1993, 07/27-29. “There’s No Fellowship Like This Anywhere.”

The title for this section comes from a comment an older brother, Jay, said at the close of one of the brothers meetings, that there is no fellowship (meaning church or religious group) like ours anywhere. It was meant to be a positive comment and also meant to mean we are the best and really the only true way to follow Christ.

By this time, I had been reading many books about cults and I realized, yes actually, there are many groups like ours and that there have been many groups like ours over the last centuries as well. For the most part, all of them were small Christian communal living groups that had an authoritarian leader who claimed to be God’s true spokesman who was restoring Christianity to its true and original meaning, in a world that was full of darkness and error. And that if you left this group, you could not be saved.

(A good description of being the only place to be saved, and being part of the only true people – and how if members leave, they cease to exist, is explained well in Robert J. Lifton’s book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, under the concept of The Dispensing of Existence.)

Tuesday, July 27

I tried to sleep at the 46th Street office, but I couldn’t fall asleep. I was up until four in the morning, when I got a ride to Red Hook. I ended up sleeping here until about 1:30, and then I didn’t rustle out of my enclave for another two hours! (My, how time flies when you are looking at a book or magazine!) Then I tried to deflate a minor conflagration with some new brothers here, who may have done something wrong or at least violated our rules and were being wound up further by Andrew and Jeff. Then I made a few calls for wood floors and carpet cleaning from my files.

I am now in the wood floor shack with Peter and would like to stay here a little longer, but there is always the matter of “what did you do today?” Fine if nobody checks. I have no qualms, realizing that my hours do not fit neatly into 9 to 5 anyway. (And I worked all day Sunday.) But, this doesn’t hold water here if you get interrogated. Nobody is sensitive enough to cut you a break or to try to understand your position. (Though if a person is extremely overworked, he is permitted sleep. But that’s only when their performance is not going to amount to much anyway, because they are just too tired and too far gone to be of any use. So then, there is a level at which we are cut a break, the level of “overworked machinery.”)

11 p.m.

Our 11 p.m. meeting is now commencing. It almost feels as if I never left last night’s meeting. Maybe it’s because I didn’t do much today, but it’s also more like living from meeting to meeting. Suddenly, I am here again.

Well, it’s time to settle in. Keep my wits about me. Remember I am not the only person here and that I am not the main issue or focus of the meeting.

In the voting, I put myself forward as “not escaping.” My reason, because “I did various things today like read the Bible, help some new brothers, but I didn’t really think of the Number One Principle – so I missed the mark, really.”

Milton looked at me. I figured he could see right through me. But when he spoke, his concern was if there was some message or note in what I said to the effect that, “You are not escaping if you are not doing the Number One Principle.”

I really hate this voting, about whether or not I am “escaping.” Escaping and getting out of here and going to Woodruff has no appeal to me either.

I am thinking of drastically cutting down my belongings. Again, in part, because it seems like it would make me freer to leave the church, if that should be the case.

What if I sold off all my books except the few that I do read? The four crates of books I have, what? I will get about 30 dollars at the used book store. If I leave, I will get nothing for them. I hardly look at them anyway. There is always the public library in which to read books, but I also have the feeling that my possessions define me, therefore I want to keep them. Why do I have to throw my stuff away? (Right now, a huge bookshelf for Brother Stewart is being constructed in Andrew’s shop at Red Hook. More shelves for more books. Me, I have to get rid of mine. Or at least I think I have to, or that I might want to.)

(It always irked me that while Stewart Traill was urging us on to further self-denial and deprivation, at the same time, he was giving Andrew (a brother who was skilled in cabinet making) plans for a custom desk and bookshelves. These were no ordinary bookshelves. They had glass doors and built-in lighting. I owned four milk crates of books. Stewart was also urging us to “give up everything in this life, even things that seem right to do,” while he continued to study esoteric math and any other subjects he wanted to (and having custom book shelves made to hold his collection of books). 

I saw several math books in the office one day. There was a note from Stewart, instructing the sisters (who went out and purchased these books for him) that these were not the books he wanted and that they should return them to the book store and get this or that book instead.

Also at the public library, I was reading some books about the Reformation. In these books, which evidently had been borrowed and returned on Stewart’s behalf by some sisters, there were still some pieces of paper inside with Stewart’s notes on them. We were extremely discouraged from study anything, even theology. Yet in these ways, I saw that Stewart was violating the same principles he told us to live by. He was not giving up all of his pursuits in this life to pursue only Christ. He was quite lavish toward himself and what he was interested in and wanted to do. 

