1993, 01/27-28. Not Bothering

These journal pages are part of the source material for my book, Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding, which is available as a Kindle book or in paperback

The title for this section is from the older brothers being reluctant to get into working groups and why this was so. I also wrote about believing what I believe because I have studied it and come to a decision about it, instead of believing just because I was told I had to and was forced into it.

January 27

Working at E. Cross’s apartment. Kevin L. [a new brother] got here before us and is missing now. I talked with Rocky about convictions and also about family matters. I also talked with a new brother about the Bible and false religions.

[I did’t tell the new brother that COBU was a false religion, but I was talking to him about cults in general. I was not getting him into COBU teaching and the “Training Papers,” but just talking to him about the Bible and what it says, free from the slant and spin as taught in COBU.]

Kevin L. turned up. It turns out he was asleep inside the apartment.

Now that running around is done (driving, dropping others off,) and the typical late arrival as a result, things will function according to precision, insofar as I can help it. The clock, time, work and tasks.

About my talk with Rocky. I had interrupted him by asking him question a question about his family, so we pursued that tangent for a while (with me as a listener, him as talker). But I chalked up the word “convictions” on the screen so to speak, in order to return to it. I mentioned it as something I’d like to hear later. Then we had to go downstairs to make a call. On the way back up in the elevator with Rocky, I thought of asking him then. But intuition or a sixth sense said to hold off on that a while, to see if he brings it up on his own. If he does, then it was important to him and it will be more spontaneous and factual than if I asked the question now. It was, “wait…obey this impulse, there is something to it.” So I did, to test and see. Almost as if there were definite rules to conversation, about how and when to draw a person out and to retreive information. There is a time to ask, other times to remain silent, although I am being active in the process. Within a few seconds, Rocky said the word “convictions,” then began to elaborate. My intuition was right. I would have never known had I not waited. His words on the subject tended toward marriage and wanting a wife and children. Of course, there are other areas to his thoughts on convictions, not that this isn’t one of them either. I am interested in convictions as well, because it is one of the things on my mind. What are my real convictions, what do I believe?

Actually this was a result of our talk on false religions and the deception they use, such as the more tricky false religious using the Bible to back their claims. I have heard from many sources that it is not enough to believe because you are told to, even if you do consent to the facts, especially in times of trial. Because then it is a second hand faith and not truly yours. You are liable to the accusation that you just believe what you are told.

This is an area that troubles me. I have a sense of bewilderment, because, on one hand, I must believe what I am told or I could run aground on the shoals of disapproval. So don’t test, I just accept; who are you to question? Then the other side: do I really believe because I have studied, taken it in and made it my own? It is just shallow and a weak hold otherwise. And running to “I better believe this or else,” is no shelter to run to. My uncertainty shows in any situation (except maybe when we traffic among ourselves, then it’s de rigueur, it’s acceptable). I am easily knocked off balance.

That’s what Rocky’s sister told him about something he was saying to her. “You sound like you are trying to convince yourself.” (Note: she did not say, “You sound like you’re trying to convince me, or to pull the wool over my eyes.”) That was very perceptive. And just running to the usual stronghold of “your family is working you over and using your weaknesses against you” is not valid. It points to a real issue. “I believe because I must” won’t help me out there or in times of trouble.

And, the idea of how I’m a 35 year old man and haven’t yet settled basic issues (and have not gotten married) and that I do not believe many of the things I say and do. It’s a strange child-regressive state.

Desires for sex and marriage are getting to me today and also quite an array of the usual kinds of thoughts about life here and Stewart. I prayed a little and received perhaps an unusual answer, though nobody else seems to believe these kind of things or take them seriously. I began to pray. Suddenly I thought of this place in New Jersey I was in once where there was a huge rock in the middle of nowhere. An Indian legend says it’s a rock that fell from heaven. I was puzzling over why this came to mind, then I thought it means this thing I want can only come from heaven. I had also thought, maybe this will be one of those landmark prayers (no pun intended), like I had 2 years ago on the same subject. I don’t mind a “wait till later” answer. Why? Because it is still an answer.

January 28

Andrew was waking everybody up this morning, shouting the words, “More brothers needed in the groups! Who’s knocking at the door…and who’s not bothering? Stewart wants to know.” One by one, he called upon older brothers by name. One by one (with the exception of Chuck), groggy voices replied, “Not bothering.”

On the ride in with Paul B. and [new brother] Don B., we were talking about how it is at Woodruff. (Of course, the thought comes to mind of, well, if only I was there, I should be. It’s kind of unreal or hypocritical, to give Don advice about what to do in that situation if we don’t intend to be there, which is what Paul was doing.)

Haroldyne has her own cleaning service and her own computer business. She also makes cabinets. Why can’t I develop something with my own abilities?

