1991, 04/04-05/12. Living On a “Homeless Basis” in the Christian Brothers Shop

At this time I had been sent from Philadelphia to live in the Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning office in Manhattan. I and some of the other older brothers were living on what Stewart Traill called “a homeless basis.” We were to be like the homeless people we “swept up” and gave a few days of Christian Training to, then put to work day and night in the church businesses.

When the work day was over, I slept on the floor of the shop with ten other older brothers. We had to get up and clear out in the morning, before the sisters who worked in the office came in to start their day. We were supposed to be out all day prospecting for cleaning and construction work for the church businesses.  The office stayed open till about 9 or 10 p.m.

The reason we had not been thrown out of the church is because Stewart Traill’s plan to replace the older brothers with homeless men had failed, so we were still needed for financial reasons. After all Stewart’s threats to put us out of the church, as well as a mock execution that Stewart carried out one meeting where all older brothers were told they had to leave the church that day, none of us dared to complain about anything, including the long work hours and the poor living conditions. We were glad to still be in the church, which was the goal of the conditioning and training that Stewart put us through by using those techniques on us.

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.

April 4

Well, another day is starting. My state of mind today is that I am no better than a slave, that Christian Brothers goes on from the moment we wake up till the moment we go to sleep and if anyone is seen as slacking off, they are in trouble. I even feel that way when nobody is around. I feel guilty for wanting to take a break. (“What about your conscience?”, someone will say.)  A new disciple, albeit a complainer, said, “You always feel as if you have not done enough.” (I thought about collecting their complaints, listing all the common denominators and seeing what they are. New disciples complain a lot about the same things.)

I wonder what I am doing here. The church, or the business, is just a machine that wants to suck me dry and give me nothing in return. If I want time off after a lot of hard work, I can’t get it. (Unless I am willing to play around with the possibility of getting fired. For those who don’t care about that, they can go further, I guess.)

Last night, I had a dream that I was packing to leave. I was ready to leave, but then I figured I had better call ahead to make sure I had somewhere to go! So, maybe that’s a warning.

April 7

I’m sitting here before the Sunday meeting starts. I’m thinking about how I need to live and how I will be as a middle-aged, older man and due to the situation as it now appears, what is expedient – which is to jettison all the ballast. (Such as, I will bring my cassette player to the office, but it is expendable. If it is stolen, well I wrote it off anyway. After expendable electronics are gone, if necessary I will buy a very small radio. Whatever, with all things, I don’t want any excess baggage.)

Regarding realer things, there is no barrier between me and immorality and lust. My wounds are not bound up. I half want to leave the fellowship so I can do things I want that I am not allowed to do here.

I have pre-meeting pressure feelings of the worse kind, like I am going to snap or start shaking or blurt something out. It’s a very strange feeling.

Fear of hell is even greater than it ever has been. Life in the fellowship is like an endless treadmill. But I have seen from experience that when the schedule gets too heavy, breaks, job cancellations or guard duty always seem to appear just in time.

Who knows what this meeting will bring. But the word is always “don’t calculate.” It looks like it is going to be a high-pressure meeting, and so far it is lining up to be. I guess this is true of all meetings, but I don’t consider myself to be sincere. But, again “don’t calculate.”

I realize that my Gospel memorizing this week was just religion, especially because it didn’t save me from temptations.

April 23

I want to study Christian history and the Reformers, because I want to know where these ideas and thoughts that Stewart is telling us are coming from. I don’t want to just sit here and accept them! Do they have a historical precedent? Is it something spoken of as good? (If it is historical.)

(What I don’t like is the way Stewart seems to act as if he were discovering these things for the first time ever in history and as if the ideas were his own.)

I want to know which ideas are previous knowledge and which ones are solely Stewart’s. I don’t want to rely on Stewart Traill for all my insights anymore. I don’t think that is healthy. The scenario I’d hate to be in, is to be locked in to be influenced solely by his ideas alone, without a way of checking outside sources. I see that as something to be afraid of. I would have a very sick feeling and always wonder if I were being led astray.

