1993, 08/06-08. We Need the Training Papers Because We Can’t Understand the Bible.
The title for this section comes from how COBU’s leader, Stewart Traill, was at work to convince us that we could not understand the Bible, and that because of that, we needed what he called “the training papers,” which were a simplified explanation of Christianity.
We were members of the Church of Bible Understanding, and even after being there for up to twenty years in the case of the longest-term members, our trusted pastor was telling us that we could not understand the Bible. It was just too hard for us, and it would be “arrogance” on our part, or the part of any Christian to just assume that they understood what the Bible really meant.
By means of this effort, Stewart was further laying the ground to get us to believe that only he really understood the Bible and that we needed him to explain it to us. Also, that we couldn’t read the Bible for ourselves, think for ourselves or come to our conclusions about what the true message of the Bible was really about.
Friday, August 6
I slept from about 10:30 last night, right through to this morning. It seems that either there wasn’t a meeting last night or that somebody actually forgot to wake me up for it.
Well, I dreamt about that girl at night. Got up early so I could be here at the job site when she came in at 9, which she did.
Besides finding out she’s from the Philippines, I also quickly found out that she has been married for a year. (Also that she is a registered nurse, a college grad from a school in the Philippines. She came here for better work and financial prospects, to better support a family. She said she also came over here “with the whole clan.” That was a little funny. I said, “The whole clan?” She laughed.)
Well, we were here alone. I was a little hesitant to talk to her, but I knew I would anyway. I had decided to do nothing foolish. If I did anything, it would be to talk, to get to know her. She would have to put a move on if anybody did. But, I was thinking, that really never happens anyway.
Soon, Doctor G. came in. So, now it was time to work. I’m glad it’s all over anyway.
Well, I do have this ability to talk to people to get to know about them.
I see how I am severely trapped socially by being in this church. It is absolutely impossible to meet anybody else. (Even if they weren’t married.) What job, business or career do I have ? What do I have to offer? All my “goods” are in the church. I work, but it’s all out of my hands.
I was looking at some of these medical illustrations of female reproduction. My life is a real rip off. I don’t ever get to engage in human reproduction. Seeing these illustrations. It is planned by a creator for a purpose.
(This job sit was a gynecologists office, where we were sanding the wood floors, and there were wall posters with anatomical drawings and diagrams.)
I ought to go back to my original gripes and keep them and stick to them, as I had about three or four years ago. (A memory of running in Prospect Park and thinking about these things comes to mind.) I should have never left those feelings. They are true. Why do I bury them? I had these thoughts, but I went under because of the heavy bombardment of Stewart’s self-denial teachings and other stuff being hurled at me.
(I buried and internalized by gripes and doubts about the church because of the continual onslaught aimed against us at all times by our leader Stewart Traill.)
I have to admit that I am not into this man’s God – a god that gets me isolated in some little corner, in an inescapable death trap, or like that minnow trap described in the book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Cornered, trapped, I can’t get out. This man thrashing and crashing on me.
Well, I am taking a few moments out of the work milieu to sit in a coffee shop. I think I am going to write a letter to Ron Enroth [the author of Churches That Abuse].
It’s summer. I want to get back to reading the Greek Bible and finish this book I have about Jung’s treatment of Christianity.
Back at the office. Now with three older brothers (Orlando, Bob D. and Peter) who are “working” on Alberto. They are yelling at him, provoking him. I am sure he is going to blow up on us. I’m trying to tell Bob that somebody with a cooler head should handle this. There are hints that brothers think I am helping the wrong spirit, because I say things like this. But, I have often noticed when I say things at meetings, especially when a new brother is being come down on, nobody will agree with me. But almost right away, the brothers do just what I said they should do.
Apparently, Alberto walked off a job site yesterday. He says he went to Broadway and to a hotel.
Kevin was on the warpath about his wood floor machine. “Did you use it? Don’t use it again!” There is no point in trying to explain to him that Jim O. gave me the machine to use. Kevin would either say I am fighting, or my comments would only serve to escalate the conflict. I just agreed with him when he said not to use it unless you have fellowshipped with all the brothers and they say it’s okay.
Martin is asking to see his family on Sunday and also to sign unemployment checks so that he can support his family. The rule makers win. We can’t settle that issue.
The meeting is now ending. We are going to vote. I guess what is being pushed is that we all go to Woodruff. I don’t look forward to it. I think it will be like 810. Another jail type situation where the only respite to be found is by going to jobs and other little times away.
Saturday, August 7
Often it seems like Jesus is the fellowship’s Jesus and not my own. At the Good Diner, I saw a guy eating together with an Asian woman. I don’t know how many times I have asked God for a wife.
Stewart’s view is that I am just too far gone, too messed up to be able to get married, or to do anything really. Peter touched upon this last night, saying that’s why we can’t speak the truth. (Or do anything else. I don’t know how true all that is, but it is a concept given by the fellowship. I don’t know if I accept this view that is handed down to me. But, then again, we must accept it because the fellowship will not allow us to act differently. That is, we must accept our assigned roles.)
