1993, 06/20-26. In The Last 2,000 Years, No One Has Cared – Except Stewart.

The title of this section shows the megalomania of our illustrious leader, Stewart Traill, whom we suffered and labored under. One of the characteristics of any cult is the cult leader’s claim to have the unique view of the truth, or to possess the only version of the truth. If you added up Stewart’s claims about himself and followed them out to their logical conclusions, Stewart was the only bearer of truth in this world.  

In this section, I also talked about my struggle with sexual desire while living in a system that forbade marriage. Stewart denied marriage, not on the basis that marriage was forbidden in the Bible (which it isn’t), but that as a result of our rebellion against Christ, we were unable to marry.  

Stewart forbade marriage by attacking anyone who was starting a relationship and by creating a crisis environment in which we were constantly running from the fires of hell. In such a state, who had time for relationships? These conditions and Stewart’s slamming us about our unworthiness made marriage impossible for anyone in COBU. 

It must be noted that whenever anyone accused Stewart of forbidding marriage, he claimed he did not forbid marriage, but he said that the brothers were unworthy, unfaithful and incapable of marriage, and that no sister would want to marry someone like that. And he accused the sisters in COBU of “hoping in marriage,” which he said was a great sin. He said that if the sisters were hoping in marriage to make them happy, that if they ever did get married on that basis, they would be miserable. Many, if not all, of the church’s members were committing some kind of sexual indulgence, because of not being able to satisfy these desires legitimately in marriage. This made Stewart’s rantings about how we were all hellbound and perverted sinners about to be thrown in the lake of fire feel real, because we only needed to look to our own sinful lives in order to see how evil and deserving of hell we were.

Sunday, June 20     (Sunday meeting with Stewart in Philadelphia.)

I drove to Philadelphia. I was grilled by Andrew for a while during the ride. I realized something was up, even before Andrew said anything to me. I could feel it coming.

We’re getting together now. I can see Veronica sitting on the other side of the room. Of course, I must not look at her. She is a very beautiful woman, though it’s not my own desire to marry her. (Though I suppose I would, if given the opportunity.) Although I would rather see somebody else marry her. I would be glad to see that.  (That is, that Paul would marry her.)

(Brothers and sisters sat on opposite sides of the meeting room. Folding chairs were set up with an aisle between the men and the women. We all sat facing Stewart, who stood behind a podium in front of the assembled congregation.)

I’m sitting next to a Spanish-speaking brother. But I don’t feel much predisposed to help him.

(In my usual anxiety and apprehension about what was going to happen at the meeting, I had little interest or motivation to help someone who did not speak English tounderstand what was going on at the moment.)

I have the usual pre-meeting anxieties, though milder than usual. Possibly because we are not going to have a brothers meeting, which would involve greater scrutiny and grilling.

Peter was very apprehensive on the way to the meeting. He said he has attitude problems, and that he was up a while last night in Red Hook in order to pray and sort things out before the meeting. (He is worried he might blurt out something strange if put under pressure in a meeting. Peter blows hot and cold. At times he says this place is a weird cult that gets stranger every year. Next he is saying that he really needs this place, and what would he do if he wasn’t here.)

I suppose that Andrew’s reading of the notes from the last meeting (and grilling me) is his way of dealing with pre-meeting anxiety. We all have our own way of dealing with it and preparing for it. We all know it will be hot in some way. We don’t just “go to meetings” anymore.

(Everyone was preparing for the meeting. Some took it even further and were posturing themselves for the meeting. Posturing oneself often meant getting on other peoples’ cases with exhortations and admonitions (working them over), so that if Stewart asked us if we had been putting “heat” and “Jesus pressure” on others, they could say they had been. According to Stewart, not doing this meant that we had been unfaithful to Christ.)

The meeting opens with Stewart saying, “Do you really think you know why you are here?” Getting answers to this question from everyone.

Stewart says, “The reason why we’re here is to encourage others. Fortunately I am. Woe to me if I don’t. There hasn’t been much of that lately.” (Stewart speaks as if somehow this was beyond him or out of his own control.)

So, Stewart is speaking to us about encouraging our faith.

Stewart: “What has to happen for your faith to be encouraged?” Getting a hodgepodge of cautious answers. Everybody is wondering just what this encouragement is going to be.

(“Encouragement” more often than not, was some kind of abuse, so when Stewart began to talk to us about encouragement, though we wanted encouragement, we waited cautiously to see which way the wind was going to blow. Many of these meetings, which Stewart proclaimed were going to be hopeful, resulted in extreme abuse. But no matter how abusive Stewart was toward us at the meetings, we were always expected to say that it was really good for us and that it had been “a really hopeful meeting.”)

My notes about what Stewart was saying to us:

He says that we hide because we waver in our faith, because our faith is weak. (Stewart admits that he wavers, but fortunately, much less than we do.) We think this is not going to work, and that Stewart means well, but that it will never work for me. The way is hard. That is why you always give up. In fact, you’re hardly even starting.

