Friday, 26 July 2013

Member Writes - Admits Prayer Fails :(

Mike Vinson, for the longest time, ever since I have known of him, has set himself up as a spiritual guru. Those that email Mike inadvertently have their emails published on the iswasandwillbe website. In truth, this is what makes up a large portion of the IWWB "ministry."

What is fascinating to me, now that I armed with a level of knowledge and  objectivity, is to read these emails and see clearly, that Mike and his band of minions have hung themselves with both their own admissions and their doctrines.

One such admission can be found here. In it, the writer laments that his prayers just aren't working. Think about that for the moment. Can you imagine Jesus prayer's failing?

The thing is, the Christian, especially the one who truly believes that he is a special kind of Christian, as IWWB do, can never really admit this to him or herself that this really is the case, that their prayers are failing epically for no good reason. No - instead, there MUST be a reason right? What is happening?

Of course, at this juncture, the anguished Christian turns to their resident spiritual guru. In the case of IWWB, Mike Vinson is that man. Yes, I know he says time and again he is not the leader of IWWB but the plain facts are that Mike is the mouthpiece and the figurehead of the movement. Mike, without a doubt, is the go-to-guy when there is a spiritual dilemma on ones hands.

But anyway, here is what the reader says:
Dear Mike, 
I am becoming angry at the fact that no matter how many times I pray to the LORD to convert me and make me His follower, I experience absolutely no change in my mind and heart whatsoever. I continue to sin and do things I should not. I continue to blame others for the way my life has gone. I continue to feel depression and constant doubt that anything in my life will ever improve. I resent men who have wives and families and good jobs.

People tell me that all I need to do is "ask Jesus into my life", but when I try to tell them that I have done that a hundred times and nothing has changed, they always tell me that all I need to do is just "trust and accept Him", as if they didn't even hear what I said the first time. I am tired of living this sinful and unhappy existence, and it kills me inside that there is nothing I can do to change. I am furious at these people who believe this "Sinner's Prayer" nonsense and tell me that I MUST attend a church in order to find "fellowship" (even though they ALL believe in doctrines that are RUBBISH). I am at my wits' end.

Thank you for your time, Sir
The reader blatantly admits that his prayers are failing. And it's not like his motives are for personal gain either; he seems genuinely anguished that he can't attain "conversion." The cognitive dissonance this brother is experiencing is no doubt troubling him, so much so that he felt the need to write a "Dear Mike" confessional.

This was also one of the reasons I abandoned Christianity. When I got honest with myself - and isn't honesty the basis of truth? - I had to admit that prayer was less than useless and a total waste of effort and emotion. Ironically, it was when I stopped praying that my life began to turn around.

A guru like Mike Vinson can never be that honest though and as such, must spin the rhetoric to make it appear that the acolyte is in-fact, experiencing God's divine favour. This keeps the acolyte in a mode of spiritual receptivity and suspends the persons critical thinking skills from kicking in.

Again, I have to ask - did Jesus' prayers ever fail epically? Did he cry out to God and say "Why are you not listening to me anymore?" I don't recall ever reading that in the bible anywhere.

Here is some of what Mike Vinson has to say:
If we are at peace with this world and in our own household, then we are not going to ever feel any inclination to repent of anything. After all, we are paying our tithes, going to church and fitting in with the world around us. That was Job before God took down the hedge which He has also around us all for a time, before He sends Satan to try our faith and to show us just how ungodly and God condemning we really are. Job was certainly at his "wits end." 
You and I feel only the physical and mental pain of life, and we, of ourselves, are not capable of equating any of this with 'pity and mercy'. But in time we will come to repent of contending with, reproving, and condemning our own Maker, and we will then understand that it actually takes trials which cause us to do just that to bring us to see ourselves and come to repent. Only then will we see that the Lord chastens and scourges every son He receives, and we will then understand that it was because of our trials that we were able to come to repent of condemning our own Maker.
Sad! Mike Vinson honestly seems to relish in this kind of pathetic drivel - parroting the notion of the author of Ecclesiastes, that life is nothing more than a trumped up vanity, something we must simply endure until we can die. I actually feel sorry for Mike (to a point) but there's nothing to be done by trying to reason with him - it's impossible! His whole mental psyche is built around the sandcastle of the "word of god," so there's no helping a person in his condition.

Once you pull your head out of the bible, you finally start to realize that life is an incredible gift and that it is certainly far too short to spend wasted with ones head buried inside the bible.
You can go around the mountain again and again and again, like I did, and like this "Dear Mike" reader is doing. But at some point, you've got to look yourself in the eye and ask the question: "What do I really believe?"