(The view presented by our leader, Stewart Traill, was that we were too unfaithful to Christ and too far gone to marry, or to do anything really. We also couldn’t speak up about problems in the church or complain (that is, suggest constructive changes) about our run down and degraded lifestyle, though Stewart often prodded us to denounce one another and to say what was wrong with one another. It was expected that we would do that in the name of “speaking the truth and loving one another.”)
Now at Dr. G’s office again. I was sitting a while in total silence, alone. I need such quiet times. With the kind of life I “live” – especially if I am going to have to get crowded into Woodruff and start something like the 810 life again, though maybe without the violence this time – learning to find quiet times and places like these will take on greater importance. It’s like, I have no home, but I take, or even make, my homes away from home whenever and wherever I can find them. I don’t know how to express this any better for the present.
Sunday, August 8
A meeting at the New Property – COBU’s “compound” in Philadelphia, where Stewart lived with his wife Gayle and about 20 young women who were called the Gayle Helpers.
We are assembling together. I thought we wouldn’t have brothers and sisters meetings. But, as we were together, Sarah stands up and says we should consider if it would be good to have separate brothers and sisters meetings.
And really, it was a message to us from Stewart, because she would not have asked that question on her own otherwise. Of course, it was a question, but it was obvious that it was an implied command. (I may be exaggerating.) But, it’s amazing how that happens. It actually looks like we are making decisions and participating in our own lives.
After a short discussion – a fake discussion – we break up for our separate brothers and sisters meetings. Opinions were given that it was God’s will to have short and snappy brothers and sisters meetings and to check our fellowships and then to get back together. Well, it won’t be short, nor will it be snappy.
Kevin, Chuck and Bernie are now leading us in the sacred science.
Well, it was a nice interlude on that job (sanding the floors at Dr. G.’s office). Quiet, mostly to myself in a secluded place, working at my own pace.
I called Chris and Dave yesterday. We talked for about one hour. They told me that Bill is in Romania, married and has an orphanage and that Dennis is working with Tom White down in Texas.
(All the people mentioned in the above paragraph, except Tom White, were former members of COBU who had left and gone on with their lives. By this time, I had become willing to talk to ex-members, no longer seeing them as apostates and rebels who had left the true way – and therefore dangerous to talk to, unless we were trying to convince them to come back to COBU. I was willing to talk to them about what I was going through in COBU and I was willing to believe that their lives outside of COBU could be successful, instead the of lives of sin, ruin and destruction that our leader Stewart Traill said was in store for anyone who left COBU.)
Kevin, Bernie and Chuck are trying to move a bunch of people who don’t seem to be very involved. Maybe because it’s not the real us or our real concerns. They are speaking to everyone in strings of Stewart talk, and saying nothing (directly) from the Bible. A couple of chirpers answer back, but really, we don’t start going in any direction.
Stewart has now walked into the meeting. He asks, “Did the brothers decide why you are here?” So, here is the jump start for the meeting. Now, we will go in some direction.
Blake is getting popped. He is asked, “Are you making this place a place of escape, or are you just being neutral?” Blake tries to say he has been making it a place of escape. But, it won’t be possible for him to convince anybody of this. Kevin starts working on him. Kevin wouldn’t have said anything to Blake unless Stewart had said something.
Well, this is either really true, or we are enduring another legalism beating. But, I guess that is polarized thinking. All my current thoughts come into play: What is this place? Why all these beatings? Why is Stewart alone? Is this Jesus pressure or psycho-pressure? Is all this just inane, insane rambling; going in circles with no reference point whatsoever?
Earlier, I was imagining wading into the ocean, through the swells. Sometimes I am lifted off the bottom by a wave, but just as quickly I touch bottom again. I always have a reference point because my feet are touching the bottom. But then, I step into deep waters. There is no more bottom. But surfacely, everything still looks the same.
(The above is about being carried away by what is happening in COBU and the direction that Stewart was taking us in, which was deeper control over our lives and losing my reference point and sense of reality as a result.)
Blake was so stupid as to speak up. He is a convenient whipping boy right now.
I hear that [new brother] Robert C. left Woodruff at 2 a.m. last night or the other night after having talked to Chatman. This makes me wonder if Chatman talked to Robert about some of the things we had talked about, helping or causing Robert to leave. This makes me wonder if I am guilty of that. Also I wonder if it’s a matter of time before some fast breaking news item comes out on me. A Watergate-type scandal.
Stewart: “Either you take your training and your recipe seriously , or you will be out the door like Robert C. or you will be mindless like Blake.” (All the dogs are getting their beatings today.)
How do I detach myself from this? How do I survive if it is sent directly at me? This stuff is so hopeless. Yesterday I was listening to a tape where I read “The Struggle Against Sin.” [A tape I made by reading aloud the notes from a meeting with Stewart.] It was so discouraging that I didn’t want to listen to it. And whether it was merely coincidental or was triggered by it, I began to feel driven. But, I thought I would listen to the next segment of the tape on which I read a chapter of Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians and then I didn’t have that feeling of desperate hopelessness.
