1993, 01/31. The KGB: A Life Under Surveillance

Sunday, January 31 

I’m not going to the meeting today. I’m Finishing the job at Koos with KGB.

[It was for a good reason that I used Kevin’s initials instead of his first name, because to the way Kevin acting toward me.]

It is the last day in January. One more cold month. Can spring be far away?

The actual work I have to do today is easy. It’s just that there are so many other interfering forces. I made a mental diagram, showing today’s simple tasks surrounded and isolated by a barrier which excludes all outside forces and nasty problems. It makes the day seem easier. Is there anything wrong with this? I am always, it seems, in or close to, an “imminent crisis” situation. If it’s not here now, it’s a-building. When I look back on the day, or on previous days, I think, “What I have been doing is not that hard.” It’s just the present, where the roof always seems ready to come crashing down on my head. But, the roof hasn’t come crashing down yet, so what’s all this extra stuff? I might as well leave it aside. (“Lay aside every weight and sin?”) I must function calmly and with a cool head in order to accomplish anything.

I have been practicing foreign language learning by methods of repetition and total immersion. (I would try to reach the hypothetical goal of absolute use of the language to the exclusion of using English, but this is impossible because I not only think in English, but make all my daily transactions with other people in English. And news on the radio and many books and magazines I read are in English. I would shift over to foreign languages as much as possible, but it’s just not available.)

Looks like today is going to be a long one. This is discouraging, to say the least. I feel imprisoned on a wood floor job, even if I do have the place to myself. I expect to be rolling into Red Hook at 10 p.m. at the earliest. I am fully aware that this is due to errors on my part, although the web of circumstances is more complicated than that and there were others involved. (I was thinking today, with regard to this job, that I am one link in a rather long chain, albeit a weak one.) I had to wait a few hours for Kevin to finish laying a floor in the foyer to proceed with my end of the bargain.

I’m having a hard time working today, because my attitude is, I just want to get finished and get out of here. It’s hard to operate smoothly. Everything seems like a crisis. I’m worried about the woman in the apartment next door, thinking she is going to try to tempt me. [I was so ragged and worn out looking, I had nothing to worry about, as far interest on her part]. Also, any skill or motivation in my workmanship is coming from, if I don’t fix this and get it done now, I’ll hear it later. So it’s all just to escape punishment, real or imagined.

I guess a lot of my trouble today is coming from not writing my day off (as already a loss), as I should. I wasn’t going to make anything of it, anyway. But I was getting anxious that I might actually get out of here around 7 p.m. and then have a few hours to myself at Red Hook. (Techically speaking, I do have these hours, right here on the job site, because I am now waiting an hour for the stain to dry, listening to the radio and writing this.)

I have learned to adjust my life to these hours, to never choose a schedule, but to adjust to the hours when they come. Stuck in a van outside the office, unable to go anywhere? Have no fear, don’t be discouraged. I have a radio or tape player to listen to. I have anticipated “stranded” time and have prepared for it. But what bothers me is that for the most part, I cannot chose my course in any way. Or, if a choice does exist, it is a tighly proscribed set of alternatives that are out of my control anyway. Related to this, yesterday, I was thinking of how I have no control over my health except what I choose to eat, but I cannot make provision for exercise. I thought about what to do, such as, get up early and walk for a half hour. It will be good to walk out of the building for a while in the morning.)

But, along with whatever attempt I make to describe it or to try to be “upbeat” about it, in all, I’m pretty worn out.

I was thinking about how most of what I am doing today is to avoid punishment. And I don’t say too much, because this may only agitate the same. As Goffman writes in his book, Asylums, most people live in three spheres of life and problems in one can be left at least temporarily when they enter another. (For example, workplace, home and hobbies.) A man’s troubles at the workplace can be left at the office. His friends at the rod and gun club are not going to hold a meeting on it. But, my work performance can be brought up at a Christian meeting (at “church”). Likewise, any recalcitrance in “church” can lead to me losing my job – or even my “home,” my place of residence.)

It is a complete net of surveillance and indeed nothing I do can escape notice. The pastor of the church can mock me for my preferences, desires or activities, and I must be deferential and not make any noise about this (though these things I’m interested in are not wrong things). I can feel it necessary to hide everything about myself from everyone that is not official church business.

A dispute between me and another brother can be public property, that is, noised about. If I blow my stack or fly off the handle, this can go in the daily messages to our pastor. He will issue a statement on it. This statement is received in the messages which are read by everyone. Or, I may be brought up on Sunday by our pastor, or by brothers who think I need to be talked to in front of everybody.

What this leads to is a false self-effacing front of humility which is not me at all. My life is public property and under everyone’s eyes. If something is brought up concerning my behavior, I must be deferential and agreeable and back down right away, because we are not supposed to fight for self. And ultimately, the ever-present threat of “excommunication,” or “disfellowshipping” is always just off stage, only slightly out of view. I think since I had that done to me, (a shape up-or-else ultimatum) that I have not been the same since, probably because a reputation can accrue.

There is the sense of, we’ll flush you down the toilet. How punishment is way beyond the thing committed, possibly because order and uniformity must be kept at all costs to insure the smooth operation of the wheels of the machine. I found out just how little value I have or how little regard for my person there was. The idea that they could be ready to do this to me and then go about their business tomorrow. That, we don’t want to hear it – or we’ll fix you good!

I have been largely out of commission since then, keeping my place. Of course, this is no way to live. I fear that anything could lead to being exposed to the same treatment again, such as being caught in a disagreement, fully expressing my mind or making trouble on jobs. I remember one time when I calmly questioned Stewart about something, that once was enough, twice was pushing it. (It was the time with the lesson about the fear of God. Stewart seemed to be writing José off. When I spoke up about this, Andrew quickly interrupted and asked me what “spirit” I was in, or, was I watching what spirit I was speaking in, which was a rhetorical question, an encoded “nudge.”

