1991, 03/04-31. Living in a Church Shelter Run by Gang Members.

As mentioned in the last entry, I was now living at 810 North Broad Street in Philadelphia. Until recently, the Church of Bible Understanding had been running a program out of this building in which the older nrothers brought men in from the streets. Now Stewart Traill, the pastor and leader of the church had put these new people (called the “new disciples”) in charge and the older brothers had to answer to them. Soon the criminal element among these new people took over. I also talk about that time in my autobiography at cobucult.wordpress.com

These journal pages form the background of my book, Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding, which is available as a Kindle book or in paperback.

March 7

[In this section, I was writing about how I had been looking back on an earlier time in the church in 1988 when I drove a delivery van, which allowed me to get away from the church all day. I used to return on the subway and get out at the park to jog before returning to the church residence where I lived. I also had time to read and pursue a few interests. These freedoms were no longer available now in the church. I used to think that I was under condemnation and God’s wrath and headed to hell back then, but I also figured, so was I now. So, then, I thought, what was the benefit of having given up all these freedoms? And what harm would there be then, in returning to these activities Because doing them, or not doing them, was not going to make any difference in my eternal state.  

(I used to spend long hours alone in my room in the church’s residence in Woodruff Avenue in the evenings because there was nowhere to go and I didn’t have a social life. Sometimes I went down to the kitchen to try to talk to some of the sisters. I lived in a church-owned apartment building filled with single women and maybe I could talk to one of them and start a relationship. But the sisters were resistant to being talked to and it was hard to have a conversation with them. The climate in the church was very much against relationships.)

Now things were even worse than before. I was now living in a church death camp.]

I have been indulging in a little reminiscing. This morning I began to miss my delivery job. I miss those long drives. And the opportunity to jog after work, long jogs on summer afternoons and evenings in the park. I miss that freedom that was available and am I any better off now? (Because I also was under judgment then, but so am I now, but I’m more locked in.)

That is when I used to read language books. It seemed freer then to read about things and to be a whole person. Maybe this is looking back [1], but I wonder if I am under unnecessary burdens now that will have no effect toward my salvation. I don’t deviate from this rigid course. No language study, no extemporaneous reading. But that doesn’t increase Bible reading or thoughts about God either, which I guess it is implied that this abstinence will produce.

[1] “Looking back to this life” was a sin in COBU. Jesus said, “He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.” I confused my looking back to better times when I had more freedom and was not so bound up and shackled, as if it were this same looking back that Jesus talked about and I felt “convicted” of sin. Yet I was not able to stop looking back. I greatly enjoyed it, because it gave me peace and relief. I was often lost in daydreams about my teenage years when I used to jog, ride my bike, take pictures and go fishing. I once read a study about Japanese-American inmates in internment camps in WW2 which described how people living in these camps often got lost in daydreams about their lives before coming there, as well as in unrealistic fantasy about their future, about how wonderful everything would be once they could leave the camps. But, in either case, they did not think much about their present boring and routine lives behind barbed wire (where they were told that they were being kept for their own protection, just like Stewart was telling how us he was submitting us to this treatment for our own good, in order to lead us to repentance). 

I was under a church system that portayed itself as being concerned for my eternal good and protection. Under the loving aegis and guidance of a pastor who claimed to be acting in my best interest, giving me what I really needed, even if the treatment was like chemotherapy for the soul that left me nearly dead. But in the end, if I submitted to this abusvie treatment (which I was not allowed to say was abusive), the “cancer” of sin would be removed from my life.]

I need to keep my mind occupied. (I remember those books I used to read, like The Lord of the Flies and books about foreign languages. (I was walking back from the job site to the office, thinking about this.)

[It was often when walking that I could get some time to think about what was going on in the church, as I got into the pace of walking. I was not on a job site and I was not in a meeting or the church office. This gave me some room to sort things out and to go over them in my mind.]