As far as encouragement, we would love Stewart to take an easier way on us. But apparently none of us really understands what encouragement really is.

(See my comment about “encouragement” above.)

Stewart: “First, we must be made to understand that your life and what you have experienced in the world matches with God’s word. The connection between the real you and the real experience that you have had and God’s word. You must understand how your doubts themselves are part of God’s plan. But you hide your doubts, which is your suicide.”

(Give me a break. I think I will keep hiding my doubts! I think it is suicide to say them. But maybe I am just a coward and should have stuck to my guns those times I spoke up to Stewart, no matter what happened.)

(Speaking my “doubts” resulted in extreme wrath from Mr. Traill toward me.)

Stewart says, “You don’t want to deal with most of what is inside of you, because it is just too painful. Until you do this, you will be some unreal thing, which real people cannot relate to. I know something about experience in life, I can describe you better than you can. I am actually doing it. Fear in me is greater than faith in me.”

(Stewart was saying that we didn’t want to do any introspection or look too far into ourselves or deal with any of the issues in ourselves or in our lives, because it was just too horrible and too painful for us and that is why we were such weird and twisted up people. Most accepted this diagnosis of themselves by Stewart and accepted that he understood us better than we understood ourselves. After having diagnosed our condition, Stewart would then propose some simplistic (and very unreal sounding) cure or method to deal with the problem, and most brothers and sisters would apply themselves accordingly, never questioning whether the problem or the supposed answer had any basis in reality. This also got us to accept that we were sick and unworthy people – and to accept that only Stewart had the answer to our problems, because only he could see what was wrong with us in the first place.)

Well, we are now hearing another one of Stewart’s methods. Will this really work? I know, supposedly it’s not working because it’s just me who is not applying myself to it. Stewart always has formulas, plans.

Stewart has now posed two apparent contradictions in the Bible. We are supposed to explain them and tie them together. There are not many takers on the offer.

Now Jim O. is trying it, and getting refuted every step of the way. Stewart interrupts him every other sentence. Jim ends up looking like a bumbling idiot.

I am especially tuned out today. Maybe it had something to do with the little talk Stewart gave before prayer, where he said that we hide and don’t deal with big parts of ourselves.

Occasionally, I am overcome with fantasies of sex, or dwell upon the unavailability of marriage. (I guess because I hide large parts of me, and if I would only stop hiding, I could get married. Yes, it’s my fault, because I hide. It’s not that I hide because I figure there’s no use or no point.)

Stewart is playing out the dingbats, to show us that we really know nothing, and can really do nothing.

(Stewart asked us questions during the meetings and then proceeded to show us from any answers we tried to give, that we didn’t know anything. He played us out until we were worn out and tired. Then he told us what the answer was. This was a common technique that Stewart used in nearly every meeting, to reinforce our sense of helplessness, to have us depend on him and to not trust our own thoughts, insights or opinions, or to trust the thoughts and opinions of the others we lived with.)

Everybody is supposed to jump up and answer this question. Everybody is being treated like a kid. (But, you know the old line, “Stop treating me like a kid.” – “Well, stop acting like one then.” We’re at a complete disadvantage, we’ve got the short end of the stick.)

I am just entertaining myself with this diary, so I don’t completely veg out.

(When I was writing in my journal, it looked like I was taking notes on the meeting, writing down Stewart’s words, which was acceptable behavior – was about the only thing that gave me any escape from the intense pressure. It was a way to communicate with myself about what was going on and to have thoughts that were independent, different, skeptical and even critical of the proceedings. If not, it would be hard to separate myself from it, or to have any room to breathe.)

I don’t want another summer of giving in to my passions. Yet, “not doing it” just leaves me up a blind alley. I either face the wall at the end of the alley, a dead end, or turn around and look, going back to (being forced back to!) what I tried to get away from. Besides, if I am in a blind alley, no matter how close I press myself to the wall, in order to get further down the alley and away from the source of trouble, I am still in the alley no matter what I do – whether I indulge in it or run away from it. No matter how far I am away from sexual indulgence, I am still in the alley. Marriage, with whatever problems it includes, is a doorway out of the alley. Okay, supposedly, fear of hell is enough to resist temptation with? Fear just puts a lot of brick dust on your face and gives you a flat nose from pressing against the wall.

I just don’t see hope in these meetings any more. I will try to listen.

This is like having a Bible study on hostage terms.

Stewart made Shiffon apologize because she quoted a scripture wrong. (She said that Paul said, “With my flesh I serve sin” rather than saying “I serve the law of sin.”) Stewart immediately interrupts anyone if they say something wrong. Okay, his point is, that unless you can say it (that is, say it right) then obviously, you can’t be doing it – so this is really a test.

Anybody who cares to, tries to give their answer to Stewart’s question about the apparent contradiction in the Bible (and gets bounced like a yo-yo) and then goes away, mumbling about how that’s the best they can do and that they can’t put it together any better.

