1992, 08/15-24. “I’m Not Going To Get Away With It And Neither Are You.”

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.

August 15

I actually jogged from Red Hook to the subway. If this works, I won’t need to go out of my way to go running, wasting one hour of time to go to the park and back, to just run one mile – if my feet can take running on the hard surface of the road.

I felt compelled though, to take the F train at Union and Smith Streets rather than walk to the R train, but the trains were so messed up that all I did was waste half an hour and finally walked to the R train anyway, which proves that deciding to do “the best thing” may not always be the best, but may be a decision based on being driven by anxiety.

I feel as if my appetite is curbed because I ran and walked today.

The big word out here among the brothers at the office is, “I am not going to get away with it and neither are you. And you know it.” I mean, it is big. I feel like heading for the hills when I hear this, which probably just proves that I am certainly trying to have it both ways.

[The brothers were quoting that day’s message from Stewart Traill, repeating it back and forth to one another. Some were saying it calmly, others were shouting it as if it were a military drill. I didn’t have a good reaction to this message. I thought that if my reaction was not good, then maybe I was guilty of the very thing the message was about, that of “trying to have it both ways,” which meant trying to avoid suffering for Christ and giving up our lives in this world. If I didn’t have “peace” about the “message from God” (God as portrayed by Stewart Traill) then that must be proof I was in rebellion against God and his will for my life. That I wanted to “have it both ways,” that I wanted God and I wanted to be able to enjoy “the things in this life” too, things I liked to do that, according to this way, were supposed to be broken up and destroyed and I was never to return to them again. I realized that this message was like a law, like an iron hammer coming down on me. 

The brothers were chanting the message aloud to one another like a mantra. (They repeated the exact wording of the message, because to add any of their own comments or words to it would be “going by their own ideas,” which was wrong to do.) All those around me were apparently accepting this message and the way of life it implied. And we had a system of meetings with voting and other methods of finding out who was adhering to these teachings and who was not. I felt the walls closing in on me. Was I going to snap and accept this life? Was I going to just let go and let “God,” or was I going to fight to keep myself alive?]

Someone mentioned the word “hope,” but I always figure it means no running, no studying languages, etc., etc. And if someone asks me if I am trying to have it both ways, I will say yes, because I am doing some of my desires for things in this life. And that what I am going to do about it is to kill everything and I can’t do any of my desires. I always feel strange when I talk like this, but that’s what I feel pressured to say and everybody seems to accept it and nobody tells me it is crazy. It seems to fit in with the teaching of our church, so much so that nobody will tell me that saying something like this is crazy. Maybe I know that if I say something like this nobody will bother me.

Oddly enough, everybody just seems business as usual. Not at all saying that they look as happy as can be, but we are so used to saying things like this as we merrily go about our business. There is always a word or a phrase of the week and everybody says it to each other with a disembodied voice, calling back and forth with it, the saying and the appropriate response, as they go about their business in the office. It’s like there are two levels of daily existence: sloganizing and day to day business transactions. Both are carried on together in two different non-interacting spheres, like opposing waves that travel through each other and keep going their own way, or two inert gases that are in the same space but have absolutely no effect on one another and each acts as if the other didn’t exist.

I am listening to some new brothers talk. I am coming up with some principles of how to listen (listed elsewhere). I keep figuring I am going to get it for doing this, so why do this? Also the more I talk with new brothers, the more trouble I am going to get in. But, since I am going to get it anyway, I might as well do it!

It’s a strange life here. There are lots of new brothers. The older brothers are always under punishment.

August 16

This day, everybody is running around saying, “I am not going to get away with it and neither are you,” and variations on this theme. But, nobody really says what this “get away with” consists of. They are just generally shouting it in the air at one another. But, I notice that nobody confronts another person with: “What are you trying to get away with? Are you hiding? In what ways do you hide?” In other words, nobody tries to pin down another person – neither in a harsh way, nor in a concerned way.

Possibly this shows that it is just largely comprised of anxiety and preparation for the upcoming meeting, more than anything else. I was thinking also that this system – which is a way of keeping check on each other and finding out each other’s hiding places – well, this machine has not really been fine-tuned or put into practice yet.(Possibly we will be cornered and hounded; possibly we will have to fill out time and activity sheets to give account of ourselves, with witnesses that we have to get to vouch for the truthfulness of our claims.) Possibly this is what we will have in the future, but the machinery has not yet been put in place. I think this could be the logical development of such a teaching.

Right now, everybody is concerned for self, possibly so they can say they have been preaching it, since they heard that they should be doing so. In other words, in order to save their own necks.

Actually, nobody is concerned enough about me to bother to find out what I do. I could do just about anything and get away with it, as long as I don’t draw suspicion to myself by any outlandish behavior or by saying any controversial words. I have been restraining myself from expressing any of my own individual thoughts or saying anything about Stewart or the church.

