1993, 03/15-18. Various Points And End Notes.

This section covers March 15-18 which completed this journal book. After this, some notes follow. Along with writing about my day to day life in COBU, I jotted notes in the back sections of my journal books, and I have put these notes here.

Monday, March 15

I am giving some thought to my future, about what and how to study, future jobs. About the eventual dissolution of the church. (Which seems taboo to think about, but also seems like it would be inevitable upon the death of its leader.) I don’t want to be caught high and dry at that time. I think now is the time to branch out and consider alternatives.

We are taught to kill everything. Also the line, “If you ever got it together, that’s the last you would see of Jesus.” [This was a dire warning from Stewart Traill that if we got our lives together, we would become proud and not rely on God, and as result, be lost for eternity. Such things were meant to foster helplessness in us.] Yet the Puritans were supposed to be diligent about their worldly callings, and success in them was considered to be a sign or corollary of spiritual progress. This is a major difference from what we are taught here!

[I read a book called The Puritan Dilemma which described a young Puritan’s struggle to handle the use of “things in this life,” which according to Puritan teachings, he must learn to use, neither avoiding their use, nor being obsessed with them. Avoiding the good things of this life, which God had created, would be a lack of faith in God.]

Is all of this that Stewart tells us meant to create dependents who are not allowed to think or act for themselves? And to not to have their own interests [which would take time away from the work] or to have divided loyalties or other loyalties? Is it a way – an enforced way – to make sure we are working at what we should be doing? Also, does the giver of this “golden rule” live by it himself? I think not!

[Stewart did not live according to the rules of self-denial that he required of us. He portrayed a modest image in public by wearing simple clothing and driving an old car, while at the same time amassing property and wealth for himself either by directly using our labor, or by investing the profits of that labor.]

I was tagging along with Paul B. today. This is not good. I already have a problem with not thinking for myself. Why do I have to put my life on somebody else for an evening? (It had to do with not wanting to go back to Woodruff on the subway.)


(This was after falling asleep to a tape of a Larry Lea prayer course.) Lea began talking, he turned into a bearded figure, who looked like Paul B., who then said, “We will now talk about your marriage.”

Tuesday, March 16

My “partner” left me suddenly today. His eyes became suddenly dazed and he stumbled off, I think, to get a fix, under the pretext of seeing a friend who could help him with his problems and with housing and medication.

[This was a “new disciple” who I was assigned to me for the day. We were putting flyers for COBU’s carpet cleaning business under the doors in an apartment building.]

His actual walking out took place when we were in Roy Rogers. I had bought coffee for a man (William A.) who was outside begging for money for a cup of coffee and I chatted with him (or tried to) for a while. An interesting thing was that, as I was talking to this man, I noticed a tract lying on the ground, so I gave it to him and put our address and phone number on it. Possibly, it was divine providence, because I had wanted to give him a tract, but I didn’t have one.

So, I am and have been working in Brooklyn for a week or so. [I was leaving flyers in buildings and knocking on doors for cleaning jobs, often alone, which was a good break from the COBU milieu and the usual daily routine.] It’s a good area, my area. I want to build it up if I can, and get to know the place for business purposes, but also for other reasons.

(By this, I don’t mean things like finding real estate agents to have a source of emergency housing if I get thrown out of the church, but to have opportunities such as going to the library and for walking trips. And also for business, it’s good to know an area very well.)

I probably will go back to Red Hook on the bus when the work day is over and avoid the whole New York office trap and time wasting. Yesterday, it was like a trackless waste. What can I do to avoid that?

Wednesday, March 17

Woodruff is falling apart, physically and spiritually.

I am reading books by Martin Luther. It really seems like I’m living like one of the monks he wrote about and into a heavy salvation by works trip – earning merit, trying to appease an angry God. Everything is law and the attempt to fulfill the law in order to be finally free.

Woodruff is turning into a sin house, what with drug and other indulgences going on and new and middle brothers going to peep shows. I have the feeling that there will be a big hoedown tonight at the meeting with Brother Stewart, if there is a meeting. (He has been away in Haiti and has recently returned. And I wonder how much and what the blame will be involving the older brothers and their lack of effectiveness in dealing with this – or more specifically, if I am going to get it for this. Though I notice, it is an overwhelming fear of man that is running me about this, that is, about what Stewart is going to do to me. (And fear of who is going to inform on me, thrown in to make my worries even worse.) But not fear of what God is going to do to me. Is God going to do anything to me?

[What this means is that Stewart is going to lay the blame on the older brothers for all of these problems at the Woodruff Avenue house. He is going to say it was our fault because we couldn’t prevent or control this. However, when there was a house crowded with new people, without facilities to truly help them and we are working them day and night in the church businesses, there was bound to be trouble.]

