In the year 1959, many individual pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle began being joined to other pieces, and they would come to form a panoramic picture of events that would take place over the coming decade. There was just one problem facing onlookers, they could only see parts of the puzzle.
From those observable parts, various interpretations of what this puzzle portrayed began to be published. But because only fractions of the puzzle could be observed during the time of its formation, the interpretations varied to a wild extent.
It is only now, by looking backwards in time that it is becoming possible to see an overview of what the completed puzzle was revealing about the Nineteen Sixties. Now, because enough pieces have been identified and put into place, it is possible to go on searching for the pieces that are still missing.
But whereas it was not possible before now to know what was missing, with an idea of what the panoramic picture represented, it is now possible to look for those shapes that are figuratively upside down and therefore still obfuscated, but which match the missing shapes in the picture now emerging. Once they are put into place with the picture side exposed, more and more of the total picture becomes visible and understandable for the first time.
It is in this context that we now come to the part played in this story by Herbert W. Armstrong. He is now deceased, and so his own life-story has a beginning and an ending. Much of his earlier life had nothing to do with the events of the Nineteen Sixties, except that he was treading a path and following the lead of many other people who looked at world events and tried to interpret them through the prism of one branch of the Christian religion.
The study of Christian theology is reflected in four basic research areas of discipline, and Armstrong engaged in all of them. In the end, it was his own exhortation to study the Bible which led to the self-destruction of the Church that he had built!
Biblical study was his foundation, but because it involved a critical examination of texts translated centuries ago from other languages into what is now archaic English, it resulted in his own family members turning on each other. Everyone of them had their own opinion as to what the Bible was saying to them, personally. But that rancor took time to develop.
Armstrong's interpretation of church history, which is another of the four types of Christian theology, also put him at odds with other Christian denominations. But the third branch involving systematic theology was equally explosive, because it tried to reconcile Biblical teachings with the harsh reality of living life itself, and that is reflected in practical theology. In essence, these are four good reasons to stay clear of the entire subject!
Herbert W. Armstrong was a product of the latter part of that era in which people like John D. Rockefeller built commercial empires, and Ida Tarbell flourished as one of the first investigative journalists, but her targets branded her as a 'muckraker'. It was during these years that Armstrong, who was trying to establish himself as an advertising salesman, became sidetracked because he was fascinated by the origins of the people living in the British Isles.
At the same time his wife who had a mystical interest in life, led him to start thinking about life, death and the final judgement of God. So Armstrong became ordained by a very small organization and soon he was preaching to a tiny congregation in Oregon.
Now Armstrong's version of eschatology also began to assimilate versions of what others taught about the last days of Planet Earth and its inhabitants. Many years later In 1970, a best selling book called 'The Late Great Planet Earth' popped-up in the book shops and it was then quickly followed by a movie of the same name narrated by Orson Welles. Its theme was that various Biblical passages predicted that the European Economic Community would eventually emerge into a revived Roman Empire, probably known as the United States of Europe. It would be ruled by a person known as the Antichrist. But that book and movie were many years in Armstrong's future. In the 1930s he took the words of Benito Mussolini seriously when Il Duce invaded Abyssinia and claimed to be rebuilding the Roman Empire.
Both Armstrong, and the later book/movie of the 1970s called 'The Late Great Planet Earth', shared an overview of this morphing process into the United States of Europe, but Armstrong did not share their version of events leading up to it, nor with events resulting from it. Indeed, Armstrong championed both dystopia and utopia, with one leading to the other in a 'Wonderful World Tomorrow'. It was that idea which gave rise to his eponymous radio and television program titles.
Herbert W. Armstrong defined his version of the world tomorrow as being a thousand years of peace on earth. Human beings would be ruled from Jerusalem under a one world government dominated by the returned supernatural figure of Jesus Christ. In other words Armstrong was not preaching 'The End of the World', only the end of human rule over other human beings.
Also putting him at odds with most Christian churches was his definition of the word 'gospel'. His interpretation of that word was that the majority of churches taught a 'gospel' about the person of Jesus Christ. His own definition and therefore his own interpretation was defined in the Book of Matthew; chapter 24 and verse 14: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
In other words, not only was his mission to buy double-truck advertising pages in 'Reader's Digest' and a host of other major mass circulation publications in which to spread this warning message, but he was also to buy time on radio and television stations in order that the human race would have no excuse for behaving the way it did. Herbert W. Armstrong did not vote, and he discouraged his converts from engaging in military combat. His parents were of Quaker stock and they did not take up arms to fight other human beings.
