The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God

Roy Holladay's 1983 Christmas
Present to the New York City Brethren

By Marc

Once upon a time, Frank McCrady, Jr., the pastor of the Manhattan, NY congregation of the Worldwide Church of God, invited Roy Holladay, the pastor of the Mount Pocono, PA congregation, to give a sermon on popular music. On December 24, 1983 almost three thousand Worldwide Church of God members from New York City and the surrounding suburbs packed Leonard's of Great Neck to hear one of the church's top ministers expound upon this sensitive topic.

Roy explained what made good music good and bad music bad. He gave five guidelines on how to evaluate music.

1. What kind of people are involved in the music. What is their lifestyle?

2. What is the music like? What are the lyrics like? If the words are wrong, don't listen to it.

3. Rhythm & beat - What is the impact on those involved in the music? Does it inspire or motivate? Does it tear down or cause a wrong attitude?

4. What force, inspiration is behind the music?

5. What are the musicians trying to accomplish?

According to Roy, good music has three things in common:

1. It is for enjoyment.

2. It evokes a favorable emotional resopnse - some of the Psalms are sad, but none are of the type that will cause you to cry in your beer and then go out and commit fornication.

3. The music will have quality. (This is an especially brilliant point. I have never heard good music that didn't have quality. It's a good thing Roy pointed this out to us ignoramous lay-members, otherwise we would never have known.)

Afterward, he gave a slide presentation in which he showed demonically inspired album covers. Since I have never been a Led Zeppelin fan, I didn't bother me when he disapproved of one of their album covers. I was upset, however, when he condemned the cover of Captain Beefheart's superb album Trout Mask Replica.

Just in case his presentation didn't impart the proper discernment in us, Roy handed out a list of bands which he rated for their suitability for true Christians. Presented below is his list. Since it was prepared in the early eighties, many of today's popular artists are not included. However, many of the artists listed are popular to this day.

 ABBA soft rock, pop Gen. OK
 A/C-D/C hard, new wave Bad
Adam & the Ants punk Bad
Aerosmith hard Bad
Alice Cooper glitter & punk Bad
Allman Brothers hard and country rock Mixed
B-52 Bombers [sic] punk Bad
The Beatles acid, hard, rock & roll Mixed
Black Oak Arkansas hard, acid Bad
Black Sabbath acid and hard Really Bad
Blondie hard, new wave Bad
Blood, Sweat & Tears jazz rock Mixed
Blue Oyster Cult hard Bad
Boston hard Bad
David Bowie glitter, punk Bad
James Brown funk, soul Mixed
Captain Beefheart hard Bad
The Cars punk Bad
Cheap Trick punk Bad
Deep Purple hard Bad
Devo punk Really Bad
Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show glitter, pop rock (lyrics porno) Bad
The Doors hard Bad
Bob Dylan folk Mixed
Eagles soft, hard, & ballad Mixed
Earth, Wind & Fire funk, soul, rhythm & Blues Gen. OK
Emerson-Lake-Palmer classical, jazz, progressive Mixed
Fleetwood Mac pop, ballad, soft Mixed
Foreigner new wave, hard, pop Gen. Bad
Peter Frampton new wave Mixed
Grand Funk hard Bad
Grateful Dead hard, acid Bad
Heart new wave Mixed
Uriah Heep hard, acid Bad
Jimi Hendrix acid Bad
Hounds punk Bad
Elton John pop, new wave Mixed
England Dan & John Ford Coley hard, pop, soft Gen. OK
James Gang hard Mixed
Janis Joplin acid & hard Bad
Jefferson Starship acid hard Bad
Billy Joel new wave, rock & roll Mixed
Kansas hard, classical Mixed
KISS glitter, theatrical rock Bad
Led Zeppelin hard, acid Bad
John Lennon new wave Mixed
Manferd Man pop, rock & roll Mixed
Meat Loaf new wave Foul-Really Bad
Molly Hatchet punk new wave Bad
Montrose hard --
Moody Blues classical, blues rock --
Mott the Hiiple punk, new wave Bad
Olivia Newton John soft, pop, new wave Gen. OK
Ted Nugent hard, acid Bad
Ohio Players funk, soul, rock Mixed
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers new wave Bad
Pink Floyd hard, progressive Bad
The Police hard Bad
Pretenders new wave Bad
Queen glitter, classical Mixed-Bad
Quick Silver hard, acid Bad
Quintessence -- --
Rolling Stones acid, hard (lyrics porno) Bad
Todd Rundgren -- Bad
Rush hard Bad
Leon Russell new wave, rhythm & blues, ballad rock Mixed
Santana Latin rock Mixed
Sex Pistol [sic] punk, sex Really Bad
Lynyrd Skynyrd hard Bad
Donna Sommers disco Gen. OK-Mixed
Rod Stewart hard, pop Bad
Super Tramp new wave Mixed
13th Floor Elevator -- Bad
The Tubes punk, porno Really Bad
U.F.O. hard, new wave Bad
Vibrators punk, rock Really Bad
Village People pop rock, disco Gen. Bad-Mixed
Wendy-O-Williams & the Plasmatics punk Bad
Lenny White pop, hard, funk Mixed
The Who hard Mixed
Women in Rock hard Bad
Gary Wright pop Gen. OK
YES progressive, classical, jazz, hard Mixed
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention glitter, progressive, underground, porno Bad
Quiet Riot hard, heavy metal Bad
Huey Lewis & the News new wave, punk, pop Bad
Culture Club European pop, new wave Bad
Duran Duran European pop, new wave Bad
Big Country European pop, new wave Bad
Peter Schilling glitter, punk, (David Bowie type) Bad
Bonnie Tyler pop rock Mixed
Peabo Bryson pop rock Gen. OK
The Fixx new wave Gen. Bad
The Romantics new wave --
Sheena Easton pop Gen. OK
DeBarge pop rock, soft Gen. OK
Jackson Browne pop rock Gen. OK
Lionel Richie pop, funk, soul, rhythm & blues Gen. OK
Kool & The Gang funk, rhythm & blues Gen. OK
Madonna soul, funk Mixed
Naked Eyes pop rock, new wave Mixed
Jeffrey Osborne pop Gen. OK
Spandau Ballet new wave Gen. OK
Prince glitter, punk Bad
Jo Boxers new wave --
Rainbow hard, heavy Metal Bad
Shannon pop, disco Mixed
Eurythmics punk, new wave Gen. Bad
Talking Heads punk, new wave Gen. Bad
Saga progressive rock Mixed
Midnight Star soul --
Industry new wave --
Night Ranger hard, heavy metal Bad
Jump-N-The Saddle country, pop Gen. OK
S.O.S. funk --
Michael Stanley Band new wave Gen. Bad
Def Leppard new wave, heavy metal Gen. Bad
Klique soul --
Agnetha Faltskag pop Gen. OK
Kim Carnes pop, raunch Mixed

