1993, 02/03-4. “Whenever Jesus Talked To Someone, He Was Putting Pressure On Them.“

The title for this section is a quote by the leader of the Church of Bible Understanding, Stewart Traill, who said that Jesus put pressure on people, meaning the same kind of pressure Stewart put on us. According to Stewart, this was how Jesus treated us, so this is how we should treat others, by putting “Jesus pressure” on one another. Sometimes this was called giving others “help and heat.”

Wednesday February 3

Just getting in now. I dropped off Paul & co. at the job on West 52nd Street. I pulled around the corner to park and to contemplate things a minute and to jot a few notes. I like to step to the side for a few minutes here and there, where it’s quiet, if only for three minutes or so.

Well, what will today bring? I didn’t get out sweeping last night due to various things. I’m thinking about my mother. I should write more. The occasional postcard, though it was a good idea to keep in touch that way, is not enough. I need to write more and at greater length. What about at least dropping a note to my brothers?

Just taking another minute, another minute sitting here.

Bob M. spoke to me about Leo. [Leo was a “new disciple” who stayed with us for a short time. He was from Russia and he spoke very little English.] Bob seemed reluctant to let Leo go with me, because the council questions whether I will really help him. It is good that he is learning to work, they say, but will I get him to the right place? Yet, I am the only one who can talk to him. On the job, Leo said he was sick, so Paul S. picked him up in a van. I had been talking to Leo, trying to explain things. He had wanted to know if we earn money. I showed him Acts 2:44. [This verse says: “And all that believed were together, and had all things common.”] He became agitated and wanted to pick up his bag downtown (maybe because he sees he will not earn cash, so he has to get his old possessions). I saw that he looked bothered, so I picked out words in the Russian dictionary. When I came to “preoccupied” (ozabochenniy), he said, “Money.”

Now I hear there is a Greek in the fellowship. 24 years old, he was swept up last night.

A song by Peter Frampton came on when we were in the Chinese restaurant. I said, “Oh well, it’s time to remember my college years.” I ended up talking about my roomate in college, Ray, and his stereo and how the door of our dorm room used to vibrate because the how loud he played his music. And about how he used to inch the volume knob on his stereo back up little by little when I wasn’t looking, after I asked him to turn it down because I was studying. This reminded me of how I’d like to have a way to remember my past sometimes and have even asked God for a way – a “safe” way, that is. Because I have given into the temptation to listen to worldly songs from certain periods in my life, because I know they will unlock long-forgotten memories that I’d like to look at. I especially like remembering things I haven’t remembered since the day I did them, which I can usually tell is so or not. I like it also as a memory exercise, doing associations, retracing a thread of thought to its source or one of its many branches.

Well, it’s 11:30 now, and it would be nice to be getting to bed – but we have to “settle” Abraham. Aside from the time required for the usual meeting formalities, it will take anywhere from a half hour to an hour, or more, to settle it with Abe. In fact, the more older brothers who are here, the longer it will take. Unless Abe blows up, the outcome will be predictable. Abe’s three-day sudden death will be extended for another three days. Partly because there are not enough of us here to make a decision to tell him to leave (there are five of us) and partly because he’s been on good behavior.

I wish we could learn from our past and realize that we do the same thing all the time. We could arrive at this conclusion with Abe in a minute or two. But after an hour, someone will say, “Well, I think he should get another three days, but we’ll really be watching him.” Not that what Abe has done is not serious – but our behavior is useless, and wasting time. But, you can’t say anything and I don’t intend to. We do need to talk to him together, which is valid. But we also talk to him all day. Also, we will talk to him seriously, but then we will say we don’t have the power to make a decision, because there aren’t enough of us here to make a decision right now.

I’d rather forget the whole thing and go to bed. This is considered selfish. We must stay up late to help our brothers and to settle things. At Woodruff every other night, or even more frequently, they have group meetings which don’t end until 2 or 3 in the morning. That, plus travel time and gathering everyone for the ride over there (the ones that live here) makes for a 3 or 4 a.m. bedtime. They wake up at 8:30 or 9:30. We obviously work against ourselves.

The meeting is over now. Abe mostly stonewalled us. He acted pitiful and “confused.” We did as I figured. We talked, but the decision is deferred until tomorrow’s meeting. Not to be cynical, though I can’t say “it was good to get together,” I think it was necessary, though we went on too long for such a predictable result. But at least it’s halfway dealt with instead of dumping it onto tomorrow’s meeting.

Other notes: Jim O. and the middle brothers are burning out on night jobs. Jim crashed into and broke a mirror as a result of being a walking zombie. There is a possible “inner circle” going on with Kevin and Jim, the driving job closer and the dedicated self-sacrificing worker. Leverage to work us over for not giving similar sacrifice, because Jim’s doing it, so why aren’t you? I think of how hard it is to get out of having to do things without being considered as fighting. But there are some brothers who just say no, or enough, and they’re not touched. Is there a lesson to learn from this?

Chuck has been parking the church bus outside of Red Hook and it finally got vandalized, with most of the back windows and the windshield broken.

