[UPDATE, 2/10/2013: I turned a comment on this post into a follow up post here. Anyone who thinks that somehow we aren't preaching strongly and publicly on these things or who is too "energy challenged" to actually click on the links below to see that they are articles on our flagship magazine, in some cases cover stories, are free to read that post. Wow, I wish people would begin to care about whether or not what they are saying is actually true! And, as another update, the public live online Tomorrow's World presentation by Dr. Meredith has just concluded as I type this. More than 10,000 registered to watch, and anyone wondering if we are willing or able to speak strongly about sin should have watched, as it might have helped them put their heads back on straight again. Great job of "crying aloud" by Dr. Meredith! Sin is sin, and my thanks to Dr. Meredith and the whole Tomorrow's World team for doing a wonderful job of warning the world about what's ahead and why it's coming! The evidence continues to consistently and loudly show that conspiracy-theories about being prevented to preach strong messages about sin, law, and the coming Kingdom of God are just goofy...]
A friend of mine commented on my recent 501(c)(3)-related blog post with a question about free speech, and I told him then that I might follow up with some examples. This post is intended to do just that.
My previous posts on the topic have, for the most part, focused on whether or not Mr. Armstrong used a 501(c)(3) status to serve the Church and accomplish the work, since that was the question I was addressing. I had been contacted in the past by a handful (actually, less than a handful) of individuals who worship (their version of) Mr. Armstrong, claiming that (1) using 501(c)(3) status is a sin since it (supposedly) puts your church under government control, makes you slaves to the government, prevents you from preaching the gospel, etc., etc., etc., and (2) that Mr. Armstrong would never do such a thing. Given their proclivities, the prudent thing to do was to address item #2 pointing out the contradiction in their stance, since Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong most certainly did take advantage of 501(c)(3) status to do the Work in the same manner that we do.
The fact that they would not recognize the plainest of evidence meant that I was never able to move past that point. And, as I made clear (and clearer) recently, I’ve given up on that front. There is only so much you can do, and I did that. Whatever one thinks of 501(c)(3) status, we and Mr. Armstrong stand or fall together on that–that much is incontrovertible.
And, for the most part, that was the limit of the purpose of those posts.
However, there is a broader question: Maybe Mr. Armstrong made a mistake and we are simply replicating that mistake. After all, maybe he was just a government slave and we are, too. I never sought to answer that question before beyond simply stating that, “No, I am not a slave to the government nor prevented from preaching any of the truth,” but let me briefly address it here a little more fully. (Ha ha ha! I said “briefly”! We all know it will likely not be brief, right? OK, just checking.)
I’d like to address it in two parts. First, let me address the near impossibility of converting the completely conspiracy-minded from their pre-decided opinions. I freely admit that I am not trying to do that, since most poor souls dedicated to giving too much heed to this world’s conspiracy hucksters (failing to obey Isaiah 8:11-16 in the process) are so caught up in their self-deception that I find it’s virtually impossible to make headway with them short of a miraculous intervention in their lives. If they are thoroughly convinced that a Jewish cabal is running the world behind the scenes, or that the government has “handlers” and “controllers” in every church organization on earth, or that the U.S. is behind 9-11 and the shootings in Colorado and Sandy Hook, or that virtually every conflict mankind has ever engaged in over the last century or two is due to fiendish Zionist plotting or organized and purposeful manipulations by Masons or Illuminati or The League of Justin Bieber Fans or what-have-you, there is not much I can offer that will convince them otherwise. That such individuals disagree with each other is irrelevant to them. That the websites they copy-and-paste from over and over are of dubious credibility and unsupported by the facts is irrelevant to them. That the things they say fail to consider proper context is irrelevant to them. That they have to constantly create new excuses to explain away the evidence that disagrees with them is irrelevant to them. And, in the worst of cases, the evidence you provide showing they are wrong magically turns out, in their feverish minds, to be evidence that they are right. It becomes an unfalsifiable position: If you’re wrong, they’re right, and if you’re right, they’re still right.
