Trading One Superstition for Another
When we first entered the WCG, we became friends with a couple who had only been attending just a few months before we started. We became fast friends, and soon began spending time together having lively discussions about "the Church" and all the new doctrines we were learning. Our friends had been Catholic and we had been Protestant. One night, we had a discussion about being superstitious. Our friend told us that her mother wouldn't let her pick up a comb off of the floor unless she stepped on it first. It was "bad luck." Her mother had a statue of St. Joseph buried in the front yard so that the home would sell faster. That was "good luck." If the salt shaker had been spilled, one had to toss the salt over their shoulder or suffer "bad luck." Friday the 13th and black cats had to be avoided. We chuckled about how ludicrous all these fears were. We were happy to be free in God's Church, knowing all Truth, and no longer having any silly fears. So we thought...
After a few years in the Worldwide Church of God, it wasn't long before we became informed that discerning what was considered pagan, and what wasn't, was the focus of any dedicated member. It seemed that Sabbath discussions revolved around the latest pagan thing we had managed to successfully avoid that week. We were taught to despise anything pagan. Why? Because everything around us is pagan. How could we possibly avoid it? This was just another ploy to keep us busy shooting at the wrong target. It got our focus off of our fellowship (relationship) with Christ and kept us busy plowing in the wrong direction. It also cuts us off from society (isolation is a key element that destructive cults use to control members). It doesn't take long for one to find out that avoiding paganism is pretty hard work!
I traded the superstitious fear of Friday the 13th, for the superstitious fear of Friday sundown. How many of us felt unnecessary guilt over not making it home before sundown because you got caught in a traffic snarl? How many of us set our watches, and painstakingly checked them during work to make sure we wouldn't work one minute over the Sabbath? How many of us subscribed to newspapers so we could make sure we had accurate sundown times? How many of us had to tell our employer that we had to stop working, even though we weren't finished with the job we were doing?
I no longer feared black cats. Now I feared unclean animals. Eating out seemed to be an exercise in testing our interrogation abilities. If we didn't thoroughly interrogate the waitress about the ingredients in our food, our integrity would come into question. Even though we were told that there was no pork in the meal, we still had to closely scrutinize our dinner just to make sure the waitress wasn't lying. Some members became so neurotic that they wouldn't believe the waitress and insisted that they be let into the kitchen to examine the ingredients themselves!
I traded the joy of celebrating national holidays for the superstitious fear of not keeping Jewish holydays. How many of us felt the fear and guilt of missing a Holyday or the Feast? We were afraid of being "left behind." We were afraid of being attacked by spiritual death if we didn't get our spiritual heroine fix at the Feast of Tabernacles to get us past the Christmas holiday.
Speaking of Christmas, how many of us, before we came into the WCG, while we were "unenlightened, worldly heathens," actually bowed down and worshipped our Christmas trees?? None of us, I'm sure. Yet, we were told that the verse in Jeremiah was about cutting a tree down, and making it into an idol, and asking favors of it as if it were God. But what does God say about this? (Jeremiah 10:5) "Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good." So if we are worshipping our Christmas tree, God says don't bother. It won't do anything for you one way or another. But since we are not worshipping our trees, then we aren't sinning either. Now let's look at who this message was delivered to. (Verse 1) "Hear the word which the Lord speak to you, O house of Israel." Since most of us understand that we are not the descendants of ancient Israel, then we can easily see that God is not speaking to us (modern Gentiles) concerning this matter.
HWA didn't want us to have anything to do with family occasions (one can only see what a happy family he had/has). By making us hate Christmas, he not only controlled our time with family contact, but our finances as well. If we couldn't spend our money on gifts, there was more for him. HWA wanted to change our focus from family time and love of Jesus, to one of fear and isolation. Yes, there is drunkenness and overspending during the Christmas holidays, but drunkenness and overspending are sins any day of the year. HWA wasn't honest with his portrayal of Christmas by Christians either. Christians spend it by doing good deeds, feeding the hungry and giving gifts to the poor. They go to special worship services and read the Scriptures of Christ's birth. They focus on the joy that God Himself would come in the flesh to redeem us from our sins, and give us eternal life. They spend family time together eating a special dinner, and enjoying their children's delightful responses while opening their gifts. How could this dishonor God? HWA used to say, "There is no Christ in Christmas!" and in his case, I'm sure that is true! When Jesus isn't in your life, then he won't be in your Christmas either.
What about birthdays? How many of us actually bowed down and worshipped our loved ones? Yet, HWA wanted to make us think that honoring a loved one was some form of narcissistic evil. What a silly fear it was to think that celebrating a child's birthday would be so upsetting to God, that He would take away our protection and allow Satan to cause our house to fall in and kill us, or some strange evil to befall our children. The opening chapter in the book of Job was not about his children sinning by celebrating birthdays. Satan wanted to strike Job where it hurt the most--through his family and his wealth--so Job would curse God. If God did not want us to celebrate birthdays, wouldn't He have written it clearly in His Word that it was forbidden? HWA said that "sinners, not saints, celebrate their birthdays." Yet there is absolutely no proof of this in the Bible. Here is a clear case of our believing a man instead of our Bibles. Remember how he would say, "Don't believe me, believe your Bible!"? But when we couldn't find it in our Bible, then we were told to believe him!
I traded the fear of Dracula for fear of the cross. I used to watch those black and white, late Saturday night chiller-thriller shows when I was a kid. Watching Dracula contort his face at a cross and cringe, closely resembled my reactions to crosses on church buildings. It doesn't take one long to be a superstitious, cross-hating true Christian in the WCG (that should have been a big red flag right there). We would say indignantly "The cross is pagan!" Well, of course the cross is pagan. Jesus wouldn't be crucified by Christians, would he? HWA made us focus on the cross being an instrument of death, yet completely ignored that Christians do not worship the cross. In the Bible the cross of Jesus is a reminder of His sacrifice. Paul warned in Philippians 3:18 "For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ." If HWA was "God's Apostle," then why did he teach us just the opposite of what Paul said?
Once a person realizes their freedom in Christ, they no longer have to spend their time nervously avoiding pagan practices. We are to "fear the Lord and Him only." The time spent "avoiding" can now be spent "pursuing" productive, God-filled lives. We are free to bring the life-giving gospel to others who are spiritually dead. We are free to pursue whatever ministry the Lord may open for us, instead of getting behind a self-appointed prophet and fulfilling his vision. The Bible doesn't say that the world will get better, but we can do whatever we can while we are able. We are free from the life of "exclusiveness." Now we can reach out in love to those who are in need. Superstition can no longer stop me. What about you?
Exit & Support Network™
October 4, 2003
Equating Christmas Decorations With Evil (letter to ESN)