1993, 08/09-14. Burning Our Bridges To Our Lives In This World.

In this section, I talked more about how COBU’s leader, Stewart Traill was telling us to “burn our bridges to our lives in this world,” meaning to give up all our hopes and wants in this life. According to Stewart, not to burn our bridges meant that we were “cheating on Christ,” “trying to have it both ways,” and “living a double life and not being fully there for Jesus.” I thought that it really meant that he was trying to take us off the moorings of a normal life and further under his influence.

Monday, August  9

I got up at 10:45 a.m., ran to the Good Diner for breakfast. Will have to go to Prince Street to do a wood floor job. Today, I feel as if my whole head has been reorganized, as a result of yesterday’s pressure cooker meeting with Stewart. My only question is, why does it have to be done in such coercive ways? It’s sort of done without our participation or consent.

I have the usual longings for a female this morning. Are these longings becoming a problem? Why, it seems so easy – just give me a wife! Why can’t God see this? There wouldn’t even be a problem then. It’s like my problem is unnecessary. It’s like talking about a starvation problem, when in the next room there are stockpiles of food. It’s an imaginary problem.

I’m thinking about why Stewart doesn’t allow marriage. Because if he allows marriage today, there will be no Christian Brothers business tomorrow. There will be no more on-tap labor force. Soon they will want Saturdays off to go to the park with their kids. We can’t allow that. Stewart says, “Christians don’t take vacations.” Not even days off. He won’t allow any other center of loyalty to exist, other than our loyalty to the church.

And we have all these “kill it, smash it, deny it” teachings. This has got to contribute to how bad things are here. And the whole place is geared to get this result out of us.

What Stewart really needs is to fellowship with other pastors his own age. Maybe they could get through to him, and restrain the prophet’s madness.

I “slipped” a little while we were riding in the van last night. Paul noticed my sarcasm in a comment I made about Stewart. Later, I was reading a book about Jonestown. The author said that Jim Jones feared the quiet dissenter who knew how to keep his mouth shut. That’s wise advice. This gives quietness a different flavor than the one of cowardice I attach to it. In quietness and trust shall be your strength.

These things described by Carl Jung. Is any of it going on inside of me?

Two times when talking to Chatman about his debacle at the meeting last night, both times the phone rang. Maybe I should get the message.

(I was interrupted by the phone both times I tried to talk to a new brother about what I thought about the meeting and they way that Stewart mistreated him.)

Marriage is a part of human life and I am missing out on it. And that, I think, unfairly. I was looking at a young Korean woman who works in the fish and chips store. I talked to her father, trying out my Korean. I asked him (in English) if he thinks there will be re-unification in Korea like Germany had. He said no, because North and South Korea had a war.

Jim O. said that he didn’t understand and couldn’t understand the Book of Job. I thought, well, we can understand the surface message of it. I also realize that Jim’s comment reflects how Stewart told us yesterday that we end up not being able to understand God’s word, because of our rebellion and unfaithfulness – a statement which I think is a little overdone.

Not just wishing to accept that from Jim, I said, “Actually, we can understand it. It’s a book describing the senselessness of human suffering, and some other things.” Jim never responded. He just clammed up and said something to Don B. about going sweeping. What bothers me, besides this rejection of me as a heretic or a bad guy, is Jim’s total acceptance of Stewart’s idea that he can’t know, or that he isn’t going to try to know what the Bible really means.

(It bothered me that Jim was rejecting me as a heretic and a bad guy because I explained to him the basic message of Job – because in saying that I understood at least the basic message of the book, I was disagreeing with Stewart, who said we cannot understand the Bible. And disagreeing with Stewart made me an outsider and a heretic against the only true way.  Jim wasn’t even going to try to believe he could know what the Bible has to say, because Stewart told us we had gotten to the point where we couldn’t understand it, due to our rebellious behavior.

Stewart was always talking to us about our wrong behavior and our rebellion against Christ and our cheating and trying to have it both ways. And as a result of this behavior, Stewart said that we had lost the ability to understand the Bible. Naturally, it would follow that we would have to rely on Stewart to tell us what it meant from now on. Now, we had always relied on Stewart to tell us what the Bible meant, but I think with this, Stewart was trying to knock even common sense (as a way to understand the Bible) out from under us, so he could give even stranger and more far out interpretations of it, while all we could say is that we had no idea if it’s true or not, who are we to say?)

I got back to the office. Besides Paul having some fallout with Chuck (who may be cracking at the seams for all I know), there seems to be some kind of fallout from a message from Stewart, which I only partially heard. It had something to do with having riches in this life. Stewart said that if the older brothers want to keep their riches, their life in this world, it’s their privilege.

I just wonder if things are going to get really tough here, with or without Stewart putting more pressure on us. Everybody has the tendency to react to these things and to push each other about them.

We had no meeting at 46th Street tonight. It seems that 17 Brothers were working on night jobs. Kevin called from Woodruff and he didn’t believe it.

A few of us are here now and are voting quite informally. So far, nobody is saying they are escaping, except now Peter, whom I believe.