A question, a thought I have is (take it with a grain of salt):

I have come to the conclusion that we are in a cult; rather, that we are Catholic. That is, pre-Reformation Catholicism. Possible evidences are:

1) We have a Pope who is infallible. His interpretation of scripture is final. Indeed, he is the only one – in our minds – capable of interpreting scripture.

2) No marriage for priests and nuns.

3) Taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. We have given up everything to live in squalor, sleeping on the floor on mats. We have largely done away with personal property, possessions, privilege, choice and rights.

This is just something I am thinking, an example of thoughts I play around with. It probably is getting me in trouble with God to think about and entertain such things.

Also, though we espouse certain Protestant doctrine, such as predestination and grace, our way of life is largely Catholic in its administration and actions. Even the Catholics had a doctrine on grace and predestination. Our way, in a manner of speaking, is a mirror of the Catholic way of life about the year 1000 and possibly we are still awaiting a Reformation, and that there will appear a reformer to set us straight on some things, including the lawful use of this things in this life as taught by John Calvin and the Puritans.

*So maybe I must wait patiently for the further development of our thought and its subsequent effect on our way of life and accept that I am not powerful enough in any way to effect this change myself and I should just give up.

There were reformers back then, but there was the mass of common people who couldn’t reform anything because they were weak or lacked power or opportunity and God didn’t hold it against them, but he used people like Martin Luther. I am not a strong person or a reformer.

“Greeks seek wisdom, Jews seek a sign, but we preach Christ Jesus crucified, a stumbling block.” This verse came to mind after thinking about this. I don’t know how it applies to this idea.

-*-

In a meeting.

I have a deep conscious inner awareness. In other words, I often know what is going on. I can’t really fight off that deep (or not so deep) inner voice. I knew that the older brothers were just chirping in anxiety and pushing each other, and shouting a lot of stuff about Jesus. Stewart asked what was wrong here. I was going to say this, but I held out hoping not to have to say anything, and I didn’t. Stewart went on to ask the sisters what was wrong here, and they also said without dissent that they thought the brothers were fully there and uniting. And, I thought that the sisters were all lying.

[The weren’t lying, but were hoping to believe the best about the brothers, that they were really trying to be faithful to Jesus. And they didn’t want the brothers to become the target of another one of Stewart’s usual harassment sessions, which was sure to follow if he considered the brothers to be in the wrong about anything. And I was resisting the usual pressure, which we all felt inside ourselves from years of conditioning, to expose and find fault with others in the name of truth speaking, and as a way to avoid punishment myself – because if I was able to expose others’ faults, it meant that I was not taking part in their wrongdoing, and I would be off the hook, this time.]

Then Stewart cleared the waters and said we (the older brothers) are all into morbid concern for self, which I knew. I even thought the exact words – morbid concern for self. (But I would have been too proud to use that phrase, because it is a Stewart phrase and I am too proud to use it. But that is like trying not to be like your father by not talking like him. It is futile, because it is far beyond the words.) At first I was relieved that I didn’t have to talk because the sisters were praising the brothers. I just think of how bad it would have felt to have said we older brothers were being selfish, but that inner voice kept saying that the sisters are lying.

But then Stewart said what I had been thinking.

The question is then: what about the things I think about Stewart? Are they real? He comes into the meeting and we all “have to” cower before him. I knew that the whole thing we did before Stewart came in to the meeting was preparation for that very fact – anxiety over the fact that Stewart is coming to the meeting.

I guess I am just wrong. What I think about Stewart (that is, when he comes into the room) is that it is time to do a confession session.

Stewart: “The older brothers are not bridging the gap.”

But, the thing is, I don’t know everything, as is proven that I can’t figure out the answer to the Bible study. I think I know so much.

Notes from the meeting

[These are Stewart Traill’s words, which I wrote down. It was a diatribe against the older brothers and how messed up we are and an accusation that none of us fear God. There is also a part about the “bad news” which was Stewart’s own brand of the Gospel, which you could call “Bad News for Modern Man.” (In Greek, the word for Gospel is evangelion, literally “eu + angelion,” meaning good news, or good announcement. Nowhere in the Greek text of the bible is there a kakangelion, “kakos + evangelion,” bad news.) Stewart said that no one could repent unless they were firmly convinced and in a state of extreme terror that they were headed for hell. There is a grain of truth to that, but it the emphasis was all wrong. Stewart made sin death, judgment and hell seem to be the great and overarching theme of the Bible, and they are not. Stewart was hard at work, making God over into the image of himself – into an angry, faultfinding old man.

Stewart spoke in extremes, using a lot of “either or” and “all or nothing” talk. If we could not say we were 100% faithful to Christ, all the time, then we were not faithful and never had been in our entire lives.

When Stewart said “I,” he really meant “all of you.” Speaking in the first person, but not meaning himself, was one of his programming techniques. When he said “I am,” church members internalized it, saying the same thing about themselves. For example, Stewart would say, “I just don’t mind going to hell.” Church members would repeat, “I just don’t mind going to hell” because we understood we should be saying this about ourselves.

