1993, 02/07-8. “Stewart and the Sisters Are Going to Haiti.” (A Pre-Departure Beating.)

Sunday February 7

We stayed up to about 5 or 6 this morning working on those steps. We were listening to shortwave radio which gave me a lift and I was able to complete my work. It was a Christian radio station from the Andes.

I was being gnawed at by temptations this morning. What I did was get up and get out of the warehouse and take a walk. It is always good to walk out of this place, into another world. There waws bright sunlight, made even brighter by the reflectivity of the snow.

The walk was good, though I also spent some time attempting to figure out Stewart and the church and my problem with sex and marriage. But I realized that this figuring never amounts to anything. On the way back I put on headphones and was listening to a German radio program. This was a forgotten pleasure and is something I ought to do more often, listening to the radio as I walk somewhere.

Well, we’re about to have a “snappy meeting to settle our fellowship.” I hope it’s not a long meeting. I passed up the opportunity to work in order to help out here because I saw that Andrew was here with only a few older brothers and a lot of new brothers. The voice of conscience arrested me as we were about to drive away.

When we were out sweeping [looking for new converts] I met up with Cathy, Sheila and Teresa. It is different going with sisters. In a way, it forces me to be on the ball, not because they are going to pressure me, but because I don’t want to be a dead fish in their company. Plus spending any time with the female of the species is a blessed relief from a life that is like being in an army barracks / mens shelter / boys club. It also helped me to be less cynical overall.

Sheila stuck by my side the whole time, even when it seemed she didn’t have to. This caused a mixed bag of emotions. (I was talking to her about her new job as wood floor secretary and about her daughter Shanetta.) I was conscious of the fact that I was walking along with a tall, attractive black woman who seemed to want to stay close to my side. (Maybe she felt uneasy being in the 34th Street station. Maybe she just wanted to walk side by side with a man, maybe she likes me a little, I don’t know – nor would I want to start anything either.) I had the definite feeling we looked like a couple, walking together. I was practicing the same listening techniques as I had with Arthur just before. Seems it works with just about anybody. Such things as, be sure to let a person complete their full thought and/or sentence before saying anything. Sometimes it is good to pause to see if they’ll continue on with anything.

I am now guarding at Red Hook (between door and watching the bus outside). I’m being gnawed by temptations. I also have anxiety over my eternal destiny. As a result of this, I consider going over to Woodruff full time, though really I haven’t done it. I am feebly working at a group containing me, Paul and Greg S.

While guarding, I go outside once in a while to enjoy the snow covered ground, the overcast sky and the cloud patterns over the New York City skyline. It brings back some memories about running at the track on nights like this. But this only goes so far and the troubles of the present plague me.

I am now listening in on the meeting. We are now hearing Stewart tell us that the older brothers are the problem. (I wonder, all those brothers scurrying around and working so hard, what is the point of it all if we only end up hearing this anyway.)

I suppose this [the verbal beating we’re getting from Stewart] was the heat we were talking about. How far will this go? According to Stewart, the older brothers are the scourge of the fellowship. (He says, ”A hundred times over, things have started to look better and the older brothers say I’ll be good.”)  Now Stewart is getting the sisters on our case. The older brothers are always the problem, the archetypical enemies.

[Blaming the older brothers was in direct contradiction to Traill’s own precept that, “My own sin is my basic problem, not circumstances or the other bad guys.” But really, that “precept” was merely a law used to prevent church members from saying anything negative about life here, or about the pressure put on them, or to say anything negative about Stewart either. If a brothers tried that, this precept would be pulled out on him by the others, if not by Stewart himself, and the brother would be made to say that his own sin was his basic problem, rather than the complaint or observation he had. It is true, in the overall sense, just as “you are your worst enemy” is true. Our own sins and our sinful nature, that is our propensity to sin, was our basic problem in the eternal sense, as well as our biggest problem in this life. When this was used against us, it was hard to argue about anything else, or to go on and say there were other, admittedly lesser, problems that we would like to address.]

What will happen now? Stewart has swept Bob M., Vinnie, and others into the gutter.  It had all been false?

[“Brother Stewart” has accused the older brothers who had seemed to be out front and faithful of having merely put on a show and not really being faithful.]

The sisters have suddenly become very outspoken in their negative description of us, with Phillipa one of the leaders of the pack. She has an axe to grind tonight. Not only does Stewart lead the sisters into the fray, but when brothers like Andrew speak, Stewart even tells them what to say about themselves and they repeat it after him.

[When an older brother stood up to speak, Stewart told them something negative about themselves, which they immediately repeated and said was true about themselves.]

What surprises me is that not one older brother will speak and say plainly that he has been doing something positive, I guess because they know, in their consciences, that they are guilty. They just crank out their speeches and modify them accordingly when Stewart prompts them to incriminate themselves more accurately. I don’t know what I am going to do. At times like this, I just think of leaving the church. (I am also glad that I am guarding tonight, so I’m standing outside hearing all of this instead of being in the meeting.)

