1993, 03/23 1. Sex And The Single COBU Brother.
In this section, I talked about how there was no hiding from the reality of life being in COBU.
Today is March 23rd, 1993. I’m making a tape. I’ve had a lot of things on my mind and I thought I would talk about them. Today I’m dropping off a carpet cleaning team in Brooklyn. And I’m also making pickups. So I got to be alone for a little while, which I really need. I’ve had a lot on my mind today, and lately. I’ve been reading a lot of books on cults and comparing them to life here, and I’ve been like a pot being stirred up. You know, round and round.
I picked up both of the L. brothers and took them to their next carpet cleaning job. [They were two “middle brothers,” who had been in COBU for a year.] I was talking to Gary about reading the Bible. In part, it was real and in part, I was just giving him this big spiel about the Bible and presenting a hopeful front about our church and about Jesus and everything we do here. But, I would like to be able to tell Gary what I really think, such as, watch out, don’t get caught up in the things that go on here, because there’s a lot of strange stuff going on. But in all, I’m very careful about the presentation of myself to others. And also, I’m careful to not say anything that could be repeated. I might posit something in someone’s mind and then they might say, “Here’s the brother who told me this.” I live a very weird and circumspect life.
(The presentation of myself to others. A book that influenced me at the time was The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman. He also wrote a book called Asylums, which helped me understand that I was living in a Total Institution that controlled every aspect of my life.)
This morning, I wrote in my diary about some dreams I had about sex. And maybe I go by dreams too much and look at them as messages, but if there is anything I got out of these dreams, it’s that even God is saying that you can’t hide. You might run, but you can’t hide from this. And even, that he doesn’t want me to hide.
It was a really strange dream. There were presentations of women and sex in Christian surroundings. In the dream, I was opening up a book, Calvin’s Institutes on the Christian Religion. Someone had put pages with pictures of women in there, which started out with them being scantily clad and ended up with pictures of women wearing nothing. And then I turned to another page and there was even more. In the next part of the dream, I was watching a Christian movie and there were scenes where I had to lower my eyes. As if I went to a worldly movie that was really good, but there were a few sex scenes in it where I had to lower my eyes. Say, for example, if I left our fellowship and I wanted to see the movie Europa Europa.
(I could only imagine a scenario in which I had left COBU as a context in which I would go to a movie. We did not go to movies. The only movies I saw in the 14 years I was in COBU were the Cross and the Switchblade, and Pilgrim’s Progress, which was shown at our meetings sometimes.)
If I went to see a movie like that, I would have to tell myself that when those parts come, I’m just going to lower my eyes, which would probably be hard to do. And that’s how I was in the dream when these parts came on. Not that they were presented to me as dirty or lewd. It was presented as, this is normal life and that I’m trying to leave this out of normal life. Unless I’m just reading something into it, that was the understanding I had from the dream. These scenes went on until finally, there was a scene with a man and woman in intercourse. And the dream seemed to be saying, this is a part of life, this is even a part of Christian life.
It wasn’t the presented as something lewd. It was a factual documentary. This is life. And I’m trying to figure out if there is anything to it. Basically God is saying, you’re hiding and I’m not going to let you hide. You bury your head in the sand and end up running into situations where you have to face that there’s such a thing as sexual desire and that you have it. It’s unreal to avoid it or to act as if it doesn’t exist, therefore I’m not going to let you live an unreal life. I’m not going to foster this illusion. At least the illusion is not going to come from me. It might come from others, or from yourself, but I’m not going to partake in your trying to act as if sex doesn’t exist and that it’s healthy or right for you to live without it. Nor am I going to allow you to sell to others, including to the new people that come to the church, that this is how you must live.
(Now I began talking about a past time in COBU, where we were extremely regimented and under pressure. This is also called the 810 era in my journals:)
This leads me to the idea of how I’m really monitored and punished. Like that time I ran to 810 real quick, and how I police myself harder than they police me here. Not that they don’t do it to me as well. Or when I was flyering, I wouldn’t even stop to collect my thoughts. But I worked myself harder than the church works me, at least inwardly. And also I police myself harder than the rules do, as far as our unwritten rules about no marriage, no courtship, don’t get friendly with the sisters. You talk about Christ, you talk about business. That’s it.
