1993, 06/03. Little Tyrants.

In this section, I was writing about how the brothers were acting toward one another the same way the leader of the cult, Stewart Traill, had treated us at the meeting at the church compound last Sunday. Having paid their dues by putting with Stewart’s verbal abuse, they were now empowered to abuse others.

Wednesday, June 3  (In a meeting in the office on West 46th Street.)

I am being tried for spiritual crimes these days. (For the crime of arrogance.) I just read in the papers about a cyclist being shot in Prospect Park over a bike. I forgot that these meetings are like being held up at gunpoint. The right thing, the safe thing, the only thing to do is hand it over or you will be shot too. I tried to “justify myself” by not saying I was extremely arrogant. (I figured I might get thrown out of the church if I said I was.) So I fought it the brothers’ accusation. The meeting was like being in a Communist Chinese re-education session.

Also during this meeting, when the brothers were putting extreme heat on me to make me confess to being arrogant, I lost self-control and shouted three times at the top of my lungs, “I’m afraid of going to hell!” Thereby giving demonstrable proof to the brothers that I was arrogant.

Moments before this, the brothers were prodding me with questions about whether I have spoken against Brother Stewart again and if I am still that way inwardly, and what was the story. (This heat stuff really works, doesn’t it? It works in two ways. On one hand, I had a desire to be honest,“Well yes, I do have questions about Brother Stewart,” and also to finally blurt out, “our church is a cult” or something like that, which would have been disastrous.)

I wonder, why they do they want that?  (I remember Greg S., especially, asking me that.) The thing is, they are all so dull themselves, they’re no better. The way everybody talks at these meetings (and everywhere now – though it is a much more extreme ritual when we meet together), everything is dealt with in terms of “arrogance.” Everybody demands everybody else’s submission. If a person disagrees, he is considered to be fighting with all the brothers. Even if he makes a face or a glance, even if he gives a reason for his behavior or expresses an opinion. They (for example Greg B.) get a beating by Stewart at a Sunday meeting, then they do it to everybody else the next day. I can’t believe it. It’s a line of argumentation they have learned from Stewart and they are trying to use, copy and imitate it. Do they have minds?They can’t be spoken to. Each one wants to be a lord and master; each one is an inquisitor, a dealer. Submit to me! I said you are doing this or that – are you fighting against the truth?

They also did this to Norman last night. They put their ideas to him, then expected him to submit to them (to the ideas). Nobody talks to one another anymore. You either accept or deny the charges, and denying is fighting and is a proof of your arrogance.

They wanted brothers to give their opinions on Norman, which of course, were carbon copy “you are arrogant” statements. I was trying to be deferential to the “prevailing opinion,” so I tried to agree, but I also said Norman is different from us; what about not quenching a dimly burning wick? This later was held to my account as proof of fighting against the truth. The brothers said that the way in which I was fighting against the truth was that I was fighting against “your own sin is your basic problem,” because at the time, that was the question being put to Norman and that is when I defended him.

(“Your own sin is your basic problem, not circumstances or the other bad guys” was one of Stewart’s teachings, and I had indirectly questioned the “truth” – because all of Stewart’s teachings were the absolute truth, and came directly from Jesus.)

(This is all juvenile, to say the least, like the Puritans saying, “You are a Quaker, because you won’t remove your hat in church. You are a witch because you can’t recite the Lord’s Prayer by memory.” In other words, not because of substantive reasons, but some emotional call to arms and a stampede mentality – the crowd at work. The brothers are a beast when assembled together.)

It’s amazing how anything we do now is interpreted in terms of the charge that is Stewart’s current teaching these days. Okay, I am supposed to say, what can people expect? Have I not given them every reason for suspicion? But somehow, that is not an adequate answer. Watching these people in this room behave as they do, it boggles human comprehension.

Now, it seems my only recourse is to admit my extreme arrogance. It would be ridiculous to fight. I hope this doesn’t lead to my disfellowshipment. In fact, that was my fear last night – say that I agree with their charge that I’m extremely arrogant, and out I go. Now I have no choice but to say it and see what comes next.

(This came last night. I was at 46th Street. We got together. Did our thing. When we called the brothers at Woodruff, they requested that we pick ambassadors. They asked why we hadn’t communicated with them. At first, the 46th Street brothers said they didn’t think of it, but somebody among us then asked, “Is this answer good enough?”(!) In other words, we hadn’t communicated with the brothers at Woodruff because we just hadn’t thought of it, but this wasn’t the appropriate confession. They figured we needed give a better answer, and to say something about what not calling shows about us and our attitude. So they re-worked our answer accordingly.

