1992, 11/01-02. You Can Lead A Horse to Water, But You Can’t Make Him Drink It

These journal pages form the background of my book, Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding, which are available as a Kindle book or in paperback

In this section, I wrote about journaling and how to go about it. I felt compelled to write in a point by point essay style, in which I often lost the point. It might be better to just write from an outline or to write whatever came to mind, without worrying too much about what was the truth or was just the feelings of the moment. I could sort it out later, when I was not so directly affected by it. But the main idea was that I was going to write about the things I saw around me, but was compelled to deny were real.

I am in one of those irritated moods again where it feels like the walls are crushing in on me. I am considering what is the point of writing when really the problem is rebellion. But there may be something to this, since it seems as if God is, ever and anon, showing me to keep a diary. And, if I can’t do that daily, then I could at least do weekly reviews.

I probably can’t present everything I’ve thought in a point by point, logical sequence, though maybe in the future I could think up an outline during the week first, then sit down and write from it when I get a chance.

Probably a good thing to do would also be to make a time capsule, where I use a notebook to set everything down I can, though I might not get into a logical sequence (by subject, etc.). Then maybe I can leave it and come back to it sometime in the future to see what I was thinking at the time. (With the passage of time, I would be able to sort out what was subjective due to the emotion of the moment and what was objective, the realities that I actually perceive, what I am clearly aware of and feel so compelled to act as if I had no knowledge of.)

The best way is to write it all out as a survey of my thoughts and to sort it out later, like raw material to be dealt with later. That way I can be unburdened of the compulsion to have to present it in an orderly and concise way. It is only raw material to be sorted later if, if I do sort it. I can delve into whatever tangents I please. I find it much easier to write when I get going and can digress and run off on tangents as I work loosely from a sequential or subject format. (As I did with my ’74 book, the tangents were where I really got going and remembered everything. But I wouldn’t have gotten to them if I hadn’t been trying to write about the year in an orderly way.

[The “74 book” was a blank book I wrote in about my life before I came to the cult. I was trying to write it sequentially but often got into long tangents and stream of consciousness writing. This was my best writing. I was also saying that I wanted to write systematically about life in the cult, but I also realized that getting lost in writing, no matter what I was writing, was a good thing.]

And now, unburdened from such restrictions, I can start.

What I have been remembering lately is all the things I wrote in my diaries over the last three years. (Diaries which I ripped up because I had an abject fear that someone would find them and turn them in as evidence to use against me. But maybe I’ve learned to write a little more objectively or carefully now and have less to worry about.  But in such a “living on top of one another” society in which I live, one has to guard himself from even the most innocent seeming slips of the tongue. Privacy is such a precious and rare commodity. There are some here who think that the way we live, with all its flaws, inherent weaknesses and impediments is so right that it ought to be the standard for the whole world to learn and follow – if only they could convince people to come here and learn to live this way.)

Stewart said recently that we must turn away from working so much and get into spiritual things more. Now that this idea is being officially bruited about, I can’t help remembering how I thought this long before. I probably wrote endless pages about how I feel like a church slave and how our only purpose in life is to make money. About how we pull people off the streets and make them work around the clock and if they don’t like it, we say they are weird and that they’re not here for “Christ.” I thought that we were arrogant for trying to make people, even demanding that people conform to our ways and ideas on how to remake human beings in “God’s” image. (Really, our image.) I clearly realized that “I live to feed our church’s gaping maw” and that our church is “a leech which never cries ‘enough, enough’.”

When the church business got started again big-time about three and a half years ago, I realized that I was being taken away into a form of slavery. I am not convinced that I was working those long unending hours because I “wanted something to hide in,” as Stewart accused us of doing. (Though lately there were certain ways in which I would do this. I was glad to “hide” by working a weekend job, so as not to be at a meeting.)

]Stewart Traill insisted that we must work long hours in the church businesses and at the same time, accused us of using the business to “hide in.” It was a classic double bind. He was causing us to do something and then accused us of being guilty of it. We were not allowed take time off from from the church businesses he said we were hiding in.]

