1993, 04/08. The Cost of Speaking My Mind.
Thursday, April 8
Working on the wood floors at the French Connection. 8 a.m. I just got off the phone with Mom, where I “broke the news” to her.
[I walked down the street from the job site and called her from the phone booth on the corner. I had worked all night, sanding the floors. It was now morning. She told me she had received my letter, in which I told her what it was really like for me to live in COBU.]
She wasn’t the least bit surprised. It seems she had been waiting for me to say something, but never broached the subject with me. (She offered me an opportunity to come down there and even a plane ticket if I need one, all I have to do is call her. I told her I would write her another letter so as not to leave her in the dark. I have some fear that she is going to send a deprogrammer after me.)
Really, I have been thinking these things about our church and Stewart for four years now. Why am I afraid to accept these thoughts as my own? (And act upon them. I wish I could just go somewhere for a year.) I feel relieved, I have a bit of a spring to my step.
[I wished I could go away for a year. This shows that I still considered COBU to be my “home” and thought that I needed only a temporary break from it, to go away, collect my thoughts and get some rest from the constant treadmill of work in the church businesses and the long meetings. I was worn down. Rest and vacations were not allowed there. There was no break from the relentless schedule or from what Stewart Traill called the “Jesus pressure.”]
Greg S. is confessing to me that he is a weird creature. Why does he have to be that way or stay that way? I often clearly think that really, it is Stewart who is keeping Greg – and us – this way; that it is Stewart who creates these scenarios in our minds and has the power to enforce them. I quite clearly think it. Why not own up to the things I think? Mom said to pray to God for his leading and to ask God where he wants me to be or to go next. I think I’ll try it.
By the way, as I talked to my mother, there was a sticker in the phone booth that read “Listen to your Mother(!)” (That is, Mother Mary.)
[It was a Catholic sticker about Mother Mary. It was a very interesting coincidence just the same.]
I’m trying to fathom now what it means to know I have a place to go if I want to, and whether it means I’ll just get up and go, or stay here. What kind of attitudes am I going to have from now on?
[One of the most major threats to keep me in line had been removed – the threat of being thrown out, with nowhere to go. How would that change the way I acted from then on?]
It’s good to know that my mother had been suspicious of Stewart all along and had already known some of the things I wrote to her about.
I just ran into Don A. [A new brother who had left the church.] I let my guard down with him a little, rather than towing the party line and selling the official view of life here. I told Don I thought it’s not always right the way people are treated here, but he admitted he is robbing, drinking and drugging. He also said that Milton told him that the truth is going to come out sooner or later. I would have stayed with Don for the subway ride, but I was afraid I might get robbed by him and his friend! I would have liked to talk to him a little more. I also think that I have nothing to offer him now. But when I think of it, as a church, we really don’t have anything to offer anyone anyway.
Don said, as I often hear, that I am one of the only ex-older brothers who really levels with people, who breaks it down without pointing the finger at them. Of course, this is supposed to be bad and I wouldn’t want to receive this honor “publicly.” But, this is essentially how I see myself.
[We could get in a lot of trouble if the new people said they liked us. Stewart said that this could mean nothing less than that we had cut them a break and were not driving Christian training on them. We were not supposed to be friends with the new people we brought in, we were supposed to be their trainers and employers]
I guess that should be a policy. It’s fine to talk to people, but not to former street types when I’m alone and they are in a group of two or more. If I feel the slightest threat or hesitancy, I should avoid it. I shouldn’t take it for granted that they got a little civilized when they were here, when the course of their life before (and maybe during) and after they were here has been looting, robbing and mugging. A lion tamer, though he works with lions, never should let his guard down, never go in the cage alone without others around. I’m sure they are not foolish, and that bravery and foolishness are not the same thing.
So really, what’s happening? For me, this is a time of (in)decision, a little bit of freeing up, a time of confusion, but also really just a continuation of all that has been happening until now. Really, I have seen the fork in the road for quite some time. My choice is either to branch off and follow these thoughts – or, to turn back around and be good.
[Getting back in line, towing the party line and being good was always one of the options I considered, but I could not ultimately do this.]
But, it’s a cyclical course that always take me back, sooner or later, to the same intersection or crossroads and I have to make the same decision all over again (and again). Really, it is pretty clear. I either knuckle under and profess to believe it all (but I can’t). The other choice is to leave the church, or at least speak my mind until I get told to leave, which probably wouldn’t take very much doing. And if I figure it wouldn’t take too much to get thrown out, then I figure, what kind of place is this anyway, that I would get thrown out for merely speaking my mind? My mind is really pretty much made up anyway. It really is just the when, how and where of it all. This is not so clear to me, but certainly, the groundwork has already been laid.
I might be rambling on and on, but what I’m writing about is real and I’m very familiar with it. It’s not like true argumentation is being used to convince me I am wrong, but it is merely threats that are used to keep me in a corner. I am clearly aware of that. Very little argumentation is used here that is free of threats or implied threats. Or, if I go a little further in my questioning and don’t accept the answer that has been provided, I will receive a threat. And what is not done in this way, I’m suspicious that a lot of it is sophistry.
Read the next section of the journals here: No Other Viewpoints Will Be Tolerated.