1993, 06/06. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Cult Leader.
Later in this section, there is a description of a meeting with Stewart and some of the dialogs that took place which show the heavy mental and spiritual abuse Stewart heaped upon us.
Sunday, June 6
It’s about 2:30 in the afternoon and we are getting together to “do our judgment and voting.” Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God has been getting handed out today and read.
(Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is a religious sermon that was originally preached in 1741, and is about the terrors of hell.)
I was sitting outside, waiting for this moment. The name of a brother who left the church a long time ago was mentioned by someone outside, but I don’t know in what context. I was thinking that people like him don’t, or can’t, come back to our church unless they come back on their knees. Sometimes ones like that come back when they have gotten into severe marriage problems.
I also considered delivering a copy in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God to some ex-members of our church, with a brief note about all this preaching about hell and all the other strange things going on here these days. But supposedly, ex-members are devilish people who shouldn’t be trafficked with, except to bring them to repentance.(Although I can think of many times when we subcontracted these brothers to work in our church business. Also have these brothers ever cared about me and also will they themselves leak out to those here that I went to see them? I thought also of putting an anonymous note under their door.)
Now we’re voting on one another and making our divisions. One thing I must say, now that Stewart has come into the meeting, the purpose and the process we do has gotten a lot sharper and to the point (which I am less worried about than the mangled surgery that the older brothers do when Stewart is not here).
So far, anybody who claims they have been faithful to Christ all week, stands up and says to everyone, “You can count on me.”
Well, Stewart says that the rest of us “prefer hell.” Will Stewart induce us to profess that we prefer hell? There are a lot of other older brothers sitting and not speaking. I just hope I don’t get any special treatment or singled out in this meeting. I just want to get it over with.
I don’t know of any other church, nor do I know of anything written by people like Charles Spurgeon, where sinners are induced, poked and prodded to say that they prefer hell. Certainly, if this is what is expected here today, I have no intention to be the one who says it first. What happens to somebody who say that? Is it just another category and label, or is it another one of these death categories and does that person get his walking papers?
This whole thing is ridiculous, but I won’t say anything. Of course, I am probably just hitting out against the truth, but I do want to write down my hidden thoughts – for the future maybe, when I might see I wasn’t so wrong, just like that woman at Jonestown who suppressed her thoughts and doubts from her mind and who kept quiet about what she wasn’t able to suppress.
Sure, this will not end in a mass suicide like Jonestown did or in a violent conflagration like Waco did, but still, there are degrees. It’s not either/or.
I look around the meeting and see no pair of “seeing and knowing eyes” -only all the old-timers and the new brothers. Those who came into our church through the basement door, usually in a basket. Nobody who came in with any life or awareness to them. All that goes on here is “behind closed doors.” Unless of course, there is a visitor, observer or spy who here we don’t know about.
The other thing I am doing as I sit here, is judging these brothers as they make their speeches, thinking, “Yeah, this one is a game player.” But what am I being induced to do? Okay, I am probably stretching that one a bit. I am trying to describe a whispy kind of thought that occurs to me as I watch all of this. A sort of, what is all of this and what is this really all about? Of course, I know the professed reasons for the things we do. It’s not like I have trouble knowing that.
Stewart is starting to grill the next category of brothers (this category is called “upper neutral”). What happens when we get to the next category? (I feel like I might crack; might fight against some of these things. It’s just in me to do so.) My worry is that I might have to profess that “I prefer hell.” If so, my last line of defense can only be to try to see what happens to anybody else who does it first.
Well, Stewart just got through with Stuart R. After his grilling, Stuart sits back down. He is still here, he is still alive. All this talk about hell, it’s just words, right?
(If I were forced by Stewart to say what I see wrong with him, I would probably just tell him it’s his isolation and lack of accountability. Then, maybe I would just say, “I will write it and send it to you instead of saying it now.” I actually did say to him that once, and even pondered it doing it, but never did. Well, it’s too late now for sure, but why didn’t I do it then? Just about the same reason as I don’t do it now, such as, I know that Stewart doesn’t take anything we say about him into consideration anyway, plus he would just turn it back around on me. Life here would just get that much more miserable for me if I spoke up.)