When I had my delivery job, I used to listen to the radio, but always felt I should turn it off, because I should think about God instead. Yet when I did turn off the radio, my thoughts would not turn to God. It was a kind of salvation by works. I wonder if I should try an experiment now, which I should have tried then. Turn on the radio, resist the voice to turn it off, and see if it helps to occupy my mind.

[This “voice,” though not audible, was clearly discernible, telling me to turn off the radio. I was driving a delivery van and at 4 p.m. there was an Italian language program and I liked to listen to it. One day, when I was listening, a voice arose in my mind. “Turn it off.”  I dismissed this, but it kept repeating, like a broken record, “Turn it off, turn it off, turn it off.” I finally realized that I was not going to enjoy the program under these conditions, so I turned the radio off. I imagined that God wanted me to think about him instead, but after that, my thoughts drifted off into something else (without the voice calling me back from my wandering thoughts to think about God instead). I realized that if this was God telling me not to listen to foreign language radio, but to concentrate on him instead, that by abstaining from my earthy pleasures, I was not getting any closer to God for giving up my wants and desires in this life. But this was an example of how it seemed like God was confirming everything Stewart Traill said to us. Stewart said we were supposed to put our earthly desires and ambitions to death, and to not act upon them. Even if these were not wrong things in and of themselves. But the desire to do these things always came back and would not leave me alone. They were always the same things and it caused me unending agony. I wanted to learn foreign languages. I wanted to exercise. And I wanted to get married.]

I have lived a life of extreme abstinence here. I don’t see any need for that. (Like early times in the church, when I was out soliciting, I either wouldn’t stop or I would take only just a break in the park for a few minutes. I went to a book store just once. It felt like I was being watched. I was under so much pressure, which is not alleviated by giving into it.

[I was under much pressure to conform to the way of life in COBU, but living according to that way of life gave me no peace of mind.]

March 9

I prayed for a good while on the job and I’m glad I did. I asked what my problems were. The answer was pride and what to do about it: “your beginnings.” I took this to mean that I should remember where I came from and who I was. That I never was anybody.

March 10

Now in a meeting at the New Property. It is probably the deadline. My attitude is I am getting what I deserve. I probably will be packing my bags. (The other thing from yesterday’s prayer was, “Are you going to be fully there at the meeting?”)

On the radio this morning, I heard a preacher say that God has taken care of you for the first quarter of your life, won’t he take care of the last three quarters of your life? It seemed to apply to me. It was one of those sharp pointed arrows that seem to be directed toward me.

Something that bothers me is that a sister on the committee said that we should expose our doubts. Then why is it wrong for me to have doubts about Brother Stewart, since this is who messages like that come from? But anyway, others have more serious doubts about me that far outweigh that. I will try to forget this stuff.

March 11

Tonight while praying, I saw an image of swirling thread and something being stitched and I heard, “I will heal your wound.”

I still have doubts about my interests and language study. To Him I refer all my doubts.  I hear a voice, “You were warned.” Yet, what about those dreams “if God says you can do something” and the message about brothers doing interests?

March 12

I’m out soliciting alone today. Very bad temptations. So bad, I can’t work. I figured I would be indulging anyway and not getting any work done, so I might as well sit in Dunkin Donuts. I even walked into a bookstore for a few minutes.

[Taking time off from the constant pressure to knock on doors and hand out business flyers for the church business was a serious transgression. We were supposed to call every half hour to the sisters in the office to report on where we were and what we were doing. As an honest person and a “true believer,” what was I going to do? Say that I had walked into Barnes and Noble to take a break? I could not conceive of the duplicity (lying) of saying that I had been working for the last half hour, if I had been taking a break. I also began to give in to looking at women and it was becoming impossible to work. I figured that if I sat in a coffee shop, I was doing no worse. I was not going to get any work done at this point anyway and I was trying to stop sinning.]

Paris [the new brother I had been passing out business flyers with] left to go back to 810. The message was true from [new brother] James A. about how I should work with my peers only. Actually, I would rather it be that way. When I was walking with Paris today, I thought about how I lonely I feel. There is no one to talk to. Even if we older brothers speak our lingo together, it’s still better.

