, I knew I was losing faith in faith. I had seen too much that was real and did not match the great promises of the Bible. For all the conflict over healing and doctor care, make-up, and all that I generally labeled as “majoring in the minors, " I never asked anyone to do or not do what I would or would not do myself. My conscience is clean when it comes to being an enforcer of stupid things in years gone by. I found that “ask and you shall not have, do not ask and all things are possible", worked just fine in most cases and the years have proven my gut feelings correct in thinking that “someday, none of these things will be issues. "
Back to the original thought. I have always been a seeker and open to new things even as a minister. Actually my internal definition of a minister seemed to contain the “keep looking" clause, but that was rare among my peers who felt they had found once and for all, as I did too, but now don't. I think my working mostly alone, apart from the big cities and multiple ministers in one place, probably saved me from scrutiny. The few times I did work with other ministers it was ongoing drama and egomania. I found it entertaining but stupid as well and it took me years to see it was more widespread than I imagined. So even as a minister in a “One True Church, " I could see the Bible itself had problems that my Church and all Churches simply do not want to address. I think I ended my own ministry in the midst of WCG's “miracle from Christ" (was Jesus drunk when he did this miracle?), when I asked in a Festival Sermon at Myrtle Beach before one of last large gatherings of WCG members for such things, “Just where do babies come from, " when showing how Matthew only over reached in trying to show how Jesus was born of a Virgin etc. I know most of you believe he was, but I will still ask you where do babies come from? Mark, Luke, John and Paul (not a band) knew nothing of what Matthew “knew. "
Even as a kid in Sunday School, the stories in the Bible generated many questions about how such things could be in reality. Did Joshua really stop the earth from rotating so the Israelites could kill more Amelakites? Answer: NO. Not only is it bad science, but it's a just plain stupid reason to stop the rotation of the earth! Also, no one else on the planet noticed, which made me suspect.
Did 600,000 men, plus women, children and hangers on really trek around the Sinai in a group for 40 years leaving no signs of it? NO, they did not, at least not that many or for that long. I once read a study on how long it would take those in the back of a group that large to get moving once the front of the group started to move. It was weeks! It's mythology adopted to give a small insignificant people, who now get way too much attention, a history. How many times have we almost found Noah's Ark? Always a great story in the news that just goes away. It never happened, at least not in anyway the Bible describes.
Over time, I came to see that evolution of all life, including man, is generally true, details to unfold as time goes on. The defensive arguments of the Creationists are lame. Not to them, because they need to believe it, but to me, because I don't. I'm not afraid not to believe the unbelievable. I'd rather be ahead of my times than behind. I have flint hand tools in my collection that are 1.8 and 1.4 million years old, from Oldavai Gorge in Kenya made by “men" who became us over time. I can sit and hold them, and somehow it comforts and enlightens me. I have 12,000 year old Ice Age American spear points that do the same. I have a coin given to me as a tip, minted by Caligula to remind the population of Jerusalem just who really was in charge. It doesn't encourage me, but it does inform.
I have had my DNA taken back 70,000 years to Africa (I'm Dutch) and tracing the personal journey my cells, blood and spit have taken to get “me" to America. Fascinating how my saliva proves that in the distant past, “I" traveled through Yemen, Iran, Iraq, the Russian Steppes and left into Europe as Cro-Magnon, routing the Neanderthal who were already there, but lacked the imagination I had to rid the place of them in 18,000 years or so. I love that explanation and journey far more than I do those of the Bible, because it is true.
When I was a pastor and WCG was changing over from Holydays to Holidays, every doubt about the Biblical story of Jesus birth circumstances and the actual narratives came out. I felt that if they could flip over to something so theologically lame as Christmas, I could finally examine my doubts about the whole story. Needless to say, the birth narratives, over which the Church said I studied too much, are not coherent, do not agree, are two different stories, are not known by Mark, John or Paul and find their origins in pagan mythology. All Paul knew of the physical Jesus, who he never met or quoted, was that he was “born of a woman of the tribe of Judah. " Nothing special there. Long story.