Peter told Jay to look for something else outside this immediate reference point, such as books by John Bunyan or to read the Bible itself, which Jay totally ignored. Why join in to confirm what Peter said with my own opinion? Nobody cares anyway. Everybody pretty much worries about themselves. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself. Besides, I must extremely guard myself, for now at least. I must be the quiet dissenter who knows how to keep his mouth shut.

Upon some questioning by the brothers, Peter took back his claim of escaping. I have the feeling that the waste material is going to hit the fan around here really soon

I was checking out a podiatrist today. I have some worry about being able to get my arch supports, before getting thrown out.

Stewart says we are supposed to write a paper about burning our bridges. We are now in an informal meeting (me, Milton, Paul, Peter, Jay). There is nobody to especially to watch out for, though I am keeping myself guarded, watching, listening.

I have a feeling that I am going to have to prepare myself somehow for what’s coming. One thing I must do, is to not give everybody something to use on me. Also, to let the other idiots go first.

A Christian lady (according to Paul) writes to Chuck telling him that this place is a hideout. About how, in the end, we all will end up in hell. I suppose that just about anybody outside of here who knew anything about what’s what in religion would have similar opinions of this place. It probably seems awfully obvious to anybody.

I was thinking today about how Stewart said we can’t even call this place Christian. I think the same, except I include Stewart in the deal.

Our little informal talk right now is entirely useless. What’s the point of it? Well, there’s the repeating of what Stewart said, such as how Jay is now saying, “The real issue is our double life.” I guess that’s the only value to getting together. We go over the previous meeting’s material.

This is all so hopeless. I don’t believe much of it, but I always get trapped by the words. There’s no way anyone could talk their way out of this. There seems to be no way out of this. What is the way out of this?

Peter brings up the idea of, “How far do you go with this kill everything stuff? Can you have no desires or interests?” Jay just laughs him off, saying, “You sound just like Alex.”

(When Peter protested Stewart’s teaching about how we had to forsake all our desires in this life, Jay compared him to a new disciple brother we had among us. This brother was mentally unstable and should have been somewhere to receive real help. Essentiall Jay was calling Peter mentally deranged for raising these real objections to Stewart’s teachings.)

The truth is, I respect little or nothing of what we do (that is, in the church). So, now we have been empowered to speak somewhat about these things.

I sensed some bitterness in Brother Stewart last night. I wonder if more of his bitterness will come out as he sees himself getting older and his “life’s work,” that is, our church, getting absolutely nowhere.

Tuesday, August 10

I went back to Red Hook last night to sleep. I took a very brief interlude outside to look at the clouds and the moon over the poplar trees. August is already a third of the way gone. August, the most colorful month. It has the best clouds, the sweetest fragrances. I get just a peek at this.

I made an appointment for the orthotics, for Thursday. Actually, I am worried that I will get thrown out of the church and the check will get cut off before I get them! There is probably going to be a meeting with Stewart this weekend.

I just got off the phone with Mom, about a one hour call. She seems to think I have come a long way in understanding what is wrong here, by what she hears me saying. In other words, my development, my awakening to the problem here and what is going on here. If what I am thinking about this place is true, then it is confirmed by her as well. She seems to have a pretty good viewpoint on our milieu and its nature, almost as if she had been here herself.

(Not unlike the way I was able to talk to Alex about his relationship with the woman he was with. It is true that another person can grasp your situation from the information that you present to them. I can’t contradict the things Mom says to me about Stewart and our church. They are things I myself think, sometimes word for word. I would have to go through some strong repudiation of my mind to deny it. And although I could bury it, how could I erase it? These thoughts and realizations would always be there, clamoring to be dealt with.)

She got the copy of the letter I wrote to the author of The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. She said she liked it.

I prayed about the idea of legal action. It seems as if God is saying to me, “Go quietly.” Wouldn’t that be the better course? After all this trouble, would I want to re-embroil myself with this place? Wouldn’t it be better to be free of it when I left here? I probably wouldn’t be totally free, but why add to it by getting tied up in this way as well? It would be better to drop the whole matter, even just in my own thinking.

Maybe I am closer to leaving again, strengthening my bridges with those on the “outside,” making it easier, not just to bodily move myself out, but the inward emotional ties as well. Sort of a developing relationship. I think I need to do that.

Stewart says we are supposed to burn our bridges. I think it would be tragic, to cut off the ties that I have made to those outside the church and to “come to the light” about my “bridge” to my mother and to some brothers outside of here. That might be unhealthy. I need greater links with the “outside.” I don’t believe in isolationist religious sects anyway. I feel the need to reach out, to speak with people who can be objective with me. (Though it’s hard to say my own mother would be objective, nor would ex-members. But, let’s not get into polarized thinking either. Their objectivity vs. subjectivity quotient is probably a matter of degree.)

I really do cut myself off from help in a lot of ways. We have strange convoluted thinking, with reasons for doing or for not doing things. I have to find out more, learn more. Obviously my search or struggle is not over yet. Maybe it is far from over.

Whenever I talk to Mom, I have a question about how much to tell her, how much to hold back. Should I tell her about my reading Jung? Maybe I can tell Dave and Chris. I can’t depend on Dave and Chris as if they were consultants or saviors either, though. I must not just settle for somebody else to lean my head on, a new guru to take the place of the old one. I want to keep growing. I don’t just want to get out of here and just quit.

