1993, 08/17 B. Be a Good Boy and We Won’t Throw You Out.

The following was a conversation I had with an older brother named Andrew, who tried to reason with me to stay in COBU and to return to believing our cult leader’s teaching. I was sitting in a van outside the the church office. He came over to talk to me. 

There are some footnotes [1 through 3] where I explain more about what Andrew was saying, because a lot of what happened in COBU needs to be explained to anyone who was not there.)


Jim:  Andrew, what’s going on?

Andrew: I heard you plan on leaving.

J: Yes, I’m thinking of leaving.

A: What’s the problem?

J:  Everything and anything.

A:  What do you mean?

J:  Everything. Me, the church, my life, the life here, you name it.

A: It’s a drag, isn’t it?

J:  Yeah it’s supposed to be that way.  Like Stewart says, “The way is hard!” Right?

A:  Life is a drag! It’s miserable! So, what else is new?

J: So why does it have to be miserable?

A: Life is miserable period, Jim. The grass is always greener on the other side.

J:  The grass is greener over the septic tank.

A:  Over the septic tank?

J:  Never mind.

A:  You got me there.

J:  I guess they didn’t have that in Trinidad. Never mind.

A:  We’ve got the same problem, Jim.

J:  Oh yeah?

A:  You know, trying to have it both ways. The flesh must die. That’s the problem. It’s very clear to me, that this is my problem. My flesh is totally disobedient and I refuse to die to self. I’m fighting against my creator. That’s where my problem arises – the flesh. Sin and the flesh, trying to take advantage, trying to have it both ways.

J:  Right…

A:  And I can’t blame anyone for my sin. I can’t blame Brother Stewart. Brother Stewart’s way is working for him.

J: Well, maybe it works for him. Maybe one size doesn’t fit all. It probably does work for him. Well, I have my doubts. You see, if I continue speaking like this, brothers are going to stop trying to help me and are going to tell me to leave. So, the question for me is, do I just be quiet, be the penitent sinner? And then maybe everyone will come along and gently guide me back into the flock.

A: It must be God’s plan.

J:  Well, maybe I haven’t been blasted out the door. I could have been blasted out the door.  You’re admitting in a sense that people get blasted out the door for saying things about our church. Stewart threatened me with excommunication on the spot two years ago for saying something to him.

A:  We all were.

J: That was a different circumstance.

(Andrew was mixing two events here, the mock execution in 1991 when Stewart Traill made a show of asking all the older brothers to leave and a time when I said a few words to Stewart at a meeting. The mock execution had nothing to do with me speaking to Stewart, but was something Stewart did to a group of brothers at a meeting. None of those brothers had been disagreeing with Stewart.)

A:  We were all invited to leave, all the older brothers.

J: I don’t think we would really all be invited to leave, because nobody would make the money. We could have an example invited to leave, so all the rest could stand in fear, but I doubt that the whole group would be invited to leave, because who would make the money? I do think that! If all the older brothers were put out, would the sisters have to get jobs in the world? I have the feeling I’m needed to make money.

(In the following comment, Andrew was remembering what Stewart said to us older brothers about our income making abilities. Stewart said he didn’t need us anymore. He had new plan to use the new converts to make money for the church. Andrew was saying that we were not needed to make money, yet I realized we were pressed into the church businesses as on a treadmill. Stewart threatened to banish us, as if we were not needed and that he would be glad to see us leave, yet we couldn’t take off a day from work, as if we were urgently needed.)

A: You heard what Stewart said, “Let your gold and silver perish with you.”

J:   Well, I sure have to work a lot. I can’t take a day off. I feel like I’d like to go away for two weeks.

A:  The problem is our hostility. Because I see my flesh getting very hostile toward God more than ever, because of my double life. And that’s clear to me. I’m so proud.  

J:  So, what’s your double life Andrew?  Do you mean that you just hide from others or that you have evil, immoral thoughts you don’t tell anyone about?

A: I’m hiding. [1]

J:  You’re hiding?

A:  Not really wanting to love my brothers, for real. I’d rather have the wrong agreements instead of breaking them up. That’s a big one, making the wrong agreements. I see my disobedience is very great. I don’t want to obey Christ. My flesh is very hostile.

(Andrew was repeating, verbatim, the problems that Stewart Traill accused us of having. According to Stewart, these were the specific terms of our willful rebellion against Jesus. These are just a few of them, Andrew was not going into the whole list here. According to Andrew, these were the real issues that he and I should be keeping our minds on and were the sins I should be confessing to, and that nothing I had to say was valid, if it did not not line up with Stewart’s teachings. 