April 30

Well, I just got a big surprise. I came to the office and heard we are having a meeting in Woodruff tonight to find out who is here for serious Christian training (and who is not). I hear that those who are not can just leave.

Of course, I heard similar messages one previous time when Stewart said we were to be put out of the church. I also hear again that voice saying, “don’t calculate.”

[We were constantly threatened with being put out of the church. This was to keep us on our toes, and to make us feel thankful just to be allowed to stay here. And certainly not to complain about long work hours.]

My thoughts now are as follows: If I were put out, Stewart would really be doing me a favor, because I don’t really want to be here anyway. Of course, I have written elsewhere what the benefits of being here are and how I usually figure they outweigh the problems. But, oh what problems. It might be better for me out there! (If I left, I fear losing any kind rational thought or reason and not being able to do or get anything together, but being taken over altogether by something else. At least now I can read some books or fit some things in, however little.)

[I feared that if I left the church, I would be taken over by the forces of sin and would be given over to utter depravity and that I might end up being one of those people you see walking around, talking to themselves, or that I would live for sexual sin and do nothing but go to brothels and do drugs. We were warned that this (or worse things) would happen to us. If we left the Church of Bible Understanding, it would mean leaving Jesus and being overcome by “the world, the devil and sin.”]

But what a degrading and empty life I live here, willing to be used as a machine in the business without getting anything in return and living in the shop, because I don’t want to be around.

[We were told that the reason we were separated from everyone else, and living “on a homeless basis” in the shop (a basement office used for the Christian Brothers Cleaning business) was that we did not want to be around the new disciples or to help them. Actually, the older brothers were quite willing to help them.]

But the problem is that I don’t know anyone here in this city and only [ex-member] Steve B. in Philadelphia. Where would I go if I left? Try to live with Chris and Dave?  Come back to the church after I left and try to get my possessions? Try to live as a normal life as I can? Recontact my family? I may need to be in touch with them for obvious reasons. I have been praying that if it is God’s will that I have to go that he will let me out as gently as possible, and that I can just move. Me and my stuff together. That I don’t have to keep going back and forth to get it. I figure my things in Philadelphia are not worth going to get, because it is all easy to replace. (Headphones, clock radio, easy to replace books. It’s not worth the hassle of going through the meat grinder or the traveling expense to get them. But of course, I will get them if I am able.)

[When anyone left and then came back later to get their possessions, they were hassled by church members who made it hard for them to collect their things. I was aware of this because I had seen this so many times. I really didn’t own much but some books, some of my own artwork and some radios. But obsessed over them, because they were my things.]

I figure I will kick myself if I have to go, because I have not made plans (“bridges”) because I was being good, instead of being practical. But you know Brother Stewart has plans up his sleeve, in case this or that happens.

[Stewart told us that we were supposed to “burn all our bridges to this life.” Any backup plans or contacts with those outside of the church came under the category of bridges to this life. But I was aware that Stewart had all kinds of plans for himself.]

Well, I hate how I calculate. Especially when I am shown not to be doing so!  That must mean there is help coming forthwith!  Because Jesus doesn’t make empty promises.

Just some questions I have on my mind about leaving: How does one start his life over at 34? How will I contain my passions and drives? Not that I was doing so well here, but out there, would there be any barrier? And in other words, who do I socialize with? Or do I be a hermit so as not to incur further guilt, by joining a religion (though I am already in one) or take part in another man’s sins? (Like helping Chris C. get his life together so he can be with his wife again, for example.)  But this is a stagnant, dead life here. How long can I go on like this? It is unhealthy, purposeless. Just existing for the purpose of keeping existing. Everything is in limbo. The whole church is a haunt of jackals and dead man’s bones. [1] I am ashamed to bring anybody over here. Bring someone over, just to get a beating in front of him, as has happened so many times. [2] (Also those meetings where Stewart used to come and just sit there in silence, while we went on, getting more and more nervous, because we “knew” something was wrong. Yes, something was wrong – Stewart was being extremely rude and obnoxious. All these beatings. I am very discouraged.)

