1992, 07/02. The Biggest Wimp

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 part of my diary, I was wondering if it was possible to be fully human and to fully follow Jesus at the same time. This did not seem possible in the way of life taught in COBU. Instead, I had to choose one or the other.  

I also wrote about going out “sweeping” in bad neighborhoods and keeping a sister named Noel from being set upon by a pack of youths who were about to start “wilding,” and how later, she called me a wimp for preventing her from being a victim.

July 2, 1992

I guess I am writing at a bad time, but just as well. I begin to think about my life, including about why I am not married, even now at age 35. Of course, I usually do a lot of blaming toward the fellowship (namely Brother Stewart) but also, I have considered to what degree I may have made it impossible for myself to get married.

I had a long thinking session (while working on a job) about the Rescue Mission days and how I couldn’t get married or even start a relationship back then.

[This was in 1983-4 when I was a middle brother and lived in Philadelphia on Woodland Avenue with about one hundred brothers and sisters in the church residence there, which was called The Rescue Mission.]

But now I have realized that I may have been chasing women that were out of my league, or at least ones that obviously didn’t respond to my interest. Even if ones like Linda were just impossible fantasies, there were ones who were my speed, like Judy and Becky. But I never stopped and faced the facts that they really were not interested. (I always imagined they were interested, but were just not saying so. And that it was on me to bring this out, to catch the maneuvering woman in her games and make her admit that, yes, indeed she really was interested in me. But even if so, what a hard life! I could never quit. I was desperate and I was in the heat of the moment. I couldn’t step back and clearly assess the situation. And, being filled with the strange pretzel logic we had at the time only aggravated the situation.)

But the fact is, there were sisters there who were interested, who were open about it and it didn’t take the skillful catching of the maneuvering woman to bring it out. I can name two: Sherry and Carrie. Sherry outright said she was and Carrie on numerous occasions made it obvious. But I had rejected both of them because they weren’t perfect. I could have started a relationship right away with either one of them. It shouldn’t be hard and difficult.

Now, I am at the point where life is difficult. Maybe it’s just that I am not at the loft and living an interesting and motivating life. But, this is ridiculous. I don’t know how the brothers at the loft are doing it. It must be blowing them apart. This is getting ridiculous. So is the life here. I don’t know how anybody really takes it, except for the idea that leaving the fellowship and going back into the world is far worse. But what a strange ascetic society we have here. I really can’t take it anymore.

[What I meant about not understanding how brothers at the loft were making it, and that their umet needs for sex and marriage must be blowing them apart. I didn’t understand how these brothers could deal with the constant pressure of life at the loft while at the same time utterly denying sex, relationships, and marriage, having to bury those desires underground and live as if these things did not exist. Knowing that this denial was blowing me apart, I could only look at these brothers and imagine the added pressure they were living under was making it even worse for them.]

Well, if I ever get the chance to get married (there are things beyond my control, even if I had all my own attitudes straight), I better take it and not worry or give into fear that I can’t handle the woman or can’t understand her. What would I have preferred, to have spent the last 10 years single, or to have spent them married to Carrie?

[This was pure fantasy, because no matter what I would have done, such as not having ridiculously high standards for what I want in a mate, no one in COBU got married. But, I was trying to reflect on why I never got married, looking for reasons why it could have been my own fault and not Stewart Traill’s forbidding of marriage to church members.]

Sure, who knows what problems there would have been, but I can’t live my whole life avoiding “problems.” How would I like to spend the next 10 years, single or married? Look at what other problems I have gotten into anyway.

Well, still though, the situation looks bleak, because Bob is interested in Carrie. And M., I wouldn’t know how to approach her anyway. I talk a little with Becky, but this doesn’t go very far. How could it? There is still not a forum for it in the fellowship. I don’t know when there ever will be. Even the loft brothers don’t seem to have anything to do with marriage.

(About moving to the loft.)

I hear that all of us at Red Hook are supposed to move to the 45th Street Loft as soon as possible. I guess I will be there soon.

Will there be no marriage until Brother Stewart says so? Theory: Stewart is, at least to our society, like God to us. He creates by speaking. Just like God said, “Let there be light,” and there was, it is the same with Brother Stewart. If he doesn’t say so, then it doesn’t exist. He has not said, “Let there be marriage.” So, it doesn’t exist. When he does, then it will! Only time will tell if this is true, though.

(About Marriage.)

Marriage. The thing we can never have. Always, it was only Stewart who understood marriage. And us, we just didn’t have what it took, whether spare motivation or how to understand the women.

[Stewart told the men in the church that they did not understand the women, nor did they have enough “spare motivation” to carry not only themselves through life, but also to keep a woman motivated. This was part of Stewart’s explanation of why we were unable to marry. I told Becky once that I was attracted to her. (It was still possible to say that to a sister in the early 80s. It became strictly forbidden later.) She told me that she didn’t see how we could get married, because she did not see me as being united with my brothers and becuase I did not have “spare motivation.”]