Thursday, February 4

I just got back to Red Hook. It is 9 pm. Got an unexpected walk from Smith and 9th Streets. We walked because we missed the bus and we didn’t want to wait for the next one. Before this, I was thinking about how I never get to walk anymore. It felt good to be moving my body in the crisp cold air, in a way which was not work. I had a long dinner at the Money Tree diner (with Paul B. and Abe), with my face buried in a book entitled The Blockhouse, which I skimmed and speed read.

It has been a long time since I’ve been with a woman. I can’t even remember what it’s like. It has been 14 years, and what little I did do was only feeble attempts. I think the right attitude toward past relationships with women is that it was sin. But it has been so long ago and the lack of it now almost makes it seem as if it was good, or the only time I was ever normal.

Large sections of myself are completely atrophied from lack of use. I have no concept of being a boyfriend, a husband or a father and all the normal things that normal people do or have done by age 35. I thought about how it’s hard to present Christ or to relate to other people in order to tell them about Christ (or to have business relationships with customers) when I am a shell of a person, one in whom most systems are shut down. There must be vast areas I miss. I can’t empathize with and can’t deal with the people I meet, including these ones here I am supposed to help. I probably can’t identify with their real concerns and I avoid concerns such as relationship issues – for example, with Leo.

I am now in a brothers’ meeting with Brother Stewart. We’re in the process of selecting a correcting committee. I will continue my line of thoughts… Leo is driving after getting his citizenship status. At least the man knows what he wants. I am thinking of how I will be 50 in 15 years. And on the mundane level, I am thinking about things such as how I need to organize and to throw out or sell things I never use, so I can have better access to the things I do use. Or maybe I’ll have to develop another storage space somewhere else.

Sure, it’s being efficient to scaling back my possessions to an almost necessity level, but it almost hurts to get rid of anything. (Even if it is a wildlife painting book I never look at. I bought that book for ideas on how to paint.) I am 35 and I can’t keep a bookshelf or even have a room where I can store, organize and arrange my things. I’m trying to live in a closet, in a 6 by 12 foot space. It’s hard to keep it all together, without even the simple amenities of throwing my dirty clothes in a hamper in the bathroom or maintaining and cooking my own food. I eat out all the time. Food conditions here are horrible, with unwrapped meats in a dirty refrigerator. I must look for ways of doing things and getting around things. I don’t really live here, or anywhere. This is just a place where I touch my head to a pillow, a pied-à-terre. This place is only a storeroom. My actual life is out there. What I use, I take with me.

After reading back over this diary, whether related to this or not I don’t know, but I feel peaceful. It feels good.

[I felt peaceful after writing in my diary, but I wasn’t sure whether it was cause and effect.]

So far at least, this is a neither here nor there meeting. We revoted the committee, Bernie and others are talking about having all the groups live together in the same area of Woodruff.

In a way, I feel cozy snuggled up here with my diary. It is an aid to thought. It keeps me from having a morbid glued-in state of mind, to some degree. It is something to occupy myself and my hands with during the meeting, holding the pen, turning the pages. Working my mind. Something individual, something secret. Besides writing, I can review my past month. Things I’d never remember again otherwise. I can chart my progress, if that is what it can be called.

Stewart has raised the question, “Why would groups sleeping in the same area together not be good?” Discussion ensues. “Our unity has got to be (one of) growing in Christ and not this human stuff. All this other stuff, you’re going to lose it soon anyway.”

[This was an example of Stewart telling us to forget about our human lives, desires and ambitions. We were going to die soon and lose it all anyway. Why bother with it now then?  And why care about living arrangements and basic human needs? It was all “human stuff” and not important. Stewart talked to us about this all the time. Giving up our desires in life was a major drive in his dealings with us.]

This relates to another of my thoughts earlier today – about dying soon, and languages. How, I will lose it a[[ anyway, like the tapes in my mind being erased at death. I won’t carry foreign language vocabulary to heaven. (For some reason, at that moment, I didn’t think of the alternative. [1]) So why even learn it in the first place? It won’t even last. Yet I am frustrated because I can’t talk clearly and precisely with Leo. Especially like I could have, if I had really studied. Sure, I am not truly necessary anyway and/or neither is this ability. But, I could have known it better.

[1] When I thought about dying and leaving my language ability behind, I thought in terms of going to heaven. For some reason, despite Stewart’s constant hammering us about he we were going to hell when we died, I thought of heaven as my final destination. We were supposed to be in terror of hell and running desperately and urgently, doing all we could to avoid going there. We could only avoid hell by obeying Stewart’s plan for our lives. According to him, escape from hell was going to take wild-eyed terror and desperation and running furiously every second. Because of this, there could nbe no time for our human lives and human desires, which we were to lose soon anyway. But, of course, we worked day and night in the church’s businesses – this could not be forgotten about while we were escaping from hell.]

We are now voting about our moving into groups’ respective areas. Stewart has left the decision to us, after he made his point on higher matters, but there is still quite a flurry of activity over this issue, with Bernie pushing it with hints and speeches alluding to the great necessity for this (without proving it or giving reasons) and telling brothers that it may be a big discomfort to the flesh, especially if brothers have to give up their own favorite little area where they sleep. If left to ourselves, I am quite sure, we’d arrange a lot of moves to make things uncomfortable for our “flesh.” The more foolish or unnecessary, the better. There are some who are really into this. However, this is but a small matter.