[1] I was quoting Jeremiah 49:33:  Hazor shall become a haunt of jackals, an everlasting waste; no man shall dwell there, no man shall sojourn in her.” And also, Matthew 23:27, where Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” There were verses in the Bible that talked about the cities of God’s people being laid waste, due to their unfaithfulness. Instead of a city set on a hill to show light to the world, I saw COBU as a wasteland, filled with all sorts of evil things. And though Stewart Traill accused us of being like the Pharisees who Jesus rebuked, I realized that Stewart himself was like a Pharisee, because he was promoting a dead religion.

[2] We went out and brought people over for a meeting. Often at these meetings, Stewart blasted us in front of the people we had convinced to come over for a “Bible study.” This was very discouraging and it made me reluctant to bring anyone over. It was easy to get someone to come over. We were good at meeting people and convincing them to come to a Bible study. A lot of churches (and cults) would be extremely grateful for people who had this amazing talent to gather new converts and would treat them well. But not Stewart. I wondered why I should tell people that the church was a great place to be and convince them to come over for an evening, only to be humiliated in front of my invited guests as the “pastor” of the church then slammed us for our problems and alleged unfaithfulness? I remember the confused look on the faces of some of these guests as this was happening.]

The following was a comment by Stewart: 

“You must claim Jesus’s righteousness by faith, without seeing it, and stick to it long enough. Then you will see it. You must be able to do that, strictly by faith at first, or you are not one of his sheep and you never will be. It is only by faith that you can start.”

And my note, which I made after thinking about what this meant:

It is always like a contest. We’ve got to be able to show it and stick to it.

May 2

I am in a very “thoughtful” mood today, though not much better. I get tired of writing about it all the time. I am thinking about how I feel I am being had, that I see quite a lot of inconsistencies in what Brother Stewart tells us. Especially with his born again teaching, and also with how he says verses like Romans 3:23 are fuel for our fire. Stewart says that we are not going to receive justification without suffering. But now, he says that we must just claim it by faith without even seeing it within us(!) It makes me wonder about everything else we are learning. All these things he says about how we must be in terror or it is not real. What am I being subjected to and being blown about by without realizing it?

[Stewart said we were supposed to be totally scared out of our minds, or it is not real.]

May 3

Well here we are again. I promise not to go into this too much. Just a little conversation I had with Greg B. on the way to work. He was mocking people in the world. “They are all gearing up for the weekend,” he said. I said, “I wouldn’t mind having a Saturday off myself, I’m not really into mocking everything people in the world do.” Of course, Greg beaned me for complaining. I would hate to work around people like him all the time. (If I say things like this enough, I might get brought up at a meeting.) He also asked me if I was trying to get my life together [a serious sin in COBU], because he saw that I bought French Bible tapes and that I had language materials in my notebook!

This is a form of slavery. It is a good system, but overdone. In other words, for example, a spoonful or two of honey is good. But the way we are, if it is good, then they make you drink the whole jar till you get sick. We don’t serve voluntarily. We don’t own our own lives, but serve under compulsion.

Some of the things I see here are alarming. An example is the way Ron H. was treated last year when he questioned Stewart’s new born again teaching. Ron said he had doubts and that he was checking the Bible to see if it was so. Stewart hammered him. He said that Ron wasn’t doubting, he was rejecting the truth. But, now what?

[Stewart had recently changed his born again teaching, again. For the last year, he had been preaching what is called Perfectionism, that “those who are born again do not sin.” Stewart said this meant that if anyone sinned, in any way, they were not born again and never had been. This was what Stewart beat Ron up for, because Ron expressed some doubts about the truthfulness of this. Now, Stewart said that his recent born again teaching had not been true and adding insult to injury, he blamed us for letting him get away with it when he had been teaching it, saying that no one had questioned him about it. But actually some had questioned it, and I remembered the way Stewart treated people who raised questions about it. This was now leading me to question Stewart’s integrity.]

