1993, 04/09-11. No Other Viewpoints Will Be Tolerated.
Friday, April 9
My birthday. I’m 36. Still working at the French Connection. We also did work at Saint Maggie’s earlier tonight, mopping the floor (with Skylar and Paul A.). The truth is, I could care less about this work. It might have something to do with communism.
[In other words, I received no rewards or benefits from my work, other than it got me out of meetings sometimes.]
On the job I began (I don’t know how I got into it) talking to Antoine [a new brother] about tax returns and how the older brothers get to keep a quarter of their tax refund. It was a real blunder, or a potential one. This makes two times with Rocky as a listener that I was talking about this. He is sure to be an informant.
[While I was working on the floors with this new brother, I told him that we get to keep a percentage of our tax return. I probably got onto the subject because it was near April 15th. I then realized my blunder, which had not occurred to me until I was already talking about it. I had never heard of the new converts keeping a percentage of their tax returns and until now, I had never given it much thought. Rocky overheard me talking to Antoine about it and he said something to me. Only then did I realize that I might be getting myself in trouble. Brothers like Antoine had lived and worked with us for a while, yet had not been told anything about tax returns.]
Saturday, April 10
At times, I seem to be under extreme duress or mental pressure. While catching a little sleep on the job site last night, I woke up with such pressure on my mind that I thought I might literally start groaning. I have been considering options such as legal action, or what it would be like to stand my ground in a confrontation with Stewart. Everything possible would be used against me. Things that are true, to be sure.
Faye called a moment ago, about a check that Erasmus [a new brother] gave me. She beat around the bush at first, then she said, “I heard that you…” I was waiting for her to say something about Antoine and the matter of me talking to him about tax returns. I felt like saying “get to the point” in an irritated tone of voice, which may be fair warning of my reaction if anything were to be said to me about this or any other thing. Such a reaction would be used against me as “arrogant behavior.”
With regard to Stewart and whether it is right for me to do any of the things I’m thinking about: if you push people far enough, they might push back. I have been getting pushed for a long time. I might need to go outside of here for help.
Also, “It might be possible that Stewart poses a danger to society.” [This one of the things my mother wrote to me in response to the letter I wrote her.] My thoughts have been centering on the area that Stewart is arrogant and allows no questions about his conduct or teaching and that this place is like a concentration camp. The church feeds off its members.
Sunday, April 11
Waking up at the Staten Island house, after guarding there:
April half over? What? I walked out to get the van this morning at Staten Island. An April morning (with a bit of cold in it). These things are one of the few pleasures I still have in my life. I should have gotten outside earlier to enjoy the morning, but I only think of such things too late. Maybe I’m just not used to it after a long winter.
I woke up this morning thinking about how one year ago, I tried to tell Stewart four things and was threatened with being put out of the church. It may be true that most mornings I wake up with such thoughts. I realize also that if I were to tell anybody about it, I probably would get one of three responses: 1) You’re crazy, 2) You’d better watch out, 3) I have no idea what you’re talking about and/or it was nothing, no big deal. Maybe even: it never happened.
[If I ever tried to tell anyone Stewart threatened to throw me out because I ventured a few words with him, although most of the church membership were present and witnessed this, most, if not all would tell me that this never happened.]
But anyway I don’t want to think too much about it because I don’t want to trade that for the nice morning out here and I don’t think I can think about both at the same time.
I find myself very upset today. While reading Augustine’s book Nature and Grace, I’m thinking about Stewart, about his use of false argumentation and about my need for reality testing, etc.
We went to pick up Bob D.’s mother, near the area of Dad’s birthplace. But, I’m really not sure what town he was from. It was so long ago that I went there to visit. Some day I would like to go around this area and find the street and the house where he grew up, maybe even ask people is they knew him or his family.
[I finally did research my father’s family after I left COBU. I also memorized Bob’s mother’s phone number as I watched over his shoulder as he dialed it in a phone booth. I can still remember this number today. I kept the phone numbers and addresses of church members’ families. In case they ever left, I might be able to help locate them and help them come back to the church. When I was in the mail room, I used to look at the return addresses on envelopes and write the addresses down. I had about five different family members’ addresses for Greg B., thinking that if Greg ever left COBU, I could help locate him and help bring him back.]
