1992, 11/04-14. The Crushing Weight of COBU’s Self-Denial Teaching

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.

In this section, I talked a lot about carrying the burden of the self-denial teachings, as taught in COBU. We were supposed to cut off and deny every part of ourselves that was not useful to the bottom line of the church (all that did not bring in money and new converts and support the church’s agenda in some way). We were not supposed to develop any other ability or talents. We also didn’t have relationships or marry, because there was no place in the agenda for that either. The weight of unmet desires often gave me the feeling of being crushed.

November 4

Clinton was elected last night, where will the country be going now?

Working at Rauhauser’s with Pete.

I saw the words “Hic Domus Dei” on a school building. It made me think of Jacob’s Ladder and to study it. Lately, I  am not satisfied unless I study every day and I can’t get enough.

[“Hic domus Dei est et porta coeli” is Latin for “This is the house of God and the gate of heaven,” which is what Jacob said when he had the vision of the ladder.]

November 5

I spoke with Janet on the phone last night. I thought of how talking to my family bears some similarities to soliciting and closing jobs, in that it is improper and also likely to be less fruitful to only talk business. In fact that offends some people. I am likely to close more jobs by talking to customers about the weather, their kids and by admiring their house, as well as about the work we want to do there. But when it comes to my family, I feel constrained to just “do business” and that I have sinned in some way by talking about their jobs or hobbies. Because of such ideas that “I am not here for a social visit” and that I “must take a stand right away” or they are going to get me into this or that. I must make it clear that I stand for Christ immediately.

However, when it comes to money, we are immensely more practical and even-headed and are not swayed by such desperate impulses. During the closing of a job, I have chatted about the weather, been shown around someone’s house, saying the appropriate complimentary words where necessary, and even urged to sit down and have coffee, all the while never once thinking I was there on a social visit or straying from the purpose for which I came. (Although some brothers might say the above was straying, but I would have been rightly regarded as some pushy money-minded salesman and possibly they would have gone with some other company.) It was clearly on my mind to close a job and in fact, the customer didn’t think I was on a social visit either, though we were both very sociable. Why not with my family? I suppse that in cases where dollars and cents are the bottom line and are easily measurable as a standard of success, the end can be rightly said to justify the means. “Success” with your family is not so easily measurable. What is “success” with your family?

It is the same while doing jobs. It is appropriate to talk to our customers about things. This actually helps the job to go smoother. If we get to know them a little, it paves the way for an easier handling of complaints (and for getting extensions and referrals). Any practical businessman chats with his customers. Yet, I and they know that I am here to do a job, neither of us thought that I was there to socialize.

So then, I suppose that, with my family, it is no great wrong to talk about my brother’s job or the latest home improvement project he is doing his basement or to talk to Todd’s little daughters. Or, especially with my mother, to talk about when we were kids or to discuss anything that relates to our common experience. Our conversation would be pretty stilted without it and pretty unreal if I didn’t want to know about their lives.

The reason this comes up now is that Janet has mentioned the idea of everyone getting together over the Christmas holiday, which is a normal thing for them.

[We did not celebrate Christmas in COBU. And we were taught that it was wrong to take part in this holiday with our families, because it was idolatrous and because they were not really centering it in Christ. The same caveats applied to attending marriages, funerals and any other holiday or event with our families, because what they were doing, according to Stewart, was all “games and deceit,” and if we went there and did not take a clear stand against all this, we were taking part in it. And none of us were going to be able to take that stand, because the pressure to be sociable and to go along with all their “games” was just too great, and we would be overcome by this pressure and would also be sinning by taking part in it.]

I feel compelled to back out of the invitation, but I think that it may be the last time I see my mother alive! I haven’t seen her in five years. I don’t know when she’ll come up from Florida again and don’t know if I will go there.

A verse that has been on my mind today is the one about coming to hide yourself in the clefts of the rocks until the troubles are past.

I have been thinking of my life ten years ago, which was at the “Rescue Mission.” And with the insight of a decade, I think I am able to piece together some things that I was not aware of, or only dimly aware of at the time. I think it’s worth taking an in-depth look into it. (One thing is why did I never get married back then? When it seemed I really wanted to and had the most opportunity. I wish I kept a diary back then, a thinking diary. It might have helped me sort things out and to articulate better, if only to myself, the half-conscious impulses and ideas I was being run by.) I suppose that to another person, it would seem that I was trying to cast aspersions by keeping a diary, though my idea would only be to understand myself better by playing back this material that I find to be stored in my memory as if it were on video tape. I read in the introduction to a book by H. R. Niebuhr that any attempts to understand the past are really attempts to understand the present, since it is from the viewpoint of the present time and current issues that we delve back into the past, asking questions pertaining to what concerns us now. I would say that this is one of the things I am doing.

November 6

Will work with Peter tonight at Albustan restaurant. I was working on my lead box today. [A box with potential customers’ names on file cards.] It was hard to get anything done. I need a plan for doing things. I don’t seem to be able to concentrate well. I need a comprehensive study plan.

