Monday 28 July 2014

WCG Nebraska - Can You Help?

Can anyone help Ann out with information? 
I am writing to ask you if you can tell me why the WCG required my aunt & uncle (Neubauers) to make their yearly trips to Pasadena, CA. They became involved with the Worldwide Church of God after listening to the radio broadcast that came on the radio after the farm report. 
My uncle passed away in 1987 and my aunt passed away last year. Is there any way to access information on the WCG services that were held in Burr, NE? (or did the church constantly change where the services were held?) I have a copy of a letter (Jan 1993) that my aunt wrote to WCG ministers named the Hudsons in which she is begging them to return her car to her. She is very unhappy with the way they have been treating her. 
I have been reading the Ambassador Reports but can't find much on any articles related to Nebraska. Thank you for any help you can give me.
Apart from that yearly trip, which was presumably the Feast of Tabernacles, the rest requires some local knowledge. If you want to respond off the blog, email to otagosh will be forwarded to the sender.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Return to 2014

Oh happy day. Internet access restored. Finally. The last week has been akin to having higher brain functions shut down, albeit temporarily. I'd like to say I have a whole backlog of postings ready to roll out. Sadly that's not true. But the normal abnormal service will resume shortly. Meanwhile, perhaps I could share Brother Tom's comments on the outage mentioned in the previous post.
Well, you are in for a surprise! You have been operating in a Dark Age for ages! If you have joined the scoffing cabal that think the bible is fiction; British Israelism is an aboration and Mr Armstrong was a charlaton, then you have never seen the light!
Yup. Card carrying member of the scoffing cabal when it comes to inerrancy, BI (what's an "aboration" Tom, it ain't in the Oxford) and that old "charlaton" (that ain't in the Oxford either) "Mister" Herb Armstrong - whoever he might have been. Time to invest in a dictionary Tom, it'll do your credibility wonders. Failing that, try using a spell-checker. The attached scoffers graphic is dedicated to you, enjoy.

Saturday 19 July 2014

It's 1963

Or thereabouts. Over 48 hours have passed since the local exchange went into some kind of meltdown with cellphone and Internet coverage dropping through the floor. The cellphone issue was fixed by the next day, but broadband is still out, and I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms. This brief post is the result of tethering the iPad to the mobile phone. Not ideal. Ironic given that VDSL was only installed here less than a fortnight ago. 

In the broader scheme of things it is of little import I guess.  In a connected world it suddenly seems weird not to have the kind of access which would have amazed us just twenty years ago. Once Chorus has pulled digit Otagosh will be back.

Sunday 13 July 2014

Playing "Stratego" with The Word

I've just had one of those "I wish I'd said that" moments. Or in this case, "I wish I'd written that."

Steven Wiggins has an excellent piece about how modern folk - like me and thee - must indulge in intellectual gymnastics to come to grips with crumbling Bible claims. "Word games."

Here's the opening paragraph.
The idea is a simple one. When someone undermines, the very foundation of an idea is left with no foundation. We are taught not to undermine ourselves; for enemies it’s okay. Encouraged even. The Bible contains the seeds to its own undermining. The claim that it is a sacred book encourages—even demands—serious attention be paid to it. When it is examined closely, however, it becomes plain that the status accorded it as a book undermines its own claims. Believers can respond in several ways. One is to declare the Bible inerrant and to claim that contradictions are not contradictions and that what history has proven false is actually true. The keenest breed of such inerrantists hardly exists any more, since it does require a stable, geocentric view of the universe, if a universe there be at all. On the other extreme there are believers who make sacred writ so highly symbolic that we need not worry about the obvious factual errors—they were never meant literally anyway. And, of course, every position in between.
Yup. To read the whole post just click across to Sects and Violence. And if you're tempted to think that this is just the work of yet another two-for-a-dollar pundit, do check out his bio/CV.

Thursday 10 July 2014

The Twelve (Plus or Minus) Tribes of Israel

Quick, how many tribes of Israel were there?

The stock answer is twelve, but the textual evidence is a little more complicated.

Paul Davidson pulls the evidence together on Is That In The Bible? At the bottom of his posting you'll also find a nifty chart which you can download as a PDF and print out.


(Tip of the hat to James McGrath who drew attention to Paul's posting first.)

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Beyond Dismay

Best ever COG blow-hard?
I've just caught up with the fact that the Untied, oops, United Church of God is buying time on local channel Prime (Sundays at 7am) for its tele-proselytising programme Beyond Today.