I was reading my 1988 diary last night. It interesting how it culminates with that dream about the New Property. Also, it’s interspersed with wondering if Jesus will help me out of my dilemma. He had done it before. There are also some rather candid views about my condition and my views about my relationship with Christ and with Jimmy G. and others. Part of this diary’s value, besides a rough chronicle of events, lies in its candor. (It’s not very thorough, but I can read between the lines for events and attitudes.)

It would not have been nearly as valuable without that candor. I may photocopy it, to make sure it’s preserved by having other copies. It’s also a model for subsequent diaries, showing the value of keeping one, even if I don’t think what is written in it is important now. I may edit one of these copies so that it can be typed up for easier reading. Maybe with headings, explanations and an introduction. Maybe that’s an exercise in self indulgence. Who else would want to see it, or who would find it interesting? Maybe it would be a momentary curiosity for Paul. It also reminds me of the old subject of “interests,” and doing something merely because I am interested in it and would like to do it.

[I was talking about a teaching Stewart Traill had for the Young Sheep Training Course. The Young Sheep were members of the church in their late teens, whom Stewart was teaching while having cast off the older brothers and sisters. As a middle brother at that time, I envied the Young Sheep, because Stewart was talking to them about being real people, and not to be like those older brothers and sisters who were so far gone and beyond hope, and he said the middle brothers and sisters were next. Doing their interests was part of that teaching. In addition to working and gathering converts, they were also supposed to develop their interests, because that was part of Jesus’s plan for their lives. I had never heard Stewart say anything like this to us. So I decided to do my interests too, because I wanted to be a complete person. 

The Young Sheep brothers were also allowed to express interest in the Young Sheep sisters (telling sisters “I am attracted to you” and giving them “attention”) and, unlike us, they seemed to be on a track for marriage – after receiving more training, of course. I decided that I would also tell a sister I liked that I was attracted to her, and this helped to precipitate “Open Season” which was a brief time in the Rescue Mission, the training center for middle brothers and sisters, where I was in 1983. When I was out witnessing with a sister named Judy, I told her that I was attracted to her. After deliberating if it was alright to do, I decided I to be brave and go ahead and do it.

When I told her, she had no idea of what to do and began freaking out, muttering to herself and acting nervous. Word got back to brothers, who began giving me a hard time for breaking the rules and for “hurting” a sister, and I got come down on. However, word of this also got to Someone Else’s ears and he decided to call “Open Season,” in order for to get the unspoken attractions between the middle brothers and sisters out of our systems. There were about 100 of us in the Rescue Mission.

Open Season was supposed to be temporary, but soon relationships began springing up, as brothers and sisters began expressing their interest in one another and pairing up. Stewart soon moved to put an end to this. This is explained elsewhere in my journal pages. A brother named Ernie told me that Jim G. had asked him one day, “So what do you think about Jim LaRue?” Knowing the issue and event being referred to, he told me he was afraid and played it safe, and replied “Oh, I don’t know…” Jim G. said, “He’s just a brother trying to be real, in his own way.” So then I knew word had gone up to Stewart and come back down.

Giving up my “interests” such as jogging, foreign languages, artwork and other things, was necesssary according to Stewart’s destroy your life in this world teachings, which he began to slam at us after his so-called repentance at what the Grace Meeting. This caused me a lot of turmoil and helped me leave the church. Had I been able to have a little something in for myself while working in the church business and gathering converts, I might have felt I had a balanced life, and I might have stayed there. Stewart expressly did not believe in giving the people bread and circuses, and religion was definitely the opiate of the people in COBU. 

Also if Stewart had not threatened me when I told him at some meetings what was wrong with him and what he needed to change (usually during his call for questions or comments), but instead had said, “Thank you for pointing that out, there might be some truth to that, I can see how you’d say that,” I also might have still been there, having felt that I had my say and that it was taken into consideration. Stewart could have acted as if he were thankful for my suggestions, fooling me into thinking I was appreciated. I am happy now that he did not do that. But Stewart allowed one person to say what I did and get away with it, the floodgates would have opened and the same kinds of comments would have been made by many others. Stewart used me as an example of what would happen to anyone who tried this, and the consquences were demonstrated to me, and to the others, swiftly and in no uncertain terms.]

I just heard that Venacio got the English Portuguese dictionary I left for him. It made his day. It seems I am or should be the keeper and distributor for language materials in the church. There’s always my fear that I am going to get blasted for this. I could be asked, “Why are you setting up your little kingdom?” It seems that, even if it may only be a self-made fear, that any difference, aberration or affectation must and will be homogenized and leveled out due to the nature and expedience of community life. Possibly for control, categorization and to make it easy to keep tabs on everyone and everything. It seems, whether real or imaginary, that there is a great centripetal force here toward uniformity.