Calling the way we were living in the church as “some bible study-Sunday school life” shows Stewart’s contempt for “church Christians,” that is, all other Christians apart from those who lived our way of life, and being that Stewart was never pleased with the way we were living, he was essentially saying he was the only person living a right Christian life on the entire planet.] 

Stewart: “2 Peter 1:16 to end, especially verse 19. We are nowhere until Christ is formed in you. The older brothers are content to hide as baby-sitters. The new brothers are wild. The middle brothers are caught in the middle. We are living some Bible study-Sunday school life, where if you repeat some principles, you are good today – even the sisters call you good. But nothing about Christ being formed in you. Maybe we shouldn’t bridge the gap. The way these older brothers are, it is questionable whether you should have anything to do with them. That’s sad to say. I am round and round about myself, but I am going to help the new brothers. This is not helping. Not being in the light about how you are round and round about yourself. How is that helping?

“Jesus came to save us out of this. We must live in the fear of God. It is all or nothing with Jesus, because Jesus is Lord. You are not even going to start unless you fear God. (I will do everything to keep you here so you can keep hearing this.) You are never going to be able to appreciate what God did for you if you don’t get rescued. But, you don’t fear God, so you don’t see the bad news. You don’t think you need to be rescued, so the bad news doesn’t have its effect on you. You are not ready for the good news then. You are just marking time, you will get inoculated against the real thing. You are not going to obey God until you come into the fear of God. Otherwise you are just going to be good for a while. Your need for the fear of God as the only thing that is going to scare you enough to turn you. Nothing else is going to stop you and keep you stopped for the real thing to work on you, until Christ be formed in you, and the day star rises in your hearts.”

August 17

Free at last? For a little while. I just dropped Chatman off at Starrett City with some wood floor equipment. It’s raining today, a nice day. I am undergoing intense psychological pressure and even torment, but maybe it isn’t all bad. Possibly through renunciation I will reach that state of repose (as described in William James’s book Varieties of Religious Experience). There is a sort of rest in it, but how real it is, I don’t know. Possibly I am going to it as a substitute to push the fear of God out of my mind. I am also viciously tempted to look at women. It’s normal. A woman. I am a man. Don’t you wish you were married, that you had a woman? Shouldn’t you have one by now? Isn’t it just normal?

This also is one of the worse ways in which I am killing myself. Always the day after the meeting (or right before). A high pressure meeting or a meeting I can’t handle or is hopeless. This pressure is all in my head, but it is real. A phantom, but real, pressure.

[The cause for my extreme stress was the meeting with Stewart the day before. You might call this post-meeting stress disorder. The next day after meetings, I often felt wiped out, smashed and flattened. This was probably was the true purpose for what Stewart did to us in those meetings. Meetings, and the processes that went on in them, were meant to keep us weak and disoriented. These meetings were often mind-bending. And I needed several days to detox from them.]

Orlando has just told me that (technically speaking) nobody has ever gotten married in this church! Because Stewart is unable to perform marriage ceremonies because he is not a licensed minister. Therefore even those who got married before, that is, before eleven years ago and who did not leave the fellowship, as they have done recently, in order to get married – these ones also got married outside the fellowship! Nobody has ever gotten married here? What kind of place is this? (I have never really checked, I’ve only assumed. It’s amazing the things you find when you plumb and fathom the depths, or not so deep even. Nobody will ever tell these things. Chuck and Kevin know, but their lips are sealed. Paul B. will tell you a little, usually about witnessing exploits in days past, but Orlando is a good one for the unofficial story, the truth, the deeper things.)

[I had been in the church for 11 years and had never realized that Stewart was not legally able to perform marriages, because he was not a licensed minister. It just never occurred to me. Well, no one got married there, so this subject would never have come up. But when Orlando told me that, I was shocked. How was it then that this man had authority over me, especially in the area of forbidding marriage, if he couldn’t even perform a marriage?]

Technically, Stewart is not even a pastor! He has no legal right or jurisdiction over me! It’s all Wizard of Oz stuff. Though, sure, one doesn’t need a license according to human society to have God’s spirit and to preach his word and he may be more authentic than a licensed, but unconverted minister. But, is there something going on here? I always assumed that this man had this great legal right over me. I mean, maybe he is like a traveling evangelist. An evangelist comes around and talks to the people about repentance and sin, but has no power over their human lives. He can’t approve or disapprove marriages. Their human life is something else entirely and he has no control over it. Sure, he can influence with the Gospel and the people will arrange their affairs accordingly, but they still may act in freedom without constraint. Because really, what does Stewart have to do with my life, other than that he comes and preaches to us?

August 18th

I was giving into some high-minded religious thoughts and also thoughts about what’s wrong here in the church and with Stewart and his teaching.

The teaching is used to back up and enforce our viewpoint. How much is it coming from that?