As you can see, Roy really narrowed the field for us Worldwide Church of God members. Most of the big name performers were rated bad or worse. They were not officially banned by the church, but it was implied that if you listened to them, your spiritual condition was suspect. Besides, we had the Young Ambassadors, and we could always listen to their tapes. The fact that the Young Ambassadors were the bird-brainiest performing group in existence did not matter to the church leadership. They had apostle Herbert W. Armstrong's seal of approval. What was good enough for him should be good enough for us.

The Worldwide Church of God was a musical Gobi desert. We had Dwight Armstrong's plodding hyms to sing. We were forced to listen to the various tone-deaf musicians and singers perform their not so special "special music" during services. Church socials were a nightmare as we were forced to dance to garage bands playing inane tunes we only heard in elevators, or to 1940's big band music played by ministerial disk jockeys.

Page seven of the October, 1984 issue of the Ambassador Report relates an incident which shows how "the church" handled musical matters:

"In late July the Worldwide Church of God went through one of its periodic rock-and-roll crises, an almost annual occurence for the last twenty years. On July 30 HWA sent a 'special announcement' to all Worldwide Church of God congregations around the world: 'I have been deeply grieved, shocked and embarrassed to have positive evidence brought to me that totally unacceptable music has been continually played all day long over the local [church summer camp] radio station KSEP at Orr, Minnesota.' Herbert W. Armstrong was immediately flown to Minnesota to 'audition the music' and talk to personnel at the camp. Within a day, the crisis was resolved. On August 1 Herbert W. Armstrong sent a message to all the ministers in the Worldwide Church of God. Herbert W. Armstrong assured them that from now on he would personally 'be responsible for selecting music that is good popular music.'"

I'm sure the teens spent the rest of their session at SEP listening to the hit tunes of the '20's, '30's and '40's. After all, the music of Herbert's youth should be good enough for everyone. Writing about John Lennon shortly after his murder, Herbert wrote, "The local station had a lot about the 'man [John Lennon] and "his music."' (I had never thought of it as music, but a loud raucous SQUAWK and SCREAM with a fast beat--just an irritating noise.)

