Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Fragments in Focus - 9

Chapter 8 of Fragmentation of a Sect zeroes in on the issue of succession. The founder of a new religious movement (in this case Herbert Armstrong) dies and - then what?

There are plenty of precedents. Barrett touches on a range of leadership transitions including those of Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science), L.Ron Hubbard (Scientology), Joseph Smith (Mormonism) and the founders of Jehovah's Witnesses (Charles Taze Russell and 'Judge' Rutherford). Such transitions, it seems, are no easy thing. Worldwide's, though, was worse than most.
"The successors to the founders of Mormonism and the Jehovah's Witnesses changed emphases within those religions; the Tkachs, father and son, changed their religion fundamentally. It was the extent of that change, and how the Tkachs achieved it, that created such shock, anger, and distrust..." (p.187)
So, to look ahead to the next step, what happens when the 'alpha males'  who now run most of the splinter groups pass on to their eternal (or perhaps infernal) reward? I've always thought that the most interesting and fragile transition ahead will be in Roderick Meredith's Living Church of God. Barrett quotes something I wrote in 2009 on possible disintegration. In contrast John Meakin is optimistic that all things "will carry on without [missing] a beat." We're both guessing, but if I was a betting man I'd put a $50 bill down on major eruptions.

There's more to Barrett's discussion of these matters, which lead into the penultimate chapter based on feedback from COG members and ministers (and I hasten to reassure Michael Snyder that this series will indeed reach a conclusion before too much longer, but it's also likely that the next installment will be longer than most!)

If I took away one thought from this section it would be a renewed appreciation of that old aphorism about those who ignore history being doomed to repeat it.

To continue.


  1. Reading all this makes me feel really queasy about the fact that I could ever have been involved in something so off-the-wall as the WCG. But I would conjecture that when the various alpha males pass on, there will be a clash of competitors (they all want to be HWA)for the vacated leadership positions and this will lead to further splintering. The interesting question is if the rate of fractalization holds steady but membership does not expand, when will each splinter group have only one person in it? No doubt each such person who constitutes the entire membership of the splinter group will believe that he is the only person who understand the truth and is going to be in for a huge reward when the kingdom comes.

    -- Neotherm

  2. The greater the degree of narcissism, the more violent the resulting explosion will be. Nobody I have knowledge of could equal HWA as a narcissist, except maybe Monsters like Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein. They set the tone of all for them and I'm the greatest that ever came along so I deserve it and no one else does.

    With that principle in mind, I think Meredith's passing will be the most explosive of recent times. We've already had a foretaste in Thiel. Just wait until after the funeral. As I gather, his son is not all that great a dominant personality. Just can't see those other narcissists humbly bowing to him to please Rod's memory.

  3. My frank opinion of persisting Armstrongists at this point can be found here.

    1. And, just think of the IQ's that will not understand that video - GOLDEN!

    2. Thoroughly enjoyed that video - Gold!

  4. In business, some of the most successful people are those who take charge of situations. The best exemplars of this are so smooth, that those reporting to them, or otherwise beholden, end up not only following their lead, but also liking them, to boot. For some, HWA fell into this category, largely because we were all instructed that that was the proper and Godly attitude. Frankly, I never saw the love, but apparently many did. In a way, it defies probability that nobody with the skill set of an HWA or even a GTA has surfaced in all of Armstrongism. It's the sort of thing that would really baffle most observers if Armstrongism were a medium to large secular corporation.

    I don't believe it really matters what happens in any of the splinters. It seems fairly obvious that nothing of any consequence is ever going to come out of any of them. They've pretty much lost it, whatever "it" is.


  5. Indeed, actually, Charles Taze Russell was never a member of the JW organization; Russell did not believe in such an authoritarian organization, and he preached against the idea that any such "outward organization" could scripturally claim to be "the true church." Russell was a non-sectarian who believed members of the true church could be found here and there amongst all of professed Christian denominations. Russell further did not believe in the Armageddon message that JWs preach; it would be entirely misleading to say that Russell was the founder of that which he did not believe, and that which he preached against.

    After Russell died, Rutherford, by means of deceit and legal trickery, gained control of the legal entity (The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society) and used that legal entity to create the religious organization that he later dubbed, "Jehovah's Witnesses". However, by 1928, the vast majority of the Bible Students Association had rejected Rutherford's organization, and thus, the vast majority of the Bible Students never considered themselves as members of Rutherford's organization, and they never took the name "Jehovah's Witnesses". The Bible Students still exist to this day, totally separate from the religious organization that Rutherford created.

    From the Bible Students' perspective, Rutherford created the splinter group called "Jehovah's Witnesses", and Rutherford led that group into rejection of the ransom for all, which has historically been the core doctrine of the Bible Students.