1993, 08/15. Why I Desire To Leave The Church of Bible Understanding.
This is the paper I wrote and tried to get members of COBU to read before I left. It was a pointless effort. It wasn’t a matter of writing out my ideas on paper, instead of trying to talk about them. (When I tried to talk, I got shouted down. So I tried handing about a paper instead. But this paper just got ignored. No one wanted to read it.
MY EXIT STATEMENT
Why I Desire to Leave the Church of Bible Understanding
by Jim LaRue
Over the past day or two I have begun to speak my mind about things which I have kept hidden for about the past two years. In doing so I have found that I would be, in most cases, met with a wall of words–so much so that it’s hard to get a word in, or to explain my point of view or dilemma.
Most of this talk was centered [in being asked] in what spirit I am speaking in (alluding perhaps to the idea that I am in the “devil’s” spirit, since, besides the Holy Spirit, there is only one other “what spirit,” which is Satan. According to our theology there are only two “spirits,” since one cannot say he is speaking in his own spirit. This leads to a useless dead end of trying to prove to everybody what spirit I am in and that it must be a right one in order to speak, and of course the view is that if I am in a right spirit, I wouldn’t say these things. So, it’s a useless double bind if I allow myself to get caught up in it).
I also was met with a sudden and renewed interest in my sins and what they are on the part of people who didn’t seem so interested in my spiritual welfare before I had spoken. I was told that “my own sin is my basic problem” and that I can’t talk about anything else until I work this problem out. This is used on me to keep me from talking, or because people don’t know how to or are not willing to deal objectively with what I am saying. Or perhaps both.
So, in order to get a hearing, I have decided to write it down and pass it around. This way anyone who likes can read it and see what I am saying, without having to dispute everything point by point.
(Some of these disputers are “True Believers,” though I think others are arguing in an effort to convince themselves about something, in an effort to push this information away as it comes from me and also to quell their own inner doubts, which they fight against and deny all the time. When I show up, I see that they have a ready and well-ordered defense. It is so well prepared that it leads me to wonder if it’s an ongoing thing that they practice against their own discordant thoughts not a few times every day. It’s not just me they are saying these things to.)
I have difficulty in finding a starting place in writing this essay, though I have been thinking such things as I am about to explain for about four years. A convenient place to begin is an incident that happened two years ago. This is when I attempted to explain to Stewart that he is alone and that he needs to get his views (and a whole lot more) checked. Somebody asked me if I was saying Stewart is my problem (which I take to mean, is he the basic problem in all of human life, including my own). I said no, but that he does make some problems.
Upon saying these things, I was met with the idea that I was going to be put out. There was no attempt to answer my questions in any way. He really did pull rank on me.
I also saw how Stewart’s response was dishonest–both in not answering and in the threat I was given, as he began to stir up everyone else in the room to say things about me, working the crowd the whole time.
Since getting put out of the church includes the immediate loss of one’s job and place of residence without compensation, this is a highly effective way of controlling people and suppressing dissent, but as I’ve said, it’s not honest.
Of course, I was totally surprised and overcome by that tactic. I had expected Stewart to answer, whether in agreement or disagreement, since he always portrays himself as a maker of standards and a man of truth, one who respects the truth and lives by and seeks it–no matter what the source. I found out that I was wrong in this view. I began to profusely blame myself and say I was the problem, not because I thought this was true or that I was suddenly enlightened, but, I because I was overcome by a power tactic and begging for my life, since the sudden prospect of living outside the church tomorrow seemed overwhelming.
It took me a while to recover from this incident, but what also happened is that this became a milestone in my thinking. I have not been the same since.
(I have often thought since that time that “I learned more about our church in those eleven minutes than I did in the entire eleven years that I have been here. There is certainly some truth to that.)
I had begun to lose my idealism before this and had already begun to doubt what could be called the “myth” of our church–that it is special and that our founder has this special view that is different and over and above the rest of the Christian world. A view that is necessary to set all of them straight. The implications of this view, if one accepts it, is that it is necessary to separate oneself from the rest of mankind, including other Christians. We may “teach” these other Christians if they are willing, the greater (us) helping the lesser (everyone else). Unless of course they are arrogant, which is a nice way to blame people who might have legitimate doubts and questions about our sanity.