But, right now, obviously all this thinking has not helped me much. These thoughts always seem to lead to this and all these fantasy arguments with Stewart.

Right now, I just want to make it out alive.

August 19

Stewart’s message to the new brothers who have left is that “It is not so.” Because they leave the church and say, “It’s too serious here.”

We have an ideal Christian society; an ideal standard and view of marriage. No wonder nobody can get married. Because no one can live up to the standard of what is faithful enough to be able to marry. The teaching is given, the application of it follows. The ideas come first, the life here is a result of that. Even though it is not all conscious at any given moment, it is the atmosphere we breathe, the climate we inhabit. We are so entirely submerged in it, so entirely blown away. No wonder nobody can make a move.

I am not married. I really need to be. I can’t take it; I can’t take this at all. When I am in this state of mind, that’s when I start thinking about our ideal society and how it is just impossible to do what I know I need to do!

I don’t expect to make it through the day. I can’t help myself. That is a Stewart teaching that I thoroughly agree with! My own history proves it.

I told Peter (via phone) that I am tempted today. He reminded me of the “price tag.” Look at the price tag before you buy and remember the price – that is, your mind.

I don’t really plan to tell anybody about how I am today. Maybe that is a fatal mistake. I wish there was a switch to turn it off with. Things are not getting better for me. I am getting worse. I am sure I am going to be washed out of this church with the tide sooner or later.

All this Stewart tells us about: “You are dead…you are headed to hell…you have no rights,” isn’t that just another example of teaching used to keep me in bondage like a slave? Everybody just gives up on their rights to this life and accepts it. We have no rights, so don’t even bother asking. But, this is not how other Christians have lived, is it?

And, “You get whatever the Shepherd gives you and nothing more. Only whatever he sees as fit.” Doesn’t that mean “forget it, pal”?

Aren’t we tied up with these things?

Well, these are my thoughts. I just want to write them down so I can see the full development and procession of them. I like reading my old diary from when I had my delivery job. Reality is preserved in its pages. They weren’t well thought out discourses, but moment to moment expressions. Disjointed, but I think, truthful.

And, I haven’t written out all those dark side thoughts, which I do have. The ones like:

Stewart is lord. Stewart is (practically) God.

I am totally under Stewart’s control. He possesses my mind, etc. (I think there are more such thoughts.)

I don’t belong to Stewart. (Or do I?)

Also, the idea about traveling evangelists not having power over people to prevent them from marrying or doing business, and that this church is a place where my Christian needs can be met – but precious little else. I literally have to go outside of this system in order to get anything else, but at the same time, this system claims to be my all in all. (All I will ever need and all I am allowed to have.)

For example, I flipped out when I heard that at the loft, they are only going to do four things, round the clock: eat, pray, sweep, and do Christian training.

That this is all a person is and all that a person needs, and woe to you if you desire anything else! Then you are hopeless!

I think Stewart’s saying that, “you have forfeited all your rights because you have sinned, all you deserve is hell,” is true. But, I also think it is used to control people. A person has forfeited all his rights, so he has no say in any matter – and especially not when somebody tells him he has to do something.

I have been getting into imaginary fights with Brother Stewart over the above, among other things. I imagine taking a stand to protect someone against this false argument used to try to control him, then I imagine getting thrown out of the church.

[Getting thrown out of the church also meant instantly losing my job and place of residence. I would have to leave immediately. Despite being there for so many years, I might not even be able to use the phone to call around for a place to stay. And if I asked for money to have a place to stay somewhere I would be denied it, even though I had contributed so much time and labor to the church. The Bible says that rebels will be cast into the lake of fire. The church members would be merely carrying out God’s commands toward me on earth. Casting me out of the church was minor, compared to the eternal judgment they figured I would be getting. God would be doing something much worse to me pretty soon, so putting me out in this way would not occur to them to be a cruel act by comparison. If God were just in casting me into hell, they were just in doing this to me. There is a verse in the bible that says “cast the wicked person out from among you.” But this was not written about communal organizations where a person’s job and place of residence were summarily terminated with his church membership.]

I accept the fact – at least I think I do – that I probably will get thrown out, either for fighting with Brother Stewart, or I will leave because of being washed out by the tide. That is, because of getting into some kind of sexual sin due to the fact that I am not married and can’t get married.

My days are truly numbered. (But, if I get thrown out for disagreeing with Stewart, how do I know it would not really be for sexual sin, even if nobody else knew. How do I know that God wouldn’t be throwing me out because he knows I have committed immorality and that it was divine retribution?)

August 20

Leaving the jobsite yesterday, walking up Fifth Avenue. It might have been a nice walk on a rainy summer night if it weren’t for thinking about the above. I really don’t want this turmoil and temptation, but that doesn’t mean I can just walk away from it. It really bothers me.

August 21

Many things are on my mind today and these days. Though I guess, these things always fall into the usual categories.