I can look back and I can’t say I’ve ever really changed. I can look at my whole development, or digression, in the church. I remember that one storefront meeting where Stewart was telling us about how it’s really weird among us, that the brothers and sisters don’t want anything to do with one another. Which really wasn’t true, there was a lot of doing with one another, or trying to. And Stewart said, it’s so weird between you, that you might as well have separate crews going out to talk to people about Jesus. That the brothers should only work with the brothers and the sisters should only work with the sisters.
I didn’t like hearing that. And it seemed like Stewart was laying down a law that the men and women must work separately. Actually he was dividing us more and making it worse between the brothers and sisters than it already was. We had bad problems, but he was making it worse. And I remember riding back in a van from this meeting. Vilma, some other sisters and Jeff were just chatting away and I said, “Hey! Didn’t you hear what Stewart just told us?” And I was literally saying that we’re not allowed to talk to the sisters. I said, “You heard what we were told!” Some of them answered, “What do you mean?”
And I was actually policing myself harder than the brutal policing we had just received from Stewart. I was trying to lay the law down both on myself and others, saying, “Hey! You heard what we were told. No talking to the sisters!” Which actually wasn’t even the intent of the meeting, but Stewart was placing a separation between us, by law. And I was working hard along with it. And, I think marriage is forbidden our church, or highly discouraged. Put it this way: if marriage is highly discouraged, Stewart doesn’t have to forbid marriage, because we never get that far. So technically speaking, marriage is not forbidden. Since no one is trying to get married, how can you say it is forbidden? And I see how I take part in my chaining and imprisonment. I see that as my pattern. Maybe I’m blind to it.
I already know before making this tape, that if I start examining all sides of this, I’m going to be like a ping pong ball and I probably won’t come up with any answers or solutions.
To explain again, the dream was like God saying, “I’m not going to help you hide.” But I think, well what’s the next step? What do I do? I’m not sure. I guess the answer is, to not hide. And I’m asking, well God, what do I do? How do I get married? I’m caught in a prison here, a real web of denial and hiding. And I’m probably totally sold out to the system and my talk is just hiding it from others, and from myself. I read something about this in the Organization Man. There are two kinds of people in organizations. Those who do all the right things outwardly to mask how they’re not really in agreement with the system, and the best way to hide that is to look like they’re conforming to it, so they can continue to get over on it. But those who talk the system down and flaunt how they’re not taking part in it are the most surrendered to it and aware that they are. And they’re denying it by trying to flout these little rules which they say they’re not going to listen to. But they’re the ones who are most thoroughly bought into the system. And I would have to say that’s probably me.
I can trace way back, when I first come to the fellowship, how I sank right into the rules and went along with them. And maybe that’s where I get my arrogant claims that “I’m not going along with this! I’m above this,” knowing full well I’m caught fast and really caught up in this. For sure, I know I’m not going to hide from my sexual desires. If I look at my pattern, I can’t. I’m not able to hide from it. It’s an endless loop, where I seem to get away from it, but then, slowly but surely, it comes back and I go right into indulgence. Yet I won’t take the way out of marriage. Sure, I can go on and on about how it doesn’t seem possible to get married here. It seems that I would have to stand up and fight the fellowship in order to get married. But some outsider would probably say, you’re hiding, why don’t you just go ahead and get married? I have to admit, I really don’t see a way to go ahead and get married. I know I need to be married, I needed to have been married a long time ago.
But where do I go from here? I perceive that God isn’t going to help me hide from life. But we have a whole system of teachings here to aid and abet us in our denial of reality. And I must be guilty, at least by association, if not by taking part in it. I help this system along somehow.
I mean, if this organization were to be investigated for fraud or abuse, I’d have to be involved in the proceedings, because I take part in and promote this way of life. If someone were perceptive enough to see that I went along with it. Like the Nuremburg Trials. Or when the files of the secret police were finally released in East Germany after Communism ended, the people that I identify most with were the informers who made a so-called wise deal under the circumstances, when it looked like Communism would never end.