[There was little real conversation between older brothers. We only spoke the party lines – that is, Stewart’s concepts and phrases. If we spoke of any Bible verses, they were usually the “warning verses” about sin, hell and death that Stewart told us to read and repeat to one another. No one spoke of their own faith anymore, in their own words. There were no more encouraging testimonies about what Jesus did for us. Just gloom and doom, eternal judgement and hell. Yet the older brothers had a certain understanding for one another and we sometimes cut one another a break. The new disciples were under orders from Stewart to monitor us, so some of them were like prison guards, though some of them were okay to spend time with, and they were quite friendly.]

Right now I even wish they’d just blast me off to the church’s house in Reading and just let me live and work in that house.

I am reading Galatians right now. I wish indeed that I was hearing another Gospel. That would be a reason why life seems so hard here. I will try to read Luther’s Commentary on Galatians.

[I wished that it was true that Stewart Traill was preaching a “different gospel” to us.  Then I could believe that this is why it seemed so hard to follow Christ in COBU. According to COBU teaching, I had to believe that the way to heaven was hard and say that I was in rebellion toward God and that this was the real reason I refused to gladly take up the call of this hard and unmerciful version of the gospel and follow it. The main reason for our rebellion, Stewart said, was that we were in love with life here on earth and with the things in the world and that we wanted to be in control of our own lives, instead of putting our lives in this world to death, as the Bible said to do. Martin Luther talked about the same things in his Commentary on Galatians and I wanted to read it to see what Luther said. It is providential that I had this book. I did not buy it, but I found it laying around somewhere. Jeff B., an ex-member, came over to the church one day with his own copy of this book in hand, telling brothers to read it. I thought Jeff sounded like a fanatical lunatic. But it always stuck with me that I should read this book to see what it said.] 

My whole life here is a sham and a fraud. Why am I even doing it? (To have some hope of safety, and also to hide the truth from myself.) Even this Bible studying I do, I am just trying to find some other way than Stewart’s way. Humanly speaking, if I didn’t believe in a company’s ideas, I would go elsewhere. Do what you really believe, because you are doing it anyway. I am doing what I really believe, but I’m wearing a mask, being phony. Why don’t I do it openly? God knows I am doing it anyway.

[I didn’t believe in the Church of Bible Understanding way of life, and really, all of this studying I was doing was to find another way and to find legitimacy for that. I reasoned that, even if “humanly speaking” I didn’t believe in what a company stood for, I’d find employment elsewhere. So then, I should do what I really believe and leave COBU. Because, I was doing that anyway. I didn’t believe in this way of life, but I tried to put on the front to others that I believed it all. I was afraid of getting put out of the church, but at the same time, I didn’t like it there and I didn’t want to be there. God knows where I am at. I cannot hide from him. If the COBU way is true, I did not want it, and God knows it and he will judge my heart anyway, not that I lived here and did everything I was told to do. Yet, I also suspected that God wasn’t promoting the COBU way of life either and that the COBU way of life was a sham and a fraud. If I admitted to myself that I was studying the Bible and studying Luther to look for another way, why don’t I just leave then and find that other way instead of staying here? This is what I would call an honest moment with myself, rather than believing the “I’m a sinner in the hands of an angry God” point of view that Stewart was foisting on us and trying to submit to Stewart’s knife in order to have the cancer of sin removed. I was also having to come to terms with the difficulty of leaving COBU in my mid thirties and starting over without the safety net of the church as my “mother” as a brother named Bill once described to me before he left. It was time to get real and to get responsible about my life. I used to also blame myself for putting my life on the Church of Bible Understanding to do my thinking and to tell me what to do. All these ideas helped me to make a decision to leave. I didn’t mind admitting to myself that I might have some complicity in accepting this whole scheme in which we all played along with Stewart in a collective agreement. It might not be the case with a new convert, but our participation in the big lie called the COBU way of life, and the greatness, insight and infallability of our Great Teacher, Stewart, became conscious at some point as we continued to live there and to sell this way of life to others by our participation in it. As someone once said, “No one gets into trouble without his own help.”]

