1993, 03/20. Looking For A Way Out.

March 20

One would think that the sisters who live at the New Property with Stewart have all but conquered their sexual desires or attractions and longings for a man, except in the case of the occasional defector. I wonder, how does Stewart keep their minds off it, or keep them content? One of the ways is by his constant preaching of the evils of marriage.

[Stewart spoke often against “wrong marriage,” and getting married “in a wrong spirit,” that is, not having been led by Jesus into the marriage. Stewart gave dire descriptions of the results of “wrong marriage,” and how it would be better for the sisters to remain alone. He also portrayed the brothers as incapable of marrying, and that it would be better for the sisters to remain single than to get into a “wrong marriage” with one of the brothers,]

But I wonder what those women will tell themselves as they grow through their 30’s to 50’s. Maybe Stewart will keep their minds focused on their soon deaths, the shortness of life and that they could and probably will die any day now.

[One of Stewart’s teachings was “I am going to die in two seconds.” And we were supposed to focus on that and live as if this were the realest and most important issue, rather than thinking about anything we wanted to have, such as marriage.]

Is this our version of how other religious groups believe Jesus could return soon, so they sell all their possesions and don’t make any long range plans or be practical about certain matters?

Stewart will have to keep telling the sisters something to keep them going.

Dream:

Noel came up to me and said, “When are you going to start to live by faith?” I analyzed her words as if they were a verbal attack and I was going to give a defensive answer. She walked away upset and disappointed. As if she was showing that she liked me and wished I would turn, then who knows what? (Marriage.) She had a nice red dress on. Later I was looking at another sister and thinking about how she is so pretty. I began crying and was saying, “Why can’t I live by faith?”

So what, if anything, do these dreams mean? They seem to combine living by faith with sexuality. As if to say that if I start living by faith, then I can obtain this other thing, although Stewart always told us that marriage is not a proper goal of the desire to convert to living by faith. Also, when I think of living by faith, the idea comes of the complete impossibility of it. I prayed this morning. It seems impossible. I can read books about faith, I can think about faith. But an actual life of faith is another matter.

I was reading again about the Oneida Community. That place seemed very similar to ours. I don’t know what I am expecting to find by reading these kinds of books – a way out perhaps? Justification to leave? The only way I could leave is to come to the conclusion that this way is false. I would need something to break the spell or power it (or Stewart) has over me.

But maybe the advantage I seek in reading these things is the ability to cope, to be able to handle life here. Even to gain a greater understanding of how it works. And to know that this life here is not so strange, that it all has happened before.

[I was coming to understand that what was happening in COBU had happened in other places. There have been many communal religious organizations like COBU in the last 200 years in the United States, all very similar. I was beginning to find that out, for the first time.]

It’s always the communal groups that sound so much like us! A pattern I noticed about three of these groups was that their leaders decided that they were divinely inspired, then started a communal living arrangement, then dumped their first wife in favor of a new one who was chosen out of the commune and then enforced strict rules concerning marriage (or prohibited it) for their followers! Sounds familiar. So, maybe I am caught in a vast web that is bigger than me, one where the clay is mixed with the iron – good teaching mixed with bad, a mixed bag of Christianity and something else, like in part an organization that serves the needs of its leader.

Sitting in the barber shop now, hearing a summertime sounding melody on the radio. It is so beautiful. This is much of my private thinking, my wish to go away to a place like this, or at least have access to it once in a while like I used to. I stopped reading and enjoyed the song for the couple of minutes that it was playing.

[It was a smooth jazz song. I didn’t know what “smooth jazz” was at that time. As I sat there, it made me daydream about summertime when I was a kid.]

I didn’t do much work today. The fear of man index is rather high today as a result. I’ve got to enter my hours on the time sheet.

[There were no actual time sheets. I was alluding to what the Jehovah’s Witnesses had to do. I read about that group too. Time sheets was one of their ways to monitor members’ time. If I did not work much on a given day, I was afraid of being found out and called to account.]

I am fearing reprisals or questions. (Though I worked for 24 hours last Saturday. But this doesn’t matter.)

[It did not matter if I worked a long day and therefore worked a lot less hours the next day. I was still in trouble if it was found out that I was not working. Extra time on a previous day did not count. Our lives did not belong to ourselves. We had no say in the matter. There was no such thing as “our time,” or the concept of, I gave you this amount of time, now this time is mine.]

I sent Don back to the shop, as he requested. I had been tempted to keep him outside the barber shop handing out flyers, which would have been just to cover my own tracks [to look like I was working instead of getting a haircut], quite knowingly. How could I respect myself for doing that, yet I am always desperately looking for such things. But I know I am probably not going to get another chance to get a haircut in the near future. But, I am also hoping for some wood floor work tomorrow (Sunday) in order to cover my tracks, so no one can say that I have not been working. I am always waiting for someone to work me over for something. Who says I must work a six day work week all the time anyway? (What Stewart’s teachings seem to imply is that since the American way of life is wrong and I was raised wrong, that I have no right to ask for or insist on a normal balance of work and rest. Not even on the basis of pointing out that this is an unreal way of life because it is not how people in the “world” live. The idea is that we are slaves with no rights to our lives or to ourselves, although technically we serve voluntarily. But you will find out just how voluntary it is when you attempt to withdraw to any degree!

Stewart’s other teachings are woven in to complete the grand web of deception. He says that Christians don’t take vacations. That the only thing we deserve is hell anyway, so we have no right to complain. (Does that also mean we are prey to anybody’s will or whims for us?) He says that if we get anything, it’s only because the shepherd (which one, Jesus or him?) sees fit to give it to us. Also, that we are doulos – that is, slaves. I wonder if such a thing can be interpreted to any degree that a leader sees fit and his subjects are bound to whatever degree he insists upon, “because it’s in the Bible.”

[I was learning through my research about how various groups push their agendas, using Bible verses as prooftexts. But in doing this, they do not put things in balance. It is true that Jesus said “sell all you have and follow me,” and that the first Christian believers may have lived communally for a time, but Stewart talked these things up in greater proportion than the Bible talked about them, to the point that it became a distortion of Christianity. In COBU, the killing of “self” was important, as were our imminent deaths. But who were we to complain? It was there in print, in the Bible for all to see.]

The impression I get when I heard Stewart say these things was that we are going to get only whatever Stewart sees fit to give us and that he wants no back-talk, and that through this “teaching” he was laying down the law about how it’s going to be here. But, he put it in terms of what God says, so that to fight against it, it means we are fighting against “God.” But really, Stewart means himself and how he is going to be toward us, but he does it in a way in which we can’t get a handle on it, because he is not talking about himself (then it would be obvious), but instead he is talking about God.

This catches us off guard. We don’t know what is hitting us until it’s too late and we already bought it. Our questions on the matter are a tacit approval that it is legally binding.

It is as if I was bought out long ago, and there is no way of scrambling back and recapturing lost territory. I took and made a covenant that can’t be broken now. I made it knowingly. Also, there is a tremendous amount of material that can be used on me to blackmail me. And I know this and I am afraid of it, because it sure seems to work. The fact that everybody goes along with it is somehow instrumental in the accomplishment of it. Everybody else is see, hear and say no evil. I begin to wonder if it is just me who’s crazy. It’s like mass deception.

Read the next section of the journals here: Deny Your Thoughts.

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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