After leaving the original Church of God organization that had ordained him, Armstrong began his crusade in the 1930s with a congregation of his own that he also called Church of God. It was located in Eugene, Oregon, USA. He then began buying time on a local station and called his program the 'Radio Church of God'. Years later he incorporated in the USA under that name, but when he began to build a college in the United Kingdom, in 1960 he registered his operation with British authorities under the name of 'Ambassador College UK Ltd.' This secular sounding name was the secret to understanding what began to revolve and evolve around the person of Herbert W. Armstrong.
After moving from Oregon to California in the late 1940s, he wrapped his electronic programming around the voice of Art Gilmore, who, among other things, became famous as the introductory announcer for 'Highway Patrol' and other well known television shows. On top of this, various media representatives got him to drop the 'Radio Church of God' approach and go for a monologue news analysis format rebranded as the 'World Tomorrow'. (A World's Fair had opened in 1939 under that same name.) A secular Hollywood instrumental jingle then closed the program with Art Gilmore giving out the mailing address. On the air and in print to the public, Armstrong never asked anyone for money. Instead he gave away a library of literature, free of charge.
Other major media influencers went further and wanted Armstrong to take a commercial sponsor, but he never did, and they also wanted him to drop all references to 'God'. He didn't begin to do that until much later, and then only in public. One of the groups wanting to offer him an expansion of his two English language shows was 'Radio Luxembourg'. The London office offered him to switch him from twice a week late at night, to a prime time evening strip, seven nights a week, but here was the catch: He had to go 100% secular and never mention God. But this he could not agree to. Instead, he settled for Art Gilmore announcing: "The World Tomorrow. Ambassador College presents Herbert W. Armstrong bringing you the plain truth about today's world news, with the prophecies of the world tomorrow."
But entering the life of Herbert W. Armstrong was a very talented and nominally practicing Jew named Stanley R. Rader. He first met Armstrong in his capacity as an employee of a media time buyer by which time he was already a Certified Public Accountant. Stanley Rader then got to oversee Armstrong's Church/College financial business and after attending the University of Southern California Law School and graduating top of his class, he became an attorney who eventually only represented the legal interests of Herbert W. Armstrong.
From then onwards, Rader became the puppet master and Herbert W. Armstrong became his puppet. It was under Rader's influence that the word 'God' disappeared to be replaced by a euphemism. Here's how Armstrong later explained his new approach:
"Now it was not too long ago, there was an editorial in one of our largest news magazines, 'The United States News and World Report.' It said that it would seem that the only hope of survival of humanity now, is the sudden appearance of a strong unseen hand from someplace — to intervene in world affairs and save us from ourselves."
Buried within this 'Strong Unseen Hand From Someplace' are shades of the Scottish economist Adam Smith who wrote:
"Every individual... neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it... he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention." (The Theory Of Moral Sentiments, Part IV, Chapter I, pp.184-5, para. 10.)
With this morphing that was going on beneath the surface, Rader turned Armstrong into an 'Ambassador without portfolio for world peace', and under that banner, he came to see kings, presidents and various other well-known figures on the world stage. Now Herbert W. Armstrong was not representing a small church, because he was Founder of the 'Ambassador International Cultural Foundation' (AICF).
The jewel in the crown of AICF was on the West Coast of the USA in California. It was known as the 'Carnegie Hall of the West' - the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena. For a time just about anyone who was someone in the world of performing arts (except for rock stars), appeared there. Among its guest speakers was William Colby, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
[Shown below from top left to right: Ambassador Auditorium; Armstrong in Tokyo with Prince Mikasa, brother of the Emperor of Japan; with two members of the World Court at The Hague and Stanley R. Rader (right); with Maestro Arthur Rubinstein at Ambassador Auditorium. See also this brochure.]
But back in 1959, this new phase in the life of Herbert W. Armstrong was just beginning, and so was the growth of radio and television stations who began broadcasting from stations offshore on the Continental Shelf.
Tomorrow Armstrong visits the management of 'Radio Mercur' and 'Radio Nord'.
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