1993, 05/01-3. We Are Not Supposed To Talk To Ex-Members (Except To Bring Them Back To the Fold).

Saturday, May 1

I got about fifteen to twenty hours of sleep after working on the floors at Ariel and Michael’s Restaurant and getting back around 11 a.m. Sleeping for about ten hours, then going back to sleep till about 2 p.m. Saturday. I figured possibly this wasn’t indulgence, but that I needed it, since it is never considered to be indulgence when I stay up for twenty or more continuous hours and also, since I am starting a job at 2 a.m. tonight, I will be glad I am extremely well-rested. I don’t often get a good block of rest time without having to get up right away.

(The dot over the sentence three lines up marks the moment that the Lake Shore Limited came barreling under the 44th Street underpass. I stepped away from Paul when we both went to the deli, telling him that I was going wait on the overpass to see the train come by. He didn’t approve. I hope he doesn’t bruit it about.)

Sunday, May 2

Paul and I are now taking a little break (after working on the wood floors all night here at Michael’s Restaurant). The occasion for writing, besides the break, is that I just ran into [ex-COBU members] Joanne G. and Aida outside. I avoided eye contact, but Joanne saw me and said, “Oh, hello,” to which I replied, “Hello there” as we passed by each other. I guess what I am saying is, I wouldn’t mind talking to such ones sometimes and I don’t especially like the way I try to avoid it, since it is not exactly the way I am inside. I wonder why I couldn’t just stop and talk with them for just a few minutes.

But I wouldn’t want to get caught red-handed in the sense of admitting to them that I think of leaving the church, or asking how they’re doing now that they’ve left, or how it is over there at Times Square Church. It is strange how we cut off all contact with ex-members. (I remember when Stewart found out that Skylar had been in touch with ex-members, he told Skylar that he wants nothing to do with that spirit – the extreme severity of Stewart’s admonition to “have nothing to do with them.” I wonder if, in part, my attitude is an offspin of that. I wonder, why couldn’t I have a talk with them? Sure, it was a surprise to see them, and it caught me unprepared. Maybe I’m just afraid to face my own inmost thoughts. Or really, I don’t want to get a sales pitch from them about leaving the church and how great it has been for them since they left.)

Other matters I have been thinking about: this now makes exactly three weeks since I have been in a meeting, three weeks to the day. Really, I don’t want to go to meetings anymore.

While working here last night, I was listening to language tapes, and I began to have the usual thoughts about Stewart. These thoughts always become so oppressive, that though I may have been working smoothly only moments before, I am almost ready to collapse or crumble. The weight is just so hard to bear. I kept myself going by listening to different kinds of worldly music (like Jimi Hendrix) and also Radio France International. It was the only thing keeping me going. With the music on, I could just plow on with the machine. I wonder if I am a victim of sensory deprivation. It gets pretty dense grinding away behind that machine with nothing but the floor to look at.

I would like to have a little contact with Joanne G. That is just the feeling I have, like it would be good or something. (A breath of fresh air, somebody to talk with about this? I wonder, I might have to go outside of the church to talk to anybody about any of this.)

Marriage – or the lack of it – has been taking stabs at me lately. Also “working” on me is Stewart’s pronouncement three weeks ago that we are the only church that understands what faith is and that all other Christians are starving because of this and that they need to hear Stewart’s message. It’s hard to believe that people the likes of John Calvin, or anybody else, didn’t understand what faith is, but only thought it was a “mysterious force that makes people believe.” This is just too much for me.

I am surprised that nobody has said anything further about this, including Stewart himself. If this were really true, it would be an emergency situation and we had better get out to other churches and tell everybody. It’s hard for me to believe that Jesus died almost 2,000 years ago and that God has waited almost 2,000 years to finally reveal what faith really is. [And that it was Stewart who God decided to finally reveal it to!]

What else to say now, I don’t know. Last night, I walked from the shop to go out “sweeping” with new brothers Joe H., Nathan and Tyrone, letting them wail and complain. Basically, I commiserated with them, and told them I was up the same creek they are. If word gets out on any of that, I could get it. Also I am in the process of considering whether to send the letter I wrote to my mother.

Dream:

I had a dream during the other day’s long sleep in which I was called on in a meeting because Stewart wanted to speak through me to the others. He told me to tell Mike R. to “wake up” and I told Stewart that only Jesus can wake somebody up. I was unwilling to have Stewart speak through me. I woke up not a little troubled about this dream. I prayed. It seemed as if Jesus was saying to me, “don’t even get into it.” I prayed for help about how to avoid a situation like this. The answer was, “We brought nothing into this world and can take nothing out.”

This is really all I can say about the whole deal; all I can write for my “weekly review.” We hope to be finished with this job around 6 p.m. Not much of a life, but I prefer it instead of going to the meeting. When I found out I was needed on this job, I was careful not to do anything to alert anybody to the fact that I have been missing meetings. I figured anything I said could only make matters worse.

Monday, May 3

Looks like yesterday’s meeting was a serious one (in terms of subject matter, not in the sense that there was a heavy grilling).

Dream:

I saw a long stairway upward. Realized it was leading upwards (toward judgment). I and those who were with me were just children. I said, “How do you know that you can get halfway up the steps (going upwards, thinking it’s the way to heaven because there is a bright light up there) when suddenly it will turn to flames and it will be too late to back down?” But, as we went up, the temperature got colder and I thought, cold is the opposite of heat. Upstairs, we encountered instructions to read from the Bible (Isaiah 59 and 60) which had clear instructions on reaching heaven, which somehow I had never realized before. It made everything clear. The idea was, just do that and everything will be okay, this will work.

