1993, 04/03. Following The Script.
(This entry comes to 20 typewritten pages. It’s a longer entry because part of it was written in a meeting, where I wrote to preserve my sanity, while appearing to take notes. Many brothers and sisters had notebooks and they took notes as Stewart was speaking, and if anyone saw me writing, they would assume I was writing Stewart’s words down.)
Saturday, April 3
I am now writing the letter to my mother. I have no difficulty in writing it. It all flows so easily. I wonder what she is going to do when she receives it. (I had dream that it is okay to do this. In the dream, there was a big thunderstorm coming, but when it was over, everything was clear and I could look up and see the sky. Later in the dream, there was a review of what I had been writing.)
I’m anticipating an attack from Kevin, waiting for the jaws of the trap to close. And hey, tomorrow is Sunday and there will be a meeting at Red Hook. Maybe they’ll wait until then to get me. Sure, this is calculations, but this is one of the purposes of my diary, to record such things.
[Stewart told us that “calculations” that is, being “into your head” with anxiety about possible future negative events, was a sin. I was using a real COBU cliché here. My “calculation” at this time was that Kevin and the others would make me one of the meeting topics.]
I’m now sitting at Middagh and Hicks Streets. I like this area. I remember flyering here.
I have begun to feel good in certain ways today, and I am, as always when this happens, wondering where this feeling comes from and why. When I try to analyze the source of it, I get, at least surfacely, the following: a “good” dream last night, and the cumulative effect of the books I have been reading, which help me to understand and to insulate myself from certain attitudes, pressures and lines of argumentation. In other words, it helps me not to be so gullible and not to believe all that goes on here, hook, line, and sinker. It’s the feeling that, as long as I’m not immediately thrown out, through studying and understanding my situation, I will be able to adjust to it better, to what most violently shakes me and tosses me about. The feeling also comes from breaking the silence and writing that letter to my mother.
I should have left here long ago. When Stewart said things like, “What is different about our church? The difference is that there’s more control here.” Or after I was threatened with disfellowshipment a year ago, I should have just left soon after anyway – through disillusionment, or malpractice or whatever.
I’m just writing. I don’t know what else to do. Prayer doesn’t offer me much. When I think about my situation, inwardly especially, I realize there is a tremendous weight on me. It is probably a combination of guilt, constant temptation, and being corralled and harassed all the time. My position as a person (the submission and being a doormat), is like the negation of all that I am or of the fact that I have any natural rights, such as the right to marriage or a right to live in a certain place or to arrange my time in a certain way, or the right to speak for myself or to make any decisions at all. Plus how the future going to be for me if this continues, let alone my perception of eternal issues. In short, I’m caught by the throat. These factors weigh on my head until they break me asunder and dash me to pieces. I am always under this strain, and really, I can’t take it.
Regarding marriage, the price is high and I can’t get married “rightly.” I wrack my brains out endlessly over this subject. I think I ought to be living a married life. A tremendous fear of marriage has been instilled within me. Stewart has told us that it’s the worse thing that could ever happen to us. Why can’t I pursue a marriage relationship and obtain one without hassle and restrictions? Just what is the great problem? Somehow marriage is infinitely intertwined with faithfulness in this church. The spotlight is on us and no one here is going to cross that line without other certain restrictions being met. It is as if I’ve got a rope around my neck.
[The spotlight is on, that is, we were being watched. Nobody was going to get married in COBU without many conditions being met first, which were not conditions the Bible places on marriage. Any brother desiring marriage would need to be seen by all the others as living a striving and overcoming life and having been doing so for quite some time.
A brother needed to be leading the entire church before he could have a wife. (“Taking the church by the hand,” as Stewart called it.) Yet at every meeting, Stewart once again brought charges against us, courtroom style. He accused us of being unfaithful to Christ and then proved it. Under these circumstances, set in the context of these rules, marriages, if they ever took place here, were going to be a long, long way off. Nobody could make the grade or live up to these standards which Stewart said were God’s standards.
I used to think that, from a practical point of view, marriage should be allowed in COBU, because how could I accomplish anything useful for the church if I was twisted up in knots from frustration? But Stewart led the sisters to believe that there was no hope for marriage, because of how bad the older brothers were, so the women would become dependent on Stewart. (Stewart told them they could not marry anyone outside of the church, because men out there did not know the truth, or at least not to the degree “we” did. And they certainly could not marry any of the older brothers.)]