I am now in another of those situations which proves that error compounds. Three hours lost time, because I forgot the wrenches. Three hours for two little pieces of metal. (It’s always the little things you forget. I would never forget the wood floor machine, but I would forget the wrenches. Error compounds. If you find an error, you can almost always find a previous error that lead to it. I didn’t check to see if we had the little paraphernalia and assumed Peter had his tool bag. But the previous error, if I had my own tool box, this wouldn’t happen. So I will make such a box with what I need in general, plus an assortment of the usual commonly forgotten items. This previous error chain, it’s like those unending mirror pictures, or a picture inside a picture, ad infinitum. Fortunately, hopefully, such chains can be broken. Of course, once I get these things saddled, it’s hard to measure errors that don’t happen since you were prepared, therefore they don’t occur.

Working with Peter. He’s hard to talk to, because he always comes from his “conspiracy” theories and only grows irritated if I talk to him about how absurd all that is. He barely says a word, or a few lines without switching into this mode. What must his mind be like? I told him he ought to write a book.

Nov 8  Sunday    

Out with a “crew” of new brothers as driver. Now paused momentarily alone, ostensibly to watch the van, but really to get some time alone to think, pray and read. (And listen to a radio show.)

It’s good to get away sometimes. As soon as I got outside of our dark dingy little place today and got fresh air and sunlight and a glimpse at a clear blue sky, I felt so much better. When I step away from our microcosm, it’s then that I realize just how much I am caught up in it and how sloppily I live. How much it governs my thoughts. I drip my life away. There is actually no sense of time here. Part of the cause of our sloppiness, I believe, is due to our communal system in which all things, aside from one’s own personal belongings, are shared. There is no vested interest. Therefore there is no great care for the upkeep of things. To use the example of vans: why should anyone clean up, repair or put gas in a van, if it is only going to get handed over to someone who doesn’t care and won’t continue the process?  Whereas, because Paul keeps and maintains his own van, it’s easier for him to be concerned with its upkeep, knowing that it won’t be handed over to someone who will undo whatever he did. Also he can become aware of its particular problems because he uses it all the time. This applies to a lot of things besides vans. I don’t think we should go to a completely private property standard, but things could be handled better in smaller, permanent groups where the members therein have a vested interest in what they do, produce and watch over.

I am now in a “Red Hook meeting” with Brother Stewart speaking on Matthew 13, mostly to the newer brothers, but when and wherever, if the shoe fits, wear it. Stewart is talking mostly about the seed that fell on the path being the newest ones and how the new brothers must be prepared and if we don’t get after them, they won’t be around for much longer. We need to get them to understand.

[Stewart often gave the “Matthew 13 Bible Study” to the new disciples. This was Jesus’s parable about the sower casting seeds. The seeds fell on four kinds of soil, and only the seeds that fell on the good soil grew. New brothers taking their “Christian Training” seriously and living the COBU way of life was the (only) way to ensure that they would be the seed that fell in the good soil and grew, instead of died.]

It seems so much that God wants me to keep a diary. For my own use, but I wonder also if it’s not for others, meaning that it might be read after my death. I feel lead to write it. It may be for a witness, as a means of glorifying God (either way) and encouraging others either way also. By this I mean that God will be glorified either way, either by my turning and faithfulness, or in my unfaithfulness and death, as a warning how not to be. A testimony to the truth of his word either way. Knowing this, I will try to record my experiences as closely as I can. It will be good for me too, as an exercise in truthfulness and self-examination.

I also seem to be shown to choose a certain set of books to read and re-read in order to know them well. So far I have chosen the following: Grace Abounding, The Matthew Henry Commentary, Calvin’s Commentaries, Calvin’s Institutes, Luther’s Commentary on Galatians. I can know them and come from them. I see a need to tighten the borders, or the focus of my life, and to not be so spread thin in thought, action, choice of activities and prayer. As for the books, it’s not that I can’t read anything else, but I feel I am too all over the board and not concentrating on anything in an organized way. I also want to work steadier on Greek and possibly Hebrew.

When the subject of marriage comes to mind, God seems to say “one year.” Possibly it is only wishful thinking or I am self-deceived. But then it may also be a “still small voice.” It is like the time when I said to myself in anger, “I bet we’ll all be able to get married – when Stewart dies! And not before!” Immediately I was checked with “That is not true!” A voice, I took it to be God. On one hand, because I would have never said that and also because it came as a stiff rebuke, my conscience bearing witness to it that this was wrong thinking.

November 9

Soliciting today. I met up with Greg B. Then I went to the library and read Calvin’s Commentary on 1 John and Dwight on the plans for a man’s life.

For various reasons, I am getting frazzled. I began to pray. I was thinking of Chuck Colson and his books. He would not have a series of reasons built up about why he can’t pray. But I see him as the type who, all worn out and at his wit’s end, slumps down into a chair and begins to pray, “Jesus help me.” (And Jesus’s response is not, “Oh, now you decide to pray to me?”)

I feel so constrained, this makes me wish for older times in the church, when certain things weren’t prohibited. (Not that it was so great back then either.) We could develop some hobbies or interests or collect things and not feel bad about it. I could do artwork and display my pictures on the wall without fear of being accused of worldliness. It was just something that others would glance at momentarily and then just go about their business. Maybe they’d say, “Hey, you drew that? That’s really good.” It was something that helped others know a little more about me. I didn’t feel I had to hide what I was about. I also remember running on Saturday and Sunday mornings in the park. I didn’t feel tied up by restrictions and laws back then. I wouldn’t dare do these things now. I feel as if I would be cross examined and brought to account. I live a very circumspect, guarded and careful life. What called this to mind was that I was at the library and photocopied some pictures out of a book that I would like to make drawings from. But I have felt like this all the time, in general.

