1993, 05/04-5. Unreal Dealing With People Comes From An Unreal View of Christian Doctrine.

Tuesday, May 4

I had little trouble with Chuck this morning. While I was on the phone with him, I yelled over to Paul to see if we had “a vacuum to spare,” to which Chuck had to say that I am lazy and that I should already know if we have a vacuum. I told him he should keep out of it. (I “should have” never done that.)

It turned into a minor shouting match, with Chuck’s “right” teachings versus my explanations. A battle between a person and a wall of the right stuff. You can’t win.

Chuck wouldn’t answer any personal charge, but only asked me if I was “shaking myself [1].” (Yes, I did “manifest” a little anger. But this perfect humility that is expected of us is just too much. Also, nothing can ever be resolved. It is all crime and punishment.)

[1] “Shaking ourselves” was a Stewart Traill teaching which meant we were supposed to be urgent about being faithful to Jesus at all times.

Andrew overheard my side of this phone conversation and asked me what that was all about. I just told him I was being “proud.” (At first, I mentioned how some things were better in the old days in the church, when you could have something out with another brother. But Andrew quickly said, “But, you said the problem is pride.”)

I think though that my “confession” that this was just pride has nothing to do with conscience or compunction, but only hypocrisy. I say this stuff merely to get the monkeys off my back. It’s the shortest distance between two points, the only way out. I wouldn’t want to be seen by others as continuing to “fight.”

That’s the problem with these teachings we have. They only produce hypocrisy. They are like laws that are so heavy, that one obeys just to get the weight off his back. It is also being something less than a human being. True wisdom in this whole case would have been to say nothing at all to Chuck in the first place, because you just can’t win. Chuck was already throwing his hooks out when I walked by him the first thing this morning anyway. I should have been a lot more on guard; I should have realized in the first place that silence is the best wisdom. It is certainly expedient.

1 p.m.

Going door to door alone on East 22nd Street. It’s a great day. I like being quiet, alone. I like having peace, time for reflection. Though I am going to call in to the office and maybe mention that I need a helper. I wish I could make this time last; make the day go slower, enjoy being out on a warm spring day. Why be in any kind of hurry? Not that I’m not going door to door, but why not poke around, doing more looking than doing. I suppose it is taking me a little time to readjust to going door to door after having been working on jobs for a while

3:30 p.m.

I spent about an hour in the library reading Time and Newsweek articles about David KoreshNow I’m brooding in a coffee shop. I do find similarities with our church when I read these stories. I took mental notes while reading:

1) After 34 people left the Waco compound, nobody else did. This was the dividing line between those who believed in David Koresh and those who didn’t, and these were the ones who stayed during the siege.

2) In Germany in the 1500’s, there was a similar cult with a similar fate.

3) Inside the cult, Koresh was God – outside, he was just another soon to be prison inmate.

4) David Koresh forbade marriage to his followers – (just like it is here).

And now I’m thinking about this and about how other things work here.

I will probably go door to door until about 7 p.m. since my hours are flexible, thereby putting in a whole day – but also taking it easy. It would be nice to close another job or two.

10:30 p.m.

Came back from “making Jesus known” at Times Square. On the way back, I ran into Miguel P.

I wonder also if reading about Catholic priests helps. I picked up a book today on why priests leave the Catholic Church, which discussed such things as priests’ desire to serve vs. their desire for marriage, and other issues.

Also, I was hoping we’d run into some of the ex-members of our church who go to Times Square Church now, but the person I ran into was Miguel. Interesting. God is in control. He can have you meet anybody he wants.

While out, Joe reminded me of the dream I had about Paul S. and I getting shot. Sometimes I still hear that voice, “a gun to your head,” especially sometimes when thinking those dark side thoughts. I am thinking about leaving our church, and thinking about why I want to.

I was thinking that Stewart’s view of our church’s exclusivity is nothing but self-flattery. Perhaps my non-dogmatic view helps me talk to people; it helps me to be more considerate or understanding and more likely to be objective than to shove right things at people? I guess the question is, how much of these thoughts are real, and how much is just my flesh looking for a way out of serving the truth? (Which is what I remember being told even from the beginning when I first came to the church, that if we had objections to the way of life here or with Stewart, it was just our flesh looking for a way out of serving the truth. But maybe I really did see wrong things back then.)

I know I can’t stop thinking these things. In order to stop thinking about them, I would have to turn my mind off.