It isn’t the fact that someone can make mistakes that bothers me, but the way Stewart makes us eat it. Now I question everything I am hearing from him, except the most basic things. I question how I am supposed to beat and abase myself before I can receive any benefit or anything good from the Lord.

I was also thinking how this place has the perfect set up to keep us isolated, alone, powerless. We don’t dare speak with another person too openly, because that is conspiracy. We don’t tell our family what is happening here, because we would be “hurting” them by putting doubts in their minds.

[Stewart Traill accused the older brothers of taking part in a conspiracy to bring the church down and to poison the new disciples and many other such things. It made me afraid to speak to anyone else about what I saw wrong there.]

Also an example from years ago when Gina and Ira moved into the fellowship and how sisters went to work right away to break up their relationship.

[Most people who came to the church in the earlier years were young and usually single. But someties young couples came to the church. The sisters went to work on these couples to break them up. One tactic was to tell the young woman that their boyfriend was not able to care about them in a meaningful way. I don’t remember any brothers ever talking to anyone like this. I remember going with an an older sister named Linda to a Spanish area in Philadelphia, where she visited a favorite “lamb,” a young woman named Marta. Much of Linda’s talk, aside from the Bible lesson she gave, was centered in talking to Marta about breaking up with her boyfriend, who she was engaged to marry, saying that he was not good for her and not able to care for her. And Linda was trying to convince Martia to move into the church as the best thing for her life and future. Fortunately for Marta, she chose her boyfriend over life in COBU.]

It’s almost like breaking people in pieces before devouring them altogether. There is some kind of spirit at work (I don’t think it is the individuals involved consciously doing it) making this place like a black hole that devours people.

We are supposed to take it quietly, to not tell anybody, to not call for help. Because we are the one who is weird. Much like in the Gulag, when people were arrested on the street in Russia, they wouldn’t call out for help, but kept their cool as they were being dragged away to prison. They were ashamed that it was happening to them. Then they went to a system that broke them down, that made them feel worthless, and at fault for it too. Is there a spirit like that in our fellowship?

Well, right now, my thoughts on all this are inchoate, though I believe they are in a forming stage. Later, I hope, they will coalesce. I even thought about putting together a little pamphlet on this, about what I think is wrong here, though I can’t put it together just right yet.

Now, another note to be fully honest. When I think these things (really I think about it all the time, even when I am not thinking this) I hear a voice saying, “your judgment.” I still think of the dream in which I tried to tell Jesus some things (possibly these things). He just said, “Why weren’t you fully there?” Maybe that’s what this is? But when I think of being fully there, I think it would have to include dealing with these things. I don’t feel I can just go back to the grind of one year ago – the working, sweeping up new disciples and the meeting routine –  and shut off all my questions. Those deep dark questions that keep forming themselves in my mind. Those nagging doubts that just won’t go away, no matter how hard I run from them or try to shove them under the rug.

I must also watch myself when talking to others. To listen to them, rather than just launching into my own invective. It’s like I am just waiting for a chance to express my own views and dissatisfactions. This is not good and is not necessary.

I have a desire to read the book of Isaiah now. To study it, to find a good book on it.

I am really having a breakdown, a crisis. I only hope that it doesn’t lead to immorality, which I have often chosen to drown my sorrows.

Look, with the removal of this whole “born again do not sin thing” thing, it kicks just about everything else over.

[I was in upheaval about Stewart repudiating his own teaching that he was pushing for the last year. It was a teaching that he had not allowed anyone to question. Now he was telling us that it was not even true. If that wasn’t true, what else wasn’t?]

It really has been a gospel for the strong. I have been giving up in hopelessness. (Sure, I can’t make excuses for sin, but I have been giving up and signing off, because I see no signs of election in me, so I am not born again, so I am not going to heaven.)