Truly, nothing fails like prayer

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Moravian Seal

I seem to be getting an awful lot of hits on this blogger page, for whatever reason. As such, I felt it might be worth backtracking a bit for anyone new to the teachings of IWWB. Additionally, it might also give folks some perspective on Mike Vinson's double standards and how it was that I came to the conclusion that IWWB was indeed a cult.

As has already been explained, I was involved and invested in this group from approx. 2004 until 2010, around 6 years. The primary reason for my leaving was that Mike Vinson and his appointed elders had decided that birthdays, Christmas and wedding anniversaries (and many other celebrations) were to be totally eschewed. Anyone caught out, or admitting to these practices, were swiftly set upon and either talked around or blacklisted - and then subsequently removed from the group.

To propagate their doctrine that birthdays and wedding anniversaries were evil, many fallacious arguments were employed but chiefly, they relied upon the use of doctrinal buzz words such as "pagan" and "traditions of men" to prejudice the simple minded into acquiescence. I pointed out to the elders, and to Mike himself that many things were pagan in origin including the names of the week, planets and famous brands of shoes and cars - Nike and Mazda respectively. However, these pagan things were totally ignored by Vinson and Co because lets face it, no serious cult leader wants to be consistent in their arguments. No, it's much easier to cherry-pick your pagan pet hates.

Vinson also used arguments from silence and described what Jesus DIDN'T DO as the basis for his doctrine. As an example, here is a copy and paste of an email Vinson sent to me:
"Christ never once lit a candle for either Christmas or a birthday..."
His associate and one-time commentary contributor Rob Jones has this to say on the IWWB website:
"Even Christ never told us His birthday and we are given no scriptural record of Him celebrating it at all..."
This is but one example of the kind of fallacious arguments Mike Vinson and his cronies would throw up on a regular basis. 

Continuing - upon my departure, I continued to monitor the group. Vinson, in his teachings, began to wax on and on about pagan traditions and how they have supposedly taken over the lives of God's elect. He said a lot of other crazy stuff during this time as well including, that a nose piercing was on the same spiritual plane as ritual Jewish circumcision and that if someone came into his fellowship with a nose piercing, he would consider that person an immature Christian. 
"I made the statement that if a brother came into our fellowship wearing a nose ring, that I would not consider him to be a mature Christian, any more than a brother who is still practicing circumcision. Am I wrong to feel that way?"
Interestingly, the IWWB group, at the same time this was going on, had a FaceBook page that was active. Mike Vinson was even an admin and an officer of that page. And on the FB page, front and center was the logo of another church - the Moravian Seal. Here are the screen grabs showing this to be the case. FYI, Sandi, Steven and Mike are still in the IWWB group whilst to my knowledge, the other individuals were either removed, or chose to leave:

The image used in the above is known as the Moravian Seal and it is the official logo of said church: 

Information on this church, and its practices can be found here. You will note that within the image itself, is the Roman Catholic inspired "Cross of St George." The cross originated in the Catholic crusades, which themselves were a call to arms on behalf of the church, to purge the Muslim and pagan infidel from the "Holy Land" and as a means for participants to gain absolution for ones sins in the afterlife. 

Now why is this important?

This is important because Vinson and IWWB were using Roman Catholic inspired imagery in their promotional and marketing efforts while at the same time, lambasting believers in their fellowship for taking part in practices that they said were inspired by the Catholic church. 

IWWB elder Steve Crook wrote a "hit piece" on this which can be found here. In this article, Crook references the Catholic church approx. four times. An example of this would be this sentence, in which Steven Crook discusses Halloween: 
"Thus, without forcing the pagans to drop their pagan practices and accept Christianity, the Roman Catholic church merely made room to accommodate the barbarians. Just as it confiscated the pagan Pantheon for its own uses, this church incorporated the customs of Samhain to further its mission to convert the known world to Catholicism. The two celebrations made strange bedfellows: one in respect of evil spirits, the other honoring saints..."
This outright hypocrisy, in that IWWB used this image, was never once repented of and Vinson, instead of just admitting a simple oversight and apologizing for it as such (surely no big deal?), did everything in his power to rationalize his way around, and out of it. The intellectual dishonesty was so thorough that to observe it unravelling at the time, was really quite unbelievable. He even tried to suggest that he had nothing to do with the FaceBook page, even though, as demonstrated above, he was both an admin and an officer! 