After leaving, I was to learn that these pursuits also included women other than his wife, which I did not know at the time. I only vaguely suspected it, because the other cult leaders I read about did this. I could only speculate that it looked strange the way Stewart lived with the sisters in the same building at the church’s “New Property” in Philadelphia. One night as I was outside guarding and making the rounds, I looked up at the building and I allowed myself to imagine and speculate what went on inside there late at night.

One of the biblical texts that Stewart used to pressure us to give up our lives and personal pursuits and to follow his agenda was 1 Corinthians 2:2, where the Apostle Paul wrote: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

As with many biblical concepts that Stewart used for his own ends, this was taken out of context or applied in a way different than what it originally meant. But at face value, this verse would seem to mean that we were only to think of and talk about Christ and to not do or think about anything else. (Working in church’s businesses was clearly exempt from this because this work was for funding the “purpose” of the church.) It was the concept of “Christ first and foremost,” taken to the unnatural extreme of “Christ only, and nothing else.” While at the same time, Stewart himself didn’t live this way, although he was adept at concealing that from most of us, including any visible signs of wealth, such as fine clothing and cars – though at this time, a million dollar mansion in Florida qualifies for ostentatious signs of wealth, even if the mansion is in the church’s name, and not his.  

This pressure to give up our lives in this world was not only done by bending the meaning of bible texts like the one above. This scripture twisting was done in an enclosed live-in community that was essentially free of any influence other than Stewart. So there was a whole array of factors at Stewart’s disposal to guide us into this way of life that are not mentioned here.)

Since this is page 74 [I numbered the pages of the journals I wrote in], I would like to take a brief pause here to remember the year of that date and say something to honor it. Well, what was I doing at that time? It was summer, as it is now. July.  Just right. Swimming, running, sun. Being outside, or on the porch.

I am writing this in the middle of a meeting. (So far, nobody seems to notice that I am writing.) It helps to keep me to occupied.

It seems that nobody has noticed my little vacation, or dropping out of the picture today. Nobody is asking me any questions about it. It seems as if nobody knows. I say that because if somebody did know, I would hear about it. Maybe when Andrew saw me at Red Hook, he thought I was waking up from a late night job, as I often do. The sisters at the office didn’t seem to notice that I didn’t call in from soliciting. Since I don’t usually solicit, I wouldn’t be missed. (I don’t call in when I work on wood floor jobs either.) The sisters are very busy anyway. And, I didn’t bring it up either. Nobody bothered me about not being there for the morning meeting either.

Part of the reason I can’t get backed in any kind of voting is that I am the one (the only one) who has “stood up” to Stewart and disagreed with him. From time to time, at a meeting I will hear somebody say that I never made it right for those times, and that they would trust me more if I did. I suppose this could be a great bottleneck for me here. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m overdoing it. But, it’s always something that can be brought up against me. It’s just that right now, it’s not being dealt with. But it’s in my file or my dossier.

(No one ever forgot that I disagreed with Stewart at some of the meetings and called him to task in front of everyone. It was part of my permanent record, and of what everyone thought of me. This could never be forgotten, even now. If I ran into a current COBU member now, I would be considered a dangerous person, spiritually lethal and someone to be avoided and to run from. Much of this may come from the fact that I voiced the same things they also thought about Stewart, but for their own reasons did not want to deal with, because the cost of dealing with these things was too great for them – though you never know how far bought into the group some diehard believers are.

I was not the only person who ever confronted Stewart, and there were others who did it much better than I did. (Richard Wurmbrand considered Stewart to be a “powerful backslider” and trembled when he tried to reason with him and bring him back to repentance.) But I was the only one at this time who was speaking up to Stewart, every once in a while. I felt I needed to do it, according to my conscience, seeking the truth, and even for the good of the others there. I was also naively hoping that by doing this Stewart, and our lives in COBU, would change, so I wouldn’t have to leave.

Speaking to Stewart, one or two times, in anything less than total agreement with him was enough to permanently mark me as an outsider and not “one of us” – actions which, fortunately, led me to feel like the ground shrinking was under my feet, making me a persona non grata in COBU. This realization of my future and permanent reputation in the church was a factor that helped me to leave. Because of what I had done, I could never be accepted within the fold again.)