I wonder, what fruit do Stewart’s teachings bear? They are convoluted intellectual wanderings, with a trap door to hell. His teachings are so obscure. Yes, maybe the first time it has been heard since the time of the Apostles, as he claims. But not in a good way. In other words, all of Christian history and the history of Christian doctrine are different than what Stewart teaches, to say the least. Luther’s book has stood the test of time. Many generations of Christians have read it. Whereas, as far as Stewart’s stuff, nobody outside of here has ever tested it, much less lived it – even if there hasn’t been time available yet to test it. But it’s not likely that these teachings will ever make their way out of this place. (I notice Stewart never publishes a book, for all his mighty teachings and theological breakthroughs. Why? Because he is too busy? No, he has lots of time. I think it is because he doesn’t want his teachings to be subject to a critical test.)
We prayed. I felt relieved when I did. Why?
We are in Stewart’s therapy. He is diagnosing our problem. It’s always done in extended layers of psychological awareness or something. Stewart is working on us and everybody is dug in deeply. How real can it be then, if this is what is produces? Question and response. All our responses are always in Stewart phrases and concepts. That’s all you get out of people. Nobody speaks from the Bible like they have read it and understand it. There is no evidence of independent thinking. Nobody ever stands up out of this to say anything. (Whether for or against it. Not that it would have to be “contention.”) Everybody only answers in little snippets of Stewart sayings, saying as little as possible. Only answering at any length when Stewart pressures them with a direct question. But really, ain’t nobody really going to talk.
I feel cut free inside. Jesus helps me. I pray inwardly for Jesus’s help, especially during these meetings. I have a strong feeling I may be called upon at this meeting. I’m bracing myself.
Chuck is standing up, being called upon by Stewart to explain why we have turned this place into the world of the mindless. But, there is no word on how Stewart fosters this dependency.
Well, I am going to pray for a while. I don’t want to write all this down, especially not point by point.
Stewart believes 99.999%. That probably means he tends to go to extremes in his behavior toward people.
(Stewart said that 99.999% of all other Christians are arrogant. This was an extreme view. I wondered then, he must go to extremes in his behavior toward us then. This was an example of detaching myself from the belief that I had always held, that Stewart was right and that anything he did was for our good. And that he balanced his discipline with truth and mercy. Even if, as Stewart often said, discipline can be painful, but later it yields the fruit of righteousness. For what son does God not discipline?)
I hear many things here today that I object to. I am not a True Believer. Stewart is now saying to everyone, “Is this real Christianity at all?”
Chatman is standing up now. He doesn’t even know what is going on. We see the final judgment portrayed before our eyes every time we are with Stewart. But, the thought, and the awareness flows through my mind, is this all right, is this all true? Is this true at all?
I think Stewart blames us for his shortcomings, but nobody will tell him.
Stewart begins to speak to us about Chatman, saying, “Why is Chatman this way? He thinks he can have it both ways. Chuck, you are teaching him well.”
(Why Chuck? Isn’t Stewart our source and model?)
I am starting to get frustrated. It’s that hopeless feeling. Does this life we live, here in our church, promote this hopelessness? Would I have this problem if I wasn’t here, or if the “terms” of this gospel were changed?
Chatman is standing there, looking absolutely confused. Well, he is either waiting to be told what to say, or hoping he can just sit down. He is certainly not going to give out any information on himself. I am going to ask him later – if he is still here – just what is really going through his mind at these times. This reminds me of Jim Jones and Jonestown and how Jones acted toward his black followers.
(Jim Jones treated the black people in his cult condescendingly, as if they were stupid. He wanted them to speak to him in a groveling and deferential way, expecting them to act as if he was their great and only benefactor.)
Chatman gives answers and some more information when pressed, but it is all learned concepts; things he has learned here before, but he just puts the pronoun “I” in front of it. It’s impossible to get people to talk about themselves this way. The party line would be that the real story on Chatman is that he is hiding the fact that he has been cheating on Christ.
Chatman is today’s lesson. I wonder if he will leave tomorrow.
The others join in, with the usual stock phrases about what they say Chatman is doing wrong. They could be and would be saying the same thing about anybody else standing up there. Stewart paints Chatman with that brush, saying that he is very arrogant and gets Chatman to say why this is true, so that the confession is his own, out of his own mouth – hopefully in his own words. Chatman is obviously confused by this treatment. Nobody seems to notice this. I don’t know what others are thinking, but possibly they are so busy carrying out their own assigned roles that they don’t notice.
I looked at Stuart R. behind me. I’d like to say something to him, like, do you really believe this? But of course, I can’t say anything out loud. Then I turn back around and make eye contact with Stewart directly.
Chatman’s interrogation is starting to show signs of coming to a close.
