1993, 03/05-6. Sleep Deprivation.

March 5th

I’m out soliciting alone right now. I went to Christian Publications, where I found a book about religious addiction and harmful faiths, which pretty much described the inner workings of our church and our relations with our leader.

An interesting note in the book was that you can’t trust or confide in anybody in these groups, because they are fronting and they don’t tell you what they really think.

Also, I found things in this book that are almost word for word what I already thought myself. It is so strange to see someone else say the same things.

Night:

I am now in Woodruff. I feel like an idiot, standing around. I feel very weird. There is a lot of shouting going on about “doing our training wholeheartedly with no excuses.” These messages from Stewart are like laws and we will be evaluated accordingly.

[Everyone was shouting the messages from Stewart that were given that day.]

Sometimes I think Stewart’s mind control is so great, that any time he offers a small favor or lightenings the load on us a little, it is like a big kindness. Maybe he won’t kill us.

My general impression of new brothers here is that they are learning some weird kind of Christian psychology. They are dumb, they don’t know what is hitting them.

Yet people are being helped. Avtar greeted me. And with the children in our orphanage in Haiti, how can anyone say say this church is bad? It is awfully hard to protest or say anything about Stewart, because I will be told that this is “hurting” all these new people. I am sure Stewart would use these things as a shield to protect himself.

[When I spoke up at a meeting to question Stewart, he said I was confusing and hurting the new people among us, because of the mixed message they were receiving by seeing an older church member question Stewart, even on a minor point and in a non-demanding way. Yet Stewart never considered it to be a mixed message or damaging to the new disciples when he harangued and accused the older brothers for hours during our meetins.

Stewart always used this ploy to protect himself. One time when I stood up to say something to him, an older brother asked me to look around at all these new ones here and asked me if this was helping them right now, the implication being that I was severely hurting them by my actions. I answered, “Yes, it is helping them, if the wrong things I am addressing are real issues.”

During my last weeks before leaving the church, we were assembled in a meeting.  Toward the end of it Stewart asked if there were any “questions, comments or complaints.” He always portrayed himself as a fair, honest and truth-seeking person and said that as a “democratic society,” we had the right to say and to discuss our opinions, even if we disagreed with something. If the person was considered wrong, or his complaint invalid, the official version of the story was that he would be guided back to the truth, or shown from the scriptures that he was wrong, all in a spirit of fairness and honesty. 

Another time when I spole up, less that one minute into my explanation, I was being threatened with being summarily put out of the church because, as one brother said, I was “attacking the truth and all that our church stands for.” I wasn’t even sure if a ride would be offered back to New York so I could get my belongings. Under this pressure, I backed down and said I was wrong.

The last time I spoke up (a week before leaving), a brother stood up from the other side of the room and directed me to look around at all the new people and then asked me if “this was helping or hurting them,” implying that I was hurting them by talking about these things. I paused for a moment, then said, if the things that I am talking about are real, then those are the things that are hurting the new people and this needs to get talked about. This time, instead of getting shouted down by the crowd, I talked for a while, until I became aware of the utter silence in the room. I felt strange, so I sat down. A few moments later the meeting went on as if nothing had happened.

To further explain the coercive power of the threat of eviction against dissenters in a communal society, it must be remembered that most people have three areas of life, the church, home, and employment as separate spheres, where failure or disapproval in one does not prevent the ability to be successful in the others. If you lose your job, you can still find moral and spiritual support at your church. If you leave your church, you still own your house or apartment.  In a communal society, all three of these spheres are under one roof. As a way to coerce and enforce beliefs and behaviors, the threat of eviction could be used if necessary and it often was implied even when not used.  Imagine what it might be like, if at a church meeting you voiced your opinion, and the penalty for this opinion was that you lost your church membership. You go home and find that you’ve been evicted, so sleep outside and go to work the next morning, only to find out that you’ve been fired. This is the kind of power that Stewart held over people.]

I have been getting deeply into thinking about how this is a cult lately and writing it all down. But when I do, it is hard to keep up the positive front that I show to others because of the level of duplicity that is involved, that is, the difference between what I am saying and doing, and what I am thinking. This makes me consider dropping the whole thing, because I can’t keep it up.

I bought a book and a tape on fringe Christian groups. (The tape may have been a waste of $13. I don’t have much money.) When I was listening to the tape, I got a big surprise when the narrator launched into a description of the Church of Bible Understanding, all about a Gayle helper who left the church. It just blew my mind.

But, I am pretty weirded out with the prospect of long hours now with this call to work with the new disciples at Woodruff full time with no excuses. Other older brothers have been complaining. But then, they either immediately correct themselves, or somebody else does it for them. No being a crybaby, no excuses. I am signed off and going along with it and don’t plan to say anything. (Of course, I feel extremely guilty for not having been here to take my share of suffering. How can I complain about the lack of sleep if I am never here anyway except for today, my first time? But still, I know the score implicitly. It will also become explicit on the part of others if I say anything about it. They will say I should not be complaining about this!)

