Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of Ambassador College and The Worldwide Church of God, once said, “If after I die, (which he did in 1986) and this work fails then you will know that it is the work of a man (referring to himself), and not a Work of God.” He was right, after his death his entire work, his empire failed miserably. Bitter rivalries and disputes arose within the leadership of the church and colleges. The once powerful organization collapsed internally. The result, they are no longer in operation or existence; his work like him is dead!
However, during the heyday of its operation the church maintained three college campuses. The main one was in Pasadena, California. They also maintained a campus in Bricket Wood, England and one in Big Sandy, Texas.
Their one primary goal was to train young men to become ministers. In addition, the women received training to be their wives. Their curriculum focused on ruling their congregations rather than serving them. After 4 years of college training, the student felt god had handpicked him. This delusion of feeling handpicked and divinely inspired led to falsely believing he was ready to lead, correct, teach and reprove his flock. He would then fashion and shape his new church environment, and made it after his image. The young minister ruled and the women were submissive and obedient wives. This is important to keep in mind as you read on.
The Campus in Big Sandy, Texas, unlike the Pasadena or England campuses was less rigid, formal and sophisticated. It had a full-scale farm that grew all the produce and produced meat for the two campuses in the US.
Its ambiance definitely had a relaxed and laid-back country atmosphere.
That does not mean that the students were any less serious about their studies. It just means the atmosphere in Texas was less formal and a lot more casual. Since they were all religious based colleges, each campus was alive with excitement, adventure and dreams of young men who would someday take their place as rulers within the church.
Due to circumstances, which I will not go into now, I found my employment transferred from Pasadena to the college in Texas. There I learned to appreciate the less sophisticated life style of Big Sandy. I guess I liked it so much because in many respects I am independent and adventurous, and a bit of a rebel.
Since I grew up in the greater Los Angeles area, this new environment was very amazing to me, it was so open and free, it was great! I quickly adapted.
During orientation to receive my work assignment, the Director of Buildings and Grounds sternly warned me not to socialize or even talk with any of the women students. No there was nothing wrong with me personally, I was just an employee and not a student and therefore was forbidden to socialize with the students. The church had a monetary investment in them. As a result, the administration did not want me or any other single male worker to screw up their investment by getting involved with one of their beautiful co-eds. Therefore, it was a cardinal sin to talk to the young ladies. I know it is a bit bazaar, but that was the way it was. By working there, I accepted and agreed to their standards, did not mean I personally approved of their policy, because I did not.
There was something unique about the Big Sandy campus. It had a lake, which I really learned to enjoy. It not only provided a place of recreation but also was a place where some very unusual and strange things took place…
I want to digress for just a moment, and then I will get back to the lake.
Senior students would often look for and loved to find a freshman sleeping on the job during the heat of the Texas day. They had a simple solution to assure this kind of lazy behavior would never happen again. They would very quietly slither up on the sleeping student and very (not wanting to wake their victim) carefully smear chicken manure on the unsuspecting loafer’s index finger. Then they would gently tickle his nose with a feather. You can imagine what happened next. The sleepy student would rub his tickled nose vigorously with his finger. Eyes would widen and water, shortness of breath would occur as he jumped to his feet. The shock and surprise was something to behold! It was one way that guaranteed there would be no more sleeping on the job.
Now back to the lake…
It was a hot and humid summer afternoon, the temperature must have been in the high 90’s, and the humidity seemed equally as high, just cannot seem to get comfortable. Therefore, for a break I found a relatively cool place in an open tool shed that was about 100 feet from the lake. It was moderately cool there because a big Oak tree shaded it. The open part of the shed faced the lake.
I was just getting comfortable when I noticed some rather strange activity going on close to the shore of the lake. What is this, what was going on?
There were four or five male students; they were seniors that transferred from the sophisticated Pasadena campus. These men were near the edge of the lake, and they were waving their arms, making faces and being very vocal. My first thought was that they were rehearsing for a speech class. Powerful gestures and facial expressions was important to develop, and to be able to project a deep resonate voice. In the early years, all the young men wanted to be like one of the renowned church ministers, Garner Ted Armstrong.
As they were going through their routine, it seemed a bit off and odd. As I was soon to see, it was not quite, as it appeared to be. It almost looked like some sort of a strange ritual was taking place. It just did not look quite right. Then what happen next was unrealistically strange and perhaps even a little bizarre. No, it was just plain bizarre!
By this time, other students had noticed the commotion and stopped to see what the entire hubbub was about.
Suddenly the young men became very vocal and animated as they danced about. You would have thought that the devil himself tried to reach out and grab them from the lake. That was not the case. So what was causing all the commotion and their macho barking and arm waving, some sort of a new rite of passage? No, a snake, a rather large snake had emerged from the lake! I do not know about you but that is enough to make me a little uncomfortable.
Now these big city boys were running back and forth somewhere between panic and hysteria not knowing what to do, so with their positive hand gestures, they tried to shoo shoo the snake back into the lake. The snake was not cooperating. Personally, I would simply have walked away and left the critter alone. Not these guys, their manhood was at stake (remember now, men rulers and women were submissive) and the situation demanded that they take action to demonstrate their manliness.
The spectacle was about to take an interesting, if not downright weird turn. From the group of students that were gathered and amongst the confusion came this beautiful, blond and innocent looking co-ed. She now quietly entered the scene. To look at her you would think her incapable of hurting a fly much less taking on a very large snake. Without hesitation, she walked over to this slithery, slimy critter, and snatched the snake by the tail and immediately sapped it like a whip. Since snakes are jointed at the head, there was an audible pop and the head of the snake flew off just as slick as can be. She then threw the carcass into the lake. Without losing her composure, she dusted her hands off, straightened her dress, smiled at the boys, and walked off. She never said a word to them, just simply smiled and walked away. I just wondered if she perhaps was doing all she could to keep from laughing aloud at their antics (to do so would not be very submissive). It really was very kind and merciful of her not to have laughed, that would have devastated and embarrassed the already humiliated young men even more.
What fool has said that a woman cannot be decisive and act with courage and still not be a lady? Yet it was the Worldwide Church of God’s attitude that a woman could never be anything more than be a good mother and housekeeper (do not misunderstand, those qualities are very important but they should not limit a woman’s abilities.)…how could we have been so stupid as to let such insane ideals rule our lives? This false premise applied, in some cases ruined family values and destroyed lives.
Only one regret, I did not have a camera handy. The look on the boy’s faces was one of complete astonishment and total disbelief. They could not help but wonder, as I did, if they really had seen what they thought they saw.
Actually, I find that many of the churches ministers use tactics like a snake in the grass. They slither up and get you when you least expect it. They were always looking for the member’s secret sins…I wonder if they were grabbed and cracked like a whip if their heads would pop off…just a thought.
The true ministers of Christ will reflect His attitude. That is one of kindness, patient, and longsuffering toward their congregations. Sadly, we find too many ministers are more concerned about status, numbers and revenue of their congregations and equally important to them, power over the lives of their flock.
It is interesting to note that, Jesus himself asked a rhetorical question, “When the son of man (referring to Himself) returns, will He find (the) faith on earth?” The answer sadly seems to imply there will be very little faith in Him when He returns. Looking at the average church and the world in general, one begins to understand what He was getting at.
I know it is not always easy, but do not get caught up in church policies or politics, it is a dead-end with disastrous results. Avoid this trap, learn more about our Savior and allow Him to live His life in and through you. Then and only then will your life be secure, joyful and you will find true and lasting peace.
Next month another true story from Comedy Campus