I got hoodwinked into these long hours and was also propelled by fear of not being in the business. And also fear of what happens when I try to say I think we are working too much and would like a break once in a while. (I found that the answer was a categorical no, with a lot of abuse that ranged from mocking to outright accusations of sloth and of holding ideas counter to our purpose. Trying to get out of having to do one more job when I was frazzled from working morning to night for so many days in a row, reaped a harvest of, “You don’t care if the children in Haiti starve?” I also was threatened with being brought up and talked to by “all the brothers” and of being fired.)

What? Am I just making all this up, or do I actually remember it to be so? It seems to me that this is what actually happened, as recorded in my memory banks, which reappear whenever I play them back. Exactly the same, each time. (Another thing to put under the heading of I am not supposed to know what I know and that whatever I think, is wrong. Unless, of course, I neglected to do something and got in trouble for it. Then of course, I knew what I knew and knew I should have done it!)

Unless this is all a subjective emotional, complaining, totally self-serving and self-justifying misinterpretation of the events. But, this is what I actually think happened. The fact that I don’t believe in much of what goes on here and in much of what is touted to be the truth here doesn’t help me much.

Back to the story. I am sorry, I guess I can’t write this unless it is in the spirit of some bitter tirade. These things exist in me like a deep-flowing underground river, not necessarily visible from the surface. But when I tap into it, into this vein of thought, this is the direction and manner in which it flows. It always goes this way when I reach it. I don’t have to think much about it or what to say then, because it just begins to flow.

I have been trying to keep far away from all of this thinking, believing that it is harmful and only gets me in trouble. Yet, it is always there and it finds a way to bubble up to the surface in many ways throughout the day, making many inroads into my thoughts. It’s unreal to try to live as if something doesn’t exist. Especially when I am constantly reminded by various leaks and bubblings forth that it is all still there, quite intact and active, with a life of its own.

(I guess this is better than if I had been able to convince myself it was gone, even though it still existed. What kind of twisted animal would I be then? The reason I buried it was fear.)

This is what I have decided to bring back out and try to deal with.

The outward subject, of course, is the starting of the Business three and a half years ago and the feeling of being taken away into slavery with not much power or ability to stop it or have any say in the matter. It is also about the things I know and refuse to believe I am aware of, out of fear of facing a firing squad. We have a collective agreement to avoid reality in this way and woe to the transgressor thereof.

I know that we took people off the streets and tried to make slaves of them to further our purposes. The influx of new people was supposed to help our lagging financial profile. It was openly stated and sold as such (by Stewart), as a reason to gather new people. To get more workers.

The other reason, I think, is in the area of bringing in new people so we can feel as if we are leading many people to Christ and to feel good that we are accomplishing a worthy cause in the world.

This is, of course, a worthy cause if done right, but we just went out into the streets and bus terminals and shoved the people in without any real planning or devising something genuinely constructive for their benefit. We just tried to jam large numbers of people through our system, take it or leave it.

Not that improvements couldn’t or wouldn’t be discussed, but by and large, the idea was that people were going to have to conform to our way, because of ideas like: people aren’t supposed to get what they want or think they need, according to their own ideas, but they are supposed to get what they really need.

(That whole process of re-forming people and being under the yoke of having to chop away whole parts of ourselves and to “kill everything,” while also attempting to do this to others.)

This is what makes me think we were doing it much more for our own benefit than for their benefit. Because we never studied about how to improve how we were dealing with them, but we just jammed people through a system which none of us were too happy about ourselves. Maybe we could hoodwink people and tell them this is Christ.

When new people come in, there is so much that we don’t tell them – even if we could explain this stuff. But we sell such a nice picture of Christ and his way and about how good it will be for them here. There are so many deep dark secrets which they don’t know and that we have no intention of telling them.

Though I think the words “for our own benefit” may be a little too self-flattering. Possibly the word “pride” would be better. We did it much more for our own pride and feeling of self worth as a church. For the feeling that we were a viable organization, with genuine life and hope to offer the beleaguered masses on the streets (though it is true that just about anything is better than life out there), rather than the polluted and dead organization we have been and know we have been for so many years. Our church has such a sense of pride. (We are clearly the best church, possibly with the clearest and most concisely stated view of the truth that any church has ever had since the time of the Apostles. What we have is better than what all other churches have and they would do well to learn from us. And many other such things we believe.)