Certain brothers put on a cheery front about being here, but underneath they seem nervous. Bob D. seems real though.

Saturday morning, March 6. Red Hook

There is a big riot going on in the main area. All I know about this is that the new brothers were saying they needed sleep.

It soon turned into a shouting match that ended with Francisco being carried out, one brother per limb.

Today’s descriptive diary: I am out with Dion soliciting. We met up with Greg B. and soon split up. He looks pretty worn out. I am too. I have absolutely no motivation to do this. Once in a while I dream of being able to go to a nice apartment to take a hot shower, cook a good meal and enjoy an evening of peace and quiet, music and study. A time to reorganize and collect my thoughts, to make some plans.

I’m thinking about this mini-purge that is going on now. I don’t really have anything to resist it with. I have not been and am not now faithful to Christ. Maybe I need something like this. Though I know some of this is unreal, such as, there will be no sleep. Wanting to take care of basic human needs will be seen as “crying” or of the flesh. Plus I am in great fear. “No excuses.”

When I was with Greg, I said we might need a little rest before tonight’s job. He just gave a little smirk, indicating that this is weakness or an unreal desire on my part. Though I know he would like to rest as well. I don’t think God is keeping score or giving credit on how much sleep I forgo. If I died right now, I’d go to hell. If I gave up sleep and went sweeping, then went to the job, then died, I would still go to hell. Doing these activities wouldn’t change a thing.

Conversely, if I slept, and didn’t go sweeping or go to the job, then died, would I lift up my eyes in hell and say, “If only I hadn’t slept and went sweeping instead. I would be in heaven right now!” It really does seem like an unreal system of salvation by works.

Here, many things are initially overstated, but then they calm down. There was some of this in the 810 era [an earlier time period in the church when things were really bad]. Stewart said that older brothers who guarded all night were not allowed sleep afterward but had to go to work, and that they weren’t allowed to sit during meetings but that they had to stand instead. This didn’t last long. These mini-purges, they come and go. There will be a long and general decline in the activity in the church followed by an all-out call from Stewart for Spartan regimentation, only to slack off later due to sloth or human limitations. But for sure, everybody is going along with with what is going on now and not saying anything. They don’t want to be crybabies. I thought I would do the same and keep my mouth shut. I will just observe and try to keep my wits about me. And look for acceptable loopholes. In fact, keeping quiet may help me with that because I will not draw attention to myself and that may leave me with more freedom to move.

But, whatever, this is a very effective system of control. I know there is something phony about the way the older brothers are being. They probably are all calculating for the meeting on Sunday, when Stewart will evaluate all of us for what we have, and have not, been doing all week. Certain older brothers are talking with authoritative voices, and others with condescending voices, acting cheerful, saying their group meetings were good. Acting motivated and into it. (Sure, we know we need something. Maybe this will be good when it tones down a little bit. I certainly don’t want to be seen as standing apart from it. It would cost me my life.)

I went soliciting with Dion again. We walked a lot, including going over the Brooklyn Bridge, though I was in a daze and I hardly noticed it.

When you live like me, you have to learn to get everything free or to borrow it or keep it somewhere else. For example, my library is the public library. Those books are mine as much as if I bought them. I won’t look like I own much (which bothers me, living in a bedroll and a couple of crates), but I will have access to much. It’s just that it won’t show. I have a library card, driver’s license, a bank card.  [I had about 2 or 300 dollars in my account.  Aside from my clothing and some books, this is all I owned as a 36 year old man.] I wish I could have my own personal library. But, anyway, after I read a book, it just sits in a crate under my bed anyway. I might as well no longer own it or might as well have returned it to the library.

I must study more subjects. More languages, including classical languages (Hebrew and Greek). Also, I think I should extensively study cult (and related) literature. There are other things I want to study and and I want to study anything that interests me.

I am starting to understand something. Lately, these mini-purges have something to do with Stewart going to Haiti. I actually didn’t know until today, that he has already gone there. (I was calculating for a big shindig at the Sunday meeting. But it seems that Stewart wanted to terrorize us both before and during the time he is away. It is amazing what the power of a message from Stewart can do in our tightly closed society.)

There have been many messages from Stewart lately, all of which set the tone for everything – what everybody is thinking about, talking about. What everybody is going to do and be judged according to.

I really am alone. I don’t have anybody to help me. There is nobody I can trust or depend on. Maybe this is what means to be shut up before God. Only he can help me now. I hope God helps me with my problems.

You can read the next section of this journal here: Against A Backdrop Of Comformity, Anything Different Gets Noticed.

These journal pages are some 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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