Tonight, the brothers seemed to be into beating and lashing themselves over their spiritual condition. It seems strange. But I wonder if these are the ones to whom God will look, because they are contrite, sorry and know they are in trouble and are willing to say so. Because I think, in that dream, Paul died for Christ, but right now this is his attitude. So, does that mean this attitude of being contrite and sorry is what it takes to lead up to being able to be considered faithful to Christ when you die?

[In this very dramatic dream, we were all in the church’s residence at Woodruff Avenue, and people had sealed the building off and were coming in to shoot us. There was no way out. Then Jesus appeared among us. He was talking to Paul about suffering and accepting his fate, after which he would enter into glory, because he had been faithful to the end. Then I asked Jesus, already suspecting and fearing what he would say about my fate. I asked him, “Is there any hope for me?” Jesus looked at me with an agonized and yet angry expression and said, “There is nothing for you but tribulation and death!” I told Joe about this dream and he was reminding me of it now, quite some time later. I also had dreams about going to heaven, which I told the brothers about, but they never reminded me of those dreams.]

We are all on our way to Woodruff for a meeting – possibly a brothers meeting. What is going to come of this? I think it will be a stalemate, a formality meeting. And of course, I have a lot to hide! I guess the thing to do would be to make a full confession, then I’d be free to talk. But, I don’t know. Besides, I am not really willing to do that and also, talk is cheap. Talking about what I don’t like, or what I really think, or about my need for a wife is not going to get me any of those things. Nobody will level with one another. All must tow the party line.

2 a.m.

Brothers meeting is over now. The result of the meeting was that we decided we would all go urgent sweeping.

(“Sweeping” was our term for going out to look for homeless people to bring to live and work with us in our church.)

May 5

Getting a late start today. I got up 11 a.m., then drove to the Brooklyn Public Library. Got back to Red Hook at noon. The thing is known – at least to Andrew and a few others. I am not using my head very well, even in a hedonistic sense. I would have been better off taking the bus to the library, then going into the city on the train. (Thereby “destroying” the evidence and no one would have known that I went to the library.) I could have met Robert S. somewhere in the city, no problem. Why didn’t I do this? I figured we’d take the van into the city right away upon getting back from the library (which never happened). And it still felt early. I had just gotten up, so it still seemed like morning. An hour won’t matter that much, I thought. It seemed like it would actually be quicker to do it this way, rather than taking a long walk to Union Street, then waiting for the bus. It seemed quicker to just hop in a van, which I suppose it was. Of course, ultimately, I shouldn’t have gone at all.

Really, I can’t say I have any loyalty to the church business at all. For me, the reasons for such actions are, besides no immediate connection between what I do and what I receive, not being able to keep of the money I make, and never really being able to buy anything, plan anything or pursue anything. So, it’s not like a goal has any direct meaning to me. Yes, I am lazy, but I don’t perceive any kind of sowing and reaping when I’m working in the church business, except maybe if I am really lazy, I probably will get fired. (I will “reap.”) Probably I have an underlying attitude toward the business which is “take this job and shove it.” I understand the reasons for why we work in the business, the appropriate talk and even mythology concerning it. But, it has no hold on me. I am not into it with my heart in any way. I try to choose one aspect of the business over the other because of what it gets me out of having to do, such as more unpleasant work and meetings. I am a zealous Sunday worker when there is going to be a meeting on Sunday with Brother Stewart.

[I was much more into our church’s wood floor business, because it was better than being in the carpet cleaning business, because we had more control over our time and were not running from job to job, or calling the sisters in the office every couple of hours, who sent us out to another job each time we called in after we finished the last one we just did. In the wood floor business, we set up in one location, sometimes for days, until the work was completed and we didn’t have to constantly call the office. I could set up and live on a job site for a while. And I had a little more pride in my workmanship, seeing the before and after when we were done sanding and refinishing a floor.]

Other things I was thinking this morning (and which might be contributing factors), was about getting orthotics. [Arch supports for my shoes. My feet hurt, because I was on them all the time.] I was imagining that I would probably be told to pay for them myself. This would not lead to an increase in my motivation to go to work!

(All we received was a 30 dollar weekly allowance. We received no pay for our work in the church businesses, though ironically, the church issued us each a biweekly check in our names, which we had to sign with the words “for deposit to the Church of Bible Understanding” and immediately give back to the sister who did the bookkeeping. This was because the church set up the accounting system to make it look like we were paid and that we were giving our paychecks to the church as a donation, so we had to go through the motions of being paid for these purposes.)