March 17

I know I have had it. I am almost resigned to it. I have been reading a lot about law and grace. I really don’t care anymore about the threat of being kicked out. I know I am not being healed.

I have come to the conclusion that I am not going to read any more Stewart notes, or write down what he says at meetings, because what he says really doesn’t do anything for me anyway. But I will read Martin Luther and John Calvin and others. They seem to do more for me (if that really is so) because what Stewart tells us seems so hopeless.

[This was a major breakthrough in my thinking. Not that I made clean break from believing everything Stewart told us, but I realized that nothing of what he said helped me in any way. It only helped to drive me to despair. And it was not the kind of despair that drove people to repent of their sinful condition, as described by many Christian writers, but instead it was a continual onslaught without end or relief in sight. Stewart would only go on to futher depths of accusation against us. After all, his method of beating people over the head with misapplied gospel truths worked. Why would Stewart stop doing it, if it worked so well for him?]

While sitting here in a bus in the parking lot, a new brother came to talk a while. It’s interesting who comes to talk to me when I am just sitting there. One who is a “belligerent” type. It’s also interesting how far I can go when I don’t try to tell them what to do, but only listen, interjecting comments where necessary. Or to conceal that I am hiding from his initial intentions. Listening is also a defensive technique. A person may hide very well while listening and pretending to be involved. (One of the main things here is letting the other person talk and get involved in himself and to express his ideas and even letting him feel good while doing so.)

[This bew brother, who was a belligerent type rather than one of the friendly ones, found me sitting in a parked bus and sat down to gripe to me about the way life was in COBU. Though I was not happy with life there either, because I was an older brother, he saw me as one of the authorities in the church, and he began venting to me. I realized also that this guy was not entirely safe to be alone with, but by acting as if I was listening to what he was saying and by not interjecting my own comments about what he should do, or suggesting that he had a problem with anything, he began to feel better about finding a listening and uncritical ear to vent to. He ended up thanking me for listening to him. This was diametrically opposed to the way we were supposed to be with the new people there. According to the COBU way, I was supposed to direct him back to his training and even tell him he was headed straight to hell, if necessary.]

Now, a word about dreams. I had a dream where I was with Dad and my brothers, descending a hill in a car. There was a big storm ahead. I said, “Wouldn’t it be better if we sat this one out?” But, we drove on into it. A voice said to me, “If you have doubts, it’s better to say them than to keep them in.” Then I noticed that Dad was slowing down, looking for a suitable parking lot to pull into.

In another dream, I was in my hometown. I flew upward into the clouds where I heard Gina say to me, “You should think of something to say to those people down there.” I came up with, “Things have really changed here. They’re not like they used to be.”

Also it is the second time I saw an image of a needle and thread while I was praying. I am interested in a hospital for sinners. I need it.

March 22

During meeting in the Lamb House with Brother Stewart, I heard a voice say not to speak up, even, that I should hold back. (Amid great pressure to speak up so as to be fully there.) I did follow the voice. Later a message came from Brother Stewart about how the older brothers want to be here now that Jesus has changed the fellowship around.  But that everyone should ask the older brothers, “Where were you when we needed you?”

March 23

I have had some thoughts on my mind, though I must summarize. It is concerning being an ascetic, in the truest sense of the word, though it is borne out of expedience rather than true religious conviction. The essence thereof is to throw out everything that is not immediately necessary. This will benefit me physically, so I don’t have to worry about my things anymore and it will give me freedom of movement. It will also benefit me spiritually, because anxiety and concern over whether or not I can do these things is getting to the point where it is killing me. It seems as though I would be better off without it for that reason alone, whether or not it is actually wrong to do those things. Sometimes I think it would also be a way to kill my old Woodruff life once and for all, since all those things were a byproduct of that hopeless, stagnant life I had there. I never really felt right trying to relive the life I had before coming here to the church, or trying to get my interests together, such as drawing, trying to learn ten languages, jogging and the myriad other things I used to do to kill the pain and to smooth over my stagnant life, treading water so to speak. It doesn’t feel good to get rid of these things. I don’t like having to get rid of them and I would much rather not. If I had a house with rooms, I would just shelve my books, rather than toss them. Though I would probably never read them again or not again until far in the future. I would still want to have them on a shelf to look at, kind of like trophies.

