2010. COBU Today. Traill is Living Large in This Life!
Here’s an aerial view of Stewart’s house in Florida.
You can click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo once the page opens up.
And I always thought the guy was not into having “a life in this world!” He used to slam us hard with the self-abnegation and self abasement teachings. Self abasement in the Woodruff basement! We were to “give up our lives in the world,” because “we are going to die in two seconds” and “we are going to lose everything very soon.” We were supposed to be concerned about escaping hell. There was no time to get our own lives together in that case, because in a burning building, you can only think of the need to be saved. At the same time, there was a huge drive to work in the church businesses day and night. In that case, one could lay aside his fears of eternal hell long enough to concentrate on something else.
The scary thing is how Traill was able to make me feel obligated to do this utter self denial and “not live out the things that were in me” (laying aside my desires for my own life in this world, for things like career, marriage, family and other “human interests” like language study and art) so that he could employ me as one of his army of worker-gathers to amass his own treasures in this life. All the parts of me that were not useful to that end were to be stripped away, and not only that, I was to do that stripping away voluntarily and monitor myself (and others) to make sure I and they were following this program in the name of doing “God’s will for my life” and “escaping hell.” Now I can see why he had such a strong drive against us having “desires in this life.” They were alternate loyalties that conflicted with and competed against our giving all our time, attention, and efforts to building his empire. When I look at the picture of his mansion, it’s scary to think that I was to give my life over to him to achieve his ambitions and desires for these things. (This mansion represents only one of those things.) I now believe that the purpose of all the pressure at meetings was to eliminate those among us who were unwilling to do this, in order to get us down to a small group of like minded and like-talking individuals who would reinforce one another in living according to this way. He would make those that remained feel lucky just to be able to remain here. Though they probably could never be saved and most assuredly were headed to the lake of fire, perhaps by being an obedient servant and working hard at “God’s will” (as defined by Stewart) they could have some small chance at that salvation. They would need to be urgent and scared at all times. They must set their mind on the spirit and not the flesh. And in the name of helping and “loving others” they were supposed to get on everyone else’s case to live this way too. And they were to work selflessly for long hours in the church-owned businesses.
When I began to read books about cults when I was still a member, all of these noted the difference between the leaders’ lifestyles and those of the followers. The leaders lived in luxurious surroundings (and usually had access to many females), while the members lived in crowded living arrangements, sometimes sleeping on the floor and eating poorly. Their relationships, if they had them, were intensely regulated. One book I read said that the awareness of the difference between the leader’s lifestyle and that of the cult member is usually what caused someone to leave. (Rather than believing or not believing doctrine.) The difference between the leader’s words, which were about self-denial, and the leader’s lifestyle, which was about being rich toward himself. Much of that, I was shielded from, but I did realize that Stewart did not live like us. This helped me to leave. I saw that he did not live according to his own teachings. It was do as I say, not as I do. Everything for me, nothing for you.
When I was a member of COBU, I never thought of Stewart as a businessman. I only looked at him like a religious teacher. I believed the image he portrayed to us. Because that is all that I was able to see. He never displayed his wealth openly. He wore old work clothes and drove an old car. In the 90s, when I lived there, I did not know that he had two condos in Florida. This house must have been bought sometime later, maybe on the profits of Olde Good Things. (And the toil of the Good Olde (and now aging) hardworking church / cult members.)
The images of Traill’s mansion. You can click on the images to enlarge them.