I was thinking about this because of Peter and how he seems to stand up and get backed in the voting with ease. Brothers seem to have a level of trust for him, though he does speak about some things concerning this place, including a borderline disagreeing about Stewart, but he doesn’t seem to get what I get.

We are now asking, “Are there any brothers who need to talk to everybody?” When they ask that, do they know something? Or have an agenda? The next step is, “Who should we talk to?” Do they have somebody in mind? Or are they trying to have the proper meeting spirit?

A new brother, Alberto, has been named as somebody we should talk to. He has divorce problems, left his kids (it seems out of necessity). Brothers say they will talk to him after the meeting.

Now talking with another new brother, Vernon. He is highly suspect by all the brothers. (Paul is saying, “Let’s blow him up now! Let’s find out what he’s all about.” Typical Paul. I’d hate to be facing such a thing.)

I’m watching the proceedings against this brother. Not that I think he is a good guy. But I keep myself occupied with such things. Paul is really “angry.” Somehow I wonder if this is how we blow people up, though. Paul did say, “Let’s blow him up.”

In listening to the things everybody says about this person, they could be talking about anybody. The usual characteristics of the bad person are being said about him, such as, “He can get real direct and demanding when he wants something.”

I have been assigned to work with and on Vernon tomorrow. I will have to take somebody else with me too.

We are trying to hear a tape from Brother Stewart, but so far can’t get off the ground. I am looking forward to a brief visit to the Good Diner tomorrow morning, if I can get up early enough. For a few minutes, twenty minutes or so, where I can eat and think in silence. A chance to step out of the milieu.

Now the tape and speaker phone are working. I can continue to write in my diary by posing as jotting down notes on the message.

Everybody is “getting in trouble” over there in Woodruff. (The tape was recorded at Woodruff last night. It was a phone call to Stewart.) Another Stewart correctional message. Stewart says, “Nobody believes it. Nobody believes in Calvary and the power of Calvary to change you,” and other similar things. We’re all dogs, all on the lowest rung of the ladder. “There’s no thankfulness for what Jesus did.” I would hate to be over there at Woodruff, doing all that work, round the clock, and have to hear such things. I would think, so what’s the point of it all?

(Until this moment, the brothers at Woodruff had been acting better than us and giving us a hard time in the daily phone calls. It was clear to me, now that Stewart was chastising them, that we were all together in the same pot once more. At least for a little while. Woodruff was where we were supposed to be if we were backed in the voting and seen by all the others as being faithful. The brothers at 46th Street were trying to “escape 46th Street,” by getting voted on and then going over there. This was the subject of most of our meetings at this time. I don’t think anyone was too enthusiastic about “escaping 46th Street,” but extreme pressure was put on everyone to do so.

One of Stewart Traill’s manipulation tactics was to set up opposing groups among the members of the church, based on criteria that had little meaning in reality. The purpose was to keep everyone in a state of stress and activity. In this case, there were a certain number of people who had not made the grade to go to Woodruff, so they were separated and quarantined in another location, and they had to prove themselves during the nightly pressure meetings that they were worthy of moving to Woodruff and training the new disciples” there. Because those in Woodruff could easily be demoted and sent back to this group for almost any reason, they were also under extreme pressure to maintain their position and status, to avoid falling back into the bad group.)

In every movement, in every group like this, there are always those who know… and there are always the believing and the naive.

(This was a stream of consciousness thought, arising from the midst of what I was writing. I did not include myself in either category (those who knew the real deal and the naive), instead, it was an observation about the others around me. I was no longer believing and naive. Yet, I did not consider myself “in the know.” For me, those in the know were those who knew this was a false way, but were selling it to others as the truth and pushing others into obeying it. This was something I could not do.)

Now we’re talking to the brothers at Woodruff over the speaker phone:

“Do you want to be changed?” (Said to us by those at Woodruff.)

We reply, “Yes.”

“So no more 46th Street then!”

(So, when Jesus changes me, I will go to Woodruff?)

Then the brothers at Woodruff ask, “Who makes an agreement that they want to be changed? So all the others don’t?” (Proving that the brothers over there at Woodruff are acting better than us.)

Now, what the brothers at Woodruff are saying has been modified to, “Who is going for being changed and who just isn’t trusted?”

