Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ramblings on a United Germany, the Armstrongs, and Bible Prophecy

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!

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