1993, 03/31. We Should Be Up Front With The New People About What We’re Bringing Them To.
Wednesday, March 31
“We are here to do God’s will – not to do our own will.” Well, I just have suspicions as to just what this “God’s will” really is. (The above was a comment I heard a brother say at last night’s meeting. The meetings are pointless and useless. I will and intend to skip as many as possible, to preserve my sanity. And also to be able to get to work on time. (It is now 12:20 p.m. and I’m at the bus stop on Conover Street.)
[I was getting a late start on my workday because we were up late in a meeting last night.]
Well, I have a lot on my mind. So, I figured I would commit these thoughts to writing, since I don’t just want to go on and on “raving.” What’s the point of that if I can’t remember what I was thinking about later? I don’t have my tape recorder, which at this point I would prefer. I think many of these points on my mind are valid, though I’m not supposed to think so. Instead, I’m supposed to believe that whatever is going on in my mind is either: not real, the devil, the flesh or that I’m making excuses or that I’m just fighting for what I want. I would like to at least identify some of it: I have been doing a lot of thinking about the three spheres of life and how I think the arrangement here is not fair and how I’m set up to be a victim. That I’m highly controlled by the church (really by Stewart, I guess) to the point where I don’t even express my true self or desires. It’s all just a matter of doing the program or not and receiving the consequences of complying or not.
I have been thinking about legal recourse in my situation, if I were to be thrown out. Why is it that when anyone leaves, they always go out raging? (Except for the silent losers who can’t control their sexual impulses, in which case they remove themselves quietly, though sometimes you hear from them later on the subject.) Why can no one present a calm rational case for themselves, their situation, or for leaving? It’s always this instead and when someone presses them, they fume with rage and are unreasonable.
Or are we the ones who are unreasonable? Do people get backed into an impasse where there is no other recourse other than to break down the retaining wall behind them and break out? I suppose this is because there must be “no compromise” in matters concerning God’s will? In these matters, we don’t have to treat people as people? Someone can explain exactly what is bothering them, in no uncertain terms, only to be met with blank stares or questions of “Is this the real issue?” or, “Isn’t (this or that) the real issue?” To live here, we must do this denial of reality. Nothing really bothers us – even if it’s killing us! The others, even if they secretly sympathize, are not authorized to agree. The “real issue” must apply and you will be talked to accordingly.
Well, I’m out of the bus now, waiting for transfer. I need something to calm me down today, to help me along. Will I remain in this spirit? (That doesn’t mean I don’t believe what I am saying.) But, it’s more like, I wonder how much of this I can take. I do want to think about these things rationally, but it seems like there is no middle ground- you either accept these things calmly or die.
[We either calmly accept the church teaching, and its diagnosis of what is wrong with us and the cure it proposes to offer, and its plans for our lives – or you die. If we do not accept it, according to Stewart, we will live a miserable life now, and an even more miserable life in hell for eternity.]
Now eating in El Castillo Restaurant with Henry [a new convert]. I called in [to report my whereabouts to the office] and “talked” with Becky a little on the phone. Instead of being overly businesslike, I was pausing a bit, not being so fast and abrupt. But, so what? Sometimes I think, maybe I love Becky. Maybe I shouldn’t be so abrupt and cut her off. Not that there was really anything to cut off anyway, but leaving a channel open? But, you see, I really do look at being able to have a relationship or to get married here as a hopeless situation. We are hearing a lot from Stewart about “the answers are not in you” and about our problem with looking at things from a human point of view. But there is also my own cumulative experience.
I talked with Henry, maybe being a little bit too risky, about problems real and perceived.
[I was being open with Henry, taking too many risks by talking honestly about the way things really worked in COBU, in response to his asking me about it and his own comments on life there as a new convert.]
I fear that Henry will repeat some of my words to the other brothers. Also, am I really coming from helping him, or venting my own frustration? Telling him the party lines is not necessarily the change I need to make in order to help him (so that he gets the same message from all persons and from all angles).
[The “new disciples” were only supposed to get one version of the “facts” from everyone, and that is whatever the official church lines and directives were. I didn’t think that just telling Henry the same proper lines was helpful. He was a real person, with real problems and questions. Taking part in presenting a unified front so he didn’t feel confused was not going to do him any good. It might work in the short term, though.
