1993, 04/16. Others Here Think the Same Thing I Do.

Friday, April 16

It is now 2 in the morning. I’m cleaning the carpets at the Inagiku Restaurant with Milton and six new and middle brothers.

I bought a new pair of pants and T-shirt today. Trying again to fix up my appearance. I hate when I let myself get run down looking.

More brothers have been asking me about my pride vs. humility. I’m now resorting to a kind of shorthand for my answer by saying, “I wasn’t before (or wasn’t on Sunday) but I am being humble now.” This seems to satisfy everybody. Paul S. asked me what makes me get that way, to which I ventured a little to say I was getting wound up because I thought I was going to get thrown out of the church. But still, I dropped that and stuck to saying only, “I was proud.”

I basically feel good about myself tonight. I am not listening to foreign language material on my headphones or anything else, but I am peaceful now, so why put anything in the way? I was reading Luke 1 today in Greek. It’s good to sink into various parts of the Bible and I should have been doing this before. I will look into learning Hebrew soon.

I am trying to think ahead to what I can do tomorrow. As it is, I am projected to be a “Brooklyn” driver later in the day tomorrow. So maybe I will tape.Who knows, maybe I’ll do nothing in particular, just write now and then.

[I used to record my thoughts into a tape recorder sometimes when driving.] 

I was talking with Milton here before starting work. He is waiting for the dust to settle with this move from Red Hook. He said he doesn’t want to commit himself to anything or promise to be fully there if he is not. (A lot of Red Hook brothers, and possibly all the new brothers who were there, are now living at office at 46th Street.)

Just had a short talk with Rico [a new brother]. He said he didn’t like what Brother Stewart said about faith last Sunday. He said he doesn’t like anybody telling him not to have faith in the word of God. (Rico was in Teen Challenge for five years, in Bible school for two years.) I can see his point. I sometimes wonder just how much gets past me. That was a strange thing to hear from a pastor, even though, yes, I can say I understood his explanation. But why does Stewart feel the necessity to make these kinds of statements? Next year he may tell us the opposite.

[Stewart often changed his teachings and viewpoints, and whenever he did, whatever his current views were was the absolute truth. That even applied when he changed something to mean the opposite of what he had said it was before, and then changed it back again. In all cases, “Jesus was showing us the truth” (through Brother Stewart) and questioners were treated roughly.]

5 a.m.

Just got back to Red Hook. I will take a few minutes to write. Now I have something else to worry about again. (I was thinking about how, here, the very act of disagreeing is a crime. You think you are going to explain what you have to say, or explain the reason why you disagree and that upon making yourself or the reason clear, you have a reasonable chance of being understood. But actually, the very fact that you questioned something was in itself a crime. Possibly, my failure to recognize that is what is leading to distress.)

Anyway, more about my conversation with Rico: he said he thinks there is something wrong with that Stewart guy. Something is up with him, but he doesn’t know what it is. “Maybe he is getting senile.” He told me he talked to Bob M. and Kevin B. (the younger) about his concerns. Probably after two or three patient explanations (because he is new) any further questioning will be seen as pride and arrogance on his part. I asked Rico if he is going to stay here and how does he handle it. He said he may only stay here one more month. (I wonder why a month? Because he has nowhere to go? So he is putting it into the “future indefinite?”) I asked Rico if guilt and shame keeps him from going back to Teen Challenge. He said yes.

So, all I need is for Rico to tell any brother anything of what I said to him…and watch out. So, now I have that apprehensive feeling again.

When Rico and I were talking as we walked, he came out with these things. (He said, “You seemed to have some trouble with that lesson about faith last Sunday.”) I felt as if I couldn’t speak, because I had been blackmailed or terrorized into not speaking. But I broke through that. I may regret that decision. It gets to the point where I’m telling people (like him) not to say anything to anybody about what we talked about. This seems like a dangerous way to live. I can just imagine facing the brothers over this. There is no way I could win. It is like Mom said, I’m in a situation where I can’t win.

I am going to sit here now and browse some reading material and maybe a Greek book, and enjoy the peace and quiet a little. I am not quite ready to go to bed yet.

2:30 p.m.

I talked with Bob M. and Jim O. in the office. We were talking about the Bible and about increasing our faith. Bob suddenly asked me if I have talked to the brothers. (That is, if I have gotten all the brothers together and made an official confession and repentence of my so-called wrong behavior last Sunday). To which I said no, but said I was talking to individual brothers. He asked me why I get that way. I quickly said, “Pride, and also laziness.”

So far, the way this works, (except with Kevin), is that they back down. It seems to end right there. (Though this could still blow up in my face. But then again, it would already be blowing up if I didn’t do this, if I stuck to my guns in any way.)