So, we have no fellowship with other Christians, no guest speakers, no working with other churches, no visiting missionaries (though Brother Buraga did come recently. But this is few and far between, a single visitor doesn’t change much).
We have a sort of spiritual inbreeding where people end up getting sick. We are constantly put to perform but get nowhere. (This also is a contributing reason for my wanting to go. Exhaustion. I feel as if I can never get replenished. I would like to go away for a while, for a “sabbatical.” Perhaps go permanently.) There is no input from the outside. There is nothing to compare life here to–because this is all you see. So you can’t know if the whole church is drifting on to dangerous shoals, though you have the feeling it is. You can’t ask questions or depart from the party line in proposing solutions or explaining to someone what is wrong with what you see or what’s wrong with yourself. Stewart has arranged things very carefully so that there is no accountability for himself or his actions–either to anyone here (you can’t ask questions) or to anyone outside (he “hardly ever talks to other Christians” and when he does he “only tells them these things if they are ready for it.”) He doesn’t fellowship with other pastors. He needs to, and could use some fellowship and help from other men who are his age. But I am sure he has a reason why this isn’t possible. I don’t see how he makes it, how he can survive, both as a Christian and a person in that state. I wonder if he is making it. Perhaps that’s why he drives us so hard. It seems there is more to his driving us than just “concern for our salvation.”
A critical difference between me and probably anyone else who reads this paper is where we draw the line in talking about problems in our church. You are willing to admit there are problems among ourselves–but that our founder is above and beyond these problems like some God figure sitting on a cloud, giving directives and proposing cures to the hapless humans on earth. I see Stewart as very involved in our problems and often the source and progenitor of many of them. He has great complicity in the whole picture, though we are strictly forbidden to say so. The very fact that there are rules that forbid talking about his involvement and the immediate furious reaction that one receives over breaking this collective agreement, is in itself great circumstantial evidence pointing to that fact.
We are frequently asked to discuss what’s wrong here, but all the feedback that is ever heard on our part is Stewart phrases like, “well, we need more urgent sweeping,” or, “we’ve got to get back to the basics.” We can talk and talk but never fix anything.
I suggest that Stewart end his self-imposed separation from the rest of Christian pastors and that he hold “amnesty” or “free speech” meetings with us where we are free to discuss the underground current of our doubts, suspicions, proposals, and solutions, without any payback or repression on his part. And though I think, ultimately he will never do anything like this, nor will we, this could be something very helpful. It certainly won’t hurt. Perhaps if no one would like to speak in person, they could write papers–intelligently and extensively written. We have all been here a long time, we are all insiders in this system and understand the workings of it full well, something the new people here can never grasp–but, we know.
I will draw this paper to a close at this point, though I have a lot more to say and may write several others. I am distributing this paper to whomever might want to read it. I understand that this act alone could lead to my disfellowshipment. It will certainly lead to further ostracism. I understand that I could go quietly, but this didn’t seem right to me, to slip out the back door, another casualty to a system that doesn’t work, presenting my viewpoint and gripes later through the mail as so many others do. I feel as if our church is wrong enough that it has to be dealt with directly. This may also do good. I see how I also lend complicity to the plot by playing along in silence. This helps to lock others in (the dissenter will feel he is the only crazy one because no one else is saying anything). It also helps confuse the new people and give them a mixed message about Christ. They see the inner circle, the older ones playing along, so Christ must be this way then. We are collectively, from the top on down, presenting a false image of Christ. We are, as a church “misrepresenting God.”
I am open to questions. But, can we talk about something else besides “my spirit” and “my own basic problem” and other such blocking moves designed to take me down a useless avenue and off the subject?
It’s time to move beyond that and speak to one another on the level, as adults.
August 15, 1993.
Read the next (and last) section of this journal here: Leaving The Church Of Bible Understanding.