1993, 05/31. Second Session of Meeting. Getting Us To Say, “I Just Don’t Mind Going To Hell.”

Second session of the meeting in Philadelphia:

I will probably refrain from any critical analysis (writing) during this session. I was browsing through T.H. L. Parker’s book, Calvin during the break.

Kathryn is at the meeting today.

(Kathryn left the church and now was back at the meeting.)

The sisters are now telling us about how their sisters meeting was. They are letting us know who was who in their categories in their voting, which means we will do the same. So I can expect some kind of trouble or getting talked to. I was neither ready for this or expecting this. Obviously, I am now mentally preparing for this. I should also pray for help about this. I am assuming the worse.

We just saw who the sisters were in the top two categories in their voting, but the sisters in the third category are being required to say what the name of their category is. The fourth category is, “I’m downright trouble” and it contains Laurie and Kathryn. They weren’t required to speak. (A ray of hope.)

Then we went through the young girls’ divisions. Stewart asked us, “Is there any reason for these divisions?” Everyone hesitated, then there was a lot of, “Well, I think the reason for the divisions is…,” as if perhaps they didn’t know. But now some of the brothers and sisters are giving reasons. But I have been wondering what the point is.

There was a lot of hesitancy. Only a few spoke up. Stewart said they didn’t do too well in explaining.

Now we will hear from the brothers about our meeting. (And why the divisions are important. Some of the sisters’ answers about why their divisions were important were, so it’s clear, so there’s no mud; because sisters like to hide, etc.)

We are now on the third brothers category. The brothers who stood up to place themselves in this category were going to sit back down, but Stewart began asking questions. As for me, I’m waiting…waiting. Stewart is talking to Roger now, saying “You just don’t fear God.” Somehow I’m just not up to this, especially any extended being talked to. It could happen. I could be up there for an hour. Sometimes I think, the only safe way out is to admit to everything. This is probably my reward. God has caught me (consider that dream last week).

Roger is now on the spot. What is the point of all this? Probably I will get shot and killed, and everybody will remember how it was just last week that everybody talked to me, how I got singled out to be talked to by everyone.

Right now, Roger is the guinea pig. All of the brothers are speaking up about him. If my turn is next, everybody will have a lot of ammunition to use against me, including whatever Stewart says about me. Maybe this is God’s punishment or warning to a person like Roger, or like me.

Occasionally, I try to pray to God for help for what will come in a minute or two – but this is hard. It’s hard to think that God will help me avoid correction by Brother Stewart. I feel like I’m not even here, that I really can’t or won’t even answer like a person or think or speak clearly. I just don’t feel up to this. If called on, will probably stand there like a dead fish, hoping it ends as soon as possible. That’s probably my pride – I’m really just telling everybody to bug off by that behavior.

I hardly see any help in all of this. But of course, this is only what a person in my position would say anyway. At least I could pray for a proper attitude about all of this. I do wish something could get through to me, or something could change me or make a big (positive) change in my life. I think I live in a never-never land and it’s hard to come back to the surface for any reality testing like this and I wish I could just avoid this somehow. Probably most of my behavior in the next few minutes will come from this place.

Paul is up standing up there now. He just made his whole spiel. Chuck asked him, “Would two pins move you more?” And now, Stewart is saying that Paul has lost his mind! And that he has worked 10 years to get this way. Stewart says Paul has lost his mind because he made his whole speech without any word or sign that he is terrified of going to hell. Then Stewart said, “Good night Paul.”

Stewart says that we have hardened ourselves for so long that only terror is going to move us (he says the original thing was supposed to be fear anyway). Stewart says, “You have despised the rod my son. How long have you hardened yourself against the fear of God? How long have you heard it from me? So, if you despise the rod of God’s discipline, then you get the sword. Like in Deuteronomy, the more you harden yourself, the more you get punished. And as in Romans Chapter 1, since they didn’t see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to iniquity. Level after level, give strong drink for those who are perishing.”

This is one of those serious sessions. Stewart is really letting us have it. This is all very serious. I keep thinking of my dream.

We are trying hard to make it look like it’s not our fault. (This of course sounds like just about any page from this diary.)

I have never seen anybody get any help from these kind of sessions.

Everybody is just standing there, with Stewart commenting. This is punctuated by the occasional older brother speech. It’s like everybody is just waiting to sit back down.