(The brothers at 46th Street were considered to be in a punishment category and outside of the real work in the church, which was going on at Woodruff Avenue. We were supposed to prove ourselves and get voted on to be able to go back to Woodruff Avenue to rejoin the work of training the new disciples. So this was the reason for the holier-than-thou attitude on the part of those at Woodruff.)

When our ambassadors came back from the phone, the message from Woodruff was that, “If you backed Ray D. as escaping 46th Street, then your voting must be a joke,” and “what are you going to do with Jim LaRue – isn’t he extremely arrogant?” So, we had to get into me for a while.

Now, in response to this question about me, it is a given that they can’t say anything else but this.

(The brothers at 46th Street could do nothing but appear to agree with the charges against me. To defend me in any way would mean that they were opposing the truth, and ultimately, they were on the side of the devil and not Jesus. Nobody was willing to stick their neck out for me and take this chance, so instead, they were going to condemn me to save their own necks.)

I immediately sensed this, because they would be appear to be standing behind me, endorsing me or whatever, and they just heard what the brothers at Woodruff said about Ray D. So the outcome had to be certain; the charge couldn’t even be slightly mitigated. But we must go through the motions of being fair. The conversation would range into other things, but I realized that the above-stated charge was the (only) question, the issue at hand.

Shortly after that, somebody repeated the issue and I thought, yes, that’s the issue. It couldn’t be that I am merely arrogant (without being extremely arrogant). Or for example, that it had merely been out of shame on Monday when I tried to rush through the vote and get it over with.

“Extremely arrogant” was the appropriate confession and what everybody wanted to guide me into saying about myself or was practically demanding that I say. It actually came down to, either you admit that you’re extremely arrogant, or if you don’t admit it, you are being arrogant anyway for not admitting it!

What do you do after that? Ron T. and others tried the idea of how I should consider “the sight of the brothers” and used a two-pronged attack on this (one prong through the use of “reason”). Ron said, “If all the brothers see something about you, perhaps you can’t see rightly. If the brothers see it, wouldn’t you admit it then? All the brothers say this about you, so you’re fighting the view, and even the authority of the brothers’ fellowship not to agree.” But somehow they wanted me to own up to it in my own words. You figure, they could have let me say, “I don’t see it, but I will accept the view of the brothers,” and be done with it, but they wanted me to make it of myself.  These attempts to reason are merely ploys to get you there.

(And at that point, I snapped and shouted that I was afraid of going to hell.)

So, after my outburst, which was followed by an almost conciliatory talk to me by Paul S., the vote was taken. My frustration may have also come from seeing no way out of this bind and trap they were placing me in: “either you admit to it, or you are arrogant for not admitting it, thereby proving it anyway.” (And the strange, inane, almost possessed way they do it and how they seem to work together as one man on it, and this false reasoning – which cannot be answered in kind, by reason. It is intended only to goad you into admit the charges.)

I was reading a New York Times article about Cardinal John O’Connor. He disagrees with other leaders sometimes. He gives his reasons for doing things (he even said he had been arrogant about one thing), but there is none of the weird submission, or that he couldn’t express his opinions.

I can see that the intent of this treatment is that I be remade in a certain image. (It is degrading, dehumanizing) and that there may be some kind of hope offered to me by others if I submit to it. It will be hopeless if I don’t and I may be driven out of the church.

I just feel like giving up and walking down the street – for good.

12 noon

Out soliciting alone. (“Somehow,” I have managed to do that.) I just called the office for someone to go soliciting with – both knowing I should and to show that I am trying to find someone, to so nobody can use it on me.

When I was on the phone with Chuck, he said, “I heard you were screaming at the brothers last night” – so now it has exponentially multiplied to not only screaming, but “at the brothers.”

I am thinking about contacting the ACLU, but also about how scripture says that lawsuits are “loss for me.”  So not only are lawsuits a “thou shalt not,” but the thing itself would be a defeat for me. I never looked at it that way before.

Just came out of a Christian bookstore, where I was reading about legalism. It’s the same as here. The book mentioned a guy who left a legalist outfit, because it was hard for him to believe that the group he was in was the only organization that was teaching the truth. The book described the way of life in this group.

I will probably write Mom today.

(You can read that letter here: Purges and Terrorism, where I explained more about all of this detail.)

Out soliciting for customers. I have the feeling of crumbling and wanting to collapse (not physically). I feel at the end of my rope, or about to come to a dead end real soon, midweek, perhaps. The feeling that these methods just break you. If you admit to it, it breaks you. If you fight it, you are broken further and will only have to submit anyway after – if you are allowed to stay. And you will wish you never said anything.