My thoughts on marriage are less and less centered in thinking about this or that sister and more and more in thinking about our church system and whether it is right or not. This is nothing new in a sense, but there is a definite shift toward this and away from romantic fantasies about a sweetie.

[This was a change in my thinking. Before, when I thought about marriage, I used to think about a specific sister, sometimes all day long. Now, after years of not being able to get married, I began to question the church’s “system,” and the reasons we were told about why we were unable and unqualified to marry. I began thinking more widely and comprehensively about marriage, and the lack of it, in the church and why that was, instead of thinking about a sister I liked and wondering if I would ever be able to marry her.]

Reading all this church history, what does it do for me? It is debatable. Church history doesn’t get ahold of the new brothers, but it seems I am lifted up by it somehow.

August 22

Like I said yesterday, my thinking about marriage has shifted away from specific women to thoughts like: “What are you doing, 35 years old and not married!” Not necessarily something your mother would say to you, but more like: “Why are you not dealing with your temptations practically and taking the remedy God provides?” Like, it is raining, what are you doing outside without your raincoat? Instead of: “Oh, I want a Pierre Cardin raincoat or, no, I want a Calvin Klein.” This is perhaps a more legitimate basis for thinking about it. (I always feel I have to prove something to someone, or that I have establish a reason for the need for marriage, though the reason is as old as the human race itself.)

If I don’t get married soon, I know I am going to be in trouble somehow and in some way. Seeing these women around here all day is too much for me. Just the sight of a woman’s body causes massive internal turmoil.

How much am I under the influence and the residue of the old way? (Or is it still in effect?)

[I still believed there was an old way and a new way in COBU. Stewart said that he had been teaching wrong and now things were going to be different. For a time I believed that the old way – which included no marriage – was a thing of the past and that things were going to change in the church (the new way). Stewart said that he had made it too hard for the brothers to get married. But I began to realize that nothing had changed. But for a time, I would often think, “that’s the old way of looking at things.”]

According to Stewart, if I am not a crusading Christian leader, I can never get married because I am not what a Christian man is. And the corollary views he may have are: because I am a product of this American society, I can never be a real Christian man, even if I do all the Christian training. I am just diseased and damaged and never can be a real man. At least according to the idea he holds in his head. (Since he seems to come from plans and views and to not act haphazardly.)

But, I am just writing down my thoughts on the matter, including all of the above – even if the latter thoughts are wrong.

Well, I am going on and on, and not thinking about God’s love for me or anything that can help me right now. These thoughts tend to be destructive.

I am alone today. Actually, I want to be. But, it seems obvious that lately when I am alone, I am in trouble and basically condition red. If I make it through the day today, it will be a small miracle. I better not arrange to be further alone, but find a job to be on.

-*-

There is a commercial I hear on the radio from time to time that makes me have a fantasy about summer time. The music in the commercial makes me think of a big house with a patio out back with tables and umbrellas. Light jazz music is playing. A summer night with a moon in the sky, a quarter moon or maybe bigger. The night has only just begun.

Well, Stewart says that as Christians, we are not supposed to even have a vacation, which I doubt. I think that getting away sometimes would be good for us. Away from this total immersion life we live here. What is he so afraid of? That if the clamps were taken off us, we would drift away forever? Why this intense system of government? If I took a vacation, I think I would still read the Bible, pray and study Christian history. If I didn’t, if I drifted away immediately, I guess I wasn’t much of a Christian anyway.

There is intense regulation on our behavior here. If it isn’t in my heart to do it when I am all by myself, is it in my heart any more when I am caught within the grips of the system? (Other churches allow retreats and vacations, and even find them necessary. Maybe in the early church, no. Maybe Stewart is trying to pattern everything after the primitive church, but it is a fantasy to imagine that we are under persecution, the ten persecutions under Diocletian, perhaps!) A lot of things here are the workings of our own imaginations. Perhaps we make up imaginary persecution and trouble to keep everybody in check. And, how much of it is due to the fact that we live a certain way, so we find scripture and sayings to support and legitimize this way of life? And everybody buys it, accepts it and sells it to one other and are content to settle for this and to not dig beneath the surface to try to investigate anything. It is second-hand religion which I can’t really knock, in a way. But what if I have pressing questions that just won’t go away or lie dormant, even though we had better suppress it, or are supposed to?

Something which relates to this: I read in my diary [in 1988] on the day when I wrote about some convictions I had about Jim G. was acting toward us, which were pretty accurate, though at the time it was taboo to even think such a thing. I even wrote that these were secret thoughts, but I that would keep them and refer back to them.

There is an overwhelming force to not face what I am thinking, especially if it is something that is not congruous to what I am supposed to think or to the way it is supposed to be. Well, I have many such thoughts, so maybe I better write them down.  I can’t kill them off; there is no way to “not think” what I am thinking!

-*-

Thoughts of hell only seem to incite and aggravate temptations. Obviously, more than sexual desire is working on me. I wish I did have God’s remedy for the problem, since it seems nothing else works for it.