[And now that Stewart said that his teaching that “if you still sin, then you are not born again” is not even true, I realized that the turmoil and hopelessness I had been going through about my sinfulness was not real. The extreme duress and despair about not seeing signs of election in myself (because I still sinned) I had been experiencing was not necessary or even real. I began to doubt all the things Stewart had been saying to us. I began to question what he is leading us into and what purposes he had for our lives.]

I see how all things conspire to get us into this way. We keep each other in it. And Stewart makes rules so we can’t argue against it.

I am exasperated, yet not set free. I still figure I am going to hell, no matter who is pulling the wool over my eyes. Why do I put all my hope and belief in this man, that he has the truth, when it has been shown to me over and over that this is not so?  Why is it so illegal to disagree with him and it seems that God backs him up? I feel I am not supposed to speak to anyone about this, because then I am a conspirator. I am supposed to bear it alone, or I am trying to get someone to listen to me so I can pump them full of my poisonous views.

It has been on my mind to read Isaiah 40, so I did. The last paragraph says, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord and my right is disregarded by my God?'” This may be purely coincidental, but it seems like an answer to what I was thinking about. I was thinking about being had and that Stewart doesn’t seem right, but that I can’t go to God about it for help. I feel like I’m on my own. These thoughts won’t go away, yet when I go to God about it, it seems he only says, “Your judgment.” Yet this may be an answer. I have been saying that my right is disregarded and that I feel I’m on my own.

(This “new” Bible study totally realigns everything. Instead of being at war with China, we are now at war with Russia and always have been. It’s time to rewrite the history books again.)

[If you have read George Orwell’s book, “1984,” you will understand this comment. I also thought of Stewart as Big Brother. Big Brother is watching you.]

I really can’t take this. Yet it may be a liberation from the Gospel of the strong.

[The Gospel of the Strong is what I called Stewart Traill’s gospel. It was not a gospel for weak sinners, but only for those who were overcoming. If they were fully faithful and overcoming every second, maybe – just maybe – God might love them and they wouldn’t go to hell. Stewart’s so-called gospel was not meeting anyone’s needs as a sinner, and I saw myself constantly falling short. I also saw everyone else constantly falling short, as Stewart was all too willing to point out to us in our weekly meetings in which he accused us of rebellion and unfaithfulness.]

Anyway, back to the scripture. God does hear. Well, I am just sitting here thinking of this scripture now.

May 5

(This is the day that the van broke down in front of the Bagel Buffet and I waited three hours to finally get moving. I looked at the sky, listened to Bible tapes and wrote in my diary.)

I’m sitting here in a meeting. I wish that Bible studies could be hopeful and upbuilding. I am crouching here, waiting for invective against the older brothers. In other words, against me. But Jesus says, “Don’t calculate.”

A phrase that often comes to my mind now during meetings is, “The ear tests words.”

It’s getting pretty heavy, the condemnation for us. If we have not repented and have not been doing these things Stewart told us to do by the meeting next Sunday, we are going to be driven out of the church, or at least marked for it.

I think, no way am I going to pass this test. Actually, I really want to get out, because I am just a slave. I am going to look for a place to live, and people to live with. No way am I going to be caught unprepared next Sunday. Though I have the feeling that I should not be looking around ahead of time.

Stewart says we are going to separate those who have repented from those who have not. We will also be looking for deceivers who say they have repented, but really have not. (I am ready to go.)

There is a desire deep inside me to repent and live by faith, but not this way. Sure, you can’t make excuses with Jesus, but this way is just all control and chains. My behavior is regulated.

I think that if I don’t see big, drastic changes in me by the middle of the week, I will definitely make arrangements to leave and also not try to deceive.

I really see Brother Stewart making his moves to put us out.