Not much done today. Delivered some wood. This took until 2:30 or so. Got a message and went to close a job for a customer at 91st Street who called from a business card I gave out a year ago. Then we did some “so-called sweeping,” really just walking around. Now I am at Woodruff, waiting for a lift back. Paul is going to drive us.

As far as my inward life, I prayed at brief intervals today, including upstairs here (in my old room). I felt a little free when I cut loose on the guitar for a while. [I played through headphones plugged into a radio. I had some electric guitars stored in a room upstairs.] I wonder if this is what is meant by the word catharsis. A channeling of pent up energies. I am always so on guard, must always keep up the proper image, and never allow anything to be used against me.

Thursday, March 18

I read the book on harmful faith when I woke up. [This book was about harmful belief systems, or rather, harmful misconceptions about Christian beliefs.] Much of this sounds so familiar. The author talks about the church leader who is the persecutor and about church members who take part in fostering the illusion that he is a great man and who keep the system going without telling the real story.

I am, as always, overcome with amazement at the blue skies. It is probably one of my favorite things to see.

I am soliciting for jobs again in Brooklyn today. Trying to “carpe diem,” but I don’t know exactly just what to “carpe” on this “diem.” Maybe enjoy the sky and the fresh air.

I left a lot of flyers in doorways and later went door to door in office buildings. Nothing really is coming of it, though I am hoping it will. I may be having unreal expectations.

Now on the bus going back to Red Hook. (It’s 4:30.) I don’t feel as rested as I normally do (though it’s relative anyway). This may be because I have a new disciple brother with me, so I find it hard to think about anything. At least part, if not all of this, comes from the idea that I have to keep up a performance with him. (It is Stanley in this case, but it could be just about anybody.)

Usually I have a good feeling about finishing flyering for the day, but, in this case, I just feel exasperated. Certainly this must come from having to keep up a performance and looking positive. Throughout the day, I could never stop and collect my thoughts, however minimally I usually do this. There was only that one moment, when I was looking up at the sky (and thinking about carpe diem) while standing on a stoop in the warm sunlight.

Stanley was away at that moment, flyering a nearby area across the park. It seems that only when I am alone I can really stop and think. When I am with somebody, it is almost as if there is a veil that lays over my mind – a tension, a need to keep up some kind of dialog, which I am not really plugged into. (I also don’t have that relaxed sense of accomplishment today, or can’t say I lived in or thought my own thoughts today. Neither could I take those frequent library or other breaks to read and refresh my mind during the day.)

I was reading back over this, where I said, “This is the first day of March” and how I felt spring in the air. Well, we have had quite a setback! Today is frigid. I had been getting into one of my favorite things to think about, which is how to enjoy seeing spring turn into summer, the whole development and awakening of it all, I just love it.

Well, I quit early today. Came back to Red Hook. Made a few calls. Now I will retire into my room, for a little reading or whatever.

I am now about to take three new brothers sweeping. I calculated the cost of this to be ten dollars one way, more if we take the subway back.

I was talking with Greg B. on the phone. He said that there are four brothers from Red Hook there at the office. He has no money for food, there is no food there; that all this is crazy; that something should be done. That it’s every man for himself.

Obviously something should be done, but I don’t think anything will. If food were brought to the office, somebody would start complaining that 46th Street is not a hang out! The whole thing, the whole system is crazy. I hear we spend $800 per week on tokens! (This has something to do with the idea that the system must go on, no matter what and no matter what the cost. Maybe we shouldn’t take the new brothers out sweeping all the time, and this would be a way to eliminate extra trips. But, we must keep ‘em moving, so they don’t sit around. We must go out looking for new people. We spend a lot of time and money to do this, then we lose most of them anyway.)

The 800 dollars per week could be used to buy one (or two) vans per month! This is foolish, yet it uniquely shows our true mentality, the idea that somehow, we can’t do anything about a problem; that things must be done with an air of total degeneracy. It has something to do with nihilism. [The denial of our lives in this world, as Stewart taught us.]

Well, we “had to” go sweeping, but I got an unexpected surprise, because I got to see the departure of the Lake Shore Limited. I was walking through Penn Station with [new disciple] Cephas, doing the usual duty, realizing I am just making the rounds without talking to anybody, not even to him.

But then, on the lower level of the station, I walked onto the train platforms with him, because a few moments before, I smelled diesel fumes. Then Cephas began talking and asking questions about the trains and then I realized he was interested in trains. Then there was an announcement of something coming in on track number eight, so we went there to investigate. We ended up seeing the Lake Shore Limited. This incident broke the ice with Cephas. It helped me to see him as a person. Why can’t we just be real people?