BURNING YOUR BRIDGES TO THIS LIFE. This is the culmination of the meeting; the lesson from Stewart.
(When Stewart walks out of the meeting, we work on middle brothers like Don B., who are the easy targets. Kevin saying, in a perfect Stewart imitation, “We’ve got to take this a lot more seriously.” But I am sure Kevin isn’t, at least not publicly, burning his bridges to this life.)
I doubt that anybody would lay his cards on the table here, or at any time.
Stewart says we should be “getting rid of the competition.” Well, as for me, as far as “things indifferent” in this life, I will just hide them. I don’t need to get harangued about drawing or studying languages. The only way to do any of that here is to go underground.
As far as laying my cards on the table, I need to. But I am considering doing this with Chris and Dave. [Two ex-members of COBU who I had been talking to on the phone.] Do I need to talk to somebody in here? I am afraid that anything I said would be used on me. It all goes in the dossier.
(There was no official file or dossier kept on people. That phrase was my way of saying that everyone remembered anything wrong I did or said and would bring it out on me when necessary.)
Stewart says Don smiles because he knows he is trying the lonely Christian approach, which will not work. I think the Holy Spirit is showing me I am alone. Stewart says if we are not united in burning our bridges to this life, we are alone, we are cheating, and we all know it.
Stewart talks a lot about this life and preferring it over Christ and the next life. This is a major theme here.
So far, we have not cracked open the Bible yet today. There is a good chance that we won’t either. In fact, the Bible is used very little here. It’s the training papers (Stewart says this is because we don’t understand the Bible, so the training papers bridgesthe gap) and Stewart phrases instead, but very little reading and using the Bible. I guess because if you pointed out a verse in the Bible to somebody, he could read and see the context or other things in the text and maybe he could get away from you (maybe with good reason). This would entitle the other person to show you a passage in the Bible that maybe you would have to do.
Stewart says that we all allow the hotel that Chuck provides for us. (And Stewart says that Chuck is the king of the mindless.) This hearkens back to when Stewart used to say to us, “You and your cult” and I would think, “What do you mean, ‘your cult?’ You’re the leader of it!”
Stewart is also saying, by speaking through Chuck and getting Chuck to repeat after him, “As a result of my rebellion against Jesus, I’m so far gone that I can’t even understand the Bible or see God’s will for me.” But, sometimes I think we are expected to be this way. (This makes me feels hopeless, and that it won’t do me any good to read the Bible, because I can’t understand it. Does Stewart undermine our faith and our belief in the Bible and our desire to learn it, so we are dependent on him to tell us what it means?)
Also, with regard to using the Bible, instead of saying Stewart phrases, you can read the Bible to see the context or see what’s next. With Stewart sayings, there’s nothing to pin it on. You’re lost. The Bible connects to a higher authority, one that is above and beyond Stewart. The Stewart sayings stop right with Stewart and have power only among our little society.
Stewart says, and we are constrained to say, that the training papers and the ABCs are the Bible, they come from the Bible. Yes, maybe that’s true. But, how do they come from the Bible? How do we get them? In other words, through whom do we get them? A person (supposedly) looks at the Bible and makes a choice as to what is necessary for us to know. Making a choice means excluding other things. Also with the things chosen, this is giving one thing prominence over another, and perhaps altering the degree to which a thing is actually emphasized in the New Testament.
This is getting our information second or third hand. It’s not even the Bible directly. Could we be off the basis already? It’s like that interlinear Greek New Testament translation that makes the choice for you, not giving an opportunity to look at alternate readings. Reading the training papers could be like not going to the primary sources. Then Stewart tells us that we can’t understand the Bible, whether because of our own indulgence or whatever – so we must depend on the training papers (we must depend on Stewart). We are never told that we can’t rely on the training papers!
All roads lead to Stewart. Stewart is everything, the center of everything. Like Ron Enroth [the author of Churches That Abuse] said, in these groups, a person must do God’s will. (In other words: they must follow the group norms.) God’s will here is the group norms.
Stewart is now giving us the “sell everything, deny yourself” talk. Really, to what degree is this actually in the Bible? In what order? (How dare you ask questions! Didn’t Jesus say to do these things! I had better be quiet, be resourceful and circumspect.) Is there something that comes first? How about Jesus first? (Stewart would probably tell us something like: Yes, Jesus first, but you will never get to Jesus first unless you this or that. Otherwise it’s fake.)
I mean, we never get a message about Jesus. It’s always some kind of process. Techniques, methods, and Jesus is an angry judge who is watching us about these things and watching us cheat by not doing them and is waiting to tell us when we die, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”) Stewart never leads us to Jesus. We are never lead beside the still waters.
(I know, Psalm 23 says the Lord is my shepherd. Is he your Lord? Well then, he is not your shepherd. True enough. You could expect to read that in religious tracts you find on the street. But something is clearly wrong here and I am not making that up, and it’s something wrong at the top. Not just us bad guys who are under this “faithful” pastor. Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruit.” What is Stewart’s fruit? It is certainly not all us people. What do I get out of these meetings?)
