1993, 08/17 A. The Great COBU Wall Of Silence.
The lies are protected with a bodyguard of truth.
This was the last journal tape I made in The Church of Bible Understanding. I was speaking of reasons why I was leaving and why it was impossible to talk to anyone there about any of this. They only talked to me in terms of COBU teaching. There is also a brief conversation with an “Older Brother” (Andrew) who tried to gently guide me back into the flock. His words were all COBU teachings.
At the meeting last night, a new brother said he wanted to leave to take care of some personal and family business and Stewart used that line of questioning he often uses, “Well, what what do you say about yourself? Well then! What are you going to do?” Stewart doesn’t really have anything to offer to anyone.
As I was listening to the meeting last night, I realized that whole thing was just a remix of all the stock phrases and concepts Stewart says to us. [I was sitting far in the back. By this time I hardly cared and I was about to leave.] It was the usual meeting: Stewart declares everyone to be unfaithful to Christ, then he begins putting pressure on everyone, then he gives us the lines we all have to say. And during the entire meeting, not one person talked, in the true sense of the word. Not one brother said, “This is what I’m going through.”Or nothing like, “I’m not sure about that, Stewart. Why can’t we do it another way instead?” Or “Here’s a verse in the Bible about it, we could try doing this.” Nothing! The only talk was the immediate reflex responses to whatever Stewart was saying. Anyone who talked was jumping up and shouting in desperate anxious, strident voices, “I really intend to be fully committed all the more!” They admitted to being guilty of whatever Stewart said the problem was. And they promised to be committed to whatever Stewart said they had to do about it. Any jumpers or shakers were jumping, shaking and moving, and saying these things. There was absolutely no dialog. We don’t talk to our pastor and he doesn’t talk to us.
I’m supposed to look at my own problems only in terms of Stewart’s teachings. It is an amazing device that we have installed here to silence and censor any other kind of dialog or way of talking.
What was I thinking the other day? Winston Churchill said that the truth is protected by a bodyguard of lies. Though maybe in our case, the lies are protected by a bodyguard of truth. Another thing I was thinking about, is the way brothers talk to me. Kevin walked up to me, demanding, “Is what you’re doing right? Is what you’re doing God’s will?” It’s not like he or any of the brothers really want to talk about it. They’re already saying that what I’m doing isn’t right and isn’t God’s will. They’re driving that at me.
How foolish of me to think that was a question and that they’re asking me because they want to find out what I’m thinking. How foolish of me to think that I could reply, as if I were answering their genuine desire to know why I’m doing what I’m doing. But the brothers are coming up to me, shouting angrily, “Is this right? Is this God’s will? Does God really want you to be doing this?” They’re saying that what I’m doing isn’t right, but somehow their use of a question is very effective. The question mark puts a wedge on their statements. If they just said, “What you’re doing isn’t God’s will,” then they’re saying it, not me. The question mark puts a wedge on it and drives it further. Instead of hitting me on the back, but not penetrating my body, this makes point go under my skin and into the muscle. How to deal with that? I could say, “Well, do you think what I’m doing s not God’s will? Then why don’t you say so?” Or, “You’re not really asking me a question, you’re pushing something.” Because there’s a question mark at the end of their statements doesn’t mean they’re trying to find out what I think. It’s just a wedge, so they can drive their point harder.
There’s no dialog. No one has talked about anything here for years. Except for those helpless back room conversations:
“Brothers, I was really tempted today. It was really rough today!”
“You need the Number One Principle, brother! I need Jesus all the more, brother, and so do you!”
It’s an unhealthy environment. Not that living at Dave and Chris’s place is healthy either. [These ex-members offered me to to come live with them. A comment like that shows how I was debating that option. We were often suspicious of ex-members.] But as long as I’m here, I can’t do anything. I could say, pray to Jesus and seek God’s kingdom first as a solution to my problems here. Well, maybe Jesus himself is showing me to leave. If I stay here, all I can do is lock myself up in my prayer closet and pray to God, because I can’t do anything. If I leave and go to a church out there that doesn’t have this system of coercion and control, I can actually meet a woman and pursue marriage. Which would be a total outrage if anyone here heard me say this. “You’re doing your own thing! How do you know it’s God’s will? It’s the flesh! You’re following your desires! You’re hoping in this life!”
That’s what the brothers hit me up with yesterday when I brought up the subject of marriage. They responded in a “I knew it, I suspected it all along” kind of way. One of them said, “I think you’re really hoping in this life.” Another said, “So! You’re hoping in this life?”
(In COBU, desiring marriage was considered to be hoping in this life. We were supposed to put our hope in Jesus only.)
This is one of the greatest stumbling blocks thrown at a person who wants to talk about his problems or about his desire for marriage. He actually has a person in mind that he loves, and what he hears is, “So, you’re hoping in this life.” It’s very frustrating to hear this. That I’m ‘hoping in this life” and that’s the final answer on it. These answers tend to make a person into a block of wood, who can have no real or legitimate motives for anything. Anything I want to do that’s not the agenda of the church is only the flesh and hoping in this life. I’m met with a huge wall of denial.
I guess this is what the brothers who say these things to me tell themselves. Everyone is here doing this. Apparently, this is how they live in their inward thoughts all the time and it comes out of them when I say these things to them. When they talk to me, it’s all these phrases and concepts from our leader, from Stewart. All of these angry accusations which they’re saying to me, such as, “You’re hoping in this life!” Paul S. didn’t make up that concept. Stewart teaches it, Paul accepted it and now he’s pushing it on others. But those are not Paul’s ideas and those are also not ideas from the Bible. It’s not a free exchange of biblical ideas, but a wall of denial. Like chains and locks that our leader has thrown up around our lives. A thick and heavy ideology that masquerades as Christian. It’s distorted Christianity. Do I need to live in a place where there’s distorted Christianity?