After we answered, there seems to be a little uproar over there, with some sarcasm and chuckling. (Maybe because when the brothers at Woodruff called us at first, we were listening to this tape, which Joy was playing to us over the phone from the second floor at Woodruff and we told them that we didn’t want to stop the tape at the moment. They were pretty sarcastic about that.)

Then the brothers at Woodruff got on Bob D.’s case. It was pretty funny with Peter making zip your lip gestures and telling Bob “Just answer ‘yes’” when Bob started to get “proud” (according to Joe). Really Bob was getting wound up over their attitudes toward us.

To Bob: “How long did it take the thief on the cross to change?”

Bob (grudgingly), “Not long.”

Actually, I thought, you could just as easily say, regarding how long it took for the thief on the cross to change, “all his life.”

The meeting is ending with the appropriate closing words: “I don’t think we should be staying up this late.” A little undercurrent of discontent over our long meeting hours. Joe begins to sermonize: “I am going to lose everything that has to do with this life, so all these things I get upset about don’t really matter.” And I know he doesn’t mean a word of it.

At various times I got upset during this meeting, leading to imaginary scenes of me storming out of a meeting in Philadelphia, whatever the exact terms of the scenario. I suppose I can only see myself reacting as a bad child. Before that happens – or, instead of that – I need to find alternate means of dealing with all this, including maybe finding outside help.

Wednesday, July 28

Now driving back into the city. I got up at 7:50 a.m., a little later than expected. I am now at the traffic log jam by the World Trade Center. The race is on to be in the office at 8:30.  

(The morning meeting at 46th Street was at 8:30. Several older brothers and I still continued to stay at Red Hook each night, despite having been ordered to move to and sleep at the office at 46th Street, so we could all “be in fellowship” and be in the morning meetings together. In my last month in COBU, I finally had to move to the office. I slept on the floor under a desk and had to get up in the morning when the sisters came in to start their day. The were upset that brothers were sleeping under their desks, but of course, they could not say anything about it.)

(Last night again, I got highly frustrated about sleeping at the office when Jay said he had already claimed the spot on the floor under a desk where I was laying down. I got up, found a van and went back to Red Hook to sleep.)

(If you are interested in following every gory detail of the story, you can also read the tape journal I made when I got back to the Red Hook warehouse, before I went to sleep: I’d Rather Be A Doormat In The House Of My God. This is on my Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry Cult Leader site, which contains the text of the tape journals I made during this time.)

I’m not looking forward to being at another meeting. It seems Paul is really “doing the right thing” now. I am watching him, to see what side of the fence he is going to be on. He’s really one of the boys now. I’m wondering if he will be one of the main ones talking to me (about me continuing to stay at Red Hook, or whatever else) in order to demonstrate his reform and his solidarity with the boys in his new surroundings. Peter also didn’t want to go to Red Hook last night, saying that Bill was doing weird numbers and that maybe it is better that he stays at the office.

(Bill was not a member of COBU. He was a cabinet maker who rented shop space in the Red Hook warehouse and sometimes stayed there overnight.)

I thought maybe this is Peter’s way of rationalizing to himself what he has to do anyway. I mean, I know these ones’ attitudes previous to this move – and I see it now, suddenly transformed. They are now acting zealous about the move.

Yes, I will have to end up living at 46th Street. I didn’t realize how much this would bother me, although I knew it was coming all along.

I got to the office at 8:34. I ran to the Good Diner. (It seems I did miss the prayer. I thought everybody was still asleep.) I ate my breakfast with speed and under extreme duress. In other words, I had better get back before the meeting starts or I am going to get blasted and I was thinking about what might happen to me. (At 8:34 the lights were still out, everybody laying down. I figured I had time. I gave the van keys to Orlando and told him I was going out. Orlando: “You’re not going to get together with the brothers?” Got back, nobody was together yet. This is what I had figured anyway, but I have to, it seems, live in total fear of being late and running afoul of “the brothers.”  Yes now, the brothers – the power of the brothers. The decision and the view of the brothers. Are you going to submit and listen to your brothers?)

I am reading Lifton a lot these days. Who could I talk to, to explain how this place is like a thought reform camp? Who would understand? Who has even read the book?

(I was talking about Robert J. Lifton’s book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.  I am probably the only person who read this book while a member of the Church of Bible Understanding. I do not know of any ex-COBU members who have read it. This book was vital information for me when I was there.)