I’ve received angry letters from some in my capacity as a presenter on our program, and I’ve even come across a tiny few such individuals in person in some of the Tomorrow’s World public presentations I have been blessed to be able to conduct. For instance, some have all sorts of “evidence” (read: “tortured reasoning”) to make the Jews, for instance, guilty of every crime against humanity known to man: from the slaughters under Stalin and Hitler to the sinking of Atlantis (joking on the later, not the former). Their force fields were impervious to any attempt at reasoning I might try, and I won’t waste time pretending that this little blog post could convince anyone else otherwise. For such people, reality need not show up to the hearing.
The second part of this post, however, is for the other folks: anyone out there who isn’t beholden to conspiracy theories yet who might be concerned that 501(c)(3) status may limit what the Church can do in accomplishing the mission God has given us. Frankly, I only know of one who has asked me, my friend, but it is still a good question: Does 501(c)(3) limit us in what God commands us to do: Crying aloud concerning sin and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God?
The Internet is, in one way, no help at all. You will find plenty of “evidence” (read: “not really evidence”) out there that 501(c)(3) status is the devil’s greatest tool to harm the Church and destroy the truth. Compared to reality (which I will do a little of in a moment), careful and reasoned research into these claims continues to demonstrate that they are, in a word, goofy. However, depending on what a church’s goals are, 501(c)(3) status can make an impact. For instance, if a church wanted to run a “Let’s Elect Alfred E. Neuman for President” campaign, that will likely lose their 501(c)(3) status. If they want to spend church money to engage in policy-making activism by calling up congressmen and campaigning to get votes to go like they want, indeed, they might run afoul of their tax-exempt status.
[By the way, I should say at this point that I am not a tax expert, nor do I play one on TV. If you are forming an organization and using this, or the websites of conspiracy-addicts out there, as legal or financial advice, then you are out of your mind. Seek a professional. I am busy doing my own stunts here and expressing the views of a layman on these matters--which, so far in all I have read--has been muchos betteros than anything I have read coming out of "Tin Foil Hat Land," but which is also not equivalent to getting actual, professional advice. Capisce?]
Many of the conspiracy-burdened sites out there want “Christian” churches to be able to act as radical political activists, supporting candidates in elections, actively influencing legislation in the democratic process, etc., and feel that 501(c)(3) regulations are part of a Satanic conspiracy to prevent “Christianity” from doing that. From that perspective–conspiracy goofiness aside–one can at least see where they might have concerns.
However, I believe Christ has not called us to try and “legislate” Him into office through the devil’s governmental systems–including America’s (cf. John 18:36). I believe we’ve been called out of this world and are not to partake in its political machinations (2 Cor. 6:14-17, Rev. 18:4, et al., cf. Luke 12:13-14). I don’t vote, I don’t participate in juries, I preach my congregants to similarly abstain, and I believe these stands taken by the Church to be biblical.
Wisely but unsparingly cry aloud about sin? Yes! Man the phones in lobbying efforts and pass out “Vote for Pinky and the Brain in 2016″ buttons? No. God commands the former and commands against the latter.
So, the real question is this: Does using 501(c)(3) status impact our ability to preach the gospel and to call out sin for the abomination it is?
On this matter, no one–truly, no one–looking at the evidence can say, “Yes, it does.” Anyone who says that it does must say so despite the evidence.
Don’t take my word for it: Let’s see for ourselves… After making the comment to my friend on that post, I accompanied my wife this week to the laundromat to wash a particularly large blanket that was too big for our own washer. While there, I sat down with my laptop (yes, she is used to poor conversation on some of these trips) and checked out a few of the claims I’ve heard over the years about how “restricted” we must be in our preaching. Let me share the little bit of digging I did below while at the laundromat. Much more could be done, to be sure, but–again–we were only washing one blanket. (Stupid cat hair…)
What can’t we preach?
