1993, 03/26. Perfectionism.

This section continues from yesterday, where I was trying to avoid having to do a wood floor job in a bad neighborhood, because I was afraid to go there. I tried to refuse to go to the job, saying that I’d be glad to take somebody’s place on another job, and they could go. I got put on the schedule for this job anyway, and Peter told me we had worked there the year before and it was not so bad. Now that it was appearing that it was not possible to get to the job because there weren’t enough vans to drive the workers to their locations, I was afraid everyone would think I didn’t go because I didn’t want to and that I’d get nasty workover from everyone and I hated how I lived in fear of this.

Friday, March 26

As one who claims to not go by fear of man or, to really hate it or not want it, I am probably one of the ones most into it (and is probably why I decry it so much). As far as this job, it really does look like it is not possible to do it because of the severe shortage of vans.

I was talking to Vinnie about this. (He was going to try to work out a ride, but he balked with good reason when he saw that the amount of stops involved would interfere with his own tight schedule.) I said, “Well, if I don’t go (and cited these reasons) it will really look like I’m trying to get out of it and nobody will believe me.” At that point Vinnie said, “Is it Christ – or is it man?” I know this is the problem with me. I know this is the issue and I hate how always, ever and anon, I don’t live by the fear of God instead of the fear of man.

So now, I’m not going to try too hard to get to the job. It really does look impossible anyway. But, you see, I “have to” show I’m really trying to get there, even if it gets aborted somewhere down the line and I end up sitting at the office, when my convictions (if they are true) tell me I ought to just go flyering. I mean, not that a job shouldn’t be done at all, but under these conditions, it’s possible that I may neither get to go soliciting or ever get to the job either!


A large crew of new brothers is at Red Hook this morning. Quite a few are unruly. Greg B. is going around saying he has to go to work and that he has no time for this. There is a selection of assorted thugs and troublemakers, with which we are blessed in having to “settle” – to find something for them to do. (Is it an accident that all those donated diapers are stacked in boxes in there?)

A new, or reiterated, Stewart teaching is: “If you are not obeying your brother from the heart, you are not obeying Christ.” Now, according to that, they could be doing anything to you – if you don’t obey, then you’re not obeying Christ? I will need Christ to help me survive this one! I can see why I must rely on God and have an inward life of prayer, because any individualism or individual choice or anything can be ruled against as not obeying your brother / obeying Christ.

I wonder if these are laws that Stewart makes or applies here to enforce the system. Maybe it’s really true, as this book on sects that I’m reading says, that economic and social factors are often the determining forces behind “doctrine.” (This by the way, is one of the conclusions, or questions, that I came up on my own and was subsequently validated or confirmed from another source. Or, as in the case of Frederick Douglass, who said in his autobiography that the things he read helped him to articulate the thoughts that were half formed in his mind, he but didn’t have the words to express. In his case, he was a slave who was not allowed to read. But when no one was watching, he read newspapers and books. When he came across a new word or concept, he did not dare to ask anyone, but waited till he heard this new word used and learned from the context what it meant.)

[Frederick Douglass did not know how to formulate or express the things that were on his mind, because he had no words for them. But by studying literature, he learned how to express what was on his mind. There were a lot of things here that I saw going on in the COBU that I did not have a way express or explain. But through reading about Christian history and also the history of communal religious groups in American history, I was able to find the words and concepts to explain what was happening to me in the Church of Bible Understanding. Before this, the only words and concepts that were available to explain to me what was taking place were Stewart’s words and teachings about these things.]

I just finished the job at 190th and Broadway and I’m now in the customer’s store on 160th Street to give back the keys. I did the job without any problems of violent people. I’m getting some mild and maybe not so mild chiding about this. It seems that my words had been noised about in the office the other day. Of course, I always wonder when somebody, if not me, is going to run into some real problems some time.

[I often wondered if someone would get killed or severely injured in the bad neighborhoods that we lived and worked in. But this never happened, although there were close calls. Including several close calls I had.]

We are under such tight controls here. The immediate one is a message from Stewart about overcoming our “pity suffering” by being into thankfulness. (And for sure, I’d like to have an end of unreal suffering.) But the idea is that one can be both watched over as to whether he is into “pity suffering,” and also that one’s behavior – behavior that might be legitimate – could get a label of this kind because it isn’t the standard way we do things. (In other words, the idea that everything that isn’t X, Y, or Z is some “negative label.” For example, when some brothers said they didn’t accept Stewart’s teaching that those who are born again do not sin, Stewart said that the only reason they would argue against it is because they were arguing for sin, because they wanted to sin.

[Stewart promoted the doctrine called Perfectionism for about a year, declaring that if anyone did not want to believe it, the only reason possible for not accepting it is that they wanted to be able sin. Certainly it was not because they read the Bible for themselves and realized that this is not what the Bible means when it says, “He who is born of God cannot sin.”

When Stewart introduced this doctrine, I did not believe it for about two or three days and I often found myself surrounded by groups of brothers with open Bibles trying to convince me I was wrong. I mentioned that I did not believe it when Stewart was at the meeting the next time and he put me away with, “That’s not what THIS one goes around thinking about all day!” alluding to some deep dark sin, some treachery that I must have my mind set on and was preocupied with day and night.

Ron H. raised some doubts and he got a worse treatment. Later in the meeting I saw Ron continually bobbing his head up and down in enthusiastic agreement with everything Stewart was saying. I often thought of that as “Ron’s baseball bat conversion.” Stewart avoided answering any question that was not put to him in the format agreeing with his teachings and of asking how to believe his teachings better and with more certainty.