Now, I have read a tract about “Are you deceived?” It says those who are deceived will never be able to blame God for fooling them, because every person who is deceived knew, at least at first, that he was going the wrong way. I get confused about which is which, but probably I am going the wrong way by not believing Stewart’s teachings and refusing to do his way. (Though I wonder if it is possible to do Stewart’s way).
Sometimes, though, I just wonder what this huge wall or tidal wave of thoughts and ideas and even possibly facts and evidence to the contrary means and also what is its origin? I remember praying, “God, look, if it’s you, show me. If it’s you, it’s on you to do something! Also, why are you showing me? What am I supposed to do? Speak up and “go to war” against all this? I don’t see how I am empowered to do such a thing. It seems I would be a little more successful in doing so if this were the case.”
I don’t feel safe here; I don’t feel safe to talk about myself.
Kevin is being the practitioner of the sacred science – especially when Stewart is not in the room, sort of operating and driving the whole machine, but certainly not laying any cards on the table himself, or apparently not burning any of his bridges in this life. Supposedly, a brother is talking about burning his bridges if he is doing so. Talking about it on his own, without being prompted to. But, I don’t hear Kevin saying anything about himself, or what his bridges are and if he is burning them. He is just working on the others. But, that’s exactly how Stewart does it, isn’t it? Did you ever hear Stewart say he is burning bridges to this life and what his bridges are? So, of course, if Kevin is trying to do the right thing. The only thing to do is imitate Stewart.
And, of course, the best way out of the pressure that Stewart puts on us is to jump on the others. In these high compression chamber meetings, the best way to avoid getting crushed is to take the initiative and jump into the fray and jump on others. In fact, it can be your salvation (for a time). I guess these ones think they are helping others by doing this, but I have suspicions about human nature and about deeper self-serving motives behind what people do.
Everybody, including Bernie, is saying, “You will see me burning my bridges this week.” I think everybody is lying! Everybody who says all this stuff. I wonder if this whole meeting is a farce. It’s not even reality. We get taken for a ride. It’s like the story of the emperor’s new clothes or something like that.
(From Wikipedia: The Emperor’s New Clothes is a tale by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that he doesn’t see any suit of clothes until a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”)
I wish God would show me to leave – show me if I can leave. I wish there was a way to know for sure either way. Stewart would say, you leave because you weren’t serving Christ, so really it’s on you. There is always some way to put it back on you, so you can’t get out of it. We can’t even seek second opinions because, according to Stewart, nobody else outside of our church either knows the truth or is teaching it.
Besides, we are so densely packed in here. Nobody can penetrate the barrier to know what goes on. It would take volumes of explanation in order for somebody from the outside to come to understand our lives, our words. Though the authors of The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse seem to know quite a bit about the workings of such systems, in an uncanny way, actually almost word for word. Things I already thought, in the same words or often very close to the same words. Well, I wrote them a letter. I wonder what the response will be, if any. Who knows, maybe they will offer helpful suggestions or ask me to write them more.
Stewart’s teachings are like a net. Admit to one wrong thing, and you admit to all of it. Are you doing this or that? Then it also follows that you are “arrogant, proud, etc., etc.” And there’s no way you can not admit to something. It’s like the Law of Moses. He who fails in one point fails in all. Fail to keep one of Stewart’s precepts, and you fail to keep the whole law.
So, maybe this is all a bunch of gibberish. What I just wrote, that is. I end up with thoughts like, the Bible says, do not meditate about what you are to say, the Holy Spirit will teach you in that hour what you are to say. As far as speaking up to Stewart, I thought, the Bible says, “When they drag you before the magistrates.” In other words, they have to drag you. It doesn’t say to go there yourself or speak up yourself or to act on your own.
I was outside, enjoying what little of August I can. I tried to land a guard shift. Talked to Greg S. a while about American Church history, including about the Shakers.
Now I’m together with our group (the 46th Street brothers) discussing and writing down points from the previous session, as Stewart directed us to do.
I just wish there was a way to get a second opinion, if there is a way. Where do you get a second opinion? Call other pastors, read the Bible, read church history or the history of Christian doctrines? I was thinking about getting a book on that. Maybe the answer is praying. What is wrong with getting a second opinion anyway? Shouldn’t a person look for confirmation? Even if Stewart’s opinions are right opinions, a second opinion could help.
In other words, is everything I do from wrong motives? Can I want or seek to do something or find something out from a right motive? Is it good to look for a second opinion? Okay, it probably is, but I am doing it for a wrong reason.
As far as this meeting, some allusions to Chinese thought reform come to mind. [As explained in Robert J. Lifton’s book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.] We had the lecture, now we get together in our small groups to discuss the lecture, then we help each other along in it by making our claims as to whether we are burning our bridges to our lives in this world and to find out if others say they think we are burning our bridges.