In fact, in some ways, these last four years have been some of the best years of my life, as far as finding out some things on my own. As far as breaking the myths of my previous adult life. Or, having the myth broken for me, despite myself, and a comfortable desire to just hang on to it out off inertia, familiarity or fear.

(These changes I had gone through from a believer in the COBU way and its leader to having my eyes opened to the falseness of this way was really something that was done to me, much more than something I did.)

I just came back from Times Square Church. It was an interesting experience. the ex-members of our church who go there seem willing to help me, though I am at least a little suspicious of just why they would want to. Yet, I think I need their help. Lonnie offered me a place to stay. He said to grab Bob D. and both of us can come to his place (which he shares with Harry, Harold and Norman). He said he thinks they could make room for us. This is all a little too quick for me. I plan to try to go Times Square Church next Sunday morning if there is no meeting in Philadelphia. Everybody here will be still asleep at that time, and nobody will notice that I am gone.

I met Ronnie C. I am sure she is glad to see me. Lonnie seems genuine though.

I had been in the library. I thought about going to Times Square Church when I passed by there. I didn’t do much real work today, only using the time to go to the podiatrist, get a haircut, then go to the library, reading more of Jung – in this case, his book, Answer to Job.

In all, I think I am upbuilt from my little church visit. It was a big step, though it doesn’t seem so now. It seems rather normal or matter of fact.  Why didn’t I do it before?  Well, I guess I know why.  And besides, maybe I wasn’t ready for it.

(It was a big step for me to visit another church, even more so because it was a church that e-members went to. It was considered to be treason to visit another church, because of what I was implying by doing that. I was a defector from the one and only true way.)

Look, I’m a 36 year old man. How is it that somebody can tell me I can’t go to another church? That sounds like the Russian communists: They tell you can’t go to church!

[] Lonnie walked with me a few blocks, talking. He seemed rather eager. I guess I have to ask myself why.

Really, I am ready to stop struggling. Perhaps I have had enough. Enough now. It’s time to end this. (Not that I want to stop struggling in other ways. This certainly has been a stimulus to my mind, but also what great toll am I paying?)

I ran into Alberto (Papo) immediately after leaving Lonnie. Why this? I talked to him, encouraged him to attend Times Square Church if he doesn’t like it here in our church.

Some information from Lonnie: Richard Wurmbrand said that Stewart should live just like everybody else. In other words, if he is going to make us live this way, then he should too. Lonnie and I were talking about about Stewart’s rather extravagant enclave, in comparison with the way we have to live.

Dave also told me that he recently talked on the phone with Richard Wurmbrand, who is in Germany right now. But, this was on the way out and I didn’t have time to hear it. Dave also wants to hear those tapes from the big beating.

On my way out, the woman in the last seat of the aisle wanted to know why I was leaving so soon. I told her I will probably come on Sunday. There is probably an availability of marriage over there, though it is probably not as available or easy as I think. I don’t just want to jump into something, even though the repression on that issue over here has been very bad, to say the least.

12 Midnight

While I was laying down (waiting to go on a night job because Paul asked me to help him work) Joe R. [a new brother who left recently] came by or was swept up and brought over. Brothers talked to him and decided he couldn’t stay with us, but that he should come around and prove himself. This decision has gotten to the Correction Committee and to Brother Stewart himself. They want names. Who did it? Who decided? Kevin was on the phone, calling up. The Correction Committee and Brother Stewart want answers.

Brothers are now together here at 46th Street, agonizing over what they have done. Though I think there is a little more to it. Ron is confessing his shortcomings, saying that he talked to Joe R. a while, but didn’t settle him or make sure. (Though Ron has also made it clear that he wasn’t here when the fateful decision to put Joe R. out was made.) Maybe that is why Ron is able to openly confess his thoughts, because he knows he isn’t going to get it, so it’s a little easier for him to make this slightly ostentatious show of remorse.

Look, I’m glad I wasn’t there. Maybe I would have gone along with the crowd, though according to record, I always stand up for a person who is going to get thrown out.

It’s getting touchy now with Kevin on the phone. Then he puts us on hold as he talks to Brother Stewart on the other line.

It seems that Joe came around, asking to stay with us because he has nowhere to go. He said he was willing to work. Brothers said there was no talk about Jesus on his part. So they turned him out.

We’re doing our voting now. We had to vote John over several times, because he got backed (and no older brothers have), so that’s going to look pretty funny when we call over to Woodruff, especially with this heat going on. So we voted, trying to get John not backed, but had to settle for just barely backed. Ron was especially driving for re-voting.

(John, a New Brother was the only one “backed,” by everyone in the voting as being seen as being faithful to Christ that day. No older brothers were backed. That was going to appear strange when we called our stats over to the brothers at Woodruff.)

I mentioned the reason why we don’t want John backed. Ron indignantly protested. Except for this – or because of this – I realize I must play the part of the quiet dissenter who knows how to keep his mouth shut.

The brothers from Woodruff have announced that they have brothers here at 46th Street they have questions about. One of them is Stuart R. This was thrown out at him by somebody here, somebody who knows the names. But so far no other names have been named. This will be kept for later.