So, when it’s my turn to stand up and get talked to, will God help me? I mostly get myself in trouble by opening my mouth.
How many are doing this because they have to do it? They churn out their speeches, but what are their real thoughts on the matter?
Stewart is now fine-tuning it. He says, “It’s not based on your effort or works, but how much you are scared of hell and and how much you desire the goal of escaping hell.” (The blade does cut a bit deeper that way.)
Peter is now getting it for “confusing everybody” (according to Stewart). He is getting heavy flak now. (He did try to get his vote over as quickly as he could by saying as little as possible.)
Stewart asks, “Why the games and confusion?”
Stewart says to everyone about Peter’s answer, “And you’re all going to buy that, aren’t you?”
Kevin asks Peter: “What were you doing all week?”
Peter is now being guided into admitting something (which is known, but Stewart is guiding everybody, including Peter, to say it, by putting pressure on everybody to get on Peter’s case.
Stewart: “You let Peter do this, don’t you? You forgot, ‘I just don’t mind the torments of hell.’ ”
(I thought this would be what Stewart was driving at to make us all say, that “you just don’t mind torment, you just don’t mind hell.” And we must say it. “I like hell; I’m ready for it!” Peter is already half admitting it. Stewart says, “If it’s not true, why didn’t you say it? Why are you lying?” The tyrant is at work among us.)
I wish I could just fly away somewhere, and survive this meeting, get out of here, take a week off that lasts forever.
Peter is under interrogation now. Stewart is bouncing him like a basketball over whether he “doesn’t mind torment,” and why did he say it if he didn’t really mean it. “Oh, so you don’t mean it then?”
There ought to be a law, some way we can take defense against something, or someone like this. Well, I should watch what happens to Peter. He is now, whether anybody realizes it or not, a test case. Peter is trying the wedge play of “my actions say I prefer hell, but I don’t desire it in my heart.” This way, he can admit to the charges – because Stewart won’t let him go until he does – while at the same time, he can say he doesn’t really prefer hell in his deepest heart. (I know Peter just wants to sit down as soon as possible. There is really no help in this.)
Stewart says, “I desire to set a trap for my own life by deliberately doing what God says he will condemn me for.”
This could go on for a while. An important test case. These are the underlying issues, they have been there all along. It’s just that Peter is the first one to break and halfway admit that he prefers hell (after being prodded into it), and the other brothers are now helping Stewart by ganging up on Peter like a pack of wild dogs.
A test case. I might as well sit here and watch. Whatever weapons are forged here will be aimed at everyone else from now on. What are the issues being discussed? What is being said about these issues and what is being decided about them? A basis is being decided? A stipulation for those who profess such things?
The brothers are saying that Peter is demanding to have it both ways.
So what will the unifying point be? Where “my desire” and “my actions” converge? And then what happens at that point?
Stewart’s point seems to be something about us consciously refusing to live on God’s basis (and similar things). The issue seems to be getting the “I am consciously choosing” out of the person’s mouth.
Stewart is saying that Peter is going for what we are letting him go for, which is, “I’m just a bad boy for you guys.”
Well, I do want to see the outcome. It is, and will be important for me.
Stewart: “Until you hear a broken and contrite spirit from Peter, in a broken and contrite voice, he hasn’t repented. So, don’t spent any more time on him.”
Well, that wasn’t that bad. I just keep imagining the worst case scenario. It is really hell to go through it, though.
I am thinking about what is the point of reading all the books I read? Also, about how we come here every week to hear Stewart tell us about the God of terror. I just wish we could get some independent appraisal.
Donald stands up to talk now. It’s hard to believe that this guy is Stewart’s son. Of course, I am not supposed to say that. But this is just one more of those secret thoughts. (The other thought linked to this is how the Bible says, “you shall know them by their fruits.” Everybody in this church is the fruit of Stewart’s labors. So what do we represent about him? This is never discussed. It is forbidden to speak of the idea that even a little bit of all that goes on here, in a bad sense, and the wretched condition everybody is in is a result of Stewart.)