What really is the problem in this church? I guess we all know it, though nobody is allowed to say it or to get away with saying it. It’s on the tip of our tongues and comes out by accident when brothers’ conversations are unguarded. I understand the essence of it, though I couldn’t say it in one sentence. To say that Stewart is screwing us, or that he makes it too hard for us may be too simplistic – but even if so, how? And I wonder why I even want to bother writing about it, since writing about it really can’t change anything.
But writing is a way to channel my frustration in some conscious way in which I don’t have to deny my own thoughts, since denying them can be harmful and it is what I’m expected to do all the time. It is also a way of writing it down so if Stewart ever admits it himself, I can say to myself, see, I knew it; my thoughts were right. We all used to talk about Stewart back in the old days like this. We all sort of “knew” what was wrong with him, but we were programmed or agreed not to say anything about it. But it would leak out sometimes, in the way brothers said things.
Well, this weekend is a “The Who Weekend” on PLJ. I’ll probably be tuning in. From time to time lately, I have been examining my college years, though not in any steady or systematic way.
[I was listening to “worldly music,” which reminded me of my life before coming to the Church of Bible Understanding. I often spent time remembering and fantasizing about my life before coming to the church, although I felt under extreme condemnation for doing this, because Jesus said that “He who sets his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.” And I was looking back to my life before getting saved and coming to COBU, when I used to be free to do things. Now I was locked up in a prison. I began to miss the life I had before I came there.]
I don’t know what else to think about or to say now. I’m sitting in a van outside of the jobsite at 450 West 57th Street, waiting for Paul and Peter to finish up and come out.
Some alternatives I’m thinking about (notice I’m not saying I’m thinking about “repentance”) is to throw myself into massive studying, even on non-essential subjects.
[Stewart always told us our real problem is that we needed to “reach repentance,” and that this is what we should be thinking about and that nothing else was the real issue.]
I realize that nobody listens to me or considers anything I say. I’m an obedient doormat and whenever I raise my head just a little, all somebody has to do is raise their voice a little and I become docile and obedient again. Sometimes I think of a big revenge, or maybe something that would make everybody take me seriously, such as writing an exposé on our church under a different name and circulating it. It would be succinct, accurate and well-written and it would also cause a lot of trouble. At some point, maybe, I would announce that I was the author.
I ought to just leave this place. But it’s also like, I don’t want to leave without doing something about it first. Whether it’s speaking my mind (good luck with having a one-on-one confrontation with Stewart, which I fantasize about and always lose, even in my fantasies), or writing something, or finding out what my legal rights are. What if I did sue the church for back wages or for abuse? But I would have to know what recourses are available. Imagine getting thrown out on the street and then trying to find out what to do. So, I would like to know ahead of time just who I could get locked up.
I would also like to make some kind of significant payback for the last four years of “emotional abuse.” To show that Stewart can’t just do this to me and get away with it; that there should and ought to be consequences; that he is not a law unto himself and that there should be someone or something he is answerable to – something that can wield power over him. Someone he can’t victimize and who he has to jump for. Someone he can’t just screw or manipulate or threaten with his words. Someone outside of his sphere of power who is not held subject to these conditions we live under, so that he can huff and puff all he wants, yet he can’t take anything away from them or do anything to them, and his power has no appreciable effect on them.
I remember all these things I have been thinking about Stewart the last four years, starting with three months after his ”confession” [in 1989, when Stewart Traill said he had been wrong about some significant things] when it began to hit me just what had been done to me and then my subsequent impressions that Stewart was taking up the ball again under a different name but under the same pretext.
Of course, I just buried all of that. It was too far over my head. Too much for me to deal with in any real way. Then there was the direct abuse Stewart channeled right at me, once he became aware that I didn’t believe everything he was saying and doing, and that I was willing to say just a little bit about it. I am fully aware of what he does to people who don’t agree with his opinions. He is very quick to deal with them.
This man is a pastor? This man is a jackass. You are not supposed to say anything like that about a “man of God,” but I know a charlatan when I see one. I’m supposed to have this phony respect for him, the damned liar. I’m just supposed to take it, sitting there as he screws me, then internalizing it or blaming myself. Really, the only reason I “decided” to be “good” was that Stewart said he was going to throw me out, and he had the power to do it. So, I was silenced with a threat. One of his essential teachings.