The names are out. Stuart and M. It is being conducted in the spirit of a secret, yet ominous inquiry or inquisition, but maybe I am embellishing.

We’re now talking to M. He is talking about his problem with immorality, and he is fighting with everybody. (And obviously he knows Chuck or Kevin or somebody brought up his name.) The way he is being talked to about this issue is totally out of this world or out of reality. Brothers are saying to him that physical sin is a question of motivation. [“Physical sin” was the COBU phrase for masturbation.] An older brother said that Jesus has been helping him with that problem for a year and a half, and asks, “So M., is Jesus a liar?” But of course, nobody can talk about the possibility of marriage as a way out. It’s like marriage doesn’t exist, not even as a distant possibility. One is just supposed to stuff it [shove it under the rug] and cross his fingers. There is absolutely no hope in being talked to in this way. There is no help in it. “So what’s it going to be with you tomorrow, M.?” Okay, we ran though the thing with him. We did it. Okay, what’s it going to be tomorrow?

Yep, it’s really true, the only reason we are talking to him is because we were told to. So we have to go though this charade. Harping on people, requiring them. Somebody else’s name could just as easily have been selected. I notice we always pick on the weakest members, usually middle and new brothers. Not weakest in the sense of who is weak and needs help, but who are the easier victims. (Like those times when Stewart was raging over us, then we immediately picked some poor wretch to thrash, coming from what we just “learned.”)

Brothers are talking to M. and none of it makes sense.

Question: I feel like I got help from going to Times Square Church today! There is some kind of buoyant feeling.

Wednesday, August 11

I had a dream last night. There were numerous sequences of these guys trying to get me. It all took place in a fellowship house. Especially one big guy wanted to do me in. They would never actually get far in their harm – only beginning push or poke me. But one guy had a knife. I yelled outside, “Call the police!” which only met with laughter or curiosity on the part of a crowd that was out there. The big guy asked me, “Did you take the bike?” When I said no, he said to his companions, “See, I told you he was lying.”

I realized I better get away from here. (It hadn’t occurred to me up to this point to do that). There was a burned out section with rubble and rafters in the back. It had started to rain and though it was August, I realized it would be pretty cold out there.  I was going to get wet. (The feeling I had to flee, a long trip in the rain and cold.) I thought of grabbing a jacket from the second floor, but realized it would be risky and I couldn’t risk getting caught. I would just have to go.

I got outside in the back yard. I saw a fence to a neighboring yard. There wasn’t much room to run to, it was a small yard. I was disappointed.

I stepped over this low fence, which rattled as if it were covered with pots and pans, alerting everybody in the house. I fell over it, landing on my back with both feet twisted into the meshwork of the fence and was caught fast by the feet. I could see a light in the second story window. I figured it was only a matter of time before they got me, trapped as I was. But I kept trying to work to my feet free, tugging, trying to cut the strands.

The darkness suddenly cleared, revealing a bright full moon. Now I was even more visible than ever, lying on my back under the bright moonlight. The light in the house went out. I began to realize maybe I hadn’t been detected. There was also a realization that this was like a World War Two escape story. The idea that people have been in this kind of situation, sneaking though the fence by the guard tower without much chance of escape, desperate. Yet they lived to tell of it. In other words, they survived despite the odds, so maybe I could.

To my left in the distance, I could see a big lake with hills on the other side, a refreshing, beautiful sight. I thought, “I wish I could be there, just let me go there.” Then, continuing the World War Two motif, three American soldiers came along the fence. I was being freed.

Of course, I would like to apply this dream to escaping the fellowship and the difficulty of doing so. The dangers, fleeing on a rainy night; sneaking out of camp. Getting caught by my feet, snared and lying helpless on my back, just waiting for these people to come any second now to finish me off.

Maybe I would need someone greater than or other than myself to get me out of it. I could flee, but couldn’t get out. I never quite worked my feet out of the fence. (There is a “fence” around the fellowship, isn’t there? O really can’t get out. Soldiers from another place, the “good guys” came.)

The view of the hills was a peaceful one, representing far away freedom that was real even though it was far. The beautiful, cool, distant hills. I longed to be there, for a chance to go there.

The earlier parts of the dream, I didn’t like. I kept waking up and realizing I was having this dream. I don’t like these dreams where people are trying to hurt or kill me. I always take them as God, or somebody, telling me this is going to happen to me for the way I have been. I was glad and rather surprised to have such a good outcome and a subsequent scene depicting what I feel I am experiencing in my actual life. What would Jung say? Would he say this is a message or information from my subconscious? It knows the situation and exactly what to do. Should I fight? It is my sense of escaping valiantly and not giving up, even in a desperate snare, because help is on the way. I will need final help from outside myself. Don’t give up in the meantime.

I’m thinking about this dream now and what it means, or could mean. There is supposed to be a meeting with Stewart in Woodruff tonight. I am thankful that it looks like I will have to be working at this time. I don’t think I could handle another one of these meetings where we have to prove we care and to what percent we care. I am just too devastated. Maybe this is cynical. I am just writing down how I feel about it. I will try to call Dave or Chris and/or try to visit them because they are just around the corner from the job site we’re on.

So, it really does look like I am missing this meeting. Look, even if it isn’t a bad one this time, I am about totally blown out as far as meetings go. I will be working here with Paul on a wood floor across from the Museum of Natural History. Probably until pretty late too.

