1992, 11/03-06. Who Is Like The Beast, And Who Can Fight Against It?

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

I used the phrase, “who Is like the beast, and who can fight against it” to describe the extreme forces that were on me to conform to the COBU way of life, which included following the social norms, not doing anything from “a human point of view,” and not trying to start a relationship with one of the sisters in the church.

This phrase about the beast comes from the Book of Revelation, and is about how people will follow the Antichrist with awe, wonder and fear. It seemed so hard to fight against these rules in COBU. It was easier to give up and to go along with it. I was using the word beast to describe Stewart Traill, the leader of the Church of Bible Understanding, because he set the rules and the terms of interaction between people in the church, either by direct decree or by creating the circumstances in which these things took place.

November 3

Election day. Who will be president?

We dropped off Melanie and Cathy at the Staten Island ferry. I didn’t talk to either one. In fact none of us brothers did, though they profusely thanked us when they got out. I guess that’s the extent of male-female relations here these days. Hi and bye and can you give me my messages please.

When I walked into the office earlier, Melanie looked up at me. I take it that there is more to it than just that there was motion in the corner of her range of vision, causing her to look, which was probably the initial cause, although also more transpires in these looks. It’s a very flattering feeling, a warm feeling. The opposite of getting a cold shoulder. She would like to say or do more, or she wishes I would, but we both know this would not be permissible. She quickly put her head down, continuing to occupy herself with her work.

I can sense when somebody is friendly toward me and I thought quickly, I wish I could talk to her sometime. I even thought, “Jesus, if you want me to talk to her, please arrange it sometime.”

I also interrupted Veronica to ask her if she could get me a reimbursement. She said she didn’t know if she’ll be alive in a second because life is short. (Because she didn’t like having to be interrupted.) I thought of saying, “Well, if you are still alive one second from now, then could you give me a reimbursement?” A little humor, you know. But I thought of how critical things are these days and how this might not go over too well with the other people in the room who might think I am mocking the truth or even mocking Stewart’s teaching. It would be easy to have something misconstrued. One must have a serious demeanor at all times, or so it seems.

[One of Stewart Traill’s teachings at this time was that “I am going to die in two seconds and stand before Jesus.” It wasn’t intended to be hopeful. It was one his many death teachings that were meant to create a fear of standing before Jesus as our judge and being cast into hell. I considered if I wanted to make fun of what Veronica said and decided that discretion was better, because it could have easily been considered by the others in the room to be mocking the truth. We were supposed to be very serious about the truth. The truth, in this case, was our soon death and our judgement to follow – which for us, would have a negative outcome, because Stewart said we were all “rebels.” We were supposed to be doing our “Christian training” and taking it very seriously, in order to escape hell.]

(It’s amazing how much can go through my mind in the blinking of an eye. It’s not so much an analytic thought process where all this is reasoned out and weighed. It’s more of a feeling or something I sense by instinct, which I do for safety and survival.)

Then, when I was in the van, the two sisters were coming out of the office and I found myself doing all those mental gyrations one does when he is attracted to someone. Like thinking how I am not going to let this be known in any way, because I can’t anyway. But I thought of my prayer, asking that I could talk to her. It was on my mind and I realized it was an answer of sorts. I also realized that she had looked at me with the attitude of one who is wishing and desiring, and now she is getting what she wished for. (Not that I am a wonderful catch. But we all have our person(s) who we find appealing for whatever reason and we find ourselves wishing to speak to them, even as we tell ourselves we are not supposed to, or that there is no point anyway, at least not right now.)

[It was clear to me that relationships and marriage were forbidden in the church at this time, but I hoped later this would change, which is why I said “at least not right now.” This means that at this time, I did not fully understand that Stewart was banning relationships now and forever, and that I still was buying in to his portrayal that we were just not able to have relationships now because we were unfaithful to Christ, but that later, if we became faithful, we could have them.]

I also had a sense that God is present as one who certainly knows about such things and he is showing that very fact to me right now. (Since he is not governed by my presuppositions or rules, or what is right or wrong to do right now because of “the way things are in the church.”)

As we began driving, I thought that she probably wished to talk to me or that I would talk to her. I imagined that both our thoughts were running something like this, maybe at the very same moment:

“I wish (he/she) would say something to me.”

“I should probably say something to (him/her) but it’s not right to directly show interest in a (brother/sister).”

“Of course, I could just start talking to (him/her) about something else, but that would be (maneuvering/deceitful), because I know I am just using that as a way to get what I really want, and that’s wrong. But if (he/she) says something first, then it’s okay because then I am not (maneuvering/deceitful) because I am just answering (his/her) question.”

