Although I have come a long way since I walked away from the WCG, I still carry the weight of emotional pain at times. Perhaps I wouldn’t feel this way, if it wasn’t for the fact that I lost my children to various splinter groups and have been totally separated from them. My heart aches for them, because I myself experienced the overbearing dictatorial demands of the leadership.
Jesus Himself scorned the Pharisees when He recognized their motives behind the endless rules and regulations they had placed on the people.
One minister, John Ritenbaugh, was forever reprimanding us for “breaking” the Sabbath and for our lack of faith as the ancient Israelites did. Keeping the Sabbath rigid rules was first and foremost in our everyday living.
As an example for us, he explained how he made sure that he had all seven pairs of shoes for his children polished and lined up before sundown to avoid working on the Sabbath.
As the man of the house, I had to be sure to leave my office in order to be home before sundown. Then, if I discovered that my gas tank was nearly empty the next morning, I had to put in just enough gasoline to get to church and back home. Then, after sundown, I could go back to the gas station to fill up the tank.
The list of “dos and don’ts” was seemingly endless—all because that’s what God had expected of us. We were to strive for perfection in everything we did. In our minds, we made decisions constantly on whether or not God would look down with favor on us.
Sadly, that same mentality spilled over on our children from a very young age. As parents, we were expecting them to be just as perfect in all their ways. After all, weren’t we trying to please God in all our actions?
Over the years, this way of life became unbearable, because it was unattainable! Yet the people in charge at the top seemed to enjoy dispensing the rules over us. Even the deacons and deaconesses were becoming that way.
Pastors, ministers, and evangelicals expounded in their sermons keywords often used in the Bible (Psalm 119, for example) such as commands, decrees, and laws. They would habitually use these terms while misinterpreting them or take them completely out of context in order to make a point.
As longtime members of the WCG, we became like robots marching to the tune of the governmental authorities with no sense of creativity in our lives. Just tell us what to do and how to do it, and we’ll be glad to follow the orders. Performance was how we were judged in everything we did, and God would be pleased.
Perhaps it was my personality and upbringing, but I found it easier to follow the dictates handed down from above rather than to think creatively. Critical thinking and creativity were considered anathema. Just do what you’re told and don’t question anything.
Essentially, we were following the footsteps of the totalitarian regimes that played a significant role in early days of WWII under the rulership of Stalin and Hitler. Herbert Armstrong played a dominating role in much the same way, but he went even further to suggest that our eternal life depended on our following his “church government.”
By Mitch (former WCG member)
January 6, 2023
Grace & Law (see articles under “Sabbath / Sunday”)