Finally, for the time being and with doubts, I accepted this teaching after I had a dream, in which I was walking along a river bank feeling lost and there were all these angelic looking people on a hill on the other side of the river, singing nad praising God. Suddenly they saw me and began saying to one another, “Look, there he is! Talk to him!” An elderly woman wearing a white robe with a face beaming with joy and love waded across the ankle deep river, telling me, “Come… come…” (Come join us.) I thought that God had shown me in the dream to accept this new teaching, though this was never stated in the dream that I should do so.

A year later Stewart summarily announced that this teaching had been wrong, and said that we all let him get away with it and that no one had challenged him on it. A brother seated in the row in front of me who I sometimes confided my thoughts to and shown verses that explained how the Perfectionist teaching was wrong, turned around and gave me a knowing look.]

Stewart says that if one isn’t doing this or that, he’s just a cry baby. This has a powerful force in keeping us in line. Everybody makes sure their behavior shows the right things, and they’re careful not to do anything else – even if it’s something valid. I was thinking that, if marriage ever happens here, it will be subject to the same sort of restraints.

Solzhenitsyn mentioned a man who managed to avoid being sent to the communist prison camps because he didn’t even tell his wife his convictions. Solzhenitsyn was talking about the Russian ability for deceit and covering things up that amazes a Westerner who can’t fathom their steadfastness in living double or triple lives in order to survive.

I am now hiding out in the wood floor closet at the office at 46th Street. I prayed a little then I began to think about my life at various periods, including my first days in the fellowship.

I spent some time today thinking about why I’m not married and why I didn’t ever get married in the fellowship in the past. I was even thinking about things like, if I’m out alone somewhere, I could meet a girl and sit together with her on a bench  or something.

Stewart’s idea is that somehow, I’m ruined and that want nothing to do with the sisters, or that is the scenario he presents. Somehow this carries over to all women everywhere. But it’s not true. I could meet another woman, or maybe one from another church. The idea though, is that it would have to be done in complete secrecy. I would have to meet somebody “out there” while I live here and return here every night. Even the idea of marrying somebody. I don’t think I’m incapable of marrying! It is just here that I can’t get married. But I often think the time is past for leaving the fellowship and going off and marrying; that I could have done that at 25, but now I’m too fragile. I was very bound up by rules back then. (I’m not now?)

Also, if marriage is that scary – that is, what Stewart says about the prospect of wrong marriage and its consequences – yet I might get to the point where I’m able to be so brave as to pursue fornication. Then, why can’t I be brave enough to get the real thing, where it seems God would understand and be far less likely to issue some punishment for having “gone after it” the wrong way, because I should have done it the right way. Though I wonder if the so-called right way in our fellowship is a bunch of bull; that all these requirements and quixotic goals are not necessary, and that I pursue, or think I have to – or our church requires me to – pursue these unreal goals, when going ahead and getting the real thing would be easy and far more natural. We really are set to go off on a wild goose chase. One must travel to Alaska to go to Florida.

[I had to live up to all the expectations of the church first before even considering marriage, and Stewart was always all too happy to point out how far away all the brothers and sisters were from living up to these standards.]

Well, these are rather contorted writings. They are a result of being under anguish of spirit. I really see no way out of this. Things are always the same. (How many other times have I wracked my brains out over the subject of marriage and done various things, one of which was to try to start talking to Becky again. Which has been on my mind again lately.

Maybe I’m being hardhearted and too unreal, or that I am policing myself harder than the fellowship polices me. But for sure, I see that the walls are thick concrete and all the doors are barred shut. It makes me begin to think of looking elsewhere. It’s not like I’m incapable of talking to a woman. The fellowship has declared me unfit to have any real relations with women. It has declared that this declaration is binding upon my life and that it’s universally true and it says that I must fight for and obtain this holy grail first before anything can change and I waste a lot of my life trying to do this, or by living here to no purpose. It seems it would be so easy to meet and talk to a woman. (Maybe this is the beginning of the end; maybe I’m starting to realize something; maybe this church can’t satisfy all my needs and maybe I’m never going to live up to all of its standards and that I shouldn’t even try to.)

A little flight of fancy: wouldn’t it be great going out to Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope, soliciting for jobs alone, or find other ways, like going out Sunday mornings and meeting a girl and walking around with her; almost to prove I could do it, to reawaken those atrophied parts of me? Though it seems hard to believe I would be able to, or that the situation would be able to stay purely friendship – you know, just walking around with her, talking.

I could meet a woman by not being desperate, by making myself available and casually striking up conversations in various circumstances. I could stay and talk if some response develops, or walk away as if I had just given directions to some old lady if nothing occurs. I wonder if I could get to know people. I wonder if I would want to. It’s just the idea that the church – or Stewart really, though it’s also done through our society – can have that absolute of a claim on my life and behavior as to put me behind bars socially and humanly. That’s really what it is. I already do some things underground (personal interests that I don’t consider to be wrong, but want to hide from prying eyes), but I guess this would be the ultimate building of a double life. But again, I doubt and really don’t want this man’s claims upon my life and I wonder if his claims are legitimate.

I have a desire to relate to a woman on a purely man-woman basis. The only thing I can think of is, a woman I could meet in the library and be able to talk and sit with her there. Something that’s not religion and not business.

[An eye-opener for me was when I read in a book about cults that members in these groups only talk to outsiders for two purposes, either to recruit them or make money from them. After reading that, this became clear to me about us. I had never realized it before.]

You can’t do that here, have a woman of your own. To relate to her in a purely different way.

You can read the next section of these journals here: Of Writing Many Books, There Is No End.

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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