I was thinking about languages, how they must be planted and developed long before I ever set foot on the soil of a foreign country. I suppose, with our extremely nihilistic and purely functional view of only doing what is absolutely necessary regarding this life, that one would not study a language unless he absolutely knew he was called to go to a certain country and would only study that specific language. But, by then, it might be too late to have a useful proficiency in it, since it takes 4 to 5 years to really get to know it. I could see our practical missionary on his way to the distant land of Pango-Pango, trying to give himself a cram course in Pangolese (reading “Pangolese in 30 Minutes a Day”) on the flight to his destination, trying to fit all 20 lessons into his 10 hour flight, expecting to speak the language intelligibly to the first native he saw upon disembarking. He would not actually open the book till the plane lifted off the runway, because if the flight were suddenly canceled, his conscience would bother him for wasting time.

Then I think of William Carey, who long before he ever set foot in India, was interested in and studied world geography before he knew he was going to India. In fact, the idea of traveling seemed as if it were a pipe dream, but his longings and dreaming weren’t wasted. He knew several languages before he went. If he had been hobbled by the laws we have here, which are almost like those Jewish dietary laws, well, he might not have fared so well than if he had followed his desires, longings and visions.

The Puritan view of choosing a calling took in to account such obvious factors such as a person’s inclinations and aptitudes. A person’s nature and abilities were considered to have been given to him by God and he was exhorted to find a calling suitable to these things. They didn’t hold to the idea that one must “refuse to live out the things that seem to be there inside yourself and to “kill everything and smash up and throw everything away,” as Stewart tells us to do. They were practical thinkers who lived in a real world. They were against sin, but not against “nature.”

Perhaps our communal lifestyle, where we live in separation (in a plastic bubble) from the world, causes us to be less pragmatic. Where individual differences get subordinated to the cause and to the ideals held out here to be of the most value, which are the ideas of self-abnegation and denial, where one must know nothing but Christ and to talk about nothing but Christ day and night – because everybody’s watching. There may be a heightened (and distorted) view of the ideal Christian man, one that has no feet touching the earth and who has transcended all worldly cares and desires so as to either not have them at all, or to be completely oblivious to them. But we may be misrepresenting God if he is not really that way, or if he has left the things free that we say are prohibited.

Nov 10   Starret City.

“I hung on a cross. Fix this firmly in your mind.”

[These are words I heard while praying.]

I prayed that Jesus would make this effective in my life.

November 11

We were sanding wood floors in Starret City in the church’s flooring business:

At Starret City one more time, with Paul and George. Tonight, there will be a brothers’ meeting. Books I am presently reading: New England Village. The Way of Life by Tolstoy. The Bible, a little bit.

Maybe I should go back to keeping this book in code. I have many things on my mind and I am scared to have a book with my words in it that could fall into someone else’s hands.

I have been thinking much about our society and how it is unreal or at least outdated. It may have been just great for a bunch of kids in the late 1970’s, but I don’t think it is viable right now. Some should live in, but I think older brothers and sisters especially should live out and be married, at least for the most part. But the divide between the brothers and sisters has probably never been greater than it is now. We are a perfect imitation of the Shakers and the Rappites, with brothers and sisters working side by side at the same work in their separate units, but other than that, never having anything to do with one another and never getting married.

I get sick of thinking about all of this, but this is the kind of thing that drives me, especially when I am in this condition.

Right now (in the office), some brothers are discussing the idea of writing our plan. I have experience with many kinds of official types of plans, but if I were to write a real plan, or write about what I really think, it would be quite different. It would probably be: I think this place is unreal and that I need to study other views, and study about communal and utopian societies to see just how I am being affected by pressures that are unreal and not a part of Christian life at all.

I see it as extremely necessary to live in hiding, to conceal everything about me and what I do. To develop some interests and activities that I can do without anybody seeing me, such as walking, language study, artwork and business.

I am afraid that someone might find this book and read it. Maybe I should write in French because it is easier to read while at the same time practically impossible for other people to figure it out. Also it’s a good exercise in the French language, because I will have to look up and learn words I don’t know.

I can’t bear the things I hear about the older brothers. It’s too strong and too impossible. I think that these things should drive a man to seek Jesus, but as for me, they cut me down and drive me toward sin. Sometimes I think that it would be better to do nothing, possess nothing, to seek nothing, and that this would be the only way to survive here.

[”Brother Stewart” always had very negative – if not utterly condemning – things to say about the older brothers. Yet, other than his earnings from his used camera business, Stewart relied on the older brothers’ labor as his only source of income.]

I have a strange idea that the sisters, especially those on the council, will make certain that the brothers take the sisters in marriage, and that they will treat them with the appropriate care. I live without marriage. Not being able to marry is unbearable for me, due to the problem explained in the seventh chapter of First Corinthians. It is explained in a clear and appropriate way. This is one of my problems.