When I think about “what must I do to get married?” I hear a voice that says “sell all you have.” This usually produces an uptight feeling in me, because I think, “Okay, that means no studying German, no this, no that.”

I was thinking how I never seem to do anything anymore, except reading religious books and sometimes listen to Radio France. What is it that I have to sell? Is it that I have some things stuffed away in a crate that I have not gotten rid of? [I had a few personal belongings.] Is it because I have not totally forsaken the world in my attitude?

One thing is for sure, I am not ready to go through another one of those periods where I don’t allow myself to do anything, or another period of inwardly bickering over whether I can or can’t do these things. I am just too weak for it. And it wears me out and I end up giving in anyway. So, what is the point of all that?

I go through intense torment about whether I can do my interests, then finally give in to them to some degree, though I certainly don’t do them as much as I used to. I guess I am just trying to be more serious about learning the Christian religion. (Also trying to check up on Stewart, which I also admit I’m doing, because I can’t rest concerning him and the things he says.)

I just wish I was surrendered and all these problems were settled. Whatever the cost, whatever I had to give up. At least then I’d see that giving things up was necessary, not just because these rules were placed on me or that I am just part of someone’s program. I would see why it was necessary, for myself. Like, the reason my hand had to be cut off was to save my arm. A doctor explained to me why and I know myself that it was true.

If I have to let go of all these things, if hanging onto my desire for things in this life is the root cause of my problems – then please, let me see it as such. It does not register in my mind as being such. And really, I just think I am having all these problems because I am not married, and that marriage is the simple answer for the whole thing. If I had a wife, maybe all this drive could just be settled and it wouldn’t be this great wrenching problem. Really, I am not into looking at women as just a pleasure or a pastime. I would like to stay away from it, but I just can’t.

Also, the idea that having a wife would only incite my desire, that is, make it worse, as we were once told – I just don’t believe it!

[In my first years in the church, I was told that marriage would only make my problem with “lust of the eyes” worse, because now that I knew what sex is like, any time I saw a woman, I would be able to imagine what it would be like having sex with with her, and this would take my problem with lust to the next level, because I would have the mental pictures to go along with it. I remember the sinking feeling I had when older brothers used to tell me that. This was one of Stewart Traill’s precepts that they were repeating to me.]

Well, I’d like to try. If I am still looking at women after I am married, I guess then I am just a weirdo after all. Now, I am thinking about why I never got married back then. My conclusions are in the area of how I didn’t want to “get maneuvered.”

[Stewart tried to induce the brothers to fear the sisters, by telling us how women can “maneuver” us, that is, manipulate and control us without us even knowing it. He said that if a brother was not 100% faithful to Christ and did not have an utterly clear conscience, his wife was going to exploit any weaknesses that resulted from this. She would be able to control us, as if we were on marionette strings, all the while making us feel like we were running the show. This did not help the relationship between brothers and sisters much. I was always suspicious of the sisters because of this. At that time, I was in my twenties and this much older person, who seemed to have deep insight into life, was telling us these things.]

August 23

Meeting in Philadelphia.

I hope I don’t get bothered at this meeting. I just want to sit in the back of the meeting and observe. That’s all.

I never tell anybody anything anymore. I am afraid of what would happen it I did. (I would get put out of the church or forced to move to one of the lofts to be kept under surveillance. I don’t think I could take it, even if it was for my own good.)

I like living in Red Hook right now, because it is at least a way to alleviate the rigors of our way of life.

I am still reading Christian history. I am especially into studying “the American religious sect,” to try to understand just who and what we are. Did others live in societies as we do? What was the outcome of such lives? Possibly, this more directly applies and is more relevant than reading about the Reformation.

-*-

The meeting opens with the question from Stewart: “Why does it seem so hard to be a Christian?” Middle and new brothers answer. (It’s a better way to open the meeting than with older brothers’ anxieties and speeches.)

Stewart is speaking about the apparent difficulty of being a Christian. Yet, doesn’t he say it is easy? (I wish it could be made easy for me. It all does seem very hard. We are hearing Stewart tell us soothing words and get the feeling that everything will be all right, but I don’t know if I could settle down to that.)

Second session of the meeting: 

We are hearing about how to apply the lesson. Stewart is asking the older brothers what to do about all this. Nobody is giving any kind of “real” answer, just a mishmash of disjointed cult talk. What is it? Aren’t we all realer with one another in our back room conversations, or are we really this helpless? One salient thing on my mind is that Stewart already has the answer(s) to the questions he is asking us, but he always goes through this process with us. In fact, he may lay some big thing upon us, like when he came up with the loft idea. The build-up is pretty big so far, though maybe this is compounded by our apparent ineptitude (real or imaginary).

Obviously Stewart is getting at some problem among us. (Though sprinkled with liberal amounts of humor, I guess to keep the morbidity of the situation from getting to the middle brothers, new brothers and the sisters.)

