Thursday, 14 March 2013
Fragments in Focus - 8
With chapter seven of Fragmentation of a Sect Barrett moves on, having clearly established the backstory, to his analysis, overlaying the work of a number of sociologists on the Worldwide epic. The key issue for what follows is authority and governance in the church, and he begins with a discussion of Max Weber's categories. Barrett observes that the Tkachniks used the top down structure established by Armstrong to further their own very different agenda (a strategy that this reviewer regards as blatant, bloody-minded and shameless manipulation.) John Halford provides the apologetic for this in personal correspondence with the author, maintaining that democratization is just around the corner: "Now we can become democratic."
I suggest you don't hold your breath.
What Halford means by 'democratic' falls a long way short of what most of us might mean by that term, but he maintains that - despite the pretence of 'episcopal' governance - "Joe Tkach wants to be the last autocratic pastor general. And he is taking active steps..."
There is an irony in those first three words. Joe Tkach wants... and what Joe wants is paramount. Any shuffling off the throne will be when he's good and ready, in his own sweet time, and regardless of the ongoing collatoral damage of delay. That's democratic?
There's a good deal about how authority validation is expressed in the splinters, and no discussion of this subject is complete without reference to Armstrong's 1939 article in which he railed against hierarchic structures. But it is toward the end of the chapter that Barrett takes an unexpected turn by comparing Armstrong to a guru.
A guru? There are a variety of terms, some technical, some descriptive, and a few completely unprintable, which have been applied in the past to Armstrong, but guru hardly rates. Barrett cites Anthony Storr's criteria in establishing characteristics of a guru. It is a fascinating discussion. To cite just one example from Storr, "Gurus tend to be intolerant of any kind of criticism, believing that anything less than total agreement is equivalent to hostility."
Herbert Armstrong was hardly a guru in the Wizard of Id mold - no ascetic tendencies whatsoever as he cheerfully guzzled coffee on the Day of Atonement - but if gurus can wear expensive suits and suck the dollars out of their followers' pockets to maintain an indulgent lifestyle and an ego-stroking image, then Armstrong meets the criteria well.
Posted by Gavin R at 22:50