“I wonder if I’m just being too (ashamed/proud) to talk to (him/her).”

“I guess I shouldn’t say anything to (him/her).”

And there it ends. When I say it’s wrong to talk to one another, it’s not that I actually believe that, but that this is the view of our society. Actually I don’t believe that at all!

It used to be easier, about seven years ago, when you could just tell a sister you liked her, and vice versa. But even in saying “you could” just shows it was a “law” back then, since I believe we are rule governed in our thinking and don’t live by conscience, desire and honesty.

It’s not a law now. It is against the rules now to do such a thing.

I usually just figure it’s pointless to try to talk to a sister anyway. But I can’t justify my conduct by saying it’s God’s will to be this way. I can’t blame God for my own problems and hang ups. Though I will just as quickly add that there is certainly a prohibition against anyone getting too familiar, “because the brothers aren’t faithful and we certainly have questions about the sisters too!“ But I usually come from the “bad” brothers and the “good” sisters viewpoint.

And I also thought God showed me about someone else, so what’s the point of conniving and trying to arrange things? It certainly was a load off my troubled mind when God did that. But also it’s also a service that is due to the sisters, to be kind and to talk to them. That’s what I thought about Carrie that time I ignored her when I passed her on the stairs, then regretted it. I asked God to help me talk to her again sometime. Then I found her in the kitchen and we talked for a while.

November 4

I awoke today in a sad spirit. I suppose because of things in general, including last Sunday’s meeting. But also because I had a dream that my brother died.

November 6

I will probably write things down in this diary that I don’t want found so easily. That is, if I were to leave the portable one around and it were found. Maybe the other one will be for jotting notes down in the day as I think them.

Last night I dreamt that I had to take Mike R. to a job in Point Pleasant, one block away from where I grew up, so we were looking at the house I grew up in. I was discussing the idea with my mother about staying there or coming there on weekends. I began to feel sad and cry. (Then there was a scene where I was asking Stewart if I could go. He didn’t approve, and I said, “You cult leader. I am going to go anyway!”) Then I came up with the idea of passing out business flyers there to get work and then doing it there on weekends so I could go there regularly. It seemed very plausible and real in the dream. I wonder if in dreams, one deals with things he is not willing to or feels prohibited to deal with in real life.

Maybe it’s because of the idea of seeing my mother during Christmas has been brought up. She mentioned that to me when I called her. Also, because I feel trapped here, and it is only for the occasion of doing work that I get to go to such distant lands as upstate New York or along the Hudson River. If I did a job in New Jersey, I could pass by home on the way. I guess that’s the way it is here, I can’t openly declare that I’d like to go somewhere, but occasionally some opportunity comes along. I figure it is from God, when I get to go somewhere. But otherwise, I usually acquiesce and go along with the flow, staying within the wagon ruts. “Think of the battle, you will not do it again” and “who is like the beast and who can fight against it?”

[“Who is like the beast and who can fight against it,” is a verse in The Book of Revelation about peoples’ inability to resist the power of the Antichrist. It was also the feeling I had about my inability to stand up to the pressures aimed at me by Stewart Traill and the pressure to conform to all the people around me.]

Even just walking down the street to get away can give me a change of mind, however minor.

Our institutional setting produces a homogeneity of thought and action. (I never have to wake up and think about what I’m doing, since it’s all pre-planned and scheduled.) Even my thoughts against it seem to become clichés. Sometimes I’ve even wondered if it’s all a design of Satan, who has me totally locked in to a way of life, as if in chains. I get to work hard at it, day and night, so I have a sense of really working, maybe “for Jesus.” And Satan gives me just enough tidbits, just enough Christian thoughts, to make me think I am thinking about and studying about Christ as I go about my tasks.  (For instance, maybe in a day, I’ll read a few verses in the Bible and a chapter in a Christian book.)

I remember about three years ago, as the “Business” went full swing, thinking that it was practically our god, or at least a big idol. (The “Business” has always been a “big thing” with the brothers. They sacrifice all for it. Maybe also it is why marriage is downplayed. If we were all married, our interests would be divided and there would no longer be any selfless and zealous flunkies available to work day and night, and the church’s income would suffer. They could no longer tell anyone to work, but the balance would shift and they would be asking people if they could work. Probably all our energies are sublimated into the Business.)

I often thought that the way of life here is diametrically opposed to a Christian life.

[I realized that the forces aimed at me by Stewart Traill, although done in the name of God, truth and special revelation, were against Christianity and against me having a relationship with Jesus. It was designed to cause the opposite effect. According to Stewart, I was too unworthy to have anything to do with Jesus. And upon my soon death, when I met Jesus, he was going to cast me into hell.]