I’m also thinking about the “are you being proud” thing, and how any disagreement is automatically called pride. It’s the great leveler, a blanket statement. If somebody doesn’t agree with something – they are proud. It works every time. If they give their reasons why they don’t agree, they are “fighting.” And that’s it, because we say so.

(Dallas didn’t agree to something right away. Immediately Kevin hit him with, “Do you have any right to be proud?”)

It’s really hard to fight your way around this one, because the very act of doing so is also considered to be pride.

Also: our failure to attract new members to our church, and certainly there are no older brothers who have left the church returning. There are only new people or street types. I think we have a severe problem that goes far beyond whether we are motivated or not. Most people are not going to put up with being subjected like slaves. But, we will never do a survey to see just why we don’t attract new members, or why people leave. (I heard a tape being played this morning. It was a session where Brother Stewart was teaching a group of new brothers. Some new brother was giving reasons why he left our church before. Stewart did not accept or consider his reasons. Stewart said the reason for leaving could be nothing other than sin. And that’s it, we have predetermined answers for everything. We already know what the answers are, so why say anything?)

At the brothers’ meeting last night, a middle brother was confessing sexual sins. He never mentioned marriage as a possible remedy for sexual temptations and nobody else did either. This brother tried to hint at marriage when he said that he wonders if he will have to go through life like this, maybe hoping others would pick up on it. Sending out a feeler, perhaps. But nobody did, and he knew he wouldn’t get anywhere on it. The need for marriage because of the temptation to immorality is just not in our theology book. (First Corinthians chapter 7 is the missing chapter in our church’s Bible, as we often accuse the Jews of omitting Isaiah 53 from their Bibles.)

The brother was told that the root cause of his sin was pride, lack of motivation and lack of the fear of God. These were the reasons he was given by the others. Like Lifton’s re-education group, like dialectical materialism. Learn to lose your mind.

When I was driving alone back to Red Hook, on the way, I was thinking about these things and trying to pray about them, thinking that Jesus must know about all this. Either Jesus agrees with it or it’s not true. Will he allow it to go on?

I would never talk about myself in any of these groups. I would not start bringing up reasons why, trying to convince them – because I already know the answer. So why bother? I get the feeling somehow that they just break off your humanity. You have to believe this other stuff instead. I know it’s ridiculous.

Everybody is into it. Nobody will budge. Nobody relents. It’s hopeless. They only provide the requisite answers, which offer no solution. The only thing they will accept from you is, “I was proud.” “I was lazy.” You get the feeling, nobody wants to know about you. They just want the right stuff from everybody.

How can this be the right church, which has the truth in its highest form, when it comes out like this in matters dealing with people; that this method of dealing with people is a product of this truth we have? It doesn’t make sense. A greater understanding of the Bible would lead to a greater understanding of people, a greater compassion. But this is not the case. It is, besides being cold and clinical, totally off the mark! It’s worse now in our church than it ever was before! And I think that practices come from doctrine. The doctrine justifies it. This is where people get their reasons for what they do. This is how people here can totally override human thinking, compassion, common sense, everything.

In fact, Stewart tells us that we are supposed to do just that! “Don’t get into your own thoughts.” “God’s own thinking (vs. your own thinking).” “Don’t get into harebrained schemes,” etc. A person can override even instinct, feeling, compunction, even conscience this way. It’s all written in the books, it’s the teaching. “Are you going to obey Jesus or not?”

Robert S. and I made our way over to Roosevelt Island and dropped flyers in buildings. Nice place. We walked through a garden area filled with song sparrows, white and pink blossoms on trees set against a blue sky with ample white clouds, the only break in the rain all day.

I bought some books and tapes in the thrift store there. We did an estimate for a Spanish lady who also turned out to be a Jehovah’s Witness.

Everybody around here seems to be in a rush with the “urgent sweeping.” (I am in the office.) There is something I either feel good about, or something I did that I feel good about. Something to do with Roosevelt Island, but right now I can’t place it. Maybe only it is that I have found a place I might want to go back to walk around on.

Also, again, one sees the evidence of the two co-existing worlds in our church. There are quite a few sisters here in the office, and some children. The brothers are calling customers. Inter-gender contact is made only when something requires it. Everybody is either now on their way to go “urgent sweeping” or soon to be. I notice an urge within myself to find something to do to avoid it, like finding some task to do with Paul.

Read the next section of the journal here: Why Do We Do The Things We Do?


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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