For instance, some conspiracists claim that we could not preach against homosexuality as the abomination and perversion before God that it is. Really?
- Article: “The Plain Truth about Homosexuality!”
- Article: “From Closet to Mainstream: The Homosexual Agenda”
- Article: “Promoting Evil, Condemning Good!”
- Article: “The New ‘Normal’”
- Commentary: “’Dear Abby’ Strikes Out”
- Commentary: “Civil right or morally wrong?”
Still, others say we can’t preach against abortion and killing children in the womb. Really?
- Article: “Abortion: A Modern Holocaust?”
- Commentary: “Harvesting Humans”
- Article: “The Deception of Abortion”
- Commentary: “Abortion, economics, and Ireland’s dilemma”
- Commentary: “Abortion: A Deadly Game of Terminology”
Hmmmm… Others say that we can’t preach anything relating to the politics of the day or disagree with a public statement or position. Really?
- Commentary on support for Partial Birth Abortion: “Death Penalty for Children”
- Articles on economic policy and government debt: “Heading for Economic Catastrophe” & “The Debt Bomb”
- Commentary on President Obama’s approval of homosexual marriage: “What Is God Thinking?”
- Commentary on the dishonesty of the President and other politicians: “Hoping your President is a liar? Really?”
- Article on not participating in the corruption of government or politics: “How Would Jesus Vote for President?”
- Commentary criticizing the State of the Union address: “State of the Union – Overlooking the Obvious”
- Article on the America’s interventionism under President Bush: “Can America Police the World?”
- Article on the fallacy of our political system and attempts by Messrs. Bush & Blair to spread it: “The Future of Democracy”
- Article referring to decisions by “liberal judges”: “What Is Just Ahead for YOU?”
- Personal Blog Post on President Obama’s stem cell decision: “Embryonic stem cell decision: Absolutely vomitous”
(Note: I know that the last item is a personal blog post and not something published by the Church, but (1) I really enjoyed being able to use the adjective “vomitous” to describe the President’s vomitous decision and thought it was worth repeating, and (2) since I have been personally accused of being a mindless government tool, I thought it worth mentioning, as well.)
Some have even said that we can’t say anything negative about the Catholic Church. Really?
- Article: “The Daughter of Babylon?”
- Article: “Papal Primacy?”
- Commentary: “Which Mark Will You Accept?”
- Article: “Returns, Rebellions and Rome”
- Booklets: “Who or What Is the Antichrist?”, “Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath?”
(Really, the claim that we can’t preach against the Catholic Church, the Protestants, or the beliefs of any other faith is so ludicrous on the surface that you know anyone who says it hasn’t read our literature for very long.)
(And, I note here–in a second sequential parenthetical comment, mind you! Caution to the wind!–that the comments above were based on just a few of the accusations I remember off of the top of my head which I have heard for years about supposed 501(c)(3) restrictions. In reality, such imagined restrictions lists are usually based on the biases of the conspiracist making them. For instance, if they are pro-militia, then that will list “They don’t let you support militias!” As another example, from some sabbatarian conspiracists, I have seen lists that say, “They won’t let you preach in favor of Sabbath keeping!” And, yes, they actually seemed to believe it. No, they apparently haven’t read a single one of our magazines. The bias in the lists is enough to cause rational people to doubt as to whether they are really grounded in actual law versus feverish imaginations, but that would take discernment to realize…)
Again: These are what I found on one brief trip to the laundromat to wash one item with my wife while glancing over my shoulder occasionally to see how folks were doing on “The Price Is Right.” (Wow, Drew Carey has really slimmed down!) It doesn’t even begin to include all I’ve ever read in our publications or heard in our sermons, public presentations, and broadcasts (or spoken in my own sermons, public presentations, and broadcasts) or in Mr. Meredith’s many letters to subscribers and coworkers (where, for instance, I’ve seen him blast liberal judges, President Bush’s choices in warfare, etc.). Clearly, the sensationalized reports of our “compromised” ability to preach the full truth about sin and God’s law are–to use the technical term we utilized earlier–goofy.
