1993, 03/23 3. Heavenly Deception: Lying For The Lord.

The title of this section comes from the name of a tactic used by the Moonies (The Unification Church) called heavenly deception, which is telling lies while recruiting and fundraising. If telling a lie furthers God’s kingdom or is told for a person’s good, then it is an acceptable practice. I learned about this by reading books about cults. I began to ask myself, do we practice heavenly deception in COBU? It was not hard to come up with the answer, and the answer was in the affirmative.  

(From an FBI report on the Unification Church: “One of the central doctrines… is what they call heavenly deception. It basically says that to take from Satan what rightfully belongs to God, you may do most anything. You may lie, cheat, steal or kill.”)


So, I’m continuing to make this tape. As I continue to drive along, I’m coming right out and saying I think this place is like a cult. And I think God is very angry with me. And I’m always running, always running from the rod. It’s really hard to think. I can’t live like this. And we always have the man at the top, chasing us around with the rod, and everyone’s afraid of him. Like a certain brother said to me the other day, “Anyone smart enough could figure that out. But face the facts, no one wants to have anything to do with him. They can’t stand the fellow anyway, they want nothing to do with him. But no one will say it. They’re all locked in this fear mode.” And we’re constrained to live like this. And Stewart beats us. We must never say that he beats us. You know, never bite the hand that beats you. Stewart harasses and persecutes me, but I must always defend him and speak well of him.

Stewart controls all social interchanges/points in the fellowship. A person can be tied up and immobilized with two pieces of rope. One around the feet and one around the hands. To complete that, all you need is a gag, so they can’t yell. With these three little things, a person can be completely immobilized, even though the rest of the body has nothing wrapped around it. That’s much how the body, our Christian body, and my body – I’m completely immobilized and wrapped up by this man. Again, I must never say this. That’s part of the reason for making this tape. It is what I really believe, plain and simple.

This is equally balanced out by, look at what happened to all the ones who’ve left our church – although as Peter said, it’s not necessarily that way. It has been portrayed to me as instant death to leave our church, or that people are dead before they leave and their lives are just horrible. And to make sure all the bases are covered, we have Stewart’s teaching which says, “And if you ever did get your life together, that’s the last you’d see of Jesus.” So even if you do get it together, it’s not like you have God’s approval. I could see if your life was total trash, then that would show that God was punishing you. But if you actually got it together and were doing well in your life? Then, according to this, it’s even worse.

(Stewart told us that it was even worse than backsliding if we got our lives together, because then, for sure, we would never see Jesus again, because now we felt we were self sufficient and wouldn’t think we needed Jesus. But this also implied that Jesus would not have anything to do with us. In my early years in the church, I was at a meeting where some brothers contested Stewart’s statement that some brothers who had recently left COBU did not leave Christ and that leaving COBU and leaving Christ were not necessarily one in the same. Stewart angrily countered with, “They’ve already left Christ, then they left the church. That’s why they left!” He said it as a raging accusation against those brothers. As a young believer who did not know God well and who didn’t know much about Christian life – or cults – this had a strong impression on me. People didn’t leave COBU with the intention of still following Christ. Those who left COBU had already left Christ, and their actions were merely reflected that. Such concepts seemed to block off the idea of me ever being able to leave COBU and to lock me in all the more. Because I often thought of leaving and such admonitions would enter my mind, like an internal watchman or jailor. And the message was: it is not possible for me to follow Christ apart from being in COBU.)

So, I’m bound in by all these teachings. I can see why I never love or embrace the teaching here. Because it’s always against me. It’s always wrapping people up and binding them and killing them. Immobilizing them, incapacitating them.  And I wonder why it has to be this way. It never lifts anyone up. Even these tentatively hopeful things about grace that Stewart is telling us now. It’s like there’s always sinister plot behind the whole thing anyway. There’s always some ulterior motive or hidden agenda. Like they say, the hidden agenda of the cults.

Just look at the way we recruit people on the streets – or as we call it, sweeping. We never tell them the whole story. On one hand, we can’t. But, like that homeless guy we were talking to, who asked, “Will I still be able to go to school?” And I said, flat out, “Look, I’ll tell you. You might as well know. I might as well tell you up front. They’ll discourage you. They’ll really put pressure on you to give that up.” I mean, that was just a drop, a peep. If I ever told people ahead of time what it was really like here, they might not come.

