1993, 05/23. Making The New Brothers Confess To The Charges Brought Against Them By Brother Stewart.
(Meeting in the Red Hook warehouse)
Everybody was reading Bible verses. Kevin was reading messages from Brother Stewart. (Not that I am vindictive about this. I’m just writing down what’s happening.)
I am not talking during this meeting, nor reading verses. Well, it’s all excuses to not be “fully here”, but I don’t want anyone to turn anything I say back on me in remembrance of some of my of past behavior. But, as I sit here (realizing that I am probably not going to be attacked at the meeting…okay, it’s an exaggeration to say attacked, but I don’t want any spotlights directed on me) I start to feel glad, or good, to be here, just reading the Bible with others. It’s not that bad. It’s like, the pressure is over, nothing bad is going to happen to me.
Paul is being more serious these days, as a result of the books he has been reading.
Stewart has left word that the middle brothers are living on a hotel basis, therefore the older brothers and sisters are now “helping” guide them into making an appropriate confession. The given is that Stewart has already declared that this is what the middle brothers have been doing. The older brothers and sisters know our task, which is to make them agree with and confess to the charges. Yes, with such a declaration, there can be room left for one or two of the middle brothers to be seen as living in the fear of God and not on a hotel basis. There can always be an individual exception. But the mass must confess, and this is what they will be guided into. Nothing else is acceptable. Maybe soon, some of them will get the message. So far most are maintaining their innocence.
I think the travesty is that (even if they have been living on a “hotel basis”), we are not going to help them see it, as much as make sure they give the appropriate confession about it. These are the only acceptable words and they will have to keep going back to the drawing board till they get it right. Many middle brothers are not completely colonized, so they try doing things like making a third category in the voting: “How many don’t know?”
(There were only two categories given for the middle brothers to place themselves into, that they were either living on a hotel basis, or they were not. “Not completely colonized,” means that they do not immediately give the expected knee jerk reactions that people who have been living here long enough have come to accept and live by, having learned that resistance is futile.)
Robert S. tried defending the point that he can’t vote on people whose behavior he hasn’t seen all week, because he works a lot.
The middle brothers are now getting the full power of the older brothers and sisters fellowship. We are coming from many years experience of what’s right and wrong to say. We all know the score, the screenplay and the expected outcomes. Kevin said, “I can spot one right away. So there can’t be any of this uncertainty stuff.” Soon, they will all be brought to the appropriate confession.
What bothers me about this is that we are acting upon Stewart’s orders. There is a decided outcome, so we will all work toward it. Stewart has told us what to do, what to think. We carry out his orders vigorously. It’s not a fair trial, because the verdict has already been given. Of course, who says it is a trial? But it’s not like we can say let’s see if it is true, in the literal sense of those words, as if there were a possibility that what Stewart said might not be true. Instead, we are saying, “Let’s see how it is true” and we proceed to find out how. But, there’s the deceit, because to do this rightly, then we would have to say to a brother who is denying the charge, “That can’t be true, because Stewart says you are.” Stewart says you are living on a hotel basis, so it doesn’t matter what you say. That would be too obvious, but to do so would more honest and more true to what we are doing.
You see, the older brothers and sisters, we already know that if Stewart says something – that’s it. In other words, we go through this charade of how the middle brothers are getting the due process of the law. Everybody has a “chance” to defend themselves, but whatever they say is not acceptable, unless they agree with the charges. Yes, one or two might be permitted, because there is always an exception, or at least there is a stronger brother or two in the sense that either indulgence or faithfulness runs along a gradient. But their en masse attempt to say they are not living on a hotel basis will not be acceptable. Okay, maybe I am chasing windmills, but I thought I’d write what I thought as I sat here, watching this. What bothers me, I guess, is the mechanical and impersonal spirit this process is carried out in.
Avtar said a pretty good one. He said, “How can this be a hotel? In a hotel you sleep. But here, you only get five hours sleep a night, so how could it be a hotel?”