And the circumstances were this: there was a doctor who wanted to have a medical practice and he could have it only if he was in the Communist Party and if he was an informer. Otherwise he wasn’t going to get expensive medical equipment and supplies. So he justified his participation in this wrongdoing. It looked like things were never going to change. So what was he going to do? So, he went along with it and did it. But then the tables got turned and his file is made public, showing that he was an informer. And those who didn’t partake in this system are now his judges who ask, why did you do this? And his excuse, which seemed good at the time, now sounds awfully thin. “Well, I knew I couldn’t have a medical practice without becoming an informer. I justified doing this as a way to insure that I would obtain state of the art medical equipment.”
And I suppose this has its own internal logic. If the Berlin Wall never came down, if Communism never collapsed, it would have been justifiable, in a way. But, the wall has come down and now he’s face to face with his victims and all he can say is, “Um…” And they’re saying, why couldn’t you have held out, why did you have to go along with this? So, I think maybe a lot of my wisdom or logic is a self-saving logic. It’s the same thing, it seems wise, it seems like a way of getting over on the party, but it’s not. And I’m partaking in a vast form of deception and tricks in order to survive here. I can get a couple of perks that way. And I can avoid persecution by keeping quiet and living by and loving the system. But then I get bothered that I don’t have these real things, like sex, that catch me once in a while. There’s a price to pay for conformity to this system. It’s called my mind, body and soul. And I seem to be extremely involved in this system…and paying for it very dearly.
As a self-made victim…well, I can look at the system, the system is bigger than us, we’re all victims who are caught in the web here. But, like that doctor who sold out on the truth and on others to have his medical practice, there was a way in which he was participating. There was a way in which he decided to play the system and to live that way. He was playing that system and it caught up to him later. And I wonder if that’s what I’m doing. You see, I’m not willing to get persecuted, I’m not willing to get thrown out of our church, so I play along with this false system and I don’t speak up or rock the boat. I am probably one of the most compliant people here. After all is said and done, you’ll find that I am very, very willing to go along with everything here, even against my will and my better knowledge.
Of course, the scenario is that Stewart also says that everything isn’t right here, but he says that the source of these problems is the older brothers’ games and deceit. But really, it’s games and deceit from top to bottom. But I suppose that doesn’t exonerate me.
So, I’m trying to plumb a deep well here. It’s hard for me to try to piece all of this together. Again, I should probably make a lot of these tapes. I’m speaking of many forbidden things. There’s a set amount of things I’m expected to say. The story is basically presented to us as being this way. We either go along with this version of the story, or we don’t. I go along with it outwardly. But you see, the value of these tapes is just saying what I think to myself.
Another thing about those dreams last night was the idea that sex could be good and refreshing, and also needful. Now, it will be little things like this that get to me. A lot of things here bother me, but I can overlook them. Such as our dirty living conditions or that I don’t have a real trade or any real friends. But then certain things come along that get under my skin that I cannot successfully hide from. And it also flares up on me and I give in to it in a way that, well, the Bible says that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. So it’s a little deeper than just something I’m missing out on in life.
I really need to decide what I’m going to do. Of course, I thought of leaving our church. Leaving to get married. That’s what the Shakers used to do. They did that all the time. And we’re like the Shakers, in that we forbid marriage, although it’s not an official part of our doctrine as in their case.
But the only social contacts I have with women are here in our church. There is nowhere else I can meet someone. I see how badly addicted I am to this church and how I think I need it. I would have go out there if I want to find someone to marry and leaving is a big decision. I have no social contacts, no people I know. I’m hedging my bet that staying here is the best way and the best place to get married, but in a place that certainly is not going to let me get married, even if I did pair off with somebody.
So I don’t know what to do. Maybe I could try to see if there’s a sister who will talk with me on the side, but they’re all hooked up to the main authority and they’re not going to let their guard down. What is an under the counter relationship? Well, that’s how anybody ever got started in our church. There has never been any over the counter or above board relationships since I’ve been here and those who tried to start one ran into a mass of regulations. Stewart always says there’s always something we haven’t done, or we’re not quite what we need to be in order to be able to get married. You know, a whole bunch of manure like that.