I did go over before to check on Dave and Chris but only Jane was there. You know, she seems all right. Actually she reminds me of Chris, so I guess this is Chris’s new woman. Well, at least you are allowed to have women there.

I get the idea that, well, they are into total antinomianism over there. Anybody can do anything they want. Just what Brother Stewart is going to war over. But look at us. There is so much control over our lives that all human life is dead!

I am thinking of how it is here. I want to meet new people. Do you know that I never actually meet any new people? There are probably a lot of new people over there I can get to know. Though I wonder if everybody is really lonely over there and all go their separate ways after church. But it’s really that way here too. A book I read about religious sects dealt with that problem too. The author said that in a mainstream denomination, everybody goes their own way after the service. So, it’s not like this problem isn’t known and it’s not like it isn’t dealt with by other people and other groups. You would think our church had the monopoly on the anti-loneliness thing. This is what I get for never reading, never bothering to find out. I assume that our supposedly good qualities are unique to us. It will seem like only our church deals with certain things – things that are true, so you can’t talk your way around them. But “us” is all I saw. I didn’t know other people dealt with it. So neither our unique qualities are unique, nor are our bad things unique to us. (You know, only we have the truth, we have a higher calling, etc.) It’s the same patterns.

(The Church of Bible Understanding supposedly solved the problems of loneliness and how Christians in other churches left one another alone, only caring about their immediate families, because we were a live-in group in which the members were always together and we checked up on everybody. It was really quite the opposite, and the way of life in COBU drove people into their lonely corners, where they protected themselves by putting up walls. They kept their private thoughts to themselves, for the most part, and only spoke to one another in a certain kind of dialog that was really all Stewart phrases and concepts.)

Thursday, August 12

Finished the wood floor job. I’m now at Manhattan Foot Care. I heard some things about the meeting from Jim O. He told me four points from the meeting: How would it be if Stewart was with us all the time? Stewart is very determined about his salvation and also about ours. But we are not (so) determined. What happened to our first love? (Jim O. is saying that he is tempted to be lazy because the meeting was “more for encouragement.” In other words, since he is not being driven with a stick, maybe he figures he will sit back and take it easy.)

Well, such comments from Stewart make other things well up inside me, including my recent “assertion”  that I don’t think the man is concerned for me.In fact, at times I think I have received active hate from him. These things were on the tip of my tongue, so to speak. And hey, why not say them (finally), seeing that I (may) have a place to go to? Hey, no more doormat! So, why not begin with the opening kickoff? But, as always, I am quite glad to have not said something, especially since I was toying with volunteering the information without being directly asked for it. I still have some moral uncertainty about that one: what if I am directly asked about one of these sensitive issues?

I came back to the office and slept in various closets. Yes, this lifestyle is inherent in our belief system. There are certain implications to accepting these teachings.

(If we believed Stewart’s “deny yourself” teachings, then we also accepted sleeping on the floor, because we were giving up everything in our human lives to follow Jesus.)

I find myself close to snapping. Snapping to the degree that I am quite close to speaking my beliefs openly. Now I realize what great constraint I have been placing upon myself over this last year or so.

So now, with these offers of places to go, am I more emboldened to speak? Or is it that now along with these offers, I am also just growing tired of the charade and with the effort of keeping up the façade.

Friday, August 13

I am writing this in the middle of a usual day with its varied, yet usual circumstances. What prompted me to pick up my pen was some music on the radio. (I am driving today and was able to select a van with a radio.) It was music that made me think of deep summer. I want to get lost in deep summer. It was some rhythmic and resonant, melodic xylophone or keyboard music. This feeling, this fantasy, is something that takes place in the house I grew up in. I thought of sitting on the porch with a cool drink, seltzer on ice with orange slices. It’s about 10 p.m., a night that is just beginning. Maybe we will go to 3 a.m. There is a moon in the sky and clouds. There really weren’t other people in the fantasy, but the music enhances the view of the moon. Oh well, just a fantasy. Probably any time I am alone, I will be turning the dials looking for this kind of music.

I told Becky that she looked nice today and that I liked what she was wearing. I had noticed her yesterday as well, but as I thought about it, I was met with all the inner and outer inhibitions and I didn’t say anything. (Any repercussions for having told her she looked nice will be duly noted later in this diary).

(I could get in trouble for telling a sister she looked nice. What was I up to, what was I really doing? Was I trying “wolf away” a sister? Was I trying to “get her into me?”)

I have been trying to call Dave or stop by, without success. Could this be God trying to tell me something? I ran into Mike R. last time I was there. I heard his story, noted his comments on not wanting to take part in Dave and Chris’s religious games, and that in order to get work from them, you have to be in their clique. Mike said he didn’t want to, so they called Ron H. to do some work. This does cause me some concern that by living with Dave and Chris, I would be a dependent. So right now, all I can say is that being able to move in with them is a safety valve.

My situation – I walk around aflame with passion all the time.

I can’t say why now, though I have my suspicions, I felt quite set free! (Though it’s probably relative.) What can I attribute it to? Jesus. But by what means? The only thing I can think of, unless it was the two times I prayed, was that I spoke my mind two times. Once to a new brother, Michael C., because I heard him on a tape from the meeting last Wednesday asking Brother Stewart a question and he got rebuffed.