I will probably drop off a letter to Mom about all these recent happenings. I may write the authors of some of these books I have been reading.

I’m out soliciting with new brothers Dale and John O. I’m pretty tired. I’m probably wearing myself out more with thoughts about Stewart. (I am thinking that what he teaches is a lot of high-minded philosophy and human precepts. And I’m thinking about what would happen to me if I ever said anything like that.)

I took these new brothers along because I thought it would be easier for me. (But somehow I must play the role of teacher – even if I am a benevolent one.) But, I never really have a rational conversation with anybody.

(I had taken some new converts along with me to hand out Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning flyers and to go door to door to look for business leads.)

Vernon seems to have departed some time before 9 this morning. I really didn’t want to take him anyway. It would have been a drag to have to go with him alone. But, I have no effective communication with anybody.

(Vernon would not have been good company or conversation, because he was one of the angry rebelling ones. He had been assigned to me so I could watch him all day. But I didn’t have anyone I could talk to anyway.)

I came back and slept in the office for 3 hours. I talked to Blake afterwards, about his back injury and about how brothers left him alone when he was recuperating in Staten Island. And about how Kevin and Chuck give him the short end of the stick (with reference to how brothers in Woodruff were acting better than us on the phone last night). I did my usual listening routine (though I like to do this anyway), careful not to interject too many of my own thoughts. I was tempted to use the conversation as a platform for my own gripes and views and theories, however right I think they may be.

I walked with Jay to the deli. He was saying he wants to go to Red Hook to get his clothes. But it also seems that he doesn’t like sleeping on the floor either. (I told him I got mad at him last night, but that I didn’t take it personally.) So, if possible, we will commandeer a van to go to Red Hook again.

Now at the meeting: we’re trying a new brother in our “brothers court.” He seems to be a wrongdoer, though I find all of this to be tedious. I defended him, because there was a story about how his accusers at Woodruff had retracted their story about him.

The brothers now have given him a 24 hour ultimatum, to shape up or leave. Now deciding where he will sleep tonight. (Here, but lock the door from the inside? In a van?)

(The new brother was given a so-called “24-hour sudden death,” where he had to change his behavior or be put out on the street. In the meantime, he might have to sleep outside in a van for the night.)

Still, I hate all this. Okay, he is a wrongdoer. But this seems rough or even mildly brutal and without discernment. It is not judgment with mercy. But maybe I’m just too idealistic. Looking for ideals that don’t exist. But, on second thought, I know and understand this place and I do know about how things work here.

Thursday, June 29

I went back to Red Hook with Jay last night. Again, I couldn’t sleep till around four in the morning, so quite naturally I didn’t wake up until 10:30. I showered and got out, so now I am on the bus at 12 noon. Yes, I need a little leisure and unhurried moments in my life sometimes.

Of course, I am not calling in to the office. So far, the best way to avoid trouble is to not announce myself. But this has a serious drawback, in that if I’m caught – I could get it for not calling.

A dream I had: On the radio, they played a tape of somebody getting excommunicated from the fellowship. (It was something that occurred over 10 years ago in the old days of the fellowship.) A confrontation, Stewart’s voice. The uproar of the crowd and the person getting thrown out. Then later, I met this person who was thrown out. And, as it is with dreams, this encounter took place at a familiar location, near the school I went to as a child. I talked to him about how he had been thrown out. I was now willing to talk to ex-members of the church.  He said a very perceptive thing to me, which was the centerpiece of the dream: “Don’t you know that everybody knows where you’re really at anyway?” In other words, do you think you can hide it? Doesn’t everybody know anyway?

The other night I had a dream where Stewart appeared to be making up to me, though I didn’t want to make myself vulnerable to him.  He asked me about my childhood name, “Aren’t you called Jamie?” “Yes,” I said, “I used to be called that.” I didn’t want to give him that information because he might start using it on me, mocking me with it.

I wonder if there is any significance to these dreams. Are they supposed to be dealt with in any way?  What about the dream last night?

I am now sitting in Central Park with Alex. Beautiful rolling hills, trees and summer clouds. (And lots of women to not look at.) A rather pastoral scene.

I have been taking some liberties with Alex in giving him an insider’s report on life here in our church, something I may regret if any of this comes back to me by means of him repeating anything I said to anybody. I get scared of that. (Yet, it seemed to help him talk. After sitting in the coffee shop, divulging some of these things, even I felt freer. Then right away, we got some good customer leads that might close. I wondered if there was any connection to this.)