Stewart’s question is: how are you freed from sin, yet must struggle against it?

(This was the question about the apparent contradiction in the Bible, that Stewart was asking us to explain, and making a fool of anyone who ventured an answer.)

It is starting to get better now. Stewart is explaining.

Stewart is now trying to explain something about being born again to a new brother. It’s like Stewart doesn’t have it together. So, I rot before he gets it together?

(See the above about sexual temptation, and that there can be no marriage in the church, and in my life, until Stewart gets it together with his teaching, which he portrayed as being in a state of flux at this time.)

The following are the preposterous claims that Stewart made, and why I entitled this section: In The Last 2,000 Years, No One Has Cared – Except Stewart:

Stewart says, “The light went out after the time of the Apostles and nobody cares except me and that, only four years ago.”

(Is it just me who realizes the stupidity of these statements? Nobody cares except Stewart? And no one has cared about the truth since the time of the Apostles?)

[“Only four years ago,” was Stewart referring to his “awakening,” which really was his cover up for having, in his own words, “sexually touched” at least one female follower and getting found out by his wife Gayle. There are notes elsewhere in these pages about Stewart’s false show of repentance, and his claim God woke him up to the truth of the gospel, round about the same time. Stewart was actually claiming here that no one had cared about the truth of the gospel (nor had true understanding of it) since the Apostles, Jesus’s original followers. And with one sweep, he dismissed all faithful Christians throughout the ages as not caring about the truth, saying that only he cared and that only he had true revelation.)

Also, this new brother’s question about being born again – the only way any question will get asked is if the new brothers ask them. Nobody else would dare, and/or we know it all already, or figure we know better.

(We older brothers knew better than to ask Stewart any questions, because if we had to ask, Stewart said that meant we didn’t know the answer, which meant that we were not faithful to Christ, because if we were faithful to Christ, we would already know the answer to the question, because we would already be being faithful to (that is, doing) whatever it was we were asking about. Such was the convoluted logic of COBU and one of the many rules which kept us from speaking our minds.

To speak up about anything was to set yourself up to be accused of something by Stewart, courtroom style. Your little question could even lead to a half hour grilling session – which would be all about what was wrong with you. Stewart might bring in all the others to bear witness against you, which they would be all too glad to do, believing they were “speaking the truth in love for your good” (as well as a way to avoid being put up on the stand themselves, as in, “better you than me”).

Many preferred to keep their heads down in their trenches. If no one would talk, then Stewart resorted to “pulling strings,” which meant he selected a brother or sister, who would in turn “pull peoples’ strings” by calling on them by name to give an answer to whatever question was at hand. To refuse to answer would be considered “arrogant behavior” and could result in your getting the same grilling you had been trying to avoid by remaining silent, so the lesser of two evils then was to speak up when your name was called.)

This is another example where we are all shown to not be on the path of life. Stewart says we don’t “hate the disobedience of our flesh.” Man, look, only Stewart cares (in the last 2,000 years) and, it is implied, only Stewart is being saved. We are always shown to not be where we need to be and Stewart consistently shows that he is the only – for the lack of a better word – genuine pastor. Other pastors could be sincere though. He wasn’t saying that they couldn’t be sincere (or as he says, “fat, dumb, and happy – don’t bother me, I am saved”).

Sometimes I think, if I don’t get out of here, I am going to have “moral problems.” If I don’t get out of our church and get married, but how? When will Stewart decide that I Corinthians 7 is part of the New Testament, and that therefore we should be urged to obey it?

(When was Stewart going to realize that “because of the temptation to immorality, every man should have his own wife” is part of the Bible and that we should be faithful to the Bible in this particular area, just as he says we have to be faithful to the Bible in other areas? The truth of this passage in the Bible was becoming very clear to me, and my need for it was becoming very clear to me, despite the fact that Stewart did not teach on it.)


Notes after the meeting with Stewart was over:

So, there wasn’t much “heat” to speak of in this session. But, fire could break forth any time. During the dinner break, Stewart says we are supposed to decide who is being saved and who isn’t.

Then, if this is true, Stewart is the only one who cares about the truththen I can’t understand the Bible really, because only Stewart really knows the truth. It’s just too much for me to be able to understand it on my own, except that I can accept verbatim what Stewart says about it. (Since I have no way of checking – either by myself, or with other Christians, or by looking in the Bible itself, or by reading about historical Christianity – except maybe the early Church Fathers.) I mean, look at the question and answer session we had with Stewart. Who can even come up with an answer? Nobody.

(I was saying that, if it Stewart’s claim was true that no one had cared about the truth in all of history, since the time of the Apostles, except for Stewart, this meant I could not go to any Christian literature (written by other Christian pastors or  authors, past or present) in order to check if what I was being told by Stewart was the truth, or to learn anything about Christianity, other than what Stewart was telling us, because according to him, none of them really cared about the truth and therefore (his implication was) anything they said could not be considered to be reliable.)

