1993, 06/04-5. The Only Thing Anyone Really Wants to Know Is If You Believe in “This Way.”

The only thing anyone here wants to know is if you believe in this way (that is, in Stewart Traill and who he says he is) or not.

The title of this section reflects the real issue that was being decided about me and that I was deciding about COBU. Believing in Jesus (according to the COBU way – because no other way was possible, according to Stewart) was the issue. Stewart said that we could not serve Jesus any another way, because no other way existed. Ultimately, it boiled down to whether or not we accepted who Stewart said he was. He was the only true teacher of Christianity and all others were teaching in error. If you believed Stewart was who he said he was, it was incumbent on your to accept that you needed him. This could be felt in the extreme displeasure and anger anyone received if they mentioned having doubts about about Stewart’s credibility, motives or intentions.

Friday, June 4

I spent most of yesterday in bed, with a headache and nausea. Nobody really checked up on me or bothered me. I declined to go to a meeting at 46th Street. Both Jim O. on the phone and Paul when he got back broached the subject of “What about moving out of Red Hook?” Jim O. asked me if I thought it was good for Paul, Peter and me to be at Red Hook together (implying that we’re making anarchistic plans or having “wrong fellowship” and making “wrong agreements”). Paul’s version of the same question was more or less general, although he put the question to me, presumably about me. I found out from Paul that the brothers are asking all three of us this question. So there might be some “movement in that direction.”

Well, so far, I’ll lay low and hope nothing comes of it. It’s rather amazing to me that I have been here this long anyway.

(I was glad to be living in Red Hook, in an old warehouse in Brooklyn by the waterfront. It was in a quiet area where I could sit outside at night. More importantly, it was neither the church’s Manhattan office (where some brothers slept on the floor) or the church’s residential building on Woodruff Avenue where all the activity was taking place. In the social matrix of cult life, it was a corner I could get lost in and be left alone, for the most part. I always felt this was only temporary, and after a year of living there, I felt privileged to still be there. Even if it was a dirty old warehouse and I slept in a shack that Paul built for the three of us inside.)

I thought of many things concerning this, such as leaving the church if I have to go to Woodruff. But in prayer, the words “non-resistance” found themselves in my mind. (As I write this, I am in a park by Chambers Street. A man is sitting with a large parrot on his knee, surrounded by curious children.)

As I walk along today, I am thinking about how this is really no life. Especially about what I do (or don’t do) for a living. Although there are some challenges (and some freedoms), this just isn’t me. And I wouldn’t say too much for wood floors either.

Whether or not I will get found out later or not, I don’t know, but I am taking a little summer vacation right now, musing in a park. (Though my thoughts are a little deeper than mere musings.) I don’t have too much to say about the piece of green grass and blue sky I see before me. Of course, that is part of enjoying a brief interlude in a park. In order to think clearly, I must stop all of these anxious worried thoughts.

(I was trying to take a break from anxious and worried cult life, from the state of constant crisis and fear that Stewart induced us to live in at all times.)

I walked into the courthouse to use the bathroom, and serendipitously found the marriage bureau and obtained information on marriage. I never realized just how easy it is! 24 hours and 55 dollars later and you (and somebody else, of course) can be married!

(Marriage was forbidden in COBU. Stewart always made it seem so hard and the standards of what we as Christians had to be to get married so high, that no one ever got started. I was amazed that, in order to get married in the City of New York, all you had to do was pay 55 dollars and get marriage license and go right ahead.)

Well, I am not getting much “self-actualization” done here in the park. About the only realization I had was a few moments before on the street when I realized that what I am doing is not very realistic, but I am not able to generate much concrete thought. I will pray briefly (instead) before I get up to go. I prayed for: a spirit of non-resistance and forgiveness; to be able to live by faith, and also saying to God, “thy will be done.”

I just wrote Mom another letter as a follow up to our phone conversation. (The letter contained a brief explanation of my present dilemma.)

I got a ride from Blake a ways. He asked me about how it’s going for me, which I answered by way of explanation. But what he just seemed to want to know is whether I believe in what is going on in our church, and if I think it is right. He said it in a kind, though probing way. (I don’t feel I have anything to worry about concerning Blake himself.) The real issue is becoming “manifest.” And so probably with everyone in their doubts concerning me.

