Monday, 14 September 2015

Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fisher

Bobby Fischer may have been the greatest chess champion of all time. Certainly he was in a category of his own among American players. He was also a recruit to the teachings of Herbert Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God.

His period of attachment wasn't to last, but there was little doubt that - at least for a while - he was a prize trophy for the one true church.

Tobey Maguire - a past embodiment of Spiderman - plays the chess grandmaster in an upcoming movie Pawn Sacrifice. The question many of us will be wondering about is if and how WCG's role will be portrayed. Surely they've gotta slip in at least a reference, huh? These comments from the LA Times.
Documentary footage is interspersed with the chess-playing dialogue-free scenes as [director Ed] Zwick aimed to shift between Fischer's private hell and the media circus he lived. The effect is "a fragmented portrait that wasn't dissimilar to what his life might have been," said Zwick. 
Fischer joined the apocalyptic cult Worldwide Church of God for a time, then ended up in Pasadena, consumed by paranoia and living under a pseudonym. In 1992, he replayed Spassky in war-torn Yugoslavia. But the match violated U.N. sanctions and the U.S. issued an arrest warrant for Fischer. The chess champ lived the rest of his life in exile, occasionally coming out of seclusion to issue venomous attacks, particularly aimed at Jews.
The trailer is up on YouTube.

And while we're at it, check out this article in the San Francisco Chronicle about pianist John Khouri, a Lebanese New Zealander living in the US who made his mark in the world of classical music. I'd no idea that he too spent time in the Herbal Empire.
Khouri went off to Switzerland as a teenager to study piano, but his music career was sidetracked when he joined the Worldwide Church of God, an international evangelical denomination. For four years, he stopped practicing at all as he was sent on ministerial missions to Canada, England and Hawaii.
An "international evangelical denomination"? Uh, well. That's an interesting, if not particularly accurate description of the church Khouri wisely left in 1974. (I'm unsure whether he's related to the well known New Zealand clarinettist Murray Khouri.)

Live and learn.


  1. Don't forget about Arnold Schwarzenegger who was once a co-worker. You reported this in a previous incarnation of your blog, about the time the Terminator became the Gubernator.

  2. I remember when Bobby Fischer was the rage at AC Big Sandy. Everyone who could in the student body seemed to be playing chess. Even 1-Ws were playing chess. It is amazing how a cult can impose a lockstep on its victims. Armstrongites were always celebrity hounds. I think the lay-membership thought the presence of celebrities in "the work" would lead to a stronger, quicker witness. I think the leadership just saw dollar signs and a path to even more celebrities. If Dwight Yoakum converted to the UCG, those people would be delirious. Egos would crackle with energy. Pathetic, really.

    I am envious that some of these people, like Fischer and Khouri, were able to bail out of the WCG so quickly after being snared. Seems unfair. Then there was that guy from "The Sound of Music."

    -- Neo

    1. Daniel Truhitte played Rolfe Gruber. He joined the Marines. He was married, divorced and remarried. He spent most of his life this past 50 years teaching voice.

      And he gained weight. It showed during his few performances in the WCG.

      And if you read his biography you'd be hard pressed to find any mention of the Worldwide Church of God or Herbert Armstrong.

      As for Bobby Fischer, one wonders to what extent Herbert Armstrong actually contributed to his mental problems. Most of us given the experience of the cult would conclude that it wasn't particularly mentally healthy for any of us (looking forward to other posters demonstrating that with their comments).

    2. Bobby Fischer wasn't just "all the rage" at Ambassodor - it was a nation-wide phenomenom. I've played chess since around age 10. During the Bobby Fischer era I was in High School, then college. It seemed half the kids in high school had portable chess sets in their pockets, and we played chess during study hall and during lunch. In college (a "normal" college, not Ambassador. Rutgers), chess tournaments were all the rage. I suppose there is a group of chess players at any college, but this was a fad. It was widespread.

      Too bad Bobby couldn't live up to all the hype. It seems he had a pretty sad life.

    3. In reply to Black Ops Mikey's observation regarding mental health - I think WCG mostly attracted people with issues. Perhaps it made those issues worse for some, but it may have helped others.