A lot of older brothers are giving extreme speeches about how bad and useless we are, as a way of anticipating and possibly even trying to alleviate the dreaded revelation of the true answer, which is to be given soon. Better to knock over the house of cards before Stewart can. But, at the same time, the older brothers are hoping that Stewart has something hopeful that will come out of it, but they are afraid to ask or openly hope for that.

But, as usual, Stewart leaks out hints and is rather subtly, but directly, leading the line of questioning toward something, hoping I guess, that we will finally say it. I guess this method is better than just telling us what it is. (I really don’t even understand this place I live in. I mean sure, I know plenty enough, but this man and his monolithic importance and interpretation, and our life, I just don’t understand.) I think everybody knows, possibly some more consciously than others, that Stewart already has the complete answer, which is soon to be given. It’s another part of our hiding and games. Nobody could lead the questioning so accurately and in such a straight vector without already having a definite plan and having everything already worked out in advance. Certainly Stewart doesn’t look lost, or look like he doesn’t know what to do, and is asking for our opinions, so we can help him.

(Yes, we are the greatest people on earth, but we are so full of problems and can never admit it, because that would be entirely and diametrically opposed to the view of ourselves that we are desperate to have.)

Well, all the days of my life… I’m just writing down what it is like to go through a meeting – especially when the subject is about our lives and the way it is here.

It’s getting pretty sticky. A middle brother is saying that whenever they start something with the new brothers, the older brothers come along and tell them that what they are doing is all wrong. But, that sounds just like something we’d do, for sure.

Too bad we can’t just lay the walls down and honestly talk about what goes on here.

I guess with all Stewart’s talk about dying to yourself and killing everything, I just feel like I am submitting to a man, that is, to Stewart, and not to God’s will for me. (Well, obviously I am not submitting to God’s will, but I still feel compelled to turn over to Stewart’s plan for my life.) Okay, let’s say I turn over to it. What I want doesn’t matter because:

1)  In all of human history, I am nobody anyway. So my life doesn’t really matter.

2)  There is no use in fighting. I can’t win. The decision will not be changed or reversed.

3)  We are isolated from all other views or influences, so I don’t have any ground to stand on.

I can just see that there is no use in fighting because it just doesn’t work.

But, I am studying the “history of the American religious sect” in order to try to understand life in such societies. Now I have heard that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote some books on how life in a separatist communal society didn’t work. Although the Shakers were an exception. How did they survive for so long?

A new brother stood up and said that the reason new brothers leave is not so much because of the older brothers or the middle brothers, but because of the level and intensity of the discipline and because everybody is overworked and they have no respect at all for your sleep time. This went completely unregarded. I thought it was rather true.

Yep, here it comes… Stewart is now saying there are various things we need. He says that we need organization. We need an overhaul. That we are purposely dealing with the wildest people we can find, so we need organization.

Stewart: “Organization now centers in the Dinosaur Club [Stewart’s word for the older brothers’ fellowship], which rules with an iron hand, which is not all that bad. Dinosaurs have lost touch with reality in a lot of ways through this dinosaur thing. Middle brothers are much more able to help new brothers. I am not saying to get rid of the older brothers. I mean that different ones have different abilities and they are all needed. You know the scripture talks that way. The way we are, we need all the help we can get, as a fellowship. Dinosaurs have a habit which has got them by the throat, that is, pride. They won’t admit that the middle brothers are better at doing certain things than they are. We are choking on this point, on pride. A little error in those in authority causes much hurt. We are unwilling to organize around the fact that the middle brothers and new brothers are better at certain things. The middle and new brothers are closer to brand new, dinosaurs have forgotten what it is like.”

[I don’t know how well it comes through these lines above, but this is an example, though not an extreme one, of Stewart playing the different groups in the church off against one another – even if it does sound like helpful advice to some degree. There was more than a little error in Stewart’s authority, but this was a live wire never to be touched. Stewart was speaking about the errors in the older brothers’ authority, whose purpose was mainly to herd, corral and train the new brothers into this way.]

“The older brothers can’t change the dinosaur way of life, because they are trapped into it; they would only change it in a dinosaur way.”

(I just wish I could get married. That is one aspect of the dinosaur life I wish I could change.)

It looks like we are going to get rid of the Dinosaur Club by way of choosing a group of those who are faithful (from any category of brothers), only those who are qualified to “rule.”

I hope I get put out to pasture somehow, so I could have a little time for running and some other things. To have a little of this intense pressure taken off about how I have to do what I am not ready, willing and able to do. Probably though, this committee will decide that I have to go to the lofts to be worked on, or that my little hideout there in Red Hook is harmful to me.

But, I have been staying at Red Hook to avoid the lofts.

Stewart: “The strong shall bear the weak. The strong are those who have set their hope and have put to death the only alternative.”