Here is what Mike Vinson had to say when confronted about his groups use of the Moravian Seal:
The "Moravian seal" is a picture of a lamb and a cross, both of which are Biblical symbols. ____ would not be satisfied if it were a Bible alone. After all many wars have been fought while using scripture to justify those wars. But the abuse of anything, does not make that thing itself evil or Pagan. If that were the case, we would not be able to mention the name of Christ.
Mike Vinson - February 20th 2011 
I am uncomfortable with a personal apology as it seemed we were answering a fool according to his folly when it was not called for. I can't see Christ or Paul apologizing when  they have not sinned.
Mike Vinson - February 24th 2011 
You call it a Moravian symbol, but is it not just two Biblical symbols which have been hijacked by Babylon? There is a lot of "gold silver and precious stones" in Babylon.
Mike Vinson - February 17th 2011 
____ is a false prophet, whose fondest hope is to get us to betray one another and to hate one another, by attempting to make Biblical symbols appear to be Babylonian symbols. But gold, silver, and precious stones, are symbols of the Truth of God's Word, which is Christ.
Mike Vinson - February 17th 2011
If ____ cannot see the connection to Solomon's wives and Pagan traditions, he is truly blinded by God Himself. You have already informed him that I had nothing to do with that symbol, and he still says I am hypocritical. This is his last issue because he knows it is least, and ____ will not be satisfied till I agree that Gal 4:10 does not include birthdays and anniversaries, and that we must never, under any circumstance consider anyone "weak in the faith".
Mike Vinson - February 22nd 2011
These comments from Mike Vinson discredit him as "easily en-treatable," a claim that he makes about himself often. Instead, they show a man who is unable to admit error when it is pointed out and who wants instead to skirt around and make excuses. Moreover, when he is taken to task, Vinson believes and articulates that he is being viciously persecuted for standing firm on his supposed true doctrine.

If you are going to become involved in the IWWB group, make sure you are informed about the history of this group. Comments welcome below. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Mike on Vike

Just when I was suspecting that I was running short on material to post about IWWB, another pearl appears on the IWWB hacksite website.

It appears Mike has had an email about some on-line critique courtesy of myself, and is being asked to "please explain." Here is the email in edited form, found here
Hello and greetings to Mike Vinson, 
In doing some searches for some videos of your teaching online, I have come across youtube material that is highly critical of you. What is the background here? Have you just offended someone, or is the person taking you out of context? It is hard to tell. 
Hi S____,
Thank you for your very straight-forward questions. I really do appreciate anyone who goes to the person himself instead of going to that person's detractors without even getting the perspective of the person who is 'hated of all men' to see why that is so. 
Mat 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Mar 13:13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.  
Luk 21:17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.
In gratitude of your direct and honest questions I will give you direct and honest answers.
You'll note that Mike doesn't even bother to address any of the spurious things he has said, nor any of the content that is freely available on-line. Yet again, wants to wave the "hated of all men" flag and play the victim. Mike also says this: 
I do not worry about my detractors deterring anyone who God is in the process of dragging to himself. It really is not hard to tell when a person is speaking from a spirit of bitterness. 
Mat 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  
Luk 6:22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. 
Lord help us, he says it again - waving the "hated of all men" flag front and centre. I have stated many times previous that Mike's "go-to-line" for resolving a difference of opinion is to quote this scripture, and also his other favourite, Titus 3:10 - "a man that is a heretick, after the first and second admonition reject..."

From this vantage point, Vinson feels that he is totally in the clear and without any moral or spiritual obligation to explain or to resolve anything with anyone. Vinson totally ignores other scriptures that tell him to love his enemy, or to do good to all men, because in his mind, these hated of all men verses trump pretty much everything else. It's scriptural chess, with Vinsons' pet favourites having more fire-power and clout than others that may contradict his position. 

You will also note Vinson plays the "bitterness" card. That has got to be the oldest and the weakest trick in the book. By claiming the opposing party is a bitter and angry spite-filled person, Vinson feels that he can simply brush off all of the critique he has received in one fell swoop. Vinson would not have the foggiest about my emotions because he has never once spoken to me about how I feel since I left the fellowship. 

Others could easily conclude that Vinson is bitter due to his non-adherence to orthodox doctrines. Of course that wouldn't wash with Vinson but it seems, he is willing to stoop to this in order to save his on-line reputation with potential would-be acolytes. 
Anyone in whom the spirit of Christ dwells will immediately perceive the bitterness that is in all the 'youtube' items by an ex-brother who no longer even believes that Jesus Christ ever existed. 
The writings about me by all those associated with that very bitter man are indeed "taken out of context" and are twisted and distorted for the sole purpose of keeping anyone from hearing what we write. This persecution is a work of God through the agency of Satan, as Job chapters one and two demonstrate. 
This ex-brother, and all who have aligned themselves with him and his anti-Biblical philosophy, honestly believe that the scriptures are nothing more than the fallible writings of men and should never be considered to be the Word of God. 
Vinson plays the bitterness card yet again. I am wondering why he simply doesn't present his case and make a coherent argument? I think we all know the answer to that. When one is a cult leader, one doesn't admit that one is wrong. At least not publicly! 