Of course, Stewart tells us are not allowed to blame anybody for our condition and our own sins, but then again, there is fruit and there are trees.
The image I get is Stewart’s great struggle to clear our church of thorns; the fight against the forces of evil, with Stewart as the protagonist. It is something like Hitler’s so-called struggle and his flight.
(I was referring to the mythology built up around Hitler as the savior of Germany, struggling to rid the country of evil forces. The flight was a story in a children’s book about Hitler’s flight in a small plane through thunderstorms, and how he braved these conditions to get to a meeting where he was needed.)
After Donald speaks, totally retarded, Stewart says, “Well Peter, it looks like you have a new disciple.” Too bad we can’t just say, “Disciple? How about not my disciple, but your son!” Of course, you do hear about pastors who have problems with their children.
The hell cult is in full session today. Since it is our belief that the final judgment will be in five minutes, everybody gets talked to as if they were standing in from of the judgment seat of God right now. (“They could cut, burn or hang a man, because it was nothing compared to punishment he was going to get in hell very soon and they were only taking part in what God was going to do to that person anyway.”)
(This was a quote from a Newsweek article about the Salem Witch Trials. It described the Puritan judges’ viewpoint toward those who were on trial for being witches.)
We hardly ever hear a “Call and Welcome to Christ,” or a description of Christ’s love toward sinners – only about this process that I have to do and complete. Love also, like in the “U Point of View,” seems to be a process we go through and arrive at. Love is also briefly mentioned as one of the principles.
(Of course, I couldn’t bring this to anyone’s attention. Stewart’s only question to me would simply be, “So, are you right with Christ then?”)
Witches are being hunted today. We are supposed to be open, honest and broken. But who wants to lay down their walls in front of this?
Stewart says we have to “Leave everything in this life.” I keep thinking of telling everybody about the “things indifferent” if I am pressed about it. Here, we have to leave our brains at the door, intelligent discussion need not apply.
(“Things indifferent” was a term that the reformers, such as John Calvin, used to describe things that were neither promoted nor forbidden by God, such as collecting art, reading literature, etc. In COBU, we were supposed to have no interests other than strict adherence to the program and to speak of nothing but this so-called Christian training we received from Stewart at the meetings. We could also, of course, discuss the church business and we could make small talk with customers if it would help sales.)
A CULT GROWS IN BROOKLYN.
I got voted into the lowest category, which is “seen as a problem.” Some brothers say they are going to be putting heat on me all week. I just hope some kind of help will come from this. I forget that this is supposed to be a hospital ward situation. (It is, right?)
(Stewart sometimes said the church is a hospital for sinners. I came to realize that the treatment was worse than the disease.)
In praying about this, immediately after sitting down and then again, the word “comfort” came to my mind. Okay, I don’t know what that means. I know what the word means, but what does it mean for me? I just wrote it down because I heard it.
Paul B. put himself forward as a problem, including saying that he is demanding hell. Chuck and Kevin told him, “Well, you can have it.”
I’m sitting here like a dog. I guess if it weren’t true, all this hell stuff and pressure, this wouldn’t be happening.
Robert S. stood up and said that he is a problem and that he is being arrogant and is “this close to blowing up” and the brothers proceeded to (almost) blow him up.
Peter was saying all those things (which are similar to what I think). No wonder, it figures he got bopped today.
Stewart touches on Peter once in a while in his comments. What makes it so hard is that you feel like Stewart is stepping on your face, plus the inescapable feeling that whatever he says is the truth.
Reading over in the liner of a Bible notes some I copied a long time ago from the old salvation lesson called, Faith in God’s Love for You. Reminiscences of the good ol’ days before all this hell stuff started. (The Woodruff basement meetings, long nights, an easier basis – which went nowhere anyway – and having time for long runs in the park, my old delivery job (on good days), driving and listening to lesson from Stewart about about “sincerity,” and how it gave me a lift for a bit, but really did nothing for me.)
Stewart is saying that everybody has to wake up and that we need to have a contrite heart. And now in conciliatory tones, he is saying things to Peter.