Now, sisters like Nancy are exposing Kevin and other older brothers for having said that they were united in the earlier part of the meeting. But why didn’t she say it then?

[Nancy did not object to brothers’ claims of being faithful to Christ when they made them, but later in the meeting, after Stewart came in and began his tirade against the brothers, she said she hadn’t trusted the brothers when they made their public claims that they had been being faithful to Christ and serving him.]

Really, Stewart puts the wind in everybody’s sails. It’s getting pretty rough in there. (At times like this, I wonder why nobody ever jumps up and punches Brother Stewart in the face, but all whimper and whine, hoping to mitigate their punishment.) There is heavy courtroom-style proceedings going on in there, with Stewart screwing everybody and entrapping them by using their own words against them.

Stewart has now mentioned that “Stewart and the sisters are going to Haiti.” So maybe this is a preparation for that, a preparatory beating to terrorize us into submission when he is away. Like a political move. Certainly he knew of the things he is accusing us of all along, but this may be a strategic time to do it now.

This is all very weird. A strange nocturnal beating meeting. Stewart has gotten older brothers to confess that they are selling all the others in the church down the river. Stewart says, “Now that we’ve admitted that, how can all the new brothers protect themselves from you?”

A new brother walks out of the meeting and passes by me as I’m guarding at the front door, laughing at me and at what’s going on in there, saying, “How come you’re not in there?” I say, blandly, “I’m guarding the bus.” But I feel like getting mad at him and calling him a jackass or even hitting him. (I see the need to exercise self control, which I think all the older brothers are really doing, and I need to see where all of this is leading to.) I just wonder what the new people think. They are being misled, or laughing at us too, believing all of this “manure.”

I really feel like despairing right now. Stewart says that the pressure that will be put on us is that we have to write our Need for Jesus Papers and that we will be checked on to see if we are really living that way (according to what’s on our paper).

[The My Need for Jesus paper was a short page that we had to write about why we need Jesus. A brother was supposed to carry this paper with him. At any time, he could be asked to read it out loud and then asked if he were living up to what he had written on the page. Most brothers wrote papers about their desperately sinful nature, unfaithfulness and rebellion and their need for Jesus rescued them from this condition. Though objectively true, this lead people to write self-incriminating papers that focused on their worthlessness and helplessness instead of writing about a savior who could save them from this condition. The papers were not about “how great Jesus is,” but about “how bad I am.” (Not only did we need Jesus to be saved, we needed to be in The Church of Bible Understanding to have Jesus, and it had to be according to this way.)]

Really, this “heat” is nothing I haven’t heard before. I feel as if I am about to be thrown to the dogs. (I suppose Stewart is trying to help us or making a way for us with this paper thing – but I wouldn’t take it too far.) I do feel like I will have to fool certain ones – especially by putting on a straight face when they say the usual stuff. It is really the only way to survive, because if you blow up or act weird, it will come back on you.

When Stewart does this, I start looking for the parameters. In other words, is anybody going to get thrown out, and for what reason? Is that where this is going to lead to? I think that is what all the older brothers do as they hold their breath. All the older brothers are quiet now. The lines for the battle have been drawn. (So far, who knows where it will lead, tonight and/or throughout the week.) And actually, this is mild compared to some of the heat we have had before. In fact, it looks like brothers such as Bob M. and others will still remain in their respective groups.

It’s hard for me to not be cynical about this idea of the papers and all. I started to write a paper, but it’s pretty shallow.

Now the meeting is over. And now it’s like a big picnic with everybody chatting and chattering in such a friendly way – far from what I expected after the meeting. (Sure, I shouldn’t take it easy.) I asked Skylar about this. He thinks it is more because of relief, because we had been hearing about impending heat.

[Stewart left immediately after the meeting, not staying around to talk to anyone. And now everyone, no longer under pressure and no longer in the boxing ring, was talking with one another, as if nothing had just happened, and it sounded like a big party.]

Skylar says he had expected the worse, like the older brothers being told to leave the church. He said that two days ago, when Chuck heard about the “heat,” they were simply told “you are next.” The middle brothers had been receiving the heat first, and Arthur and Curtis landed in Red Hook. What will this coming week bring?

::

These are notes I took while listening in on the meeting:

Stewart: “The older brothers are tearing everything down. They’re being false prophets who tell the new brothers they can have it both ways and to not listen to Brother Stewart, who is a right example. Where is your Need for Jesus Paper? Is it recent and are you really living that way? We’re trying to get new older brothers, but it takes time – five or ten years.

Stewart, to the new brothers: “Wake up to the fact that when it comes to encouragement in the faith, you are just not going to get any from the older brothers. In fact you have to get after them and you can, with these papers, and also learn a lesson on it yourselves.”