Stewart: “Justification with God is not your treasureJohn O. [a former homeless person] had a lot of fear of God when he came here at first. What happened to it? Who taught him to get rid of it? Why were you voted lower neutral? Those who blandly say that they have no fear of God are signing their death warrant.”

I think the point of the whole charade is that nobody is talking and nobody is going to either. I see the older married brothers standing on the other side, silent. Nobody is going to volunteer much information.

What if all this is real? Probably in saying this, I am showing that I have lost my mind. Of course it’s all true – this, my life and its downward course, my dream. But then, I start to think this is all a sideshow. HELP! (A voice says: “Your warning.”)

(I understood this voice to be God reminding me the dream I had about going to hell, because the dream was the warning about hell that God gave me.)

Stewart: “You are showing that you probably don’t have what it takes to come out of this.”

(I can see how a person could snap under all of this. A judgement meeting. Stewart is playing with and talking about predestination and saying that we probably are predestined to hell. Could a person be pushed over the edge with this? I feel like I could, or may, just get pushed over the edge.)

Richard C. [a middle brother] is starting to snap, saying somebody has put him in a spiritual coffin. That he doesn’t trust the spirit here. (If he was even a little bit in the place I’m in – that of not trusting Stewart – he backed down from that or avoided it pretty quickly.) I wonder, does Stewart really want us to come out of it anyway? As soon as somebody “makes a speech,” Stewart comes back with, “Then why were you voted in this category?” Which puts a complete stop to whatever they say. I wonder if Rich is starting to test the boundaries and that everybody here is using him to do that. And that others would like him to go on and challenge Stewart about this (I would), taking it one step further along in what Kai Erikson, the author of Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance said, which is: “We may want somebody else, one of the fringe nuts who can be counted on to manifest odd behavior, to say the same things we are thinking deep down inside.”

Stewart has already picked up on where Rich was coming from, saying he wants nothing to do with “the sick spirit that is trying to blame me.” Rich is getting what I usually get. Stewart is starting to lash into him. Once in a while, Stewart seems slightly conciliatory. But, now he is not relenting. It’s Joe Citizen against the Relentless Law. Rich really doesn’t know what he is talking about. He can’t direct what he is saying at anything, but he just knows that he feels strange, or he just got to the point where he couldn’t take it anymore.

One of Stewart’s accusations toward Rich is that, since Rich already knows that he is losing, that he wants to make it miserable for everybody else.

(This was one of Stewart’s typical accusations toward anyone who was able to point out something wrong about him, that this person was just a sore loser who was looking to drag others down with him into his own misery.)

I wonder if Rich has, without realizing it, now become the spokesman for everybody else’s unconscious or suppressed thoughts. He is saying what they would really like to say, “I don’t like this treatment,” instead of being docile as Stewart beats him. But they wouldn’t dare say it and they definitely will not do it.

I see how Rich and people like me are fringe people. We can be counted on to test the boundaries and if foolish enough, to say what the others wouldn’t dare say. But they wouldn’t mind if somebody else said it, as they stood by silently and watched. I wonder if they even realize that. (I am probably wrong.)

(Poor Rich. He blew up. He couldn’t take it.)

As for the above, Rich was the only one who was willing to speak up.  Rich didn’t make the usual dull speech, but it was more of a reaction.

The brothers who are in other categories insist, but how are they any different than the ones in the lower categories? Shouldn’t the church rather turn to help and heal one another? (That’s probably just a bunch of religious malarky.)

Kevin and Jay are shouting. Paul is the present victim. It is so easy to shout, “Do you care!” and other one-liners, and then sit back and watch the one who is on the spot struggle.

Stewart: “Sick animals. Don’t you brothers understand that it is impossible for you to worship God?”

Stewart is now trying to induce the brothers to say, “I just don’t mind hell.” So far, nobody will repeat it. (Except for John O.) Of course, Kevin is saying, “Let’s hear it brothers” to everyone else.

Peter says, “I can’t say that.”

Stewart, “I just don’t hear you saying that ‘I just don’t mind hell.’ ”

Kevin and Vinnie, and now others, are acting as enforcers, calling on other brothers to say it. But what if somebody did say it?  If they preached, as Stewart is telling them to do, that they “like hell?” (If they said that, could they be put out of the church, condemned with their “own” words – even though Stewart pushed them into saying it? Like that time Stewart tried to make Joe say he was a child of the devil.) Stewart is putting a lot of pressure on the brothers to say it, with added pressure from other brothers.

