1993, 01/01 (a) Start of a New Journal Book, Being in a Meeting

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.

This is another attempt of mine at keeping a journal. It seems I am constantly reminded to do so, but I periodically destroy my journals because they contain information that I wouldn’t care to have found out. Sometimes I write in code, but these are hard to read and this also hinders the pleasure of writing.

(I have sometimes thought of dividing these journals into two categories, classified and declassified, and writing accordingly. A small book like this one is also part of the idea I’ve had recently to miniaturize everything, since I move around a lot and who knows when I’ll be called on to move somewhere.)

In my reading today, I came across a line that said, “We both kept extensive journals, recording our experiences with no attempt, at this point, at analysis or interpretation.” This is what I want to do, to record events and thoughts as they happen, with little or no attempt at interpretation, though I may have a hard time keeping to that. It’s usually later, when looking back at things that I can see more clearly.

January 1, 1993   

Here at the New Property before the meeting. What has been going on this week, I think, is that as a result of the Grace Meeting last week, there is a slight air of anticipation and hope. Especially among the older brothers, who before this were nothing but doom and gloom and waiting to get it (or hoping not to get it). I attended only one brothers’ meeting this week. Things seemed a little more relaxed and not morbid and uptight. Or, in our jargon, “the spirit seemed (more) hopeful.” Brothers were relaxed enough to laugh at something Greg B. said. Though I would say, this “thawing” is more of an anticipation of what is, or might be, coming and not for something that is already here or possessed. A lot, I think, it will depend on how Stewart treats us. This is what I think and what I am not supposed to say. I think it is the unspoken thought among us as well.

Here is where I run into problems regarding the degree of honesty and integrity of this journal, as far as remaining true to my inmost thoughts, versus the thought of, what if somebody finds this? How can it be an authentic journal if it is carefully censored or merely a written record of the party line, occasionally interspersed with those little comments where doubts can be expressed in a way that is socially acceptable and safe. But, what’s the point of that? I might as well not even write. Another thing I could possibly do, is to just write down events, without commentary.

Maybe I should write in French.

[I was trying to find a way to write without anyone being able to understand what I was writing. I experimented with systems of “secret writing,” which included French, stenography and even writing Hebrew style, with consonants and only dots for vowels. I settled on something called notehand, which I read about in a book about taking notes for college lectures, and added my own improvements to it. It was an extremely abbreviated form of English, sometimes with other symbols like Greek letters and lines. For example, a downward curved line at the end of word represented an “ing” ending. I later resorted to using the letter g for an “ing” ending.  I also used marks, such as : wˆ for “what,” ˜w for “when” and w for “with.” 

An example of this writing is: “im wrtg m thgts ab S + th ch b usg sec cd.” This says: “I am writing my thoughts about Stewart and the church by using secret code.” I also used extreme abreviation. imgtg =  I am going to go. 

An unintended but useful side effect of this was that I could record events and conversations as they were taking place because of how rapidly I could write, because I had become skilled in this. That’s why I have been able to portray the “you were there” sense of being in a meeting with Stewart and hopefully to help anyone reading this understand what it was like to be there, capturing most of what was happening and hopefully conveying what a manipulating and mind bending experience a meeting in the Church of Bible Understanding was, and showing the processes we were subjected to.]

I don’t know how to write or think without cynicism. I look at everything with skepticism, which is the opposite of faith.

I would like to get back to memorizing the Bible, including in Greek.

The boss always uses pejoratives to call people, making them only half-persons. This is a technique of control and abasement.

[Stewart Traill almost never spoke to anyone in a friendly and respectful way. He spoke in a derogatory way, often using strange sounding nicknames for people, or just be angry with that person. Stewart never acted as if he liked any of us. He was rude to everyone, but he expected (and received) extreme deference from everyone.]

January 1, 1993  Grace Meeting, highlights

I was recording Stewart’s words here. Stewart often spoke in the first person, when he really meant to say something about us. We were supposed to internalize these “I” statements and make them our own. For example, when Stewart said, “I don’t care and I prefer hell,” he was not speaking of himself. These declarations were often followed by church members standing up and saying,”It’s true that I have not been care and I have been preferring hell, but I don’t intend to leave that way.” I understood that when Stewart used “I” phrases, that it was programming. I understood that Stewart was not talking about himself, but that he was giving us the words to say, which we were to fully agree with as being the truth about us.]