Well, I suppose describing this event is a fitting way to close this diary. Alas! Finally, for a change, writing in and ending this diary on a good note, by writing about something I like and enjoy!

Well, of course, all is not well. Cephas was describing to me the conditions in Woodruff and in the fellowship in general, and what can I say about all of this, except God have mercy on me? I can’t fix it. I don’t think anybody really cares, either about the physical conditions or much about the new brothers either. Neither do I, I just walk away from it. It’s all too much for me. But I guess that is just making excuses.

But, I am still determined to end this on a hopeful note. It was good to see that train.



[This is a list of books I had been reading.]

The Organization Man – Wm. H. Whyte, Jr.

The Hidden Dimension – Edward T. Hall

Sermons on Commitment – Spurgeon

Faith that Hurts, Faith that Heals

Churches that Abuse – Ron Enroth (tape)

The Cult Movement – Joan Johnson   291.0973


The Church of Bible Understanding

The Church of Bible Under Sanding

[I sanded wood floors for so many hours in the church business that I thought of giving the church a new name: the Church of Bible Under Sanding. Another name I thought of was The Church of Babylon-derstanding, because Babylon is the symbol of false religion. Also, The Church of Babble Understanding, because of all the babble that was spoken in the name of true teaching, all the right sayings and cult lingo.]

Testing – Surveying

Brothers like Blake are more willing to express their doubts. Andrew is gung-ho. Where is his reservoir of doubt? [Eric Hoffer, the author of The True Believer, wrote that a reservoir of doubt exists inside the heart of even the most fanatical believer of any creed, movement or cause.]

Make a chart. with various comments that brothers make about their doubts about Stewart and the church. Find others’ agreement – or difference. Who else has this area of doubt? What can I find similar in others. Then try to find out, without asking if possible, what each brother thinks about this and other questions.

[I was naive to think any brother was going to confide to me their doubts about Stewart and life in COBU. If anything, they would report on me for talking about this. Even though I could tell by some brothers’ indirect way of speaking, that they had doubts, no one was going to talk to me about it. For example, one brother, when he was being cornered by a group of brothers who told him that Stewart said something about him, and if he agreed, said, “Of course. I have to. Because whatever Stewart says is the truth.” Of course, the brothers did not accept this comment from him, but later I tried talking to the brother about it, and he denied having said this.]

Maybe I could make a social survey of the church, work, marriage, etc.


What is the true Gospel?

What are the heresies of Christianity that appear to close to the real thing, especially salvation by works and Arminianism, which purport to be the real thing but are not?

Why isn’t the faith of John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon good enough? [As opposed to having to believe Stewart’s version of Christianity and his view that all other Christians had been wrong throughout the ages, and that all Christians are in error today? The faith and teachings of Calvin and Spurgeon had stood the test of time, and I was trying to follow their teachings as a way to have a stable and growing, instead of confused and condemned, Christian life. Stewart’s teachings only produced worry, fear, guilt and confusion, and, according to Stewart, everyone was a sinner in the hands of an angry God and we were all headed straight to hell and about to be thrown in the lake of fire.]

Is it really true what Stewart says, that nobody knows what the Apostle Paul was really saying, and that even Paul might not have understood what he was saying? (Is this a set up, so we are prepared to receive Stewart’s revelations? Will he finally tell us that he knows what Paul was saying and that this is the first time that the truth has been revealed since the time of the Apostles (as he once told us before)? Are we getting set up and Stewart is about to tell us he knows what Paul was saying? Is this question even right? In other words, by asking the question, “did Paul know?,” Stewart sets up certain expectations in our minds. A common thread in these communal religious groups I have been reading about (Shakers, Oneida) was that they claimed that nobody knew what Paul said, and that Christians have been wrong until now, and that their leader had the real the truth, which he was revealing to the world.

– American religious phenomenon

– all of these communal religious groups tampered with marriage

Just what is it that bothers me about Stewart?

Cleaning, organization, etc.: Another book purge > do I really need books like The Ethics of Spinoza?


Excerpt from Prison or Paradise.  Chapter: Countering the Cults.

Health and sanitary codes should be more strongly enforced, especially against those groups whose members live together in crowded conditions…there have been reports of unsanitary conditions in some cults. In 1978, New York City health officials evicted 200 members of the Church of Bible Understanding, also known as the Forever Family, from the group’s headquarters. They found them living in a filthy, rat-infested 2,000 square foot loft with only two toilets and one sink and no bathtubs or showers. The 200 men, women, and children had to use public baths in the Bowery.