      In my particular life, I'd have to say the WCG experience was a positive. It helped draw me out of my shyness and become more sociable. I found my wife in the church (true, there weren't many girls in the church - I guess they're smarter than us. But hey, considering the other guys in the church, this was the first time in my life I felt like I had a competitive advantage with regards to the opposite sex!). For my wife and I, the church was a safe place to meet, date, marry and start raising a family. Also we made good friends in the church. Sure, there were also lots of weirdos (the majority really), and we tithed away lots of money that we'd like to have back. But overall, the church was the right place for me to be at that point of my life. I've since outgrown WCG, and I see the falsehood of its doctrines and practices, but it was good for me at that time.

    4. I believe some did find WCG/AC to be a highly accommodating environment. There were people who profited greatly from the WCG in terms of an unchallenging AC education leading to large salaries, fleet cars, clothing allowances, funded Feast experiences, prestige, authority, Third Tithe widows functioning as servants, the whole congregation sucking up as best they could and the ego trip of believing that they were the brokers of salvation. That is why there are still a bunch of ex-WCG ministers in the various splinter groups - that way of life is addictive. These people, no doubt, wonder why the rest of us have such a "bad attitude" towards the fine and joyous WCG. After all, it was our station in life to get the short end of the stick. We stand in opposition to "natural law." The Levites were intended to live the life of the rich and famous. These are the people who felt they were brilliant and chosen stars glittering in the Armstrongite heavens and the rest of the church was a bunch of weirdos to be taken advantage of.

      I am not sure how you educate this entitled class as to the reality the WCG experience. Maybe if they could watch a documentary on Warren Jeff's group in northern Arizona. Maybe a little light would enter through a little crack in their dense little heads.

      -- Neo

    5. Neo, it is truly amazing that some people have no grasp of the concept of humility. They assume that what for whatever reason, they are better, superior to those beneath them in a social order. It seems to be some sort of mental deficiency. This is especially true in the strongly hierarchical church cult corporation (patterned after Robert Jackall's Moral Mazes, as if some minor cult movement could measure up to the Fortune 200). These people never seem to grasp how pathetic and weak they are, having accepted utter rubbish (such as British Israelism) which is totally anti science and completely useless (particularly for predicting anything).

      There are those who insist that a delusional group of mostly boozing alcoholics should remain together in their delusional (and often psychotic state) as a social group, whose existence should provide ample opportunity for a masters or P.H.D thesis (as it did for Fragmentation of a Sect). In reality, the only reason any pompous status hungry group should stay together is group therapy.

      You should be satisfied that the joke is on them and that they can never understand what you do about how pathetic they are in their claims of superiority. They can take it to their graves where it won't matter much except in the size of their tombstone.

    6. Black Ops: I agree. I would add that the people who came out of AC did not assume they were better - they were actively taught that they were better than the lay membership. They were chosen, supposedly, for a special education that lined them up to enjoy the tithes of the little people. In a model that asserts "performance Christianity" and "works righteousness", the fact they were more "blessed" materially meant they were more righteous. In their minds, they were theologically justified in living the high life in full view of congregations of the mostly financially oppressed.

      Within the WCG, there were "sources" and "uses" of tithes - like the sheet that accountants use. All the people who fell on the "uses" side were upper caste people in the hierarchy. All the people who were "sources" of revenues were lower caste people. To a normal person, this kind of economic injustice is painful to the conscience. So the Armstrongite educational system trained their operatives to be compassionless and disparaging toward lay members so that the operatives would have no compunctions about oppressing them. That is why your minister was never friendly towards you, never laughed at your jokes and readily dressed you down. Some evangelist, I am not sure who, described the lay membership as "the cream of the crud." You see some measure of this attitude reflected in The Skeptic's earlier comment.

      Armstrongite ministers were charged with imposing a system of fear and obedience on congregations so that a continued flow of tithes into Pasadena could be assured.

      I guess I have stated the obvious once more.

      -- Neotherm

  3. Bobby Fischer was one of those people who proved the axiom that there is a very fine line between genius and madness. He seemed to cross back and forth over it, with regularity. Many of you disparage his flirtation with "Armstrongism", but you should remember that Fischer's talent was being able to see what no one else could.

  4. Does that apply to his anti-Semitic views as well Larry??

  5. Nobody ever said he was perfect. He even lost chess games occasionally.