The meeting is now over. I ducked into the paint room in order to avoid the mess and hassle and any obligation. I just want to be alone to think and read. I could go around and “love” others, but I didn’t want to. Or I figured, well, I am with “others” every day.
To sum up the meeting and the middle brothers, they were standing there as the older brothers and sisters did the talking. They feel cornered and aren’t colonized enough to come forth with the appropriate confessions. We do most of the talking and say what is expected. It was like initiating them into our rituals. We have been through it on both sides so many times ourselves.
(We had been on the receiving end of this process so many times ourselves when Stewart did it to us, so we also knew how to give it to others.)
The older sisters were getting in there too. Diane asked them what they were doing about their wrong agreements.
(Stewart often accused us of having “wrong agreements” between us. To explain what this means would require several pages.)
I realized that Diane didn’t actually know if they had wrong agreements or not, but she was just saying that because it’s part of the “book.” It’s an assumption, which she soon confirmed by saying, “Because I know that whenever there is a hotel spirit, there are wrong agreements.” Kevin also finally said, or came close to, the main “premise.” He said, “I know it’s true about the hotel spirit, because if Stewart said so, it’s true. I really trust Stewart’s opinion and I would be inclined to believe it, because Stewart knows what he is talking about.”
This shows, or reconfirms, to me that in one way or another, everybody here deeply believes this and wouldn’t want to hear anything to the contrary. In other words, what is the point of saying anything? Do I think some of them will agree with me? That they will help me? If somebody else did agree with me, they wouldn’t say it. They would only be into protecting themselves. We won’t get far in disagreeing with Stewart and everybody knows it.
(Stewart rigorously put down anyone who disagreed with him. If he found out that several people were talking about their disagreements with him, he brought them to a swift trial, using the other brothers and sisters on them, and made an example of them before the others, so all would know what would happen to them if they tried this.)
At this point, a brand new brother (an old homeless man) got his coat and bag and walked out, saying he can’t stand this. You wonder what all of this looks like to outsiders. We are so locked in that we don’t see. We just do what is expected of us and being good is measured in how much we get on the others (for their “good”).
After the meeting Ray [a new brother] came up to me asking me if I think he should have volunteered to go to Philadelphia. I told him what is the worse thing that could happen to him if he volunteered. All they can do is say is no. But I felt strange saying that, because I knew how I would feel and why I don’t volunteer for things. I didn’t actually say that, but I said, “So why didn’t you volunteer?” Kevin L. [a new brother] picked up on where I was coming from and started miming the act of being hung. In other words, Ray would have just gotten hung. I think so too.
I was reading a book on logical thinking. The following example was given of fallacious reasoning: I don’t believe in the prison system because nowhere in the Bible does it say “thou shalt lock up the criminal in a prison system,” so therefore I don’t think we should have a prison system. This made me think of Stewart’s recent statement that “Jesus didn’t die to save me, because it doesn’t say that in the Bible.” Therefore (Stewart says), it is “unscriptural,” because nowhere in the Bible is there a verse that says this. Stewart says, “You are being arrogant when you say ‘Jesus died to save me.’”
Okay, so now, Stewart also says, “Faith is godly thinking.” This is not an actual verse in the Bible. He even told us this is not a verse in the Bible and that nowhere in the Bible does it actually say that. But, he said, this is what it means because you can see it from other verses in the Bible. (And how dare you disagree if you don’t think so, and he says that although there is a verse in the Bible that says “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” that even though this is “scriptural,” it is not a definition of faith.)
(Stewart told us that there is no verse in the Bible that directly states that “Jesus died to save you,” and that therefore we would be arrogant to say these words, yet he also introduced a new teaching, which was that “faith is godly thinking,” but added, “there is no verse in the Bible that actually states this,” but that it was true despite this fact. Pointing out these things to the great teacher could have severe consequences. He might not even have to do something to you himself. A pack of angry older brothers could gang up on you and rip you to shreds, while Stewart patiently watched them defend his position. The underlying issue would not be seen as your questions, but as your arrogance and rebellion against Jesus – not to mention an attack on our church, its members – and leader – and all that we stood for. Only we had Stewart, and that had to be rigorously guarded.)