So, now I’m at the point where I want to leave the church. I also have the feeling I can’t leave. I have had some more conversations with various brothers. I was also talking to Peter, who is not as hard line as these brothers are. But whoever I talk to, it’s still the same situation. They tell me about the absolute impossibility of leaving our church and how there is no possibility of a life somewhere else. Peter at least admits to the absolute horror of living here, yet according to him, there’s no way out and we must live in it. He also said that the sisters seem to have this Rolodex kind of thinking and that they’re not human.
The situation looks horribly hopeless to me. I have feeling that my mind is broken, that I can’t know any of the things I know and that all of these things I’m thinking are from an evil source. And that all I can expect is a purposeless pointless existence, whether I stay or go. I can’t endure going to these meetings anymore, with Stewart’s heat and pressure tactics. The brothers standing up, barking the lines. And confessing I haven’t done what I had to do last week, “This week all the more, I promise to be laying down my life.” And then having to stand up and say it again next week. Because, if we don’t, Stewart will say, “You just don’t care, do you!” And going on to the treadmill at Woodruff, burning myself out, only to get a beating from Stewart every week.
I don’t know what it would be like to go a meeting and just sit there and say, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t keep up with this anymore,” and then be put through the ringer and hear suspicious, inquisitional voices, asking, “So, are you being arrogant?” Even with just the brothers there, without Stewart. “Oh, so you can’t be with your brothers?” All I can see myself doing, the next time I’m frustrated at a meeting, is getting up and walking out, saying, “I can’t do this. Sorry, I just can’t take this anymore.” I will end up walking out. That horrible thing, walking out of a meeting, forsaking your brothers. He’s being arrogant! He got up and left the meeting! Stewart would say, “Is that arrogant?” And the crowd of brothers and sisters would shout in one loud voice, “Yes!” But what about people who are breaking down and who can’t take it anymore?
So, what it is like for me now? As I speak my mind and as I say these things to people, I’m met with a wall of total resistance and I am absolute frustrated. Nothing I say, other than the party line, will convince them of anything or will be taken into consideration. And now they are telling me I cannot speak because I am not faithful to Christ, so therefore I have no right to speak. Also, they that say the way I’m speaking is wrong. Nobody will concede the smallest point. Although, when I read my Exit Statement to Paul in private, he said, “You have a point here and there.” But when I asked him what points he agreed with, he wouldn’t tell me.
But, probably what is most debilitating is their refusal to treat me humanly. I have to travel the right road in order to be granted permission to speak. I must come this way or that way first before I may talk, which means that I do not have personhood and that I do not exist as a person. Nothing I say needs to be taken into consideration.
(See The Dispensing of Existence in Robert J. Lifton’s Criteria for Thought Reform for what it meant to no longer be regarded as a person because I was critical of the COBU way.)
I think of all the things I have said that they haven’t agreed with. There are probably a hundred more things I could say and if I said all those things, maybe by the sheer weight of all of them, they would agree with one of these things. But actually, they will not agree with anything. The entire wall of resistance is amazing. It makes me feel like I’m the one who is crazy. It makes me feel like I’m totally out to lunch, that I’m out there in orbit somewhere and nothing I see and think is valid. Although if I were to say, “Kevin seems anxious and he acts like a robot,” then suddenly, others will agree and say, “He does seem that way, doesn’t he?” Or if I say, “Chuck acts like a machine.” They’ll say, “Yes, he definitely does.” They might not even hit me up with, “Your own sin is your basic problem, so you can’t say anything negative about others.” But as soon as I talk about our leader and his organization, well now! It’s amazing – they say that the devil is feeding me with lies.
I need to talk to someone. I may write a letter to Ron Enroth. [The author of the book, Churches That Abuse, which contains a chapter about COBU.] There always used to be barrier that made me feel I couldn’t write to him, but maybe I should. Maybe I’m getting squeezed and pulled in certain directions and this is a way I can reach out for help. I’m almost afraid to do this, this wrong thing – if it is wrong. I also find it hard now to go to Dave and Chris’s place, because fear has been reinstalled into my mind about ex-members of our church and how vicious they are. Stewart tells us, “Ex-members are taking part in a wrong agreement to deny the truth and if you want to take part in that spirit, well, go ahead. But I tell you, I’m not going to do it.” And ex-members can never work free from their obsession about the church. And they’re hiding behind Richard Wurmbrand and using him. They’ve got a Richard Wurmbrand fanclub.
(COBU members said that Dave and Chris deceived Richard Wurmbrand into believing lies about Stewart Trail and the Church of Bible Understanding. After I left, I found out that Wurmbrand called Stewart, but Stewart did not want to talk to him. When I met Mr. Wurmbrand and his wife, I found out that they had an accurate understanding about what was wrong with Stewart Traill and COBU, and that it was they who had talked to ex-COBU members about these things, and that the ex-members had not deceived them. The Wurmbrands said the same things I had observed. Besides, it was ludicrous to think that although Wurmbrand had endured torture in Communist prisons for years and did not sell out on truth and but that somewhow, when he met ex-members Dave and Chris they were able to do all those years of torture had not been able to do, and deceived Wurmbrand from believing in the true way. This is what COBU was saying that Dave and Chris had done to Richard Wurmbrand.)
I was sitting in a van outside COBU’s office in Manhattan, talking about all of these things on tape. Just then, an older brother named Andrew walked up to the van window to ask me how I was doing. That conversation is in the next section. Read the next section of Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry Cult Leader: Be A Good Boy And We Won’t Throw You Out.
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.