Joe is called on. Almost imperceptibly as he stands up, I can see him shake his head no. (Kevin is trying to ensnare Joe with tricks. He says to Joe, “Is arrogance more important?” As if to say, or outright saying, that if Joe won’t confess that he prefers hell, it’s because he is arrogant.) Nobody will answer either way because they know Stewart will catch them.

Jim O. is speaking, trying to run up the middle by repeating some of the things Stewart said.

Stewart, “I don’t hear you protesting how you are purposely accepting hell.”

(We could stay here all night, for all I am concerned. Nobody will make me say it. Nobody is saying it. I don’t think they will.)

Paul is saying he is not protesting it because he doesn’t think it is true. Chuck and others are immediately in on him saying, “Have you been showing it all night?” After Stewart speaks, Paul begins to admit it.

All the brothers are doing just what I would be doing – remaining silent. Paul was stupid enough for speaking up. If I am forced, I will probably just stonewall by saying, “I’m just not able to say that,” and then repeating it endlessly. Unless of course, by the time they get to me, everybody has already done it and they’re not thrown out. Then it would seem arrogant not to do it. It would be politically correct to do it and would look like a disruption not to.

Some of the weaker ones are now giving in, such as Steve G. [A middle brother who had been there a year or two] Steve is really just mindlessly repeating after Stewart.

Stewart has just pointed out the young boys (Willie and Aaron) and now Chuck and Kevin are beating the children! Now they’re giving Aaron the same treatment. “Are you going to answer or not!” (Stewart had said we allow it, that we let these ones to set a bad example to the new brothers.

(Willie and Aaron were the children of long-term COBU members.)

Chuck is asking Aaron the same kinds of leading questions Stewart uses: “Are you being arrogant?” Chuck and Kevin are only beating on the children because Stewart got on them, and they seem too overbearing. Welcome, kids, to our meat grinder.

Stewart is lashing into everybody and most are willing also to thrash somebody else in return – just to get out from under the heat that is never too far away from them either. During the last half hour or so, I have been sitting here thinking, “This is bizarre, this is bizarre.” It’s getting even more bizarre with the kids.

I wonder if the adults are just shifting their witch hunt onto the children. Like a train out of control, or some spirit wild running in our church looking for victims. In doing this stuff to the children, I wonder, is God going to end our church very soon? Does God tolerate this? This is such a strange meeting. The bad guys are set up, who in turn, stonewall with silence. Then it makes a shift over to the children with the same, or almost the same, intensity. (I feel guilty, because I don’t stand up and say this is cruel and strange. My excuse that I would just be shunted to the side doesn’t help me any. But I know I will not say anything because I know what I would receive.)  What do the sisters think of this?

Okay, so I stand up and say something. Then what? I will find out that the sisters are all bought into this and believe everything too. Or they say they do.

(Even the mothers were not going to stand up to protect their children from this treatment, and they were not going to stand up for anyone like me defending them either.)

This in turn reminds me of last night’s dream: I was standing in a pulpit. I was a leader or an enforcer. A guy rolled on the ground in front of me. He was sick or something was wrong with him. Then on a huge video screen, flashed the words: “Give the clerical workers a break.” Then there was an image of marchers in China, like we were part of some international movement.

Then a guy standing before me was going to carry out my orders concerning this man laying on the floor. But although he was going to carry out my orders, he looked up at me knowingly, looking me directly in the eyes, like he knew. He knew I didn’t really believe this, and neither did he, though we were both going to play our roles. But, he was disdainfully letting me know that he knew.

Then somebody picked up some metal gridwork off the ground. The pattern of this gridwork seemed to represent my most inward thoughts. The idea was, I can’t deny my own inward thoughts.

Steve G. has just rescinded his confession of not minding hell (after we stopped talking to the children and went back to talking to the older brothers). Steve said he doesn’t desire hell, and is making a commitment to change.

“HELP ME, Oh My God.” Surely there is the verse that says, “When they call, I will not answer. I will laugh at their calamity,” but there is also Psalms 107. I am crying in my plight. Maybe God will help me.

(I was screaming out to God for help (not out loud) in the middle of this meeting. I realized there were verses in the Bible that say that you will call out to God and he will not help you, due to your continued disobedience, but I also realized that Psalms 107 talked about people who had fallen so far from God and were reaping the rewards of their disobedience and sin, yet when they called on God, he was there to rescue and deliver them.)