Who has managed to shake free of his cult? Because cults have power over peoples’ minds, making it hard to just walk out. Shaking free probably has a lot more to do with fetters on my mind than on my body.

A right kind of fear: being afraid, but also having hope. There is a future to this kind of fear. (As opposed to fear and being broken down.)

Galbraith, in the Affluent Society, wrote that people with deferred goals are easily manipulated. Is this a key to my life, an explanation of certain things? Everything (good) in my life is in the future, and I only will get it if I wait. In my upbringing, living my life was deferred to college and after, and the belief that, though things are rough now, they will get “better.” Is this pattern, which carries over to my life now, in which I neglect to live for now?

The things that bother me here are common to all institutions, organizations, corporations and groups. The problem is: how to deal with it? I need something beyond merely realizing that if I left the church and went elsewhere, it would be the same, and that I would encounter the same interpersonal forces in any company or group, and that I would have to learn how to cope with it. That is, the party line is the only acceptable choice or mode of expression in any group, and that I would be backed in the corner with multiple obligations and expectations wherever I went. Also held in check because the goods are on me, because of past behavior, something like blackmail. “You better keep quiet – especially after what you did.” I can always be reminded of that.


[Writing down Stewart’s comments in a Bible study:]

“Colossians 3:5 is one of the most important verses in the Bible, but what does “earthly” mean? (The verse actually says “put to death your members that are on the earth” in the original Greek.) What does it mean? Blow your brains out? How much is too much, how much is not enough?

“Romans 6 is coming from difficult places in proving why you should not sin. Verse 14 in the original Greek: For your sin shall not lord it over youAmartia gar umon.”

(“Your” – or is it “you?” Apparently, “you” it is in the genitive case, but does it actually translate to this? Stewart said the actual words are “Sin for of you not lord it over.” The Greek word kurieusei may take the genitive.)

[The above sentence in parenthesis were my comments on Stewart’s handling of translation from New Testament Greek to English, which I did not think he was very good at.]

“The early Christians had a huge head start on understanding the Bible.” (J.L.: think of the early Jewish Christians)

“The value of this Greek study is familiarity with the words of the apostles in a mechanical translation, for later understanding.”

[Stewart’s incompetent way of understanding languages was apparent to me, because I studied languages. So, I understood translation issues.]

“Forget about yourself, others are hurting worse than you are. Help them and things will get better.” (J.L.: Hey, obviously others are hurting more on marriage than I am.)

Romans 6 note (my note, not Stewart’s). Regarding us being slaves, the Apostle Paul said, I am speaking in human terms, because of your own natural limitations. (In other words, Stewart says we have to be slaves, because Paul said we have to be slaves, but is that what Paul really meant we had to be?)

[More comments by Stewart:]

“John Bunyan said that God will not let his elect die before they reach repentance. Why did Paul say, shall we continue in sin? (two times in the chapter). It is a very important issue, but very dangerous. Therefore, how much a person has sinned is not the issue. (It is important to the human mind, but it doesn’t matter to and does not stop God.) The elect are going to be saved no matter what. Because of the greatness of God’s power, not one of his elect is missing. After Paul’s statement, he goes on to the grounds on which God catches the wise in their craftiness, and about why it matters. YOU ARE NOT REALIZING HOW COMPLETE FORGIVENESS IS, vs. the idea of being planted with him. Iin the King James Version, verse 6 is: our old man (as in the Greek, not “old self” as in the Revised Standard Version), was crucified. “Self” easier for people to deal with. One of my rules (#20) is that unless an interpretation is comprehensive, it is not worth much at all.

“Interpretation. The problem comes down to nobody knows what the Apostles meant.”

[This was one of Stewart’s claims. That no one knew what the writers of the New Testament were really talking about in this, and in other passages. The implication was that Stewart did understand, or that he was at least on his way to knowing. Perhaps soon again, we were to hear Stewart tell us that something was being revealed that had been “hidden since the time of the Apostles,” or maybe even, something that the Apostles themselves had not understood, and that now, Stewart was revealing it for the first time ever.]

“Colossians 2:11 the body of the sins of the flesh.”

(J.L.: I didn’t see the “sin of” in my Greek Bible.)

“The word ‘body’ is on the official mystery list.”

[End of notes on what Stewart was talking about.]



I would have to sacrifice my mind,

it would be out of cowardice.


is forbidden

If Stewart doesn’t say so, it doesn’t exist.


You can’t call this a cult. These same characteristics are found in businesses, families and other groups.

You can read the next section of these journals here: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.

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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