I must be extremely circumspect. If I get known for doing this, Stewart would have to “take me out,” in a sort of a “surgical airstrike.” But this fear, even if it is real, is foolish, when I look at it. Besides, what does God think? I don’t perceive God as being angry with regard to at least this matter. Chalk another one up to the “fear of man” category. (This is self-analysis.)  I have not been wanting to stick my neck out for any reason, in order to avoid being conspicuous. Especially in an area that has to do with my core interests. That is, having to do with me. This is horrible, really.

Dream:  I was talking to Laura. I actually went ahead and began talking to her. A voice said, “God puts love in her heart for you long before she sees you or talks to you.” In my last dream about her, I began to talk with her, but she was pulled away by others. This time I had actually done it. Because I have been asking God, who? If her or somebody else, when can I get started on marriage? I figure I would know who it is, even it is a while, maybe a year or so before the actual wedding date. I get anxious, I push.

::

I am now in tonight’s meeting (a brothers’ Meeting in Red Hook). Anticipation. Brothers are saying it’s supposed to be a “good meeting.” Somebody remarked that a “good meeting” usually means one with a lot of “heat.” I am expecting it to have something to do with groups, especially after the minor blowout at Woodruff last night. There will be a call to join the groups, and pressure to do so. I was thinking this morning that I’m not willing, due to the grind and the burnout, combining long work hours with staying up late at night at Woodruff. There seems to be a great reluctance on the part of older brothers to join groups, and possibily this is part of their reluctance.

These questions are never asked when reluctance is noticed. I compare how we are about this to how companies that notice a reluctance or fall in productivity might do a questionnaire to find out, asking why people are unwilling to work at something. Then maybe they adjust conditions (or increase pay). But here, no such thing is done. The idea here is that people can be made to do things, with no questions asked and no regard for a person’s wishes, so it’s either-or, all or nothing. Either a person does it or they stay far away, but won’t say why. (Though they mumble one-line phrases like, “Don’t wanna lay down my life.”) But nothing is really discussed. Adjustments are not made where they could be. Nothing is done to make it easier on the people involved. I was thinking that we could rotate, taking turns to avoid burnout. Or take one week full time turns at Woodruff with the new disciples without doing work in the church business.

[That is taking turns, with several older brothers working with the new converts full time, not working in the church businesses during that week. This would help avoid burnout. But this was unheard of in COBU. Brothers worked all day, and sometimes on night jobs and also had to manage new disciples and have meetings that lasted long into the early morning hours. Then they got to the Sunday meeting and Stewart told them they were all unfaithful to Christ, so they had to recommit themselves all over again to working at God’s will. This pattern happened every week.]

The problem here would be that then new disciples could get over if the guard is always changing. They can hide things from one older brother to the next because the same brothers aren’t there all the time. But, why is the underlying situation an entrenched warfare with the people we bring over?  And if not intensely supervised, the whole place blows up? Many of the new disciples are good people, but there are always the spoilers. Why do we have them in the first place? Why not screen them better? There is always the requirement that we must give everyone a chance. We pick them up off the streets and in two days they could be over at Red Hook on their “last chance” basis, taking up all our time with their antics. We support them and have to work around them, accomodate them and protect ourselves, our possesssions and our customers’ possessions from them. Not smart thinking. But we can’t let them go because we “must give them a chance.” This is somehow linked to, because Jesus is giving us a chance, he doesn’t throw us out.

I was thinking of the word “triage,” in sorting people. We could do it out there before bringing people over, but also inside, like at Woodruff. Forget the too far gone, temporarily pass over the “walking wounded,” and help those now who, with a little help can be saved, if they get help now. (I’m saying this about some of people sent over to Red Hook last night. Suddenly they had to be “settled” in the morning as we were going out the door to work. Should they even be sent here? And under what terms?) But, I guess, in this case I am an armchair general. I have the conviction of, I am not there at Woodruff. I heard there were only six to ten older brothers at that meeting.

[The context is the the new people got out of hand at the meeting at Woodruff the night before. There were not a lot of older brothers supervising and there were a lot of new people at Woodruff at the time. I was not willing to be at Woodruff, especially not with the long hours of work in the church businesses and being there every night, staying up late handling the new people. (This also included the intense pressure of voting and evaluating one another in meetings and then calling Stewart to report about about ourselves. No one was supposed to rest for even a moment, and everything was done under an extreme state of urgency. Always being in groups, constant activity and sleep deprivation are mind control techniques used by cults to keep people from being able to think critically.) I was giving my ideas about what to do, but then considered myself to be just armchair general, because I was willing to suggest ideas like rotating the staff, yet I was unwilling to be there myself. I was also saying that I’d be more willing if it wasn’t an 18 hour workday, 7 days a week.]

