1993, 04/06. Looking At Women

April 6

I’m aking a flyering team to Park Slope. I don’t know, I guess it fills the time. I decided to mail that letter to Mom. It’s a big step for me, but I think I’ll be glad I did it. That dream about the storm and the clearing helps some. Maybe a sign that the “heavens” will be glad I did it – or that at least they will not be angry.

About the death of communal sects. It appears that I’m the only one here who knows about this subject. And there is nobody I can talk to about it, because of the dogmatism and the absolutist mentality here. Of course, I’m just an attacker and another one of those foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Stewart people who have lost their minds and nothing more can be done to help them. (What about breaking the hold of the milieu on our minds by introducing outside material?)

I’m sitting on a stoop in Park Slope now. I just got out of the library and I have not met up with the flyering team yet. I’m taking a few free moments. It’s definitely April weather; cool, breezy, hazy clouds. Not quite warm, but thoroughly acceptable. I love it. I’ve got “wanderlust” but there is really no place to go to, but I’ll try to enjoy the outdoor ambiance as much as possible. Time to start walking.

Sitting on the steps now with a new disciple named SalI’m not doing much actual work today, but I’ve decided not to worry about it. Why? Because today I have the flyering team, so I’m tied up, though it was a necessary task because nobody else was available and we are bombing Park Slope with flyers. I could be guarding or driving today, in which case I probably wouldn’t close any jobs either.

I was looking at some women today. I just wish I had my own woman. I saw some pretty Chinese girls across the street. I’m not supposed to be looking at them. Yes, a woman can really be a thing of beauty.

[Looking at women was considered to be “the lust of the eyes.” In COBU, any attractions for females was almost always spoken of in the basest terms possible.]

When I called in to the office, I talked to Becky briefly on the phone. I sensed that she was lingering on the phone (and I guess I was as well). Yet, of course, “radio silence” cannot and will not be broken. One must stretch the official contacts as far as possible and maybe what gets said is what is communicated in the silences and in the act of extending the transaction as long as possible without being too obvious about it.

But, how can I say this for sure? This is only speculation on my part, and it can easily be denied by both sides, although I know – or I think I know – that something more is being said and done during the call besides finding out if I got any messages. But, it’s so limited. I can’t remind her of that talk we had last time or continue talking about what we talked about last time or make any plans with her.

What would it be like to say, “Oh, honey, remember that beautiful long pause we had before you hung up last time? And how we drew the messages out much longer than was necessary, and you kept checking to see if there was anything else?” Obviously, that is ridiculous. Yet, I think this is just what is going on. I noticed a friendly tone in her voice and sensed her interest in me, that she was keeping certain lines of communication open, but not daring to go any further. She would even turn on me and put me down if necessary to keep the illusion that nothing more is going on. The feeling was that she was saying, “Could you say more? I can’t give any guarantee how I’ll respond, but a line is in the water with a worm attached.”

So, what do I do next? I feel like I have to wait for further developments to take place in the church first before there can be any relationships, but this may be wrong and is possibly that “false wisdom” of expediency that I have. It seems wise, but I’m just allowing myself to be a prisoner. I can’t explain this better, but it certainly is not true wisdom or God’s way, but an “East German” [1] way of handling it and trying to get things. But the falseness of this way will be revealed once the oppressive regime dies and the ones who lived this way will be seen as liars and taking advantage of the system, even though it looked so wise at the time, to them anyway. But it did not look wise to the more perceptive or brave ones who chose to suffer instead.

[1] In East Germany, under communist control, professional people such as doctors were allowed to have their practices, under the condition that they spied on and informed on their patients. The result of this choice was twofold. They got to be doctors, and many people suffered persecution and even death as a result. However, under the circumstances, it appeared to be an expedient tradeoff. How else could they become doctors, both to help people and to have the better standard of living that resulted?

As long as the communist regime continued in existence, they were safe and their reasons justified. Once the regime collapsed and the truth about their behavior came out, they no longer seemed to be wise people, but were now seen as worthless traitors by the people they informed on and also by the people who could also have become professionals under those conditions, but chose not to.

I was saying that as long as the COBU system remained in place, certain choices, made in the light of how life was lived there, appeared to be wise, but when these choices were judged by the standards of a free society (or when COBU folded), they would no longer seem like expedient choices, but instead, cowardly decisions. I was going along with the COBU way of dealing with my interest in a sister, and I was realizing that my way of working within the bounds and prohibitions of the COBU system would come back on me in the end, even though this choice it seemed like the only possible decision I could make in order to have a reasonably good life at the time, under these circumstances. I was acknowledging that there was some other life than COBU and that I would regret living according to these norms at some future time.]