He also states I have taken him "out of context." While a 40 second video or even a 2 minute one cannot provide ALL possible context, I feel I have provided enough within each to put the spotlight onto what Vinson says. The fact is, Mike Vinson says so many things within the context of a bible study, it is difficult to keep up with all of the fallacies and one-liners that present themselves. I simply have to hone in and focus on one at a time in order to present to the listener the case that Vinson is not all that he says he is, or that he has contradicted a previous position. 

The last paragraph I have no qualms with although I certainly would not call myself "anti-Biblical." This is just more over-stated rhetoric that is designed to prejudice his potential disciple. 

The bible is an amazing book that has helped me through many phases of my life. I simply no longer believe it is the inerrant and inspired work of a divine creator. Does that make me "anti-Biblical?" I think not. Just because I don't believe the bible is without human error or influence or internal contradiction does not make me "anti-Biblical." It just means I have done my homework and I have come to understand this amazing book in a new light. In truth, it has given me a new appreciation for this book. 

Vinson throws out a few more one-liners in his email, including this:
We know and understand the book of Revelation
There you have it. Another assertion. I guess it must be true? Would Mike Vinson lie to you?

Lastly, Vinson ends with this:
I have been getting many letters just like yours about our detractors. The vast majority see through the spirit of that group and are just curious as you are.
What group? Now I am running a group as well? An anti-biblical group I suppose? 
In closing, I want to assure anyone that I do not hate Mike Vinson, nor am I bitter towards him. My experiences with him actually served to be of great benefit to me. However, I do honestly believe his group has evolved into a cult and as such, making others aware of this and getting the word out about the groups practices, its teachings and how people are treated within this fellowship is of importance. 

I would gladly speak with Mike Vinson at any-time of his choosing. He has my email, and my Skype, so he is more than welcome to write to me whenever he wishes to. I would even welcome Mike Vinson to debate me publicly, if he wanted to. If he is in the area, he is more than welcome to pop in for a coffee or to stay for dinner. 

As I have stated many times, Mike ceased to communicate with me, not the other way around. I reached out to him again and again for months, even years after the fact but he would have none of it. His mind was made up and in his own distorted world-view, he was apparently being hated of all men and being persecuted for his stance. He wants others to think I hate his guts but this just isn't true. I may mock the man's beliefs and be jovial and smart-ass in my delivery at times but I harbour no evil intentions or bitterness towards anybody in IWWB, including cult-leader Mike Vinson. 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Another Splinter Cult Cog Leader

Mike Vinson has now made it on to the internet's most infamous WWCG blog, the aptly titled "Banned by HWA!"

HWA, for those who don't know, is Mike Vinson's former spiritual mentor, Herbert Walker Armstrong and the one time leader of the World Wide Church of God.

Mike Vinson actually served in the mail room of this organisation, as he freely admits on his website. Here are Mike Vinson's own words regarding his apprentice-ship under HWA.
I started listening to the Armstrong broadcasts for the first time back about 1969. Actually, it was my father who made me listen. At that time I was only twelve years old, and the speaker was Herbert himself doing the broadcast. Ted had not started doing the broadcast at that time. It was still called 'the Radio Church Of God.' Dad listened for several years, but quit listening when Mr. Armstrong quoted Ezekiel 18:4 and 20 "the soul that sinneth shall die."
By then I had taken an interest in the broadcast and kept listening. I wrote off for the 'Bible Correspondence Course' in 1963 and ended up going to the Big Sandy, Texas campus in 1965. I graduated in 1969 and went to Pasadena, where I worked on the 'mail analysis team' for the next four years.  
Working on that team turned out to be more of an education than my college experience in some ways. Our main function was to analyse what had been said by Mr. Armstrong in His letters and programs that had prompted any donations. Our team was answerable to Mr. David Jon Hill, who died just a couple of weeks ago. I really liked Mr. Hill, but looking back I am disappointed at how blatantly money oriented we all were. Mr. Hill would joke that he would hate to see what would happen if any of the 'sheep in the field' ever got to read the minutes of our meetings. It was always entirely about how to increase donations. At the time I left the church in 1973, we were taking in 55 million dollars a year. By the time Mr. Tkach, who succeeded Mr. Armstrong after his death, tried to bring everyone into the orthodox fold, it was up to over 125 million per year. 
While working on that team I had access to the 'micro-film' department. This was in the days before we had everything on computer files. I would sit for hours in the micro-film department reading Mr Armstrong's very earliest writings.  
One day I happened upon an article in a very early edition of 'The Good News' magazine, entitled 'What Is God's Form of Church Government?' Mr. Armstrong was at that time just coming out of the Stanbury Conference Seventh Day Church Of God.
That Church was a splinter from the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Mr. Armstrong's reason for leaving that Conference was that the leaders of the Stanbury Conference wanted to establish a 'pyramid' form of church government. I couldn't believe what I was reading! The WCG was a pyramid form of government. The very first words I heard out of the mouth of Mr. Herbert Armstrong at my freshman year orientation were, "Don't you think that you as a freshman student are going to teach me or any faculty member any new truths. That is not the way God works. God works from the top down. So if you think that you are going to be revealing any new truths to anyone, you need to just pack your bags right now and go on back home."  
At that time I agreed with every word spoken. I had no doubt where I had learned so many truths that I had come to see.
Right there is the admission that Vinson's formative years were spent under the shelter of the WWCG cult. Should it really be a surprise then that the doctrines Vinson was fed all of those years, are yet clinging to him like a stale fart? Probably not.