The other time I spoke my mind was when we were driving. I was talking about marriage and several conclusions I had about it: that I should have gotten married at age 25 and also that in 1 Corinthians 7, there is nothing mentioned about a brother’s spiritual condition as a prerequisite to marriage. I was telling Jeff H. about what I know about Corinthians in general. Maybe it was a realization I had while talking about it. That is, not only are there no requirements for marriage mentioned, but in the first chapter of Corinthians, the Apostle Paul makes it quite clear that the Corinthians weren’t advanced in their faith or very spiritual at all! So, maybe this is a freeing revelation, because Stewart tells us that we can’t get married because of our spiritual condition.

Also Bob M. was in the van and he naturally wanted to set me straight. I told him that these things were only my own conclusions and that I wasn’t trying to get in a debate about it or prove I was right, it’s just something I am thinking. Also Bob said, “Are you trying to do what the fear of God is supposed to do for you?” I said, “Actually, if I really fear God, I would get married because I know I have this problem.”

(Rather than accepting that we could not understand the Bible – as Stewart was now telling us – and reading only the so-called training papers and hyper-focusing on hell and warning verses, to the exclusion of all other parts of the Bible, I had been reading 1 Corinthians 7, and concluded that contrary to Stewart Traill’s claim that a brother must be fully faithful in every way before he can even consider taking a wife, that the Apostle Paul had written to some very unspiritual and less than fully faithful people in Corinth, telling them that “it is well for a man not to touch a woman, but because of the temptation to immorality, every man should have his own wife.”

The Apostle Paul gave no long list of requirements they had to be doing for a long time before they could get married, and he said nothing about getting the permission and approval of other church members or the pastor in order to marry. That was radically opposed to COBU teaching, and Bob wanted to call me out on that. No older brother was going to agree with me, at least not openly, about these things.)

Maybe also talking about this in general was freeing. I have noticed a corollary to this. That every time we depart from the usual tedious and exacting party lines during Bible studies, like that time we actually forgot ourselves and the right teachings and were examining the context of a passage in the Bible, I noticed I felt free, like “light came from the word.” There have been other occasions like this. Could it be we are so tightly restricted that any departure from this is a relief? (I mean, not in levity, but really talking about real problems.) There might be something in this. Meetings and also our daily lives are so monitored. It’s almost like there is an unseen Stewart presence there all the time, keeping careful watch over us and in front of whose evaluating eyes we must perform.

I was telling the brothers in the van that 85% of my own energy, adding that I know I must not fight sin on my own, but whatever I am supposed to use goes to fighting this problem of resisting sexual temptations and that there would be much more of me left over to fight other and better battles if I got married and didn’t have this struggle.

There is perhaps somewhat of a breakthrough. I have become, though cautiously, more willing to speak my mind about what is wrong here, knowing full well that my condition, my sin and my unfaithfulness will be used against me every step of the way. But, in knowing that – I also know it is wrong for somebody to do this to me. I am also wondering just how long I will go crouching in fear about this “can’t talk rule” because of what I know will be aimed against me for speaking up. So, maybe I am ready to kick off the opening punt. Not looking for it as much as, when it comes, not shying away from it in order to protect myself.

(As I write the above, the part about “how long will I go…” a voice says, “between two opinions.” Is that God, or is that just my own brain, which knows that there is a verse that starts with the former words and ends with the latter?) All I know is that I just can’t go on living any longer as I have been doing.

I am aflame with passion today. Shouldn’t there be a way to deal with this? Why carry around the excess baggage? Why do I have to fight against myself all day?Sure, The Apostle Paul said he pummeled his body and subdued it, though there must be a more useful pummeling instead of trying to ignore or not give into your sex drive. It is so odd, a married person can just go home and have sex. That’s what marriage is for, right?

Now I get to delve into areas that, well, I wouldn’t especially want to admit to myself, such as one of the reasons to go to Times Square Church is maybe I can find a mate there. (What about the dreams I had that I married someone in the fellowship?)

But what? Look, if the Bible says I can get married, and that the problem is fornication and that I don’t need to have reached a certain spiritual level in order to get married, well then, I am ready.

Look, I hate this, walking around all day, an accident waiting to happen and all the things I am always tempted with. Of course, maybe wrong thinking has been inculcated into me and I think that I “have to” say it’s my fault because of the way I’ve been, but I don’t quite agree with this anyway.

As always, it seems like there is no answer – from God that is. I can just rot in my sins. Unless of course these things are the answer. These thoughts, these realizations. About this and everything else.

(In other words, I was looking to God for an answer, and these very thoughts against the COBU way and realizing what was wrong with it, were God’s answer to me and to my prayers.)

I really wonder. Either God is saying “stuff it,” or this really is my answer. (Both with regard to marriage and all the things I think about this place. What am I going to do? What a sick life, to not act on my own conclusions. The only justification not to do it is avoiding it because of fear.)

To tell you the truth, I would like to be able to receive love letters from a girl, someone who would write to me, somebody I can correspond to. (Please, I pray, Jesus, provide this for me.)