This time, I already have a place to go, in advance. I can face that this can and will happen to me, be ready for it. This time I will not shut up. I will really be me; who and what I really am. I want to do as much harm to him as he has done to me. I don’t care what the consequences are, I don’t give a damn. Will it sink the whole church? Let it. We are held in check to be so obedient – while we get damaged. I’m supposed to take my beating quietly, but if I try something, Stewart will cry foul. “Oh, what about the children in Haiti!” I see now that to be able to say what I really think, to any degree, I must be prepared to leave and I also must have somewhere to go.
[I rarely ever felt anger about my situation. This was one of the rare times I did and I was writing in that tone. I wonder why I didn’t get angry more often. Well, we were taught that anger is wrong and that “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.’ I experienced a lot of different emotions in COBU, such as stress, anxiety, oppression, exhaustion, fatigue and fear constantly, but rarely ever anger.]
I got hit with a request to do carpet cleaning tomorrow. I find such a request to be particularly irritating. Sure, I have not put in too many hours this week and they were not very productive hours at that. But, I just feel weird and bitter at having to “accept” this work. (Even though Joy was being very nice about asking. I’m pretty much cornered into it, since most of the regular team leaders have been busy all week and it’s not fair to make them work an extra day.
Sure, those hours which I can put on my time sheet will “cover” me a little, since my work hours have been low. (I’m always expecting Kevin or somebody to corner me about my hours, waving the time sheet in my face.) But, I’ll probably go for it, that is, I’ll “sign up” and “volunteer” for the work, mainly because of being cornered into it. Though this may help concerning the matter of the broken windshield, if it ever comes up. (My two points of defense would be, I declared $953.00 in tips on my tax return. I also volunteered to do “extra” work on Sunday, right? But this all could be shuffled off pretty quickly with the infamous line about: if you had a job in the world or if you lived on your own, you would have to pay for something you damaged.)
[This was about how I might have to pay for a broken windshield out of my meager allowance money. I could say, I received almost a thousand dollars in tips, which were all handed in to the church and that I’ve done overtime work for the church, why not take it out of those funds? The idea here being that we handed all our income into the church, so if I did occasionally damage something, damages should be paid out of the money that went to the church, not from my 30 dollars a week allowance. But even so, I might be expected to pay for it.]
If I work, I expect to get something out of it. I’m sorry, but volunteerism is over. Since everything is blow by blow, I expect payoffs if I do this work. Since I’m not compensated financially for my work, I expect to be able to get something later in exchange, and not worked over about long hours, or about the price of a windshield maybe.
[This was pure fantasy, imagining that I could draw a line in the sand and dictate any of the terms and conditions of my life in COBU and about the use of my time or my living conditions.]
I’m thinking more about leaving. Not necessarily leaving right now, but more about the how and why. I was thinking about how Raymond Franz stayed at somebody’s property after he left the Jehovah’s Witnesses. When he left, he had to leave his church-owned apartment behind, but he had a contact who put him up somewhere. I need to think of such possibilities. If I did end up in such a situation, it would be expedient to have a van in which I could easily pack my stuff and sleep in at night, if necessary (possibly parking in front of a police station for safety).
I see how I have my back against the wall and how I can be pressured into being obedient by the threat of being put out, because I have nowhere to go and I have not made any backup plans in the event this happens. I am on the edge of a cliff, where if I step forward, I’m stepping into thin air, so I am eager to stay on that ledge at all costs. But it would help to have something to step on to, considering that my church “membership” could be terminated at any time for practically any reason. (Yet we are not supposed to “think of leaving” or to make contingency plans.)
[It was considered a sin to even think about leaving the Church of Bible Understanding. It meant that we were “playing with fire” and “looking back to this world.” So I had this dilemma of knowing that I could get thrown out of the church (and of having been threatened with that), yet it was a considered a sin to make advance preparations for that possibility. Prohibitions like these were internalized, meaning that they were part of me, and made it hard to be practical about my situation, because of all the worries and fears just knowing I was thinking about leaving the church caused me.]
Thinking in concrete terms about leaving, just what would I take with me, what would I leave behind and why? It would depend a lot of ease of transport and also “cost effectiveness.” For example, if I were to go to Florida, I would leave my basic clothing items behind. It would be easy to replace them for about $50. But if I were to go to Denny’s apartment, then it might be good to take them. Why? Because although it wouldn’t cost much to rebuy them, that $50 might mean the difference between “life and death,” between putting a down payment on an apartment or going into the street. In other words, if living conditions are in a state of uncertainty, then I have to consider money. If there is greater security in the location, like Mom’s place, then I can be relatively sure I won’t need emergency cash and can probably afford to travel more lightly or take other possessions with me instead of clothing.