[I believed that my old way of life had to be broken up, by this extreme boot camp and self denial situation that Stewart was putting us into, in order to reach repentance. Stewart said he was doing it for our good and that this was what we needed and that nothing else would work. He said it was our last chance to be saved.]

But if I ever want to, I can easily get these books again. If I ever want any of the books I toss out, if I really decide I will learn Arabic, it’s easy to get another book. In the meantime I don’t need to carry the excess baggage and the money I spend to replace the books later will be well compensated for by the freedom of movement I had in the meantime, and I will probably never replace them anyway. It’s just that I have a accumulative mentality. I like picking up books by Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes stories, in case I will ever read them. But this is not expedient in my present circumstances.

I might get rid of my photographs. But, you see, this is hard for me because I am now dealing with irreplaceable things. I can always pick up another book, but I am also sick of the way I have to worry about these things.

March 25

Yesterday we had a meeting with Stewart about the fear of God. And we reviewed warning verses.

I read in a book by John Bunyan about how we should not try to shake off fear. This is what I am praying about. While I was praying, the verse, “Rise, take up your pallet and go home” broke in upon my spirit. I wasn’t sure what to do. Right now the feelings of fear are gone. I will read the verse again.

Also today, the verse came to me, “I will love him and manifest myself to him.” It seemed motivating and appealing. Maybe God is speaking to me, saying that all is not lost. Though I realize there is a condition that goes along this promise. (Coming from the meeting yesterday, where we learned about hopeful verses, those in category three that have conditions.) But today I will read the chapter in the Bible that has this verse . (Though I don’t know anymore if I should memorize verses.) Maybe God offer me hope.

I called Steve B. [Steve was an older brother who had recently left.] I was trying to take a stand against wrong things. Not too successfully. The best part of the call was when I was just being myself and telling him what has been going on here, though “he who rebukes will afterward find favor,” but “what does reproof from you reprove?” While I was talking to Steve, the verse kept coming to my mind, “your bonds will be made strong,” which made me scared. It has to do with scoffing.

[If I was not taking a rigorous stand with Steve and if I was not telling him he needed to come back to the church, I was compromising. This was what we were supposed to do with anyone who left. Rather then just being friends with Steve, I was supposed to “rebuke” him for having left the church. But, “what does reproof from you reprove,” meant I knew I was no better than Steve, because I thought about leaving the church too. So any talk about how it was wrong for him to leave the church would be empty words. I was no real Christian example, so my rebukes would be empty. “Your bonds will be made strong” was about how I thought God was going to bind me up tightly and cast me into hell for not taking a stand with Steve, and that by joking with him on the phone I had been “scoffing” – mocking the truth and “thumbing my nose at Jesus.” It is amazing how the one short paragraph above captures all the confused thinking I had at the time. It needs to be explained to make sense to anyone who was not there. I was terribly confused and unsure of whether to trust my own intuition. This helplessness (to not rely on my own thoughts, but to rely only on Stewart Traill’s teachings) caused me to be very dependent on the cult leader to tell me what I “should” be doing.]

Just after this, I heard a message from Stewart about the ex-older brothers being sent to to New York City to solicit work for the church business and to live at the shop. What a drag. Somehow, I don’t see this as hopeful. It’s like being a non-person. An enemy of the state. You had better not disagree, or you will be put out. In some ways, going there would be better than being here, but it’s not very appealing. Why do I put up with thei treatment? Why do I stay? It’s almost as if I am willing to endure anything, being abased to an extreme (rather than repenting). The other side, of course, is that this would have never happened if I had been faithful to Christ. I think it is necessary to face this if I am ever going to repent.