And I think, what kind of witnessing am I doing, if I’m basically practicing heavenly deception, by going out and throwing wool over peoples’ eyes? And there’s always a teaching to back things up. You know, Stewart’s teaching about, “I was deceived, Lord thou hast deceived me.” [Jeremiah 20:7.] Stewart always told us that we were deceived into coming here and that this deception was God’s work. And from what I’m reading in books on cults, most converts don’t know what they’re getting into. They don’t know it is meant to be a lifelong commitment. And we don’t really tell people that. But I realize that if I were ever to tell people up front what it’s like here, I would be as much, if not more, discouraging them from coming as I would be encouraging them to come to the church.

And I’m rather conscious of the fact that we do a lot of lying to people. Or, the best lie is that we leave out most of the truth. And this is thoroughly acceptable among us. That, and only looking for people who are easy marks. You know, the homeless. To the exclusion of all other types of people that we could bring to the church. This is a way in which I cooperate with my own destruction. Instead of bringing in fresh blood and new ideas, people who do know their right hand from their left, only bringing in people who have only two choices – to obediently do what they’re told, or leave. They’re not people who ask real questions, or if they do, we have ways of getting around real questions, like, “Well, you don’t understand it all now. Why don’t you just stay here a little while longer and later you’ll understand.” But we never really answer those questions when they come up. There are ways of putting off peoples’ real questions. And I’m rather conscious of that fact. We look at their thoughts and questions as really not mattering. They’re just things they thought up at the spur of the moment, maybe it’s the devil who is stirring them up to look at things from a “human point of view.” So we must always guide them back to the faith and the “Christian” point of view. These things we say to them are awfully unreal. Let’s just say, there’s a lot of shenanigans on our part.

So, this is really serious. I mean, if any of this is really true. And the heavenly deception that we practice, that I practice…well, is it conscious? I don’t know. It is now, let’s say. We practice some real deception to get people in here. And it’s legitimate, we do it.

(We considered it to be legitimate and justifiable. In fact, most brothers and sisters would not consider this to be lying, unless they examined themselves.)

Like how the Moonies talk to people and use what people reveal about themselves to come up with life histories of themselves tailored to match the life histories of the people they’re talking to and recruiting. Now, it’s common to reveal something about yourself similar to what the other person says. But I can see how that’s deceiving, like remanufacturing my own life story, partly because I don’t want to appear different from them and partly to rope them in, when I really think about it. If someone says they had a drug problem, instead of saying I never really did, I’ll say, well, I used to smoke and drink. But, I can see how it is like the love bombing they describe in these books about cults. Any information that people give is used to help lure them in. It’s not honest. As one of these books said, an absolute leader whom the people obey unquestioningly can be a good thing, if used rightly. It can be used on them for their good. But what about when it’s used wrongly?

So, I’m talking about the heavenly deception that we use on people. What if we were right up front with people and said, you’re expected to make a lifelong commitment to our church, you’re expected to live in our church and never leave. (Of course, there’s always an exception to the rules, maybe if they did get married, they would live independently.) And they’re expected to make a lifelong commitment to Christ, and of course, what better way than to do that here? And the real issue is that they’re making a lifelong commitment to Christ. But the two are intricately intertwined. Then there are all the safeguards and checks we use to keep them here. We tell them they’re also expected to cut off communication and contact with their families, because Christ said leave everything and follow me, and your family is a false god.

Every statement we make here can be twisted another way when it’s necessary. Again, we would never acknowledge this, this is not official. Everything we say, like about leaving your family – we know what it means here. It means you leave your family. You cut off communications. From now on, it’s you vs. “them.” Not that you can completely avoid them, you might have to see them again. But, that’s what the rule is, that’s what we all understand. Yet, there’s enough padding in the words to reinterpret it to mean something else, when necessary. And we know when those exceptions come and otherwise things must be rigidly adhered to according to the way we know it should be. And there are a lot of things like that here. Like not telling people that they make a lifelong commitment to live in and work for our church. Yes, at the right time, you could say no, it’s a lifelong commitment to Christ. It can be flexible. Not that it is flexible, but the idea is, it’s flexible when necessary. That is where the deceit comes in. Words can be ambiguous and they can be applied in different ways when necessary to fit the agenda.

(The words about commitment to Christ could be twisted to mean commitment to our church, but we said the right thing when necessary.)

What if we told people up front, that you get three days’ orientation, but after that, you’re going to be put to work for our church? Yes fine, we provide jobs, but when people ask, we carefully avoid their questions about whether they can make money here by working for us. Sometimes we snow them with the whole live-in thing.