I don’t even know what to do. I’m careful and guarded, because I fear someone will find this tape. Another thing I’ve always been careful not to express to anyone here is that I really need to have sex. And of course, these things are treated as indulgence here, sex usually equals indulgence. You could write the word “sex,” then have an equal sign, and then the word “indulgence.”
(In other words sex = indulgence, according to Stewart Traill’s theology. Indulgence is the same thing as sin and we were not supposed to sin. Stewart told us that the only reason we wanted marriage was so we could “indulge.” I didn’t understand at the time that marriage was a natural right that people have, which a church cannot regulate – or at least not legitimately regulate. I remember when I first came to COBU at age 23, when I used to talk to those who were the older brothers at that time, this line, or something like it, is what they told me. They were repeating Stewart’s teachings to me, although I didn’t know this at the time. These rules seemed like such a heavy burden, but I didn’t know how to deal with it, so I just bore the burden. And, besides, it wasn’t all at once, it was like death by a thousand paper cuts. When I talked to those brothers and they told me this, it wasn’t like I was going to meet someone the same day who I wanted to get married to. So I just filed these teachings away in my mind. COBU was like a slow poison that didn’t kill off your humanity all at once. It was a slow death.)
And, according to our church’s teachings, anyone saying that they want to have sex is really perverse. But the facts show, and I really do believe, that I don’t have the gift of abstinence that the Apostle Paul talked about. And it’s obvious. Yet no way to marry is available to me. All these things I have to do first before I can get married are set before me as prerequisites and burdens to carry. And I wonder if these are just weird church regulations. All these things about what a man does, or what a man is, and how we need to be this way before we really are men. The fact is, I already am a man.
And the church’s plans must first be fulfilled before I am allowed to have anything for myself. Somehow, I owe the church something. I have a debt to the church to pay first. It’s like paying off a mortgage before I can own my own house. So I have a debt to society, I have to do my time before I can get married. But the time could be indefinite. Or like how Laban made Jacob serve him for seven years before he allowed him to marry Rachel, which I always understood to be a trick.
But one of the things our church has on me is that my marriage would have to be officially approved. If I want an approved marriage. See how bad I am for the rules? If I want an approved marriage. I know intrinscally, through years of indoctrination, that there are a vast series of things that I’m going to have done and to be able to say I have done in order to satisfy everyone – probably even to satisfy her. And it’s like our church has its claim on me. It’s like how the Moonies are. They have to be a member of the Unification Church for three years before they can get married, and then the leaders select a mate for them. But then they separate them for another three years and they have to work for the church for those three years before they can finally live with their mates. That ensures six good years of work out of everybody who joins their church. They know that this desire is a strong in a man, and people come into their organization with that desire. And, in their case, they don’t make people deny marriage, they use it on them.
We have a lot in common with cults, but we are not as thoroughly organized as the Moonies. We’re a sloppy cult. Though I can’t help thinking that our leader knows these things. Because, over and over I get the idea, that the man ain’t dumb.
(It looked like these things just happened in COBU without being planned, as opposed to how things appeared to be purposely organized in the more well-known and established cults.
At this point, I began speaking hypothetically: what if Stewart Traill treated marriage the way the Moonies did and he made us work a number of years before we could be qualified for marriage What a good system to get work out of people that would be! But Stewart was able to get the same work out of people and deny marriage at the same time. He was so good at manipulating people that he didn’t have to hand out any rewards in return. No matter how hard we worked, he just told us it was not good enough and we dutifully recommitted ourselves to work harder.)
So, in the Moonies at least you can live in anticipation of a mate. But, you’re certainly not going to get one of these marriages assigned to you here. And how many times have I thought, Stewart will assign us a wife, or help us get a wife? Only for those who are working hard! Of course there are the ones who just don’t care and they’ll leave the church to get married, but who wants them anyway? But if anyone is going to be in our organization, they have to be seen as working for the goals of our church.