In fact, those who think such things have a chance to check it out for themselves with their very own eyes and ears this very Sunday. Mr. Meredith is going to speak live to a global audience of thousands online on Sunday, February 10. I have no idea about the details of what he’s going to say, but it is a perfect opportunity for anyone with questions about what we preach to hear it from our Presiding Evangelist, himself! Just click here and register: Live Online Tomorrow’s World Presentation with Mr. Roderick C. Meredith. Don’t follow the bleating herd, nodding and drooling to every copy-and-paste list of nonsense: Be willing to put it to the test and judge righteously. Actually apply verses like Proverbs 18:17! Click the examples I listed above and read them, and register for Mr. Meredith’s event to listen for yourself. Seriously, register and watch this Sunday!
Now, again, those who are completely sold on their conspiracy theories will have answers for this (they always do). For instance, they may say, “Well, the government is just letting you preach those things NOW–wait until they begin cracking down!” First, I note that in all my reading and researching on this topic (more than I care to admit), I have not seen one unambiguous statement from any official source whatsoever (not a list supposedly from a source and not someone’s interpretation of a source, but an actual source) that says we cannot preach any of those things. Second, even if the government begins adding new laws or restrictions (which they could do regardless of one’s tax status or, frankly, the First Amendment, given how susceptible the Constitution is to wrangling by any future SCOTUS), I addressed this previously in the post “Should the government have a say in your church’s ministry? (and more 501(c)3 stuff)”–specifically, I think, the 10th “Q&A” on that post. Acts 5:29 always takes precedent: We ought to obey God rather than men. If preaching the truth requires one to be an outlaw, we should choose to be outlaws. Very thankfully, it does not–at least not yet! Regardless, the idea that avoiding dealing with 501(c)(3) will somehow protect an organization from future meddling by an overzealous government is (say it with me now!) goofy.
(And on a side note: In that same post, I discuss a case that went to the Supreme Court that could never have happened if 501(c)(3) status gave the government total control over who you can hire as a minister, which some conspiracists claim. But not only did the court case happen, the church in the case won and the government lost big time. Even the liberals on the court disagreed with the Obama Administration in a rare unanimous decision. So much for government control. I discussed that outcome in the post “Obama Administration slapped hard by Supreme Court.” Wow, I hope my (nonexistent) Evil Government Handlers™ don’t find out I posed that one! Anyway, this is a long side note that is doing nothing but feeding my addiction to parentheses. Back to the topic at hand…)
Or, they may say, “Yeah, but you didn’t tell them about America and Russia’s alien/human hybrid base on the dark side of the moon! [Or, if you like, stick in your favorite conspiracy theory here.] Why don’t you talk about that?!? Has the government cat got your tongue?”
There are a number of reasons not to talk about [stick your favorite conspiracy theory in here]. I’ve already referred to Isaiah 8:11-16. But also, not only is [stick your favorite conspiracy theory in here] not that credible a theory, but also talking about [stick your favorite conspiracy theory in here] tends to distract from those things God is actually commanding us to talk about. Regardless of the details, the fact that wealthy and powerful men and women seek to influence all they can to achieve ends they desire should surprise no one. Didn’t Herod and Caesar do the same? And for all the shenanigans that went on in the dark corners of Rome, do we see Paul wasting his time preaching about one conspiracy after another? Or do we see him preaching that we should repent of sinning against our Creator and seek God’s coming Kingdom? The biblical precedent is blindingly obvious, isn’t it?
It’s funny–in the sad sense of the word–but in devoting so much of their lives to conspiracy theories, such devotees actually give power over their lives to such theories, becoming a sad, small picture of the very thing they claim to resist.
Rather, like Paul, we focus on the grand conspirator: Satan the Devil. The rest is just wispy theories, dime-a-dozen websites, and unstable talk show personalities.