Finally, I am beginning to understand God’s grace in relation to all the other words in the New Testament. Grace, the hub of a wheel that everything else is attached to. It holds everything together so it can get somewhere.

“Grace is especially dangerous when it’s treated as a loose cannon. Like those who pervert the grace of God to licentiousness. That is, anything goes. The purpose of grace is to save you. “By grace you have been saved.”  It is the only means by which I can be saved. The New Testament is centrally concerned with the workings of grace. God is at work in you. (Something really big did happen a week ago).

“When I think about grace, I am glad about it because I want to be saved. (This would show that your mind is involved.)

“Romans 4:16, the word ‘basis,’ Greek for ‘foot.’ The human body stands on the earth. Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Colossians 3:5 literally says, ‘put to death your members which are on the earth.’ Members on earth – your feet? Put to death your basis?

“Conscience, not conscience as we refer to it, as in Pinocchio. It is a type of knowing, knowing together with God (not on your own). Back in Genesis, ‘you will be like God, knowing good from evil.’

“Baptism is not a physical shower. It has nothing to do with repentance or circumcision (putting away). That had better been done long ago. It is rather, an appeal for knowledge of God (a clear conscience).’

“The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is your comic book version of the Bible. The real one is quite different. The RSV is often incorrect, because someone said, ‘This is too hard for them to understand, better make it easier.’ Just knowing etymology is not enough to qualify, there must also be God’s grace working in the individual. It is the only thing that will qualify.

“Conscience is not what tells you right from wrong, but, ‘what I am is known to God and it should be known to your conscience.’ What is the connection? Conscience is not what divides right from wrong. This won’t work, because it doesn’t explain these verses.

“Three things: language (communication), words, concepts and thoughts. The latter is more important in the Bible than you think.

“Paul came fom the premise that he knew what he was talking about. It is true, there is another necessity, which is your own experience. (It is the only thing you know. What you are. Your previous experience is the same as everybody else’s previous experience.) Paul’s extrapolation is the same as mine. You say this when you say you understand a scripture. Everybody’s circumstances are different, but everybody’s experiences are the same. You must get to the same common denominator if you will ever relate to other experiences, to other human beings.

“The bad news about grace, it is all from a human point of view. This view is so bad that it has been essentially driven out of the church. The bad news is hard on your pride (and it has not gotten home to you), because you are obliged by it.

“If grace is such a big thing, then judgment must have a lot to do with it. Is it crystal clear that grace is given as a gift? You can’t perform for it or cheat for it.”

[Stewart always assumed we wanted to “cheat” in order to get things. The above has been a rather routine Stewart kind of talk about the Bible. It’s a rather impersonal, scientific kind of talk. There is nothing in it, especially, that anyone could point to as false teaching or scripture twisting, though elements of it are in there, or implied. One of them is Stewart’s search for a “unified field theory,” a term coined by Einstein which meant a sort of “theory of everything” that, in Stewart’s case, would explain the whole Bible and tie it all together.

(And by the way, only Stewart would have and understand this theory. Stewart was claiming that the RSV – and really all other Bible translations – were just “comic book versions” of the real thing, which also implied that Stewart understood the real thing, and that others didn’t. And you might have also noted that he compared himself with the Apostle Paul, though, yes, it was in the context of all people having the same human experience.)

Here Stewart was saying that Grace is what ties it all together and is the hub to which everything is connected. (The unified field theory of the Bible, so to speak.) I have noted elsewhere that Stewart almost never talked about Jesus, except when he was talking about him as an angry judge we would face upon our soon deaths. If there is a unified field theory in the Bible, most Christians believe that Jesus himself is that unity who ties it all together, not one of the gifts like grace, important as it is.

This has been a short introduction to a COBU meeting, in the following sections, things get a little hotter and you can see Stewart in action, and what his effects were on the assembled congregation.]

You can read the next section here: The Beating at the Meeting: The Bad News About Grace


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