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About the author:
James LaRue was a young and impressionable seeker when he first came to the Church of Bible Understanding (COBU). He was a kid from the suburbs of New Jersey with a love for life and an interest in fitness, photography, art and nature. Several setbacks in his life caused him to search for answers about the meaning of life. He met many interesting people along the way, however, not all of these people had good intentions.
One conversation with a guy in a mall, who James thought was a Jesus freak, led to his life being changed forever. He spent fourteen years in COBU, from ages 23 to 36, which means that for all intents and purposes, the early years of his adult life were molded by the influence of COBU, which is considered by many to be a dangerous mind control cult. The cult provided many benefits at first. He learned discipline and hard work, overcame shyness and learned how to talk to anyone. He began to learn foreign languages as a way to spread the Gospel message. But it would be only over time that he would become aware of the cost of any benefits he was receiving. This book chronicles his journey from true believer to his emerging awareness of the true nature of the organization he was in and how he finally left it.
James lives in New Jersey now with his wife. He is a translator who works from a number of European languages into English. He is also a writer and illustrator. The common thread that runs through all of these abilities is his eye for detail. Foreign languages require the knowledge of a large vocabulary. He draws in the photorealism style and wouldn't know how to draw an abstract shape if his life depended on it. His writing style is also detailed, engaging and interesting. The aim of his writing is to portray events as they happened, in a way that might make you feel you had been there yourself.
The source material for the book Captive Congregation, aside from James's long stay in COBU and the memories of his experiences there, are the journals he kept while in COBU, where he wrote down events as they happened and his impressions of them.
My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding
James E LaRue
The Church of Bible Understanding (COBU) had a presence in many cities in the United States during the late seventies and eighties. It was well known in New York City for its Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning business, which was such a regular part of the fabric of city life that it was parodied (as Sunshine Carpet Cleaners) on an episode of Seinfeld. Its 39.95 Carpet Cleaning Special flyers were slipped under many doors and left in many apartment lobbies. Unlike other religious organizations whose zealous devotees stood on corners selling flowers, the COBU brothers and sisters gave live demos of the cleansing power of their carpet cleaning machines on city street corners. The carpet cleaning business raised money to start orphanages in Haiti.
COBU still has a presence in the New York City and several other cities. It left the carpet business for its more successful architectural antique business called Olde Good Things. COBU was recently in the news when Haitian authorities threatened to close the orphanages down because of the poor conditions there. News stories contrasted the high earnings of these stores with the run down condition of the orphanages.
This book describes how James LaRue, a young seeker of truth, was approached in a mall by a cult member and how he joined the group and stayed in it for fourteen years. It is not as much a history of The Church of Bible Understanding as it is a story from the viewpoint of the average member of a cult. Though James's descriptions of daily cult life, the reader has a front row view of the kind of manipulation, lies, harassment and abuse practiced by the cult's leadership and particularly by Stewart Traill, COBU's self-appointed pastor who had "the only true method of Bible interpretation," a man who portrayed himself as a right Christian example and the restorer of Christianity to its original purity (which he said had been lost since the time of the Apostles), who, behind closed doors, kept a harem of young women while denying marriage to his followers under the pretext that they were not faithful enough to God to be able to get married. He was a man who preached poverty, chastity and obedience to his followers, while amassing a private fortune, having many female devotees and being accountable to no one.
Stewart Traill began his career preaching about being born again and the second coming of Christ, but over the years, his teachings increasingly centered on death, hell and damnation. The man who once told his followers to go out into the highways and byways to compel people to come to God's kingdom was now slamming the gates of heaven in their faces and telling them they were not worthy of entering and that instead, the fires of hell awaited them.
Many people left the organization because of this treatment, but what this meant for those who remained was that there was a smaller and more dedicated group of those who believed in this way and who were willing to put up with this treatment. This meant an ever-tightening net of social pressure among members to conform to cult life. Fanaticism and a militant way of life replaced church members' original zeal to proclaim the gospel. It was a live-in situation where church members monitored one another and reported to "Brother Stewart," as he was called. The treadmill of work in the church's businesses and sleep deprivation caused by meetings that lasted until the early hours of the morning made sure members were too tired to think rationally, and combined with a highly loaded language and sloganizing that stifled thought, it created an undertow that swept members off the normal moorings of life and along with the current of cult life. The story documents James's entry into the cult as a true believer, his experiences there and finally, his effort to come to terms with this way of life, to understand the processes he was being subjected to and controlled by and finally, how he was able to break free from its influence.
- Publication Date:
- 0692475354 / 9780692475355
- Page Count:
- Binding Type:
- US Trade Paper
- Trim Size:
- 6" x 9"
- Black and White
- Related Categories:
- Religion / Cults