Everyone who has escaped from a cult has a story. This is my story.
Some people say that the Church of Bible Understanding is a destructive cult. Why is it a cult? And how is it destructive? I wrote the book Captive Congregation to answer these questions. You can read an earlier and less complete draft of this book right here on these pages. The story can be read by clicking on the chapter headings on the right side of this page.
Owned and Operated by a Manipulative Cult Leader
For the first ten years in the Church of Bible Understanding, I believed the claims of the organization and the reasons for everything we did. I had some doubts, but these doubts were easily overcome by the all-pervasive system of control, belief enforcement and coercion that was magnified in an enclosed communal living situation. And besides, there were good things going on. I got saved and my life changed for the better. I made a lot of new friends in the cult. Our church had orphanages in Haiti. And we worked long hours in the church’s carpet cleaning business to earn money to support the purpose of the church, which was to tell the world about Jesus.
My blinders came off through some painful experiences and rude awakenings. I was threatened with being put off the church property when I questioned our leader. And during a time of extreme punishment, we were put into one of the church’s homeless shelters, which until recently had been run by the older brothers in the church, but was now being run by gang members. This had disastrous consequences and some people almost got killed because of it.
I’m glad now that these things happened to me – though I wasn’t happy about it at the time. If these things hadn’t happened, I would probably still be there, giving up everything to serve the leader of one of the worst mind control cults in history.
Groups like the Church of Bible Understanding have existed in the past. I learned that by studying the history of Christianity, particularly the history of Christianity in America. America has always been a fertile breeding ground for religion. For genuine religion, but also for the worst religious counterfeits, in which message of the Bible is used to promote the agendas of the leaders of these organizations.
Finding out that we were not unique helped me to leave COBU. The other groups I read about certainly were cults. It was obvious. And I was amazed at the similarities between these groups and ours. We were just like them. Until then I thought that COBU wasn’t a cult and that I had to stay in COBU to be saved. We didn’t believe we were the only people going to heaven. But Stewart Traill, the leader of our cult, said that we had a higher calling than all other Christians did because God had given him “the only true interpretation of the Bible.” He said that because we had this exclusive knowledge, we could never go back to not knowing it and that God held us accountable to what we knew. In fact, he said, God would cast us into hell if we left COBU, because the Bible says, “There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way.”
My fellow church members considered my desire to leave COBU to be a sign that I was losing my mind. They said that I was rebelling against God. I tried to speak up about what was wrong there and about what God was showing me. No one was willing to consider anything I had to say.
The chapters in my story can be read by clicking the links in the right hand column under the heading “Pages.”
When I was in COBU, I also wrote daily journals which can be read at the links below:
Stories by other ex-members of COBU and the FF: COBU Stories.