Andrew was not touching the issue at hand, but loudly implying that the devil was speaking through me. Because there are only two alternatives. (1) God’s spirit – but if I was speaking in God’s spirit, then why would I have any disagreement with what Stewart was saying? How could God’s spirit disagree with God’s message as spoken through Stewart? (2) The only other spirit is Satan attacking God. No luck with a third alternative: “Neither. I’m in my spirit.” There is no such thing. Nor will saying “I just had a question” deliver those who try to escape being pinned by this tactic to escalate a minor question into one of cosmic significance, that is, to the warfare between God and the devil and whose side are you on anyway? Obviously, you are going to say you’re speaking in God’s spirit. Then, there should be no disagreement with or questioning anything Stewart is doing, because God is using Stewart to speak to us.

Well, maybe this is all a bit shallow or meaningless to write. I just want to include these things as a cross section of my thoughts, as this book is intended to be. Maybe I’m a little disappointed – my entries had been a little more constructive today and I have digressed to these things. Sure, I think about them. But what got me started on this was all the “activity” related to this job, which I am still on (alone, it would be nice to have someone else here). If only I could sidetrack all of this by merely saying, “no getting into circumstances.”

I was also thinking that the older brothers’ fellowship is going downhill, because no one really helps one another, and all disagreements are settled by the confrontational method. I was also thinking that I have no romantic life or “love life” as a result of living in a total institution – or in this case, a total church. Stewart says that since I am not faithful to Christ and never have been, I cannot marry.

Though it is not true that I would never dream of pursuing a relationship, it is true that I’d never attempt it. It’s a whole area of me that’s shut down. I never get friendly with or act interested in women or deal on that level of activity. It’s been a long time that I ever told a woman that she is pretty or complimented her on her appearance or something she does well or just got plain interested in her and began to want to see and talk to her.

And forget trying to conjure up the last time I ever held a woman in my arms, holding her, talking to her and kissing her. I see sisters in the office and find some of them quite attractive – but forget it. Besides, this is immediately known by the object of your interest – and others. And when the object of your interest realizes your interest, since it would be pretty obvious – she does not respond in kind, but, sounds the alarm! It is pretty much accepted by the sisters that the brothers cannot marry, due to their condition and lack of faithfulness to Christ. But it occurs to me that here we have two matching groups of the opposite gender, who are quite eligible and quite marriageable. You see, the word ARBITRARY flashes into my mind with regard to this subject. That our pastor has arbitrarily decided that due to our condition (which exists) that we cannot marry. Perhaps another pastor, considering the same conditions, would decide we should marry and that we need to. Or, it wouldn’t even be a question. But this is the tack that Stewart has decided to take.

Though, as Stewart presents it, it is not a decision he has made. It is a naturally occuring fact that he is merely pointing out to us. He says we cannot marry because we are not real men. He says that marriage does not exist for such people, because it is not possible. Not saying that two people can’t live togther and have sex and children. They do all the time. But, to Stewart, this is not marriage, or we’d be able to do it here.

But Stewart will not permit such a sexual liaison here. He will neither condone nor take part in a “wrong marriage” – which, though it is called a “marriage,” it is really a “not marriage.” So, we have to burn with sexual desires and accept our fate. Of course, you could say, “get faithful to Christ” – but being able to get married would really help me be faithful to Christ, because I would no longer be a volcano. It seems to me that Stewart doesn’t mind losing a few (or more) brothers to fornication or adultery. Just as long as he doesn’t take part in wrong marriage or allow it in our church. He would rather see me burn than find a way to alleviate my troubles. How much of this is because we have a live-in church and that brothers and sisters would pair up right away if we lived out? Also, Stewart doesn’t mention marriage at all, so it doesn’t exist. It won’t exist unless and until he speaks it into existence – since he is our god and nothing happened in Genesis 1 without God saying, “Let there be ____ and there was ____.”

Though I suppose I should say, God will lead and Stewart will just follow what he sees God showing him and say it. Or, the king’s heart is like a river of water and God turns it whichever way he wishes.

[The official version of events and what I was supposed to say and believe is that God led Stewart, and Stewart told us what God shows did or did not show him. This viewpoint, if accepted, implied God, and not Stewart, was forbidding us to marry due to our alleged condition and that God would turn Stewart’s heart toward allowing marriage if we were faithful to Christ. This presupposes that Stewart was a “king,” like Solomon or King David, chosen by God to lead his people. Essentially, this was the view of those in COBU.]

I just can’t see two people, a man and a woman, presenting themselves here as desiring to be husband and wife, however it would be done. (This shows I think in terms of rules.) Joe and Kathryn got as far as two people can go, though I don’t know her side of the story. I imagine she must know Joe’s desires, since she choreographed or matched his actions with hers one for one. They share the same desk and both work in the carpet department. I also imagine these relationships to be like poker hands, since the one obviously guesses the other’s hand, or intentions, due to which cards they hold. (An “I’m interested in you” card.) But the cards are never laid on the table. Joe and Kathryn never had a real talk about it between them, and they rarely speak to others about their relationship. I can only guess the backroom talk on the sisters’ side. But the view I get is that the sisters are quite content and uninterested and ready to endure the rest of their lives single if need be, if Jesus wills it – except when one of them cracks once in a while. Not that the real story ever comes out. She will just look bothered and agitated and talk will be noised about that she is “hoping in this life,” until she makes a confession to stop “hoping in this life” and to return to hoping in Jesus, as if the two were mutually exclusive. (The two mutually exclusive things being marriage and Christ.)

You can read the next section of this journal here: Stewart Traill, A Man Without A Human Life.

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

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