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Shooter’s Motive a Mystery

John on March 14, 2005 at 12:47 pm

This story suggests that financial troubles may have been behind the recent church shooting in Wisconsin. This is also the first story I’ve found that goes into the history of this sect, the “Worldwide Church of God.”

It was the creation of a radio preacher in the 1930s. The group’s doctrine places it well outside the bounds of historic Chrsitianity. It’s founder, for one thing, rejected the trinity, but the distinction seems lost in nearly all the news coverage. After the death of the group’s founder, they began to move toward orthodox faith, but several groups including the one at the center of this case split off and held onto the old views. Here is the key passage:

After Armstrong’s death in 1986, the Worldwide Church of God underwent changes that, while subtle at first, set it on a path toward schism. By 1995, its leadership had repudiated much of Armstrong’s “end-time” theology and even jettisoned hallmarks that helped define the church — worship on Saturday instead of Sunday, for example, and mandatory tithing. It also accepted the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which Armstrong had disavowed.

The turn toward mainstream Christianity prompted the formation of eight breakaway churches. One was led by Meredith, who remained faithful to Armstrong’s doctrines. After another split, Meredith founded the Living Church of God.

If you read between the lines of this story a bit, it seems that the groups focus on “the coming collapse of the US monetary system” in combination with the gunman’s shaky finances is what pushed him over the edge. Of course it’s no less a tragedy simply because this happened in a what is essentially a cult, but it is less of a surprise. Going back to Jonestown, we’ve seen groups with Christian trappings leading people toward disaster. Heaven’s Gate is another that comes to mind.

Of course, bad theology doesn’t always lead to this sort of tradgedy and I’m not suggesting that people involved in a cult deserve our sympathy any less than anyone else. On the contrary, they deserve more. I wish all of those who died in this incident were still with us, especially the two teens who apparently had such bright futures ahead of them. I’d like to think that given time, the Living Church of God would have moved slowly toward orthodox faith, as the parent Worldwide Church apparently did in the 90s. They should have had that chance…

In the end though, I can’t help thinking that had this been a healthy church rather than a cult focused on preparing people for the end of the world, this whole tradgedy might have been prevented.

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Category: Religion & Faith |

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