1993, 03/04. Building A Better Mousetrap. Complicated Solutions For Simple Problems.

Thursday March 4

I woke up this morning to the sound of someone screaming their head off about “Jesus.”

We had a “snappy” meeting last night, which of course, ended very late. The meeting was a further discussion about the groups going to Woodruff. This matter was settled. So it looks like I will soon be there! Supposedly, the groups will take turns so as to not burn out. I assume it will turn into everyone going there every night anyway, because someone will say (probably a new brother) that we all have to be together for the sake of unity and to be in fellowship. And no older brother will say anything, in a classic case of group thinking vs. rational thought.

The older brothers especially don’t want to be seen as standing out from the group consensus for fear that this may reach a Certain Person’s ears. It’s better to suffer silently with the group than to stand out for any reason. (Except of course, standing out because one is extremely zealous for Jesus, which is probably the only way out.) Rational minds are still subject to being sucked into the vortex of communal thinking, where disagreement with the majority is a crime because “everybody” agreed and why are you daring to say otherwise? The very act of disagreement is being a troublemaker.

What happens here is that some new person saying the right catch-phrases can push all the right buttons and the older brothers, living in fear, are willing to go along with anything so as not to be seen as making trouble.

There is a fear of standing out. It reminds me of passages in the Bible like the lion’s den or the gallows in the book of Esther. It comes back on their maker, and they end up having it used on them. Say something (even if you know others think it too) and you are left there with everybody looking at you.

So, I have the attitude of “Go, but say nothing. Observe everything, speak of nothing.” Probably the only way out is through attrition. It will get to a point where I can’t keep up with it.

Someone here mentioned over the phone to somebody at Woodruff about the impossibility of us going over to Woodruff every night, and they replied that “Kevin has been coming over every night without complaining,” and although there were some smirks on older brothers’ faces, this is the kind of screwed up thinking that makes this place so weird. We older brothers did decide among ourselves to rotate our schedule, coming from practicality. But we are sure to be sucked into the vortex. Someone will say, “But we all must work together; all must suffer together.”

[We decided that our working groups would take turns going over to Woodruff, rather than everyone being there every night, so as not to burn out from the constant activity. But it was inevitable that someone was going to say that everybody must be there together every night, not just some of us, some of the time. This was going to lead to burnout, because we also worked long hours in the church businesses. A night at Woodruff also included a meeting till the early hours of the morning in which we went through each person, talking to each one about his behavior.]

So, I am thinking that if it comes to that, I will just openly withdraw from the work. I am an individual. I will stand before God as an individual. I don’t need a group to save me, I don’t need religious works to save me. I understand the dangers and consequences of saying such a thing. I guess I should see how it goes first. (Of course, the thing to do is that we all move to Woodruff to avoid the travel time. Two hundred flunkies in one house. I was hoping to never have to live there again.)

I suddenly feel better, maybe because of writing this. This is what a diary is for, to write down my uncensored thoughts. The things I’d be afraid to say before man, but think these things before God anyway.

I am still not unconvinced that I don’t live in a mind control cult. That is, I still have “residual doubts.” That article in the paper about David Koresh said that groups which isolate themselves from society and have a charismatic leader who claims to be God, or God-inspired, and who exercises complete control over members’ lives are called cults. (Though other “scholars” say that this label is pejorative.) I can say that this is what we are. It hits the nail on the head! It is obvious to me that Stewart controls every aspect of our lives. Just because Stewart isn’t there, standing over me every second or standing over my bed when I wake up doesn’t diminish this fact in any way. What about the power of a message? For example, when Stewart gives a message about me, or when he singles me out in front of the church body, in front of everybody else. What leverage!

Well, I am delving into these thoughts again. I usually lose it at this point. That is, I lose the ability to string it together rationally.