Other COG sects have thrown truckloads of green-backs at Kiwi broadcasters over the decades - Ted (and Herb), Gerry, Rod. To be honest, I still think motor-mouth Ted (Garner Ted Armstrong to the uninitiated) was the pick of the crop way back in the 70s. At the very least he was entertaining, and even knew how to chuck in a bit of winsome self-deprecation from time to time (however insincere).

Of course Ted, to paraphrase something Churchill once said about a lady of his acquaintance, had much to be self-deprecating about, what with stewardesses and massage appointments.

The UCG though? Oh okay, I'll record it and give it a gander later. "To keep my disgust fresh," to quote a certain Gibraltan poet, sage and ethnographer. I mean, it can't be as awful as LCG's Tomorrow's World - which has the 8.30 slot, also on Prime. Can it?

As an aside, Troy Fitzgerald has an interesting interview with former UCG member Jeff over at Secular Safe House.
Jeff, the oldest of 5 kids, was born and raised in the Worldwide Church of God, but at the age of 11 his parents  left to join a new church, United Church of God, which split off of the WCG due to massive doctrinal changes they did not agree with.  He was home schooled and largely taught himself, which made him self-reliant and independent. An analytical, science-loving student, by the time he was a teen he was already beginning to secretly doubt the teachings of the church, and before he was 18, he didn’t believe in the religion or Christianity at all. He watched his friends who left the church be shunned and ostracized and, despite being hounded for his “rebellious attitude,” he continued to attend until he was 21 when he could move out on his own.
Jeff discusses how the church sent his tithing (donations) records to his parents prompting his mom to confront him about his not contributing for the previous year,  about his ultimate exit from the church and religion at the age of 21, and how his relationship with his family — all of whom still remain in the church — has evolved. He opens up about the emotional turmoil and heartbreak, years later, watching his mother succumb to cancer all the while resisting modern medical treatment and how the church practiced the avoidance of medical intervention (faith healing) despite the unspoken policy not being official doctrine. Finally, he offers his advice to others having doubts about their faith.
I shudder to think what Prime has got sandwiched in between UCG and LCG. Oh dear lord, I just checked and it's Hour of Power. With that combination you'd hope they'd preface each show with a prominent warning about the likely side effect of viewers experiencing a steep drop in their IQ.

Saturday 5 July 2014

Rolf Harris: A Sense of Entitlement

It probably hasn't made headlines to the same extent in North America, but in Britain and the Antipodes the conviction of Aussie entertainment icon Rolf Harris has been big news.

Rolf is a disarming character, full of charm and talent. An artist, a singer, family-friendly, a good bloke. For years he was the face of British Paints ads on television ("Trust British Paints? Sure can!"), and as kids many of my generation remember watching his popular TV show together with the folks each week.

Sadly, he wasn't so clever at tying his own kangaroo down, if you know what I mean. Allegations about his inappropriate behaviour have also surfaced here in the wake of the British trial. One such account comes from government MP Maggie Barry, who had to peel the scumbag off her prior to an interview on a local radio station when she was beginning her broadcasting career. Incredibly another comes from a woman who, as a nine-year old, was told to climb onto Harris' knee to receive a Xmas present at a charity function. Harris' reason for being in the country at the time? To raise funds to combat child abuse.

I suppose it's only to be expected that 'famous' people sometimes lose their sense of perspective and begin to believe their own publicity. For years we've known the damage that can be inflicted on child stars, and who couldn't have predicted with 99% certainty Justin Bieber's descent into stupidity. Humility, if it existed at the outset, turns into a sense of entitlement, and a complex justification created by the simple expedient of having to live with yourself afterwards.

The same mechanism operates, I suspect, with media-savvy preachers. Adoring crowds gather to collect the pearls of faux-wisdom that drop from their precious lips. They are men of God, and they climb up onto their own pedestals to the applause of the multitude. No wonder then that so many of them end up as Ted Haggard did. Power corrupts, but so does PR.

The moral? Never take a celebrity - even a celebrity preacher - at face value.

Billboard Bluster

New Zealand has, praise the Lord, a lot fewer fervent evangelical billboards dotting the countryside than in some other countries. But they do exist, and every time I stumble across one I flinch. Driving out to the coast there's one that offers a cash prize for anyone who can find a Bible text authorizing a change from the Sabbath to Sunday. A loony toons Adventist with a well-thumbed copy of Cruden's concordance at the ready no doubt.

Bob Price has recently vented on this subject on his blog. At the expense of a very poor pun, it's priceless.