Interesting as well that Vinson lambasted Herb for adhering to a pyramid form of governance when Vinson's IWWB cult endorses exactly the same thing with their "multitude of counsellors" fallacy. This is where Vinson refuses to consider another point of view on a matter because, he and his elders have conferred and the matter is already decided, their minds are made up and therefore, that's it - case settled. 

Indeed, it seems that you can take the boy out of the WWCG but you cannot take the WWCG out of the boy.

The similarities between Vinson's IWWB have also been spotted by the author of Banned by HWA who notes the following in his blog post:
First we had Spanky Meredith declare that he has not committed a major sin since baptism  Now we have another splinter cult leader who has take it a step further.  Mike Vinson declares he is incapable of sinning now since sin no longer has dominion over him.  Mike is the leader of an extremely small splinter cult of Armstrong-ism that is unique in many aspects.
For those not in the know, "Spanky Meredith" is apparently, WWCG splinter leader Rod Meredith, now CEO of the Living Church of God. He acquired the alias of "spanky" because allegedly, he admitted to spanking his teenage daughter on a regular basis - nice. 

Anyway, the blog poster is referring to Vinson's admission that supposedly, he has "overcome" sin. Sounds legit doesn't it? Hear Vinson incriminate himself here and here
Carrying on, the blogger at Banned by HWA has this to say as well:
For starters he did not take the name "Church of God" to use in his cult's title.  Instead, he calls his group, "Is, Was, and Will Be."  That alone should have people running the opposite direction! He has also surrounded himself with young men in their 20's as his ministers. Apparently these young men are a multitude of "saviours" that have come with the truth to redeem the heathens. A group of young virile young men around an old man There is something really wrong with that picture. Both from having inexperienced boys telling followers what to do, but also the fact of an older man surrounding himself with young guys.
This was one of the issues I had when I was being discreetly elbowed out of the door of IWWB. Vinson's doting fan-boys (the very same ones who were elbowing me out the door) were all very immature men in their late 20's, one of which I had suspected for a while of being a closeted homosexual. All had very little in the way of "hard knocks" or actual life experience. Homo-boy never really had any time for me in the 6 years I was involved in the cult but when I left, all of a sudden, out of the blue, I received condemning chats and emails from him, telling me I had apparently placed Vinson on a pedestal and was spitting on Christ.

The blogger at Banned by HWA also says this:
The Bible has two meanings.  For those "mature" there is one meaning, and for those immature, there is a second meaning. Armstrong-ism and other cults have always made a point of claiming that their organisation was privy to secrets of the Bible hidden from humanity till revealed to the leader. Vinson also believes Jesus is a created creature as do a few Armstrongite diehards that hold annual meetings around the country trying to prove their point.
So true, all of this. Vinson and his elect band of giddy eyed fan boys and girls truly believe they are in on something that everyone else isn't. Little do they know that, yes they are in on something but that this entire "something" is a cult, no less!

Lastly, said blogger concludes with this statement: 
The craziness of the splinter cults of Armstrongism seems to have no end!  The good thing about all of this is that the more stupid things they say and do the more they discredit all the other COG's, who for some reason seem to think of these nutjobs as brothers in the faith.
So it's not just me who has identified Vinson as the spiritual reprobate that he is. Others who have had experience with WWCG cults easily identify this man and his teachings as certifiably off the freaking chain.