1992, 05/13-14 and 06/08. Aflame With Passion

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.

May 13

The words “unbounding love” have come into my mind two times in the last two days. (But also last night, the words “misery, torture” – obviously words about hell.) I guess I couldn’t face that really without the accompanying words “unbounding love.” I heard those words. Yes, I did.

I am guarding Staten Island today. On the way over in the van, I said to Peter that I am sure that the sisters made no objection to the fact that I will be there. He said, “Don’t worry, a lot of people think like you, but they are too afraid to say.”

[Unlike myself, the other church members were wise enough to keep their private thoughts about Stewart Traill and the church to themselves.]

I want to just spend the day deeply involved in reading, also pray sometimes.

It is a very beautiful May day today, cool/warm, though cloudy. The leaves have that new, pure light green color. It is dazzlingly beautiful and fresh. I love it and can’t get enough. I wish it were spring forever. It has to be the most beautiful season of the year and I would like to prolong its beauty by enjoying it wherever I can.

It looks like things like jogging will fall by the wayside, but I hear of so many people who walk for exercise, whether it be messengers or even the author Lewis Carroll. It is a form of inconspicuous enjoyment that no one is able to detect. They can’t come down on me for enjoying my life in this world. And it can be done anywhere, anytime. It looks like this is the wave of the future for me. How many other things must I modify or go underground about? For artwork, I can just draw with ballpoint pens in a little pad, why not? Just sketch and doodle. For languages, well, I listen to Radio France sometimes, but I really wasn’t using languages or studying them very much anyway. It’s no big deal not being able to do things. (It has just been a relief moving out of Woodruff, where, supposedly according to Stewart, I had set up my home base in order to do my little things whenever I could. It’s a relief and I hope to never move back there again. I would just as soon live out of a suitcase and live in Red Hook for the next 10 years than go back to Woodruff again.)

I am trying to tell myself to face the fact that I will never get married and to accept that as a way of cutting off sex temptations. Maybe If I accept that, the craving will go away. Maybe that is unreal. (I thought of some real crazy stuff today, like finding a girl, maybe an Asian girl, to write love letters to and have her send them to me under a fictitious name or the name of one of my family members. We could correspond this way in secret. I wouldn’t be able to touch her, yet I could fulfill my longings for affection and female friendship this way.

[A brother used to have female penpals in Japan and Taiwan. They wrote nice letters and sent pictures of themselves. This was long before things changed in COBU and the whip started coming down on our lives.]

In my thoughts I have been driven for sex and I am in really big trouble even just because of this. How do you stop a raging stream or floodwaters? Or maybe that’s just a big excuse.

Carrie has just walked by. I didn’t say anything to her. I really don’t mind the loner’s life. I am prepared for the life of the solitary loner or the banished person. (Because of what I said to Stewart a week and a half ago. I probably am being avoided now by everyone for it and seen as an undesirable person. This pretty much takes away any illusions [that any sisters will ever like me or that I can get married here], because I was never really desired or sought after before, but I always thought I was. This pretty much removes illusions, finding out that there really was nothing there anyway.) I am just going to enjoy my surroundings today and read and write, and also send my mother a postcard. There is no point in looking for friendship where there never was any anyway. It’s almost like I must cast off everything and become like a simple child.

It’s a beautiful May day. I guess I will go for a walk at some point.

I am into secret writing. I keep my secrets to myself.

I am in sore trouble; warnings about hell all the time. These latest Bible studies only open a can of worms that always were there for me since about April 1988 anyway, but now it seems to be hitting the proverbial fan (for everybody). It was always my secret fear, my secret legacy that I lived with under the counter and made me the way I was, secretly fearing hell the whole while everybody else was into any kind of hopeful things. It was always my secret grounding wire that told me where I was really going. Since that dream, “Depart from me…,” it has been the rock bottom of my entire psyche, woven into everything I do, though often unconsciously. It’s like, I can never have any hope really, because everything always comes back to that, especially since I see my life lining up with it. Or at least, I know I am not faithful, or in the final essence, I am not “fully there.” Underneath everything – always, no matter what, I knew I was not fully there, so my destiny was already spelled out for me. I have lived a life of deep hopelessness. (I often think that I might as well go and sin as much as I can, because this is coming anyway. Yet, I also look for hope, because maybe it is not. Besides, if I do sin, I know it is positively coming. But, if I do not, then I at least have some kind of hope. Or at least, so I think.)