Something to watch: what will happen with Chuck’s desire to visit an older woman friend in Pennsylvania who is at the point of death? It is difficult to ask for and do a thing like that, whatever it may be, because we have lost contact with reality, and we can’t do a single thing without all kinds of deliberation and clichés, while at the same time, nobody wants to be responsible for any decision. This makes me fear for my future and the things to come. What will happen when I ask the brothers for permission to visit my family for a while if someone is sick or has died? Will I get permission to do it? Or will I be covered with restrictions and rules? And when that happens, what should I do? Obey? Go visit my family in spite of this? Will I be allowed to come back to the church when I get back?

Why read verses about judgment and condemnation, if you can’t run to Jesus Christ? Why read these verses without exhorting one another about the love of Christ and his sacrifice?

[We had to read “hell and warning verses” all the time, to “stir up our fear.” But we did not read encouragement verses. Stewart said that we had to face the “bad news” first, before the good news could have any effect on us.]

November 12

Today, I am soliciting. For the first part of the day, I was alone. Then I ran into Jay and a new brother, who were also soliciting. When I called the office, I talked with that certain woman, her voice was sweet. Am I not married because I am too proud? What do I have to do to get married? (Sell all that I have?) I don’t want to be the way I am in general, and in particular, the way I am today. Is there a solution?

Sometimes I think that the only way to survive here is to live in a very distant corner.

I am sitting at a desk in front of a picture of Peter, who is half sunk, being lifted out of the water by Jesus. I feel about the same way right now.

Paul asked me the other day that if I lived in the world, wouldn’t I gravitate to some other line of work? (He was saying that I am not really interested in doing wood floors.) This is true, or at least I would definitely try, even if I got a delivery job first (or even if I held it for a long time).  [A delivery job would allow me to get away from everyone and everything, at least during working hours, and I could get some time to sort some things out. I had a job like this in 1988, while a member of the church.] I would still build my attitudes, interests, desires into it and look forward and plan to the day when I didn’t have this job which was only a stepping stone, however temporarily or long. I would get busy and constructive with foreign languages and if I found there was no work to be found in these fields, I would either incorporate them as a minor to whatever else would be my “major.” Or, I would look for something entirely different (and keep languages as a hobby). But for sure, I would get practical and resourceful. I wouldn’t live in this oblivion. Both of my feet would be on the ground and I would be a lot more practical. The question is, can I be this way now? I believe that there are also hindrances to living this way here, but possibly, they are fictitious. I’ll never see clearly either way until I try. I need to think of my future. I always think God will be angry with me if I “try to get my life together.”

[We were taught that it was wrong to get our lives together, and that it was dangerous. Stewart Traill told us, “If you ever did get your life together, that’s the last you’ll ever see of Jesus.” This meant that we would no longer feel a need to rely on God and soon wouldn’t be relying on him for anything. The choice was either to not have our lives together (be dependents) or to get our lives together, and as a result, be lost and end up in hell for all eternity. These teachings had their intended effect on me; I was afraid to “get my life together,” and lose Jesus and lose my soul. I remember in my earlier years in the church fearing that if I invested heavily in foreign languages (if I tried to do this to get my life together and have a career in it), that Jesus might make me lose my hearing or sight, so that I couldn’t hear languages or read them. Jesus would do this, of course, to stop me from getting my life together, so I would not end up lost and in hell. This was played out socially was well. Living communally, giving all the money I made to the church, I was not going to save any money for college. Nor could I take time away from church activities to go to school.]

But what? God would be angry because I find another line of work? One that I might like a little more? It just doesn’t seem right to me that God wants me to cut off pieces of myself and throw them away. It’s possible he gave me these abilities. And speaking of fearing God and “killing everything” as a result, what about fearing God, therefore finding out how to use these things he gave me? Otherwise I might be misrepresenting God. I should fear giving into nihilism out of some servile fear and making Christianity out to be a form of Buddhism where Nirvana (the extinguishing of all desire and thereby finding relief in oblivion) is the goal. We read John Bunyan books a lot. They are the most widely read books in the fellowship. (I observe that no one reads the notes from our meetings about what Stewart says. To me, they appear confused and deranged, but nobody says that – out of fear, maybe. We pay them lip service, but read other things.) I suppose that if John Bunyan were to come and speak to us, he would both upbraid the brothers for their sloth and encourage them to seek the heavenly city. He probably would be astounded by our unreal lives, the things we hold to be of great value. The goals we strive for. The attitude that one must achieve perfection before he even starts.

Verses like James 4, these are used here only for control. To justify the reasons why a man can receive nothing here. We have a system in which scriptures are used to enforce the status quo, rather than a dynamic system in which the scriptures are a powerful and life-giving force.

[James 4: 2-4 says: “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”  

This was always a difficult verse for me. It seemed I could never “ask rightly,” for marriage, that is, to ask with right motives, because marriage involved “passion” and “pleasure.” How could I ask for marriage, while not asking to have it for this reason? A comment I read in the Matthew Henry Commentary about the need for marriage was, “If we do not have lawful pleasures, we will have unlawful ones.” But such common sense was not a part of the unreality of COBU life. Being outside of COBU, I would have just gone ahead and gotten married, and this inward debate would not have existed.]

November 13

I am soliciting. First, at Red Hook by telephone.

I must work very hard, and receive nothing.

