1993, 01/20. Stewart Says, We Need to Trust God to Save Us From This Sick Life. And Just What Sick Life Is He Talking About?
Wednesday, January 20.
I heard the Clinton inauguration on the way in, driving up the West Side Highway on a clear winter day. Between 34th and 41st Streets, he was sworn in. By the time I hit 42nd Street, we had a new president. I stopped at the light at 43rd Street, they began to play inaugural march music, talking about the new America and the new president. Almost appropriately, I was looking out over the Intrepid aircraft carrier museum, with planes on the deck, symbolizing America’s strength.
It’s nice to have a van with a radio. Looks like I will be getting out of wood floor work and into closing jobs.
I have a “together” feeling right now. Where it comes from, I don’t know. But often when planning things and working I feel this way.
I walked into the office and found out I was selected to degrease a floor tonight. (It had been forgotten until the last moment.) It’s not a big deal, but I have the feeling of being dumped on. It also brings out my underlying resentments and aggravations, about how I can’t say no, or assert myself. I’m part of the on tap labor force. I can’t get mad at anything. Also, I didn’t put in much time today, so I don’t have much ground to stand on. But I am always on weak ground when dealing with things pertaining to self or my own wishes or attempting to put limits on my own availability.
[There was no separation between work and home, or work and family. I had no family and I could not cite any acceptable reason for calling for an end to my work day, unless I could claim extreme tiredness from having worked many long hours already. I could have worked 8 hours already that day, and if I was called to do a job that went into the morning hours, I had no grounds to refuse. I would be seen as refusing to work. Because this work was considered to be work for “the purpose” or work for Christ, I would be seen as rebelling against Jesus and his church. So my desire to put boundaries around myself could suddenly take on eternal significance, at least in the minds of certain ones here. It would be known to everyone that I was refusing to work. It was easier to just comply in advance, because of the extreme amount of pressure that would be aimed against me if I got out of line. I just hoped for a break in the routine later or for a way to get away somewhere on my own to rest when the opportunity presented itself.]
There was a faxed message from Stewart about trusting God and his promises to get you out of this sick life. This came in the heat of my aggravation about the above. I began wondering what “sick life” Stewart was talking about. Whenever I hear such phrases, I usually imagine some general, generic view of this world and its events, crimes, etc. But I wonder what sick life Stewart means, since he doesn’t travel very far from his library and secluded enclave, except for trips to Haiti. Otherwise he lives in a self-contained little world. The only “life” that he, and we, are in day in and day out, and therefore the only life we’d need to be “saved out of,” if that were necessary, is the life in our church. And I began to seriously consider if this is the sick life he is talking about. I really do consider that the life we have here is sick, wearying and a drag. The ony way such a message could effect me in any way or inspire any hope is if it means to be saved from this. But usually if I am foolish enough to say such things openly, I am pushing for being shown the door. If not in actuality, being threatened with banishment, then having comparisons made between life in the world and life in the church, and to “love it or leave it.” It is the same thing extremist patriots tell people who say there are problems in American society.
I was considering today that life in the church was designed by God as a safe place for people to experience disappointment and to have their hopes shattered and disillusioned, without themselves having to be shattered or killed. Like a controlled experiment, rather than being left to the mercy of the same forces unchecked in the world. (But you see, life in our church is touted and sold to be the best of all possible worlds. And woe to him who says otherwise!) We ought to at least be honest then, and not sell false hope and false expectations, whether to ourselves or to the new people we bring in. I need to be saved from this sick life. And even if life in this world is sick, my day to day life and everything that affects me is in our church. I need to be saved from this. This is what makes me weary.
I had a talk with Kevin about the job. Things got pretty heated just trying to talk, because there were sisters in the office, which means there is an audience, which I was very conscious of and to which Kevin began to appeal after a short time. He told me, “Ask the others what they think.” And the scene began to go far beyond the simple settling of matters. I appealed to how Jesus said to settle the matter alone with your brother, but even then, Kevin had to say, “Oh, so you say I sinned against you?” It was a lot of confrontational talk. I think that what actually snagged Kevin was when I told him how he seemed afraid – of me. And that he was afraid of getting had if we talked alone, because I practically accused him of fearing to speak to me alone, when others around could hear me say that to him. But it seemed to me that this was the truth. But actually, things got much better when we did get together by ourselves and we were able to settle it. I see how I wasn’t willing, or not willing enough, to do the job. It didn’t seem like such a big thing now. (But, at first when the confrontation began to escalate, I had almost come to the point of refusing to do the job, period, if Kevin was going to walk away and tell me it’s my problem.) And, for Kevin, he seemed more willing to talk without confrontation or needing to defend his honor and/or vindicate himself. So, the scripture proves true and Jesus’s way is best.
I’m working at Fat Tuesdays with Mitchell. [Having to clean the floor late at night in this restaurant was the issue above.] Thoughts and visions in my head seem alarming (as in the Book of Daniel). Thoughts about Stewart and the fellowship. Briefly: why are we alone? Why are there no other pastors or guest speakers? Is this intentional on Stewart’s part? Or, do others shun him and he can’t help it? Another thing: how in some cases, Stewart uses our words against us, word for word, played back like a tape recorder to hold us. Yet other times, a brother will say something, and Stewart will say, “Did he just say _____?” That is, Stewart will interpret his words, telling us what that brother really said. Then it’s useless to say, “No, I said _____.”