I could take precious little with me. Though of course, I would like to take all of my belongings. I’m considering condensing things now, like throwing out books I’ll probably never read again, though I wish I didn’t have to do that, and maybe I’ll make a secondary storage area for things that could just be left there and forgotten in an emergency. Things that I wouldn’t be trying to come back and get later, after I left the church. I would like to spare myself the whole process of trying to come back and get things. When I go, I want to be gone. At that time, I’ll have more important things to think about, like getting my present situation together, rather than thinking about coming back here to get things. It’a better to try to take what is important on the first shot. (Maybe divide into three categories: 1) important 2) replaceable (even though I want such things) 3) can just be forgotten.
[Brothers and sisters trying to come back and get things after they left the church was a common occurrence. I wanted to be spared the nasty workover such ones usually received, such as having to beg to be let in to get their things, or even having to call the police the retrieve their belongings. If I went, I just wanted to go and be done with it. I never wanted to come back, in that case.]
I have not been looking at the writing on the wall. Funny, it seems I should have seen it long ago.
While cleaning a carpet, I listened to a tape from a meeting on August 27, 1989.
[It was a recording of Stewart telling us about how those who are “born of God do not sin,” in which he told us that if we still sinned, in any way, it meant we were not born again. Stewart claimed to be born again, which implied that whatever he did was not a sin.].
Among other things, what I was so afraid of, about this “kill your flesh” and “we must suffer” stuff that Stewart was telling us? While listening to the tape, I could hear the general hesitancy on the part of all the older brothers to Stewart’s wonderful revelations about being born again, and how it would make us unable to sin. They certainly weren’t jumping for joy over it and nobody was asking any intelligent questions or any kind of questions at all, but certainly nobody wanted to be one of the bad people.
[The brothers didn’t want to appear unhappy about what Stewart was telling us, because they would be singled out for abuse for doubting our Great Teacher. Their doubting would be considered “fighting against the truth,” that they were an enemy of God and that their doubting could only be motivated by trying to find away to avoid loving and serving the truth. It was better to look happy, even if there were long pauses after Stewart spoke, until someone finally said something enthusiastic, then all chimed in with the same enthusiastic response. On the tape, I could hear the long pauses that came first, and I understood it mean that the brothers were thinking something else.]
There was also a part on the tape where Stewart talked about religious sects that were established for the glory of their founders (but he said it’s not that way here).
[This would suggest that Stewart may have studied the same sects I did and that he learned about their methods of control.]
On the tape, Stewart also did some dealing with the sisters. But, the overall thing was this new “message” he was giving us and the sullen reticence on the part of the brothers, who were also hiding that fact they were that way. I remember being backed in the corner and overwhelmed during these times. It was all too much for me. I was possibly also scrambling to make sure I was in the “in group” and not like these bad sisters or married brothers.
Also, Stewart said that he had been teaching wrong for all of these years and now he was laying the down the law and nobody was going to oppose him. Who could? He had the power to flatten anybody who tried and nobody else was going to help you. He had the goods on us even then. If we didn’t accept this new teaching (he implied) that we were of the flesh and wanted to live for the flesh. That was clear. It was also true that nobody was saying what they really thought and were concealing their reactions to it all. I suppose all of us had our hope pinned on Stewart (as we always had) and we were hoping and waiting for him to come through. It would be unthinkable if Stewart were still teaching wrong. What would we do then? (Plus Stewart was the one who said he had been wrong, so it was all in his hands and he was in control of the whole thing.)
This is an artificial situation, that we can’t marry. Here are single men and women. What really is stopping me from marrying? Only artificial man-made rules that have no basis in reality. I work every day, I can support somebody, even if she were to have children. I’m sane, can think straight. I guess it’s the issue of not being able to get married that is going to get me out of here. It is going to get to a point where I won’t be able to go on. (Or I’m going to become more and more open to the idea of meeting a girl “on the outside” and trying to start a relationship with her. I guess it would be someone much younger, because that’s the point where I left off. It’s hard to imagine being with a woman who has been married before or who has had many boyfriends.)
[I left the normal world at age 23 and did not develop much further as a person and certainly not in any relational or emotional way. I would feel out of my league with a woman who was my age, who had been around the block many times. And such a woman would not find me interesting anyway. I was beginning to wonder, where did I fit in the normal world? I was so out of step and different from anyone I might find outside of the church. Yet I knew I had to leave the Church of Bible Understanding and that it was inevitable. I was either going to leave by my own choice, or they were going to make me leave, because I could no longer follow the COBU way or believe in it and it was becoming obvious to everyone around me, even if I tried to cover it up.]
