Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A tragic story

Where some confused soul in the Reformed tradition might describe this story as an illustration of "total depravity," the better word is surely just "tragedy." A woman attempts to kill her own children by - horrible to even think about - slitting their throats. She then turns the knife on herself.

Thank God - or Providence - or sheer dumb luck - she failed.

Her stated motivation: she wanted to spare her daughters from the coming Great Tribulation.

I could weep over this report, for the woman concerned once belonged to the same faith community I did. A major emphasis in this "denomination" was... the Great Tribulation. We were saturated with it in sermons, with articles promoting insane scenarios built around Daniel and Revelation, and even in the artwork of Basil Wolverton. Recent events in Japan apparently convinced Lyn that time was almost up.

The story has been widely commented on by others who have had the misfortune to have lived with this twisted biblicism. Lyn was well known from her days as a vivacious young woman studying at "the West Point of God's Work": Ambassador College. I assume she graduated with a BTh, as most students did back in the 1980s. A lot of good it did her...

I gather Lyn later moved on, as did ninety percent of those of us once involved in the "fear religion" of those times. Most, please God, moved onto better, saner things. Lyn, it seems, never made that transition, bogging down instead in the Pentecostal fold.

Of course there must be other factors. Humans are complex creatures and only a fool would lay the blame fully at the doorstep of Armstrongism. Nothing is that simple.

But prophetic trash-religion must nevertheless bear a good deal of the blame. A culture of fear-fueled anxiety about the End Times is not calculated to do much for anyone's mental health.

It is a sobering reminder that preachers have responsibility for their words, and evil words can have evil consequences. Perhaps it's hopelessly naive, but one can only pray that Roderick Meredith, Dennis Luker and others will be paying close attention - and learning from this terrible event.

Thanks to Reg and Bill for drawing attention to this story.


  1. I posted this on my blog on March 21. Check out some of the comments from readers. She and her family had left WCG and were part of a charismatic church called the Highlands. Very disturbed woman who bears the legacy of the warped teaching of Armstrongism.

  2. I don't think I have read a sadder story in years. I first heard about it on Facebook, a friend posted the KTLA video link, but it was her married name. Her face looked so familar. I was sure I knew her from Ambassador College. Her face haunted me for a couple days until someone informed me of her maiden name, and then I knew exactly who she was.

    All I can remember from college was her smiling face and the fact that everyone knew her at college. She was friends with everyone. There has to be more to this story - perhaps some anti-depressant gone wrong but maybe we will never know.

    I've lost two close buddies to hand guns and anti-depressants. One of those friends was not even depressed - doctor prescribed it off-label for crowd anxiety, but the drug made him suicidal. His 45 made it permanent. Here's a gun law I think we should have: You turn in your handguns to the pharmacist for as long as you are on anti-depressants. It would save a lot of lives, and alot of school shootings.

    What amazes me is how various people process the Armstrong experience, some shift gears go on with life unaffected. Others fight a continual battle of feeling unworthy of God's love, of falling short of some impossible level of righteousness that they think God demands of them. The Armstrong conversion was a disempowering conversion. A certain giving over of your will and thinking to the priestly class.

    Church administration always had low regard for lay members, who brought every small problem for their consideration - but what did they expect? This chicken bone of disrespect in the throat of Joe Tkach Jr prevents him from changing the administrative structure of the church. How can he turn over the church adminstration to people who ask him to solve their every niggling personal problems? Ah, there's the rub!

    The thing is God loves you no matter what. You are Gods children! The is no separation between you and God and never has been. And God has all the time in the universe to fix what's wrong with you, so lighten up and trust your maker.

    Short circuiting ones spiritual journey through this tough life by suicide leaves only more pain in your survivors. They love you more than you can know. They will forever ask themselves what more could they have done.

    Death is not to be feared. Its only a transition to another state of being. I've been dead and come back and surprised a few nurses - and I never expected either to occur. But boy did I learn to stop worrying about death! I can't tell you exactly what this life is about, I think its about learning lessons in an environment that is not always so friendly. But whatever it is, we certainly live on one of the most beautiful planets in the galaxy.

    You have no idea how much love God has for humans. Be good to each other now, for none of us knows how many hours we have left, it doesn't take the end of the world, it can be the flu, the ordinary accident, or it can be diabetes from 50 years of cinnamon buns that takes a life, but live your life full and honorably and show the love of God that dwells in you towards others so that when you are gone, they will toast a glass to a life well lived - and to a legacy that lives on in their hearts!

  3. "Of course there must be other factors. Humans are complex creatures and only a fool would lay the blame fully at the doorstep of Armstrongism. Nothing is that simple."

    Very well said, and you're right, that the emphasis can't just be on the End Times, as that's out of our hands, anyway. Listening to Gerald Flurry quote Anglicans (!!) on his little show recently, just makes me sad, at how much a caricature of itself the Church has become (not a flattering one).

    Sure, when Waterhouse was in town, we got vividly-detailed reports of exactly how it would all happen. But even his ordination status couldn't make most of us suspend our disbelief that much. (Especially not when he started preaching about how God-like Joseph Tkach Sr., was....)

    Other than that, though, we mostly (in the Canadian West, at least) had sermons about daily life, the teachings of the Church (there were more than just end-times teachings in the Church, which is what I mean when I say it's become a caricature of itself) and that just wasn't what we focused on, in our daily Christian walk.

  4. And I still think her present Pentecostalism should be drawing the ire over this tragedy, not her past in a group she has clearly abandoned.

    Why does her current religion get off the hook for her mental instability, and her years-gone former one share any of the blame at all? Just asking.