Sex, something that Brother Stewart had with Gayle and sometimes flaunted before us by kissing her in front of us and making her wear Danskin silk shirts that showed her breasts in full detail.

[Gayle wore tightly-fitted black Danskin shirts of very thin silk material, without a bra. This made it look almost as if her upper body was naked and only painted with body paint. Gayle sat next to Stewart in the meetings and we got to look – or we tried not to look – at her for the whole meeting.]

I remember the frustration that burned me up and also the realization that I just wasn’t a “real man” because I couldn’t get this. It was just out of my reach.

I learned to bury this and to live, as far as possible, as if such a thing never existed. (Although of course, we brothers would have those jam sessions, where we talked in a very frustrated and hopeless way about it. Same thing, I guess.)

[Sometimes when a group of brothers were talking together, we got onto the subject of marriage, coming from our belief in the hopelessness of ever having it. But now, our lives were closely monitored and controlled, and private conversations like this were rare.]

It actually looks worse now for relationships and marriage than in any past time in the fellowship. Not that it was so hot any time before, either.

I see myself weakening and I wonder if I won’t get into fornication by the end of this year. I do firmly believe I am trying to live a life that is impossible for me. Namely, trying to live unmarried when I have a strong sex drive.

There is a strange thing I hear in my mind: “I will make requital to suit you.” It has to be, or I have had it. I really think I am in an untenable situation. [I thought God was telling me that he was going to fix this situation.]

I believe that most brothers have a secret sex life, even if they don’t commit the act. They at least do in their minds. Not that I am saying everybody should come out of hiding and do it openly, and that it’s okay to fantasize and chose sin. But in the sense that it points to a big problem and that something should be done about this real problem that is going on. I would be a lot freer and a lot better if I had a wife, even though the pop mythology is contrary to it. Am I really better off this way? Why can’t we loosen up and be real? Why all this do or die? You have got to be a strong person.

[The “pop mythology.” Stewart Traill told us, and it was repeated by everyone there, that marriage will not help us, and that the lack of marriage was not the real issue. “You have to be a strong person,” that is, we have to be able to forego marriage and the benefits of it, and bear up under sexual temptation (and loneliness) on our own without any help.]

This leads to: I hear that David Wilkerson came over yesterday, ostensibly to get some carpet for his mother, but I hope that he will come over and help us somehow. I really think Brother Stewart is alone. I could go on and on about all this. I had given up on these thoughts, when I got my three day ultimatum at a recent meeting. I thought I was done with thinking about these things, but I am essentially unchanged.

[After being threatened with being thrown out for saying what was wrong with Stewart and life in the church, I tried to straighten up and fly right and to not think about these things anymore. That never worked for long, and I always came back to the same conclusions and my need to do something about it.]

We have a secret society, an enforced belief system. Where Stewart is Lord and we have a weird, oppressive version of the Gospel. And it will never stop unless someone comes from the outside, someone who is able to help and can’t be put down as a gameplayer. Someone that Stewart can’t get a handle on and doesn’t have power over, like he does with us. (He weilds this power through our society, each other, our fears, etc. I have thought about this a lot.) Everybody tries very hard to be accepted in our society and will lose everything if they are not.

[If any one of us who lived in COBU (or anyone who used to live there) tried to say what was wrong there, our faults and weaknesses (our real faults and also the ones we were merely accused of having) were used against us to invalidate anything we had to say. This was a very effective defense that Stewart Traill used. He used our society, he used us on each other and he used our fears against us to keep us in line.] 

I was reading Dawn B.’s diary today. Very interesting. She hinted of thinking that our society is strange. She had a lot of self condemnation for being a weird woman (during 1989).

[Dawn was a sister who died of leukemia. There was a box of her things in the Staten Island house. I read her diary when I was guarding the house that weekend.

In 1989, Stewart Traill was slamming the women, alleging that they were making a united effort to destroy the brothers’ fellowship and trying to drag us down. This was a continuation of the relationship neutralization that Stewart practiced. Who could start an intimate relationship with an enemy? It also was an effective diversion to keep our attention off what he was doing. Stewart had just “repented” (explanations of this are available on Mike Montoya’s website, at this link) and now it was time to slam the sisters, as a sideshow to take the attention off himself. Some of these sisters knew about Stewart’s adulteries and he wanted to back them into a corner or drive them out of the church. He put so much pressure on the sisters that no sister could speak about anything. He set the brothers in the church against sisters, making us think they were trying to destroy our new status of being set free of the domination of the sisters, who, he said, had been in control of us all these years. We were now set free, and the sisters, he said, were angry and would do anything in their power to regain control over us. He set this up dynamic, as I would come to realize later, like lining up toy soldiers or chess pieces and playing them against one another. The brothers were to have their turn later.]