And, reminiscent of the chapter Lifton’s book about Father Luca and the false confession, I even had the audacity (I thought and deliberated a little bit first before I did it) to say that this usually happens in the spring, because of “temptations.”(Because Bob said, “You have done this before.”)

[Any brother would know what I meant. In the spring the weather warms up and the women in the city are no longer wearing heavy coats and are walking around with a lot less clothing on. I’d often hear brothers saying that spring is coming, and it wasn’t a comment on the nice weather. Because relationships and marriage were forbidden in COBU, our unfulfilled longings were like dry straw and what we saw was like matches.]

Now, as with Father Luca’s false confession, this confession was actually coming from actual events, causes and problems in my life. And it is more acceptable to them because of this. It sounds like the kind of thing I should be saying. The kind of thing they are looking for, believe and expect, and it is also the only acceptable thing I can say. I must always talk in terms of sin, pride, guilt, flesh, etc. I must never say I have a real reason for doubting or questioning anything. This is wholly unacceptable. The only reason I could doubt or think anything like this is because of sin, pride, guilt and the flesh at work in me.

[Father Luca was a Catholic priest from the United States who was imprisoned when the Communists overtook China. My comments here referred the need to get confessions of wrong behavior. In Father Luca’s case, a confession that he was a spy was not good enough. He was required to flesh his confession out with plausible details from his personal life, adding that he always had a desire to dominate others and other such things. In my case, I realized that a simple cofession of “it was pride” might only temporarily work, but more might be needed. I might need to say that my disagreement with COBU’s leader were coming from “frustrations,” and that these were the reasons behind my “outbursts” and “wrong behavior.”]

Okay, maybe I’m overdoing it by using the concepts in this book as an explanation of what I’m doing. In simple terms, this seems to work and it is a source of peace and relief. I’m conscious of the idea that it is at least a bit of a trick and that it is not completely true, though the things I confess certainly are  real temptations I have. It can’t harm me to confess them, and what do I do if nobody here can look at something I say objectively? They believe that whatever Stewart says is the truth and that’s it.

[I found later that this was not the case. After leaving, I’ve heard that many brothers discussed among themselves many of the things I thought, and more. But they kept a united front of silence, never leveling with me, or pulling me off to the side to tell me they thought the same or similar things I was saying. I felt as if I were the only one there who thought that way. The whole church was hounding me over what I had said to Stewart and about Stewart. Some of these brothers are still there. I won’t give the first names, so as not to get them in trouble.]

Alhough Stewart has mentioned, it is possible to question, as we sometimes hear him say, “Why didn’t somebody say anything?” but the fact seems to remain that the very act of questioning is considered wrong and can only spring from wrong motives. (“Look, I have the same things in me,” brothers say, possibly showing that the same questions I ask “run though their minds” too. Maybe they count the cost too high, because of the harassment they will receive if they speak up. It’s just safer to say “it’s my flesh,” then they can have an acceptable reason to suppress their thoughts. Once it’s labeled “flesh” or “pride” it doesn’t matter how plausible it sounds to yourself. Isn’t that amazing? It’s a sure fire way to rule out any and all objective thinking.

When necessary, the most plausible thought can just be relegated to the category of “the flesh.” (Remember, Stewart says that the “flesh” can think of very highly structured things – like mathematical equations.) If your question is the “flesh” then, you could understand how the very act of expressing it would be wrongdoing. It’s bad enough that one has these fleshly thoughts, but to go ahead and act on them is worse. “We could all do it if we wanted to,” the brothers say. Perhaps such reasoning is necessary for survival in a totalitarian state.

But now, such thoughts including the latter are going to lead me into trouble. Maybe I do overdo it. This diary is just supposed to be a reflection of what I see and experience around me. “Obviously something is wrong.” Maybe like Rico last night, saying that is as far as I can go. A child can’t really know reasons for things – it just may sense something. And possibly I’m not supposed to have reasons worked out consciously.

The thing is however, this stuff seems to work. With Father Luca’s confession, it hit closer to home and he began to have doubts about himself, his life. His interrogators were, what? Working on his “existential guilt.” Even when one attempts to resist, he is still guided step by step into the position his interrogators want him in. In avoiding trouble, I have done just what is expected of me (it’s the only way to avoid trouble). I am now doing just what I should have been doing and now I have learned that there is no other way out, or it will only come back to this. So I must play the part of the guilty sinner, which of course I am anyway. The things I confessed about myself were true enough anyway, and there is probably some relief in confessing them.