Tonight’s meeting is about to start soon. Brother Stewart showed up and there are only a handful of brothers here, sitting in the group area talking informally. I heard Stewart’s arrival announced when I was in the wood floor closet. For sure, I didn’t want to be discovered in there, caught walking out or even worse, hiding in there. (Like Andrew coming and finding me in there and broadcasting it to everyone. Sure, this fear is kind of childish.) So, what I did was go into the paint spray room in the back and shut the doors, where I’m writing this now.)

Actually, the paint spray room is a pretty good place to come at night, or even to draw, or anytime I want some peace and quiet and seclusion in a private area, one that is larger than a shoe box.

Of course, I am avoiding Brother Stewart, but I didn’t want to walk in there and just sit blank-faced. Or worse yet, sit quietly reading, writing or copying Greek words into a notebook. I’m sure I’d hear it from him one way or another and I don’t want to hear it.

[I must not appear to be idle, but must appear busy and working around “Brother Stewart” at all times. “Avoiding Stewart” was considered a major sin in COBU, because it meant that we were avoiding Jesus, as if Stewart and Jesus were one in the same person. Stewart said he represented, or modeled Jesus to us. Stewart told us that if we were avoiding him, it meant we were avoiding Jesus too.]

I can hear Andrew yapping away in there now, but I can’t hear the words. I figured I would go there in when a mass of brothers arrive. I’m also supposed to find a tape recorder (I have blank tapes) to tape the meeting with, but I wasn’t going to buzz around in there looking for one. The immediate issue I am avoiding is the groups – specifically, why I haven’t been working in one and haven’t gotten in one. But I would either prefer to confess in the mass “confession” or volunteer, hopefully quickly and easily, during the meeting, rather than talk about it right now with Andrew, Stewart and the few others in there now.

Andrew’s voice is getting louder.

I know the point is to get in the groups or to not get in them, laying my life down for the new disciple brothers or not laying my life down for them. So I’d rather not bother with the rest and not make myself vulnerable, but just volunteer. The meeting is not my actual life. (Though I wonder with the amount of meetings we have here.) I can hear Andrew preaching about how the older brothers and middle brothers have the opportunity to lay their life down for the new brothers.

I read Isaiah today, about ceasing to do evil, cleanse your hands, help the poor. (Lines 16-18, p.101.) The point is clear. [This is a note referring back a couple of pages in my diary about being an armchair general.]

There was much ado about getting a mike and speaker to the meeting for Brother Stewart, yet he is speaking fine without it.

I am sitting on the floor in a corner in the meeting, running the tape recorder. I actually have the feeling of liking to be here.

Stewart is talking about a new brother who left and came back. Stewart says he indulged and went for painkillers, and that he is more broken down than ever. Stewart is asking over and over, “What’s his condition?” Then he says, “He’s coming back and acting just like one of the brothers. This increases the temptation for other brothers, because it looks like they can get away with it.” Stewart says that we are all tempted and we are all liars. We are ashamed of our temptations, so we hold our breath and hope they go away, but they don’t. We tell lies about them. We should be defusing the bomb.

[“Defusing the bomb,” or “defusing one another” was one of Stewart’s teachings, which was about helping brothers be open about their temptations instead of hiding them. Brothers were like ticking time bombs, he said. But everything we talked about had to be discussed in COBU terminology and Stewart phrases, so little could be fixed or solved in a brother’s life this way. A brother would always have to end up confessing that he was “going by pride, trying to have it both ways, looking for an easier way,” and any number of mumbo jumbo Stewart phrases which were an unreal way of dealing with any problem. Probably a common denominator in these terms was the underlying meaning of “not being completely dedicated to the COBU way of life,” which would be the only diagnosis of anyone’s problems. All else was “fantasy problems and not the real issue.”]

Now brothers are talking about the process. Chuck is saying that we have temptations but we won’t say what they are, and that part of our problem is that we don’t discuss these things, at least not as a group. (I do think I get the feeling I have to tough it out.)

Stewart says, “You better get real about the whole subject. How close are you to doing the same thing? God’s mercy brought this brother back. Learn to say, ‘There but for the grace of God, go I.’ A sign of one who is trusting in God is that he just doesn’t care how he looks in the eyes of other human beings.” (I sometimes wonder if this is part of Stewart’s strongman stuff. It is easy for Stewart not to care how he looks in front of us. Who has he got to be afraid of with us? But why is he so separated from everybody else?

[Stewart did not associate with other pastors. In other words, what was he so afraid of, that he avoided his peers and isolated himself?]

Stewart says, “You can’t serve two masters…” He mentions deny yourself in connection with this. Also, when confessing sin, that we should not care about what others think. “You need God’s help, but you are not going to get anything from him while being double-minded.”

You can read the next section of this journal here: Square Pegs And Round Holes.

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