Residual doubts: about Kevin last night talking to us about the custody case for his child. My doubts were about how Kevin is supposedly the suffering martyr, but maybe Stewart makes it too hard for anyone to marry here or that Kevin was unwilling to be an individual. Kevin lived with Jamie in sin, but when it is time to live right, suddenly there is a long road of hurdles to overcome before they can live together and who is to say that these hurdles are not figments of our collective imagination? But we all said the appropriate comments to Kevin about the bad people who are working him over in court. Only Blake told Kevin that he had been living half and half for so long, and that if he had been fully there, he would have married her and this might not be happening. But, I see how we have to say the right things to each other.

Well, this has been a rather long morning entry. I wish I had kept a diary before and even when I did keep one, I wish I had written at greater length. Maybe I should write about other things (as well). Maybe this is all there is to me. I would rather write a descriptive diary than a proscriptive one.

I saw also how Kevin, though he may want to do the “right thing,” is totally living in fear. He doesn’t want to be alone with Jamie on the phone, so she can’t work him over – as if she isn’t already! I think our group has done a lot to foster Fear of Women over the years. I already had it to begin with, but when Stewart taught us that if the sisters can fool us in any way, or if they get over on us in any way, there was abject shame in that because of what it said about us as men, or about how we were not real men.

My way of dealing with that in my earlier years in the church was to withdraw and also to develop a highly defensive “me vs. the bad woman” attitude toward the sisters that certainly didn’t foster relations between us very well and probably had a lot to do with the fact that I never married or even got a relationship off the ground. How could I get close to a woman who was also going to try to stab me in the back? Stewart portrayed them as the enemy of the brothers. He pitted one group was against another.

There has always this inter-group tension within the fellowship. It’s like Stewart is and always has been playing with us like we were toy soldiers on his battlefield, fighting imaginary battles to amuse himself, or as a result of his warped ideas about people. Not that Stewart doesn’t see problems and/or have such a good understanding of human nature so as to manipulate us at will, but he designs intricate answers to simple problems. That is, a Rube Goldberg machine. Pete explained to me what that means. The better mouse trap. Intricate contraptions to do simple tasks.

(I had been looking for a word or a way to articulate this concept and I think this is it. There are many things I think and see, but I have no way to articulate them clearly.)

Our entire fellowship, through blind and absolute faith in Stewart, takes part in a huge intricate Rube Goldberg machine, and a lot of our time and lives are wasted in these things. But we all have great faith in our “inventor,” who is often looking for intricate solutions to problems that may have been already solved by other people in a far simpler way. For example, we are waiting for Stewart to get his view of the Bible together. We are taking part in an intricate Rube Goldberg machine about the relationships between the men and the women in the church.

The days of my life. I am out soliciting with Harry. He is okay, and not really a big problem like I thought he was going to be. Robert S. told me there was a new brother who was thinking of leaving who I could take with me closing jobs.

I am considering how I will answer this questionnaire, whether I will answer honestly or choose middle of the road responses due to the nature of the quiz and the fact that my name will go on top. I will tone down my response. But isn’t this cowardly?

[There was a four-page questionnaire from Stewart about how we thought the church business could be run better.]

Questions about fines due poor performance – why should it always only be adjusted downward? What about monetary rewards for increasing business? This would be unheard of. Isn’t it sick how I always live in fear? I am thinking of saying this on the questionnaire, but then I do not. I make many decisions based on fear.

I was thinking more about Stewart. Is he really a cult leader? Why is marriage so strictly prohibited? Remember, Stewart doesn’t necessarily prohibit as much as make extraordinarily high standards which we must agree with, but can’t live up to. Nobody will stand up to him because of the extreme consequences. And everybody else just sitting by silently only adds the icing on the cake. I can’t believe people put up with this. Though actually, when I consider it, most have have not put up with this, because most of the people who were here have left the church.

