1993, 06/03. Purges and Terrorism.
June 3, 1993
I’ve decided to write you another letter. I don’t know how clear and coherent this one will be (as compared to my previous letter) because I am under a lot of stress right now. I probably won’t be here much longer. I can sort of see the writing on the wall. I probably won’t leave on my own, but I can envision getting the boot.
Our church is undergoing one of our typical purges right now, where everybody is put under a lot of pressure and “heat” and they, in turn, put it on everybody else – both as a way of escaping these tensions themselves and as a lightning rod where they can channel it onto suitable victims, all while appearing to be righteously zealous. I suppose many, if not all, think they are doing God’s will and this is the right thing to do. But I can’t help noticing an inordinate amount of scapegoating and setting up dummy victims and finding other ways to mitigate the almost unbearable pressure being applied from the “top.”
I am out door to door soliciting alone today and find it difficult to drag myself down the pavement to knock on doors and talk to people. In fact, I am coming to a complete standstill and have found the lounge of a college to walk in to sit down and write this. I’m not good for much else today. As for being alone today, I conveniently arranged this. After finding that my usual favorite trainees were going on jobs, I didn’t look around too hard for anyone else.
About these purges. Without going into detail, there have been many in the last four years. Stewart puts immense pressure on everybody to turn or burn, shape up or leave. (One of the things that doesn’t line up is that according to this scenario, with the exception of a few individuals’ short term periods of faithfulness, nobody in 15 or 20 years has ever been faithful in our church, except Stewart and his wife! When I tried to point out this hard to believe fact to Stewart at a meeting, he countered with, “Are you faithful?” Of course, I had to say no, and it ended right there. I was effectively neutralized. Nobody else took up on it and the matter ended right there, except that I earned one more nail in the coffin of my increasingly bad reputation. I can accept the fact that I am not faithful to Christ. I will tell you I am not. You won’t believe that and will say this is a result of what goes on here. But to me, the question is whether I will ever be able to be faithful here and if I would be better off somewhere else. But shortly, anyway, this decision will be made for me.
With regard to purges, one of the reasons I write now is that I wish I had written regularly two years ago when I was in the middle of the worst purge we ever had. I maintained strict silence about it while in the midst of the most intense abuse I have ever received in this church. Somehow, while being abused, I must not let anyone on the outside know about it, particularly not family. I must take part in keeping the cheerful front of our “nice” church intact and not tell of the inward horrors. This would be betrayal of the “true church,” the “true gospel,” etc.
Maybe I’ll write to you about that particular episode sometime. It would take a lot of explaining. Basically I was locked up in a house of gangsters for two months with no contact with the outside world. (As I’ve said above, this was partly self imposed and I exercised strict self censorship, inside and outside. I don’t see the point of the censorship anymore, at least not on the outside of the fellowship walls. I just don’t see what I have to fear from it and my idealistic views of our church have now effectively been shattered, so there’s no reason to present the front anymore.)
This hot house atmosphere, coupled with daily intense “when are you packing your bags” meetings made the brew really boil and ferment. (The “gangsters” can be described briefly as, we took people in off the streets and gave them Christian training. Through a series of meetings, the Older Brothers, who ran the building where this program was, were abased and removed from power (what little they had, power over the new people, that is). So, various “Middle” and “New” Brothers who lived there moved into these positions. Not that these are official positions or job titles, but certain people run things. These Older Brothers were subjected to them and soon most every Older Brother was moved there, including me, for the same treatment.
In short, they took over and turned the place into a drug and violence house and began inviting their friends. We were so neutralized, we couldn’t do anything, since the pastor really didn’t want to hear from us and they did all the talking to him on the phone and the relaying of the messages. I don’t use the word “gangsters” loosely or lightly. One of them told me he was in the “Junior Black Mafia.” I didn’t take him seriously at the time. Besides, if you can believe it, they were quite “friendly” people and I used to talk to some of them quite a bit. The thing is, they were quite good at duplicity. After all, they had a good racket going, why disturb it? In fact, in talking to such ones that I’d meet later, I found out they had a vested interest in keeping us Older Brothers there so we could provide the front of “Christian Fellowship.” (You must be reading this in disbelief by now.)
They would not relay Stewart’s “heat” as well as they could have, because they didn’t want us to leave. So much so that one time when I got kicked out for exploding in rage in a meeting there (at two in the morning) they decided to let me back in when I came for my stuff. (I had been down to the station, seeing how much tickets were to Florida that day, but I never went through with calling you. I had arranged to stay a few days with an ex-member in New Jersey. I was going to call you later to say I left.)
One of the reasons they “liked” me was that I had, however briefly before backing down, stood up to Stewart at a meeting – and that only after thinking I was going to get told to leave that day anyway. So, in their eyes, I earned instant celebrity status. They really liked that. This, and having to work the night they all found out the church was closing down the building may have saved me from physical harm, if any. I learned later there had been a riot when the news leaked out that night about the closing.
What led to the closing was not, at least not in any direct way, any reports or suspicion about any behavior. It was the irreconcilable difference on the church’s balance sheet between the expense account and receipts turned in ($600.00) They had been taking money that was supposed to be for food and gas and buying drugs and dealing instead, and they just couldn’t find enough gas receipts to hand in to make the cover up continue.