Andrew was not driving Stewart’s teaching at me in angry way, though that was common from certain others. This was a rather friendly exchange, like friendly advice and Andrew was even speaking of himself as being “no better” than me. But you can see the Sacred Science at work. Andrew was accurately speaking the Sacred Science to me. It was also an example of Doctrine Over Person.  My petty complaints about long work hours, the inability to speak freely and honestly about problems – and to use my own words to describe these problems, instead of having to speak about them only by Stewart’s description of the causes of them and the only acceptable response to them – was going to be met with denial and the “true teaching,” or as Robert J. Lifton called it, The Sacred Science.

Andrew was someone, who from the looks of things, was completely given over to the Sacred Science. He had taken it inside him, he interpreted all that he experienced in life according to it and he answered others’ objections, questions and comments from The Sacred Science – in our case, Stewarts words and teachings – as if it were the manual and definitive explanation of all of human life.)

Jim:  I’m getting to the point where I’m wondering if this is really going to help me. [Believing the problems Stewart told us we had, and accepting the cures he proposed for them, was not going to help me.] I guess you think it will. I’ve been realizing this way doesn’t work for anybody. I told Kevin that. I don’t know if he thought I was attacking him. I told him, “It doesn’t look like it’s working for you.” He said, “Yes it is!” I said, “I don’t know Kevin, you don’t look too good.” I don’t know if Kevin considered that as an attack [either against himself, or the teachings of the church]. I’m just getting to the point where I realize this doesn’t work. Maybe the answer is what Stewart told us last night, “It doesn’t work because it’s your way and you have a hard yoke and a hard way.” But I’m getting to where it’s a breakdown, where we go to more meetings and we stand up and say, “Brothers, I’m escaping,” or, “I’m not escaping.” What’s the point? Or, we have to go over to Woodruff and put out tremendous effort all week, only to hear Stewart tell us at the meeting the next Sunday that we’re not faithful and that it’s all just games and deceit. So I say, what’s the point? I’m not going to Woodruff.

A:  Or we’ll hear from Jesus, “Depart from me, you wicked and unfaithful servant.” [2]

J:  I’m afraid of that, I’m terrified of that. I guess everybody is.

A:  Yes, the bottom line, when I meet Jesus and tell him, “The way was too hard. I knew you to be a hard man.” [3] And Jesus will say, “If you thought it was so hard, if you thought I was such a hard man, why didn’t you do X, Y and Z?”

J:  Or A, B and C, I guess. The ABC’s. [The ABC’s meant Stewart’s basic teachings.]

A:  Well, my laziness, your own laziness.

J:  Well I tell you, Andrew, I see myself in a blind alley I can’t get out of. I’m a cat up a tree, or whatever.

A: Maybe that’s good!

J:  Maybe it’s good. Maybe, I don’t know. The cat’s up the tree, I can’t get down. I don’t see a way to get down.

A:  Maybe you’ll turn to Jesus now!

J:  Maybe that’s what it is. Either you’re on your way out or you’re on your way up. And sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which, because they both look the same, right? You have to crash. Like what John Bunyan said, when there’s nothing left, then you have hope. But when there’s nothing left, it looks like you’re going to die.

A:  Your ways look really right, but it’s not going to work. My way is not going to work. Well, Jim, whatever strength you’ve got, me and you, you can’t afford it. That’s the way I see it. Surrender to the flesh, or fight the fight of the faith. I can’t afford sowing to the flesh. I’ve got to go, Jim.

J:  All right. God bless you.

So, there, you just heard me talking to Andrew. Well, maybe for this week, I’ll carry a tape recorder around to record my daily life and conversations with people. Maybe it’s sarcastic and mocking to say this, but there’s an example of someone meeting me with the Sacred Science. I’m up against all the right lines and, “Well Jim, you know you need this. The issue is this, that and the other thing.” I see this as the offer being extended to me, the offer of a way back into the fold. Andrew didn’t directly say, “Just back down, stop saying these things and maybe you’ll live. Jesus has been kind to you.” I said, “Yes, I didn’t get thrown out. You usually get thrown out for saying these things.” And he actually admitted it. I don’t know how everyone’s going to act toward me if, to forestall getting throw out, I go to the next brothers meeting and do a confession, “I’m sorry brothers, I’ve really gotten out there.” Maybe I should just fall apart, as I am doing. If brothers want to talk to me about it, I’ll say, “I don’t know what to do, I’m really at an impasse, but sure, let’s talk.”