There were no other special dreams, except that I remember except another dream where I was sitting in a chaise lounge in a yard admiring the flowers on the lawn and the leaves on the trees, thinking that summer arrived quickly and that just a little while ago it was winter.

So now Andrew is telling us a little bit about the meeting, reading his notes, about how Stewart said that our main concern should be our eternal salvation. The dream I had about the stairway “helps” me accept these words, seeing that the dream came immediately before, or at the time of this. I say “help” in quotes, because I am not entirely sure – but I do notice an effect.

Got a ride into New York City with Andrew (and Pete, who is perturbed about his life in general and over specific issues). Andrew calmly sticks to rules and is also naive in many ways. Pete got out at Canal Street. I got out at 20th Street, alone also.

I am now sitting on a stoop across from the Theological Seminary here. Nice gray stone building, new verdure, blue sky with my favorite clouds, birds singing. I just want to stop for a while. I always feel as if I have to do something. The view before me is reminiscent of “merry old England.”

At the library now. It is so true. (I’m reading about the Moonies.) They are compelled to work, meet together and recruit new members all the time. I feel so guilty for taking this day off, for spending time at the library too. I have not called into the office today. I don’t plan to. If I am noticed, I must try to explain myself in a way that doesn’t call the purpose of our church or any of its teachings into question. (That is why I use the dumb, doormat approach when and where possible.)

I have “taken” quite a bit of “liberty” today. I didn’t call in. My reasoning is that I didn’t want the church business to have its handle on me. The only way to make sure that didn’t happen was not to make my whereabouts known. (But this is running a risk.) And the only way to cover my tracks after that would be to show up later at the shop unannounced. (That is, not to even call around 5 or 6 to see if there are any messages, or where anybody is sweeping.)

Hopefully nobody will notice. Either they didn’t notice all along, or it will be forgotten, or I got lost in the cracks. Somebody will think somebody else knew where I was. In a short time, I will know. The problem here is that you can never get any leave. (Even if my working yesterday on a Sunday was legit and not merely to be regarded as skipping the meeting. In other words, a meeting day could be considered “work.” Those at the meeting were “on duty” just as much as I was. There are no days off. It doesn’t matter if I worked yesterday. The days are not transferable. Yesterday wouldn’t have been a day off either – so it’s not a matter of merely switching days as might be done in the world if your boss happened to call you in to work on a Sunday.

12:45 a.m.

Now at Woodruff. Nobody questioned me about my whereabouts today. I really do have questions about the things I am hearing from Stewart these days. Maybe it’s an automatic reaction on my part to reject these things – but I find myself being very upset at times with these teachings.

I talked with Erasmus. He doesn’t know if when he dies (or if he dies right now) if he will go to heaven or hell. Sometimes I wonder what kind of Christian organization would teach such things. Erasmus’s eternal state is not so much a genuine concern of his, as much as it is the required expectation. People are told here that Jesus died for their sins and to trust in that, but are expected to have real uncertainty about what would happen to them “if I died right now.” This doesn’t make sense.

I can see the point if Stewart is trying to instill fear or a serious attitude in us, but this seems deeper than that. According to Stewart, Jesus is somebody to be afraid of and we can never quite rest secure, we can never be sure of our eternal destiny. (This could make for very unstable individuals, not necessarily careful individuals as probably intended. The new brothers come to a Christian organization, learn and do all the required duties – but they can’t tell anybody they are saved. (Note: in fact, it’s part of the teaching that we can’t say we are saved.) So what exactly are we offering to others? It would be quite preposterous for any one of us here to announce that we know we would go to heaven right now if we died. (Note: nobody ever asks Stewart this question about himself. I wonder what he would say.)

I suppose one would have to know the history of our organization and our present life in it to know why “nobody can know if they are saved.” We used to offer assurance of salvation. It also seems like a double bind, because we have to go out to talk to unbelievers about salvation, yet we can’t say we ourselves are saved.

It’s like three years ago, when Stewart was teaching about how if a person is born again, they are no longer capable of sinning – a teaching which he has since repudiated, saying it was not true, and blaming us for letting him get away with saying it. At that time, we were out witnessing and Denny was telling people that when they get born again they are unable to sin, then he was asked if he sins. Of course, he had to answer that he does. So therefore, that meant he wasn’t born again, which sort of undermined his whole argument. What was the point of presenting this “gospel” then? (And if he said he was born again – nobody would believe that he doesn’t sin.) This teaching, I think, is easier to knock than the present case. Maybe it would take an astute observer to see this. (Nobody here is confident they are saved – so nobody here is going to try to say anything against Stewart’s current teaching.)

Most of the people we talk to now are homless people who might be looking for a place to stay, and they aren’t the kind of people who would pay too much attention to false teaching and besides, you could look like a sincere seeker. But, I think there is something built into Stewart’s teaching where we can’t know or be sure if we are going to be saved – except in extreme cases, for example when Dawn died of leukemia, he did not announce that she went to hell.

Stewart’s statement about having no fear, about how we must overcome fear – it isn’t so much an offer you would like to have, as much as it is a litmus test. If you fear, why? Because you aren’t saved. It seems like a religion for the strong. A religion for the fearless. I am checking up on the doctrine. I figured I would look into essays on standard Christian doctrine, but it may all be a game of catch-up ball. I may never make it. I want to be well informed. I don’t think I will be able to accept anything Stewart says without background study. I notice it is easier to accept something he says if I have heard it in other Bible commentaries, or have looked it up later.

Read the next section of the journal here: Unreal Dealing With People Comes From An Unreal View of Christian Doctrine.

::

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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