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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bobby Fischer and The Worldwide Church of God

      Most players are aware that there was a time in his life when Fischer, like Reshevsky, would not play on the Sabbath (sundown Friday until sundown Saturday) but it had nothing to do with Fischer having been born Jewish.  It had to do with his membership in the Worldwide Church of God.

First, some background on the church:

      The church was founded by Herbert W. Armstrong (31 July 1892 - 16 January 1986) in the late 1930s.  He also founded Ambassador College with campuses in California and Texas.   Armstrong was an early pioneer of radio and televangelism.  His teachings eventually came to be known as Armstongism and they included the interpretation of Biblical prophecy in light of something called British Israelism.  This doctrine teaches that people of Western Europe, especially those of Great Britain, are direct descendants of the so called Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.  In addition he taught observance of parts of the Law including dietary prohibitions, and the covenant law, Holy Days as well as observing the Sabbath from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.  He also taught many other ideas that were rejected by orthodox Christianity.
      Armstrong founded the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation which promoted the arts, humanities, and various humanitarian projects.  It was in this role that he met with heads of governments in various nations.
      Armstrong taught, and his followers believed, he was Jesus’ first apostle since the first century and that God only works through one man at a time and that he was God's man for his time.
       Eventually Herbert turned the organization over to his son, Garner Ted Armstrong (February 9, 1930 – September 15, 2003). Noted for his charisma, movie star looks, and for being a music enthusiast, he toyed with becoming a nightclub singer before following his father into the ministry. In radio and TV programs he mixed political, economic, and social news of the day with Bible-based commentary. Armstrong's voice, style and presentation attracted millions. Eventually Garner Ted got involved with disagreements with church leadership and his father and was involved in some sexual scandals and was disfellowshipped by his father in 1978.
       In 2009, the Worldwide Church of God officially changed its name to Grace Communion International, underwent major changes in doctrine, rejected the Armstrong’s teaching and claim to have embraced orthodox Christianity.
       During the time of the Armstrong’s great popularity their appeal to a lot of people was the free literature they offered.  Literature covered their ideas on prophecy and salvation, but the big attraction was their advice on how to handle things close to everyone’s heart: finances, marriage and family.  When a convert joined the church they discovered Armstrong’s teaching concerning tithing of one’s income.  He claimed the Bible taught paying three tithes.  If you can imagine paying, say, 20 percent of your income in taxes, then paying 30 percent (of the gross) to the church, you can imagine the hardship this would cause, but people were told that if they didn’t pay or left the church they would go to hell and it was this fear that held a lot of them.
       This brings us to Fischer.  He followed the church in the late 1960's to its headquarters in Pasadena and remained there despite his eventual break with the church.  After winning the World Championship he “tithed,” measured by today’s purchasing power, nearly a half a million dollars.

Further reading:


  1. Just to say thanks really, for your interesting content, especially today. I'm not that much of a chess player really, my grade hovers around 1500 on FICS. But although I'm a patzer I love the game. I have my own chess website here http://dollyknot.com/chess.html .

    Basically I'm an amateur scholar and use chess as a lens with which to study psychology, this makes studying Fischer part of what I do, the religious side to Fischer is something I'm very interested in. If you look at the top of my chess website, you will see a link to my main website and at the top of that on the left, is where you will find my writings and other stuff.



  2. Thanks for the kind words. Your site is quite interesting...I could spend hours browsing!

  3. Lol I got fed up with websites that were all style and hardly any content. My website is nearly all content and hardly any style. There is a kind of style but you need sharp eyes to see it. Check the bottom of the middle box for new links.

  4. I spent many years in the Worldwide Church of God and have to take issue with some of this, but particularly this portion from the end of the next to last paragraph: " but people were told that if they didn’t pay or left the church they would go to hell and it was this fear that held a lot of them." That is simply untrue. We did believe we had to pay tithes, but the WCG actually did not believe in "hell". The WCG were annihilationists, believing that the "second death" was an eternal death with no resurrection to life. They believed that the doctrine of eternal torture in hell was pagan and not taught by the scriptures. As for the tithes, you didn't quite get the details right. There were three tithes, but there were a few facts you left out. The first is that only one of these tithes went to the Church's funds to pay for its programs and ministers. The second tithe didn't go to the Church at all -- it was something we saved up every year to go to the Feast of Tabernacles, and there we spent it on basically whatever we wanted during that time as well as paying for our hotels, travel expenses, etc. The third tithe did go to the Church, but not to its expense bank account. The Church basically ran a welfare program for its elderly members, and the third tithe went to fund their paychecks every month. Even then, the third tithe was only paid on the third and sixth year of a seven year cycle. We only paid it for two years out of seven.

    1. As another exWorldwider I would agree. There are some who when exposed to knowledge about the Bible, albeit on maybe late night radio find it all very compelling even if we somehow go awry. Fisher was among those who found it fascinating.

    2. As an ex-member of the Worldwide Church, I can say that the above anonymous poster has not told the whole truth about the tithing. It was expected that one send in more than 10% as first tithe. One also had to send in a tithe of the second tithe and then "excess" second tithe, and then every third year send in the third tithe. The ugly truth is that the third tithe did not always go to help out the widows and orphans like it was supposed to. The cost of buying the private jet, the building of posh living facilities, etc., ate the money. On to of all that giving, one had to give Holy Day offerings (7 times a year) offerings and support the church's summer camp, etc. To add salt to the wound, one Minister, as the preachers were called, even stated that "growing Christians should be giving more ... and more..." How much more can a person give? I thought, between taxes and tithes, my net income, on a third tithe year, was about the same or even less than a person on welfare.... To buy a pair of shoes, to wear for church services, was a major decision that I add to ponder and ponder....

  5. Thanks for the clarification. I don't think I have ever seen this explained before.

  6. I also am an exWorldwider that joined them in 1975 as a young adult and still practice and believe those Biblical doctrines. I have just seen the movie "Pawn Sacrifice" (very interesting movie) about Bobby Fischer (I had heard he had some involvement with Worldwide for a short period. I would like to concur with the comments above and to say some of the leadership in that church and the later spin-offs are as crooked as it gets and I stay clear of them. As a way of life as taught ... it works for me.

  7. The WCG never taught a 30% tithe to the church. They taught a 10% tithe. The church taught a second 10%tithe to be spent on getting to and enjoying the holy days especially the Feast of Tabernacles where members traveled to many sites around the world and usually stayed in nice places and feasted and gave presents to one another. So this money was used on themselves not given to the church. The third 10% spoken here was not given to the church yearly but once every 7 years to support widows, orphans and other causes deemed worthy for this donation.
    Kevin (I was a member for many years and still believe and live by these same doctrines as many others do. We believe we are followers of what Christ did and that is why we believe we are CHRISTians.)