I would really have to sacrifice my mind in order to submit to this. (I can’t even test or question and the brothers are adamant, while also being very calm and persistent in their line of argumentation.)

I feel like just giving up and stumbling back to the office, telling the brothers I can’t go on. But I would be treated rather mercilessly if I did something like that. I can’t turn myself in for help. If I turn for help outside our church, then I am a traitor. In all my actions, I betray myself, play into their hands, ask for it. As I sit there in the meeting, hunched over, not meeting anybody’s eyes – obviously I am what they say I am. If I answer their questions, I am fighting – more proof that I am what they say I am. That only leaves admitting it – saying I am what they say I am. More proof.  I said it out of the words of my own mouth.

(Nobody has actually tried that on me, but I know that this is a method used here and I have seen it enough. It hasn’t been used because I have not done it, but seeing how they use all the other methods they’ve learned from Stewart, it is a likely thing. I can see how quickly they’re all learning from just this weekend’s meeting, which is a development of what has been happening here, especially in recent months. They learn instantly, and I start to look less and less like everybody here, though an outsider would probably fail to see the nuances of difference, because they are really so minor. But to us, these differences are everything).

After I give confession, I have had it. (In fact, I was doing it this morning with some brothers in the office. What’s the point of resisting?) In fact, it is the only recourse or resistance left to me now! The chameleon approach, I don’t know, what would you call it? Trying to slip by that way. (I admit I am trying to slip by, trying to avoid a snare.)

Now the only thing left to do is to actually put my foot in the snare and act trapped. Maybe, though it will grip me, it won’t grip me as tightly as it would have if I had continued to struggle. In which case it would be forcefully tied around me. I would be bound, gagged, tackled, shackled, forced to submit – possibly even violently. I will get less of a sentence if I turn myself in and plead guilty. But in doing so, I am turning myself in. But, if I fight, they will come get me and so on.

In earlier days in our church, a brother could tell everyone that he was not doing good in one area, and he could transfer to another area. If he was doing bad at closing jobs, he could ask to go on jobs instead. I feel I should do something like that. I could ask to do carpet cleaning. I could ask to go on a job tonight because I have not been closing any new jobs. On second thought, why not just stay out longer and try to close a job?

7:20 pm.

I am at the library, and thinking of going to the office, then trying to do driving to cover up (to hide from sweeping, meetings if possible) and also to put in some hours because I have not been closing. But at the same time, I am pretty sure this will not help me in an inquisition. Anyway, I also lose what self respect I have by doing this.

Thinking of going back to Red Hook now, but this will probably sign my death warrant. People may be keeping track of me. I am thinking of just coming out with it and saying, “This church is turning into a cult,” and just laying my head down on the chopping block. I don’t know if I’m ready for that or not. If I was ready, or had made such a decision, this would be easier to do.

I just got done browsing the book Moonwebs: Journey into the Mind of a Cult. The entire depersonalization process described in this book is so similar to here. Self is unimportant, your thoughts are nothing. Salvation is through the movement.

I feel like going somewhere for help, but don’t know where. I will have to go somewhere soon–the office, sweeping, yes, even Red Hook. It’s getting late. If I go there I must leave now. Nobody will see me if I do. I am being my own enforcer.

Changed my mind about going to Red Hook, at least partly because an inner voice seemed to say, “You are signing your death warrant.” And although I am turning over phrases in my mind, such as saying to somebody, in these confrontational fantasies, “This place is turning into a cult! I am not with Jesus, but I don’t think I will ever find him here! I have to find God elsewhere. I have now realized that Stewart is not God,” or any other kind of taking anybody head on, it probably will not work and I am not ready for it – nor do I have the resources to do so.  Nor am I ready to call up Denny and Dave, or to go to live with my mother in Florida.

(These were options I was considering, leaving to live with ex-members of COBU or going to Florida where my mother lived. I eventually chose to live with those ex-members a few months later.)

Possibly the next few days should help me see what is going to go on and how it is for me here, and what to expect at the meeting with Stewart next Sunday. Maybe all this week is a litmus test. Maybe I will know whether even to go to the meeting on Sunday or not (though the meeting may be held here).

I notice I don’t think about Jesus too much.

Talked to Mom on the phone before leaving the library.

I got left at Tramps restaurant alone so I could let brothers back in when they came back. Therefore I am shunted aside from everything and everybody for a while.

Nothing happened at the office when I went there. It was almost as if I had done nothing. There was a message from Stewart posted on the wall that had a slightly conciliatory tone, or which could be read between the lines, about making things better here. A subtle change in the direction of the wind, maybe ushering in a different type of weather?

Read the next part of the journal here: The Only Question Anyone Really Wants To Know Is If You Believe In This Way.

(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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