::

Monday February 8

I just dropped Jay off at Atlantic Avenue. We were talking on the way over about last night’s meeting, our Need for Jesus, etc. Writing in this diary helps in conversations with others because in it I find ready made thoughts. I have thought out and defined things and I find it easier to talk coming from it. I have been talking with sisters a bit these days – always in a positive, best foot (or front) forward way. I always try to keep a conversation going, doing a lot listening on my part, which really is my way, not necessarily conscious deceit on my part. I might be doing that with just about anyone.

The tone of life here this morning was one of almost lightheartedness or even joviality. Maybe it was a release from the big build-up and anticipation of getting “heat,” only to hear that the answer to our problem is our Need for Jesus Papers. And that it is the answer for everyone in general and that the older brothers have to write their papers and be checked on accordingly. Do we have our papers, are we living accordingly. And maybe the older brothers are aware that “this applies to everyone else just as much as it applies to me,” so maybe we’re not being singled out so bad and anyone who is checking up on us will have to be already doing the same thing themselves.

Though, in my most cynical thoughts, all of this (though it could apply generally at any time) was meant to be a preparatory blast – before Stewart goes to Haiti again, leaving us alone – and that he wanted all of us to feel it and to learn our lesson well. So we have something to remember him by when he’s away, to live according to when he’s gone and to be checked up on accordingly when he comes back. And that we were meant to be cowering in a corner, whimpering and licking our wounds. It was a political move, shattering what power or influence the older brothers do have before he leaves – so there won’t be any trouble when he’s away.

We get punished before Stewart leaves, as a sort of farewell gesture. We’ll remember it the whole time he’s away – both as a matter of a going away present and the realization that we’ll be evaluated according to these last terms upon his return, having the effect of keeping us on good behavior while he’s away.

I mean, I hadn’t heard that Stewart going to Haiti, but during the meeting, the “heat” part, he said, “Me and the sisters are going to Haiti,” as if to say, “So, how’s it going to be when I’m gone?” And that Stewart came with a purpose in mind, toward everyone in the fellowship really, and not just the older brothers. (In the sense of protecting them from the older brothers and making them aware and telling them what to do – though none of this was anything new, because these things are already, in themselves, known many times over.

The purpose, or reason, why Stewart did it was deeper than the things being said. It was a whooping with a purpose, delivered at a certain time for a specific reason, though it could have been given at any time. He called the sisters in at a certain moment to speak. He orchestrated the whole meeting. Setting the stage, placing the characters on it. Giving them their lines, things they wouldn’t have said without being prompted to say them, even if these were their genuine thoughts. Then when he was done, he immediately leaves the building and everyone goes back to friendly chattering after the meeting and today’s lighthearted behavior. What is real?

::

My Need for Jesus: This is my unofficial paper, where I say what I really think. Right now, I have extreme temptations to immorality. This is an immedate need for Jesus. But when I think of Jesus, I wish he would help me get away from here and from my problems.  (This is my real Need for Jesus Paper, rather than what I am supposed to write about myself.) But I don’t think Jesus would let me do something like that. I just want to get away from here, from this world of our own making, this life here and these requirements. Also, under “I need Jesus to take away my sins,” really, I need Jesus to give me a wife as a remedy for this kind of temptation. But this wouldn’t be considered acceptable on a page I read to others. Though I think it would be real, but it is not our teaching.

[COBU teaching was that having plenty of the fear of God will keep us from all sin, and that getting married, or even the temptations of single people, were not the real issue. Pride and rebellion were the real issue, and were the cause of all sin in our lives.]

Also, I need Jesus to help me have accomplishments in this life and an escape from this strange prison / loft society where we are required to be humanly degenerate. This (and there are other things) is what I would want Jesus to do for me. Writing this kind of Need for Jesus paper is the only way it is real for me.

::

8:40 pm. I am now feeling harangued and harassed, in general and specifically. We are sanding the floors at Tramps now, doing our usual Three Stooges method of deciding what to do next.

Yes, I am starting to feel exasperated right now, like I am starting to break down. I feel hopeless around the new brothers.

-*-

Some notes from the end of this journal books. I underlined the words that especially reminded me of life in COBU:

A common characteristic of mass movements is that they express keen concern for the individual and the individual’s interests. Yet paradoxically, they also produce a subordination of the individual, a discouragement of individual thinking. Conformity and uniformity are urged as crucial for the success of the movement, for its progress and growth. The individual has no importance except as he or she contributes to the success of the movement – all interests and all thinking must be subordinated to that goal. p.391 In Search of Christian Freedom, author, Raymond Franz.

“Converts have to believe only what they are told, they don’t have to think and that relieves tremendous tensions.”  Journey to Nowhere.

You can read the next section of this journal here: Submit Or Be Broken.

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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