(I was foolish to think that anyone there was going to talk objectively with me about any of these things, even if I let my guard down like this and was totally honest about where I was at.)

There’s no help in any of these conversations. (I’m coming from their viewpoint.) I’m beating my head against the wall. They make no effort to bridge the gap. I have to meet them on their terms. Even when Paul S. talked to me about the cross 0f Christ and how the cross is non-confrontational.

(This conversation with Paul S., and the one with Andrew, were the only times any brother tried to find some common ground or tried to reason with me, rather than shoving the party lines at me, confrontational style. Instead of getting into my objections about life in COBU, Paul S. wanted to talk to me about the cross of Christ. This actually was a pretty good conversation. But ultimately, I was going to have to return to towing the party line and serving the business machine of COBU, and cut off all other wants, interests and aspirations “in this life,” or leave. There was no middle ground, and in the final analysis, nothing was “non-confrontational” in COBU.)

Yet, there is no sympathy. What is it? They’re all saying that we have to do what we have to do. It’s what we have to do. You know, we gotta do. So the issue is, it all comes down to what we’ve gotta do. I find myself down a blind alley. All these teachings and “what I gotta do’s” seem like they’re not going to work. Maybe no one is going to throw me out. If they do, there are still further things they can say later, like, “You never made it right for that time.” But, I maybe if I’m quiet now, they’ll overlook it and accept me back into the flock. It’s an impasse. It’s hard to know which way to go.

You have come to the end of Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry Cult Leader. If you would like to read more about COBU and my experience in it, I have other web pages, A Day In The Life Of A Cult Member and The Tangled Web which you can read.

All of these 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.

Below are some notes to help explain some of the things that Andrew was saying to me:

[1] The concept of “hiding” is a COBU teaching that goes way back.  A core concept was the idea that Adam and Eve hid from God after they sinned and they covered themselves with fig leaves.  This was where Stewart Traill was skillful in playing on human weakness.  From a surface point of view, not necessarily even the Biblical point of view, people hide behind fronts because they are ashamed of themselves.  They think: if people knew what I am really like, they would not like me.  And, we deeply desire validation and love.  Read any self-help book for the concept of accepting yourself and about how we are all alike with regard to having this “existential” guilt or shame.  However, Traill’s speaking on this human trait and his proposed cures for it only seemed to heighten one’s sense of shame, driving people to hide all the more.  He pointed out the problem, and then delivered a beating and guilt trip over it.  If you were really faithful to Jesus, you would be “coming to the light” or “living in the light,” and you were choosing rebellion by not doing so.  A Brother or Sister might stand up at a meeting to speak and Stewart might accuse that person of “hiding.”  And now, since this is a common human problem, how could they deny they were doing it?  Traill was adept at using human frailty in order to manipulate.  Common areas of attack were: shame, guilt, fear of death, fear in general and pretty much anything you would not want others to know about you.]

[2] Andrew was speaking of his future judgment and that he was not going to get away with trying to say to Jesus that the way was too hard.  He was referring to the unfaithful servant in Matthew 25 who buried his talent in the ground and told his master upon his return that he did nothing with the talents he was invested with because the way was too hard and that his master was a hard man.  This person was thrown into hell for not working for his master.

[Andrew didn’t seem to see the pattern I mentioned.  He only said that if we’re not doing this work, then when we meet Jesus, Jesus was going to cast us into hell.  He was not dealing with how your reward from the “pastor” (that is, Stewart Traill) for all your effort was being told at the end of week evaluation, that you were unfaithful to Christ and that all of your efforts had amounted to games and deceit, and that we were still trying to have it both ways, and cheat and keep our double lives and our lives in this world.  The Brother who worked long hours in the church business, then spent the rest of his time over at the Woodruff residence in long meetings till 3 a.m. with the new converts had to confess his rebellion, then repent and make a speech (in a desperate, strident and urgent voice) about how he intended to be faithful from now on.  What this hard worker had really been up to behind the front of all this hard work, according to Traill, was “thumbing his nose at Jesus.”  The next week, all the Brothers would again be found to be unfaithful and the pattern would repeat.]

[3]  Stewart was always telling us we were choosing a hard way, implying that if we accepted his teachings, the way would be easier.  He said we choose a “hard master” (the devil).  (While at the same time he said, of course “the way is hard and few be that find it.”  He said this in many ways, whether it was that he had to “suffer” or that the way was “narrow.”)  This way, perhaps we’d shoulder all the blame for how hard life was there.  In any case, it was just another way for us to carry more guilt and to blame ourselves for the condition of our lives.

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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