Andrew is now calling for older brothers who have been knocking at the door to get into groups. He says there have been five brothers claiming this all week. But there are no takers. (Perhaps these brothers aren’t here because they are working tonight?)

Stewart, answering the brothers who said they were being pushed into joining groups, says, “They know they need to be pushed – plenty. The question is right pushing. They didn’t deal with whether the pushing was right or wrong pushing. Right Jesus pressure. Whenever Jesus talked to someone, he was putting pressure on them.”

We let a new brother go on and on about how he is being pressured. Stewart says, “Looks like you do have a hotel here.” Stewart says that if we were united and if we were not so lazy, there wouldn’t be any disruptions – even if they tried.

I saw John C. here tonight when I got back. He’s back here for the millionth time. He can just come and go. Paul B. asked him why he’s here (and talked to him about his in and out). John said, “Because I need Jesus,” dropping the right line in a stonewall move. I was thinking it’s a hotel. The weirdness of this place here. The people that come in and out. This is my own conviction and conclusion.

If someone like Andrew (Stewart is speaking to everyone in general, but I am thinking of Andrew) has to be told he’s lazy, to hear this after a week’s worth of effort, to have to confess it was all practically in vain, then, who can be saved? Brothers think, I’ll just have to redouble my efforts (or in my case, get started), only to come up short, and have to make a confession next week. But I suppose, what Stewart means by this is that what is real is the inward effort, the inward things.

Stewart is telling us that we are all proud and lazy, that we are laid back. He is beginning to raise his voice and yell. It’s hard to be excited about all of this (speaking for everybody else here too).

[It was hard to be motivated to work at a program where even the most zealous and hardworking brothers got come down on, despite all their efforts. And it seemed this was same reaction the other brothers were having too.]

This is where I begin wondering if this is the right way. I’m so used to it that I can’t see the forest for the trees. There is no other source to compare it with. Stewart is basically telling us that nobody has been doing anything right all week and that it’s all been useless. He asks, “Who held out for the truth here all week?” This meeting could be played back from ten years ago and it would be the same thing. This lonely man, telling everybody else they have been bad. He does all this grinding away on us. I know we have problems, but really, what is all of this? This heavy-handed dealing with us. The newer brothers don’t understand this. They don’t know what’s hitting them.

All these things Stewart says he didn’t hear one peep of from us all night. It’s the same old thing, like a mini version of that big blowout meeting in Pennsylvania years ago. It’s all the same thing. Stewart opens his mouth and all this stuff begins to flow out, on and on. Who can withstand it?

Now, older brothers like Bob M. are starting to confess. This when the strange behavior seems to start, like Sabina Wurmbrand talked about when she was in the communist prison camps in Romania. At night, when the lights were turned out, the prisoners entered into trances and began yelling and shouting, sometimes taking on the persona of the prison camp guards, as if to discharge the abuse they received. The brothers enter into these strange psychological states, switching into this sub-rational mode and strange knee-jerk behavior. Stewart is beating us (though I have seen worse) and one after another, everybody else is confessing to the charges in monotone one-liners, but no one is really talking about anything or laying any cards on the table. Stewart asks, “What are you going to do?” Everyone responds by babbling at once.

[Sabina Wurmbrand said that in the communist prisons, late at night, the other prisoners around her would spontaneously lapse into trances and begin mimicking the voices of their tormentors and interrogators in a hellish chorus of cries and screams.

This is not unlike what I saw happen when Stewart Traill laid out his most accusing remarks. Brothers started jumping up, almost spinning, shaking and gyrating, compulsively muttering and blabbering language that would be unintelligible to outsiders, because it was all jumbled slogans and phrases that Stewart had taught us over the years to say.

One after another, and sometimes several at a time, brothers screamed out their confessions of unfaithfulnessin desperate voices and made urgent commitments to change. They had the appearance of people being brought to the execution chamber and begging and pleading for their lives, wild-eyed, desperate with panic and fear.

This was usually the hight point of any meeting with Stewart. The snare would be laid, and the accusations made. Then would come the desperate confessions, pleas and committments. Stewart then gave us a line to say, some way out, some phrase that we had to be saying all the next week if we wanted deliverance from this condition.

Most meetings with Stewart followed this format and were like being in a pressure cooker. This one man was able to fan the flames and stir all of us up into this frenzy, making us feel there was no way out, until he gave us the solution, the only way of escape.

One of the essential conditions necessary to become caught up in this hoopla was to believe in Stewart implicitly as the great and infallable teacher who was the only true messenger of God in these modern times, and to whom God gave great authority, wisdom, insight and power.

Once a person began doubting the Great Teacher, and set back and watched with a critical eye he was able to see this technique at work and to detach from it. But even then, it was hard to resist, if had been conditioned for years into reacting this way when your buttons were pushed.]

You can read the next section of the journal here: Heat And Pressure. Kill Or Be Killed.

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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