You can see this demonstrated whenever one of us proud COBU members comes in contact with any other Christian. We will attempt to set this hapless Christian straight, since the assumption is that we are the only church invested with this clear and correct view, and that this person is quite naturally off because he is not the recipient of our teaching. I have seen this many times.

Perhaps the most memorable example of this is the time Denny cornered a pastor and his family in the main concourse of Grand Central Station. Denny tried to probe their views on Perfectionism (“those who are born anew cannot sin,” which is what Stewart was teaching us at the time) and also to set them straight. A pastor who has studied many years and went to seminary and who knows Christian history and the development of doctrines throughout history versus this little upstart (Denny) with a new toy. The assumption of course, was that this man can know nothing. That mere superficial, good intentioned, and also “blind,” Christianity was no match for these special revelations that we were receiving from Stewart. And Denny was playing with these people, totally confident in Stewart. (And to also say Denny was totally confident in himself, goes without saying.)  I don’t say Denny was “confident in Christ,” and in what Christ was showing us. How could it Christ showing us this was the truth, since Stewrt disavowed this whole Perfectionism teaching later? Stewart recanted a year later, saying it was a false belief and accused us of letting him get away with it, because we must have wanted it.

This is how I often got fooled too. Although I thought Stewart’s Perfectionism teaching and the logic he used to support it was bogus and I had severe misgivings about it, I hadn’t studied Christian history at the time and knew nothing about the history of Christian doctrines and about you can be sure about most or all of the Reformation doctrines because there were so many real Christian men who bore witness to it, and I think God also bore witness to it by bringing it about in the first place and also by prospering the men who bore witness to it. (And I don’t mean the way that the Popes and the Catholic Church “prospered.”)

There is a large body of evidence and a firm foundation for Reformation beliefs. It was no small thing that took place back then. It didn’t take place off in a corner, but it shook the world to its foundations. It wasn’t of short duration, or some lie or some new movement based on a novelty or a gimmick that soon flickered out, but it had far-reaching consequences.

Do you think God brought all this forth by a lie? That he pushed people around and manipulated events and even kingdoms by his power? That he had people take a stand as his witnesses against formidable odds, yet allowed the words that came from their lips to be falsehoods?

The point is clear. When you have a firm foundation in Christian history, you are much more wary about accepting some mere trinket that is offered as a “revelation from God, no matter what anyone else says about it, or has said about it in the past. It is an automatic safety valve that works for you by itself.

It is my fault. I didn’t study. I was subject to any new wind of doctrine. This is what I think was going on back then too. Stewart pulled a new rabbit out of the hat each week, as I used to say. He kept changing his teachings. Believe one thing this week, then be told to forget it the next week and to believe the complete opposite. This was not without its effect on me. I had the sense of being sloshed about. It was very unsettling. But what else can you expect from someone who always thought he was almost God himself and that he had a special privilege to be a unique spokesman for God with a special way of interpreting the scriptures that no one but himself possessed and understood? Then suddenly, somehow, Stewart finds out that he is not God and not a unique and exclusive repository of truth.  Then he decides that he must rethink everything – but yet, he is not going to rely on any previous views, nothing that other Christians presently or in ages past have believed and claimed to be true, which he said got him in trouble before. That Stewart is not being subjected to another view, but seeking his own view. But he is going to forge ahead again and make his own view all over again – but the right way, this time. But in the meantime, we have to eat the rejects. That is, when Stewart comes out with a new revelation, he shoves it at us as the only truth. It is inconceivable that it could be anything else. We must buy it or else. But then, he changes it later.

Certainly this had a great effect on me back then. It made me question Stewart’s competency – or even his sanity.

But I tell you, all this is taboo. To write or speak this way. To question your leader.

November 2

This is about a meeting where Stewart Traill tried to make an older brother say he was a child of darkness:

We’ve come back from a real bamboozler of a meeting. To wit, the brothers’ meeting where it occurs to me that Joe was being compelled to blaspheme, that is, he was being cornered into saying he is a child of darkness.

