Breaking away from such an all-consuming way of life, for most of us who were captivated and captured by it, has not been an easy thing to do. You don't just, on the spur of the moment, get up and walk away, and that's that; although there were undoubtedly quite a few moments of enlightenment when we should have gotten up the nerve to follow our better judgment, and just walked away.
For me there was much regret and doubt involved, though I knew deep inside that I had taken a necessary step towards personal responsibility. It seemed that few and far between were the times I really felt good about myself.
It was at one of these times, I'd say, when I wrote a letter to Stewart. The only one I would write. The only attempt to have some kind of fellowship with him, to let him know how I really felt, and ask him a question or two. And to get free, or at least to get some things off my chest.
Not keeping a copy of it, I don't remember much of it, but a letter like that you don't forget, not the gist of what you were trying to communicate. Nor the way it was received and any answer you may have gotten back.
Well, I wonder if anyone ever received an answer to such a letter to his highness, other than through the grapevine, which is not a nice way to get bad news. What I was told was that he used my letter to warn the fellowship of me, waving it ominously, and asking who knows Dan Cooper. No doubt ridiculing me for not speaking to him directly, and using the opportunity to intensify the fear of leaving COBU or of taking a contrary view of it or its creator.
Yet I recall writing of Hope. For myself, and even for the fellowship, as if refusing to believe that all hope was yet lost for true reform. For when you escape the bonds that hold you to such an oppressive existence, and find any blessing in doing so, you feel that there really is hope for getting free from it. This is the spirit in which I addressed my would-be, former mentor and slavemaster, with honesty and without malice. And to do so without fear, even if for a moment--this would have infuriated him.
But his main concern would not have been me--that is, to do what he could to help me. For he did not know me. He never took the time, nor did he care to know what was going on with me. He would have been more worried about others following my example, of getting out and thinking for themselves.
I ended my comments with a hopeful benediction. Yet I was candid about my conviction that nothing good was happening in COBU, that it was going nowhere--and was I not free to see if life existed outside our unhappy merry-go-round?
At some point I mentioned sarcastically that, of course, we never talked about his sins. I was probably speaking confidently of dealing with my own sins, and no longer living in fear of them, and of impending judgment. This would have been a testimony of my finding grace outside of his teaching and sphere of influence. But he was not interested in goodness for goodness sake. It was always about him and his wisdom and his plans.
But to mention any of his shortcomings at all was to break a major taboo of COBU. And to risk his wrath. For he could not endure scrutiny, or even a simple question that might injure his pride or make him look bad in the eyes of his followers.
I came to at least one Big Meeting after this, and when it was over he finally recognized me, or someone told him I was there. I think I was lingering, because I was, like, one of the last out the door. I may have been trying to get the courage to approach him, but it is more probable that I was half-expecting him to address me. Either way, I don't know what I expected to gain. Would he respect my courage to speak my mind and heart, and really listen to a professed victim of his failed system, as I had the nerve to call it? Or would he look down with disdain and continue to call me names? You guessed it. When I was at the door he called out, Hey Woman! I turned abruptly and saw him and Gayle acting like they hadn't said or heard anything. I knew I had been had, as if answering to that name, and that inside they were laughing. I was just another lame threat to his image of perfection.
Like the wizard of Oz, he'd cowardly remain behind his curtain, intimidating with his scare tactics. And finding pleasure in emasculating his male servants, and de-feminizing the sisters. So he could exalt himself up as the only real man.
But real men love Jesus. They don't bully and intimidate, and exploit everything for their own advantage. Stewart Tanner Traill therefore is not the man he exalted himself to be, and that we foolishly followed and venerated. Like any man, his sin has found him out.
And I'd say that anyone who does not answer a letter written in good faith by someone who poses no threat to him; who cannot humble himself to speak face to face with a little kindness; and instead maligns and calls names upon one who has the temerity to disagree with him: that person is a... Well, you fill in the blank.