Woe to anyone – me, I guess – who would try to point this out to anyone. If I brought this up to Bob M., probably his first word or suspicion would be: is he speaking against Brother Stewart? It would be interesting to see, once it was brought to some brothers’ attention just what they would come up with to justify this discrepancy in Stewart’s teachings. Or, if they said both teachings within five minutes of each other, to point out their mutually contradicting statements. Nobody here, it seems, is sharp enough to see this. Both of Stewart’s statements were separated by several weeks, but I wonder if both had been said back to back if anybody would notice, much less say anything. And anyway, after the plausible explanation had been given to explain it away, who would have the guts to continue to question, being that everybody knows that whatever Stewart says is the law, and that there will be no further discussion. We can pretty much feel the boundaries with or without words to that effect.
(The point was not really so much my disagreements with doctrine, because people are free to believe whatever they want. But in COBU, policy flowed from doctrine. And there was our lifestyle, which flowed from his teaching. Stewart was forbidding us to say things about our faith. And ultimately Stewart’s policy and doctrine was that we would live communally, give up all our rights and lawful enjoyments of things in this life that God created to be enjoyed, such as marriage, rest and the pursuit of developing our individual abilities, and work at Stewart’s plans for our lives. We were also required to be Stewart’s admiring and believing captive audience who praised the Great Teacher, much like how the people praised the emperor for his new clothes in the fairy tale.)
But, what would be the point of saying anything? Wouldn’t I just get myself in trouble? Okay, maybe if I heard Paul say it, I could say to him in private (leaving out any reference to Brother Stewart), hey Paul, aren’t you contradicting yourself? A minute ago, you just said something is unscriptural because it is not directly said in the Bible, but here you are saying something is true, even though the Bible doesn’t directly say it. But I would have to be very laid back about it.
A similar thing went on tonight, when a new brother said that he had been “laid back.” Somebody popped him with the admonition that he should speak in scripture, because “laid back” is not scriptural. As if, in other words, he was fudging by using unscriptural terms. But, I think that “hotel spirit” is not scriptural either, but nobody notices that. Besides, we all know what it means, but we also all know what “laid back” means. That brother was just using a term he had learned here anyway.
At this point Paul tried to get the new brother to be scriptural. Then when the brother gave scriptural terms for “laid back” by saying he had been “slothful and lazy,” Paul jumped up and said, “Who is that being a brother to, according to Proverbs 18:9!” Paul was trying to get the brother to say he was a brother of the devil! This can get pretty powerful, though I guess the middle brother was saved by his own ignorance (of our doctrine, line of attack and methods). It really had no effect on him.
[Proverbs 18:9 says, “He is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” In COBU teaching, if we were lazy, we were a brother to the devil, the destroyer and we were working together with him.)
If he had been an older brother, he would have to come out with the answer and wouldn’t have been able to fudge by saying he didn’t know – and no fair saying it was an invalid or inappropriate question. Or that the question is too extreme. Or to reply, “Paul, are you any different? You look a bit lazy yourself.” If we can get somebody to admit he is a brother of the devil, I guess we can ship him out of here. This is playing with powerful stuff and it shows our potential to be able to really push each other around.
The whole thing was a confrontational mock ritual. It was called off with a snap of the finger after some older brothers gave the middle brothers a way out by arranging on their behalf that they have a meeting soon to discuss it among themselves.
What would I do if somebody were trying to make me say this? Could I say, “This is getting a bit confrontational?” If I say it is extreme, they will say it’s the Bible, and so forth.
What irks me is that the anger and saber rustling, especially among the older sisters toward the end, could be so abruptly turned off.
It was like the middle brothers were almost passive observers through the whole thing. They didn’t say much, and if they did say anything, it was only when they were induced to. One older brother or sister after another was blabbing. They were talking over the middle brothers’ heads, really. And ever really talking to them.
Read the next part of the journal here: Other Churches Say That We’re A Cult.