[I asked myself why I didn’t go and sin as much as I could, if I believed I was going to hell anyway. But, I reasoned, if I lived for sin, then I knew for sure that hell is my eternal fate. But if I did not abandon myself to sin, well then I could still hang on to some hope that I was not going to hell. If Stewart Traill, our pastor, were to find out about this thought process of mine, he would have said that my hanging on to hope of salvation was just a form of deceiving myself and that I was certainly on my way to hell.]

What good does it do to face the fact that I am absolutely going to hell? Though, this is what Stewart now encourages us to do in the name of facing the bad news. But at the same time, we are to turn away from sin, obviously in hope of receiving a pardon or to escape hell. So obviously this is a different way of going about it. I guess the difference is:

1)  I am going to hell and I want to; I don’t care about it.

Or:

2)  I am going to hell, but I want to do something about it. I want to, if possible, escape.

I guess this is the gospel message.

May 14

I am still in Staten Island this morning. I have done a lot of reading. There is a wonderful selection of books on the shelf which I am only beginning to discover. (Dickens, a book about WW2, a basic French course.) Reading has been good for me. It refreshes my mind. I had an attack of heavy passions last night. Nothing worked to get it away until I opened a book, “Blitzkrieg.” It went away immediately! Obviously I should have a stockpile of WW2 books on hand, not only for evenings, but what about for during the day? Would it work then also? I should carry around a paperback, a few chapters in my notebook pocket. It is worth a try. It’s amazing what an antidote it was. It almost doesn’t seem right!

(My calculations run to, “let your collection of idols deliver you.” But trying to pray with strong passions almost seems inappropriate. Also: it reminds me of  “if you don’t make use of lawful enjoyments, you will fall into unlawful ones.”

[This was from the Matthew Henry Commentary about 1. Corinthians 7.1: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife.” Matthew Henry wrote that if a person did not have the lawful enjoyment of sex in marriage, he would fall into the unlawful enjoyment of sex, outside of marriage. But I was not going to have this “lawful” option of marriage as long as I remained in COBU, because marriage was forbidden in COBU under the pretext that we were not faithful to Christ, and therefore marriage was not permitted to us.]

The lawful enjoyment of reading kept me out of trouble, at least for now. I was about to go for some kind of pleasure, something that would have occupied my whole mind. I guess the pressures I am confronting are just too great for me.)

[“When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry all of them up, and a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in Me will inherit the land and will possess My holy mountain.”  Isaiah 57:13 (NASB). This was a verse where God spoke to people who looked to their idols, their little carved figures, to deliver them, instead of relying on the living God for deliverance. I was afraid that if I looked to an idol (my own way of escape from “passions,” by distracting myself by reading, even if it worked) that God would just cast me off into sin anyway and that I was angering him even more by chosing this way out, rather than being down on my knees praying to him for help. But it felt inappropriate to pray to God while I was, as some euphemistically call it, “burning.”

Worrying about this shows my typical COBU way of thinking. Indecisiveness, uncertainty, helplessness and doubt were always instilled in us. In a church that boasted of having “the only true interpretation” of the Bible and a leader who claimed to have “assured understanding,” it was ironic that most church members were confused and uncertain about their faith, and of their standing with God and what God desired for them in their lives. Stewart reinforced our learned helplessness by prompting us to say things like, “I can’t even understand the Bible.” This mantra was taken up with surprising eagerness by many people there. Being lost and helpless as we were, this fostered even deeper layers of dependence on Stewart Traill, who was not only able to point out our weaknesses, but also, if he were aware of these problems, might also have the answers for us. Layer by layer, we were woven in to be dependent on Stewart to think and decide for us, and to command us what to do and what to believe. No one dared think for themselves, and no one dared to believe that they could understand anything beyond the basics of the Bible – which even if they did – they were going to be accused by Stewart of not being faithful to this basic understanding anyway.

I did understand in my last year or so in COBU that Stewart was trying to undermine our faith so that we would not dare trust our own thoughts and insights, and become even more dependent on him to lead us. I was afraid of what he was leading up to, because I saw him working hard to get us to be in this state of utter dependency.]