Without going into great detail here, Stewart was cornering and coercing Joe into it with a line of legal style reasoning. (If you admit one thing, then it follows that you are also doing this other thing. And you will admit it. Do you dare defy the evidence?)

Joe was led to the water, which for all I know is polluted. But he wouldn’t drink. Bravo to him.

What is it supposed to do for Joe, to say something like that? Is it a first step toward healing? Or is it to be used on him as an admission of guilt as a necessary step toward casting him out?

What kind of church is it where the pastor tries to make people confess they are sons of the devil? (This was way beyond saying one has been captured by the devil to do his will, or is a backslider, or something out of these Christian writings where someone will say they were a child of hell, like the rest of mankind, before their conversion. See Ephesians 2: 1-3.  But it was something like, this is Joe’s eternal purpose.)

I think we have lost touch with reality. In our separated fish bowl society, we have a distorted view of life, even of Christian life, that comes from being separated from other churches (by accident or design?) and from living so close in on one another in a distorted and fragmented social order which is very unnatural. (Also probably living in a sick dependence, or shall I say a slavish obedience, to a man who claims to be much more than he should. My questions on that are quite deep-seated, namely why Stewart doesn’t really test himself or associate with other pastors. My suspicion is that he doesn’t want to lose his mythological power and illusion over our minds. He requires an absolute hold over us and an absolute separation from other sources in order to do it. My question is whether this means that he is really rather quite weak, or that the doctrine he espouses is really wrong, since it doesn’t stand on its own merit as much as he and we would like to think it does, but it is bolstered and protected with threats, coercion and it needs to be taught in complete isolation.)

The point however, is about losing touch with reality. And that somebody could actually be induced say such a thing. That Stewart could push Joe to say that he is a child of darkness. That Stewart could be on such a power trip, or even a judgment trip, since I take it that he is coming from his view on what judgment will be like. Is Stewart even relishing in the power of it, to do that to people?

What will happen when God judges Stewart? I have often thought that if I had to talk to Stewart to get into heaven, I’d never have a chance.

That Stewart could do that without anybody saying anything. The things that go on here in the dark, away from the prying eyes of other Christians. Would such things actually occur if there were observers from other churches? Do we need to have observers come in here to find out what’s going on, to see if there are any abuses? Like Red Cross inspectors coming in to inspect the Yugoslavian death camps? Who will restrain the prophet in his madness? (A dumb ass spoke and the prophet beat the beast in order to make it shut up. If any dumb asses speak up here, if they are audacious enough to even bray a little bit, Stewart pulls out the rod and beats them severely.)

[The story about Balaam’s ass is in Numbers 22:21-38. It’s a great story. The double entendre about “ass” only helps add more sarcasm and wit to the story.  Modern Bible versions use the word “donkey” instead of “ass” now.] 

I really do think a little light, a little outside help, would be very helpful. A person could really go over the edge here and not know it – or be too proud to face it if anyone did try to bring it to his attention. We won’t say anything. We have learned not to. We are clinging on for dear life. Who would say anything anyway when all the other ones like yourself, all the other older brothers and sisters, would deliver you up anyway?

I think our pastor gets what he wants. He is the absolute dispenser of the absolute truth in its purest form. (The clearest view since the time of the Apostles. Things are being revealed that no one has ever defined before, maybe since the time of the Apostles. If you take it as he tells it, or hear him tell it.)

[Stewart Traill claimed that what he was revealing had been hidden since the time of Apostles. He also said he doubted that the Apostle Paul understood the things he had written about, which by way of implication meant that Stewart understood these mysteries and that maybe he had a greater understanding than the Apostle Paul did. Stewart also claimed to have “assured understanding,” which God himself had given him. Did you care to disagree with this great teacher?]

It must be a heady brew, drinking that stuff. Believing that God has chosen you out of all the people on the face of the earth to know and tell these things. No wonder you’d smash and beat down anyone who even whimpers a doubt as to its truthfulness. You speak for God! Of course these people are rejecting the truth!