I guarded during the second session. Nice, with thunder and rain.

The meeting is over now. I’m seeing a parade of those who did what I wish I had done – left and got married. (Mitch and Terry, Kenny and Yolanda, Reggie and Angela, and their cute little babies.)

(There were a few people who had married after leaving the church. Sometimes they came to meetings. They did not live in the church. No one in the church was allowed to have a relationship. I was guarding outside and I saw them driving out of the parking lot, away from The New Property, COBU’s compound in Philadelphia. We didn’t call it a compound. Compound is a word that reporters use to describe any large property owned by a cult. It is a loaded word. Steve B. and I used to jokingly refer to going to meetings in Philly as “going to the compound,” or that we were “guarding the compound.” This was around the time of the Waco siege, and this word was used in the news to describe the Branch Davidian’s property.)

Monday, June 21

Back in New York, after the meeting in Philadelphia.

Got up around 1 p.m. Out soliciting for jobs alone, though quickly started lusting. Yes also, I saw many attractive women that I wouldn’t mind having. [Which I differentiated from lusting. It was more like appreciating and wishing I had someone like that.] I think what I want is normal. It’s just that there is no normal way to get it. I even thought about talking to women “outside of our social boundaries,” though this probably will not work.

Got a book by C.G. Jung at the Brooklyn library.

Getting lit up by Chuck and Kevin in the office, who are asking me, “Where’s Norman now? Do you think he succeeded in deceiving himself? Are you succeeding in deceiving yourself? Are you leaving no stone unturned?” (At this point, I realized Chuck and Kevin probably weren’t leaving every stone unturned either, but I can’t say that. Or am I just a coward?)

It was a concerted effort, like a “hit.” Was it spontaneous? Kevin wanted to know where I was yesterday during the meeting when all the questions were being asked. “Don’t you usually have a lot to say about ‘questions?’ ” This struck me as odd that he would want me to say things to Stewart, when it has always been considered a crime and cause for an ultimatum before.

Well, anyway, this is what I thought to say in my defense. What I really believe is that they were roughing me up. It’s like they were saying, ”Oh, you’re always so smart, how come you didn’t have anything to say now?” Not that Kevin or anybody would have wanted me to say similar things again. I wonder why he was doing it. It just couldn’t have been the literal meaning of his words. It seemed belligerent. In other words, little tyrants can do their thing under the cloak of religion or truth speaking.

(What I was talking about here is that the few times I stood up at a meeting to speak my mind about “what was really going on here,” I was quickly threatened with being put out of the church. Now Chuck and Kevin were abusing me about having remained silent when Stewart was asking us for our opinions on what was really happening here.

Now, these brothers, who were some of the most angry when I had spoken my mind at meetings before, were giving me a hard time for not speaking up this time and confronting Stewart. They were saying “where were you?” I even wonder now, if they were angry because they wished I HAD done this. Because they were too afraid to, but they would have liked me to speak up and to say the same things they also thought about this place and its leader, but were too afraid to say themselves. That way, at least it would have gotten said, and at the same time, only I would get punished for saying it, and not them.)

It’s balmy and wet outside, though I didn’t stay outside for long. I planted my morning glories yesterday. We shall see if any come up.

Wednesday, June 23

Just got to the job site (88 Central Park West) and just found out that the fire department has been trying to see what is in our little closet in Red Hook.

 (The fire department made a surprise inspection of the Red Hook warehouse and were trying to see what was in our little supply closet, which was locked. I found this out over the phone when I was on this job. We kept wood floor machinery and supplies in this closet, and Paul, Peter and I also slept in this closet.)

I am already thinking about how I will not move back to Woodruff if we’re evicted from there. Or is that famous last words?. Jay told Paul to call back in 10 minutes for more information. I anxiously await word.

Paul says, “How come those carpet guys from the fire department always come to our place?” Oddly enough, that’s the feeling I had, when a carpet delivery came Monday. I heard the guys outside. I had a strange feeling there might be more to it than a carpet delivery.

Paul is on the phone now, hearing the details from Jay. Apparently Peter was in the closet, but the door was locked. (When I left this morning, I locked it. I said to Paul, “Wait a minute, better lock it in case the fire department comes.”)

11 a.m:  the fire department left for now. They were unable to get in the closet. They said they would be back.

Just walked through Central Park to go to Manhattan Floors. I looked at some women. I just think I need to get married. I am not even asking for some sex pot. Just the typical housewife-companion with slippers and a bathrobe and hair in curlers.

When I was walking through Central Park, I saw some of my old jogging paths. I never kept a diary back then. I would have liked to be able to read about days with good jogs, if only because it was “my life.” But, I probably would have also written about a lot of dark stuff. But still, I hope to “know myself,” to not be afraid of what’s in me – or, probably more appropriately, not to be afraid to look at what’s in me. Maybe I can get a full cure if I know my full disease.