(We answered by saying we pool the money we make in order to live communally and to support our orphanages in Haiti.)

But if we explicitly told people, you’re going to be put to work for our church, for the rest of your life, no complaining. You’re not allowed to take time off after you’ve worked two weeks straight, you’re going to be told no. Except in case of emergency, like hospital visits. Imagine if we really told people that, right up front? Besides, the people we talk to are all junkies anyway and this is better than where they were before, you see. So, you know, something really bogus is going on here.

Then I think, what makes us do that? What makes me do that? Oh well, living neutral. Not in the sense of living neutral to Christ, but going out and just saying the clichés. Fear also. I would never think of saying that, but really when I go out to try to bring new people in, I’m just going through the motions, doing my duties, saying the same old things. It’s an unthinking life. The other reason too is, my salvation. The idea that I will vindicate myself, our church will vindicate itself, by this. You know, the hope is always to have a lot of new members. And we can get lost in and also redeem ourselves through working with and working on them. I always thought the interesting life, the great life, would be out in some Center, having hundreds of new people and just losing myself, dealing with them. I’ve got that open Bible and I’m talking to them, really getting in there! Laying down my life for them.

So the issue is, why do we want people to come in, what are our motives? Some of it is self-salvation, saving ourselves by vindicating ourselves through work. And through persons. So, a lot more is at stake than a genuine concern for people. It’s like, I need you! I need you to save myself with. I need you to come here so I have something to do.

(Stewart Traill wanted more workers to increase the profits in the church businesses. I did not want more workers. But I was exploring my own motives and hopes for why I would want a lot of new people to move into COBU. If there were a lot of new people, maybe Stewart would be less angry with us and he would not center the meetings in what is wrong with the older brothers. And we would be working on new disciples, raising and training them in the faith out in new Centers which we would start in many cities, which Stewart presented to us as our useful future in COBU.)

I need you, so the old man won’t yell at us for not doing our duty, for not bringing in lots of new people. And I guess I need it for myself. All this has got to be in the back of our minds. Stewart used to tell us things and he still tells us similar things, such as, that the prerequisite to marriage is to have a hundred lambs [new converts], because handling a wife is like handling a hundred lambs. Or, that we’ve got to be working with young women first before we can even consider marrying one of the sisters. All these things become laws. And he says that if you’re not laying your life down for these new disciples, how can you ever get married?

First of all, it’s a law. And second of all, it’s supposedly a system. That if we can’t handle this and be seen as being a certain way. First of all, to be able to convince all the others that we’re worthy of marriage. Not only to be seen as that way, but actually be able to have the ability. Not only in the sense that there are other people who are going to be able to decide, but to actually see if you were capable. There’s a lot behind this, there’s a lot of layers of hidden motives and places we’re coming from when we bring these new people into the church.

And I wonder if it’s not so much an issue of they need us – although we really sell that to people. It’s more the issue of, we need them. What we sell to them is: you need us, you can’t live without us; you’re in trouble if you leave here, and all the stories about the bad things that happen to people who leave. But really, we need them. We need blood, we need these workers. So much so, that we would be extremely deceitful in they way we go out and get them. Maybe I’m attacking that side of it too much. I see the new ones who come here, they seem hopeful. Our church is probably like Synanon. Synanon started out as a therapeutic community and even when that guy was becoming its cult leader and turning it to his own glory and he became the king there, there still were people who got saved from their addictions. You can’t write it all off. A lot of good goes on here too. And there are genuine new people who seem bright and happy. And, see, that’s why you can never attack it. If you try to pull this down, you pull the whole thing down. And so, you have to swallow the entire thing whole.

There are a lot of different branches I could take from here. There’s the last point I just mentioned, as the center point, let’s say. Although it’s not the center of the whole thing. But if you go from there and say, but our pastor does attack. He attacks this or that in the church Or, about how he uses things on us, like using guilt about the children in Haiti, if we leave. These are good works our church is doing, how can you say our church is bad? Or another point of departure from that would be attempts to try to fix it. Like that guy who wrote that book about the Watchtower Society. He was saying there is much good in their organization, but there are certain wrong things there. And it sounded like a plea to whoever would read it about what could be done to fix it.

(Some of the above paragraph might be confusing. I was saying, where do I go from this point in talking about life in COBU? If I say it’s wrong to point out problems in the church, our pastor himself points out problems all the time. Or about how, if I leave, the children in Haiti will be used against me. “Don’t you care about the children in Haiti?” was I line I heard often in that context. But the orphanages in Haiti were a good work the church was doing.)