[I was soon sent to New York City to live in the Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning shop (a basement office with a storage area for carpet cleaning machines) with about ten older brothers. We slept on the floor in the office, or among the carpet cleaning at night, and had to be up and out of way of the sisters who came to work there in the morning.]

Possibly one of my escapes that must be destroyed (according to John Bunyan) is blaming others and mitigating my own failures. On the other hand, there is putting up with being abased like this. Will this lead to repentance? I am more the other extreme, being very willing to put up with it and going for anything, even the lifestyle at 810. It feels right. (The Brother Stewart saying on this one is about working for the church and getting no benefit from God until we go either way, to turn fully to God or to turn fully away from him. I suppose that is what this kind of move would be.) Now the message from Stewart is that we, or those who are chosen to move to New York, will get to live in Woodruff, unless we are too weird to be around the new disciples. Then we will have to live at the Christian Brothers office.

Sometimes I think I must inwardly destroy myself as I am being outwardly destroyed by my “captors.” Withdrawal of privileges, no associating with one another. Live a certain way. Permitted in the kitchen only at certain times. Thorough inward and outward self-abasement. And that if I keep up a secret inward life, it is wrong. Even memorizing Bible chapters is wrong to do.

I was praying about the enormity of my sins, about how I used the new disciples in Woodruff. [1] Thinking like this and asking for forgiveness is better than the investigative fault finding I do about Stewart and is actually more peaceful for me. Suddenly I don’t feel like I am getting to the outer limits and losing it.

[1] Stewart made this odd sounding accusation that the older brothers were “using” the new people we brought in off the streets. He didn’t mean we were using them to make money for the church. We didn’t get any of the money from the church businesses. He meant we were “hiding in them” kind of like how Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves to cover themselves after they sinned. Essentially, Stewart held us in a double bind. We had to work hard in the church businesses and we had to work hard to gather and train the new disciples. At the same time he accused us of “using” these things, and “hiding in” these things.

What Stewart would never do was commend anyone for working hard. There could be various reasons from this, ranging from that he was a sociopath, to how only offering punishment and condemnation was effective in getting us to work harder and why change what was working and making him wealthy? As brothers, we were also supposed to have extremely low opinions of ourselves and to believe we were rebels and cheating on Jesus. We were constantly exhorted to repent and to strive to be faithful, but Stewart never acknowledged our efforts and he never conceded that any one of us could be faithful to Christ, not even for a day before falling back into our rebellious ways.

It may also have been to beat the idea of marriage out of us. It was implicit that no one in the church was getting married unless they were fully faithful to Christ, with a long track record of being faithful. Stewart had been, directly or indirectly, sexually involved in many of the sisters’ lives. He had either done something with them, or they knew of it. If any of these sisters got married to the brothers, they might open up and talk to them about it. It was better to keep the brothers and sisters divided and believing that because of their alleged and sinful rebellion, that they could not marry and that they should defer their desire for marriage indefinitely into the future. We could not really be a church family, with Stewart as our trusted and friendly pastor and advisor, because there were just too many deep dark secrets, and this oppressive way of life was one of the ways this hidden behavior and these unconfessed secrets manifested themselves openly.

:::

In this next selection, I write about how I was one of the older brothers selected to move to New York City. I was now living in the Christian Brothers ship with about ten other older brothers. We slept on the floor and got up every morning in time to clear out before the sisters who worked there arrived.

One of the things I had been “agonizing” about in the last paragraph was “using” the new disciples. Though it was the older brothers who went out and gathered the homeless to come live with us, set them up in some kind of living conditions, shepherded and guided them and tried to be concerned for them, Stewart Traill accused us of “using” these people.