Or, I’m going to get into fornication, then it will be impossible for me to stay here anyway. So, either way, I am going to leave because of this issue.
I now was at the Red Hook warehouse, before our meeting with Stewart started. Only some brothers lived at Red Hook, but before the meeting started, the sisters arrived:
Here at Red Hook, I began to stare at Veronica. Maybe tonight will be the night of my disfellowshipment and I don’t especially feel mentally ready to deal with anything. I hope Veronica didn’t notice anything. I gave her a real stare and she glanced back. I don’t know, I just can’t keep this up anymore, and I can’t keep pretending to be faithful and good. Neither can I keep up the artificial life of having nothing to do with women and “waiting” until the day when I finally can. (I remember being in the church at 25, wondering if I would ever get married by 30. I figured I would, that somehow something would intervene. [I thought conditions would change in the church.] Yet, it didn’t look very probable then, just as it does not look likely now now.
And, really, what’s going to happen between now and when I’m 40? Yet, I keep hoping and hanging on. How long am I going to be able to do this? Especially when I think of what desire for a woman is and how I want this, yet can’t obtain it. And I’ve got to go on with my phony religious life; working, “helping’ the new brothers, as I slowly fall apart, following unreal goals or ideals and somebody else’s plan for my life. I also think all these things about Stewart. This has never changed. I have made resolutions to stop thinking about this sometimes, but this hasn’t helped much. The only thing that has been clear to me is that I must shut up or get thrown out, which was very effectively done to me. Stewart has power over my mind, body and conscience. He can leave me tongue twisted and unable to speak, even before I open my mouth. In fact, I was tied up a long time ago. I lost the fight a long time ago. It’s like I’m rattling my cup across the bars of my prison cell and screaming that I’m not going to take it, and he can just hose me down and shut me up.
I spend most of my time all jammed up and exploding over the lack of marriage. Where can I go to obtain a wife if I can’t get one here? Is this the only place to live in the whole universe?
A new brother walks by and says, “Hello, how are you doing?” I say, “All right.” There is an immense gap between what I say and how I think on the inside. I “left fellowship” a long time ago anyway. It’s just my body that is here. Why should I stay any longer anyway?
Declaration of Independence. If it is a declaration of independence from God, so be it.
1) I’m not interested in a God who says I can’t have anything in this life and that I can have no happiness in it.
2) I have no desire to be a machine who just works and gathers new converts.
3) If there is a God, I’m not going to find him here. If what I see here is God, I don’t want to find him anywhere. I don’t believe in Stewart and I don’t believe in his teachings. He and the church are just using me for a purpose that I’m not interested in. (Neither have thousands of other people been interested. If Stewart’s teachings are the truth, only a handful of people want to hear it and they’re all wiped out and dead. Is this a message that gives life?)
These are my genuine, most inward thoughts.
I don’t respect, believe or trust a pastor who is alone and who uses coercion, force and manipulation to keep people in line and to make them do his will. His teachings are just self-important revelations and the only way he can get people to listen to these teachings is to have a live-in church, where the people are completely under his control so he can make them listen. He isolates us from other sources and speaks against all other ways so as to magnify his own way. Nobody off this property either listens to him or takes him seriously. For anyone to take him seriously, he has to coerce them into it.
(After I have a “crash” like this, it all just comes out. This is what I really think, and it is what I had started to think about three months after Stewart’s big lying confession.)
[The transcript and audio of Stewart Traill’s “big lying confession” that I was referring to can be found here: The Grace Meeting, March 9th, 1989.]
Did I ever really change? I know I toned down a little bit. That wasn’t because I was convinced of anything, but after a series of scattered, though significant, confrontations with Stewart, plus the whole scene at 810, and other diversions, I was backed into a corner and coerced into being quiet.
We were all getting assembled together for the meeting now:
Chuck is trying to induce older brothers to sit in the front row, saying, “Besides, Brother Stewart said no sitting in the back.” (There are many things we have to do here, because “Stewart said.”) No way am I going to sit up near him. Really the reason is that I have a fear of not being albe holding it together, that I’ll leak out these things I think about him and it will be too late to cork it. This is cowardice, for sure. Expedience, maybe. Maybe after I know I have a place to go, I can speak my mind. Is it my duty to reveal myself to somebody who is just going to do me in?