I have a nostalgic feeling when I am in this area, although I have never lived here. These are the streets Dad used to drive down, the places he saw. Sometimes I imagine seeing through his eyes, when he was in his teens, riding around in a car, going places with his friends. It seemed he had an active life, from what little he talked about. He had friends, played sports. I guess that thinking about this is a family thing, a “roots” thing. This thinking is not theologically correct. I have the feeling I would just like to melt into the earth here, to walk around and say, “He was here.” Almost crying out, a feeling from deep inside. (It‘s probably the native village thing, the ancestral grounds, though I hardly knew my father personally. This is probably a strong feeling in human nature. I would probably never tell anybody about this.)
I have been talking to some sisters the last two days here in Staten Island (while driving to the laundromat and just now while talking to Barb) where I “inadvertently slipped” in some comments, “betraying” some of my “bad attitudes” toward our church.
[I was being a little sarcastic here. I was speaking of my honest and genuine thoughts as “slipping up and betraying my bad attitudes.” I felt a little safer now because I had somewhere to go if I got put out of the church, so I felt more at ease speaking up. Even so, no one was going to consider anything I had to say about Stewart and our way of life in COBU as legitimate observations, just wrong thoughts and wrongdoing.
I thought, why not be honest with the people I live with and talk to them about these things? They live here and are subject to it as well and are likely also suffering from it like I am. I also still naively believed and hoped that through open dialog between brothers and sisters and with Stewart, that things could be improved. Stewart was always having meetings with us about “the way things are here,” to get to the bottom of what was wrong there. So why not have free and open discussions among us, without punishing anyone for their opinions on these matters?
But Stewart’s purpose for these meetings was only to accuse us of wrongdoing and to pressure us to do things. Any problems or issues were brought into play only to the extent that they were valuable as evidence to use against us. Instead of talking about real issues, Stewart talked to us about the church businesses and accusations such as “thumbing your nose at Jesus, “cheating” and “trying to have it both ways.”]
Whether or not the sisters detected the true nature of my comments, I don’t know. But I would hardly think my words went unnoticed, though probably they didn’t comment on them since these words weren’t open or “flagrant.” I talked to the sisters about how this is not the only place where people can be saved and our view is not necessarily the only correct view of the Bible.
If I keep saying things like this, I wonder whether this, or the cumulative result of it, will come back to me at some future meeting. Whether or not these fears are justified or well-grounded, they accurately demonstrate my constant state of fear of detection and punishment, to the point to where I keep myself extremely wrapped up. Though my sudden loosening up and saying these things, though they are on the sly and far from being direct, which I guess makes them sneaky, is a result of hearing that I have a place to go if I’m thrown out. But, I admit that my approach to this “new liberality” toward saying what I think is cowardly. Could it be because I know the things I try to say are not really true?
I do notice the extreme guilty dog look anybody has when trying to speak like this, the ex-members who come around to meetings to try to talk to us about leaving. Could it be because they know they are lying? Is it because they know really they are not “right with God” and that this is really the criterion and not these things they say about our church? (But there is also a wondrous obliviousness to what is wrong here and a complete inability on the part of anyone to say anything. Why?)
Could it just be the bone-crushing force of the beating that anybody receives from Stewart when they try to say anything, the way the man can just rip your psyche out? Or is it (also) the way the man never concedes the slightest defeat or possibility of wrong? He just waits calmly, then attacks you, never even deigning to answer any question.
In any fight, whether physical or verbal, when an opponent falters, this is a great spur for the other to go on. I think Stewart has mastered the technique of complete calm in the face of any accusation, showing neither the slightest touch of pain or grief. Then he makes a sudden counterattack directed at something slanderously horrible about you, which he delivers pointedly and sharply. Then he waits. Now it’s on you, and everybody can see it. The original point you were making about him is lost and you must dutifully work to remove the stain he has placed on you.
(How might this work. I guess his accusation about you has to be true, or it wouldn’t be effective. If you can’t remove the stain, you are neutralized. If you could, you are still sidetracked. One must supplicate when approaching his throne.)