Soon after the closing I was sent, with others, back to New York to do sales. Also a financial reason. The business was doing poorly, because the majority of Older Brothers were in Philadelphia. New York is the only place where the money can really be made. So back we went and another episode in COBU history came to an abrupt close. (By the way, the intention was that we were to be replaced as the principle wage earners in the church so the church wouldn’t be “held hostage by the Older Brothers.” Who are the hostages anyway? Stewart repeatedly accused us of refusing to teach the New Brothers the ins and outs of our mysterious business so that we could maintain a strangle-hold and monopoly on everything. The New Ones on the whole, however, don’t “handle” money too well. In one on the replacement businesses, selling donated merchandise off pushcarts in the city, New Brothers regularly absconded with pushcart, merchandise, money and all, never to be seen again. Or, occasionally whimper back in a few days with sad stories that they got “mugged.” All strongly suspected they were returning from three day drug binges inadvertently funded by the church. The pushcart and any other such businesses were soon folded and forgotten.
So, here, I have told you a lot about that time anyway. Perhaps a fuller description will be in order. I hadn’t intended to go into this, except by way of explaining what a “purge” is. But I see also I have regained my senses a bit by sitting down and writing to you. I should write you more often. So far, I have only written you when I feel I am at the end of my rope. Otherwise I debate whether it’s right or wrong to write you, finally deciding not to. And it seems too that I only write, or only can write effectively while in this state of mind.
I stopped in a Christian book store today and was browsing through a book about legalism. It’s something like that here. I think I’ve said it before – this isn’t a cult, but I wouldn’t hesitate to say it’s drifting in that direction. You might even say it’s turning into a “Hell Cult.” You know, like in Korea, they have lots of Doomsday Cults. Jesus is coming back on October 28, 1992 and all that. People sell their belongings and go to a mountain, only to be quite disappointed on October 29th.
All the heat and pressure here this time is about hell, with all its varied and exquisite forms. What hell is, why you’re going there, etc. Brothers were induced in one of these hot-house sessions to “preach how you love hell and really want to go there.” Nobody would do it. They would admit to everything, about bad behavior, tempting God, rejecting the cross. They would say, “in my actions, that’s what I’m doing.” Stewart wanted them to say it. Brothers would try the wedge play, driving up the middle. “My actions say I want hell. But no!! I don’t want to go to hell.” One Brother made such an “almost confession,” enough to get off the hook long enough to work on Roger, who became the evening’s specially designated victim. Steve (the previous Brother), stood two feet in front of Roger, staring at him. “Say it Roger. Come on!” Bob, sitting next to him, held up a photocopied enlargement of Michealangelo’s “The Condemned Sinner,” a picture of a man with a terrified expression on his face who has just learned he is sentenced to hell. He held it up to Roger’s face so he could see it. “Come on, Roger…” Well, Roger didn’t say it. Thank God he didn’t. It would probably be a cause for immediate dismissal. A person who says out of his own mouth “I want hell” shouldn’t be in our church, right? (And no fair saying you were pushed, coerced and dragged into saying it! You didn’t have to say it. You said it with your own mouth!) It would really be giving people a quite a handle to use on you. Yet anyone who was particularly singled out by name and pressured to say it and didn’t (nobody did) were put immediately on the “arrogant list.” Of course, further inducement to say it. Now, Brothers are using this technique on each other in our own meetings, although none of them said it that day when it was their turn. But no fair pointing that out, or you are fighting!
We have lessons on justification in Christ alone. True enough, but this transfers “legally” into, if you disagree with anyone, you are trying to “justify yourself.” So, either admit you’re arrogant, or you are arrogant anyway for not admitting you’re arrogant and fighting everyone. “Arrogance” is the big buzz word around here now. Anything can be “arrogant,” like explaining something rather than immediate confession and submission. Brothers have become junior terrorists.
I sat through that meeting described above in the back, only because I was classified in a lower category and was awaiting my turn. So I wasn’t standing up with these ones for three hours. But my turn never came. Stewart ended the meeting. I was praying for God to spare me.
But I was in a Brothers Meeting last night, where a question (via telephone from another house) was put: “Is Jim LaRue extremely arrogant? What are we going to do with him?” After a while of questioning, with me evading, avoiding. (The knife began to cut a little closer when ones asked if I still harbor wrong attitudes toward Stewart and Brothers saying I don’t look scared.) I snapped. I shouted three times at the top of my lungs, “I’m afraid of going to hell!!!” There was no point thereafter in continuing to say, “I do have a problem with my pride, but I wouldn’t say I’m extremely arrogant.” (Everyone incessantly works on you, till the confession is made.) I was then voted as “extremely arrogant.” It was plain for all to see.
When I called the office today, Chuck, who wasn’t there last night said, “I heard you were screaming at all the Brothers last night.” Well, I tried to tone it down a bit. It’s a big implication there, “screaming at the Brothers.” I told him I screamed, but that it wasn’t “at” anyone. (It wasn’t.)
So, for now, there it stands. Tonight there’s probably another meeting. I’ll try to avoid it, but if others recognize that I’m avoiding meetings or refusing to meet, that’s big trouble.
I’ll probably write more; write you continuously through this whole thing.
Pray for me like crazy!! I really need help – God’s help. I may be calling you again too.