I also feared what might happen to me if Henry were to repeat some of the non-official things I said to him. For example, if I said, “Being in fellowship is a good way to follow Christ, but you do not have to be here to follow Christ. You can also follow him somewhere else.” If he repeated that to someone else, with my name on it, “Jim LaRue said…,” I would be in severe trouble.
Stewart’s teachings were aimed at keeping people in fear and on edge at all times, and the communal way of life, which involved giving up our own desires and claims on our own life or time, was touted as the only way to receive Christian training, which in turn was the only way to get to heaven. (Ironically, in this communal life, people were kept on the defense and wary of one another, and as a result, we could not trust anyone.)
If I had lightened up even to a minor degree from that viewpoint (which had to be expressed in the exact wording of Stewart’s teachings, and not in my own words), for example, if I told Henry that not all Christians have lived this way, now or in the past, and that if he left here, it didn’t mean he was guaranteed to go to hell. If he mentioned to someone that I said that, my retribution would be swift and to the point at the next meeting, if a meeting was not called at that very moment to deal with me!
It is hard to describe to someone who was not there why I would be afraid of this. One reason is that I had nowhere to go, or didn’t think I did, and I was still unsure if I would leave. And if I did leave, I wanted to arrange it, rather than being tossed out the door at 2 in the morning during a nighttime grilling session.
Even if that didn’t happen, I would surely be hounded and harrassed by every member of the church, many times a day, who would be saying just one or two carefully worded lines to me, which had been dictated by Stewart Traill. (They would be careful not to say their own words, so that they would not be coming from their own thoughts, but instead from the “truth.”) The Stewart would tell them to say to me might be, “So, Jim LaRue, are you still making a pact with the devil to murder the new disciples?” Or, “When are you going to put self to death and stop counting yourself better than all your brothers and sisters?”
Charges like these were never proven, they were just assumed. If I said I was not doing this, the question would simply be repeated louder and more forcefully. At this time, more than ever, I wanted to attract no attention to myself, because I needed to sort things out. (But I could not avoid telling the truth to the new people, because I knew what they were being subject to and how we, the church, were deceiving them.)
If I was hounded to death at some meeting all of this might come out. Not so much that I was thinking of leaving, but why I was thinking of leaving. I doubted not only the teachings of the leader, but also his truthfulness and integrity, which is something that could not be tolerated there. I began to believe other things about God and Christianity, such as that it was not necessary for me to be in COBU in order to be saved, nor was it necessary for me to follow Traillism (although that is not an officially recognized name for it). Even Traill didn’t follow Traillism. He just reaped the benefits of others living that way, financially especially, but he was also able to have access (of varying kinds) to many young women.]
I went to the library near Grand Army Plaza. Took out some books about time management and a Greek course. Today was the first day I tried to learn about church and legal issues. The librarian said to try the social sciences department. I want to find out about this. I can’t bear the overwhelming pressures that are on my mind that grind upon me every day.
(Later, I was listening to music on the radio. Images of the church office came to my mind, I guess representing a place where I extremely wear a front when I’m around everyone. Probably this is both required of me and I also zealously rush forward to fulfill this requirement which is expected of me. I’m eager to fill my role. How did I get that way?)
As far as those time management books, I just skimmed them. They’re really just pop psychology. Set goals according to your abilities and what you want out of life. Good basic principles, but nothing new. A good point one of the books made was that you either plan for your future, or your future will end up controlling you. A brief list of my goals and desires are listed in the back of this tome.
I talked with Peter about the idea of telling people up front what it’s like here. He thought it was a good idea. I think from now on, I’ll tell people we meet about what it’s really like here. If they still want to come to stay with us, okay. If not, okay. For the average middle class person, probably the best thing to tell them is that we run a kind of homeless shelter and that it wouldn’t be very good for them to live here. But, I could tell them about Jesus without any strings attached. After meeting the Russian today, I realized how it’s true that my contact with “outsiders” is usually the dual choice of soliciting potential customers for Christian Brothers or looking for and talking to potential converts. This I want to change. I want to talk to people for people – whatever develops is what develops.
[At that time, I was reading books about cults. One of these books explained that cult members’ contacts with people outside their group are usually only for the purpose of gathering new converts or making money for their group, and this was certainly true of us in the Church of Bible Understanding.]
Read the next section of the journals here: Putting An End to All Relationships (Forbidding Marriage).