Really, Stewart was using the new people as laborers. (Some of them were not so able bodied and had to be helped in some way.) “Sweeping up” homeless people was a way to increase the number of church members, which also increased the live-in, unpaid workforce in the church business. It would be hard to call it exploitation by the older brothers, because we did not receive any money that was earned. Stewart got the money, or rather, the Church of Bible Understanding got it through the church businesses. And Stewart, as the president of the church and head of the corporation, benefitted from the proceeds by using the properties, airplanes and any other amenities as his own – whether o not these things were in his name. The older brothers’ role was to coerce this work out of the new people. Stewart was not involved directly in their lives, except at meetings where he delivered long tirades and harangues at the older brothers, and sometimes when necessary, at the new disciples.

It should be noted that Stewart did not accuse us of using the new disciples for financial gain. He accused us of using them to “hide in” and other strange sounding names for the spiritual sin of trying to earn salvation by works. He said we were trying hide our rebellion against God with activities that had the appearance of good works. This is how we could work all week, toiling away with high-maintenance new converts, only to be told that we were in rebellion and that all our efforts were just “hiding from God,” or some such thing. The problem with such alleged spiritual sins is that a person never knew if they were committing them or not. We might not think we were, but Stewart always presented his case against us, proving to us courtroom style as an angry judge, that we were doing these sins. 

Any disagreement with Stewart’s charges against us was considered to be “arrogance,” which would be used against us as proof that we were committing the very sins he was accusing us of. There was no way out, other than to face and admit to the charges. Each brother had to give a speech about how he had been committing this sin and then repent of it. After years of conditioning from the repeated use of this method, most church members admitted to the charges immediately, having learned from experience that Stewart was willing to go on as long as necessary to get us to admit to the charges. It would be easy for a person to know if they had committed carnal sins such as sexual immorality, theft or drunkenness, because it would be obvious to them. But these spiritual sins, why, we could think we were doing the right thing and that we were faithful to Jesus, but really be “deceiving ourselves” and just “playing games” because of the blinding affects of pride and rebellion. In most meetings, Stewart was preoccupied with this and devoted most of his time to proving to the church members that they were committing these sins. After Stewart presented his case, we all would confess to our crimes, standing up one by one, making a speech about how we had been doing what he accused us of and making an open commitment to repent and change. This ritual was repeated nearly every week at the Sunday meetings. It was the same screenplay, the same script – every time.]

March 27

I was praying yesterday. It seemed as though Jesus said to me, “Keep a diary, be honest.” (Though this seems to contradict the page I ripped out of my diary the other day, where I had written that we are all like sheep being led to the slaughter, willingly undergoing any type of treatment – even though I was being honest about my thoughts. I don’t know really where I get such ideas anyway. I just imagine God is telling me something.)

Right now, I am living here in New York, “on a homeless basis” in the shop. It is unreal in ways, though I am glad to be here instead of in Philadelphia. I have been soliciting with new disciples. I have no time for my own thoughts, but the bad side of this is that I am just a vacuum. I can’t really concentrate on warning verses or hell verses or really anything at all. I can’t get my hands on anything, or stop to gather myself and I don’t like it. I feel adrift. In limbo.

As I was walking in the city, I was trying to go over Bible verses in my mind and play word association, but I feel like this new disciple is all over me and I can’t even hear myself think. I don’t think this is what is meant by having no time to think. In other words, having no time to think my own thoughts is not a good thing.

[I did things to keep my mind occupied as I was out passing out flyers or talking to people about getting their carpets cleaned, like going over Bible verses I had memorized. We were on a constant treadmill of activity from when we got up, until we went to sleep. This idea of having no time for ourselves and having no walls between us so we could not go off on our own and do our own thing was one of Stewart’s proposed cures for our sinful condition.]

March 29

Things have been hectic. I have felt claustrophobic the past two days, really boxed in.

It’s a nice day today, cloudy, warm, turbulent areas in gray overcast skies. I would like to go to Central Park. I like soliciting, but  also like to stop off places and not feel so confined. I think if I am more free, I can perform better. I must watch out for self-imposed restrictions, denying myself freedoms I could have because it feels right to deny myself things. Forget about others binding my conscience more tightly than scripture requires, what about how I do that to myself? I imagine eyes upon me that (probably) are not there!