Now, Stuart R. [a middle brother] is speaking. Demographically, he is among the newest or most susceptible among us. Norman will probably leave soon. I know he doesn’t believe all of this.

Steve G. is now off the hook, so now he can “insist” with the others.

(Steve, after being so mercilessly grilled by the others, and now found to be acceptable, instead of just sitting back down and glad to be done with it all, now joined in putting pressure on all the others, because he feared that if he did not do so, his turning and repentance would not be considered genuine, unless he now getting on all the others.  Plus there is a sense of being glad for not being under the heat, under the gun. And one of the best ways to avoid the heat was to put the heat on the others, because then you were useful.)

Stewart says we are not going to have the Lord’s Supper. At this point, I was getting to where I didn’t want it, or couldn’t do it. After two hours of being dragged through the coals like this, even just by observing it, is too much. But maybe after this long session, I will be saved by the bell because nobody will want to get into me, even if I do have to stand up and make a speech. Time will tell.

Any older brother who speaks, like Roger, tries to run up the middle. They say, “My actions show that I prefer hell, but it’s not what I desire in my heart.” In other words, they are trying the wedge play. But Stewart wants them to say it – openly – that hell is just fine with them.

(These brothers said, “It’s true that my actions say that I prefer hell, but I don’t desire it and I’m making a commitment to change now.” That way they could get out from under the accusation of “what do your actions say” which Stewart presented as irrefutable proof that the person was “desiring hell,” without having to prove that their actions had shown that they desired God, which would have been impossible there anyway. And the fact that we had given up everything and we worked day and night in the church’s businesses and training the new disciples was not considered proof that we did not desire hell.)

Steve G., who is now officially released from the interrogation and pressure he was under, is standing two feet in front of Roger, staring into his eyes with a serious, urgent look. What a game. The older brothers know how to use self-control – or to play dead. They know Stewart will refute anything they say. They only go for the halfway admitting of the charge, the wedge play. I don’t think Stewart will get anything more from them.

“Come on Roger,” says Steve, “say it.” (Make the appropriate confession.) I think older brothers fear what Stewart will do to them if they say it. Will it be cause for their dismissal from the church? Also I wonder if they really believe it or could say it. Plus stonewalling is a way of defiance. We are not allowed to disagree with Stewart, but we can refuse to drink after being lead to the water.

Brothers: “Tell the truth Roger!” More words from Stewart. Bob M. holds up the picture of the Condemned Sinner in Roger’s face. Roger seems to be our test case today. The most likely to crack. This is almost like a murder trial, trying to make the defendant crack. (Since we don’t have murder here, we go down the gradations to the point where we try crimes of attitude and spirit – as Kai Erikson [the author of Wayward Puritans] wrote.)

Stewart seems to be making motions to close. Maybe not!

Stewart: “You are still not saying, ‘I don’t mind the torments of hell.’ ”

Roger: “I do mind the torments of hell.” (And so on.)

Stewart and everybody else are really goading Roger. One says, “Are you lying?” Another says, “Do you care to tell the truth?”

Stewart is now making the absolute arrogant list. (Names on the list: Roger, Norman, “The 2 Brats” (Willie and Aaron) and Rich C.) The brothers add Paul B. and Joe. They ask, “Is that true Joe?” Joe now tries the wedge play: “I have been living like I prefer hell, but I don’t intend to leave it that way.” This at least got him off the absolute arrogant list.

They’re going through the brothers now, asking, who else is on the list?

They’re getting on Roger again. It can’t just be that he is so dumbfounded that he doesn’t answer. It’s just that he is not allowed to fight.

I just wish there was a way to go down to my house justified, rather than a weird striving all week, trying to “prove” that I mean it.

(What I meant by wishing there was a “way to go down to my house justified” was from a parable that Jesus told in Luke 18:9-14, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

I wished there was a way that I could be forgiven and justified, and to go in peace, rather than trying to prove myself before the others and under Stewart’s relentless accusations. You could substitute “COBU older brother” for “tax collector” in the parable and see the difference between Jesus’s view of those who needed justification and Stewart’s view. But of course, Stewart would have said that we were the Pharisee.  But older brothers never stood up and talked in a smug and self-congratulating way about themselves like the Pharisee did in the parable. Stewart might qualify as one of those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others,” which his tone and tactics at this meeting amply demonstrated.)