Now, I’m starting to get worried about not sitting up front. Are we going to get pointed out for avoiding Stewart? Or, am I going to miss out on something good? (How would that come about anyway?) Jim O. is sitting over there, right in with the sisters. But so what? Never the twain shall meet. Ron was sitting right up front, but now I see him moving further to the rear over there, presumably to make room for somebody(?)
Sure, the Bible says to not fear man. But I just don’t want to sit near that jackass. There is always the idea that if I were in a better state of mind, or in my right mind, that I would be able to refute Stewart, or if not that, maybe deflect him or nonchalantly let something he says to me roll off my back, winning a victory in that sense. But I fear I might not be so sharp or that I might become suddenly volatile, in a blind way where I don’t see what I’m getting into, or even that God may “give me into his hands.”
John O. [a new brother] is standing up now and saying that he needs Jesus and that he needs to unite with his brothers, which has now started off the “chain of confessions.”
[More brothers are now confessing the same thing, saying it one after another.]
I feel as if I have to join in this chain or someone will call me to account that I was not proclaiming my need for Jesus. This is all very ridiculous, because nobody has their real person in what they say, especially not the older brothers. (And the sisters are completely silent. Even Stewart has told us over and over about how these confession chains are a false thing, but nobody listens to that!) Each brother’s words are like a jumble of tape recorded messages, strung together in different ways. As soon as they say one of these strings of clichés, they sit back down and most are never heard from again. Their voices sound under duress, like they have to be doing this.
We are supposed to be a church that is all about living for the truth, yet we have so many of these weird knee-jerk behaviors. Everybody knows this is false, but everybody feels constrained to do it. And the truth is, nobody is listening and they couldn’t care less about what the others are saying. There is absolutely no reaction from the rest of the crowd after each brother makes his speech.
Somebody (a new brother) asks if the sisters are thankful and they answer all at once, “Yesss!”
Everybody is yacking the latest line: “There is no hope in me.” This is a little different than the confessions. It’s a kind of calling back and forth; maybe a code, a filler. Maybe a feeling of being “in” and saying the right thing.
[At the same time, while one after the other, the brothers were making the same confession that John O. did, various brothers were punctuating the dialog with the latest line from Stewart, which was, “Well brothers, I know that there’s no hope in me,” or simply, “There’s no hope in me!” This call and response behavior was another communication layer over the main confession speeches that were taking place.]
Yes, I greatly fear an inquisitional meeting. I guess one line of defense is that I’m not the only person here. I can hide in that, in the gaps and spaces, waiting until (almost) last to make my speech. Let the others go on and on. Or let somebody else be foolish enough to speak first. I try to wait to get into the group confession near the end, when all has been heard. All the ground has been broken and everybody just wants to get it over with and doesn’t want to hear another long speech.
[Stewart now walked into our meeting. All of the behavior above had really just been how we got ourselves into the proper state of activity before Stewart arrived. The worse thing would have been to be sitting there quietly when he walked in. He would have accused us of holding back. It was best to appear to be very busy.]
Our great lord has just walked in, saying, “What should we get into?” (Obviously then, he already knows what we should get into.) Chuck as usual, said, “Check the older brothers’ fellowship and see how it is among us.“ Why does Chuck do that? Does he have somebody he wants to roast? Or is it because he just wants to make sure he said it, in case it is what Stewart is going to do; in case Stewart says, “Why didn’t you say it?”
Probably nobody is going to guess what we should get into. It is all a show. This is that hypnotic thing, where Stewart asks us for our own opinions, but these opinions don’t really matter. (Unless of course somebody says the “right thing.” Really, there is nothing anybody is going to say that is going to influence anything, though some of our answers may be solicited. We don’t choose a subject to talk about or bring our needs, wants, requests or complaints to our leader, but we come here to be told something and to be worked on. To hear a “message.”)
It’s another hypnotic review and appraisal session. These speeches the older brothers give are inane. Stewart is getting Kevin to incriminate himself by the use of scripture. (Kevin said he was more into himself than the new brothers this week and that he doesn’t know what their problems are. So Stewart made Kevin give five scriptures.) But this will not change anything for Kevin. Nobody talks for real or honestly here. I don’t think anybody wants to hear it anyway – not Stewart, not anybody. Stewart doesn’t even know what our needs are, only what our jobs are supposed to be and whether we are doing them or not.
