1993, 04/05. The False Promise of the Fellowship.

Monday, April 5 at Red Hook

Woke up around 2 in the afternoon. I’m feeling sick today, just wiped out. I got a workover from Shiffon when I was on the phone with her. She was asking me whether my conscience was clear about not coming in to work today. I’m supposed to work at the French Connection this evening.

I’m sitting outside in a van to get some fresh air. I’m immobilized and can’t go anywhere. It’s warm outside. April weather. I’m enjoying the sunlight, the powder blue sky, a mockingbird singing – things I have forgotten.

One of the values of being wiped out is that I can’t do anything. Often when I am not doing anything (not doing a requirement, that is), I feel I have to be doing something. But now, I don’t feel I have to be doing something. This is what I am supposed to do, just sit here. I can barely keep my eyes open. I am listening to bird songs.

I am always waiting for the mineshaft to cave in. That is one of the terms that characterizes my life. Some situation is going to bring the whole thing down on my head. I waste an inordinate amount of mental energy on this worry. I wish I could get away for a year or so, to live a farm or something. Today’s incident to worry about is being sick, and whether I will be punished or there will be an inquisition.

[I wondered if anyone would believe I was really sick, and if I would be called to account over it. A sister already had not trusted me and had asked if my conscience was clear about not coming in for work.]

I told Paul over the phone I wasn’t coming in to work. I could tell within the first few seconds of the call that he was resigned to it and was accepting it, although he didn’t immediately say so. (He even said I should come in and work anyway even though he didn’t doubt I was sick.) Then he just agreed with it, though even after that, I felt an emotional tug like I had to say something, but it wasn’t necessary.

I can see some guy walking up the street. (At first I thought it was a brother. He even looked like me a little, when I was 25-30 years old.) It made me think about how I was once in the prime of my life, and that I spent my 20’s and the first half of my 30’s here in the church. (I’ll be 36 in a few days.) Basically, it has all been a waste. I could have been a good husband and father. Somehow, I was caught up in other directives and plans and was never “ready” or good enough to get married and start a family. Now these prime years are over, years when I had more life and would have been more directly interested in children and would had the energy to take care of them. You might say I gave that strength to an organization that takes all and gives nothing back.

If I had gotten married and started a family instead, I might have been idealistic, but I would have been much more real as well. This strange bachelor life, always waiting until I am good enough or until something happens. Somehow “they” can’t stop anybody from getting married, but for sure, nobody is going to get married here unless “they” let you. Okay, I better not leave the church now because things might get better, and brothers and sisters might finally be able to get married and then I’ll regret leaving – just like back then, there were always reasons not to leave. But when I’m 40, will I look back to now and think the same things, including the idea of what was I waiting for, and why didn’t I just do what I wanted; that there was nothing to fear?

This causes me to think about the false promise of the fellowship. The whole thing is based on a false promise. When really, it robs you. It robs you, with its hands in your pockets, but you must stand still because it’s your “best friend” and is only looking out for your good. Why don’t you turn around and kill it? In fact it assaults you, completely immobilizes you, drains you – but you must say your problem comes from another quarter. In the end, it will have robbed me of my life and I will see that during all this time, I was afraid to leave it because it contained something so necessary to me that I couldn’t live without it.

We are the exclusive church. Stewart says that “What you learn here, you won’t hear anywhere else.” Even new brothers say things like, “Or do you want to leave here and try to find an easier way to follow Christ?” We are the best way, but we are so full of trash – both physically and spiritually. This is all just a load of blind, self-flattering arrogance. It feels so good to be in the best group – even if that group is killing you.

Stewart says that next Sunday is going to be a good meeting. Really good. What is all of this? Our sleepy pastor and this group of 200 mangey dogs. (Erasmus told me yesterday that Stewart looked tired.) What is a “really good meeting?” A beating of the older brothers, a couple of terrorism-categorization sessions, which everybody will say was really good, and some unique revelation from the Bible, something that really doesn’t mean too much when you really think of it – another fantastic Bible study. Really, it is something that was shallow and empty, which everybody will also say “it was really good.” And there will be the resulting slogan that everybody will run around saying this week, neatly forgetting last week’s slogan, and all the previous slogans.

Nobody seems to notice how it is the same thing over and over again, the same carrot on a string, the same empty promise, the same snake-oil tricks. Nobody notices that we are not getting anywhere, even though Stewart portrays us as being the best church in the world and that he is the best Bible teacher. Yes, God is doing wonderful things with us! Nobody but the newest ones (who are new to this) has any kind of enthusiasm or idealism. The sisters (they are the last unmarried remnant) quietly waiting for death or Jesus’s return with their prayer shawls over their heads and their Jesus posters and Christian books on their desks. The older brothers are the grist for the mill and the middle brothers just haven’t learned yet. They are still struggling and bouncing.

Nobody ever breaks the silence and says, “Hey, this isn’t working!” (Except when it’s time for Stewart to get the older brothers, then things like that are needed for evidence.) Otherwise, it’s quite unfashionable to be a naysayer, showing a lack of faith (in God and/or in Stewart) and in the “wonderful things God is doing.” Besides, Stewart always has another rabbit to pull out of his hat, something, a new trick, a new plan to save the day. He always has.

I remember how Stewart always said, “There are only so many tricks I can come up with.” In other words, he was urging us not to rely on his tricks. But he always came up with one. We were so dependent on it and addicted to it. So was he, I guess, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. We have a long history of expecting this. Stewart is our guru. We all encircle him, waiting for the latest revelation from God. But really, he is all fizzled out and none of us want to face that.

How can the eternal fountain run dry? In order to face that, we would have to face the falsehood of this entire life here – which is probably too much to face. Better to hold on and wait for another revelation, just one more.

How can Stewart be positive and growing, when he relies on repressive teachings? These teachings only go so far and then fold back on themselves. No one really gets anything out of being here. Most realize this after a while, most leave. Those who stay help the charade to go on, reinforcing each other in it.

I don’t see God helping me. Where do these thoughts (such as the above) come from? I don’t know.

Read the next section of the journals here: Looking At Women.


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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