It’s done. I put the letter to my mother in the mail. It wasn’t that hard to do and I didn’t have the wrangling over conscience I thought I might have.

I’m now sitting in my room. I can’t seem to do anything (except copy a Portuguese course). Reading seems like a distraction. Sometimes the best thing to do is to just to sit and think. I never have been as broken as I am now. That is, with respect to our church and with respect to whether Stewart is for real or not. I don’t know if I’m going to make any immediate moves, I don’t know if I can.

I figure if I have come to this point, that I must speak up about how I don’t believe this way is real – but that might only land me out on the street. In fact, I might put up quite a show and flurry of activity in order to cover myself, so I don’t get thrown while I’m thinking about what I’m going to do. I know the “why,” but I don’t know the how, when, or where of what I’m going to do next. Probably I will lay low for a good while. But this doesn’t necessarily mean a retreat or a change of mind. (Now that I think of it, I have gone through many minor attemps to give up thinking about what is wrong here, only to start thinking about it again – just refer to older diary entries where I said I was not going to do this anymore, although I always did. This time might be different.)

Maybe all I have right now is inward insulation against all the garbage and manipulation that is thrown at me here. It’s hard to believe that it is God who is leading me out of the church and not the devil. But it seems hard to believe that this heavy load is from God, as well as everything that Stewart does that looks like dirty tricks and con games. All the things I have written down and including everything in my diaries that I threw away.

[I ripped up and threw away my diaries that were not written in code, because I feared they would be found and that I would be called to account in a meeting, with my journals used as evidence against me. I kept these by my bunk, and worred that while I was out working, anyone (who was already suspicious because some brothers knew that I kept notes) could go and get them. I imagined walking into a meeting and having someone hold my journals up to see and say, “Jim, are these yours?”]

It’s now 8 p.m. I’m in Red Hook. Out of what really amounted to the fear of man, I called to see if there was a van at the office that somebody could drive over here so we could go sweeping. What I gave is what I got. I got a nice “recommendation” that we go sweeping around here, to the projects! I could hear Diane in the background, cheerfully recommending it. She was saying she used to go there all the time, back in the storefront days. George said, “It’s really good. There are a  lot of young people – people just like us.” I’m glad I withheld my internal comments.

1 a.m. Paul is talking to me about my confession at last Sunday’s meeting that was an obvious attempt at just getting by. So, again, will this lead to the mine-shaft disaster, or was it noted by our beloved pastor and will he bring it up on Sunday? (Surprise!) I really am in a fragile state right now. I could go either way. I’m speaking with reference to my “membership” in the fellowship and whether or not I want it anymore.

Right now, I’m guarded in my relations with those with whom I usually let my guard down a little. This is a result of several things, including how Pete told Kevin about me last week. Also, I see a change in Paul’s attitude. (Maybe he is getting more serious about Christ, but I worry about what some actions done by professedly serious people could lead to in their zeal. Maybe Paul will betray or expose me, for my good, or because he has to do the right thing.)

When walking out of the pit here, after doing a sort of Bible study with new brothers, I distinctly heard the word “death” pronounced in my mind. A little reality break. Speaking of reality, that letter is now on the way to Mom in Florida and there is nothing any human agency can do to stop it now. I notice a touch of sarcasm in my writing tonight, but my diary is the only place where I write uncensored. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the only place where I can look back and gauge my attitudes and ideas. Any censorship, or if I have to stop and compose things properly or officially, will impede the honest flow of thoughts.

I was listening to John Hersey’s book Hiroshima on tape while driving tonight. It’s an effective way of getting an extra book in, making the most of the time. It seems a good thing to do. I plan to do more of this, while on jobs and driving.

Religious sects do not tolerate dissent. If there are dissenters, they are thrown out. How do you think this sect got started?

[COBU was started when Stewart was thrown out of, or walked out of, another church.]

Conscience, conscience, I’m thinking that much of what goes on here doesn’t agree with my conscience. I don’t believe it anymore. I don’t believe in Christian Communism.

Andrew said that one must sell everything and give up everything to be with Christ. I took issue with that. (Though, probably fortunately for me, I didn’t say anything.) Our wonderful teacher certainly hasn’t given up everything to follow Christ. Brothers say that Jesus said to do this, but really, it is our pastor who drives it, though I’m sure Jesus said these words.

Read the next section of the journals here: Death Bed Scenes. Or: Stirring Up Our Fear.


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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