Yes, the way this looks, it looks like we are in a screw session. This could go nuclear. I will try my usual trick of either absolute silence or waiting as long as I can.
The older brothers’ speeching-making: remember all of this is preliminary to what Stewart is going to say next and it really doesn’t matter.
It looks like we all will have to make a speech.
We are all under duress right now. Everybody has to make a speech. Nobody means what they say, but they have to do it. What will happen if they don’t? So they make an inane but safe speech. Then after that, they don’t say another word. (So then, it is obviously not very real.) Stewart just sits there. All this is just the appetizer.
There is obviously no healing or help in this and everybody knows it and they are all just laying low, hoping nothing bad comes of it. All the older brothers have to say where they are at, either way.
I made my little speech. I just want to get by.
Maybe this is the farewell meeting for me.
We decided to check each other every night. A nice trick, promising to tak action, just as a way to wrap up this part of the meeting and to get it over with.
Stewart is now using the sisters on us as a wedge. (He is taking a long time with his comments, as he leads us into the jaws of a trap.) Now we are voting for an older brothers’ council.
As far as councils and volunteering for things, I wonder if I would do better on them if I knew I had a place to go if I got thrown out for speaking my mind; that this would ease the tension. I really need to know that I have a place to go. In fact, I think this is imperative.
We all stand before Stewart and we are in great fear of him. For example: all the middle brothers are standing and confessing now, a mirror image of what we just did. Suddenly all the lines are off (though other kinds of lines are now used) and everybody is standing up and confessing their faults and unfaithfulness to Christ. Stewart really does come every week to hold a judgment.
We are all trained in this. It’s like going to the dentist, we have to go and everybody wants to get it over with as quickly as possible. Everybody also stands as an individual (which is how it will be on the real day of judgement). Everybody is concerned for themselves, but I wonder if it’s some kind of wrong training. But, who would know? What do I have to compare it with? (This ties into our isolation. What other experience or view can I grab ahold of and lift myself out of this with?) This is dreary, drippy, but somehow necessary – since Stewart puts up with it and does it so much.
What is it? In this judgement, each one is on the stand in front of everybody, who are acting as a court and a jury, and it is very effective. Not that I remember everybody else’s speech, but maybe I remember my own. We are judged against the backdrop of all the brothers and sisters. I guess you wouldn’t fight against this (unless you were new here and didn’t know how all of this works) since all your actions would be seen. But it isn’t just the others doing this to you, since others will fight or blab when Stewart is not here. But the speeches are kept short, vague, and not self-incriminating – nor self-justifying (at least the speeches made by the ones who are the most trained into this way of life).
[The ones who were most trained in this way of life were the ones who had been here the longest and knew how things worked and what to expect and what was expected of them. Newer people would try to deny the charges Stewart made against them and would justify themselves. Those who had been here longer had learned the futility of that and immediately confessed to whatever Stewart charged them with, because this was the quickest – and only – way out.]
We all know Stewart is here and he can see through anything and everything we do. The older we are, or really, the longer we have been here, the more we are aware of this and/or fear it or try to compensate for it. Only the ignorant would just “be themselves” right now. What is happening, is that we are being judged before Stewart. Though the interplay of crowd during the judging is necessary.
I am reading back over my diary in this meeting, it is somehow restful to do this. My diary is the only place where I tell the truth about myself to anybody, or write down the things I think about every day, though I don’t know if that’s what makes me feel peaceful to read it. (Maybe I could pray to Jesus based on what I write in this diary, but I don’t know if that will work or not.)
Stewart told the middle brother council members that they are supposed to get older brother advisors to help them all week. He also said that these older brothers will be ratted on at the end of the week. I wanted to be an older brother advisor at first, until I heard the last part. I’m not especially willing to be brought up at next Sunday’s meeting. (Until then, I was thinking that I wanted to be Dion’s advisor.)
I suppose I’m a coward. Then again, I figure, why subject myself to this? I just have a dread of standing up next Sunday to give an account of my performance, let alone being consistent all week. But maybe also I’m able to insulate myself from this pressure with all these books I have read, in particular the books about Jim Jones (though I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is I read in these books that is helping me right now).