(I read an article about a South American family that started as poor immigrants here, but eventually prospered, in part because they were already educated before they came here, which set them apart from the mass of others who came and didn’t get so far. So far, my hope these days seems to be in self-education, both academically, though I need more practical training, and also in knowing myself better because a lot, I act unconsciously without fully identifying the forces and factors which guide me.

Okay, knowledge may not exactly be power, but neither is ignorance bliss. There is always a reason not to do things. I think I have a religion that obviates the need for a lot of things, such as the need to think for myself. I read that at one time, the Seventh Day Adventists used to clarify the Bible, or any doctrinal disputes, by going to (referring to, appealing to) the words of their founder, Ellen G. White. It is much like that here. We’re too much under one man, where our thoughts, decisions and actions cannot be validated unless they confer with, agree with or even spring from Stewart’s words or thoughts. (Or from what one thinks he would say.) All matters are referred to his words and interpreted in that light. One refers to Stewart’s words to clarify, to find that “right teaching,” or even “God’s will” on the matter. If it is not in Stewart’s words – an issue, that is – then, of course, that issue doesn’t really exist, because the presupposition is that Stewart has provided for everything – everything important enough to merit his consideration. Ultimately, it is an all-encompassing view of life itself and how to deal with it. Or, at least how life will be dealt with here.

Now, if a subject can’t be found in Stewart’s words, one that you can’t exactly slough off (such as marriage), but he has not mentioned it or formed statutes for it, then you must bend his words to apply. Or more likely, bend the issue to apply to his words. In this case, marriage comes under the section of “things in this life” – which, according to precept – this life is devalued, denied and not the real issue. So, there you have what to do with marriage.

Okay, so here I have begun to do it again. Another one of my “tirades,” the contents of which, I am sure, I should never reveal to anyone.

But, it’s hard for me to believe there is nothing to it, and that there aren’t differences in temperament. That what is good for one may not be good for all. This man and our church propose a system that is all-encompassing, answering every need in life – or at least the ones I can or have permission to deal with and that I have no need to look elsewhere – or that I have no other needs, other than the needs Stewart says I have.

In fact, it seems downright strange that he won’t deal with any other needs we have – not even acknowledge them! This man proposes to be my spokesman, he who knows and chooses what I need. (He says he knows us better than we know ourselves. That I will admit, though it’s usually in the context of how he can use it on us.) That he is my arbiter mundi. [1]  When it comes down to it, that’s what he is. The question is whether I accept that or not, as so many (at least here) seem to do.

([1] Arbiter mundi: the one to whom all questions are referred.)

Every week, I go and answer to this one man. It seems like my whole life, except for daily mundane tasks, is centered in giving account to and being evaluated by this one person!

Well, I seem to be in a pretty heavy “think” about Stewart and our church and how it’s run. Am I just crazy? Just saying “stuff about Stewart” often seems like an oversimplification. But, W. Edwards Deming always looked at management any time he evaluated how a company operated. How about a church? The idea can’t be touched. It is an intense taboo and therefore can’t be talked about objectively by anyone here. Somehow, there are intense symbols or masks whereby one can avoid all this. Somehow, I can’t.

During this period however, I am intensely silent about it. Maybe, when I get out, I will just see this as a period I was going through.

Just glanced through the New York Times, replete with a two page, full page, ladies underwear ad, which I stared at for a few seconds. What’s the point of all this? It’s a ridiculous life. This shouldn’t even bother me. It should have been settled long ago. I am certainly suffering from my indecision over marriage long ago. As I have often thought, had I known I would be compelled by desire this much, this combined with no safe outlet, driving me up on the rocks, I would have been much more desperate and practical about getting married and probably would have been much more straightforward with Becky. I wouldn’t have bothered with the fear, or “are you maneuvering” games. I would have gone for what I needed. I didn’t feel the sting of desire back then. I guess I was in a plastic bubble. It’s not that I didn’t want a wife, it’s just that I never saw it this way. I wanted to search around, for a more perfect mate. This may be a consideration, but I carried it to an extreme. Again, maybe our religion obviated my need to think in practical terms. Maybe religion gave me an overextended adolescence, where I didn’t have to make choices in life. There was nothing, such as a hot seat, to move me (much as I often think that a man’s necessity to be a breadwinner is great motivation to get better jobs and move up the ladder. Practical answers to practical problems).

(I was saying here that living communally in COBU made it easy to not be very responsible for my life and made it harder to take initiative. At one time, I thought that if I served the church, I would indirectly get the things I needed, without directly striving for them, which is what Stewart taught us, with such sayings as, “Seek the welfare of the city you dwell in, for in it you will find your welfare.” And, “Look not to your own interests, but to those of Jesus Christ.” And that if I worked at the church’s programs, these things would fall into place. In fact, living communally was supposed to free us from these “cares of this life” so we could serve Jesus better.)