A new brother, Nate, was standing up and talking to everyone about wanting to move to Woodruff (out of 46th Street). He said, “I will go with the abundance of counselors,” in some way putting it on everybody else. (Stewart said it was code.) After we voted on Nate, Stewart said, “Is something wrong?” He told us we allowed Nate to get away with it. Kevin and Chuck said they repent, because they did see something wrong, but didn’t say anything because they didn’t see anything specific. So now they’re talking to Nate, ranging all over the board, saying what it is that Nate is up to, guessing what it is he is up to.
Of course, Stewart is waiting and later he will tell all the puppies exactly what it is that Nate is up to.
Stewart is now saying, “What category did you put Nate into, nobody knows?” (Stewart knows everything.) “Nobody is talking to Nate about how he has AIDS. Nathan has a long record of looking for and getting pity from everyone. What’s the next issue, in order of importance, that you should be discussing with him, you cheaters!” (Stewart is our Lord, our guide. Stewart knows everything. He misses nothing. He is our leader and we are all are his flunkies and we always all flunk before him.)
“What is the difference between Nathan’s cheating on Christ and everybody else’s cheating?”
(Nobody ever contests and says, “I wasn’t cheating.” Imagine a man, working with a group of people and he is the “catalyst.” Everything he says, everything he interjects – and stands back to watch the effect it has on people and to see what follows – is the truth. Whatever he says is accepted by us, totally and without reservation. Or at least that’s how everyone acts. I also get the feeling that they are “reflexing,” that is, they have a knee-jerk reaction to whatever Stewart says, and are reflexively responding to it, without giving it much though, or having much time to think about it, because Stewart just keeps coming at us, and all they can do is react, run and jump at his command.)
Stewart: “We have been warned to give up our fantasy in this life. But in the case with Nathan, it is impossible for him to give up his fantasy because it has been taken away from him. But he refuses to repent – it’s awful.” (It seems as if Stewart is going to write Nathan off.) “God takes your fantasy away from you. Your trouble comes upon you. I actually ask for the condemned sinner. God says, then they will call upon me, but I will laugh when their calamity strikes them.”
(One of Stewart’s favorite passages in the Bible to use on us was Proverbs 1:25-28, which says, “because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.”)
Is this what God is really like? Whatever happened to God bringing somebody low, with now way out, so they can face their condition and turn to him? It seems like Stewart has a penchant for death and hell.
Stewart is now “proving” to us that we cheated. “You cheated by letting Nathan get away with it, because you still have your fantasy too.” Now, we’re all getting put in the same pot with Nate.
Now that Kevin and Chuck know what the “pot” is, they’re screaming and yelling about “no more!”
Stewart has sprung the snare. Everybody is caught, even the good guys. Why do we all have to bow down and worship this man? This is some weird kind of psycho-torture. Stewart is laying it on everybody. Chuck and Kevin have now flipped sides and are acting as Stewart’s henchmen. They go after Robert S. He walked out of the room, saying, “I don’t even know why I’m here.” Stewart says to the brothers, “You should say to him, ‘Why are you here?’ ”
Another new brother laughed. Rocky asks him, “Why are you here, brother?”
Stewart: “You should be making him do what Robert did.”
Now Stewart switches to, “Notice, you don’t hear anything from Nathan now.” Stewart is speaking everyone’s lines for them, catching them in their deceit. He is ten steps ahead of everybody.
“It’s clear that you have not been rubbing Nathan in all the smart aleks’ faces.”
(Stewart writes the screenplay and everybody runs to accomplish it. He catches us in what we should have been saying, whether we know we should have been saying it or not, and if he says so, we should have been.)
Stewart is really lashing out. like he has a vendetta against us. He’s dripping with blood. “You know, Vinnie, you are one of the main ones looking for pity.” Nobody talks to Stewart, they just run! (Run away in some cases – or run to do or to say whatever he he tells us to do or say.)
“Nathan is succeeding in using you to change all the standards. He’s using that to make a substitute for the fantasy he used to have.”
(These are heavy charges. Nathan doesn’t even know he is doing it. Chuck is snapping and blabbering. Like in the McCarthy era, Stewart is painting Nathan to be a Communist because he looks like one and everybody is else reacting out of their fears that this is true because Stewart says so and what Stewart says is unquestioningly accepted by everyone, or at least by the big talkers. There is no trial or proof, although who could win anyway?)