This is a good carrot to put on a string in front of someone. Put the carrot on a string, put the yoke of the church over their shoulders. Get three good years of work out of them. And then, as they get closer to their goal, they work harder. And they’re all the more caught, because deferred goals make people put out extra effort. Then when you get your mate selected, in addition to all the things that have been running you, you want to make sure she is happy and that you’re a right kind of husband. So now you’re sent away to live apart for three more years, and you know you better have a certain way of living and the proper attitude. So, these people are definitely going to work hard at the aims of the church and they’re not going to rock the boat. And they’re definitely not going to say that something is not right here. Imagine getting that far, you’ve endured five years, including two years of knowing your who mate is going to be. You wouldn’t want to tumble back down to the bottom of the hill again and know it’s all been a loss. In the church here, I wouldn’t want to tumble all the way back down, although I could say, I guess I already have.
(Because I spoke up to tell Stewart Traill that was doing some wrong things, my reputation in COBU was shot and I was now unmarriageable as a result, if somehow Stewart would ever allow COBU members to get married.)
So, I’m caught in a web of having my sexual desires used on me. It’s always in the back of my mind that I’m never going to get married unless I’m faithful and doing all these programs and seen by everyone as striving. I have to be this perfect Roman god statue. Meanwhile, the rodents are chewing away at the base. My desires are chewing me out from the inside. And my desires are used as a club over my head to get me moving, to get me to do things. Because I know the laws and rules.
According to that book about hurtful faith, those who survive in an abusive system know what the rules are. And when any of the rules have changed, they’re able to quickly figure out which rules have changed and which rules haven’t and to adjust accordingly, and these are your survivors. Now, I know there are laws in our church concerning marriage. And this book said that these laws aren’t written down, but I certainly know what the rules and laws are. I have a really good idea of what the rules and laws concerning marriage are in our church. I know that I have to do these things first. And it’s really plain and obvious to me that one of the things I can’t do is directly approach the woman myself and start a relationship with her and take it from there, like I would do out in the world or in some other church. No way! There are a lot of things that Stewart says I have to be doing first. And she knows the rules. She’s not going to be showing any interest in me unless I’m already following the rules. It’s a really terrible yoke to bear.
(I knew about all of this from experience, when I had tried to start a relationship with a sister ten years before this. She essentially told me she didn’t see me as one who was living up to all the church’s rules and requirements. She said, “I don’t see you as being united with your brothers and having spare zeal.” Spare zeal was a Stewart concept, which meant that the woman looked to the man for motivation in life, so you needed to have plenty of motivation left over, aside from your own, to give to her. This spare motivation and drive in life was not so easy of an expectation for a 25 year old young man to live up to. Maybe one of the major ways Stewart worked to prevent marriage in COBU was to set impossibly high standards on the brothers and to lead the sisters to have unreal expectations, which no brother could fulfill.)
Yet I know that I’m exploding with sexual desire and not just because of, “because you really love sin! You really want immorality. You’re really, really bad!” It’s really not that way. Yet I have this hard road to travel, if I want marriage here. I suppose if I keep talking about this, I’ll end in as much of a blind alley in trying to describe it, as far as trying to present my ideas on tape, as much as I’m in a blind alley about the real thing and the way that my life is a blind alley. I could go on and on talking about it. I probably should. I suppose when I finally can get a tape recorder that records at different speeds or can tape a garbled message, I can speak a lot more freely and at length about what I really think. I’m always guarded.
(I was talking about a kind of tape recorder that recorded at slow speed. Not only could you get several hours of talking on a 90 minute tape, if anyone played a tape made this way on a standard tape player, they would not be able to decipher what was on the tape. It would be a great way to conceal my thoughts, but I gave up on the idea, because the recorder cost three hundred dollars and I did not have enough money to buy it. The 30 dollar allowance I got for toiling in the church business mostly went for coffee and food to supplement our poorly supplied kitchen. I only had money for small things like batteries or a used book.)
Read the next section of Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry Cult Leader here: Methods of Manipulation.
These pages, as well as my other pages, A Day In The Life Of A Cult Member and The Tangled Web, are part of the source material of my book, Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding, which is available as a Kindle book or in paperback.