Alex is talking now. There is so much I have to overlook – with him or anybody – that just doesn’t make sense in their talk. I do so much surface agreeing and feigned listening – with him or anybody, though I don’t agree or think the same things.

I will probably regret saying anything to Alex, as I usually do in any case with “saying anything.” It probably didn’t help, in the sense of him understanding it anyway. It doesn’t register that much. So, I will stop. It’s not like I’ve forewarned him. I am stopping now, but he is asking perceptive questions, showing that he knows, senses, or realizes something.

(Alex was aware that there was something off about COBU and its purposes and dealings with people.)

I have now begun to “put it back on him.”  He asked, “What is Stewart into, fear, power, peace?”  Me: “What do you think?” This is probably the best measure for right now.

Alex: “What is this thing with ‘my will or thy will?’”

Sure, I know the issues involved: Is this “God’s will” talk we use really God’s will?Or is it really the will of the church, meaning, Stewart’s will?

Now I am just listening, letting Alex talk. This is getting somewhat interesting, hearing him talking at length and finding out what his questions are. Things pop out. He met some artist on the street who was talking about this place being a cult; that they use all the scientific methods of mind control. (We do, don’t we?)

(This person probably was ex-member Bob DeClaire, who drew the church’s “Art Show,” many years ago. The Art Show was a series of drawings explaining salvation, with an illustration for each verse in John Chapter 3, verses 1 though 21.)

Talking and sitting with Alex on a grassy knoll in the park, much like being on a college campus toward the end of the year. Talking to somebody, maybe a retarded person you are “helping.”

(Alex was seriously deranged and needed help that the Church of Bible Understanding could not give him. Yet he was perceptive in many ways.)

Maybe it’s restorative for him to talk. I hardly ever get free time like this. My mind seems to come back to me. This constant activity really is a mind numbing. Ever just spend a day in the park?

After telling Alex about my past, about my life at college and after, he told me about the woman he had been living with prior to coming here. (Again showing that talking about yourself is a key to get others to talk about themselves.)

When we came back to the shop, I ended up talking to Gina for 20 minutes, about things like church history. It all started with me asking her what this IRS thing is and if she knows anything about it.

(The IRS was auditing us and Stewart sent us a message telling us to make sure the office at 46th Street didn’t look like anyone lived there.)

This lead to me talking to her about the separation of church and state, St. Augustine’s book “The City of God” and on from there. I told Gina I would give her some of my St. Augustine books to read.

Then Becky came in and out a few times to rattle pots and pans and to see what Gina and I were talking about.

Then I went to the Bagel Buffet with Orlando to meet Bob D. and Paul. We had a discussion about marriage and the lack thereof. Paul said he doesn’t get started on marriage or a relationship because others would inquire what he was doing. So, I asked him to define what that means. He did. Then I said, “In other words, others prevent you?”  Because that’s what he was saying. (Of course, the appropriate line is that I cannot have a relationship because I am not faithful to Jesus, but in reality, this is never the lament you hear when brothers talk about the issue.)

(In their private conversations with others, the brothers almost never said the reason they were not married was because they were not faithful to Jesus, even though this was Stewart Traill’s explanation – and ruling – about why the brothers were unable to marry or have relationships with the sisters.)

I walked up Sixth Avenue with Bob D. We handed out of few tracts, but neither of us are in any condition for sweeping. We sat in McDonalds for 20 or 30 minutes. I was asking Bob some things about how he left the church for a little while and then came back. I really can’t talk to Bob beyond the usual boundaries and lines. But maybe with Bob, that’s all there is.

There is a message from Stewart about the IRS coming to audit Christian Brothers. So, we’ve got to spruce up the office. The message is coded, but it seems to indicate that it can’t look like anybody lives at the office.

I gave some thought today about how I could work all my life here and in the end, end up in a men’s shelter. (What if I displeased the church in some way later in life?) There could be no compensation. I work all the time. (Oday, yes, I have been taking it easy the last few days.) But I can’t lay any money away. Is this wise? But what can I do about it?

Meeting: Now we are going through the nonsense of our confessions and voting. I got backed as escaping. My line was that, “I was working with and on Alex, helping him in Jesus.” Alex went next and was unanimously backed, so maybe that is “proof” – to everybody else. Alex said that he was escaping sometimes, sometimes not. He said something about not trying to do something Jesus wouldn’t like.

Now we’re are talking to Martin, a new brother. There are good reports today from the brothers he worked with. He read his My Need for Jesus Paper to everyone. He sounded like a real person talking. (I said so.)

But Joe seems to be all “crime and punishment.” Joe, to Martin: “What about how you threatened brothers yesterday? What about the calculator they say you stole?” Well, I will just keep quiet. Is Martin a crook or not? I don’t know. It doesn’t look like Martin is receiving a fair shake from the brothers. But I feel like I am playing the line. I will hear it if I “stick up for him.”

But, a few minutes later, I did. Jay was angry. (Jay told me, “You’re not helping.’) My speaking up to defend Martin had a little to do with the phone message about Vernon – asking, in effect, did we treat him right? This was impetus toward speaking my mind now. Also I had some fear of being asked later about how we are treating Martin and why I didn’t say anything. But I also had an equal and opposite, or even greater, fear. What if I back Martin up and brothers denounce me over the phone to the Woodruff Brothers or to Stewart? I am glad I said what I did. Intrinsically, it’s always better to speak the truth. Yes, there is a great personal cost to speaking your mind, but what about the cost – maybe it’s a less evident cost – of not doing this?  You can never really live it down. As I well know.

Now we’re reviewing Kevin’s questions. (One question is on the behalf of Stewart: “What did we do with Vernon?”) And, “Is 46th Street a hideout?” The 46th Street brothers said ten of us were voted as escaping. Kevin: “Escaping from what?”

We are putting our best front forward. Paul is the one to get back on the phone, but he says he doesn’t want to give his opinion, but only wants to give “the view of the brothers.” (Yeah, right!) I said, “In other words, you’re protecting yourself.”  Paul said “Yes!” Then he quickly said, “That’s not right.” He took it back.  But I think I got him, the real him, on the jump. At the same time, I don’t want to be a “truth speaker.” That is something like a gunslinger, a hotshot. Isn’t there some way to live the real me, without all of this? I can’t afford to be idealistic. I think, it’s a heady brew.

Actually, when I was in the middle of everyone’s reaction to what I said concerning Martin, Paul came into the room and said “Help and heat!” (With reference to Vernon and was this done with him?) I latched on to that, maybe help from God, a rescue line.

At the end of the meeting, Jay said in closing, “There’s no fellowship like this anywhere.” I felt like saying, “Actually, there are.” I wonder just how deeply my cowardice goes. I worry about what would happen if I said something. (Yes, I do need Jesus.) And that my expedience and “wisdom” in not speaking my mind is just cowardice. I always wait, finally, for my heresy trial. What would happen to me as a result of simply having “talked too much?”

Stewart has put the question to us: “Is there really any (or much) difference between the brothers at 46th Street and Woodruff?” Just what I had been thinking.

(Jay’s proclamation, “There is no fellowship like this anywhere.” I heard this claim from time to time when I was in COBU. It meant that there was no other place like COBU, where the truth was spoken and right teaching was upheld. It was not unlike Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz saying, “There’s no place like home.” We were the only true church.

Really, there have been and are still many places like COBU.  From well-known to obscure cults, who believe that they have the exclusive truth. The Unification Church, Jim Jones, David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, and a host of smaller groups, past and present. I did an in-depth survey, reading about these groups while I was still in COBU. There were many “fellowships” like ours, with an authoritarian leader who claimed to be infallible, who had a unique revelation of truth, whose lifestyles were twisted and bizarre. We were not unique and special by any means!

The other note here is that Stewart had declared that there was no difference between the brothers at Woodruff and those at 46th Street in their faithfulness (or lack of faithfulness) to Christ. Until this point, the brothers at Woodruff had been working us over, being little tyrants. This was not uncommon. Stewart played various factions in the church against one another, and just as quickly declared everyone to be “no better than anyone else,” that is, equally unfaithful to Christ. He induced us to battle against one another and to abuse one another, and then just as quickly declared the war to be off. We were just pawns on his chessboard, tin soldiers for him to fight imaginary wars against one another with. We were all a part of the theater of Stewart Traill’s mind. An extension of his ego. We existed to please and serve him.

Read the next section of the journal here: The Subtle Power Of Spiritual Abuse.

(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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