After Antoine [a new brother] was saying he just doesn’t understand, there seems to be a change up. Stewart is now explaining the reason for these divisions, in a kinder voice, “As it becomes clear among us, it is necessary that there be divisions to see who is supporting it. God’s will and way is crystal clear to us. You come out from her or stay in her. Otherwise it is a conspiracy and consciously thumbing your nose. When it becomes crystal clear that God’s justification is the only way.” (Stewart continues to say something about how there are no other ways, no other excuses.) “What is this arrogance today? It really does come down to ‘because I want to join Richard in hell.’ If it’s going to be everybody thumbing your nose, mocking Jesus’s blood – then let it be. You’re only going to escape going to hell this exact way. If there are any who do care to come out from her – but so far today, it has been nothing but a disgraceful mocking of Jesus’s blood.” (Now, Stewart is saying it’s everybody?)

Stewart: “If any want to escape hell according to God’s word. You have often heard that you’ve got to unite. The clearer it gets, the more you are able to do it. There is no excuse. It really becomes on purpose, doesn’t it?”

(This stuff starts to sound like Luther – so what’s all the turmoil? Also, Stewart seems to be, in effect, saying the whole church isn’t right with God, that we’re all in this together. He isn’t trumpeting anybody as a good example of doing the right thing, but only speaking in potentialities, saying if there is anybody who desires, then speaking of their future actions. What he is putting forth now seems so easy. Will there be a catch to it? It seems too good to be true or too easy.)

Stewart: “There will be extreme heat on these arrogant ones. We have often have divisions. This one is different. It’s crystal clear. You either value Jesus’s blood, or mock his blood, like Andrew and his tricks to serve the flesh. Does it dawn on any of you what you are doing?”

(I am starting to think, this means no more doing my interests or studying languages, and being checked up on it.)

Stewart: “We always say we have to be more serious about Jesus. How do you do it? You allow other ways. This week was the first test of divisions. All next week, you will be showing by your life what the Bible says, what life is all about, what you are all about.

“There is one narrow way and it’s good enough and if you really wanted to be saved, you’d take it. Watch these ones in the lower neutral category. They must go one way or another. Jesus said, ‘What you do, do quickly!’ Add that to your sin, you mockers!”

It looks like I was saved by the bell from having to stand up and make a speech about myself by the sheer length of this session. I was spared from being called on by anybody because I was sitting down. I heard plenty anyway.

There is an inward thought creeping into my mind. We are all on our way to becoming our own version of a David Koresh cult.

I keep having these fantasies of living very “tightly” – being in meetings, professing, never telling any of my real thoughts. It’s just not so easy to walk off from this. I am really caught in the jaws of a trap. Maybe I’ll even finally cut off communications with Mom or at least make my letters more terse. (Just putting up the walls to protect myself. And either getting rid of all my possessions, or hiding them away.) Cutting myself off from Mom because talking to her leaves these things open for questioning and doubt and puts pressure on me to leave our church. And further developing secret writing to better record my thoughts. Yet, pushing away my thoughts as a way of survival.

(You can see what effect this meeting was having on me.)

Stewart: ”There will be heat on everybody, so whatever they do, they will do quickly. Is this right?” (Everyone shouts “Yes!” loudly in unison.)

Obviously there is going to be war of some kind. A lot of heat. This is turning into a concentration camp or something.

Stewart: “The irrational animals. They are suppose to go out and get killed. We don’t need them. Let them go and get killed.”

Brothers are getting on [new brother] Steve D. now. It’s 2 o’clock in the morning. Harsh tones. What’s going on here? There is a lot of strange talk, even on Stewart’s part.

Everybody is shouting and blabbing now. This arrogant list is going to be drawn up. Heat will be put on the ones who are on it. Stewart says, “Any brother who doesn’t agree with it, speak up – it’s your privilege.” Obviously he doesn’t think there could be any opinion contrary to his that could be legitimate. Is Stewart the weirdest and most arrogant one here? I must say I have not seen him like this, or not in a long time. Like his teeth are dripping with blood.

Stewart: ”Let’s be fair, let’s hear the disagreement now.” As if he really meant “fair.” But if you don’t say anything – then you are agreeing with it. It’s a double bind. Who would be so foolish as to say anything? Can’t we get a second opinion?

Read the next section of the journal here: Post COBU Meeting Stress Disorder.

(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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