This excellent letter may be applied to all cases of evil that is propagated by those who have absolute power, no matter the name of the group.
Garner Ted Armstrong (1930-2003), son of Herbert W. Armstrong, founded Church of God International (CGI) in 1978. After he was removed from all positions in 1998 by The Church of God International Board of Directors, he founded Intercontinental Church of God and The Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association, both located in Tyler, Texas.
All bolding and caps are the author’s. Some quotation marks, etc., have been added by ESN to make it clearer when quotes are given from The People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck. There was no specific date on this letter, but it was written in the 1990s.
Distributed to Church of God International Brethren
PLEASE READ THIS LAST – ALSO COPY AND DISTRIBUTE
This will no doubt be the most difficult undertaking in my life. My agenda simply stated is to save our church by informing you about the terribly serious danger facing each of us.
I have known about the immorality of one Garner Ted Armstrong for over twenty years. Yes, I know that many of you will shrink back in offense at this very serious charge; but bear with me. Some of you may have been worshipping a man and now, may have your eyes opened. The reason for doing this is because G.T.A.. has never once publicly acknowledged his sins or repented of them. Some of you will say that this is just another attack from Satan; but no it is not. You must also realize that a person who has an addiction to something such as alcohol abuse, sex abuse, or spiritual abuse affects all of those around him. The individual and those around him will ever be in a state of denial until they get outside help. A must read to better inform yourself is the book ‘PEOPLE OF THE LIE,’ by Scott Peck. Also a must read is ‘THE SUBTLE POWER OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE,’ by Johnson and Van Vonderen.
Many of you have exclaimed in heartbreak and anguish, why? Why and how could a person seem and act so sincere and truthful be at the same time so corrupt and evil? Some of you need to get into God’s Word because it’s all there. Evil men have crept in unaware. II Cor 11:13-15,
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
Just recently a close friend of mine replied as I tried to explain this very difficult phenomenon, ‘Mr. G.T.A. must be like a Jeckyl and Hyde?’ PRECISELY!! In II Peter 2:1-3 we read,
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feined words make merchandise of you. Whose judgement now of a long time lingereth not and their damnation slumbereth not.”
Listen up, brethren, G.T.A. is bringing all of this upon himself because he privily believes and practices the heresy that he has the right to stand before the people of God and preach while at the same time be immoral. He was taught this by his father, H.W.A., whose sorry and lame excuse back in the 1970s was that “Ted is above the law.” Brethren, in this urgent time you must study your bibles. Evil people are discussed and explained and warned about over and over. II Tm 3:13,
“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Phil. 3:17, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them (TAKE NOTE OF) which walk so as ye have us for an example, For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ. Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”
I have done that, I have silently taken note of the signs and little subtleties over the years, and compiled with what I have recently witnessed first-hand, they are overwhelming. I want you the reader to be persuaded in your own mind about these things. Some of you, sad to say, are men – pleasers, people who only want to follow a man and are so totally deceived. May God help you to wake up. The following are some of the things I have witnessed:
“Whether a captain of a ship or whether I am in a rowboat, my hands will be on the controls – I must fulfill my destiny.” G.T.A. on tape.
“We tend to regard local church problems with benign neglect.” G.T.A. on tape.
“I could care less about local churches.”
At one of the feasts and at another time, heard the following statement:
“Some of you are holding back.” G.T.A.
I answered that statement in a lengthy thesis, please read the enclosed letter entitled “Holding Back.” Question? Should a deeply converted, humble servant of God make such statements? I have mentioned my experience in Helena, Montana at a question and answer session in the spring of 1994. I had asked the question, “Why does Tyler have the policy of nondisclosure of salaries when we claim to be an open church? G.T.A.’s response was “We have no such policy.” This was witnessed by 50 to 60 people in attendance, and was an outright lie. A lie that could have been easily corrected but has not. Instead, Mr. G.T.A. instead of coming to me, his brother with the issue turned it around claiming that I had had the audacity to ask him a direct question concerning his salary. Soon after that I was called into Tyler by a threatening and intimidating letter by Ron Dart stating that my ministerial credentials were being suspended. I went on January 14, 1994. The first questions I had asked Ron Dart were “What are the charges? and who is making the charges?” To this day I do not know exactly “What or Who.” Loren Chamberlain said, from what he had heard, that the reason I was called to Tyler was because of the incident in Montana. Another question. Do honest down-to-earth, straightforward and upfront people who are supposed to be servants – do these people hide things and why are they secretive while maintaining “openness ?” According to the book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse“, secretiveness and stonewalling are examples of spiritual abuse. No doubt about it – we have all been abused.