The issue not really that I blew up or “argued” with the brothers or any other kind of behavior or actions, but simply put, do I believe Stewart and the church. I feel like somebody who is brought before the bar, in chains and shackles, having been imprisoned for crimes against a government. (It’s not for rioting or demonstrating, not even for thieving, but for the underlying anarchistic idea that threatens the very roots and foundations of our society. It’s the only thing, really, that can’t be tolerated here, aside from physical violence. The jugular vein, so to speak, even though I can’t say I didn’t know this before. At the same time, it really never has occurred to me so clearly as as it does now. And all the other things, which though I may be asked about, are merely peripheral. Soon they will get to this all-important and burning issue about whether I believe in Stewart and the purpose of our church, and where I stand on those issues.)

So, isn’t it “nice” to know that it all really just comes down to this and that this is the only thing that really matters to anyone here? Does anybody really care, or is anybody really angry because I yelled something? Of course not! So, maybe this knowledge will help me in those moments. Even when the brothers are trying to decide and vote about whether I am “extremely arrogant” or not, I have the sweet knowledge that this is merely a surface issue lying directly above the “jackpot.”

(Of course, now that I think of it, isn’t that why I suddenly burst out screaming? In their questioning, they got very close to the jugular vein and maybe I wanted to put an end to it – quick. What if I had gone on speaking calmly instead of yelling, which would have actually been better anyway, though perhaps an astute observer would have noticed the connection. For sure, their questioning would have continued along that line. I didn’t want to hear it! I will have to think about this for next time. But it’s scary to think that I could have lose self-control so quickly the way I did. I remember also, that in those few moments before my outburst, I had begun to toy with the idea of making a full admission of my real thoughts about Stewart and our church, and I realized I wasn’t ready for it, if I ever will be. I rapidly raced through my ideas about what the consequences would be of making such an admission would be, such as my immediate or soon termination and a lot of crushing indictments and Socratic type arguments in between.)

11 p.m.

I am now finishing a wax job that I did with Pete.  Paul is also here with some middle brothers waxing the tiles.

Perhaps what I am experiencing is a mid-life crisis. I’m thinking of sending my brother Jeff some old newspaper articles about a story we remember from when we were kids, and briefly mentioning to him that I am considering changing what I am doing in my life. I always figured or feared it was wrong to do something like that because it was “human” fellowship, or getting my brother into something in this life. Yet, I don’t communicate with him at all. Talking to him about some way out in left field Jesus thing isn’t going to help him either.

(We were supposed to keep our communication with our families down to a minimum and only talk to them about Jesus.)

I was going to stay here on this job site as long as I could to delay going to the meeting and hopefully avoid it altogether. I told Peter I was staying here until the other brothers finish their work, but Paul said, “Are you trying to avoid the meeting?” So, without answering his question either way, out the door I go with Peter to either take the subway or to walk back to the shop. Yeah, what a life, avoiding meetings. Should I stay, or leave the church? Why prolong the agony? Either do it, or get off the pot.

(I feared going to a meeting, because the brothers might pressure me to give my real opinions and then they might throw me out of the church. I realized that living in fear of this was unrealistic way to live, so I decided to just go to the meeting. And that I should just make up my mind to leave the church, which was where all things were heading in my conclusions anyway.)

Saturday, June 5

In an ebb space here. I’ve been at Red Hook all afternoon. I have no particular desire to be anywhere else. (That is, anywhere else in the fellowship).

Peter is blabbing on and on, surprisingly, touching on some of the things I often say. For all of his lunacy, Peter is about the only other person here to come out and say these things. (Last night, he said that once a person backslides or speaks evil of “our leader,” he is as good as dead around here. Paul, who was driving, made some comments about driving, then threw on a Richard Wurmbrand tape to listen to. (That’s Paul’s way of dealing with it.)

I am not doing anything right now. Just staring at the four walls of my shack and thinking. It feels good to do that. Just a block of empty, nothing time. I feel like drawing. I may do that before I leave here.

Well, I don’t know the future, but I think tomorrow’s meeting may be fireworks for me (and for some others). I envision getting the boot. I’ve played out in my mind how this could happen in different ways, including asking for severance pay. I also envision being forcefully ejected from the church property on the spot and I have some concern about whether I will at least be allowed to go back to New York to have a more favorable launching-off point when leaving the church.

9:30

Getting grilled by Chuck on the drive in to the city. One of the ways I try to combat this (I can’t combat it directly) is to realize just how little effort he uses when doing this. With just an opening question and a few follow up one-liners every now and then like, “Are you fully here right now?” and, “Is this all of you?,” he can keep the ball rolling while I gyrate and strain to “prove it,” and when I am all done, he can just say he doesn’t believe me. So I thought, “why should I put out any effort either?”

