(The link in this blog post has been corrected. It originally directed to one of Gary's own excellent posts, and not Dennis'.)
When a sect goes belly up, people are affected. The toll on lives can be incredible, particularly if the group has been "high demand." The tragedy of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) illustrates it well; a sect that self-mutilated itself in the process of what was euphemistically called 'reform'. Reform it was not, it was convulsive deconstruction fuelled by a small cadre of remarkably inept senior ministers from above, and from the get-go it expressed itself in a blinding contempt of those lower in the pecking order, the grass roots membership. To the everlasting shame of the broader Christian community, the 'reform' process was greeted with accolades and applause. They only saw what they wanted to see.
The irony is that there were many who had long advocated genuine reform, real reform, reform from below. That kind of reform is not arbitrarily imposed, it is negotiated. That kind of reform empowers, not disempowers, and it moves the centre of gravity away from those who sit high on the hierarchical hog, downwards toward the people who actually make up the church. That kind of reform finds - must find - its mandate among the people who sit in the pews.
Those who advocated that kind of reformation quickly found out that they were unwelcome. As the new leadership dug in, anyone not following the party line ('shut up and do what you're told') was labelled a troublemaker.
I thought I was 'over' all this, but then I read Dennis Diehl's latest contribution on Gary's blog. I wish those moronic evangelical enablers who clapped and hooted at the news that the WCG had been 'won over' would read it. I wish somebody would wave a printout under el presidente Joe Tkach's nose. Tkach, the unelected, unmandated 'president for life' of the downsized rump sect that inherited (and squandered) the assets. Joe who justifies his North Korean-style grip on power by the laughable expedient of calling it episcopal.
The crazy thing is that this whole thing was hardly rocket science. Anyone who has read Dr. Seuss' Yertle the Turtle could have done better. That Joe's throne now sits on top of a much, much smaller pile of turtles than his predecessors is beside the point.
Oh well, it's history, though tens of thousands of people still live with the effects. Just ask Dennis.