We all sin – you and I: then what is the difference between you and I and people that we discern as being evil? This too, is all explained in “People of the Lie,” from which I will quote at length. Pg. 68: “To name something correctly gives us a certain amount of power over it.” “We cannot begin to hope to heal human evil, which must be our ultimate goal, until we are able to look at it directly, to confront it, to address it, and to deal with it. Pg. 10. He states in page one that his is a very dangerous book that we must be careful – FULL OF CARE. That when we label certain people as evil, we are making an obviously severely critical value judgement. On page 104 he states, “It is exceeding rare, therefore, that we can pass judgement on a person as being evil after observing a single act, instead our judgement must be made on the basis of a whole pattern of acts as well as their manner and style.” Pg. 69: “It is not their sins per se that characterize evil people rather it is the subtlety and persistence and consistency of their sins. … This is because the central defect of the evil is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it. There is little that is dramatic about them. They are not designated criminals. More often than not they will be ‘solid citizens‘ Sabbath [Sunday] School teachers, policemen or bankers… How can this be? How can they be evil and not designated criminals? The key lies in the word ‘designated.’ They are criminals in that they commit ‘crimes’ against life and liveliness.” The author reminds us that the word EVIL is LIVE turned around – evil people commit crimes against LIFE. Evil is in opposition to LIFE. It is that which opposes the life force.
Pg. 72: “The poor in spirit do not commit evil. Evil is not committed by people who feel uncertain about their righteousness, who question their own motives, who worry about betraying themselves, The evil in this world is committed by the spiritual fat cats, by the Pharisees of our own day, the self righteous who think they are without sin because they are unwilling to suffer the discomfort of significant self-examination. Unpleasant though it may be, the sense of personal sin is precisely that which keeps our sin from getting out of hand. It is quite painful at times, but it is our one and only effective safeguard against our own proclivity for evil.”
Pg. 73: “A predominant characteristic, however, of the behavior of those I call evil is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection.”
Pg. 78: “Malignant narcissism is characterized by an unsubmitted will. All adults who are mentally healthy submit themselves one way or another to something higher than themselves, be it God or truth or love or some other ideal. … to a greater or lesser degree, all healthy individuals submit themselves to the demands of their own conscience. Not so the evil [people]… They are obviously of strong will, determined to have their own way. There is remarkable power in the manner in which they attempt to control others.”
Pg 136: “[the] evil need victims to sacrifice to their narcissism, their narcissism permits them to ignore the humanity of their victims as well.”
Be especially attentive to the following passage because there is a connection with the on going cover-up. Pg 76-77: “It often happens, then, that the evil may be recognized by its very disguise. The lie can be perceived before the misdeed it is designed to hide – the cover-up before the fact. … Because they are such experts at disguise, it is seldom possible to pinpoint the maliciousness of the evil. The disguise is usually impenetrable. But what we can catch are glimpses of ‘the uncanny game of hide-and-seek in the obscurity of the soul, in which it, the single human soul, evades itself, avoids itself, hides from itself.’ ” “Since the primary motive of evil is disguise, one of the places we find it is within the church.” Pg 77: “Since they will do almost anything to avoid the particular pain that comes from self-examination, under ordinary circumstances the evil are the last people who would ever come to psychotherapy, The evil hate the light – the light of goodness that shows them up, the light of scrutiny that exposes them, the light of truth that penetrates their deception. … The most significant reason we know so little scientifically about human evil is simply that the evil are so extremely reluctant to be studied.”
Enough about evil – now about us. Do we as a people have the courage, strength, and integrity to do what we must? Pg 222: Mr. Peck states, “Stress is the test for goodness. The truly good are they who in time of stress do not desert their integrity, their maturity, their sensitivity. As I have said elsewhere, ‘one measure – and perhaps the best measure – of a person’s greatness is the capacity for suffering.’ ” Pg 216: “For many years it has seemed to me that human groups tend to behave in much the same ways as human individuals – except at a level that is more primitive and immature than one might expect. Why is this so – why the behavior of groups is strikingly immature – why they are from a psychological standpoint, less than the sum of their parts – is a question beyond my capacity to answer. … The phenomenon of group immaturity is … ‘over determined.’ This is to say that it is a result of multiple causes. [One of the causes of group immaturity is specialization within the group.] … Pg 217: Specialization contributes to the immaturity of groups and their potential for evil through several different mechanisms. For the moment, I will restrict myself to the consideration of only one such mechanism: The fragmentation of conscience.” Pg. 218: “Whenever the roles of individuals within a group become specialized, it becomes both possible and easy for the individual to pass the moral buck to some other part of the group. In this way, not only does the individual forsake his conscience but the conscience of the group as a whole can become so fragmented and diluted as to be nonexistent. … The plain fact of the matter is that any group will remain inevitably potentially conscienceless and evil until such time as each and every individual holds himself or herself directly responsible for the behavior of the whole group – the organism – of which he or she is a part.” At this point the writer delves into the MaiLai atrocity and the cover-up during the Vietnam war. He states that this cover-up was nothing short of a massive group lie. If we as a group try to cover-up G.T.A.’s sins, the lie will only grow bigger in scope and dimension. The cover-up we are now seeing in C.G.I. is being fostered by group pressure which can be an enormous force.
Constant stress and discomfort can become a reason or mechanism why groups become immature. We as a church are specialized people and so our actions and reactions to various influences can be fairly well predicted. In a situation of prolonged discomfort we humans naturally, almost inevitable, tend to regress. Our psychological growth reverses itself; our maturity is forsaken. Quite rapidly we become more childish and more primitive. Another reason for group immaturity is just plain human laziness and complacency. We tend to cling to old reality maps and attitudes that have become obsolete. We as a church carry the attitude “we can’t change things, we’ll just let God work it out.” And so evil triumphs because good people do nothing. Another definition for evil is the use of political power to destroy others for the purpose of defending or preserving the Integrity of one’s sick self. We are witnessing this now.