Then I am sure, or I think, the next session will be a follow up on the same lesson, to drive it in all the more. I doubt we will open up the Bible at all, or maybe just in passing. But still, everything we hear and everything we do will be related to this lesson.
Well, I am messed up and this is what I really need. Or maybe this is really off. We are drifting away from the Bible and not very based on the Bible, and I am aware of it. This awareness is not just “hitting out against the truth” on my part, but a genuine realization.
As far as Chinese thought reform and similarities to it, my question is: why is this kind of coercion and manipulation necessary in a Christian meeting? Getting worked on and all. We accept this, because it is the only thing we know.
(And probably also because Stewart backs us into a corner through a confrontational approach and pushing us over the very weakest parts of our lives, which is our unfaithfulness to Christ. Also our awareness of the unreality which we live in. This is probably a sensitive issue and nobody is really willing to be open about it. Stewart is dealing with what we are ashamed about or confounded over, about how we can’t deal very much about our unreal lives. We see no way out, so we bury it as best as we can. And Stewart is bringing it up in a way that is probably a not very healing way.
You know nobody really talks about anything. They only talk about what they’re allowed to talk about and in the way in which they are empowered to talk about it. It’s so unreal. I don’t see how it can ever succeed. Stewart has all these formulas and plans for what could be called our restoration, though it’s not really even packaged in such nice or appealing terms. It’s not even something for us. Our cure, if that is what is being offered, isn’t even for us. Nothing is for us. Deny yourself – even deny your own cure. It’s presented in terms of judgment only, I think, unless I am just reasoning wrongly.)
Alex interjects, saying “What’s all this impeccability about? We all can’t be little Stewarts.” Sometimes these nut cases, either they have a little more perception than most, or they’re just too stupid and don’t know any better as far as keeping their mouth shut. Or maybe they just have nothing to lose.
A middle brother, Howard, gets really angry at Alex for saying this.
George says that Stewart says that Alex acts the way he does – that is, he blows up – because we allow it because we blow up. Well, I think Alex has been the way he has been for a long time, before he ever met us. I have second thoughts about so many of the things we are told.
Another thing being mentioned was how Stewart said we have to write everything down and show how we understand it, or else he is going to have to go through the whole thing again with us – I guess at the next session. More like Chinese thought reform. Sort of a “threat!”
After having been in our little group sessions for a while:
Chuck is going around saying to everyone (that is, the message from Stewart is), “What is the value of being in groups now or should we get back together?”
We are being asked a question. Or really, we are being told to do something. The very fact that the question is being asked, is it a type of input with the desired response implied within the question? I really don’t like being led with questions like this. Something is sinister about it. I guess it’s easier than saying “Stewart says to get back together now.” Maybe it is a kind of key, a simpler example of what we get all the time, probably on deeper levels.
(Here I was beginning to understand how Stewart manipulated us through the use of questions and suggestions, which I was able to see in this example, because was obvious this time. But I also was beginning to realize that there were deeper levels of it (and even multiple layers of it). Here Stewart was telling us to get together by means of asking if we thought we should get together – which upon hearing, we would then decide that, yes we should, making it look like we were making our own decisions. (No one would say no after hearing that.)
And there were so many deeper and harmful ways that Stewart did this to us. We would voted on things, but Stewart gave the alternatives, and sometimes either decision we made lead to the same outcome he wanted. Example: should Stewart go to Haiti now, or next week? The vote was not about whether he should go to Haiti or not. Through such methods, Stewart got his way and we got to feel like we were participating in our own lives, as part of a “democratic society” where “we all vote together.” In this and many other ways, Stewart pulled the wool over our eyes, and we thought this darkness was the light of Christ.
We have reassembled. (Stewart is not here yet.) The brothers are explaining to the sisters what happened at the brothers meeting.
So, I have a question. Every time we get worked on by Stewart, our “therapist,” every time we, in effect, confess our sins – or get caught for them – do we become bonded all the more to our therapist? We seem bound to Stewart – grafted on, so to speak. There is no apparent separation or schism in word or talk. Though in deed, there sometimes seems to be at least some kind of reluctance to come forward fully and confess ourselves.
I have been reading Carl Jung. If the dream was true, I don’t know where the “cure” is going to come from. I am now going to read the Gospel of John, though reading the Gospel of John itself wasn’t included in the dream, but to “read Jung, especially the parts about sin, the Gospel of John, and human life.” So far, I have found things in Jung’s books in the area of:
1) It was the theologians who sent (that is, drove) many patients to Jung because some forms of religious practice are psychologically damaging.
2) Through confession, the patient becomes bonded to the therapist. The patient is handing over the keys or blueprints, so to speak, and entrusting himself or his psychological material to somebody else. This gives the therapist a great deal of authority over him.
There are parallels with Chinese communist thought reform techniques to what goes on here also.
(The only peace I got during this meeting was when we prayed, including when I was praying inwardly during the meeting. Also when I was reading the Bible during the session, and between sessions when I was reading about Carl Jung.)