[We might say just about anything at a meeting and Stewart Traill reinterpreted our words, putting words in our mouth and asking everyone present if we had just said something other than the literal words we had spoken. For example, a brother might say, “I’m striving to serve Jesus, but I could be more fully there.” Stewart would then say, “Did he just say that he is thumbing his nose at Jesus and he just does not care?” The others present took this as Stewart’s interpretation of the real meaning of the words the brother had spoken (if not the actual words themselves), and Stewart went on to prove that this was what the brother had really said. Stewart worked on the brother until he finally “admitted” that this is indeed what he really had said. Then Stewart required the brother to explain how this was true, by explaining it in his own words, so he could not say Stewart pushed him into saying it.]
About this argument with Kevin in the office. It seems that the sisters also thought Kevin was overbearing and was not acting right, and that this is a culmination of things that have beein going on with him. (How come when I see something about a brother that’s not right, what I say can be true, but when I say something is not right about Brother Stewart, I am just plain wrong no matter what?) One sister thought that I was acting wrong. Traditional bad versus good? [There were certain ones in the fellowship who were considered to be the good people, like Kevin. And I was one of the bad people.] But the more level-headed sisters or the ones who are usually in the know selected Kevin as being in the wrong. They also said the issue with the job is secondary and that the number of brothers available to do jobs is dwindling, because of confrontations like the aforementioned. Sisters always see into the heart of an issue, an angle you wouldn’t think of.
Well, what’s bothering me? On the way back from the job after it was over, I was thinking of it. The unthinkable. How to put the essence of it in concise terms? The following is an attempt to do so.
As best as I can say it, I have handed over the keys or the reins of my mind to someone else, for better or worse. I am not allowed to question this person or to make inquiry. There is punishment for doing so. This person is a rule or a measure. His thoughts and decisions are the guide for everything, for my entire life. I have entered into agreement with others to do this. Yet, at the same time it is involuntary. The question is: how do I know what is going on? How do I know Stewart is not slipping or is not out to lunch somewhere or even pulling the wool over my eyes? This is the unthinkable. Yet, it happened before. (The third question in the previous sentence shows deceit. The first two, well, according to what Stewart said, in the past, he made his errors “in all sincerity.” To question Stewart is “illegal.” And, at the time, it was unacceptable behavior for those who questioned him before.)
[I was saying that it was unthinkable to question Stewart, but I was also saying that he had been wrong before. Stewart himself admitted he had been wrong, in his “confession” at the so-called Grace Meeting, though he said that his errors had been done in “all sincerity.” Yet, despite past Stewart’s past errors, I was not allowed to question him now, but to only believe. Yet, this was exactly how things were before Stewart’s so-called repentance, because it had always been unacceptable to question Stewart’s motives or actions. Yet, Stewart said his past actions were wrong, which gave legitimacy to the people who used to question him and who had doubts about him in the past. So what, really, had changed? And I had questions about Stewart now. And it was still forbidden to question him.]
This I think, is the essence of it. It is the question, or one of the questions, that bothers me. We are not supposed to get near it – or near him. He has all his defenses up, and is well protected. (Stewart has me backed in a corner. My faults, sins and unfaithfulness are used on me to keep me there. Who can ever be good enough?) Stewart is protected, as with a 600 volt fence. Something is going on here. That he would resort to that, that he would do that.
[Something was wrong, if Stewart was using our sins, real or alleged, against us to keep us backed into a corner so we were unable to touch what he was up to. He used our sins and weaknesses on us to keep us focused on our own shortcomings as a way to keep our eyes off what he was really up to.]
We accept this situation as natural and normal. It’s such a part of life here that we almost don’t see it. It’s taken for granted. (But who could do anything?) We don’t see how it is in other churches. We don’t see other pastors. We have no point of reference or nothing to make a comparison to, to weigh and consider. We can’t say something is not right, because this is the only thing that is. To say this is not right is to say something is better, which means there is something else. This probably plays into our isolation. We can’t have a point of reference or balance. We can’t see, because this is all there is. Stewart is our standard of measure. Stewart himself. How can Stewart be compared with Stewart? (Only by comparing “before and after.”)
[Only by comparing who Stewart is now and what he is doing now, after the so called Grace Meeting where he appeared to admit wrongdoing in his past. By the very fact that Stewart had, in effect, admitted he was not infallible, I could now safely look at how he had been with us in the past and the things he had said to us in the past, with total freedom, because he himself said he had been wrong. Now I could look at the “new and improved” Stewart Traill and make comparisons. Yet, I soon found out it was business as usual with him. But once Pandora’s box had been opened, for me there was no going back. Stewart Traill had allowed me to question Stewart Traill. The locks and chains that had held me fast had been loosened.]
To compare Stewart with other pastors, which is not available in any way, would be “treason.” To compare Stewart with some arbitrary right measure of human conduct, well, for us, he himself is that measure.
You can read the next section of the journals here: Cultivating An Air Of Degeneracy. Dirty Buildings And Tired People.