I have been reading about American socialisms. Some of my findings are shocking. They make me tremble. Or is it just coincidence? The authors of these books said that success in these communal enterprises was inversely proportional to their suppression of marriage. The Shakers and the Rappites lasted the longest. Other groups were anti-marriage, but for other reasons, economic reasons perhaps. They realized that if their societies were to succeed, the family unit and communal life were incompatible. Like us, they tried to forge new utopian societies which were free from marriage, money and personal property.

Maybe that’s where we fall. Certain entities know that if there were an en masse migration toward marriage, that the income would suffer. And the church would not be able to get selfless service any time day or night, continually, on tap as it were.

Right now, we have a willing work force, made up of people who have no justifiable reason to turn down any work. A married couple naturally turns inwardly to tend to their own affairs, which is not wrong. (In all the Christian and Western history I’ve read, the family unit is the root. There was no attempt to break that up. Except in the monasteries.)

It’s only the weird groups, who try to remake man in some other image, that get into communal life and prohibit marriage. So, I am doubly weird. I’m not married. I don’t have sex. And I don’t have children. And socially, I’m not conformed to what God has made to be the basic unit or underpinning of human life and society. So even my source and motivation must be wrong. Necessity doesn’t hit me where it hurts.

Our view, of course, is that anything we want for “self” is wrong. I wonder how that affects marriage. Why can’t I get married anyway?

And if I can’t get married because I am “unfaithful,” the question is, I am allowed to live here and work. The church has no qualms about receiving the fruit of our labor. In fact, it leans quite heavily on our labor. Leaning almost exclusively on “unfaithful” people. (I live as though I didn’t work for a living.) Why isn’t marriage left as free as work is? Is this all a charade?

We are afraid to expose ourselves for any reason and we cling to the Business as our only hope and our last bastion of worth. At least we’re doing that. Maybe I dig myself into this pit as well, while there is also someone shoveling dirt in on me from above.

God made marriage to be the basic unit in all society. Adam wasn’t complete until he had a wife. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” I wonder if this also means leaving the communal unit(y). It would have to occur intrinsically, mentally, motivationally, if I did. It would be a shifting or changing of basis if I did it.

I am living contrary to God’s will and plan.

Maybe our way of life isn’t a conscious plan. It just seems to work out that way. Is it all the result of our unfaithfulness?

But, I bet the tenets of our religious philosophy greatly promote this, such as the view that marriage is a social issue.  Even when marriage was allowed in the church in the past, it was supposed to be communal.


I have some free time and I don’t know what to do with myself. Even when reading a bible commentary, I just feel like I am burying my head in the sand, signing off and just marking time. I could arrange and organize things, but this seems wrong, as will doing artwork. It seems I hardly ever do anything to relax or for enjoyment anymore.

And just hanging out in the idle, pseudo-Christian talk with the boys seems like the ultimate time waster. In fact, it seems that if I am not doing work, my time isn’t organized. My job defines my life and everything coalesces around that. This seems wrong.

I had a certain flash of awareness. (It was about Laura. An idea of: God intends to give me something good, very good, that will just astound me. Something I don’t deserve.) It was a very settling feeling. It seemed real and that God was showing me to write it down.

As of November 11th it will be exactly two years since that time I prayed about getting married, and heard, “What if you had to wait three or four years?” I often add up evidence to try to figure this out. I had a dream that “God puts love in her heart for you long before she ever sees you or talks to you,” indicating that I must be patient

This is certainly an indication that I must be watchful in prayer to see what God will do and not try to arrange things myself. Not that I am supposed to live in inactivity, but I understand that there is an essential difference between doing something God wants me to do and trying to do things for and by myself.

Well, writing this seems to be the only thing I can satisfy myself with right now. It is not good to live unconsciously and just do things to fill time.

A diary is where I talk to myself and it helps to define things that are floating around only half-formed in my mind. It is a useful exercise, instead of, as the saying goes, re-inventing the wheel every day over things I could have resolved or been making progress on otherwise. I do have the sense that I am not supposed to do anything about anything because nothing will work and that I should not try to figure out (that is, understand) things, because I can’t know anyway, or if I do understand something, I am helpless and powerless anyway. But whatever happened to praying about these things and developing a line of subjects to pray to God about? Things that I am watchful over and thank God for when he answers. Certainly God gave me more than this. It is being unthankful to live like a slob, inwardly and outwardly. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Instead of approaching prayer indistinctly or with no clear purpose in mind, I can have an intelligent conversation with God rather than just saying, “save me, save me” or babbling on, thinking I will be heard for my many words.

You can read the next section of this journal here: The Crushing Weight of COBU’s Self-Denial Teachings


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