I have been thinking about how to really scale down my belongings, for reasons of expedience and also as a way to keep only the essential things with me and have freer movement. (For instance, if I bought a magazine, I would probably read it, then cut out any articles I want and discard it. That would also make me wonder if I should buy it in the first place. I just can’t accumulate things anymore. I want to be free and unrestricted.)

The word association thing is very good for keeping my mind on scripture. I’m also trying to memorize Galatians. I consider the effort well worth it.

[I played a game of word association about the Bible in my head as I was out walking as a way to keep my mind occupied. I thought of a verse in the Bible and then choose a word out of that verse and tried to think of another verse that had the same word in it, and so on.]

March 30

I am now waiting floor wax to dry at Baldwin Sosa Chemists. It has been a rather exasperating day, I feel it coming on. Various circumstances add to it. Earlier today in the office, Kathryn thought I had an attitude because I told Joe that I thought it was better to phone solicit rather than get out and go door to door right now. (The Council has said that we must be out cold soliciting only.) Then Kathryn kept pressing it. Finally, I just didn’t answer because I was praying inwardly, “Jesus, get me out of this!” Then she said, “Oh…silence!” (This stuff is too much for me because I figure I will get put out of the church. Then again, if that is to be my fate, I might as well just accept it and stop living on eggshells.)

I’m also back to stewing and thinking of leaving and feeling that I am in Christian Brothers slavery. Also I thought, yes, I did have an attitude: I fear that I am being watched and monitored by the Council as if I were in prison. But actually, I realize none of that is happening and that it’s just in my mind. And little things like what Kathryn did can set it off.

[A note about “stewing.” Brothers used this phrase to describe someone who was “into his head.” It meant they were thinking about what Stewart had said to them.] 

March 31

I’m in quite a bit of turmoil over the subject of “sell all you have.” It got pretty bad (also all the usual stuff). One thing I did though, which I think helped, was that I prayed in the middle of this. I didn’t see immediate results, but I know better than that, because I have often seen results later.

But then I thought that when Jesus said, “sell, hate, cut off” (all you have, your family, your right arm, respectively), that obviously this is not to be taken literally in the last two cases, so why the first? I guess all this is incited by hearing that today’s meeting with Stewart was going to be about how “all of life is a fraud.”

[Jesus did not literally mean that a person should cut off their right arm in order not to sin, nor did he say anyone should cut off all relations with their family. So why then should I believe that Jesus literally meant to get rid of everything I have, and to cut off all these things in myself and to literally hate my life in this world? But this is what Stewart pressured us to do. “All of this life is a fraud” was one of Stewart’s teachings at this time. But I thought about how the Bible said that “all good things were created by God and are meant to be enjoyed if received with thanksgiving.” This was a teaching from the Bible that was diametrically opposed to what Stewart Traill said we should do about the things of this world and our lives in this world.]

I am also anxious about my things in Philadelphia. I seems that I hear a voice saying “leave it.” (Not necessarily to leave it, in a permanent sense, but let it be for now and don’t try to bring it here.) I also heard distinctly three times, “It will come back to you.”  It is so hard for me to trust in faith over this matter. Also when praying briefly about marriage I thought I heard “three more years.” Again, I am in doubt about these kinds of things, but I also do give heed to them.

I have been reading Martin Luther’s book Bondage of the Will and sermons by Charles Spurgeon. These things help me.

Jeff B. [an older brother who had recently left the church] came today to get his belongings. He was waving a copy of the Luther’s Commentary on Galatians and ranting about sin and the cross and how it is so wonderful out there. [Jeff was saying that his life had improved after he left the Church of Bible Understanding.] I do also have questions about some of the things Jeff mentioned, but him living with [ex-members] Tom H. and Mark S., I can’t fathom.

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