(We didn’t read the Bible together during the meeting, but I could have a Bible open during the session and read it.)
Will we crack open a Bible today, or will this just be another session of process-oriented Christianity where we get analyzed, reorganized and worked on? Jesus is hardly mentioned – or if he is mentioned, he is mentioned only as a judge. We just get into who did or didn’t do what.
Me, I am just going crazy. We don’t read from the Bible at our meetings. Stewart doesn’t preach from the Bible. We just have endless judgments. Stewart uses different factions of the church body to get on one another. Everybody’s back is so much to the wall that they don’t have time to objectively think about what’s going on. They can only think about “what’s going to happen to me, how am I going to get judged?’
I wonder if our church is really beginning to degenerate. Nobody seems to notice. We are kept at a pressure point. We’re always kept in some kind of crisis. We can never rest and stop and think and consider. It’s a crisis point or siege mentality. We can’t stop for a minute, because we’re in a “war.” The more the church degenerates, the more we are going to be acting this way. Fast and furious behavior because the ship is sinking. Maybe the more observant ones among us know this.
We don’t go to meetings with Stewart in Philadelphia for Bible studies or to hear about Jesus. We go to meetings for “processing.”
Stewart says, “Burn your bridges to your life in this world. Kill everything. Maybe you don’t want to because you have good excuses about it.” So, any reason why we would keep or do something can be labeled as an excuse. This is how the underpinnings are knocked out from under me, making me a spineless mess, unable to defend myself against the onslaught.
Everybody is standing and confessing now, in terms of and with reference to today’s meeting. This is all really weird.
Yep, we are not going to read the Bible.
Okay, I am harping about how we don’t read the Bible, but this isn’t just one time. It really is a rare occasion when we do read the Bible. You could almost say that Stewart doesn’t teach from the Bible. I think it does show or indicate something.
Now, there is some corollary issue Stewart wants to get into: “If you don’t care where you are going and you won’t face it, is there some other matter that makes it worse yet?”
He wants us to say why. Nobody will say anything.
Stewart: “If you won’t participate in your own salvation, how can you possibly take part in helping settle us as a church? There are many things we need to settle and change. If you don’t care about your own salvation, how can you care about the church? How do you protect the whole church if that’s the way you are?”
(Stewart seems to be hinting at some earth-shaking thing. So far everybody seems to be under the gun. But, for sure, soon brothers will rise up proclaiming. So far, it seems nobody cares about their own salvation. I suppose, or fear, that there will be some singling out of the worse ones, but this is obviously hinting at something fateful. For sure, there will be a real reluctance among us to talk about this. But when Stewart lays out the terms, there will be a lot of jumping and hollering to jump through the hoops. Stewart is harping about how all we want is just to have something for this life. Hey, I need something for this life!)
It looks like we’re about to have a “membership drive.”
(“Having a membership drive” is a sarcastic saying that Peter came up with. It didn’t mean a drive to bring in more new people.It was his term for a haranguing session, when Stewart Traill was driving the church members crazy.)
I have to watch out. This can get volatile. Talking about real underlying issues. I am calculating Stewart asking me, “Why aren’t you married anyway?” and the answer I would want to give and what would probably happen as a result.
(Stewart said the brothers were not married because they were unfaithful to Jesus and because they were afraid of the sisters and were living in shame and guilt. It was clear to me now that Stewart was forbidding marriage in order to have a pool of free labor who had no other commitments or priorities and this is what I would have said if Stewart asked me why I was not married. A year or so before this, I would have just hung my head and agreed with him that it was because I was unfaithful to Jesus and afraid of the sisters.)
It’s hard to believe Stewart is doing this from concern for us. It may even be from contempt toward us, just like Jim Jones had contempt for his followers because he knew they would do whatever he said. Stewart knows that we’re just a bunch of lugs who continue to cling to him year after year. I wonder what would happen if he really came out with his real attitudes toward us, though I think he fosters this dependency. I just wonder what would happen if he gave the whole lowdown about this issue. He does conceal a lot of things from us.
It reminds me also (and maybe I am using this to protect myself right now from the potentially heavy impact of what could be going on here) that many self-contained religious groups (you know, the ones that created their own reality) had these same kinds of purges and reorganizations, where the leader writes the terms, sets the stage and plays the members of the group like tin soldiers on a game board. Stewart is now working on and through Andrew, and others are getting on him. These maybe, are diversions.
Why do I write all this anyway? I think I do it to preserve my sanity, especially during sessions like this one. I need some method or vehicle to capture my true thoughts. I can get so mesmerized by all that is going on.
The scenario is faithful Stewart vs. a church in which nobody cares and where all its members are unfaithful to Christ. Maybe Stewart is playing out the theater of his mind on us. It is a smaller version of his inner screenplay about “Stewart vs. the rest of the Christian, the so called “Christian world,” where really cares about the truth, except for Stewart.