So, I wouldn’t even know how to draw a graph, a diagram or a flow chart about how this whole place works and what it’s all about. But, I know. I know it’s not really good here. There’s a lot that’s wrong. Part of what’s wrong is that I have to suffer the blame for the whole thing. And, maybe here is where the two points will converge. See, I’m facing the fact that I’m definitely taking part in this, so therefore Stewart is right. He says that it’s the older brothers’ fault for they way things are here – and there, I have now come full circle and I fully admit that I do wrong. [I was saying this in a hypothetical, “okay, let’s try this on, let’s admit this,” tone of voice.]  Well maybe it’s on my own terms, but I’ve actually admitted it. And what do you know! It actually coincides with what Stewart says. Or does it?

(I admit wrong, but on my own terms, and not on the terms that Stewart Traill says that I do wrong.)

Anyway, I feel compelled to fill this whole tape up right away. If there are any defects in the way I’m talking on this tape, it would be from trying to jam everything in. What I really need to do is take this recorder with me all the time, so when I spontaneously think of things, I can talk about them, rather than trying to remember what I was thinking about later, and then trying to get it all on tape.

So anyway, maybe it’s just to fill up this tape, but going back to what I first started talking about on the other side, about sex and about how it’s always gnawing away at me. And about how after a few falls, then I’m ready to accept whatever program Stewart is proposing for us, thinking that I need and hoping that it will be a cure for me. It’s like these falls guide me into it. (Of course “fall” sounds passive, but I often use the words, I took a pretty bad fall.) The last time I had a bad fall, right after, Stewart was driving that we get into groups to go over to Woodruff every night, and I got into one of these groups.

(A program for the older brothers to go where the new disciples were housed at 162 Woodruff Avenue, to work on them and to have long meetings till late at night, every night. It promised to add more exhaustion to an already exhausting life. More activity, more sleep deprivation. And at the meeting on Sunday, Stewart gave us our regularly scheduled beating, saying that the older brothers’ efforts all week had been “games” and outwardly appearing to serve Christ, while inwardly “rebelling, cheating and trying to have it both ways.”

We all made a commitment to start over, and this exact process was repeated the next week, and every week. It was like religious theater, and since everyone was running from the rod of punishment and trying to save their own necks, few had time to consider that it was the same thing every week. But instead, they hung their heads in shame, admitted their guilt, made confession speeches and recommitted to the program – which Stewart appeared to consider not genuine at first in order to turn up the heat on everyone, and then toward the end of the meeting, the confessional speeches were accepted and everyone returned to another week of toil, only to have the same meeting next Sunday. Over and over again. This is the context in which I was talking on the tape.)

I think, well, I really need that, because look what I’m doing. I’ve just got to keep myself busy. It’s like these falls guide me in as if I’m coming down onto a runway, on a flight path. I was thinking, I really need to come home, I really need to come to this. Although actually, I hardly got over there to work with the new disciples at Woodruff. I found ways not to, because I didn’t really want to do it. And then, it’s in the back of my mind, what if I go over there and burn out and just come back to the same point anyway, where I give in? To find out it was all just a waste of effort, that it won’t save me from this.

That priest who wrote about celibacy and temptations said that busy people don’t get tempted. Well, it may be true, I think it’s true. You know, if you’re laying on your couch like David was, you’re more likely to get tempted to sin. But, I really don’t see being busy as a permanent answer to this. It’s more like, marriage is the answer. Marriage is the answer to that problem.

Constant activity may keep me out of trouble, and it may not. That’s what that priest said in his book, that lazy people are easier to tempt. But, the biblical solution is to get married. That sounds like being real about it. Because if I’m keeping busy, it’s a life of staying one step ahead of the devil, and one step ahead of my temptations. So if I ever did slack off, it’s like driving down the highway at 90 mph and my pursuer is also driving at 90. If I hit the brakes, I’m going to get slammed pretty hard by my pursuer, because this temptation is not going to stop, it’s going to keep coming after me. Because any time, if I slow down, if there’s an obstacle, or if I’m tired or if, gee, I just got lazy, my pursuer crashes into me at ninety miles an hour. So it’s a life of trying to drive over the speed limit, flying down the highway, to keep ahead of this pursuer.

about 18:20 [there is more to the tape not yet transcribed]

Read the next section of Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry Cult Leader here: Pressure And Crisis Situations Designed To Break Us.


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.


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