But, I lived in the bubble. I never felt that rubber to the road contact with life. Though now, it has been intruding more and more through the fog – coming right at me.

(Seeing pictures of women in bras doesn’t help me. Okay, I shouldn’t have lingered. But even in rapidly turning the page, I indicate that I am running from something. The looking is sin, but the things itself, is a part of real life that I have foolishly denied dealing with. A move that leaves me a 36 year old sexual sinner, instead of a husband and a father. Yes, I could have resisted all these years, but why spend your energy on resisting? How about, I should have spent the energy on getting a wife. Often feel now I am up the creek without a paddle. Previous indecision has cost me. What will the future bring?

It’s not like there was a real need or good reason to defer this decision or action. But only sheer stupidity and a religion that served as an opiate. But, the effects of the opium is wearing off, leaving me only with increasing pain.

I never chose celibacy! In other words, I may have chosen indulgence, but I never chose celibacy. Not as a conscious choice that I am going to live without a woman or without the use or fulfillment of sexual desire.

Somehow, the conclusions the last few pages; somehow, whatever I think is wrong. I’m not even supposed to believe my own thoughts. It’s supposed to be not the real issue. Much less can I make a decision, a choice or do anything about it? Weird, huh?

(We were not supposed to “get into our own thoughts,” which Stewart said was bad for us. I was not supposed to believe my own thoughts – if they were contrary to Stewart’s teachings and our way of life – because they were “just the devil putting thoughts in my head.” Most cults use a similar line of argumentation on their members, to get them to quell their inner doubts about the organization they are in.)

Well, I am aware of the problem, but there is nothing, it seems, I can do about it. That seems a good descriptive statement of myself. I can think things, but I still can do nothing but go along with the program. Is it like this in other churches? Why is the binding on our lives so tight? Does it have something to do with living in these confines, with its self-fulfilling revelations?

I had real problems with that concept of being “honorably independent.” I never really identified the faults with such an idea. It shows maybe, how I was living unconsciously in a lot of areas of my life.

(These few lines need a little commentary. I was talking about when I lived out of the church for a while in 1984, and saying that I should have never moved back in. At the time, there was a division between those who were “honorably independent” and those who were “dishonorably independent.” These were the two categories in which live-out members were viewed. This distinction had to do with money. Honorably independents paid a certain amount of money to the church, even though they lived out. Dishonorable independents were not paying money to the church, or not enough.

But there was an added dimension to this. According to Stewart, in order for a brother to marry, he had to be “living honorably in every way before he could even consider taking a sister in marriage” and at that time, I was interested in Becky, who I’ve mentioned a few times here. If I moved back into the church, I could do away with the problem of being dishonorably independent (I had been thrown out of the church for petty infractions during a witch hunt in the Rescue Mission), obviating the need to pay a certain dollar amount to the church, which I could not afford. I could then be employed in a church business or living in the church and turning in my paycheck to the church from a job in the world. The woman, and the church, might then be satisfied with me and this barrier to marriage would not exist any longer.)

Red Hook 8:20 p.m.

We threw a couple of crates around to make the closet look more like a closet. Nobody else seems too worried about this whole deal. I got here this evening moments after the fire department came back to check.

I noticed the exceedingly beautiful sunlight this evening, and realized it is now just past the longest day of the year. I am now sitting in the doorway marveling at the last of the golden rays, enjoying the shirtsleeve weather. (The wind blows on you, lifting your shirtsleeve a little bit.) I am just absorbing this feeling. The feeling of being out here, the feeling of summer. A day with dry, warm air. Summer that is sweet and wants to envelop you with a pure kiss.

I don’t really know how to write about it, because all it will be is words about summer that I miss or wish I could have. It’s so unusual (by default because of this incident with the fire department) to take an evening off and end up sitting in our doorway for a little while. I have a life that knows almost no quiet spaces. It seems like a criminal act to take this time. It’s not like I expect this free time to change my life. It’s just something I like to do.

Sometimes I wish I could find myself in a place where I could do this for extended periods of time. You have to lay everything aside and just sit and look. (If not for a whole summer, then just for an evening once in a while. These are quiet things, aesthetics. Things that can’t really change your life.)

So here I am, sitting at the desk, reading. I am tempted like crazy. This desire, it’s meant to be taken care of in marriage. That is the outlet God has provided, if indeed he provides marriage for you, right? But I can, in no way, either approach marriage or get married. (I can’t in this church, though according to Stewart, it’s not the church that is preventing me from getting married. It’s because I am just too messed up humanly, and not even a man.)

(According to Stewart, the brothers were unable to marry because we were too screwed up. He said that because of our rebellion toward Christ and our lack of Christian growth, our human and spiritual condition was such that the brothers in the church were not men, according to the biblical view of what a man is, and therefore we were incapable of marriage. This applied to every man in the church, there was not one exception.)