Now Stewart says that sin is an absence, so if we can’t say you have got it, that we have repentance, we will be put out. Well, for sure, I fail to meet the test. (Supposedly – according to Stewart –  we know how we are holding out and exactly what it is. That is, we refuse to tell the truth, the bad news about ourselves, and accept the good news. We are too proud. I thought it was, over and over again, that I have to give up everything I own and have nothing. That is what I disagree with and reject. This is what I think is false teaching and which is always shoved at me. The strange thing is, thinking of leaving the church makes me feel better.)

I can’t believe it, we are here in a meeting to decide which ex-older brothers are too proud to repent. There is a new brother in front of me with a walkie-talkie. (He is in contact with Brother Stewart. Big Brother is watching you!)

Stewart wants to know: “Who played with fire and who was really serious during the dinner break!”

During the dinner break, I was concerned with getting my things from the Lamb House in case I can’t get back there or if I have to leave this week.

[During the dinner break, instead of “seriously fellowshipping in Jesus,” I went to the Lamb House to get some of my belongings (mostly crates full of books), because I thought I might get thrown out at this meeting and I didn’t want to have to try to find a way to come back to Philadelphia to get them later, because this would have been difficult. But, since this had to do with preparing to leave the church by making advance preparations in case I got thrown out, I figured I had played around with “fire” right there. It was a double bind. We were under frequent threats of being put out of the church, yet making any provisions to be ready for that moment was a sin!]

Well, the new brother and the radio have left the meeting. All the ex-older brothers are saying they are not repentant. I said I wasn’t, but now I wish I had said I am going to repent and no longer play with fire. Well, I figure I would have a lot to prove.  It’s too much. Yet I see a couple of older brothers saying now they desire to repent. Verses about the son who said he wouldn’t serve, but later repented, come to mind, but also a voice, “excuses.” I guess I feel there is safety in numbers with so many of us making a negative claim, taking the lower seat. But also a voice, “I will make a way for you.”   Well, I need Jesus to make a way for me.

Well, I can’t say I am not playing with fire. What did I just do at the dinner break? I went to the Lamb House to get things I will want if and when I leave. Now I get to the meeting and can I say I have not or will not play with fire? When I have been playing with fire right there!

I desire a new beginning, something real and viable. “A way will be made for you.” Well, I changed my claim. I said I prefer Christ. The question sounds like, what do you prefer from now on? I figure, why go down without a fight? I could only be proven wrong. I don’t see how I would lose anything by claiming that I plan to repent. Unfortunately for me, I leaked out that I had gone to the Lamb House. (I said it to George, but Skylar overheard me. Skylar said it is games and he is going to tell. Then I tried to back pedal and minimize it.)

What is the value of honesty? Heard a voice say “trust the truth.” I really do question these voices!  I am going to keep quiet – if I am still around! A still tongue makes a wise slave! I had that on my mind the day I worked with Greg B., but I definitely started overstepping and going too far, by saying what I think about the lives of people in the world. I must be quiet. But, being human as I am, well, it is hard for humans to keep quiet. I always feel a need to talk to someone, to confide in someone or hope someone shares my views. I am really stupid!

So, I am here now, awaiting my execution, as I believe many of us are.

A quote from John Hersey’s book, The Wall: “The rule I set for myself long ago that I should never destroy anything from this record: the principle value of these jottings for later use will be as a guide to reactions of the moment and I cannot help it if they remind me and embarrass me.”

[This was a note about why I was writing journals. I was writing about everything going on and I was not censoring myself, by leaving out my negative thoughts, worries or anything unfavorable about myself.]

Well, I did / did not make it. I got caught as a string-pull repentance. As I thought I would, though. Stewart says that one week will show who is who. There is a list of 14 rules. (Such as “No playing around.”) I will ask Christ if I should try to follow these rules. That’s stupid. They seem like dead rules. Or maybe I am just dead. But, I thought, I don’t want to turn back to immorality. I do want life. Not for earning points, but for life itself. Better that I was caught for what I am, rather than getting away with my bogus claim. There is some desire there. I think I will keep a running commentary this week. I helps me sort out my thoughts, so I don’t get pushed into something in the heat of the moment. I also intend to write a history of my past ten years in the church. I intend to make it totally candid.