It is a view that corrects and modifies all that came before it. A plumbline with which to test all doctrine, of all the great teachers who have come before: Luther, Calvin,  Augustine, etc. Where they agree with you, they were on to the truth. But maybe not as sharply as you are able to perceive it. Where they differ, of course, that is where they were off! Those poor people, well at least they tried to define the truth to the best of their limited abilities.

And for us, what a gift! What a privilege (what flattery) to belong to such a group! No wonder it’s such a strong drug, so captivating. (I still suffer from the disease of not being able to be sure about the words in Christian books, because does it confer with Traillism? Does it have authority then? But Stewart’s “authority” is more like hocus-pocus mixed with threats.  he Reformers’ works stood on their own merits and changed the world. Stewart’s doctrine changes nobody and it doesn’t go very far beyond our borders. So then, why is it delivered with such absoluteness and pageantry? It’s hardly gospel at all, in fact. But rather, law. In two ways:

1)  It is like the dispensation of death, of condemnation, carved in letters of stone. Stewart might be a Moses type, but he is certainly no “Christ.” All of his strange methods and dealings are just weird. It’s a lot of psychology with Biblical wrappings. A lot of coercion and enforcement, because he lacks true Spirit. So he has to rely on forceful dealings and threats to push anything across. People don’t work willingly on this, or if they do, they are disillusioned quickly and give up. So they need to be stripped of everything and forced into unnatural lives and hooked up to some weird machine, by the use of threats and manipulation.

Because of these things I have seen over the last four years, I deeply mistrust Stewart’s message, his methods and the man himself.

(Or, to take a more generous view. He owes it to himself and to us to get some help. Since he seems to be in over his head, but is too proud to admit it, so we have to suffer for that too.)

[I was actually thinking that Stewart did not intentionally design things to be this way, that maybe Stewart just couldn’t help it. Maybe he just needed some help. Maybe he could reach out to other pastors. I naively told him this at least two times, and got punished for it severely.]

2)  The other way it’s law, is all the “laws.” There are so many restrictions on our behavior, so much binding of consciences. (I think this is all for a purpose too, to reel people in to work on Stewart’s projects, to build his church, a fantasy church of his own making, in which he couldn’t find anybody to serve willingly, so he had to get it by trickery. Because he was determined to get a church going.

(A church as a vehicle to express Stewart’s viewpoints. Nobody else will listen to him, so he built up a church around himself of people who will listen in complete docility and will carry out his experiments. Even if he has to make them do it.)

Since Stewart couldn’t get people to work willingly, he forced them. He got their compliance by taking everything away from them, by enforcing that by saying it’s the gospel, so their interests couldn’t be divided. For example, married people have certain vested interests that would distract them from fully devoting their time to carrying out his plans – so, no marriage. People who have interests and various delights of their own have vested interests too, so he did away with that. That way people would be unhindered to serve him. But believe me, it’s not out of love or a “free will” offering!

I think it only tends to produce hypocrites, because people don’t do it gladly and also they profess to live a constant Christian life, when really they put up outward appearances and keep up their secret inner lives anyway. There should be balance. There should be time to tend to our own needs and wants without being made out to be a transgressor over it or having to hide it.  He’d actually get more willing service from people out of that.

All I know is that I am bound up with chains and fetters and I have the feeling a man is trying to make me his slave – binding consciences, going beyond scripture.

An illustration.  I heard a sales pitch from the American Bible Society.  They want donations for Bibles.  Nothing wrong with that.  But they use Christian truths to build up to it.  They preach a sermon to get the desired effect.  A “you were there” story about being one of the shepherds at Christmas time.  Not that this is sinister, but it reminds me of how truths are presented here.  Often they are merely a rider, on top of what Stewart really wants to put over…

We need more devoted, selfless service in the Christian Brothers cleaning business because the financial balance is low and we’ve got to pay for the New Property?  More selfless determination to go out to the highways and byways for more converts?  Begin preaching heavily on giving up all you have, smashing up everything in your human life and no painkillers.  So there’s nothing left to us or our lives.  Push it for a year, inculcate it to the point of brainwashing, build it up big as one of the irrefutable bulwarks of the faith.  (Don’t worry, nobody will question or check into church history to see if it was so in former times, and if anyone does, you can just beat them up anyway.  Your opponents, if any, will just be individuals, weak and divided.  You can be confident in the great mass of the congregation going for it.)