Anyway, the use of this place is somehow in Stewart’s favor. If you live here, he can just tilt the box and dump you out. If you are from somewhere else, he can always retreat into his enclave. It is effective and is difficult for anybody to come here. They have to enter our territory. Stewart certainly is not going to seek them out. If somebody is considered to be a threat to the church (or to Stewart) they simply will not be allowed in! (Unless maybe they promise to be “good,” in which case a breach of promise can be used against them.) These “victories” – or in most cases, the lack of any effective challenge, probably cements Stewart’s power and sway over us, the image of the undefeatable leader. The illusion never gets shattered, much less even challenged. He is undefeatable. Who is like him and who can fight against him? We might as well give up. Or, in the case of most here, they probably never even think of it. But the threat is always there when necessary.
A “challenge” by the way, could mean an objective and fair question. Though in Stewart’s (and our) book, there is no such thing. One either accepts the things Stewart says or he is fighting against the truth.
Besides, for somebody who doesn’t live here, how can Stewart be perceived as a threat? Most people either don’t know about him or have limited hearsay. Certainly not enough to make them want to do something about it. Even those who have more information, such as Ron Enroth, what? Do you think they will try to come here or even contact him? Probably not. You think they might, because they are writing about Stewart in a book, so they might want to check information, or “warn him as a brother,” or even to avoid a libel suit. But apparently, nothing of the sort ever gets done.
And those who formerly lived here who try to say something (as opposed to coming back and saying they were wrong and that they are sorry), if they are not coming back to totally submit and surrender, well, there is plenty for Stewart to use on them. For example, he will say to them, “If you’re such a hero, why did you leave? Now you want to come back and tell me what to do?” (Not that he would have listened to them when they were here either. So now they feel bad. A classic double bind.) The idea is that Stewart has stayed and has not left the ship, as did these cowards. The fact that they left invalidates everything they have to say. The first and only thing that will be discussed is why they left the church, which, if they even did confess to under Stewart’s terms, after this acknowledgment of their tremendous guilt, what would be the point of tring to find fault with Stewart? Layer upon layer, we are woven in.
Now at COBU’s one city block sized property in Philadelphia, where Stewart lived with his wife and about 20 female helpers, and where we all went for meetings on Sundays.
Well, here I am at the “New Property.” I’m sitting outside at one of my favorite spots here by the pool fence near the pine trees. I can hear the wind whispering through pine needles. I’m looking at the little field and a patch of sky here. It’s warm, the grass is green, but as of yet there are no leaves on the trees. I can see one meager forsythia bush, which is about half way in bloom. When the sun shines, it is warm, though the wind is doing a good job of keeping the temperature cool. Patches of clouds cause direct sunlight to alternate with shade.
I’m sitting out here, hoping not to be disturbed by anyone (I’m not inside the meeting room, “helping” the new disciple brothers) and there is always the ever-present worry that Stewart will come out walking and see me, caught in the act and nowhere to hide, me sitting out on the lawn enjoying myself and the spring weather.
This is about the only relaxation I get when I come here, to sit outside and sign off. I don’t particularly care to be in there, doing my good act or “caring” about the new brothers. It’s all a farce. At least in my case it is, which I suppose is self-condemning to say.
I am here, watching the wind blow the blades of grass. This is the only respite I get. For me, nothing good comes out of the pseudo conversation I practice in there, not even my talking with the older brothers. I remember that time a few years ago, when I came to sit out here, but I felt so bad I that wasn’t helping anybody, but then some new brothers came outside and sat with me anyway.
When I let go of the phony striving, I have some peace, if only the peace that comes through the absence of treadmill behavior. So much of life here is about proving ourselves and showing how hard we’re working. On the other hand, who is really looking? If they are looking, they really don’t care – though in a way, somebody must be looking, especially since we have so many meetings to vote on and judge one another. But even then, I perceive that nobody really cares. The first concern is a morbid concern for self. The next concern is “accuracy and truth” concerning others, especially in catching gameplayers and spotting deceit and exposing it, which really comes back to that each brother and sister has morbid self concern, because they think they have to be that way or else they are going to get in trouble. I know that nobody really goes out of their way to find out how I am (neither do I seek them out or volunteer any information).
Read the next section of the journals here: The Definition of Insanity is to Believe Anything Other Than Stewart’s Teachings.