Are we just another fundamentalist religious group with a charismatic leader who thinks he has God’s absolute and final revelation? The article I read also said that the isolation of these groups reinforces their views. This is what I have already thought and observed for some time now. Once we are isolated, it is like sealing our fate, to the point of no return unless somehow miraculously there is intervention or contact with other churches. If I were to take the extreme view, that Stewart is a conscious cult leader who does a lot more than he tells us, then I would definitely say he isolates us on purpose and that it’s a part of his plan for us. He doesn’t try to recruit or invite intellectual people, because they wouldn’t put up with his esoteric doctrine mixed with tyranny. (How many other groups are there, not as extreme as the Branch Davidians, that believe absolutely in their leader and in what he says?)

I notice the extreme way I am pinned to the wall, both when Stewart is here and when he isn’t. There is definitely something wrong here.

So, we are all being deceived. This is not unusual. Where have I been for the last thirteen years? Actually, this way of life here has not left me able to deal rationally with all of this, even if I do realize things. Thirteen years of being a physical, mental and spiritual dependent. Obviously, I have not grown to where I can do anything. This method here only fosters dependents who are like clay in the master’s hands.

What am I now? Certainly not what I was when I came here when I was 22. Yet, I have not grown in a way where I can do something about this. (By the way, feigned compliance may be the most adequate defense as I begin to wake up to all of this and figure out how it works.)

I am starting to be able to put it together. The social control, isolation, exclusivity. (In the mean time, I am dying.) I see that the man is an absolute tyrant. I see that he does exercise absolute control over our lives and our minds.

Right now, feigned compliance, like in The Organization Man. How to tow the party line, but look for a way out.

[In his book, The Organization Man, William H. Whyte wrote about saying the right things to everyone, but looking for a way of escape from the organization on the side. The reason you did not speak your mind or talk about the things you were beginning to realize about the place you were in, was to not draw attention to yourself, or you would never find a safe way out. This was very real for me too. I did not know anyone on the outside that I could go to. I would need to arrange a place to live and to work. Getting put out on the street as a result of an inquisition about my behavior was a real danger and I had been threatened with it before.  There are more notes about The Organization Man at the end of this page.]

But I don’t know how to do it yet. Maybe the first step is breaking the hold of Stewart and his methods on my mind. It is really the mind more than anything. There aren’t any bars here. These methods do have a miraculously strong hold on my mind. For example: the extreme heat I feel when Stewart is correcting me or the group. My head begins to melt down. I go under.

Stewart says that this Sunday’s meeting will be a “no excuses” meeting. Isn’t it crazy how Stewart is a loser? Such high-minded teaching, yet everybody is a dud. The two don’t match. George told me today that even the IRS says that we work an awful lot for a church.

I was laying down and started to have fantasies about slapping Stewart in the face, about breaking a board over his head. About being in a courtroom and testifying against him or generally blowing up on him. (And that he would probably put me in my place through mind control.)

Some more notes about the book, The Organization Man. The book was written about behavior in American big business in the 1950s. It dealt with the issues of conformity and control. Though it was written about a different social group than the one I was in, I read it with great interest because I thought many of the things in the book applied to my life in COBU.

One of the many subjects I studied while I was still in COBU was organizational behavior. COBU was an organization with a domineering leader, an all-pervasive worldview and regimented followers who followed the program like rats in a maze. Learning the patterns and forces of organizational behavior was one of the keys that helped unlock the many locks that were on my life and on my mind. No one aspect of reading and study helped completely. COBU was a combination of a false religion, an authoritarian government with a dictator, mind control, coercion and organizational behavior – and as some also would say, demonic influence and control. The Bible says that forbidding marriage – which is a major hallmark of COBU life – is “a doctrine of demons.”

This is mentioned in the Bible in 1 Timothy 4:1-5, where the Apostle Paul says, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretension of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”

From a reader’s review on Amazon.com about the Organization Man:

“Whyte argues that the ideology behind the organization man is a “social ethic.” Its core beliefs are that the group is superior to the individual, and individuals lack meaning and purpose outside of that group. “Belongingness” is assumed to be the ultimate emotional need of the individual, and to achieve it society should not hesitate to use a bit of social engineering. The result, however, is an ethos of over-conformity at any price.”

You can read the next section of this journal here: Sleep Deprivation.

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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