1992, 05/04. Stewart Traill’s Message To Jim LaRue.
This was Stewart Traill’s response to me after I stood up and spoke to him at a meeting. Stewart dictated his message over the phone to the church office through one of the sisters who lived with him and then a brother named Joe read it to me.
Joe enjoyed the act of reading the message to me from the file cards it was written on. In a church in which all forms of entertainment, relaxation or joking were considered to be “levity,” enjoying someone else get the third degree from Stewart was one of the few acceptable forms of entertainment available to church members, and Joe was truly enjoying it. And besides, the message was from Stewart, so it was considered to be the absolute truth about me.
Stewart did not say that this message was his response to me standing up to him at a meeting. He did not mention anything I said to him or say he hadn’t agreed with me. Instead, he dictated a message that sounded like an Old Testament prophecy. He pronounced ominous sounding words against me as his reply to the pointed observations I made about him
The words I said to him at the meeting were:
“You said that you repented (back at the “Grace Meeting” in 1989) and I think you were sincere, I really do. But you have gone back to the way you were before. In fact, you’re even worse than you were before.”
“You’re alone and you need to get your views checked.”
“You’re pushing brothers around.”
I never got to finish what I had to say, because Kevin and Paul S. and other brothers rose up in one angry voice, denouncing me for “attacking the basis for why we’re together as a church,” and for “attacking the very roots of our church.’ (Stewart led the pack of angry brothers in the direction he wanted them to go by asking leading questions like, “What’s he really up to? Would you say that he’s attacking the church?” There was loud and angry agreement.)
It was true, in a sense, that I was attacking the church, and everything that was near and dear to the brothers and sisters. We were huddled around Stewart Traill as our leader, a leader who had the only true view of Christianity in these modern times. This is what Stewart promoted about himself and what the brothers and sisters in COBU said they believed. To allow someone to disagree with Stewart or to find even the slightest fault with him meant tipping that worldview over on its side. If this were to be allowed, the whole structure would fall apart. Stewart would be a mere man and not God’s special messenger. And what would that do to everything else that had been built upon this assumption and which gave meaning and purpose to the brothers’ and sisters’ lives? No wonder there was an immediate and vicious response to what I said.
I naively and sincerely believed that if I spoke up, what I said would be dealt with objectively. Some people might disagree with me. Others must be thinking the same thing, and maybe some of them would agree. And there might be changes here.
Within seconds it was clear that the only change that was going to take place was the immediate end to my church membership. This also included the immediate termination of my job and immediate eviction – because I worked in the church business and lived in the Church of Bible Understanding. Though I had been a member of the church for 11 years, I was to be forcefully escorted off the property then and there. I asked if I might get a ride back to New York to get my things before being put out on the street.
At the last minute, my sentence was commuted to a “three day sudden death,” which was the ultimatum given only to the most violent and disruptive of the “New Disciples” we “swept up” off the streets. If I was not appropriately repentant within three days, I would be put out. At least in the meantime, I would be able to go back to New York.
I was surprised and shocked to receive this treatment. But maybe I should not have been surprised. Being suddenly overpowered by these tactics, I immediately backed down and began to blame myself. Stewart was not my problem. As it said in our “Training Papers, “My own sin is my basic problem. Not circumstances or the other bad guys.”
This moment became a milestone in my thinking about the Church of Bible Understanding and all that it stood for – and about my place in it. Those that I had lived and worked with for years were willing to summarily throw me out the door for having voiced a few objections about our way of life. And didn’t Traill himself say he had been teaching and acting wrong up till recently? It wasn’t possible that he could still be doing something wrong?
No one objected to this treatment. No one said I had a point. Stewart Traill, the man of truth who was always “truthspeaking” and exposing our faults in bitter tirades against the “Older Brothers” in long meetings which often seemed to be on the level of the Nuremberg Trials, did not permit the slightest criticism of himself and immediately shut down anyone who ventured to try it.
Here is the message:
“Give this to Jim LaRue. Tell him to read this 17 and a half times and take two aspirins.
“Jim LaRue’s world: “The Nile is mine and I reform it into whatever I want.” Jim LaRue’s goal is to be allowed to be left alone to put together and live in his own little world. Jim LaRue, among other things, is very strong-willed and convinced that his own little tree world is the best of all possible worlds and, being a true believer, he is ready, willing and able to suffer for his faith. He refuses to accept the dominion of reality, yet he recognizes that he is also dependent on reality in order to survive and also to find “good things” to squirrel away in his tree world. So, he is forever commenting and frustrated and irritated at his dependency on reality (but he will grudgingly accept the latter) and there are signs that he is starting to lose his way in this bizarre connection. He just hasn’t gotten the concept of one or the other! To him it is impossible to settle for only one. So he actually argues that he will have it both ways. The normal thing is to grow up and to realize that “I am part of something that is much, much bigger than me.”
“There are very few like Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, and Jim LaRue.”
[So, you see what I was up against. A closer reading of this message reveals certain concepts: I was trying to do something impossible (to live in two worlds). I was starting to crack and lose my mind (implying that standing up and speaking to Stewart was merely a symptom of my internal troubles). In other words, it was a diagnosis that I was losing my mind. I was defined as a mental case and I was trying to live contrary to all of reality. (Contrary to Stewart’s teachings, which are reality. This was not directly stated, but it is Stewart – who represents truth and all of reality – whom I have spoken against.)
Nowhere in this message is the connection between speaking to him and his response mentioned, except maybe the part where he said I was forever commenting. It was plain to everyone, including me, that the message was Traill’s response to what I said. He didn’t mention any of the things I said to him or dealt with them in an objective way.
(We all “knew” anyway that Stewart always went to the deeper issue in any situation, to the “truth” andthe underlying motives for a person’s behavior. That is what we came to believe about him over the years. So, when he did not answer a question about himself, attacking the person asking the question instead, we thought he had “spiritual insight” and he was going to the real issue in that person, such as that they were prideful, a “gameplayer” or that the devil was using that person to “attack the truth” and he was defending the truth.
We also believed that Traill always won in these situations because Jesus was on his side. (Jesus was never on the side of the person that criticized or doubted Traill.) It didn’t even have to be criticism. A person could stand up at a meeting and say something encouraging and hopeful and Traill would come at the person in an out of left field response (in an angry attack or by making fun of them by name calling and put-downs) and we’d all think Traill was coming from true spiritual insight. That way, Traill never had to be accountable for anything or answer directly about anything if he didn’t want to.)
In Traill’s message, I was also being “offered” a way out, a way to “come to my senses,” since my way of course, was hopeless. In his greatness, there was now no retribution for what I have done, but rather a condescending offer to “join in something greater than myself.” Then, as a final put-down, I am grouped with three great and legendary world conquerors, implying that I have delusions of grandeur.
This message was a pronouncement only, a diagnosis. And a message that I should know my place. And that everyone else should know their place too, or they would be dealt with in the same way. There was no invitation to call and talk to him.
I suspect that I was on to something real with him and he was trying to buy me (and everyone else) off with a diversionary tactic, by portraying me as someone on the edge of insanity, who has a perception problem, and with a condescending offer to stop this behavior (stop saying things like this to him) and to humbly rejoin the flock. And it was also a demonstration to all the others of what would happen to anyone who questioned him.
These pages, as well as my other pages, A Day In The Life Of A Cult Member and Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry Cult Leader, 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.
For my journal where I wrote about this, see the link below, then scroll down halfway through the page:
I also mention this in my “Exit Statement, Why I Desire to Leave the Church of Bible Understanding.” You can find that by looking at the menu at the right of this page for 1993, 08/15., or on the link below: