1993, 07/01. Christianity vs. Evolution And Science – And The Science Of Making Us All Look Like Monkeys.

July 1.  Thursday

Hearing messages about the [upcoming] July 4th meeting.  Aside from the usual phrases about “what can we do to make it better for everybody,” we are also supposed to study evolution.  Lauren A., reading the message in the same stilted otherworldly voice that one always reads messages from Stewart in, totally devoid of their own person.  I don’t think anybody will really be into it.  You don’t hear much talk about it.  (But then again I didn’t stay at the office much.)  As far as the meeting, I have absolutely no desire even to be there.  [Lauren read the daily messages aloud to those present in the office.  I noted the tone of voice she read the messages in.  It was mechanical and totally devoid of her own personality.  This is hard to describe to anyone not familiar with COBU life.]

° Spending a great deal of time now thinking about a “suicide note” to leave Paul.  It could be written over a period of time.  [This meant a note explaining to Paul why I left the church.  Those who left were considered to be dead and gone.]

Friday, July 2.  At Stein [a job site].  Thinking a lot about leaving – the terms, when, how – and why…. getting out while I still have a life left.  [I realized that at age 36, I should really think about getting out now, while I was still in my thirties.  It would be harder to leave at 40 or 50 and try to establish a life outside COBU.]

Sunday July 4.

Start of a 2 day meeting.  The first session is supposed to be about “evolution.”

First session, before prayer or anything, is a (traditional) roaster session, where Stewart is describing our condition according to Ecclesiastes 12.  I suppose he “means well,” but he is describing the death, or imminent death, of all COBU members.

Thoughts on the meeting:  this is Stewart’s understanding, or view, of our psychology.  A meeting like this – one of Stewart’s trademarks.  Probably from the first days in Jersey City [that is, what I experienced in my very first months in the fellowship, 13 years ago], meetings like this.  Of course, what would you do about this?  Just bury it or shelve it and move on. Such an unpleasant subject.  You’d just get up and go witnessing on Monday. [Meetings like this were the same back then, when I came to the church 13 years ago.  Stewart was predicting the dire end and ruin of all the older church members, describing their miserable futures here on earth and then their eternal misery afterward.  I would feel extremely disturbed and beaten up after a meeting like this, and I really didn’t understand the process, function or purpose of being in a meeting that went on for hours where the leader of the church was describing members’ hopeless hellbound condition.  I’d leave the meeting and go on the next day with my life and my work, really beaten up from this, and thinking about the apparent hopelessness of Christian life, and my life, but just go on somehow.]

Of course, nobody talks, discusses or asks questions.  But of course, how could you?  (Not in this case, because he doesn’t let you, but because of the nature of the subject.)

Stewart’s views on human life, portraying the desperate scenario all humans face.  (Except Stewart, of course.  Not that he is saying only he has it, but it always works out that way.  He has that special magic – though, what it really is, is that he has always been obedient to Jesus.  Even the “good” old timers here, are all headed for that burned out life.  Stewart is calling on Barb and Debbie [calling upon them to answer his questions][he says,] they have heard it for years – why weren’t they able even to answer the questions correctly even?  So what does that say they are doing then?  [This is an example of a Stewart set up on members.  He asked some question regarding the truth or about Christian life, and the members he called upon were not able or willing to answer the question.  If they cannot even speak correctly about Christian life, he claimed, then what does that say they are doing?  Obviously they are not obedient to this particular point of Christian doctrine he had brought up for discussion, and if not faithful to some small part of it, then by way of implication or accusation, they were not faithful at all to Christ and for that matter, they never had been faithful in their entire lives.]

We have been woven into these arguments for years… [I am saying that we have heard this method of attack used against us for years and all the “evidence” that has been built up to prove it and no one bothers to contest it or deny that it is not true, what is being said about themselves, because they know about the futility of trying to disagree, as Stewart will go on and on, for as long as necessary, using every negative point about their lives as evidence and even calling in those whom you live with to offer negative assessments of your life and character, until the person under this method of attack capitulated, gave in and admitted to all charges and accusations.  Most knew of this ahead of time and just capitulated and agreed immediately to any charges against them.  It was apparently not worth the effort.]

So basically everybody in the whole church is in the same pot. [I am drawing this conclusion from what Stewart is saying.  Usually there were divisions or categories in the church, in which church members were divided into faithful and unfaithful, but usually in any meeting, all would end up being declared apostates and cheaters.] (I am wondering, if this is how the meeting starts, how is it going to end?)  Not one – brother or sister – is able to say they are not living according to this process, that they are living in the fear of God [instead of being unfaithful, as Stewart claims they are].

Everybody is now making totally inane speeches, regurgitating the lesson.  [Many brothers and sisters are standing up and making statements that they have not been faithful and then making commitments to be faithful and all are speaking in the terms and words of the lesson that Stewart Traill has just given, describing their unfaithful condition in the exact words Stewart has used to describe it, saying it is true about themselves and then making a commitment to change and be faithful, again in the exact words and terms that Stewart has described as a necessary way out of this condition.  No one who speaks gives any other kind of description of themselves or offers any other possible reason for it, or any alternative way out – and for certain, no one dares to claim to be faithful to Christ, or to say that what Traill has said is not true about themselves or others.  Each one stands up and shouts in a desperate voice and then sits down and is immediately followed by another brother or sister.  This goes on for some time.]

Now Stewart is saying that we mentioned nothing of Christ as the answer and the way of escape.  [Traill has declared all these speeches as having no value, because according to him, no one mentioned Christ as the answer and way of escape from this condition.] (I had realized he had intended to build up to the hope by “explaining” the problem first – I guess an exposition of man’s depravity versus Christ’s help.  “We” never mentioned it… I have the feeling he is totally play acting.  [I am saying that think Stewart is just playing with us and that this is all just for effect.  He gets us to see our depraved condition, offers some teaching as a way out, and when all stand up to proclaim and confirm their need for the lesson, he says all the proclaiming was false, because some point was omitted from their claims.]

Stewart is pointing to Bob White as an example of what we are all sinking into.  Says we should be accepting it before you die. Bob certainly is a real weirdo.  (Apparently Bob wrote Stewart a letter.  One of the things he said was, “There is nothing of me left.”  Nancy R. had been called upon to speak concerning this subject and Bob W.  She said to Bob, “You look like there is nothing of you left.”  Then Stewart said that was the very phrase Bob had used in his letter.   [Bob was a former member who came back to some meetings during this time.  He often seemed troubled.  I suspect that Nancy may have been told in advance what Bob had written and that this was a set up.]

 

[Stewart says,] “Plenty of bad news first – then even more good news.  Properly, of course.”  We have heard Stewart’s theology…. and the terms of it.  Is it true?

I had also thought to say, it looks like Stewart is writing us off.  But now, he is revealing that, in effect, he purposely withheld the hope part, I assume to see if we would say anything ourselves…  This, I take, is meant to be a hopeful or encouraging session.  It’s just that, in his convoluted theology – you might miss it.

[Stewart:] “What can we do about this?”  I suppose this is the point or the purpose of this meeting.  We are supposed to talk about what to do about the church’s problems.

Stewart’s theology – what does it comprise of?  (Stewart is talking about – we need to push ourselves down, we don’t need to lift ourselves up.  Obviously it is not the “positive” self-help gospel.)  Is all this real?  Is it creating artificial crises?  (“What are we going to do about this?” Various ones give their opinions.  But Stewart corrects them.  That is, “No.  It should be this way.”  Obviously then, he already knows what we “should” do and had it planned all along.  After our pseudo-participation, he will lay out the directives.  OK, maybe the directives may be good – but, this is the process.  After all the goons are done bouncing up and flopping and after the women are done rolling their eyes and making inane-sounding repetitions of what they have heard….)  [Stewart would go through the motions of asking us our opinions, as if he was asking for our input.  But he would correct and modify whatever anyone said, which lead me to realize that he already knows what he intends to talk to us about.  I had not become aware of how this process worked until my last year or so there.  This process was an important part of imparting the new knowledge he had for us, because it was essential for him to demonstrate to us that we knew nothing and that we could not figure anything out on our own and that we needed him to guide us into the truth.  Once we were played out to this point and had come to the end of our resources, we were ready for Stewart to explain the truth to us.  Once again it was demonstrated that we were helpless and that Stewart was the great teacher.]

Now there is a lot of flustering.  Jim D. getting the brothers to shake themselves, Andrew blabbing.  Then Stewart calmly, methodically, correcting the speakers.  Obviously, he has already got the plan all laid out.  Don’t others realize this?  Perhaps, the sisters do and they are patiently waiting to hear it.  Is anybody here conscious?  Aware?