(I was pretty naive about what a relationship would really be like, as these remarks show.)

There is so much more to a relationship than physical contact – the talking, the unburdening of oneself to someone. I neglect so much of my life because of religious reasons. Reasons that I no longer believe.

Yes, the drive – sex, sex.  What about other things? I concentrate on that immediate pressing need and desire. But what about knowing or corresponding to somebody, or even a night out? (I don’t think that idea would go over too well here.  Imagine trying to take Becky out – even if I could get her to say yes. Maybe I should just pray for opportunities to be alone with her.)

But, why can’t I have this right away? It could even be a relationship. In Christian circles anyway, there is no sex before marriage (though maybe there is some contact). Such a thing would either be harmless, or even good for me. Of course, this might be possible at Times Square Church. Though I can’t turn it into church visiting in order to go wife hunting. But I do need a wife.

I just stopped by 81st Street and saw Dave and Denny. Dave was on his way out to Baltimore to get his daughter Ashley. I talked to Denny for a while outside. He was telling me about the circumstances of his leaving COBU. Well, I neither know quite what to do with Denny, nor how to be with him myself, nor whether he accepts or approves of my leaving or my thinking about doing it. I always wonder if they will tell me not to leave, so as not to “take part,” or if they will tell me it’s not right to do, although they have done it themselves!

One thing Denny said that makes sense and sticks with me: He would never tell anybody to leave. In other words, it’s their own decision.) And he doesn’t want to supply anybody with the martyr complex. In other words, that they are the faithful one and the devil is working through an ex-member (himself) in order to try to pull them out of the fellowship.

Well, the temptations to immorality are high. It would be horrible to get into sin after (or before) all this. If I actually do leave, I would like to have my wits about me when I do. Though, my backhanded thought is, it will have to take something like falling into sin to blow me out the door. I will never leave otherwise. But, why does this have to be? Well, in the dream, I could escape only so far. Then I got caught up on the fence, bound by conscience or guilt somehow. I needed somebody else to come along and liberate me.

Saturday, August 14

Another thing Denny talked about yesterday was how it is at Tom White’s house, that there were visiting missionaries and their families over all the time. Contrast and compare that to Stewart’s life. Where are the visitors, where are the guest pastors and speakers and learners who come to hear his exclusive message? The truth is protected by a bodyguard of lies – or the other way around. The lies are protected by a bodyguard of truth. You can’t ask questions. This truth is protected by a man who becomes immediately furious when questioned.

As I wrote this (at Greenwich Street), I noticed a naked woman in a window. I did look. One thing I can say, I have become very volcanic. All I can say is that this shouldn’t bother me this much. If I get an atomic bomb reaction over something like this, something is wrong. Sure, you could say “don’t look.” But even the draw to look, the incessant desire – if I had a wife and regular satisfaction of my sexual desires, would I be this way at all? Or, if I did see something, not only would I be without the feeling of wanting to look again and again, and the gnawing feeling of, “I don’t have this, I need this, I want this.” If I did see something, I could (more easily) brush it off as just something I saw. I could turn away, thank God I am married and no I don’t want to indulge in this.

In other words I don’t want to indulge. But there is something like a tidal surge in my body that, if it weren’t there, wouldn’t I more easily be able to be how I really want to be? Without that feeling, I probably wouldn’t look. Now my day will be a lot rougher, just for having seen that. Just seeing breasts sets all this stuff going off inside of me. I probably couldn’t forget it now if I wanted to. I want to turn my attention to something else, but it’s not going to be so easy. It is true, I just want sex. It’s not even a decision, as much as a surge. This is ridiculous. Why do I have to live this way? (That is, without a right way of doing it. Or if I do it, then it must be in a wrong way, as if the desire itself were wrong.) It does seem immensely difficult to get a wife. I keep thinking of how I can meet one, seeing that it is unobtainable here. No right way will be provided, so I am guaranteed to fall. Tough luck…God could send somebody if he wanted to.

(This incident about the woman in the window. Orlando and I were on the street, waiting with floor equipment for a van to pick us up. I saw the lady, but then turned my back, and continued to talk to Orlando, who was still looking up to the window across the street. But he was pretending he was not looking and he wasn’t saying anything about her. And I didn’t want to admit I had been looking or to say to him he should stop looking. I guess in part, because then we would have to talk about how we are tempted and cannot get married in COBU. And besides, maybe I wanted to look again, just for a second, too.)

This is the end of this journal section. If you don’t want to read the notes that follow, skip to the next section of the journal here: I Begin To Speak My Mind.

(The following are notes from the back of the journal book I was writing in. These notes are my own observations and also comments that Stewart made in some of the meetings, and some books I was reading at the time.)


These are notes from the back of this journal book:

Polarities: In Stewart’s thinking, if something is not helping somebody, it is (you are) killing them. There is no neutral. It’s either / or.

Some points from the August 8th Sunday meeting: [These are all Stewart Traill teachings that I wrote down.]

“The problem is taking advantage of God’s kindness. This is how half and half starts.

“I am in big trouble. I must escape, or I am going for the mindless route for relief.

“Living The Recipe.

“Difference between religion and Jesus. Dying to this life and taking up your cross.

“The second layer of sin.