What bothers me, among many things, is that I can’t go ahead and choose, decide, and act on this at all! (Maybe back then, with Becky, I was too scared and kept her at arm’s length. Maybe I used the church as the arm. She didn’t seem too willing, but maybe if I was desperate, it would have been different.) I just feel like I am frozen in amber and that this isn’t right, it isn’t me, and it isn’t “due to my condition” at all. Unless you say “my condition” helps me to obey these unreal rules and prohibitions on marriage. I saw a beautiful Chinese woman leaning out a window today. I just want a woman! Why should a man stand in my way?

Year after year, what am I waiting for? This is getting ridiculous. And now I believe I have a real reason to get married. I know my desires are going to kill me. Once I let that cat out of the bag, back when I was 30, there was no turning back. But, I just wonder if it was bound to happen anyway. Because, I can’t just blame myself for starting to give in to my carnal desire. Perhaps it’s a wonder I lasted that long in my weird oblivious life.

I have been asking God, if this is a cult, to just show me. [I was praying to God to show me if I was in a cult.] Maybe what will tip the scales for me is Stewart’s new pronouncement about how 99.999% of all other Christians are arrogant. In other words, he saying that is the only one who has the right view of Christianity – since the beginning of Christianity! I read in a book by Josh McDowell that one of the main marks of a cult, besides polarization around one religious interpretation of the Bible, is that they claim to restore Christianity to its original understanding or basis, which is what Stewart is claiming in his roundabout, understated, yet overt way.

A lot of Stewart’s previous statements might be hard for me to pin, or it is hard to say “this really says it or shows it” (like his teachings on denying ourselves, or that we are the only church who understands what faith is). But now he has gone so far through the barrier that he is coming out the other side. It is no longer that he claims to have true insight on this or that subject. He has true insight, period! He is the only Christian. The Church of Bible Understanding way is the only right way. In other words his way is the only right way, since we’re all just flunkies. The extreme “only” thing, just like all the other cults.

What more is there to be said? It goes so far that it crystallizes into something blatantly ridiculous. (But maybe if one has believed everything up to this point, it’s just another brick in the wall.) I just wonder if this is the final straw now and what I will do.

Thursday, June 24

Last night, I didn’t do much more than read railroad magazines at the desk a while. Read a little of Calvin’s Institutes on the Christian Religion before sleeping. This morning, at the coffee shop, I left before getting my order because two guys with guns walked in. For sure, I will not be patronizing any stores along that area again. I think I recognized the guy from before along Van Brunt Street, though the cop on the phone thought they might have been undercover officers.

Of course, this is a “scare” and makes me think of that dream. I feel pretty shaken up today.

(I was in a deli waiting for my order when two guys with guns came in. One of them walked up to a guy, put a gun to his head and took him out to the sidewalk out front. Just before this happened, I had an odd thought. What if guys with guns came in the deli? I looked to my right and saw a side door which opened onto the street, and imagined going out there. I saw this like a movie in my head. Then I continued to stand in line about another minute and the guys came in. I rather calmly walked out the side door. There are several other times during my stay in COBU where I saw in my mind’s eye things like this just before they happened and remained calm, perhaps avoiding trouble by panicking.)

Talked to Mom for over an hour on the phone last night.

Saturday, June 26

Sitting in Central Park with Paul and new brother Michael C. I am probably going to have big (or big enough) lust problems this summer.

Dream: Last night I had a dream that I went to a massage parlor. Also that I found a small Greek New Testament. Will both be true, or only the bad side?

Almost done with the job on West 69th. Last night, I spent time cleaning and organizing my things. We’ve been going back to Red Hook in the evenings for a week now and nobody has been bothering me about it. Have chosen lust two times this week. The other day, I felt as if I were being “extruded.” Rushed hard from behind, drawn from ahead–like those vacuum chambers the Nazi scientists made where they could suck a person through a hole in the wall by using high air pressure in one room, and a vacuum in the other. And through the hole I went and began picking up magazines in the store. I’m thinking a lot about how I need marriage. Whatever trials and responsibilities marriage entails, it can’t be worse than the guilt and worse that would be the result of any illicit sex. And yet compelled to some kind of sex I am. Unless of course, I choose the middle of the road, abstinence. Well, it hasn’t worked. Even if I can abstain, I am still on weak ground anyway.

(No matter how long I successfully avoided temptation, I was still on weak ground anyway, without the outlet of marriage. I was always about ready to fall into the quicksand, or have the mineshaft collapse on me, depending on the metaphor you wish to use. Whether I went a day, or months without giving in, I still gave in eventually, which still put me in the same place.)