Am I working for the devil? Are my good works, in reality, sins because I don’t do them out of free will and good desire? And because I would not do them if that were possible. I do them because I am forced to. I need to think about that. What should I do with my life?

I spoke with that sister again. Does God want me to do something? I won’t do anything, because nothing works. I will be patient. I will speak without pride, if that’s possible, but without doing anything. I can do nothing, according to my experience. I can’t do anything, except errors.

I live under the law. The law is everything. (For me and among us.)

That sister, the one whose name translated from Greek is “dark” [I didn’t want to put her name in print] is rather friendly toward me. She asks me things, questions. But always officially. I tried to answer in a more direct way, then, she turns cold. There is absolutely nothing I can do to bridge this gap. I stopped. I am not going to try anything.  It just doesn’t work.

This has been somewhat of a fight today; Sisters being friendly to me, giving little cues. Me, trying to respond by artificially thinking up things to say, then they withdraw. I suppose they are ashamed of their attractions for me, yet can’t deny these attractions. So they try little things. I respond and they keep themselves protected.

I stopped by the library today after soliciting. Walked a lot today. I was at 45th and 5th, and instead of taking the bus back, I figured I would walk, because this is the only exercise I get and the only time I get to myself. (I don’t run anymore.)

Getting ready for a night job at the “Pen and Pencil.” I lay down a while and had a dream about [the sister I mentioned above], that was I walking with her. It was just about like what happened today. She liked being with me, but didn’t say so. Eventually she fainted. I had to carry her and put her in a taxi.

Well, you are not supposed to go by dreams, but by scripture, because it is in the Word that Christ is revealed.

Listened to Japanese radio, then Bengali radio a little bit. Figure I might learn both, especially Japanese. I enjoy listening anyway, even if I don’t understand the words. It’s like listening to music.

Maybe I am like a slave, who really can’t do anything, but he does get an opportunity to learn some trade or something and gets recognized or gets some privileges for that.

The emergency room: I guess one of the reasons that could be advanced for why I can’t get married is that I am in the emergency room. (No time to get my life together because of my extreme state of emergency.) But, I hold a job, don’t I?

These arguments which are put forth here as reasons for things don’t really hold water when I poke my finger through them. (For example, a person in an emergency room isn’t able to hold a job either. But if you poke holes in things, then you are complaining. Complaining is against the law. I might try it though. Gently. To see what I can get away with, the idea being, you never know till you try. Test the waters a little bit. I don’t know, this slave talk is a little bit too much for me. This voluntary self-abasement. It’s bad enough when others do it to me, but, to outdo myself in what I say I hate, well, that is pretty weird.)

[In recent meetings, Stewart was telling us that we were slaves, using verses where the Apostle Paul said he was a slave of Christ. Stewart used this to tell us we were slaves of this system he set up, but of course, he didn’t say it that way. We were supposed to serve Christ, as slaves, according to this way which Stewart taught here. A slave never questions, but always obeys. The slave owns nothing and has no will of his own. He does his master’s will.]

I know I need to get married. It’s pretty obvious to me (whatever the laws here may be). Something I thought is that, when I have a need, sure, the answer is that Jesus gives me himself. This is the proposed remedy, that all I need is Jesus. But I also know that when I am hungry, Jesus provides food for hunger, not himself. Though I know it comes from him. So I know I need a wife as a remedy for sexual temptation. Like I say, it’s pretty obvious to me. Even if a man legislates laws against a particular thing or has reasons why you can’t have it, what is still is. It’s like I have to argue that gravity actually makes things fall down. Yes, it’s a scientific fact, I say, even though you don’t believe it. Well, even if I can’t convince anybody, it is still true, and even if I don’t think so, it’s still true. Things just work a certain way.

I hear today from Paul that “the sisters are speaking well of me” because I closed some jobs today and I called into the office “a lot.” Though the jobs I closed actually weren’t very much, in my opinion.

Right now, I am just into M. She is pretty. Her hair was all frizzed out today, her face seemed bright and attractive. I had to speak to her face to face. I couldn’t conceal my attraction. Had to keep averting my eyes. I get such warm vibes from her, really warm soothing vibes, like being gently stroked and loved. It’s almost like she is kissing me with her eyes. Could a woman really be that much interested in me? What would it be like to acknowledge this openly, to be able to stay up late talking with her or take her out to a restaurant? Am I the brother she is most interested in? That certainly would be very flattering. Hard to say no to such a thing. Why can’t we be open about these things, isn’t all this ridiculous? What unknown pain does this cause?

Is God showing me about M. and to wait patiently? Because really, aside from praying, there is not much I can do anyway. The truth is, M. is a very beautiful woman.

November 14

Woke up around 12:30 in the afternoon, walked to the number 4 train to Bowling Green. Now on the ferry. It’s pleasant to ride the ferry. The bay is beautiful. I need to get out and do things once in a while. I need to get up in the morning before work and go walking. To take time to be away and to think about things. It gets too claustrophobic here. I notice that as soon as I walked away from the shop – sure, I walk when soliciting – but I also need recreational walking where I am free to think and compose my thoughts, rather than feeling pressured to go find work and have my mind occupied with that. Getting away to Staten Island is probably the best thing that could have happened to me today.

I was doing some heavy thinking on marriage on the way over here:

No marriages because workers would be lost from the business.