It occurs to me that this is a very impersonal gospel.  It’s all methods and processes.   [At this point the lesson, and the session, ends.]

I am wondering if some of these books I have been reading act as a buffer zone.  I think of the book on Shiloh in particular today.  [The books I was reading on cults was helping me to detach and see this objectively and not be so bought in.]

 

Session on Evolution [We are supposed to be having a debate about science versus religion, with Stewart Traill mediating and making comments]:

How do you know this is not just a projection of the theater of Stewart’s mind?  (For example, Stewart saying Greg was “blackening science,” due to one of his comments.  [In this debate Traill was having us do about science versus religion.] Stewart is even projecting answers on people as if that is what they said.  This will probably just be another session where we all learn just how stupid we are and how smart Stewart is and we will be ready to accept Stewart’s answers, whatever they are.

This whole session is upsetting and irritating.  Delivered in a total confrontation style.  Perhaps Stewart is just into this and he is sharing it with us – but it’s like the bull versus all the mice.  Why is he wasting such great talents on people like us?  I have no desire to participate in this thing whatsoever and I am behaving accordingly.  Well, you don’t really learn anything from all this, except to say you learn something about life in the Church of Bible Understanding.  What’s the point of speaking?  All this just means less and less to me… Where am I going to meet any scientists anyway?  And when does Stewart crawl out of his enclave to hobnob with any scientists as well?  This [ debate about science and evolution vs. religion] is an important issue that Stewart says I have to deal with.  His agenda for my life…. (Here I am dying from certain “hormonal” forces and he is selecting various biblical issues that are of urgent importance for me, such as evolution, or perhaps the direct biblical command that women must wear veils, but skipping over 1 Corinthians 7.  [Stewart omits marriage or the need for it in what he considers the agenda for my life, yet highlights trivial matters, such as how the Bible says women should wear veils when praying.]

I think he is just playing with us.  Will I learn anything from all this?  He is just showing we are all ignorant monkeys.  He is so arrogant as to believe that whatever his interests are should be ours.  He knows what is good for us.  But, tomorrow comes and will any of this mean anything at all?  This whole thing is Stewart’s show.  I don’t live on every word that comes from Stewart’s mouth.

It’s like the only safety is to act dumb and submissive.  It’s the only survival here.  Everybody accepts you this way.  (For example, as you speak, or while Stewart is speaking to you, quite often, very often, he gives you the words to say – a permissible way out of whatever particular dilemma or correction you are facing.  Woe to him to tries to get out by another way or tries to explain himself.  This is related to the idea of how answers to a question will often be included in the way a question is asked, or its contents.  Indeed the vary fact that a question was asked….)

This is not a discussion per se.  Really Stewart just wanted to tell us something, and we will hear it very soon.  We are certainly being lead along in a certain direction on this issue.  (We are supposed to decide or vote something.)

Gail L. [a sister whom Stewart had renamed “Tallulah” so that she would not have the same name as his wife] is speaking.  Stewart gave her a new name.  Why?  Because she had the same name as his wife.  So, there as a little more to this renaming than “pastoral” favor.

I notice that Stewart upsets the sisters every other word that they speak.  He did a fine and persistent job with the brothers, making sure everybody looked like a bumbling idiot.  Of course, he is “gentler” with the women.  But, still, what a difference!  I guess the brothers just can’t compete with him.  The sisters… well there’s no challenge there anyway.  The session with the brothers was totally bogus.

Stewart mentions something about Christian people who go along with Biblical Creationism – but it is out of fear, because they don’t want to say anything wrong.  So, better find out what everybody else is saying and go along with that.  This from the man who doesn’t brook any opposition in terms of disagreement with him or anybody saying anything “wrong.” Once in a while, I think I wish I had stuck to my guns back then with [me telling Stewart] “you are alone and need to get your views checked” and gotten thrown out [as I was threatened with if I did not retract that statement and say that I was the problem, not Stewart Traill].  How easy it would have been, when living out, whenever I would have encounters with COBU members to say just that:  “Yeah, I got thrown out because….”  [I am saying I would have told members of the church, if I encountered them, that I got thrown out for saying Stewart Traill was alone and needed to have his views checked.  Later it could not be admitted by Traill or anyone that this was what I had been threatened for having said – because Traill portrays himself as a man of truth, open to all opinions and as such, this statement should have been regarded as harmless, and no one should get put out for saying anything like that.  It was always later said to have been for other issues, or even, it was denied that this was ever done to me.  Some time after I left, I heard that Stewart announced to church members at a meeting that “Even Jim LaRue says that I’m alone and need to get my views checked.”  One day I ran into a current church member named Faye, who told me this as well, and I reminded her that I had been threatened with immediate removal for having said it at the time.  She looked at me as if she had no idea what I was talking about.  She could only believe the part that Stewart said, that this statement of mine, which was considered so threatening and subversive at the time, now was something good.  Apparently Traill was now cashing in on it for some reason that I am not aware of.]