Today, I’m doing a lot of mental review about Stewart and the church, past and present. In fact without marriage, I know I am not going to make it. The only recourse I am left with is to avoid women (either looking at them, or ever trying to start something with one out here, because it would lead to fornication). Yet, pairing up with a woman is such a natural thing. Look at all these couples and groups of men and women out here today. This abstinence course is just stone age. I am just some kind of weird thing. I will not get any credit for my abstinence. It is not a commendable, valiant and worthy fight of morality, honesty and integrity. Nothing that Christians or non-Christians will look at and see my good works. (Staying faithful to one wife could definitely be seen by either as good works.) Anybody who looks at me will just think I am a loser, following pointless and useless ideas. I think the same about myself too. Indeed, does anybody think it is good?


The following are some notes from the back pages:

Notes on denying self:

It’s hard to do something when your opportunities are rare or you only get a stab here and there. A classic example being: running. It was easy when I had the time and the frequent access. It became harder or nigh impossible when I neither had the time nor easy availability.

Same with photography: back in Pt. Pleasant Beach, I lived there for years, so it was easy. It’s harder to get off the launch pad here. When I finally realized I could have packed a camera, the time here is mostly over and I also don’t really have time to walk around and think about and plan shots.

(An explanation of the above is that before Stewart got involved in our lives again, a kind of anarchy reigned in COBU. I lived in Woodruff Avenue, and although lonely, I was able to jog in the park and draw in my room. After this, there were constant meetings, working long hours in the church businesses, and Stewart was teaching us about denying ourselves, which meant we were supposed to give up all our desires and hopes for this life. This busy schedule that allowed very little free time and this bombardment of propaganda about “putting our lives in this world to death” and “killing everything” had a powerful effect on me.)

Excerpts from Stewart’s message  June 3:

With all this garbage coming out about stolen tips and behavior, our attitude should be to get past this so we can move on to making things better.

Read the notes from last Sunday. Separate the arrogant and super arrogant ones.


Paul finally “fixed” the van. It was out of gas. I talked with Chester, the owner of the restaurant, a while out back while waiting for Paul. He had his baby son with him. His son is half Chinese. Odd that this occurs after that prayer.

Our church doesn’t make a contract, up front, that people can see in advance and agree to (or not agree to), yet we hold them bound to a contract. It’s just that we never tell them what it is, though we know what it is. They learn it little by little.

May 26  (Meeting notes, that is, Stewart Traill’s words that I copied down in a meeting. Any “I” statements were Stewart speaking in the first person, but he was not talking about himself. When he did that, he meant “all of you.” We were supposed to take these “I” statements and internalize them and make them our own. It was a kind of programming that was like, “Now all of you, repeat after me, “I will…”)

“Eternal salvation is my goal. Sure, I could always indulge, but I desire salvation. I know I can’t have it both ways. Unite in your desire for eternal salvation. Do the Five Approaches. The big force behind the Five Approaches is the fear of God. If you have fear of God, that will drive you to salvation – fast. If I did it again (I forgot salvation), there must be something big in me, trying to forget salvation. Face that. You are supposed to be helping each other lay aside every weight and sin. But instead you are laying aside salvation. In order to do the Five Approaches, you must be chased by fear every second.”

(This was typical Stewart Traill teaching and a cornerstone of COBU theology: we must be scared every second. Not only that, but be “chased by fear.”)

“Practice the fear of God, because it’s the only thing that can move you toward salvation and supposedly you are here because you are seeking salvation.

”I am going for the fear of God. I am accepting it, practicing it, because I desire eternal salvation. Not that that does it. It’s God who does it. But, there is no way you are going to get there without the fear of God.”

June 1  (More of Stewart’s words from the meeting. The bad news meant the bad news that we were “headed straight to hell.” The good news was the good news of salvation, which Stewart said we would not take seriously unless we were scared out of our minds about hell.)

“You will not make salvation your goal until you make justification and Christ’s dying on the cross your treasure. But this will not happen unless you are inviting the bad news. (You will keep up mocking.)


Possible aphorisms: (these were my own observations of life in COBU)

Stewart induces the sisters to depreciate us. It is their duty to despise us as worthless older brothers. But their reward and the price for obedience to this expectation is spinsterhood.

People here are more bought in, have more implicit belief in Stewart than I had ever realized or imagined.


(More meeting notes, words of Stewart Traill):

“I know I am being saved because I hate the disobedience that I see in my flesh (which isn’t me).

“If your hope was your salvation, you would guard against and get rid of whatever attacks it.

“A sign that you are converted is that you hate that disobedience, because you understand what it is.”


(more of  my notes):

Synanon    Arminius    Ramond Franz    Plymouth Brethren     Seventh Day Adventists (Millerism)

Rights if I’m being put out of the church:

– stay until I find a place to live

– transportation

– use of phone

Call the police. Get stay of residence (at 46th Street, if not at Red Hook), which is near the station, because nobody will help me get there with my belongings.

– it may take time to get a reservation

Inside front cover of my journal:

An accurate rendition of my thoughts, whatever they may be.

Inside back cover:

The lepers

Enough charges to arrest Stewart, you are probably just scratching the surface. Children of God. The leaders.

Read the next section of the journal here: Our Utopia Is “No Place” To Be.

(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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