There’s more that could be said–indeed, regrettably there is always more that could be said. However, the original intent of this post was simply to demonstrate that the tax status of the Church has in no way hampered it from preaching the truth and to provide a few examples (found very quickly, easily, and, frankly, lazily, I might add) to demonstrate the falsehood of such lies. And I can speak from experience: I have never–never, never, never, never–sought to speak about any aspect of the truth, of the vileness of sin, of the need for repentance, and of this world’s desperate need for the rule of Jesus Christ and then been told that “We can’t say that.” Never. It’s an odd sort of restriction that, you know, doesn’t restrict you, isn’t it?
Frankly, I have been more constrained by (1) private for-profit companies, such as when WGN banned my very first program, and (2) the growing restrictions of other countries broadcast standards, such as Canada. (For a hint of the possibilities, see “Alberta considering draconian, anti-family “tolerance” law.”) However, even in such cases the world situation is not such that being smart and savvy like the Apostle Paul didn’t make for a solution.
So, to conclude on this topic (Maybe even forever! That would be sweet…):
- Our efforts to preach the truth run up to no restriction impacting the mission of God’s Church in any real way at all. (It’s an odd “tool of the devil” that allows us to say, literally, all that we are commanded to say! Clearly, the devil’s tools are in bad shape…) Consequently, if we feel that having such legal status allows us to more credibly and honorably handle our finances in an upstanding and transparent manner, and, thus, preach God’s message without restriction and in the most effective manner we can, then we are free to do so.
- The goofy lists of supposed restrictions that various people claim are easily refuted by actual examples of preaching and publishing that would not even exist if the lists were accurate instead of generally delusional. (Really, a chimpanzee with an Internet connection and a few minutes to kill could find such examples–even in a laundromat.) I’d like to see a rational explanation from conspiracists of how we can preach, even strongly preach, on supposedly “forbidden” topics and I’d love to see what aspect of sin, truth, and the gospel of God we have been prevented from preaching over the last several decades. Seriously, folks need to learn to ask for more real, hard evidence. Hire a chimp and head to a laundromat if you have to.
- And even if the government were to change the terms by reinterpreting current regulations or to creating new regulations (against which, non-501(c)(3) status would be no guarantee of protection), stretching out its broad hand to attempt to restrict the preaching of the full truth of God, we will simply do as the Apostles did and continue regardless, taking whatever consequences may come our way. (And who doesn’t imagine that the Beast power will eventually seek such restrictions?)
So, I hope this does it! I appreciate the respectful and sincere comments and questions my friend has sent me on this topic, both here and in e-mails and both recently and in the past, for the inspiration to provide the other side of this topic and to address broader issues and concerns than his. I hadn’t really addressed it in my previous posts since my focus, instead, was on addressing the hypocrisy inherent in worshiping (a private version of) Mr. Armstrong on one hand and criticizing us for making the exact same decision he did on the other. But now that I’ve hit both sides of the coin, I feel complete as a human being…
However, this may be the last post for a while, since I will be in Charlotte all next week working on two new telecasts. So if anyone comments and it takes a while for it to get out of the queue, please forgive me. Also, if anyone disagrees with what I’ve said above that’s fine, but please don’t post links to paranoid pages and conspiracy websites or videos, since I refuse to be a party to the spreading of such misinformation–especially when I’ve just debunked it. And please don’t post a big, long rant. I reserve the right to rant on my posts to myself (as I have done tonight!), so if you’d like to rant, get your own blog. And, finally, the heart of this post was the fact that there are multitudes of examples (for those willing to actually look) that put the lie to claims that we are restricted in the truths of God we can preach. So simply pointing at more online declarations of what we supposedly can’t say is pointless; feel free to address the facts, not the theories, in your comments. Facts beat theories every time. [Feel free and review my Comment Policy if you have questions.]
Now, I really have to go. My Evil Government Handlers™ need me to fax this post up to their alien/human hybrid assistants on the Hidden Moon Base Alpha for review…