“The middle and new brothers are giving up a few physical things and crossing their fingers that they are Christians.

“Taking the problem seriously by burning my bridges and killing the competition.

“Believing can be defined as working out your repentance.

“Is anything worth dying for?

“Brothers need to come off as: I am burning my bridges, and you know it.

“It’s either being lonely in the flesh or uniting in Christ.

“The mindless club. I was at the point of utter ruin in the congregation.

“I am in my own little world in this hotel which you provided for me.

“There is no escape without burning your bridges, selling everything and denying yourself.

“The only way to unite is to have something you respect.”


These are my own notes and my own thoughts:

During the dying moments at the Jonestown massacre, there were meek protests from some of the members. But the people were so swamped (from having followed this way all along), that they couldn’t really do anything about it. This is like me, trying to protest against Stewart.

Jung: my own observations, pp. 138-9. Being led with questions, pp. 136, 135.

I am 36. (She will wonder if I have been married. This seems a little old.) Tell her, I have had an unusual life. I live in a religious order. I have never been married. I don’t intend to keep living that way. (These were things I thought I might have to tell a woman who worked at a job site where I was sanding the floors if she asked me about myself.)

A man imbued with a sense of his own importance as a major figure in Christian history. (This was an observation I made about Stewart Traill.)

Until I read Lifton’s book, I never knew what brainwashing was. It is not necessarily being tortured in a laboratory. It is being in a highly-confined environment. Even if there are not walls. It can be done by being extremely busy.

There is always a certain issue at hand. In meetings, during these onslaughts, there is always a certain issue we have been told to find out. It’s the only thing that matters.

The New World was a safety valve for the old. And Rhode Island was safety valve for New England, where all who disagreed with the New England way could practice religion according to their conscience. (I was reading about the Puritans.  Rhode Island was where dissenting Puritans got away to, where they could follow God according to their own conscience.)

Some humor: A new brother: “I don’t run from Jesus.” Antoine: “You just walk pretty fast.”

List of my bridges. The real ones and the official ones. Official: Remaining alone, “things I like to do in this life.” (If I were to list my “bridges to this life” which I have not burned, which were keeping me from fully serving Jesus, these were the “official”  things I was expected to say, that I remain alone and keep certain parts of myself hidden from others. And that I have things I like to do “in this life,” other than Christ, such as reading, learning languages, walking, running, and drawing.)

Books I have been reading:

A Lamb to the Slaughter – Jan Montyn

We Hold These Truths – Mortimer Adler

Our Father Who Art in Hell: The Life and Death of Jim Jones – James Reston

Churches that Abuse – Ron Enroth

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse – Johnson

Jung’s Treatment of Christianity

Here I Stand  (a book about Martin Luther)

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism – Robert J. Lifton

Biblical Hebrew



18.  Chatman left. (19.  returned.)

18.  Sunday Philadelphia meeting: A revision on the concept of salvation. Are we saved now?

21.  Red Hook out.

24.  Bob D. returned (after having left a few days ago).

Polarities:  Things here are either forbidden or its a requirement. There seem to be no options. We may not do something if we would like to. It’s either God’s will or it isn’t God’s will. If we are not doing God’s will, we are rebelling and if we are rebelling, we are not doing God’s will.

Title: “Stewart’s Believe It or Else: the Teaching of the Church of Bible Understanding” With with a subtitle, “Subject to Change Without Notice.” (This was the title of an imaginary book, in which I would tell the story of COBU and Stewart. The irony is that Stewart’s teachings were held to be the absolute truth, but that also Stewart could change his teachings at any time, which meant they weren’t the absolute truth, if they could be changed to something else.)

The foundation of our church: Stewart has a special revelation from God. What he says is the absolute truth. Nobody else has it. All others are wrong (although there are degrees of wrongness) and everything else we do comes from that, such as our practices and the way we live.

(The following are some imaginary names I was making up for COBU, that would tell the real story more accurately than the name “The Church of Bible Understanding” did. A desire to truly understand the Bible was far from the real story about the intentions of COBU’s leader.)


The Church of Biblical Uncertainty

The Church of Babble Understanding

Or, the Church of Babylon Derstanding.

(Stewart said that Babylon symbolized false religion, man’s attempt to reach God by building a tower. And in the Bible, the name Babylon means confusion because God confused their languages. And COBU language is hard to understand for anyone not familiar with it.)


The Church of Dogmatic Assertion

The Church of Doctrinal Ambiguity

The Church of Dictatorial Authority


The Church of Doctrinal Enforcement.


Alfred North Whitehead – about underlying assumptions.

The Sacred Science and the New Dialectic = our doctrine and our way of renunciation of our desires and the things we want “in this life.”

Our Lady of Perpetual Motion.

(If COBU had a patron saint, it might be Our Lady of Perpetual Motion. Constant activity along with long meetings and sleep deprivation were a hallmark of COBU life. At the same time, Stewart told us that anxiety and works will not save us. But there was no way to unplug from this treadmill life, other than by finding little ways to take a break now and then, or by leaving COBU altogether. This treadmill was enforced by all the others and it was installed inside us. I felt like I could never stop.)

Read next section of the journal here: I Begin To Speak My Mind.

(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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