(Wikipedia says that “McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence.”)
Either Stewart is flipped out or he has deep spiritual insight. He can reach deep inside people and see their inward thought processes, things they don’t even know they are thinking. He even said that Nathan doesn’t think so, because the devil does his thinking for him!
But this way, you can’t answer to any of the charges!
Now Stewart is blasting us for this club he says we hide in. This is where I begin to wonder whether Stewart had planned all along to talk to us about this. This hiding wasn’t so serendipitously discovered. He just used some people as victims to build up to to his accusation of it. I say this because Stewart’s speech and line of attack seem so well-rehearsed. Okay, it may have been something he realized with Nathan just now. (Stewart says to Nathan, “Ask the brothers if they understand it” – but this doesn’t mean it’s time for a question and answer period. It just means everybody will repeat back the lines Stewart told them to say.)
“You don’t know what it is like to no longer have this fantasy.” (Why, does Stewart know? If so, then he went through what Nathan went through and obviously Stewart doesn’t think there is no more hope for himself.) “We are testifying that we are not in Christ if we can’t say that we know what it’s like to live without the fantasy.”
So now, nobody here in the room is – or ever was – in Christ, by way of implication, because we don’t know what it is like to live without our fantasy. I guess Stewart has just found this out about us and so have we.
Nathan will probably be gone very soon. I thought that when God took away a person’s every refuge – then, and only then, can they repent. Aren’t there plenty of stories where God took away everything from somebody so they could and did repent?
Everybody is standing up and committing themselves now to living in the fear of God and to giving up their fantasy in this life. It all just seems like “fear of Stewart.”
Stewart: “It looks like Nathan got over on the old professionals.” Stewart threw this stuff in to stir up the pot. What is this all about? This is so unreal.
I have that feeling that I want to speak up and say something, like I really should. But why, when you consider the outcome for doing that? Why do we all have to stand up and speech out this stuff? I sat here. That is the best course. I didn’t want to get caught in some line of questioning about “will you give up everything in this life?” only to respond that, “I believe that there are things in this life which are indifferent, and that it doesn’t matter to God whether we do them, or not.” Good luck!
So, it looks like Stewart is calling for an end to it. “What should we do now, brothers?”
(My base suspicion is that Stewart wants to drive Nathan out of the church, so we don’t have to pay any medical bills!)
But, this teaching of “kill everything in this life” – how do I know that this isn’t the way God is? It’s like I have no way of knowing. (This is a death cult.)
Stewart: “If you can’t testify that you’d like to drop dead right now…how many of you can testify that you’d want to drop dead right now?” (No one raises their hands.) “So, you’re saying God is wrong, it is not better to depart and be with the Lord?”
(I am starting to play with thoughts of calling the police or doing something to open this place up to the public.) I also feel like I had better stand up and make a speech now or get caught here.
(After a lesson, it was very common for all the brothers and sisters to stand up, one by one, and say that they believed that the lesson that Stewart taught us was true and to make a commitment to be obedient to the new revelation. Sometimes, after the speeches had been made, the call went out, “And who didn’t say anything? Find out who these ones are.” This caused great anxiety in me that I ought to stand up now and made a speech.)
Jay and others are saying or playing the game that we can’t pray now, and asking, “What are the ones sitting back going to do?”
(Meetings were closed with a group prayer, where everyone got down on their knees and prayed out loud at the same time. Sometimes we were unable to close the already long meetings, because when it was time to pray, anxious brothers and sisters began saying that to pray now would be “hiding and games” and we deliberated for up to an hour, both sides giving their reasons why it was necessary to pray and why praying “in the spirit we’re in” would be wrong.)
Never say what you really think. It’s dangerous. I’d like to say I don’t know if I have to kill everything in this life. But, if I say anything, it better be the appropriate canned talk. It’s a good way to avoid the treatment I can expect to get.
Read the next section of the journal here: Stewart Traill’s Absolutist Creed: 99.999% Of All Other Christians Are Arrogant.