Why jump at the snap of a finger? Why subject myself to abuse? Why is it important or what do I expect to get by volunteering – a reward or something? I just wonder how real all of this is and whether it’s really necessary that I do any of it. If I knew this was a Jonestown cult, then I guess I would be intensely relieved and free from the apprehension and anxiety over having to do this stuff. In other words, how do I know I’m refusing to do God’s will by refusing to do this, because, how real is all of this? Maybe I can slip and fall down and relax. Maybe my very apathy shields me from this (like what Franz [*] said), in the sense of needing to prove something to others, and that volunteering to be an advisor is not significant to me and that I didn’t lose an opportunity by not doing it. If I did it, I would just be following orders. I don’t believe it’s any better to be on a council, or that I can make any difference by being on one.
[*] The author, Raymond Franz talked about his own experiences with the same thing I was facing, and about how his apathy began to sheild him from the pressures to perform according to the expectations of the cult he was in.]
I just want to shield and guard myself. These meetings are stultifying and hypnotic.
These things always have a price tag anyway. Are they a way to help the church by helping the new brothers? When Kevin volunteers to help one of the middle brothers, Stewart says (about Kevin’s offer to help), “I could have already been doing it myself if I had cared,” and Kevin had to repeat it.
[Stewart forced Kevin to confess that if he had really cared in the first place, he would not have needed to be prompted to volunteer to help the middle brothers, because he would have already been doing it on his own inititiative. So now Kevin was being beaten over the head with his own willingness to volunteer for something.]
So, it’s always humiliating and debasing. Kevin, the big Visigoth, cowering and trembling before the jackass. Really, I hate this guy [that is, Stewart, not Kevin]. This is my uncensored thinking, although it may be extreme: “Stewart is a murderer and a killer.”
Stewart creates a whole Christian or semi / pseudo-Christian world for us, providing us with all the lingo, phrases and clichés, and the presuppositions that they are taken to mean. It’s all a load of manure.
The purpose of this whole meeting was to beat the older brothers a little bit, then to make councils and to get older brother and older sister advisors for the council members.
Shiffon volunteers to be an advisor. Stewart immediately asks the sisters what they think about her. Immediately they say no, that she should not be an advisor. (Stewart didn’t do that with any of the other sisters who volunteered.) Not that it’s wrong to say that Shiffon would not be a good advisor. Actually she is not a practical thinker and she is also a nag. But, this is a clear example of the technique Stewart uses. No way is Stewart going to say, “Shiffon, you are no good.” But, it’s clear what he meant, or he never would have said anything. It’s not that he had a doubt or wanted to check what the sisters thought, so as to be influenced by their thoughts. So, he got the sisters to do the dirty work for him (though there is a possibility the sisters could have said she would be a good advisor). Stewart put it up for them to cut Shiffon down, so it looked like they were doing it. But really, Stewart is the one who knocked her out of bounds. If he hadn’t said anything, the sisters wouldn’t have either. That is clear to me. This seems dirty to me.
Throughout the meeting, Stewart totally sets everybody up and gives them the words to say. Jim O. volunteers to be an advisor. He will be checked up next week. Stewart tells Jim to ask about that, so he can be checked up on to find out if he was not cheating, or if “I cheated again.” The words and boundaries are expressly put forth. Everybody is a puppet. Jim didn’t make an original comment, but made the one that Stewart gave him or made for him. Now he has to live up to it.
This whole thing is a joke and I don’t want any part of it. I think also of how my mind is totally formed by this junk. All the boundaries, thoughts, requirements and presuppositions. I either do it or I don’t. It’s the whole thing or nothing. We must jump through the hoops, and not choose our own course. We are totally set up before we start and we will be checked up on it next week. Stewart will see if we did it. Everybody has been set up to look forward and to check each other with respect to this. The sisters will check the brothers. In the various groups, individuals will judge each other based on this criterion. They are told what to think and what to look for. They are not to judge by any independent criteria.
Stewart lays a burden on our backs and we must struggle to carry it. If not, what are we saying about ourselves! The man does all our thinking for us. If this is too extreme to say, then at least, he makes the program for us. This is the weird stuff that goes on in meetings which I am only half aware of (maybe writing this helps me to identify it better). It’s a kind of psychological control. Stewart doesn’t really talk to anybody. He just corrects and modifies everyone’s speeches. Then they repeat Stewart’s words back as if they were their own. Nobody talks to him and he doesn’t really talk to anybody. He just rearranges them psychologically. It really is hypnotic. People are so afraid, or indebted to him. They just repeat what he says. Or modify their words in mid-course when he readjusts their words while they are still speaking. But I wouldn’t say there was a free exchange of words or ideas. One just takes orders. It’s all very strange.
Read the next part of the journal here: The False Promise of The Fellowship.