I also read Dawn’s version of that night we were attacked by a woman in a building on Linden Boulevard. She had no criticism that we didn’t handle it right. She thought she was going to die, alluding to a dream she had previously. She had one compliment for me, that I was really kind toward her afterward, and so was Dale. I remember being so into my head when I would take sisters (including her) out sweeping. Yet, she seemed to have no awareness of that, only morbid self concern for herself. What a lot of trouble I would save myself.

[While we were in this apartment building to visit “lambs” (young people we had contacted and who showed some interest in talking to us), we were set upon by a very large, angry woman. We got into the elevator and Dale made the mistake of shoving her back to keep her from getting in with us. The elevator door would have closed before she got in, but Dale stood in the door between us and her, which prevented the door from closing. He shoved her a few times, then he stepped back and the door closed. Now we were in the elevator going down and we could hear her shouting as she was going down the stairwell. We got to the building lobby and she was already there waiting for us. Then a crowd of people came after us. They grabbed us, opening a door in the hallway and shoving us through it. I thought they were going to beat us up. But they were rescuing us. The door lead to the outside. And they told us to keep going!

After we returned from being out into the neighborhoods that night, we had a meeting in the Woodruff basement where we talked about our night and voted on one another.  There were always two people selected for special recognition in the voting. One was “who was the most zealous.” And the other was, “who was the biggest wimp.” Those who you had been out with could nominate you for either one. If it had been another sister besides Dawn, Dale and I might have both shared the biggest wimp award for that incident. That’s why I was surprised when I read that Dawn had written positive things in her diary about what happened that night.

There was another time when I was out with Noel and Ellen. A pack of 30 young men surrounded us. The immediate reason was curiosity over a lesson book that Noel was showing to a young man, and because Noel was good-looking. This crowd began to get rowdy and they were saying things to Noel. (These groups were called “wolf packs” in the newspapers at that time. This was during the time when a woman jogging in Central Park had been beaten unconscious by a pack of young men who were “wilding.” I had seen several of these groups in Brooklyn, thankfully, from a distance.) 

I began to envision being caught in a wilding event, with Noel as the chief victim. (From what they were saying about her, she was going to be.) But I was also concerned for myself, because I might have to go in there and try to rescue her once they got started on her. I said to Noel and Ellen, “Come on, let’s go.” Ellen agreed, but Noel stayed with the young man, surrounded by this increasingly agitated crowd. So, to make Noel realize she would be alone with those young men and not have me there to rescue her (this assumption was where her bravery, or obliviousness to danger, was coming from), I walked away with Ellen. It worked. Noel left the crowd and came running after us, complaining that I had left the “lamb” (the young man) there and telling me that I did not care about him. 

Two young men from this crowd followed us. I talked to keep them occupied, hoping they’d finally go away and leave us alone. When we got to the corner of Woodruff Avenue, I sensed that they would keep going as we turned onto our block. And that’s what they did. It would not have been good to bring them into the house. Noel asked me, “Why did you let them go?”

And when the time for the voting came, Noel nominated me for the biggest wimp of the night. She said I had “let the lambs go and did care about them.” Ellen protested meekly, but could not help me. There was nothing I could say. No one wanted facts. The vote was unanimous (except for Ellen). The room full of raised hands confirmed that my actions had qualified me to be the biggest wimp of the night.

There was another night when I brought a young man over to the Woodruff house. I lost track of him as we went down into the basement for the meeting. A rumor spread through the house: “Jim LaRue brought in a guy with a knife!” I couldn’t win! If I let troublemakers go, I was a wimp and if I brought them in, I was endangering everyone.]

***

“A look at the past can help understand the present.”

[I was writing this on a guard shift at the Staten Island house.]

Putting on a change of clothes straight from the dryer. How good it feels. I really do live a strange monkey life. I have questions about these lofts. How much were the brothers really into it, and how much were they pushed into it? Already, I see I must write in code. Already I see that my thoughts are controversial. Already insinuating that Brother Stewart pushed everybody into it and it might not have been right!

I was riding the exercise bike here. It was a good aerobic workout. Why not just switch to this instead of jogging? It is certainly easier. No time spent going to and from wherever I jog. But again, if I had one of these in a loft situation, I could only receive criticism for being into this life, or for getting the new brothers into it. Or, in one particular version of it, being accused of perpetuating the resort hotel.