Right now, nobody is allowed to say no to any requirement for work, day or night. We must be available. No excuses are accepted. (Except for maybe I am too tired because I worked last night.) Even though we are asked “if you would be available.” But if you are married, then you begin to have legitimate excuses such as, “No, I need to spend some time with my wife and children.” You really couldn’t be ordered to work then. The church would have to be awfully perverse to say you couldn’t have time for your family. (But right now, my excuses, such as “I have been working a lot, I would like to take some time to do artwork or to catch up on some reading” – no way!)

Stewart is not going to tell anyone they can’t get married, but no way are they going to get married without his approval either.

It is not in the interests of the church that there are marriages, but it is in the interest of the church that we work. (Even if we are unfaithful, even if Stewart has said to the older brothers, “To hell with your gold and silver.” In the same breath, we are exhorted to work, work, work.) If marriage were in the best interests of the church as well, then I am sure that any restrictions would be waived out of mercy, or whatever. (Such as, if we needed offspring to propagate our church. That is, we must get married and bear children, who will take care of our farms, who will take over our shops? [I was referring to the utopian societies from the last century that had farms, and also needed offspring to build up and populate their groups.] But as it is right now, people are a dime a dozen. If we want new people, just go out and get them. We are not in a bind as far as “propagating our race.” People are expendable, easy to get, easy come, easy go.)

One thing for sure, I live under total compulsion. Even my religious reading, let alone my religious service (when I do it) is totally out of compulsion and I obviously know that I would much rather be doing something else. It’s just that I won’t dare even to admit it to myself, although I know it’s true. It’s just that I won’t let myself do it. I won’t be into artwork, languages and running. Out of some kind of fear.

But for sure, as in Luther’s writings, my compulsory service avails nothing except to make me a further hypocrite. But I don’t dare go against that out of fear. I am going to get back into the things I love to do – that’s right, it won’t save me. But I want to try it as an experiment. I read a survey on how to avoid stress. Besides saying that a person should arrange his activities in order of importance and do them accordingly so that he sees himself making progress, it also said to develop some hobbies or interests in order to blow off steam. This is what I will do, or go back to doing. In my deepest heart, I really don’t believe in Traillism anyway – I just fear it. You would think it was the basic message of the whole Bible, the way Stewart pushes self-abnegation and annihilation.

I can’t talk with women, because I am too bad, I guess. Why shouldn’t I talk with women? Maybe I could talk with women outside of the fellowship. Like the way I talked with that Jewish girl who was selling books. I hate the way I am, I am so weird, so fearful of temptation – but, I think, in an unnatural, unreal way. Like the way Dennis O. [a brother who left a long time ago] was. Whenever he saw a picture of a woman in an ad on the subway, he buried his head in his hands and groaned. That is pretty strange, but I definitely see myself in that.

I wish I could just have my own wife. I could be a father and husband who takes care of his life and his responsibilities and who has a little bit of a private life with himself and his family. Who is the head of his own household without being under someone else’s yoke all the time.

Why is it so hard to get married? Why can’t I just have my own family? I am really considering to start talking with women outside of the fellowship. Is there a law against that? If I can’t have one of these sisters here, then why do I have to be tied up as if I am obligated to speak only with them? I could see if this is where I am supposed to wait and expect a wife from, but it doesn’t look like this will be the case.

If sexual immorality is such a bad sin, then I must flee to marriage. Case in point: married couples in 1 Corinthians 7 are urged to give each other their conjugal rights. If they separate for a season, they are urged to get back together lest Satan tempt them through lack of self control. They are not urged to flee to Christ and cling to him concerning this problem. They are urged to fly back to each other and cling to each other and to the lawful use of sexual activity. It doesn’t say if they are faithful to Christ or not, though I suppose this is written to the faithful, but even so, those outside the church married. What is this artificial in between? It just says one state is better than another. Marriage is better than burning, or being aflame with passion. I can read, I can see what it says in plain English – or in Greek. I don’t need any sophistry as a means to talk me out of it.

The problem is, should I go outside of the church to do it? I know I will never get married here unless the king changes his mind.

Cutting off pieces of myself, abstaining from this or that, isn’t going to work for me. I do believe I am sinning, in the sense of trying to take on a burden that is too great for me or trying live a life I am not cut out for. (As in the Matthew Henry commentary.) I need to be married, should have been long ago, despite whatever our leader says and whatever his economic plans for us are. This is going to cost me my life!  I could be more faithful to Jesus married than single.

I feel caught and tangled in a web of a dying, overstructured and overregulated organization that prohibits everything at the expense of the cause and of communal life, where all individual differences and wants have to be subordinated to the cause to make a smooth operation.

Is it really Jesus who will not give me a wife because I am not serious enough or not relying on him or whatever, or is it really just Stewart who makes up all his rules and regulations to enforce self-abasement? Why am I such a slave? Am I really that bad that I have to live like a person who should just be lucky that he is alive and has the privilege of working on the plantation instead of being in the grave? Come on! This is the 20th Century, not the dark ages! Why all this servile fear and obedience to this one man?

Another thing, if Stewart is really so ready to drive me out of the church, then why am I obligated to the church for anything, let alone to find a marriage partner here? I have let this go on too long, trying to be good, so that maybe I can get a wife through the proper channels, whatever those might be. I better wake up!

