1993, 05/24. Other Churches Say That We’re A Cult.

Monday, May 24

Leaving the Red Hook warehouse at 1 p.m.

When I called in to the office, I could hear Kevin in the background, wondering where I am and why I’m getting out so late. Will I be “hearing” from Kevin some more? I know I am lazy, so I guess it’s well deserved, but I know I can’t stand this treatment and will do whatever I can to avoid it. Should I find some way to cover my tracks (even by doing the right thing)? In other words, I could just leave here at 9 a.m., even if that means that I just walk around downtown Brooklyn for an hour or so. If I can’t do the right thing, I might as well look like I’m doing the right thing. Also, I could be gathering new customer leads better, so I will really have something when it comes to numbers, rather than just how many hours I’ve put in. If I just stay at the level of “those guys are terrorizing me,” I will never grow, much less enjoy myself when working, or be able to carve out my own thing or niche – and I’ll just keep setting myself up for abuse.

About as far as I will go toward admitting wrong is that by doing this, I set myself up to receive whatever follows, whether it’s right whistleblowing on their part, or heavy-handed “protesting,” or just an opportunity for somebody to have fun with me in the sense that they can say whatever they want, however they want, for as long as they want, and I must accept all of it or I am considered to be fighting and arrogant. I leave myself open for all that.

(When someone was accused by others of any “crime,” real or imaginary, when the accused person tried to defend himself in any way, it opened him up to the charge of “fighting with all the brothers,” and “being arrogant,” even if he gave sane, rational, and plausible reasons for his behavior. In an example of how behavior in COBU was a result Stewart Traill’s teachings, this concept of arrogance was laid down by Stewart during a number of meetings about arrogance.

This was soon taken up and incorporated into church members’ behavior and it became the new weapon to aim against anyone when they did not immediately and humbly agree to what they were being accused of. This removed any kind of self-defense, in the legal sense of the word, because now we could not explain our behavior.  This lead the church further down the road to irrational and mindless behavior and further removed any open forum or way to tell the truth about oneself publicly.

We were molded and manipulated into not questioning what we were told, and into responding to commands in a Pavlovian manner. This is how Stewart worked to destroy whatever fragments of a sane society still existed among us, further driving everyone into their own private worlds and fearing being ganged up on in an inquisitional manner by other church members. The irony is that Stewart also accused us of being off into our own worlds and “hiding,” rather than fully and honestly living in the light, a condition that the aforementioned behavior helped to create.)

11:30 p.m.

Just got back from sweeping with new brothers and Norman. 

(Norman was an older brother who had returned to the church after many years of backsliding and drug addiction in the “world,” who I had now made friends with.) 

Earlier in the evening, we got into an argument with guy a from the Bowery Mission. He said we are a cult, because of reports he’s heard from people who have left us and gone there. He said that we use people to work in our church business. Norman began to fight with him. The guy just assumed we’re a cult and told Norman that he was not a brother in Christ. After this, I talked to Norman alone and “leaked” a little information to him about our church, and about how we are so isolated and how we try to control people too much. I told him that we could use input from other churches.

(Norman, who returned to COBU after so many years of being away, didn’t know how much worse things had gotten here since he left. In this conversation I was explaining some of that to him. I also thought it was wrong for the man from the Bowery Mission to tell Norman he wasn’t a brother in Christ. I also wanted to explain to Norman why people in other churches said we were a cult.)

I think our isolation will be our ruin someday. The guy also said that they are going to send somebody from the Daily News and that he even might conduct an investigation on us himself, maybe even by allowing himself to get swept up to see for himself what it’s like to live with us. There certainly is a lot of weird stuff going on here and I certainly don’t believe our self-serving mythology.

So, when will the Daily News come by? I will send the newspaper clippings to Mom. Too bad any contacts with other churches or with the world will have to be so confrontational. If they are, we ask for it by being so isolationist and exclusive. We ask for it. We are so dead inside, according to the view Stewart presents about us, but we act so perfect toward outsiders, so holy and righteous! It doesn’t make sense.

(Stewart always told us that, despite our best efforts, that it was all deceit and a sham and a “wrong agreement” and that we were all going to hell.)

We shall see if Norman spreads this story around – although quite innocently – about what I told him about our church. Oh well, another thing to worry about.

A little dialog I overheard in the office: Jay asked Melanie how the sisters’ fellowship is doing. The different factions were checking each other out. She was both as evasive and as hopeful as she could be at the same time. It’s all so phony, though I guess one must say the people are sincere, if that makes any sense.

Jay also said the latest buzzword we learned from Stewart, “We are going to lose everything in this life very soon.” Melanie cheerfully agreed. The show must go on. What do the players really think in their deepest thoughts? Now we have a catch phrase to end everything and bury our heads in the sand with regarding everything in this life. Richard Wurmbrand also said things like this, about dying to our problems, but the problems he was talking about were problems from outside the church or from life in general – not as a method of dealing with problems imposed by the church. Our church forbids marriage in its roundabout way, then tells us about laying everything down in this life, thereby making and imposing a religion out of its own robberies. The people are told how to lay down and accept the church ripping them off as if it were God’s will.