Just as I was writing this (at the word “guilty sinner”) a van pulls up with Diana H. at the wheel and Becky poking her face through the window, that rather beautiful face of hers. Becky pulling right up, looking at me. ( So, I just wonder if God sets that up – but why? It’s because I won’t do anything? If God wanted me to do something especially with regard to her, wouldn’t the help be a little more direct? I have to say totally that I really don’t know, I will pray about it. The only thing I can say I “see” God showing me about anything in the area of marriage is “three or four years.” But, one can’t rely too much on visions and personal revelations. Sure, I have feelings about Becky. Sometimes I feel like I just want to take her and hold her

I’m praying about this now, just saying, “Jesus, I give it to you.” There exists some doubt in my mind. Maybe I can’t “give it to him,” because he is the one who just “gave it to me.”

::

I just had a general conversation with Paul S. He talked to me a little about how I have been. “How does it feel to be the worse brother in the fellowship?” he said, joking. He said others probably think the same things I do, but that I’m more like a child who can’t always control himself. He didn’t use those words. He said, “You are just more blunt or, you have your ‘way’.” I mentioned also about how I hear brothers say “I could say the same thing,” or, “we all have our thoughts,” indicating that possibly others also think some of the things I do. I also talked to Paul about my encounter with Becky and about Kathryn leaving the church. He thinks we won’t see her for a long time. She had kept all the sisters away from her at the last meeting. I mentioned what Joe S. had said about wanting to start a relationship with her, about how “she’d probably go for it, but the problem is how my relationship with Jesus is right now.”

[Kathryn might have been interested in Joe, but Joe said he could not do anything about it, because of the supposed poor state of his “relationship with Jesus” at this time. The brothers always put the phrase “my relationship with Jesus” in negative terms when they spoke of it, and this also meant that because of our sad and lamentable spiritual condition, the brothers were not able to get married or even start a relationship with one of the sisters in the church.]

Paul said, “What do you do when you have a liking for a sister, but you can’t start a relationship with her because of your condition?” And, “There’s a price tag for everything.” This is the stuff I can’t stand. You can’t get married because of your “relationship with Jesus.” Or, is it just our views here? I have gone through this debate many times, so there is no need to go into it here in detail. Sometimes, I just wish we could get an independent “audit” from somebody outside of here about our church. Then if they said this and other things were true, it would be easier for me to believe it and to possibly also accept it.

6 p.m.

It looks like somebody may have stolen my headphones and gas mask. This is both frustrating and discouraging. (Whether or not I have to pay for it.) This is the cost of not keeping up eternal vigilance.

8 p.m.

The wood floor job was “aborted” due to lack of toner. Paul B. had driven there with me. Riding back in the van, I got a little too “loose” and began blabbering about how I wanted to park by the tracks to wait and see the Lake Shore Limited come by. Paul said I act as if I don’t have any serious problems; how I could do the things I do? At least surfacely, it just shows I must keep myself and my desires under wraps and never say or do anything that reveals desires and thoughts other than those allowed. Why talk about any of these things? They are only my personal concerns anyway. I would probably do better if I cultivated the fine art of keeping my mouth shut. It would save me a lot of trouble from cover to cover. This seems impersonal and lonely. But what do I ever gain from being open anyway?

Sitting in the van now at outside the church office at 46th Street. Rains coming heavily, winds almost like a hurricane whipping around. I am out here just trying to get a little peace and quiet. Not that this is available much. It’s hard really to get a moment. Why doesn’t God give large amounts of time for rest? It’s not like I’m accomplishing any great task by doing long jobs or going to jobs that cancel. If it were God doing this, wouldn’t he provide something more useful? Does God really want me to spend my time in trackless wastes?

I began to feel a little sick, but also not highly motivated to go sweeping [to go out looking for new converts to bring to the church] and go to Woodruff tonight where the meeting is being held. Yet, I think, I am / was sick enough to warrant an excuse.

I am driving now. I just want to be alone for a while, driving around at night in a van in rainy weather, thinking about how I have no relationships male or female and that I’m not likely to have either very soon. Paul is my “best friend” in the fellowship and I can’t really say that was ever too good. We associate, but he always keeps himself reserved, in a way. I was never one of his buddies. It is the kind of friendship, or “working relationship” that one could walk away from in a minute and that would be it. Maybe I should make some friends.

I must learn to keep my mouth shut. Kevin was on the phone with [ex-member] David A, saying: “So, you are going to put to death all your pursuits in this life?” Kevin was really “insisting” with him. This stuff scares me. Will it come to some point in the fellowship where we have to “divulge” our secret interests in this life and get questioned about them? Will it come to a point where “either it goes or you go?”