I can see that in trying to patch myself up with pieces of the Christian faith, or pieces of good cloth, that all they have done is ripped and now a worse tear has been made and I don’t know just how far it is going to keep ripping.

I must: stop doing things, anything, out of compulsion, like total quits. Whether Christian things or otherwise. I must go back to my original interests and desires. I can’t be anything else but me. All this self abnegation doesn’t avail.

I must at least try to start talking with women. Not beautiful women who will have nothing to do with me, but ones who seem to be of my own kind, ones I could get along with on a long-term basis and who wouldn’t be dissatisfied with me.

Regarding the fear of God, maybe I should practice the fear of God by not living so unnaturally and wound up all the time.

(Am I just making up all of the above, or is it that I understand myself pretty well, well enough to understand what is going on? I read in a newspaper yesterday about how Russian immigrants have trouble being honest and that they fear filling out forms here in the US because, as one of them said, “In Russia, we learned not to say what we think and to not think about what we are saying.” I would say that this description fits me pretty well. Very well. I think a lot of things, but I just don’t say them, out of fear of retribution. But I also have a problem which is potentially more damaging and that is not being willing to openly admit these things to myself and to face and deal with them.)

I don’t really believe Stewart and our church. I think it is a dying organization that must fall back on old standards and ways as it falls apart. It is trying to conserve the old way as a bastion against change which is badly needed. But the rules, which are no longer viable, cannot be bent. Over our leader’s dead body.

It is a closed off society that can only function within itself. We have become so unreal, that we can’t even have any real dealings with the rest of the world or even with other churches. Indeed, for this way of life to continue at all, it must function in complete isolation. Any outside influence would be like turning the lights on and would be like diluting it. We are extremely protective of ourselves and we don’t let anybody know what is going on here. I don’t let my mother or my family know, or customers, or even the new people we bring in here. We tell no one about our deep dark secrets.

But, ultimately, it is the man at the top. Until he crumbles or relents, nothing will change. Unless it is in the area of control actually getting tighter! He is very much like Castro or the leader of North Korea. Isolated countries which are all sewn up and will only change with the death of their leaders. In fact, the older Stewart gets, the tighter the control gets.

It is not like Russia, where economics problems tumbled the whole system. Or even in the time of the Reformation in which a handful of men alone couldn’t have changed things unless the whole political and social climate was ripe for change. Also, these were large scale events. I wonder if the problem is that we are so small. (And thereby so easy to control. Nothing gets by Stewart’s watchful gaze. Nothing happens without his approval. He has every door guarded, every way of approach has a cannon aimed down it.) If we were a bigger organization, it might be harder to control and harder to keep outside influences and contacts out.

I see my condition worsening, and of course, all those meetings where we hear about the older brothers and how bad and hopeless we are, are not without effect. Whether it is Stewart telling Joe that he is a child of darkness, or Stewart telling us things like, “you will all soon be gone anyway.”

I really can’t take this hiding anymore (or can I?). Hiding the real me, what I want, what I am and what I am up to. I went under a while ago. It’s hard to place where, maybe it was a decade ago, but more recently maybe about two years ago with the whole “810” era and subsequent dealings, and most recently last time with my ultimatum. But that probably was just icing on the cake. I have just settled for a hideout life, willingly and by constraint. Willingly constrained? I mean, I don’t like this, but I have willingly put up with it, seeing, it seemed, that there was no way out of it. (Now, I could understand being subjugated by force, yet having a fighting spirit about it. But I am willingly complying with my prisoner status. How much am I like Ivan Denisovich?  [In Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s book A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.] He was just happy if he got a little extra food at the end of the day. He had no higher strivings. He was completely broken and docile. I mean, look at my life. I work my dull wood floor jobs. Okay, it’s better than carpet cleaning. I have my little place in a shack and I consider it good because it is better than what others have. This is an utterly ridiculous life, through and through. It has got to be utterly damaging and extremely conducive to sin. What am I going to do to change my life? Take walks in the morning? Or is it that I never really did “sell all I have?” Do I implore God for faith as Martin Luther says to do? I was wondering if I should start at a simpler basis than mercy and grace, and just ask for the faith to believe it all.

As far as women in my life, I really need someone to hold. (Also to talk with. How normal and refreshing something like that is, but I can’t even keep up or even get something like that started.)

The idea of marriage in the fellowship is just so horrible though. The picture is so bad, you imagine that you would never want it. But I never hear them say they would un-marry if they could. These married women who say how bad their marriages are and how unfaithful their husbands are. But they never say they wish they were single again either.

[Married couples didn’t “live in.” There were no marriages in COBU after 1979. Stewart was always extra condemning and abusive to the so-called “married live-out brothers” in an attempt to sell to all the others how bad the idea of marriage was, and to help us to feel that we were better off single and living in the church instead.]

