1993, 05/21. It Was A Unanimous Vote – Whether They Liked It Or Not.

May 21

10:30 PM At the West 46th Street office.

We are now in the “first of all business meetings that includes the middle and new brothers,” which is being mostly conducted by Chuck and Kevin. Kevin said that the reason why life is hard here (that is, hard for our flesh) is to sort out the real ones from the phony ones. (“Don’t you think the devil sends his angels here too?”Kevin said.)

(But I think the devil probably can be a little more crafty than that, because he probably could find some people who could endure a very harsh situation. Look at all the false religions that are difficult. Fidel Castro seems to have a rough life too for the wrong goals.) In fact, the harsh situation here in our church may have something to do with the devil’s doing. The harsh way of life in our church could possibly also discourage some sincere people. I don’t think it is so easy to figure out or so cut and dried as Kevin is making it out to be.

The meeting got quite out of hand when the subject of tips came up. Some new brothers are just rowdy, but some have honest questions, or even disagreements.

Then there was Joe, playing the role of the angry Puritan at the witch trial, speaking of God’s will and tips. Older brothers and “colonized” [1] middle brothers are talking about any brother’s desire to keep his tips in terms of base gain, selfish motives and the love of money being the root of all evil.

([1] Colonized is a term that means that the people who were here long enough to began taking on the beliefs and attitudes of our organization and living according to it and promoting it to others. This is a concept from Erving Goffman’s book, Asylums, which is about life in what he called “total institutions.”]

A new brother, Linwood, questioned whether some older brothers were acting in God’s spirit – which could be a very legitimate question. Paul said that the older brothers didn’t agree on a united strategy [against the new brothers and their legitimate questions, in order to keep them in their place]. (Paul is watching the phone in the office, and I stepped out of the meeting to take a break.) Some of the new brothers have legitimate questions.

One new brother is now saying he doesn’t care about any tips, “The money is going to our church’s orphanage in Haiti. Thank you Jesus. But, do you think we could buy two or three washer dryers? We do make enough money. I’m tired of washing a pair of pants in the ‘zink’ every night. We don’t get money to wash clothes.” Somebody said, “We can take care of that, right brothers?”

This makes me wonder, what will happen if “we” decide to reduce the weekly allowance to 20, or even 10, dollars a week and it is put to a “vote?” What about those who disagree with lowering the allowance? Will they (I, really) be told also that they are into the love of money and selfish and base desires? How far do we cut back? Where do we draw the line?

We are going to have a vote soon, which is of course going to be engineered so it comes out just the way we (the older brothers) want. But of course, everyone’s viewpoints were heard and everybody is “free” to vote.

One new brother (who asked about the washer) is asking some questions, and rather perceptively at that. An older brother is now talking about how the tip fund is spent. (This new brother realized something: “You mean, all the brothers vote – or just the older brothers?”) Paul S. told him he needs to learn. New brother: “Yeah, that’s why I’m asking questions.” Then Paul S. indirectly, but probably meaning this brother, says it must be done without rioting. The new brother is hanging his head, shaking it. Who in the world can understand the older brothers’ arts of sophistry?

I guess all’s well that ends well. The meeting is over. Many brothers seem to be smiling. Paul, who had not been in the meeting, asked Jay how the meeting went. Jay said, “It was a unanimous vote about the tips – whether they liked it or not.” (!)

One of the points of the meeting was that all the brothers who want to keep their tips were bad and those who said they didn’t want there tips, were good.

This tip issue is a lot more than meets the eye. It is, so to speak, merely the “tip” of the arrow. There is a lot more to the arrow than the tip. There is also a shaft and feathers. (There are some inadvertent innuendoes to this, the “tip” and getting the “shaft.”)

What came to my mind are the underlying issues of control over people. Are the new people who come to our church even considered to be people at all, and ultimately, what is called into question is the very nature of our church and its practices. (And in my opinion, much is wrong. We practice deceit on the new people, especially about the reasons we give for the things we do and also because of how we really don’t tell anything. Nothing is written down.)

It would be good to have a guide book for new people, but we really don’t consider them to be people. Duller minds probably don’t realize the issues that are going on. It’s a lot more than (though it includes) just a measly 10 bucks allowance. A kind of screenplay is being acted out. I can see it in the older brothers’ answers. For example, a new brother must listen to advice and not be into “rioting,” though he was asking intelligent questions quite calmly. And then in the back rooms after the meeting, the older brothers discussing the meeting and their view that anyone who wants to keep his tips is into base desires. (They didn’t make that categorical statement. It’s just that anybody they named who asked about tips was considered to be into this. The only way to be “good” is to comply with everything.) New brothers have questions about our church. They wonder if things are right here, but maybe they can’t grasp the issues or handle the sophistry and pat answers, but it is through the issue of money, which they do understand and have experience with before they came here, that they are able to roughly tackle these other things, though perhaps without realizing it.

::

While praying: “Look to Christ.”

The things about fellowship life that have been bothering me most today is Stewart’s are “kill your life in this world” teachings. I overheard Shiffon in the office talking about “just dropping everything in this life.” I was walking down the road in Long Island praying (or thinking I was praying) about this and about how there is no limit to how far it cuts or can cut. I have no basis for wanting anything in this life. (According to this church, or to what I can expect from this church.) John O. [a new brother] here reminded me of this when he was looking for one of his old paintings and when he could not find it, he said he wasn’t supposed to have it anyway because “it is not of Christ.” I didn’t mince words with him, but this triggered the above memory.

I am managing to keep quiet about my personal beliefs. About things the brothers mentioned during supper. Not talking about what I think. I have a feeling of escaping by not venting my personal storehouse of arguments – or is it just the relief that comes from knowing I am not going to get hounded about something I said, or get one more mark on my “chart?” Because, these things are remembered.

I notice how much in the meetings, there is a lot of “Stewart said” talk. You know you are being tended and pastured, even when you’re not in Stewart’s presence. There is not too much talk of “Jesus says,” or even “the Bible says.” I think the phrase “Stewart said” is a key to understanding peoples’ minds here. They are bought in much more than I realize.

(The frequent and ubiquitous use of the phrase “Stewart said,” rather than “Jesus says,” or “the Bible says,” was evidence that those around me were bought more deeply into this way of life than I had ever realized. When I spoke up against some aspects of our way of life and then saw the equal and opposite reaction toward me from others, I began to realize just how fanatical certain long-term church members were.)

It is probably true that anybody who stays here is extremely pro-Stewart and there isn’t going to be any sowing doubts, or presenting reasons, contrary arguments or what-ifs, or even allowing that there may be differences of opinion and that you may believe this and I may believe that, if I want to. It is also probably quite true that anything I think, do, or would like to say that is different from the status quo here ought to be put away and hidden, because there is just no use.

(Also, there is no concept of “we say this, but doesn’t God say something else?” Basically, whatever Stewart says is what God says. He is our guide, our filter and that’s final. Stewart is the final arbiter on all matters, at least in our book – though we may pay lip service to the idea of, “What if Jesus showed you something different, which would you go with?” But actually, that is quite inconceivable, because why would Jesus deceive his church? Everything we have here is from Jesus, from the things we believe to the way we live – and the way we handle tips. All that we approve or disapprove of is from Jesus. All is the divine plan, a blueprint handed down from heaven in a perfect pattern. Who are you to question it or to think differently? It is God who you are questioning! Actually, you are just being arrogant.

Read the next section of the journal here: Making The New Brothers Confess To The Charges Brought Against Them By Brother Stewart.

(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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