Was Kevin just distorting something or is this the true “Stewart” teaching? If so, then what? Imagine trying to disagree with this one! It would be all the more considered to be your flesh itself fighting for its own way. The very fact that you fight is only a sign your illness. It’s the same thing again: any disagreement with Stewart’s teachings could only spring from wrong things within you. And what wrong thing especially would this be showing about you if you disagree? Why, the very thing we are talking about!

[Fighting against Stewart’s teaching about giving up all our hopes and desires in our lives in this world is only a sign that you have hopes in this life, because why else would you be disagreeing with it?]

So, it’s a loop that doubles back on itself, a no win situation. Maybe it is my erroneous form of “wisdom,” but maybe it should be a general rule to never talk about anything I like, or like to do. The official spirit is really heavy around here. I mean, I really got boxed in tight last week (with or without my blow up). Maybe later I will regret not being a “real person.” Or maybe later Stewart will soften his line about us not being able to have things “in this life.” But for sure, there is no way I am going to be able to say anything about it. I really wonder if Stewart is going to push a Spartan way of life on us, where it is Christ and nothing else – or you can have something, but without Christ. And I won’t be about to say anything about it and besides what I want in this life is so negligible compared to having Christ. (Or really, compared to being thrown out for non-compliance.)

Kevin was saying to Dave A., “Are you ready to say ‘I desire to know nothing among you but Christ Jesus and him crucified’?”

[The Bible passage Kevin was referring to here was 1 Corinthians 2:1-2, where the Apostle Paul wrote: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

I would say that this meant that Paul came only teaching about Christ and not mixing that teaching with any non-Christian philosophies. In COBU, Stewart Traill twisted the meaning of this verse to mean that we were not supposed to have any of our desires met for things in this life, and that we were supposed to desire Christ only and to talk to others only about Christ.]

I can see how this scripture can be twisted beyond its meaning. And what can you say about it, since it seems to say what it says in such flat terms? Can you find a “Christ and something else” in that verse? And your point of argumentation will be so weak. You’re just fighting to get some little toy you want. It’s not even fighting for somebody else’s rights. Might as well drop it and quit while you are ahead.

And forget trying to talk about Christian history, and about how Christians have not lived this way throughout history, because aren’t you in big trouble? Aren’t you headed straight to hell? Can you afford anything else but Christ? (What about working in the church businesses all the time? That keeps us pretty preoccupied with something other than Christ. Oh well, you can always think of Christ while working. Also, you’ll be told that it’s Christ’s will that we do all of this work. You can do the work to glorify him. But then, why not be able to do other things as well?)

4:20 a.m.

It’s 4:20 in the morning and I am still picking up another carpet cleaning team. I start to get very frustrated and just want to blurt out obscenities. What a wasted life. The whole thing is entirely purposeless, meaningles.

::

Chuck is now talking to me about “Where are your witnesses?” I told him it was the first time the word witnesses had ever occurred to me. I hadn’t thought of the word. Chuck didn’t say anything else. Hopefully he won’t either.

[Chuck was that saying I needed to have witnesses who would testify that they agreed that I had repented of my recent behavior and who would stand up at a meeting with me to verify my repentance.]

I don’t know if I am scheduled for any work in the morning. What is frustrating about this is that I can’t really know what’s coming.

[We couldn’t know our schedule in advance. Often it got called in moment by moment.]

That makes it worse. If I knew I wasn’t needed till 5 p.m., that would help. I am starting to think that very little of this is for “Jesus.” The “purpose” wore thin a long time ago.

[Stewart told us that our long hours of work in Christian Brothers Cleaning was for “The Purpose.” This meant that we were making money to support the purpose, God’s plan for our church. Stewart put divine terms on our earthly service, so that we if we complained about it, really we were complaining to God.]

I just wonder how long I can (will be able) to stay here. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just some imaginary test of endurance, and that if I leave, then I lost. I’m thinking of Stewart’s gesture toward me last Sunday when I was giving an answer. [Negative body language and smirking when I was talking.] It’s hard not to get resentful about this; it’s hard to believe that Stewart thinks this is right to do. But, it’s his pastoral privilege. I’m trying to “forgive them” and put it “on the Lord.” Why not? This stuff just burns me up, while Stewart goes scot-free. I am sure he is not burned up inside, no matter what happens – so I’m a double loser. The balance of power, everything, is clearly on his side. I can do nothing but lose, no matter what I try, what I do. Maybe that’s a first admission on the way to just giving up trying, which is something that may be good. (Though suddenly the phrase “hidden consequences” pops into my head. What is the real solution, the real way out of this? I would surely like to leave the church, but as far as I know, it is a sure guarantee to hell if I do.)

Well, this is my life. The purpose of writing all of this is to record my life.

Read the next part of the journals here: “You Have A Wrong Spirit.”

::

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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