Possibly I will look for some books on WW2. The difficulty will come in wanting to read it all the time. The ideal thing is to have it for those times when I need it the most. I need to try it, maybe it will work.

June 8

I have not been writing in a while, but I have a strong desire to. I have just come off a pretty bad week. That is, about a week and a half. I suppose it has a lot to do with being in the wrong fellowship, the shame of being at Red Hook, the fear of death, and more.

[“Wrong fellowship” means that I was seen as standing apart from the others, who were in “right fellowship,” though each and everyone one of them were found to be just as unfaithful at the inquisitional meetings that Stewart regularly held with us. One of the purposes to have a group of people marked as not “being in right fellowship” was for an incentive to keep the others working harder, so as not to be put into this shameful category. There were always a group of people selected in the bottom of the barrel category. The names of this category often changed, but the underlying principle was the same.]

[About my desire for a woman and what not being able to fulfill this desire does to me]: I can’t take this way of life; why can’t I just have this? Why does it have to be such a big thing? I could go on and on, describing how this is for me. I have been giving in to hopelessness. Also, I have not been working much this week.

And yes, I have thought things about Stewart. Like at meetings, how it seems he asks us questions, as if he really were consulting our opinion. It looks like we are participating, but really he is just working on us. (In the sense of working with material.) There is no real talking with us, in a give and take sense. We all play along. There is still absolutely nothing on relationships. Absolute negation. It’s almost like relationships never existed and it’s only my dull memories of life back in the world that vaguely remind me of it.

[In all his teaching, plans and purposes for the church, Stewart included nothing about relationships and marriage. Therefore, it did not exist among us.]

I have not confessed my sins to anybody. I fear that if I did, I would get driven out immediately or at least put on a severe probation. And with what I have already done [for speaking up to Stewart Traill recently], it may be the last straw. It doesn’t seem like I would get help on it. Certainly nobody would tell me I need to get married. Rather, the opposite would probably happen. “You are so perverted that you can’t get married. In fact, you have to stay away from the sisters.”

I have been studying languages heavily, I guess as a way to try to keep myself busy. I’ve also been trying to do artwork, carrying my pad around. I may also start to draw on file cards, anything to sketch on.

Becky. If I could really have a relationship with her, would I really want her anyway?

***

[This is the end of the notebook I had been writing in. Below are some notes from the back pages of the notebook.]

Why can’t I live the contemplative life? I think I’d be a whole lot better. I should try to live this way as far as possible! Diaries may be the key to living that way, keeping my thoughts in journals.

1)  Stewart is more into meting out punishments than working with us and probing our minds to find out what we think. (Also, we will never tell him what we think. But he also asks for that.)

2)  Stewart is more into laying down the law and order than (the above).

Matthew Henry Commentary, p. 690. “Forbidding to marry is one of the erroneous doctrines of the antichristian church.”

I should have a network of informants, contacts, etc. Call around sometimes when on jobs and at night in Woodruff or when guarding Staten Island, just to talk with brothers.

If you don’t humble yourself and obey Christ, you are always going to be on your own with all these weird drives. No interest in life because you are not united. [This was a note from Stewart, a typical thing he would say. But of course, I always felt like I was run by “weird drives” – such as an unmet sex drive – so I thought this Stewart saying applied to me. As opposed to Matthew Henry, and the Bible, Stewart’s “cure” for drives was obeying Christ. Marriage was not mentioned as a way to “contain” as some people have described the remedy of marriage. This also shows that Stewart was aware of our unmet needs and in a roundabout way, blaming us for having unmet needs, because it was our fault we were not humble and obedient to Christ. Not only that, we were supposed to be “united” in one mind and purpose, that of following Christ. Yet it was hard to be united with any of the other church members, because of the way Stewart played us off against one another, caused us to mistrust one another, etc.]

Secret writing, like telegrapher’s shorthand.

Runwdstog+fismwyfdivthmthatsntdiscerbltobsrvgey.

[The above says, “Run words together and find some way of dividing them that is not discernible to the observing eye.” I was trying to make up a system of writing that no one else could read, so I could write this way in my journals.]

Notes on shorthand:

1)  Try to leave out or disguise vowels.

2)  Use accent markings to distinguish common words, such as, w‘  w^, for where, what, etc.

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