It has been twenty-five years since the fall of the Berlin wall! I was a kid when that happened. And, believe it or not, my family greeted the news with solemnity rather than joy.
Why? Because we were part of a church that taught that a united
Germany would be the Antichrist and would conquer the United States of
America. And this church had been preaching this message for decades.
(My Mom grew up in this religious movement and had nightmares about the
Germans as a child.) Shortly after World War II, Herbert W. Armstrong,
the founder of this religious movement, said that Adolf Hitler may still
be alive somewhere, and that he could assume leadership once more in
Germany and succeed where he had previously failed. Throughout the Cold
War, when Germany was divided, the Berlin wall was standing, and many
Americans were fearing Communism, Herbert Armstrong proclaimed that the
Soviet Union was not the nation that we should fear, for a united
Germany would be the Antichrist. When the Berlin wall came tumbling
down in the late 1980’s and Germany reunited, Herbert’s son, Garner Ted
Armstrong, essentially said that he and his father had told us so! A
few years later, when Germany was already united and we did not see any
Antichrist, Garner Ted told us about neo-Nazi movements in Germany and
how they could lead to a fourth reich.
I did not particularly care for Garner Ted’s arrogant reminders of
how he told us so, especially now in retrospect, when Germany has been
united for twenty-five years and there are still no signs of any fourth
reich around the corner. Germany has its share of global influence, but
it doesn’t look like it will become a fourth reich anytime soon!
Still, I have to admire Herbert and Garner Ted for sticking to their
guns for decades, for saying that Germany would reunite and that
Communism was not the enemy we should fear, when reality looked so much
different. I mean, imagine it: saying that Communism was not to fear,
when the Cuban Missile Crisis was going on! I do not attribute the
Armstrongs’ correct prediction that Germany would reunite to any
superior understanding of Bible prophecy on their part: they just
happened to be right on this. People can be wrong about a lot of
things, and yet still make a correct prediction, or a statement that
goes against popular wisdom and turns out to be right.
Why did Herbert and Garner Ted stick to their guns for so many
years? They must have found the prophetic scenario to be convincing.
According to them, Germany was Assyria. In biblical books such as the
Book of Isaiah, Assyria is a warlike conqueror that God uses to
discipline his people Israel. Many scholars would say that Isaiah was
talking about issues of his own time, the eighth century B.C.E., but
Garner Ted would note that some of Isaiah’s prophecies about Assyria did
not take place in the past. In his mind, that meant that they would
take place in the future, that the Assyrian Antichrist would conquer the
United States, which he believed was one of the lost ten tribes of
Israel. Why did Herbert Armstrong and Garner Ted Armstrong believe that
Germany was Assyria? Essentially, they concluded from ancient
historical sources that the Assyrians migrated to what is now Germany.
See here for arguments for this idea, and here for arguments to the contrary. And this wikipedia article contains some information about the history of this idea and where such a view differs from mainstream history.
There is a part of me that wishes that I had rejoiced about the
Berlin wall coming down—-that Communism was collapsing, that families
were being reunited, and that Gorbachev was meeting Reagan’s challenge
to “tear down this wall.” One Saturday morning, not too long before the
wall came down, I was watching an Alvin and the Chipmunk‘s episode in which the Chipmunks sang the song, “Let the Wall Come Down.”
Someone in my family said, “They won’t like it when that wall does come
down!” I had a hard time believing that what the Chipmunks were
singing about was bad!
What’s interesting, though, is that the Armstrongites were not the
only ones who were apprehensive about a united Germany (depending on how
you look at it, since a united Germany would precede Christ’s second
coming, according to this belief, and that was something to eagerly
anticipate). Last year, I was reading some of Richard Nixon’s books
about foreign policy, and Nixon indicated that several people were
apprehensive about the newly united Germany. After all, a united
Germany could be a powerhouse. And remember what happened the last time
Germany was a powerhouse!