I wish I could really repent. Really break down. I wish I was really sorry. Repentance is a commandment. I should just obey the commandment and do it. Just tell and promise Jesus I am going to do it. He commanded all men everywhere to repent.

Here we are. Stewart is making mathematics jokes again. We are having a light moment at the meeting, if you want to call it that. Of course, this always reminds me that it is okay to study languages. I was about to launch into, at least, turmoil about that, if not worse.

[If Stewart studied mathematics and had other hobbies, then it was okay for me to study languages, I reasoned. I was being driven to give up all things about myself and to just follow and serve the program and agenda of the church.]

Hopefully, this ten year autobiography I want to write about my life will make me break down in thankfulness and remorse, for what God has done. Two dangerous extremes in writing this are: to expose this place as a cult, how I was mistreated – or beat myself and wretch over unfaithfulness. If I am really honest, I will bring out quite a few things.

We prayed. I prayed for God’s mercy. I prayed that God would give me a heart. I wish I had a heart. I wish I was sorry, broken.

Now, Stewart is telling us about Haiti. If any of the children there won’t act right, they get no supper. (It’s not their sin as much as their attitude, he says.)

So, five young men at the orphanage tested. They took a new church auto for a ride and lightly damaged it. So two of these were put out, as an example to the others, coming partly from if a man won’t work, don’t let him eat. (This raises little questions in my mind if this was right to do to them, but I will definitely not say anything.) This also raises questions in me if the same will be done to me if I refuse to slog through carpet cleaning all day, if I work all day, but turn down a night job. Will I be told I can’t eat after doing two or three jobs and refusing to do another? Will this pressure be leveled on me? Is it, or would it be right? Would I be driven out? If this were said to me, I guess I would buckle down and take the heat. Ask Christ for relief. Hopefully he would provide.

May 8

I wrote yesterday on the other paper. I was doing a lot of pretty heavy stewing, which began when Orlando said to me that he would like a nice place like this one, and then he said, “I don’t want to get you going.”

[Orlando saw that I had moved to a room on the upper floors of Woodruff. Most people lived further down in the church apartment building, because they didn’t like walking up to the top floor. It was quieter up there and I could get a room by myself, if I chose one of the smaller rooms. I knew that Orlando was only teasing me, but his comments set off a lot of things in me. By this time, some of us had been able to move out of the Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning shop, where we had been sleeping on the floor. I moved to Woodruff Avenue. The word “stewing,” was cult members’ lingo for “being into our head” about something negative that Stewart told us about ourselves. But it could also generally mean obsessing about something that was bothering us.]

When I woke up today, I thought about how nobody can ruin your life.

When I came down to the meeting, I heard a voice say, “I live daily to make intercession for you.”

May 10

Most of the notes I wrote are on the other paper. I’m trying to look to Christ. Time of trial.

May 12

Here we are again. Before the meeting. Feelings of anticipation, fear – but also a strange courage, strength and not caring. It’s hard to say what will happen. This is supposed to be the death sentence meeting and that is what my mind has been building up to. I also hear a voice, “don’t calculate.” I want to relax, but when I do, I get the feeling I want to be prepared. But I don’t know what’s coming.

8:45 am

[These are notes about a train ride I took along the Hudson River. I worked a job in the church business all night, and instead of finding somewhere to sleep, I went to Grand Central Terminal and I took an early morning ride. No one missed me because they figured I was asleep somewhere. I did this a few times in COBU. I would have gotten in trouble for it if anyone found out:]

I just make the train in time to get a window seat in the last car on the side overlooking the Hudson. The last car is good because you can see the whole train ahead on curves. (Though the first car is good if you want to hear the sound of the engines.) We leave, slowly accelerating. Reading the names of the cars on the other train across the platform as we pull out:  Maria Mitchell, Comet, Duchess, Sojourner Truth, Thomas Cole, Matthew Vassar and the two FL9 locomotives, numbers 2026 and 2015. Other FL9’s can be seen on other tracks as we slowly move through the dark recesses of the underground terminal. Three minutes later we are out of the Park Avenue Tunnel. View of the tenements of Harlem. Over a bridge. Here begin a series of curves where I can observe the engines up ahead. Now at the Hudson Palisades.