Jeff tries to say that he thinks some brothers and sisters do really care. Stewart says (sarcastically), “I would really like to see that, if it is true.” Obviously he doesn’t think so.
Kevin is trying to proclaim. He might just make it. If he does, there will be copycat speeches from others. I notice that Kevin is saying that he hasn’t been caring – but that he intends to.
So, nobody will dare say that they already do care – but only that they intend to.
Now Linda H. tries. Nobody will tell Stewart what they really think.
(Everyone was now trying to jump through the hoops Stewart set up, using the words he had given us, trying to prove themselves under the terms and conditions he laid out concerning a problem he said we had, which was that none of us cared about our salvation or about the church. No one would tell Stewart what they really thought about him, or that they really did care about their salvation and about the church. Really, the brothers and sisters cared very much about their salvation and about the church and they were giving up their entire lives to follow this way. And no one would tell Stewart about the other problems they had.)
The confessions are slowly coming in.
Stewart really likes to grind our faces when he wants to make a lesson. He can’t just come out and tell us things.
There may be a mass of brothers who don’t confess, or who aren’t trusted. Though I think about leaving, I fear getting thrown out. I would like to go on my own terms. I don’t think Stewart can throw the mass of people out because he, or the church, depends on them economically. But it isn’t like he couldn’t make a few examples if he really wanted to push some buttons and push up the fear level.
I considered getting legal counsel. I keep saying that, but I wonder when I will cross that line.
Well, it certainly is a time to keep my wits about me and to protect myself. It probably sure would be a great time for Stewart to find somebody to use as an example, to make an example out of. Maybe Stewart could use a nemesis to trounce for effect. He really does look like he has an ax to grind, and now, as I consider it, he probably planned to do this before today. (It always looks like this is just something that he has stumbled into.) If so, this afternoon’s session was also contrived and shaped to this end. He has probably prepped us for it all day long. Now we have been built up and are in the proper state of mind.
Stewart is saying that he has just escaped the disobedience of his own flesh. He is talking about a tornado that flattened a Walmart building and that he would have flown directly over in his plane it when it was happening. Instead, he rented a car and drove. He says he usually doesn’t “chicken out” like that. He just got away from the disobedience of his own flesh (in other words: and he was almost killed). But you, he says, you are going to get away with it?
It always looks like this stuff is just happening. But, I think, no, it has to have been planned and contrived. Stewart is just too calm, too purposeful. We are just the dummies who have been caught in the net.
Also, more about our church’s isolation is on my mind. This great “move of God” we are in, with its self-perpetuating “realities.” If it’s so bad here, why isn’t Stewart talking with other pastors between who are 50 and 60 years of age?
Stewart is saying things to us. It sort of looks like a random process. He is saying something about Tim, and others. But he is probably hitting upon the issues he planned to talk about.
Stewart: “Are you being lonely in the flesh, or united in Christ?” He is coming from the groundwork he laid in this afternoon’s session. He asks, “What are we going to do about all this?”
He seems a little calmer. Perhaps a change in mood.
The question is out of the bag. Though I am sure he has plenty of ideas and processes up his sleeve. From my experience, he has a lot of ideas and is not at a loss (though sometimes I do think he is at a loss). In other words, after he has shown us again that we don’t know what to do, he will tell us and/or guide us along in a certain direction before telling us the pre-planned lowdown. I should just probably keep it on my mind that the man has a plan, a purpose and an intention. He is just gauging our reaction as of right now. And waiting.
He seems to be leaving the issue off. I can’t tell for sure yet.
Stewart: “There are many issues we should be settling as a church.”
But obviously, it seems, we can’t settle any of these issues, because of our behavioral bottleneck. He is asking us about what we think about the way it is between us.
Well, this is my running commentary. I don’t know how accurate it is. Maybe writing this serves a therapeutic purpose for me.
Sure, Stewart is touching upon the chaos and disorder of the church. It feels a little better now with his conciliatory attitude. [Stewart now laid off the invective and adopted a conciliatory tone, as he often did at the end of meetings.] Maybe if he dealt with it this way instead of in (what I perceive to be) an aggressive and inquisitional spirit, it would be easier to deal with. Well, I just recoil at all this. It’s probably a reaction. My reaction, I am sure, is not good. There are probably ways in which Stewart could make it easier for people to talk. I feel like he is yelling at us, though he is not. In fact, he hardly ever raises his voice. It’s just that he seems to be highly skilled in the use of “pressure.” Pressure that is always quite palpable.
Stewart: “Brothers and sisters should be working together. Decide if Jesus is the only one who is going to get you out of this.”
(These were Stewart’s closing comments from the meeting. He meant that we should make up our minds that only Jesus could get us out of this problem of apathy toward our salvation which he said we had. But really, all of us cared about our salvation. What we really needed to get out of was the way Stewart abused us for hours at the meetings.)
Read the next section of the journal here: Burning Our Bridges To Our Lives In This World.