August 24

At Starrett City. It’s a nice sunny August day. Wow, the end of August is already here!   Summer has passed without my really experiencing it. I am detached from the seasons these days.

I am experiencing some relaxation right now. I am parked next to a garden, a place of vines. The sky is blue. There are green reeds. Just seeing vineyards is peaceful.

Ironically, I am listening to Wayne Monbleau on the radio and he is giving a rather light easy-going message on John 15, about the True Vine!

I would like to go running here. Technically, I could, but there seems to be a tension in that. I could keep up running, but I would have to force it and seek out opportunities, which seems like cheating or something. If I do it, I prefer that it would be natural, that it would just fit into my life without much controversy or struggle. The anxiety and tension over it and the preoccupation over how to accomplish it seems to cancel out any enjoyment I derive from it. It used to fit hand in glove in my old life, rather conveniently after work on the way back home to the fellowship. I got off the subway at Parkside anyway, so why not get off at Seventh Avenue and run through the park to get home? Of course, I often lingered in park, rather than just taking an extended route back home, but, it fit in without much qualm.

Nowadays, I’d have to ferret it into a hidden pocket of my life. Anyway, the idea was to provide some escape and enjoyment. I didn’t feel like I was stealing or feel bad for doing it. (Our belief system back then had no requirement to deny ourselves worldly enjoyments, as long as they weren’t sinful. There was no tension created over loving something in this life. It was a more “whole person” perspective that was less upsetting and may have made it easier to concentrate on Christ. But, did I ever really concentrate on Christ then anyway?)

But, this abject denial I can’t handle either. I would much rather have the whole person concept where I can do things without the disturbance.

Well, Stewart said last night that God is bothering us; we were on our merry way to hell before and didn’t care about that. I went by Prospect Park today and wondered if being kept out of there is part of the plan to be saved from going to hell. (The place is so fresh and green. I’d love to move around in there to unwind. I could go on, but, I know the story pretty well anyway.)

Today is a summer day. I am alone in the van. I wish I could just drive on and on and get lost in an endless summer day for a while. To make a break from all this.

I am a slave to sin. I am in rebellion, at the core of my being. Though I say that more as a catechism than that I truly see it. (But, I know enough.) I didn’t see that I was going to hell back then because I “loved this life.”

It’s like what Brother Stewart said last night, how can the dinosaurs change the Dinosaur Club? Won’t they change it in a dinosaur way? It’s all we’ve ever known and it has us by the throat.

One Response to “1992, 08/15-24. “I’m Not Going To Get Away With It And Neither Are You.””

  1. Donald Traill Says:

    I had a similar experience than you in my experiences with COBU. I was there shortly after the Grace meeting; and it is strange but I noticed much more the Older abusing newer. Once when a newbie started to “get on” an oldie and baddie, Dad laughed and said, “Ive got to talk to the New Ones in Orientation about the six foot tall two year old. Can you imagine that? All the body weight of an adult, but the mind of a two year old. They just run up to you and “Wap!!!”

    On the other hand, there was a serious risk of consequences for a younger one to disagree with an older one. Imediately you were “fighting”, others were more quick to defend what they even called “the empire” rather than the truth. Even I could not escape the fact they were quick to report their version of events to “Brother Stewart”, who almost always took their side.

    But then there came the point in the cycle when I was elevated into the “insisters” category with other new and middle brothers. Dad stressed that it was not about politics or position, but it quickly came to that. Our official “leader” was a bro named Hubert who was brand new. And very prone to being “puffed up” by my Father’s repeated praise.

    What was really going on became obvious. Bob Mueller wanted to “unite with us” in a meeting when he was the only brother at The Lamb House not in what was rapidly becoming “a club”, and Hubert kicked him out of the room..

    “We can’t let those older ones come in here and take over!”
    I tried to remind him that it was not about politics, control or position. He told me to shut up.

    I tried, “Don’t you wish that the Older ones will repent?”

    “Wish isn’t in the Bible”.

    “Paul said, I wish that I myself etc…”

    Finally I agreed to say nothing the rest of the meeting.

    At some point both my tape recorders were confiscated. At the end a brother named Juan (who IMO was more sincere than the older ones gave him credit for before and after the “insisters title had been thrust upon him) and hadn’t been much on one side or the other the whole meeting nominated me to be the meeting’s ambassador. But I was too certain Dad would imediately say “i was going by my own thinking” instead of “uniting with the Insisters on insisting on the Escape Recipe. Even when I am right, I am wrong, and I was used to the charge of “justifying myself”.

    The Insisters agreed that I should not be cast out so they could “work on me”.

    The eventual implosion of the club was like watching two trains aproach head on when you know full well that brakes are beyond help to avert a collision. Dad appealed to “anyone who wants to help clean up the mess left after the Hubert show”. Juan survived, for a long time after but when Stewart suggested we should all insist “this has to stop or I am leaving for right reasons” Juan took him at his word and left.

    He made a few coments similar to yours about marriage.

    Donald Traill

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