[Stewart Traill accused of us of having a “resort hotel” and “living on a hotel basis.” It was a strange accusation, because we lived in crowded and dirty living conditions in a bad neighborhood and we had no time for leisure because of the constant activity in the church businesses, and going out to get new converts. If I were seen riding an exercise bicycle, I would have surely been accused of setting a wrong example for the “new disciples” (the new recruits we “swept up”), because I would have been doing a leisure activity, and being part of the “resort hotel” Stewart accused us of having, instead of pushing our rigorous way of life on the new people we brought in. We were not supposed to make friends with the new people, but only be conduits for pushing Stewart’s training and influence on them. By the way, the only exercise bicycle in COBU was at the Staten Island house, where the sisters who had children lived.]

Why do I write this? (This diary, that is.) I don’t have a whole lot of motivation to write my thoughts, especially not in detail. But it just seems like Jesus keeps showing me: “keep a diary.” So, I will. There are benefits to this. Help in preserving my sanity is one of them. A creative exercise is another. A reminder for later, a record of certain tangents of thought that may have proved worthwhile.

I often feel I need to live an underground life. The bicycle above being just one example. There is an awful lot of ultra or hyper-spirituality going around. Which would be fine, if that were true to what we as people were really like. But, since there is more to us than that, this is really an untrue picture and it might be damaging. This delves into the area that: Jesus was fully God and fully human at the same time. I do cautiously say, maybe we are presented with a view that Jesus wasn’t really fully human. It is not presented to us so much in word, but in deed. (I understand that this has always been difficult to explain doctrinally, due to certain problems, such as: to be fully human includes possessing sinful flesh, even with an “immaculate conception.” Yet fully God means holy and sinless. How do you reconcile the two? And the tendency has been to push the one side at the expense of the other. I would have a hard time explaining it, though I have always believed it to be so, “by faith.”)

Now, I am getting myself in trouble, in that I am suggesting error [that Stewart is presenting false teaching], which is something which could bring the roof down on my head. Maybe it’s a well-intentioned error on his part. It wouldn’t be the first time anyone’s done it. But maybe I am suffering as a result of it. If Jesus wasn’t fully human, then I must suppress my “humanness,” which is most, if not all, of me. (Not like Christ, who must have been a lot more God than man!)

In a quest for pseudo spirituality, I (must) suppress the healthier parts of my human nature. I may be (in theory) more child than sheep (or, the child may be more important) but the sheep still exists, and if the sheep doesn’t get grass, fresh air and shorn once in a while, he’s going to be in sorry condition.

[The “sheep nature,” according to Stewart’s teaching, meant our human needs. The “child” meant a person’s spiritual nature as a child of God.]

Somehow, the roles are reversed: when I complete my spirituality, then the sheep can be taken care of. When actually, simultaneous care may very well work out best for both. No need for specifics at this moment, I am deliberately being abstract to get to the essence of the problem

I may also be caught in a drive to get the church together, where all my needs are sublimated for the good of the whole – in this case, to the church operation.

What are all of these dreams I have anyway? Like the one on September 4, 1988 about meetings at the New Property (at a time when that was inconceivable) which also indicated that brothers and sisters were relaxing with sports like swimming and baseball (and jogging, which was especially pointed out at the end of the dream). Or, more recently, a dream where Paul S. was playing football with new brothers in Central Park? Does God indicate something through this?

I was playing a little with the kids here, and also took the girls down to see a fireworks display. This makes me think of how I would like, to some degree, to live a “normal” life.

Speaking of moves, I wish I could move here instead of to a loft. [To the Staten Island house, where I was guarding.] I wish there was an alternate choice. I never agreed to this loft thing, thought supposedly it was put before the whole church and decided on as a church. (I wasn’t there. I don’t know if I would have said anything in the face of such an overwhelming tide.)

I wish I could “come clean” and live who I am in the light, without all the “under surveillance” feelings (real or imaginary). I think I could serve Christ better that way, or that I would at least perform my daily tasks in a more willing manner.

Speaking of the above and getting to take Laura to see the fireworks. She approached me in the living room. She is very pretty.  I wish I could sit and talk with her for a long while. I would have a much easier time with a woman like this than with any older one. But then I think, wouldn’t that interfere with her plans for her own future and why would she want (or why would God give her to) a weird dead-end person like me?

[I believed that I could not “handle” a woman my age, because Stewart constantly told us that the sisters in the church were way ahead of the brothers and that they could easily manipulate us. I often wondered that if I married someone younger, it would be a more equal match. If I married someone my age, I’d be living with an intimate enemy, who would try to trick and “maneuver” me. And, according to Stewart, if I were not able to withstand and overcome her constant tricks, she would despise me because I was not able to stop her from manipulating me. Laura was the daughter of one of the “older sisters” who lived in the Staten Island house.]

I think finally getting a wife would have a great calming effect on me.

But, I am bad. I don’t deserve anything. Also I just don’t see how I am going to go through with all this training program and be fully there and successful with no crashes or upsets to actually make it to the point where it is okay and acceptable for me to start a relationship. Especially if it is with a younger sister. I feel like trying to be good now to earn it, like praying a lot for it, etc.

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