From there, I discovered that the story of the dying Sons of God in history, such as Osiris, Mithras and Jesus, were retelling of the larger story of the journey the real SUN of God takes around the 12 constellations of the Zodiac every year. It is no coincidence that the SON of God and the SUN are crucified in the Spring on and around the Spring Equinox or that Jesus was the Lamb of God as was the SUN in Aries, the Lamb when it was “crucified". For Jesus to be “with you until the end of the age, " means more the age of Aries which ended 2000 years ago with Jesus death and not the end of the world as fundamentalist Christians insist. It explained all those 12 tribes, 12 sons, 12 disciples, 12 Apostles etc, that surrounded the “SON" on his one year ministry, according to Matthew, Mark and Luke, but three years according to John. It's no coincidence that in Revelation, God is surrounded by 24 elders, which are the hours in the day. To me this makes perfect sense and the fact that Matthew's Gospel accounts of Jesus ministry through the twelve months of his short ministry, exactly match the story of the SUN through the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Stories in the Bible that make no sense literally on earth, (like the Magi seeing Jesus star in the East and following it West to his house) often make perfect sense when you understand them as astro-theology. The story of the dying Son/Sun of God takes place every year over our heads. Light is the great revealer, but light also hides. You won't hear that story in church! Nuther long story. I suppose years ago I did wonder why in Malachi, the “Messiah" or Jesus as Christians said it pointed to, was said to be “the Sun that arose with healing in his wings. " If you know of the Egyptian sun symbol with wings, you'll see how old a concept that was.
So while I find the story of the Bible in the heavens, as below. . . so above etc, I don't fear the literalism of the Bible anymore, nor would I teach it. This is, in part, why I feel strongly about those that are manipulated by ignorant and pushy pastor types, into supporting something literally that is not literally to be supported. Ideas have consequences and we see that every day with religion gone amuck. Spirituality, as I have always noted, comes from within and doesn't need your money nor for you to show up Wednesday evenings, Saturday or Sunday.
Now to some, the reason I can go on this journey of discovery and enlightenment, while painful at times, is because I was never converted to the truth of past affiliations. I think I was. I was a true believer for a long time. But when I saw how quickly those in “high" places could change and demand change, everything I ever doubted bubbled up and here I am. I have both a deep resentment for those that have hurt so many and a gratefulness that I was able to get out and not have the drama of all that followed. The local church I last pastored was already using me as a punching bag in place of those they really resented enough. Remember, I don't like conflict, much less being the imagined target and cause of their anger. I learned to tell people I was never one of them, but one of “you" working for “them. " I grew up Presbyterian and well outside a lifelong WCG mentality. I did manage to remind Joe Tkach that he was reinventing the wheel and that what he found so so new in Jesus, was so so old a story to the vast majority of those who came to WCG in the first place. For that I was told later that “HQ thinks you know a lot about Jesus, Dennis. . . but they don't think you KNOW Jesus. " Uh oh. . . . :) Actually I think I know about Jesus more than they can possibly imagine. . . at least the Jesus of the Bible. It seems real contemporaries of Jesus know little or nothing of a Jesus who was known everywhere according to the Bible.
And so I have lost faith in just having faith. I like the facts more than I like faith. I understand faith and I agree that sometimes there is nothing to have but faith until facts come forward. But I do not substitute faith for facts. Even a good Buddhist will say that sometimes there is nothing left in life to do but have a good laugh. A good laugh and “faith" sometimes are the same thing. When I had my kids immunized in 1974 when it was not fashionable theologically in WCG, I did so because facts over rode my faith factors. When Herbert Armstrong said in a Bible study that dinosaurs probably couldn't reproduce because they were created by Satan who couldn't either, I went with the cover of National Geographic that displayed dino eggs. That happened a lot over the years when I listened to one minister or another on various topics they really knew little about. Mixing religion with science is lame.
So now I kid about “rubbing people the right way. " It still fits my personality profile. I"m still an extrovert, intuitive, feeling and perceptive. I still do “counseling" and I still hate conflict and confrontation. I don't, however, believer I will take a stabbing lying down again. I suggest you find out what you are and you'll understand your life in much more detail. Humans are hardwired the moment the sperm hits the egg. . . the rest is conditioning, programming, tribal expectations, fear, guilt and shame that keeps one in line with the group, religion or organization.
Sometimes we have to loose our minds to come to our senses. You can loose a lot of other things along the way when you do that, but being more authentic is well worth it. It's what ENFP's treasure almost above all other things.