Brother John Subject: humor Date: Thu, 01 Oct 1998 07:30:49 -0700 From: "John Apostle" Organization: Angelfire (http://email.angelfire.com:80) To: "Michael Montoya" Mike, I must admit that I smiled quite a bit as I read your message. I wish I was your superior, then I might be articulate enough to verbalize what I think that I think. Its pretty hard keeping perspective after being an insider. If I was viewing this from the outside I could shrug it all off and say, just another cult like the Moonies, the Bruderhoff, or even the JWs or Mormans. But since I was there, and I've thought about this quite a bit, we were not like other cults. Of course the harshness and mind games (or control if you like) were paramount (is that how you spell it; thanks for correcting my "Stewartesque" mispelling) but I am not convinced that at any given time Stewart was consciously, or unconsciously attempting to misguide, mislead, or control anyone. (I know that many former brethren adamantly believe otherwise.) I think he honestly believed (and still does, for all I know) that he was being upright, truthful, compassionate, and kind as he could be, and as he knew how, given the circumstances. I do not agree that his teachings were without depth or elementary, at least not those before 1977, and can be found in any, or most college religion or divinity professors. Of course you can find very smart (and even Christian) professors who are very knowledgeable (now I know that's gotta be mispelled) about whatever is their subject expertise, but you must remember that these same professors had the luxury of studying their interests in depth from the vantage point of the many perspectives that came before them, and in most cases also profited from the distance that academic or intellectual pursuits gives the subject matter. I know this from experience; I have religious studies degrees, and I know and work on a daily basis with academics. (I also know that there are few that are honest Christians, and few of the latter are any more tolerant than Stewart when push comes to shove.) To give Stewart the benefit of the doubt, he was not educated or well-read. All his teachings came from the Bible itself and not from theological training or teachings. You can't fault a man for wanting to learn only from the Bible, even if it does lead him astray, because if, like many Christians, one just chooses the teachings he follows from a smorgasbord of theology, he is likely to end up very unsound of many matters anyway, even some essential to the faith. (Hence the many adherents to false teachings in our time, in knowledge-ridden USA.) But Stewart's "expertise" (if I'm allowed to use that word) is that he has a "system" (I hate that word) or a method (I hate that one too) of interpreting the Bible that includes and ties together the entire Bible into a coherent whole, from which a Christian world-view can be based. (Whether that world-view is valid or can be lived out in real life is a separate question, and I really can't address it now.) Now, having a method of interpreting the Bible is not wrong; everybody has one, whether explicit or understood, or not. The question is the validity of the teachings yielded by that method. This is where it gets sticky, because, to be honest, I believe Stewart's teachings, at least the ones that I heard first-hand for years and the ones that made it into print, were and are valid. I think this is true because he based so much of his interpretations on the figure system. (Now it gets really sticky.) There is nothing wrong with intrepreting the Bible figuratively. Again, everybody does it to some extent, consciously or not. Early Christians did it, Catholic Christians did it; Reformation Christians did it; Bunyan and Spurgeon did it; even the Anabaptists, but to a much lesser extent, recognized the figurative language of the scriptures. (Even some of the Bible as Literature university courses are based almost entirely on figurative interpretations, many far-fetched of course). William Jones, the eighteenth-century Anglican churchman, laid it out explicity like Stewart in his _Figurative Language of the Holy Scriptures_ and in his many other works and sermons. If you go back and compare Stewart's teachings of figures you will find them not only to be plausible, reasonable, and internally consistent with themselves and the Bible, but also agreeable with the other solid teachers mentioned above. And he gave these teachings without the benefit of having read or learned from all those writers. That is more than you can say for many teachers of the Bible, especially those who grativate toward figurative interpretations--look at Joseph Smith and all the other weirdos of the 19th century, and Rev. Moon, David Koresh, Ron Hubbard, Moses David of the COGs, and others of our own century. To Stewart's credit, his teachings did not veer off into science fiction or other ludicrousness (there ought to be such a word like ludocrity). The problem with Stewart was this little thing of COBU, and the way it turned out. I guess we could say it was the application of those teachings to real life in the church. But where is the church that applies Christian teaching without error? In fact, some of the churches that seem to emphasize right doctrine and faithfulness could also be considered harsh in many ways. The Amish and Mennonite and the Fundamentalists come to mind. Is harshness over doctrinal matters worse than modern evangelicals accepting non-trinitarians and homosexuals for communion? A tree is judged by its fruits. But that is something Stewart pointed to as early as the spring of 1976, when he said that he was going to be judged by the way we (COBU) turned out. (God help him.) He on numerous occasions also said, explicity as well as to the effect, to the older brothers, "You're all going to backslide, I'm going to outlast you all, so why don't you go ahead and leave now." And on many occasions, when a brother left, Stewart would say, "Good riddance." Now, this may be ungenerous, harsh, unChristian, evil, or whatever, but with that understanding on the table, I cannot lay the blame any more on Stewart than on those who remained and disliked what they were in for after that was thrown down. People must take some responsibility for themselves. I think that the brothers and sisters actually mistreated one another much more than Stewart ever did. Of course, they will say that they were doing what was taught or expected of them, but again I say, where is personal responsibility? None of the people tried at Nuremberg or since got off with the defense that Hitler was an evil dictator who taught us to do wrong. All the psycho-babble that has infiltrated, or taken over, Christianity, has not helped matters much. Closure? What is that. Can we block our memory? If closure had taken place for you, would you have your web site? Life is a continuum whether we like it or not. Everything is relative, meaning related, in the entire universe. By closure, then you certainly don't mean being able to forget it, do you. I think that if these former members did two simple things they might possibly see Stewart and COBU in a different light. First, if they stood on their two feet and said, "I am responsible for my own actions, and I always have been." Second, fall to their knees and say, "Forgive me Lord for abusing that responsibility to do other than Your will." After all, Stewart nor COBU did not hold a gun to the brethren's head. They were free to leave.. If they thought otherwise, they were deluded of course. But who allowed the delusion? God, the devil, and their own minds, as well as Stewart and COBU. Let them blame God, then maybe they would begin to get somewhere, because if they contend with Him, He will contend with them and answer them. I think that to do otherwise is fantasy, wanting to live in the past, not really seeking "closure." I'm really afraid that former COBUites are following the lead of the mass society in rejecting personal autononmy and responsibility. (And this from a confirmed determinist.) Two other matters relating to Stewart in these matters are his probing understanding of human nature and its manifestations, which was passed on to the brethern (at least the older ones), as well as the gift of discernment of spirits. (I have seen this gift used (or abused some might say), in uncanny ways.) But there is no time to go into this now, as I have wasted enough time this morning. I sure hope that you don't misunderstand what I write. Don't call me a Stewart apologist, for, as I said when we first communicated, I am not one. He can defend himself if he wants. I guess this is more than you asked for. John --- Visit John Apostle's Website on the WWW: http://www.angelfire.com/ny/japostle/ Angelfire for your free web-based e-mail. http://www.angelfire.com