I don’t belive Stewart’s gimmicks and methods, his controls over people. I feel as if I am locked up in his prison house to be used as he sees fit to build his empire (These are my secret thoughts that I never tell anybody. The things I can only write in my diary, and in code at that, because I so dearly fear getting caught and thrown out!) This is just completely unreal. It takes a lot of effort to keep myself so tightly under wraps, a lot more effort than just being myself. The question is, how to stop? I imagine I would have to leave this prison. I am just going to die this way. Basically, I am on an artificial life support system, or maybe just an opiate. I have also lived so completely unreal over the last twelve years as to be completely unfit to live in the real world and I have completely lost touch with reality and now my problems are catching up with me and I can’t just go bury my head in the sand or keep running faster or just keep being a little religious penguin. (The phrase, “chasing religious rainbows” came to my mind today.) Because that’s what I will do if I ever get back up again and into the race, chasing off after religious rainbows as a way to either solve, or better yet, forget my problems. But then also, I know I better not even try or even raise my voice to speak of this need publicly. I know the answer would be no, with a lot of rules, teaching and sophistry. Maybe I would just get slapped in the face or insulted and not even be dealt with substantively. I am completely sunk as far as standing up and voicing my needs and wants. Isn’t that a strange life? And now I have a problem that is strangling me and choking the life out of me.

What will become of this? I mean, if I actually do get the wife I need, would it be because God miraculously supplied one to me? Or will I meet a wife outside of the fellowship? Or will Stewart die? This would cause upheaval, but it would at least make for some opportunities as his iron grip is loosened. Will I then be able to have what is mine by natural right, without having to try to jump over some impossible religious hurdles? I know, we all know, the problem is Stewart. We all know that he exercises an iron grip over our lives, because we must say precepts like “Our own sin is our basic problem.” We all know it, at least the ones who have a little bit of perspicuity (it doesn’t take much), though there are a lot of others who won’t even admit it to themselves, let alone to others. But it seeps out in various little ways and slip ups, or sometimes I hear of a sister who has to be talked to about this subject. (What is it we are all after? What religious rainbow are we all chasing so that we have to please and fear this man as if he were a god himself?) It is amazing – this place is actually still a cult.

[Stewart said he was making changes, but really, it was not only more of the same, but worse, because now it was in a more intense and more concentrated form than before. Stewart slammed themes of death, self-abnegation and hellagainst us in a militant all or nothing, death to your life in this world drive toward nothingness.]

I think possibly (you see, I say “possibly” because you know I am afraid) I will have to walk out of here. Ten thousand people can’t all be wrong. [I realized that over the years, about ten thousand people had come to COBU, and gone. Could ten thousand people all be wrong?] Speaking up will do me no good. I can’t be an Andrei Sakharov. There are no great economic forces behind me that will help this system crumble, unless it is caused by an attrition rate of the older brothers leaving, but that may take a long time. How long can this society survive, how many of the sisters will want to stick around when they start reaching forty? Really, it comes down to it – Stewart must die. That is the only way out, unless maybe he just throws us all out. I wonder too, if the guy is just senile. He is basically asleep at the wheel. His hands still holding the same old course.

[Actually, this was not the case. Stewart was very purposeful. He did look half asleep and wiped out at the meetings, but somehow, he was able to inspire fear, terror and stress with just a few words, mostly by playing us off against one another.]

The sisters have to know all this. Sure, they are into security. An interesting thing I read about gorillas explained how the males who dominate the tribe get that position by being on the good side of all the dominant females! Once they get the females’ approval, they are in like flint. One thing Stewart has always had is his special thing with the women, about how he understands them perfectly. He has them wrapped up just perfectly, with catnip or something. He has all the dominant women in the congregation on his side, so the rest is easy. The boys never knew what hit ‘em. The women are the most steady rock solid part in the fellowship. If you have their support, you have a broad power base. They have given you the keys to rule. Without that, life will be miserable for you if you try to lead a congregation. They can make plenty of trouble for you if they don’t trust you. (So what, maybe I should get the approval of all the dominant females too? Though maybe then there would be some future contest where Stewart puts me down, one dominant male vs. the other. It is amazing when all the women speak well of you. This is what was happening this week when Diane H. and some others were speaking well of me because I closed some jobs and was calling in to the office. Maybe, I could be obedient and docile, this way, I could never dominate, but the women don’t mind that. Maybe that would help me get married.

[A book I read, while still in COBU, about why people leave cults said that the vast majority do not leave over doctrinal issues, but for two main causes: because their group tampers with or forbids male-female relationships and because of the discrepancy between the self-abnegation and poverty that members are constrained to live in, as opposed to the leaders’ lavish lifestyles. It seems I was preocupied with, or working through both of these issues here. 

Although in COUB, doctrine was important too, because the way of life followed the teaching, so when Stewart began his self-denial teachings, it was like laws being enacted and enforced. This caused me to go to the Bible, as well as to Christian history and sociology to try to understand what was going on and what the truth was. So, I was also concerned with doctrine, because it was clear to me that practice followed doctrine. There were certain practices Stewart wanted to put in effect, so he distorted Christian teaching, hyperfocusing on hell and eternal judgment (and our certainty of going to hell), and self-denial and rejection of the world, with a heavy dose of thundering against “cheating,” “rebelling,” “trying to have it both ways,” “laziness,” and “thumbing your nose at Jesus.” All of these phrases had a special meaning in COBU. A common denominator in their meaning was, “doing what you want to do, instead of what Stewart wants you to do.”

You can read the next section of this journal here: Just A Slave In Stewart Traill’s Cult


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