"Pardon me, please! Perhaps I never had any musical education, although I have played the piano since 8 years old. I must have been terribly misled, for I supposed that the singing of a Caruso or a Galli-Curci of my father's time or a Pavarotti or Beverly Sills or an Arthur Rubinstein of our day produced music. I guess I'm terribly out-of-date. I have heard roosters make a loud raucous squak when being captured for a Sunday dinner when I was a boy, but I just never had been 'educated' to call that 'music.'

"When as a boy I worked one summer in a flour mill, to the constant 'beat' of the machinery till it nearly drove me crazy, I somehow never realized that was 'music.'

"Please bear with me in my ignorance."

He also made the following brilliant observation:

"I do remember, when I was in England at the college just before the mid-'60's, the Beatles were breaking into public notice. They had a new 'way-out' style, with an idiotic mop-topped hairstyle, with hair covering the forehead to the eyebrows, the ears and longer hair in the back of the head. The forehead is the seat of intellect--the mark of intelligence instead of animal nonintelligence. They started the style of male hairdo to turn evolution into reverse--man was becoming a dumb brute animal." (How the Beatles Changed the Culture of the Western World, The Worldwide News, December 22, 1980, p. 1)

Since the "ministry" was paid to ape Herbert Armstrong rather than think for themselves, it's not surprising that Herbert's musical tastes were used as guidelines as to what was acceptable or not. If Herbert liked it, it was good music. If Herbert disliked it, it was demonic music. That's why most of the bands on Roy Holladay's list are rated "bad." The good music is that which Herbert was most likely to tolerate. The mild, middle of the road stuff was acceptable. Anything loud or unusual, or with a pronounced beat, was no good, because it was not likely to meet with "Mr. Armstrong's" approval.

"After 50 Years - Christ's Apostle Still Ahead of His Time!" This was the title of an article about Herbert W. Armstrong that appeared in the June-July 1981 issue of The Good News magazine, which is as misleading an article as has ever appeared in any magazine. Herbert W. Armstrong spent almost his entire adult life trying to re-create the world of his youth in his church. His teachings on marriage and childrearing were straight out of the 1910's and 1920's. He also tried to impose late 19th and early 20th century courtship rituals on the church's single members. And his ideas about sex were just as old fashioned. In his classic sex manual, The Missing Dimension in Sex, Herbert wrote, "In most of these books [the sex instruction books on the market today] much is said about the many possible bodily positions. I do not deem it necessary to comment on that here. All married people know the two most natural and commonly used positions. Sex can become a matter of lust, perversion or plain SELF-gratification and concupiscence, even in marriage. Any such experimenting with abnormal positions and unnatural or perverted ways of performing coitus should be avoided. (page 150)" He also wrote, "Now we come to the climactic fourth phase of marital intercourse--the orgasm. This possibly is the most intense physical sensation possible, delightful beyond description if not too frequently indulged. It need not be further described. But several things do need to be said about it.

"Every husband and wife should strive for one objective, here. That is to arrive at this climax simultaneously. I said strive! It will take striving--and perhaps time and experience. Perhaps never will any couple be able to perfect this technique to a point where orgasm is simultaneous regularly and every time. But it is a goal worth striving for. (page 150-151)"

Herbert W. Armstrong was a most backward-looking man. At some point in his middle age, he reached a point where he could not accept modern tastes and changing customs. He was wedded to the past, and couldn't tolerate the present. Music was one of the areas where his tastes froze, and he was unable to accept modern musical styles, nor could he see any reason why he should tolerate musical tastes which differed from his. It was his church, after all, and he made sure his ministry enforced his will on the membership. He couldn't control what kind of music the members listened to at home, but he could control the music that was played at church functions.

When Roy Holladay gave his Christmas Eve, 1983 sermon to the New York City brethren, he showed us how our musical choices could best reflect the preferences and prejudices of Herbert W. Armstrong. The more we were like Herbert, the more righteous we were. If we didn't care for the music Herbert preferred, there was something wrong with us. I know at least one person who purged his record collection of anything on Roy's list that was rated "bad," and I'm sure there were others. Some kept their records but felt guilty about it. This was yet another way that the Worldwide Church of God leadership tried to control the minds of the members.

Copyright (c)1999 by Marc A. Mojica. All Rights Reserved.



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