August 1, 2002 – Edited: December 30, 2008
The tendency, among those who don’t understand justice, is to forgive the manipulator, who seems successful and authoritative, and condemn those who are manipulated, who seem unsuccessful and weak.
Ironically, this is also the pattern followed by some who are manipulated, who think themselves strong, who consider themselves on the same level as the manipulator they admire so much, and condemn those who are just like them but weaker or more “sinful”. They look down on those who are just one step lower on the same escalator going down to financial and emotional ruin.
I am speaking as someone who has witnessed the internal dynamics of a cult, and I will try to point out examples of this as I go along. However, those familiar with legalism in other churches might relate to this. No matter how hostile the environment, there are always people who are able to adapt and thrive, while others appear to sink.
In my church, physical or financial success was a measure of righteousness (based on Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28). This is ridiculous, considering that many of the “spiritual” teachings encourage sacrifice of time, money, energy, career choice and marital choice to the Church and its doctrines. For a person to be successful, it would just be a matter of luck or background. There may even be some chance that the person was cheating the system (working on the Sabbath for example, or not paying all the tithes, or dating outside the rules).
If someone is cheating the system – this point still applies to other cults or Armstrongite groups, but probably not to the present day Worldwide Church of God – I don’t want to be too critical, but they should wake up to the fact that their actions are contradicting their beliefs, at least their public beliefs, and at least the beliefs of others they fellowship with. If they find the beliefs are impossible to follow, they should think very carefully about whether the beliefs are legitimate. Instead of indulging in guilt about their hypocrisy, they should use the guilt to correct their own thinking and question the oppressive teachings, which contradict nature, and make other people poor and lonely. Anyway, the point is that financial success might not be an indicator of “godliness” at all.
The situation involves a contradiction. The cult doesn’t want you to feel like you are more important than the minister. But at the same time they want members to be successful enough to donate a steady tithe.
The reality is that the energy of both the “strong” and the “weak” is being diverted to enhance the power of the cult, and I would hope both types would understand this. Both the “righteous” (“strong”) and those who consider themselves “sinful” (“weak”) should consider exactly what those words mean and whether their leaders are actually doing the most “sin” in terms of wrecking the lives of members.
So this site is going to be as sympathetic as possible to the point of view of cult members and former cult members like myself. In another sense, I’m also writing as a former “fundamentalist”, as someone who has been immersed in a biblical world view. That means I know which arguments against the Bible were relevant in changing my opinion about it.
It is good for cult members to face up to their mistakes – if they ever do. I had a lot of help, much of it from my Church’s reformist leadership. Nevertheless, it is the cult leadership that should be held morally accountable for the damage done by their practices and doctrines. Clarity and freedom of thought only got started for me because I started reading the truth about my Church at web sites like The Painful Truth 1, and then pursuing the contradictions in my own mind about biblical doctrines.
 The Painful Truth http://www.herbertwarmstrong.com