Here are two “My Need for Jesus” papers. The first was written in code, so it’s more the real deal. The second written was in plain English – because we had to show our Need for Jesus Papers to others upon request – and it is more the official or expected story. In a society where we were goaded to tell the “real truth” on ourselves, I would have never gotten away with telling the real truth on myself, nor would anyone else have, so in a parody of truth telling, we told the expected and required version of the “truth about ourselves” because nothing else was acceptable. If a brother or sister did try to tell the actual truth about themselves, they were guided back into the appropriate kind of truthtelling, which was the partly line, the evil truth about ourselves that was useful to Stewart as a way to keep the church system running by the use of guilt and fear, and on the feeling of being left out and trying to make it back in – or of being temporarily accepted and fanatically trying to hang on to that status, a status which could be revoked at any time. It was a method of whipping up frenzied activity and fear. It was an ever-changing basis to live on and constantly changing the members’ positions relative to one another via constant voting and proving themselves.


I need Jesus especially because of what I am going through, both inwardly and outwardly, and because of the condition of my salvation and soul. I probably am going to leave the church. I am only thinking of my need for Jesus because of that dream I had. Obviously, it was an offered solution. Only Jesus can steer me away from sin and grant me repentance, mercy and life. There is no other source. He can change my heart, life, circumstances, resentments, bitterness and bad attitudes. I need Jesus to help me boast of my weaknesses and to keep them out front for real. To come out of the darkness. To help me face death and to not run away from it.


I need Jesus especially right now, because of the poor condition of my salvation and soul. Only Jesus can keep me from sin, grant me repentance, mercy and life. There is no other source for these things, or for anything else I need (John 14:6). He can change my heart and life. He can bring me to death with him, so that I may also be united in a resurrection like his. He is my only source of salvation from hell.

Both statements were essentially the same, but I eliminated some comments that wouldn’t have gone over too well, such as about leaving the church, that I was “going through” something and that I had bad attitudes. Any of those things would have made me a target of abuse. You might say the first version was a rough draft for the second, which was polished up to be politically correct.


This is a poem I wrote about life in the Church of Bible Understanding:

The truth comes down from on high

on tablets of cold stone.

We bend our backs and sigh,

this is the rocky way to our eternal home.

We are under the yoke

of the Gospel of the Strong.

We serve till our back is broke

and doubters are told they are wrong.



These were things I saw in Stewart’s teachings that seemed contradictory. To think like this in itself was rebellion, because all of Stewart’s teachings were the truth and came directly from God. To openly say that there were inconsistencies in Stewart’s teachings would have meant much more than I was doubting the great teacher. It would have meant that I was an enemy of God and that I was seeking to tear down and destroy the church. In the world of absolutes that we lived in, the only possible motive anyone could ever have for questioning something was rebellion. We accepted Stewart’s teachings, or we didn’t. There was no middle ground. No room for opinions. No time to consider it first and think about it. We jumped instantly, said we believed it immediately, obeyed totally. Life could become very nasty for those who did anything less than that.

Stewart told us both of the things below, which I thought were contradictory. Why, you might ask, would I be so concerned about this? Because in the Church of Bible Understanding, everything flowed from the doctrines and these things were laws. They were laws because they were supposed to be the absolute, unchanging and legally binding truth.

“Christ has become my righteousness, or he has not. If you add, “by faith,” you are watering it down. You are crossing your fingers behind your back and just hoping it is true.”

“You can only say it by faith. You must say it without seeing it at first.”

(That trick Stewart plays, that you can’t say it unless you see it.)


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