Get this now: [Stewart says,] (in reference to books on various subjects, including the present subject), “I always go with the heretics.  Because the heretics always deal with subjects that the Christians won’t deal with.  Wrongly though, but cowards won’t touch it.  I like heretics.”  Yeah, give me a break, jackass!  [See my notes in the paragraph above!] When you hear the – possibly inadvertantly slipped out – thoughts of this jackass, you wonder what world you live in!  [Traill was saying that he sided with and valued the views of dissenters, yet he crushed anyone who dissented with his views.]

THE MOVIE.  [We watched the movie, The Pilgrim’s Progress.  This movie was often shown at meetings, after which brothers stood up to speak about the movie in terms of cult teachings, using it to back up the way of life here.  A major theme in the movie is that the man leaves his life in this world, including his family and all he has, on a quest to have his sins forgiven.  This was used to talk up leaving one’s family and moving into the Church of Bible Understanding.]

 

Stewart calls upon brothers.  Who going to be fully there and explain the movie to the new brothers (so they will not be lazy)?  These explanations come totally in our own terms, a self serving type explanation only in terms of our teachings.  Nobody actually explains the movie itself, what it is, the setting, who John Bunyan [the author of the book, on which the movie is based] is.  Then came a word about the purpose of showing it.  (For encouragement in our struggle.)  It’s treated always…..

Now, a “forced” discussion about the movie (Stewart is not here [having left the room].)  I see Becky looking at me (or at least looking in my direction).  I feel I should jump up and start talking.  Yes, I am living a life as a doormat, never going to get married this way.  Though conversely, jumping up and saying something now – or always – will not help either…

Stewart walks in.  “What are you all discussing? Urgently!” (Earlier he had said = amazingly = “The movie is divided in two parts.  Of course,” he said, “it probably wasn’t done on purpose, it must have been an accident.”  This is typical.  Even if someone does something “right,” somebody else besides Stewart, that is, it is just stumbling on it by accident.  [Part one of the movie ended at a significant point, according to Traill, which was the pilgrim encountering Jesus on the cross and having the burden on his back fall away.  Part two opens with the newly forgiven pilgrim walking on the path, unburdened and forgiven of his sins and justified, but now must fight the fight of the faith and walk the path.  That the movie was divided into two reels at this very point must merely have been an accident, as no one could have realized this significance intentionally, except perhaps Traill himself.  Traill’s teachings dealt much with this second part of the Christian life, which he felt other Christians knew little of or paid little attention to.] Stewart also says The Reformation never took hold.  They had the opportunity, but it went downhill.

Now, whether short or long, we are getting a beating session.  Stewart asks, “How many are interested in salvation?” A few answer, the rest, nothing.  [Traill then says, speaking in the first person, in order for us to make the statement our own (he was not talking about himself) “And even if I am interested in salvation, it is just not enough.  It is:  I am interested in salvation more than anything…”)

There is no peace, not even in, or after seeing a movie.  Everything is a lesson.  Chuck, standing up, bellowing, “We’ve got to shake ourselves!”  As always, bellowing and making a lot of noise about shaking ourselves.

A browbeating, even after a movie.  Stewart indicates that tomorrow, we will get into who is into a hotel and who is escaping…. oh no!  I would do anything not to be at this meeting…

These divisions (who is a right example, who can be counted on), we are going to do tomorrow.  Stewart says it’s so those who aren’t can be worked upon.  I wish.   …. a foretaste of the pressure cooker religion…. screws tightening.

[Ending the session] We must dismiss rightly….  (eat rightly, have a bathroom break rightly….)

 

(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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