(But then, the problem with this is that – to Chuck anyway – I look nonchalant, or putting up walls and backing people into a corner. You really can’t win. Later I thought, it might be good then to blabber about something in these situations.)

Later, Paul S., Ron and I went out walking, making Jesus known.

In the office, Ron read aloud from a John Bunyan book, citing how Bunyan said that repentance produces fear, making the distinction that this is different than what Stewart tells us. Ron didn’t take it any further. Neither did I comment. What would the point be? Lately these days, I have remembered to just be an observer in these things, and just to stand back and watch everybody’s reaction without visibly getting involved.

Stewart is sure pouring a lot of fear and hell on us these days. I wonder if, ultimately, we’re all being taken for a ride and the joke’s on us because “you must have wanted it, why didn’t anybody say anything?”

(Those were the comments Stewart used in his so-called repentance speech in 1989, when he said that no one tried to warn him or talk to him about his being on a wrong path. Peter often asked Paul and I, how do we know we’re just not going to hear Stewart say the same thing ten years from now, blaming us for not telling him about being on a wrong course, and “gee fellas, I guess I fooled you all again – but you must have wanted it, because nobody said anything.”)

Paul S. was going around the office saying to the brothers that he wants somebody to give him one hour of their time so he can “confess his garbage.” It seems he has done something dirty sexually. Also I heard Paul say, “I am totally ruined humanly and this probably means I can never get married. It’s the first thing my mind goes to.”

The same for me and I wonder if all of this is just another part of Stewart’s illustrious plan for our lives, where he dupes us into believing the ridiculous. He sets us up little by little, far in advance, until we’re so woven into it that we never knew what hit us. We never even get to the point of asking or trying to get married because, long ago, we believed and accepted Stewart’s hints about how we’re so messed up humanly and spiritually –  and although he never clearly stated it as such, that therefore we can never get married, “our little noggins” certainly put two and two together, as he intended us to do! For sure it just seems like a man telling us what to do.

I feel like mentioning something to Paul about how the brothers need to have “God’s little remedy,” but really, what will saying anything do?

(“God’s little remedy” would be what it says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, that because of the temptation to sexual immorality, every brother should have a wife, and every sister should have a husband. Marriage was utterly forbidden the the Church of Bible Understanding and no one gets married there, even now.)

Paul says he is worried about being like Jim G., Bob W., Chris C., who threw their Bibles at the wall and who left our church, saying crazy things like they were not one of God’s elect and how they were of the devil and predestined to hell.

(The pressure Stewart – and the others who joined in with him -put on people could get them to a point where they snapped like this. After they left the church, sometimes many years later, they began to recover and come to their senses and try to believe in God again.)

George said he has been sinking into “his own thoughts” – but wait a minute, who has been pouring on these thoughts that we should “preach that I prefer hell?” Don’t we all get a “little help from our friend” Stewart in these matters, to think that our case is hopeless, and all that?  Yet we must thoroughly blame ourselves, it could only be our fault. Nobody is allowed to break our tribal taboos.

I for one, think there is just a little more than that going on. For example, when Stewart corrects some middle brother in front of everyone at a meeting, and that brother immediately leaves the church the next day. Why did he leave? Not because of what Stewart said to him – no way! Stewart says it is because the older brothers have not been caring for that brother all along! But if that were true, why didn’t the brother leave before – why did he leave now? Nobody will dare touch that one with a 10-foot pole. Do people make any connection in their heads? You’d never know, because nobody ever says anything.

Either one of two things has occurred with Paul S. (or both). He is deeply into his cauldron of thoughts, or he has paid a visit to a prostitute – or done something close to it. The reason I say this is because Paul has mentioned that he did something, but he won’t say what it was, but he mentioned what happened with these other brothers who blew up and left our church.

I do really think that Stewart is pouring too much junk on our heads. That is my honest thought and is pretty much how I size up our situation these days, and what I go around thinking about. But nobody will ever tell the man. Who can? He absolutely refuses to hear it.

The church office walls are now peppered with condemned sinner pictures and other pictures of the last judgment, showing people about to be thrown into hell, and with the exception of any other religious artifacts and pictures that were already there before, nobody has moved to put up a picture of heaven, the resurrection or of the Prodigal Son, or anything positive, though there is a card on the wall near me with the words “Get the Big Picture” (from before Stewart started with all this hell and damnation stuff).

Read the next section of the journal here: Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry Cult Leader.

(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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