THE DANGER AND THE HOPE
This is Mr. Peck’s title for chapter seven of his book. He states on page 255, “As has been noted, it is characteristic of those who are evil to judge others as evil. (You are seeing this in the unjust firing of Mr. Ian Hufton and his secretary in Tyler.) Unable to acknowledge their own imperfections, they must explain away their flaws by blaming others. And, if necessary, they will even destroy others in the name of righteousness. How often we have seen it: the martyrdom of the saints, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, MyLai. Often enough to know that whenever we judge another as evil, we may ourselves be committing evil. Even atheists and agnostics believe in Christ’s words: ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.’ If we examine this matter [of judging] more closely, we will see that it is both impossible and itself evil to totally refrain from making moral judgements. An attitude of ‘I’m okay – You’re okay’ may have a certain place in facilitating our social relationships, but only a place. Was Hitler okay? Lieutenant Calley? Jim Jones?” (Were Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye okay? Was it okay for Jimmy Swaggart to solicit prostitutes?)
Let us look at everyday life. If I am to hire an employee, should I take the first person who comes along or should I interview a number of applicants and judge between them? What kind of father would I be if I discovered my son cheating, lying, or stealing and failed to criticize him? There is such a thing as an excess of sympathy, an excess of tolerance, an excess of permissiveness. The fact of the matter is that we cannot lead decent lives without making judgements in general and moral judgements in particular. You and I go through our day making decisions that are judgements, most of which have moral overtones. We cannot escape judging.
The sentence ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’ is usually quoted out of context. Christ did not enjoin us to refrain from ever judging. What he went on to say in the next four verses is that we should judge ourselves before we judge others – not that we shouldn’t judge at all. Recognizing the potential for evil in moral judgements, he instructed us not to always avoid making them but to purify ourselves before doing so. Which is where the evil fails. It is the self-criticism they avoid. We must also remember the purpose for which we judge. If it is to heal – then fine. If it is to enhance our own self-esteem, our pride, then the purpose is wrong. “There but for the grace of God go I” is a reflection that should accompany every judgement of another’s evil. The issue then, is not whether to judge – we must. The question is how and when to judge wisely. Our great spiritual leaders of the bible have given us the basics. The big question is can we as God’s people rise to the occasion? We keep a Feast of Unleavened Bread every year – some of us for over thirty and forty years. Has the lesson of putting sin out been lost? Those of us who have been through the Worldwide experience have undergone a type of spiritual holocaust where our emotional feelings and memories have been overwhelmingly painful and unpleasant. Therefore, we have had a tendency to anesthetize ourselves almost to the point of being transfixed or mesmerized – unable to act in the presence of serious danger.
We must act – We must judge.
God gives the orders and His orders are plain and clear. In 1 Tim 5:20-21:
Them (those elders) that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge you before God, and the Lord, Jesus Christ, and elect angels, that you observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.
1 Cor 5:12-13 “It isn’t our job to judge outsiders, But it certainly is our job to judge and deal strongly with those who are members of the Church, and who are sinning in these ways. God alone is the judge of those on the outside. But you yourselves must deal with this man and put him out of your church.” (Quoted from the Living Bible.)
One final quotation from ‘THE PEOPLE OF THE LIE.” Scott Peck states, “I have learned nothing in twenty years that would suggest that evil people can be rapidly influenced by any means other than raw power. They do not respond, at least in the short run, to either gentle kindness or any form of spiritual persuasion with which I am familiar.”
Brethren, we have that power. We have the power of almighty God. We have the power which rests with those who hold the moral high ground. We have the power of our collective human will – the power that comes from knowing our cause is just and morally right. We have the power of public opinion and the power of the courts. We must realize that we are dealing with men who fire and revoke other’s credentials on the flimsiest of pretexts. People of the lie who are tyrants and autocrats. G.T.A. can get up in the pulpit and rant and rave about the “Wackko from Waco“, but has he become the Tyrant from Tyler? (Tyrant by definition means one who exercises absolute power without warrant..) G.T.A. states in his latest book “Everything you’ve always wanted to know about C.G.I.” that “I wanted C.G.I. to be free from the shackles of exclusivism, cultism, and blatant autocracy.” He goes on to say that “not only did we seek official government sanction, we wanted to be so organized that researchers, friend or foe, would see that we were anything but a ‘cult’ practicing exclusivism and subject to the whims and caprice of human leaders.” The fruits and the works are there for all to see.
Brethren, you must judge – judge wisely.
Continuing in service to you and Christ
P.S. It would facilitate matters if I had your Membership List. Our Membership List will be given to you at our conference or mailed.
Update: Garner Ted Armstrong died of pneumonia in a Tyler, Texas hospital at age 73 on September 15, 2003.
Related Article: “None of God’s Servants Were Perfect” (for those who like to use this reasoning)