Soon people will be afraid to do anything for themselves.  “All of this life is a fraud,” they’ll say.  They will deliver selfless service day and night and never complain or want something for themselves.

But the problem is that it’s not done by exhorting people to give free will offerings, but by law.  An enforced Christian life.  Bringing about things by laws and not by the Spirit.  Now, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  But this is done by law, by putting shackles and chains on people.

It’s not done by creating pictures in our minds of the hapless sinners out there, do it for the love of the Savior.  But done by mandate.  (Spurgeon and others had to woo and win people to the work, because they didn’t live in.)

In a sense, you can’t knock the things Stewart says, but the intensity it’s poured on with and the result it’s used for are my areas of doubt.  He had to chain me to do his work.  A lot of these “sermons” were used for that purpose.

A lot of congregations do that.  Need money?  Preach up tithes.  Use a lot of Biblical illustrations.  It’s true after all, it’s the Bible isn’t it?  Who is going to disagree with the Bible?

Am I just weird, or do I have a little more perspicuity than most?  It’s just that I am beginning to suspect such things.  Shall I just ignore it?  What price do I pay when I do that?   It just bangs about in my head anyway, like a sneaker in a load of laundry in the dryer.  Gets kind of noisy.  Maybe if I turn it off it will stop.  But I don’t know anyone who has successfully stopped thinking.  God gave me a mind, what is it for?  To debase it by throwing it in submission at the feet of a man who I at least suspect to be not so straightforward as I am supposed to profess?  A man who used quite a few tricks on us.

The whole thing isn’t working anyway.  You can’t get people to work for you by binding them.  Can’t get people to believe, really, by coercion.  You only get outward profession which never changes anyone.

More illustrations about the way preaching is used to accomplish some other end, the real thing that is to be sold:  In the days of yore, when canal companies saw they were losing out to the newcomer in transportation, the railroad, they hired preachers to preach against the evils of the railroad.  They probably said a lot of true things, real passages from the Bible that were true in and of themselves.  But the intent was to get people to vote against railroad construction bills and to not buy stock in railroad companies, as a means to not promote an ungodly enterprise.  They said it actually was God’s will that they refrain from doing so.  That is, at the behest of the trustees of the canal companies who brought these sermons to the people by their sponsorship and cash.  Under this influence, the preachers obviously preached with a slight bias in favor of their sponsors!

This, I wonder, was done with me.  Maybe in retrospect I can see it a little better.

Who’s going to knock the fact that Jesus said to sell all you have?  Unless you want to dispute the truthfulness of the Bible texts, or the original manuscripts perhaps.  And didn’t God say to hope only in him?

But this turned into the idea that my life is over.  I can’t have any time for activities of my own.  In fact, I am not supposed to receive anything for myself.  I am supposed to be so turned off to self that I am fully disposed to work day and night at our plan, asking nothing more for myself than a little bread, some clothes and a place to sleep. (Besides, we’ll just throw you out if you don’t like it.)

(This gets into the area of the unnaturalness of the lifestyle promoted here.  A lifestyle that may even inhibit Christian growth because of its extreme oppressiveness to the human spirit, let alone the human body.  Luther talked about the life in the monasteries.  It all sounds so strangely familiar.  It is still “Jesus and something else.”  I must do something to merit my salvation.  For all the gospel talk, it’s still law for all that.  Why, I even got the feeling back then, the last three years, that I was cleaning carpets in order to obtain salvation.  Due in part to the way everything else was proscribed and this work and that of gathering converts was inculcated.)

We were forbidden to do personal interests in the name of “losing our lives in this world” (as Jesus said, he who gains his life in this world will lose it, but he who loses his life in this word for my sake will save it) and we were pushed to work in church businesses, gather converts and be in meetings constantly.

You can read the next section of this journal here: Who Is Like The Beast, And Who Can Fight Against It?

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