The Leopard Still Has His Spots*, or, Why This Article is Still True**
Plus Áa change, plus c'est la mÍme chose***
THE MORE THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD CHANGES, THE MORE IT STAYS, IN ESSENCE, THE SAME.
Is this article now obsolete, with the major doctrinal changes of 1992 on? No, it is even more relevant today than when it was first written.
I came to believe, during the six years I struggled to write about my experiences, rewriting and revising, peeling the onion to reach that elusive core, that the doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God are of peripheral interest to any study of its oppressive mind control tactics.
Today, with almost all of its core beliefs changed, the destructive government of the Worldwide Church of God is the one thing that remains.
The Worldwide Church of God is an organization that demands absolute obedience. The doctrines are merely the weapons it uses. Because the following article was completed in 1990, it refers to the older doctrines being used as weapons. The major change today is that the church requires its members to commit apostasy against their most cherished religious beliefs: obedience to the church is still the ultimate good.
Doctrinally, the Worldwide Church of God is closer to mainstream Protestantism than ever before in its history. This has been enough to have many Christian groups give it their stamp of approval, and remove them from their "cult" lists. Indeed, people in the WCG will openly say, "We used to be a cult, but we aren't one any more." This confuses heresy (supposedly "wrong beliefs") with being, in modern terminology, a cult (psychologically destructive).
There are churches with very similar beliefs to those the WCG used to hold, and they do not psychologically damage their members; the WCG has the dubious distinction of having jettisoned its characteristic beliefs, while still indulging in mind control. Mainstream Christian groups are to blame here: however politically incorrect it is to cry "heresy" or insist on "orthodoxy," this is a more honest stand than adopting the term "cult" to criticize groups with unusual doctrines--it is also dangerous. It makes it seem that potential members or their parents can ensure against brainwashing by checking out a list of approved doctrines. Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth, and it allows the wolf to parade happily in sheep's clothing.
At least some of the offshoots of the Worldwide Church of God have continued in the tradition of oppressing their membership, ruling with fear and a high hand, so some of the details here might be played out again and again under these new regimes. Those whose leaders are attempting to preserve unity with all humility may find that those around them have not lost their penchant for political intrigue; I doubt if any offshoot leaves the Worldwide Church of God without a lot of baggage.
The constant strife, betrayal and schism, which seems to have plagued this church and its spinoffs throughout its history, continues unabated to this day. I found the details of such things tiresome when I was in the WCG, and I find it a chore to follow it now, even where research requires it. There is a sordid, tabloid quality about it, and it seldom rises much above religious gossip.
For those who would like at least a basic background of the recent changes in the Worldwide Church of God, I have written an appendix about these matters, which will become more quickly dated, as it is the least universal part of the story. Other sources of this material are referenced in the Bibliography.
As a general note, most of the church publications and broadcasts mentioned in this article are now defunct, and many congregations seem to be moving towards "personal evangelism" (or recruitment), something that was not done in times past. The secrecy and insularity, however, and the high-handed ministerial abuse of the membership, continue unchanged.
This story is ultimately the story of all oppressive religious organizations.
Please continue with me, on my own personal journey through six years in the Worldwide Church of God.
"Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots: then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil."
(Jeremiah 13:23, KJV)
On request, I have now expanded these thoughts into a separate article, "A Tribute to the Leopard: The New Worldwide Church of God"
I am indebted to B.F. of Douglass, Mass. for correcting my original quotation, and giving me the citation as being written by Alphonse Karr in
January, 1849 in his work "Les GuÍpes".