We are now talking to Kevin L. [a new brother], one of the reasons being that a new brother walked off a job he was working on. Kevin B. said, “You just may be working for nothing if this new brother stole anything, because whatever we make we will have to repay the customer with.” Kevin L. replied, “That’s okay, I haven’t made anything for the last two years.” This and other things he said led to him being talked to by all the brothers. I also saw the words “Withheld – taking tips” on Kevin L.’s allowance envelope.

(What Kevin L. meant by saying that he had not made anything in the last two years was that we didn’t get paid for working.  All proceeds from work were handed in to the church and a small allowance was given to the employees in the church business.  This allowance was usually spent on a little extra food during the work day.  It was nearly impossible to save any money. 

Sometimes the new brothers would compensate for that by keeping their tips, which they felt were rightfully theirs.  Tips were supposed to be handed in as well.  This rule about tips was imposed after a new brother named Derek said he wanted to move back to New York from the church’s training center in Philadelphia, because he said you get more tips in New York.  A business meeting was held on the subject and the brothers who were at the meeting decided that all tips would be handed into the church from now on, as a way to stop the new brothers from wanting to leave the training center for a chance to get more money. 

On the same day of that meeting, two brothers and I had received a generous tip after a long day of wood floor work in a customer’s apartment.  When I called into the office to report that we were finished with the job, I gleefully added, “And the customer gave us a big tip!”  The reply on the phone was, “Haven’t you heard?  We’re not allowed to keep tips anymore.”

I tried to hold out for a few days, saying that our customer gave me this money, but the peer pressure and threats were too great, because I was accused of being a thief who was taking Jesus’s money.  And in the COBU point of view, the great thief in the Bible was Judas. I realized that it would only go on from bad to worse, as I would soon be called a “Judas,” and that would lead to me being accused of being a betrayer of Christ, as well as one who was setting a bad example to new brothers and defying the brothers’ fellowship, because “we all decided,” although really it was decided by a few brothers who were present at that meeting, while the majority did not agree with this new rule. 

But in a communal and absolutist society, there was little recourse for disagreement with decisions made. Refer to the concepts of being considered “arrogant” and “fighting for self” mentioned here and in other parts in this journal, which were aimed against anyone with ideas that were different than whatever was legislated, whether on religious or personal issues.)

Standing outside Red Hook. I can see the clouds by night. A hazy, warm night. I just wish I could go to some other planet and forget everything about this place.

May 25th

Got up early. Walked from Smith and 9th Streets into downtown Brooklyn.

All is not well. I just want to be, finally, able to have sex! Without death, without fear, but how? Be patient, God has a wife arranged for me? I can’t understand why I can’t have “my own wife” as it says in 1 Corinthians 7.

(“But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” 1 Corinthians 7:2 (RSV). This chapter was not one of the foundations of the Church of Church of Bible Understanding’s teachings or way of life. The last marriage in COBU was in 1979.

You could say that 1 Corinthians 7 is the “missing chapter” in COBU’s Bible, just as we often accused the Jews of having Isaiah 53 as the missing chapter in their Bible, because according to Christians, it is a prophecy of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.)

Sometimes I beg God for a chance, to show that my desire for sin is not the problem, but only my desire for sex. (Which I think, is a desire God gave me, a force that should be rightly handled in a marriage relationship.)

About all I can do is set this down for the record, describing what I am going through. I can read it later. I guess there is some kind of satisfaction in seeing myself as a passive observer of my own life. There is a certain dulling of the pain. There is a certain relief or escape in being able to step back and describe my life quite apart from myself, in terms that are not so much clinical as much as it is being a passive observer.

I don’t know what the day will bring. Soon I won’t be alone, unless I want to be. That helps, though I realize – contrary to the belief I’m expected to have – that “being alone” is not the problem, but the unfulfilled desire is the problem. It is worse when I am alone. I just wish I could have the real thing, the right way. I would like to have real intimacy! I just have to face it, here there is no sex and no marriage in our church, period!

(Stewart was constantly on our cases about being alone. Most cults admonish their members to not be alone. And also not to believe their independent thoughts and doubts about the organization they’re in. The goal here is to keep cult members surrounded by others as a way to reinforce the influence of the cult on their lives. The connection here about being alone and talking about marriage is that God said, regarding Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” so he made a wife for him. Stewart Traill’s way of dealing with being alone was that we should be constantly surrounded by our brothers, at every moment (bathroom breaks excepted), to not be off into our own thoughts, and we were even supposed to sleep communally.)

l also think about the Catholic priests who settle for a sterile intellectual existence (maybe occasionally relieved by the bottle and that other kind of abuse as well). But, even without that, it just seems like a sterile empty existence.

Going to go out soliciting for jobs with John O.

Read the next section of the journal here: Sex Or Salvation? (Marriage Is Not An Option.)

(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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