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Group Information
Title Church of Bible Understanding / COBU
Affiliated
Organizations
Olde Good Things
Founder Stewart Traill
Leader Stewart Traill
Description THE FOLLOWING WAS RECENTLY SUBMITTED BY A KNOWLEDGEABLE SOURCE:

"Christianity based cult that fits nearly every criteria in the B.I.T.E. model. One of the worst mind control cults in modern times. Once a much larger group, but membership is only about a hundred live in members now. Residences are located in Brooklyn, NY and Scranton, PA. The church owns a highly lucrative business called Olde Good Things, an architectural and antique salvaging business with locations in New York, Pennsylvania and California. The church owns a mansion in Florida (link here: http://virtualglobetrotting.com/map/the-church-of-bible-understanding/view/?service=1), where the leader and founder of the church, Stewart Traill lives, with his wife and an array of female followers. Though Christianity based, the church seems highly preoccupied with making money. The members of the church live communally and receive little if any of this money and very little money goes to charitable works. Most of the proceeds of the church business go to Stewart Traill, though properties and bank accounts are in the Church of Bible Understanding's name, not Traill's name, but as founder and leader of the church, Traill enjoys the use of these things, while in most cases, church members do not. For someone who preaches an extreme message of "giving up one's life in this world" and "putting self to death" he seems overly preoccupied with income gathering strategies and having church members work long hours, while giving up their lives, and giving up any thought of having relationships or marriages. For all of Traill's claims to exclusive knowledge of God's will and the of Bible that few, if any other Christians have, the only literature produced by COBU is a few single sheet outlines of Traill's teachings, such as "The Escape Recipe" and "The U Point of View.""
Behavior
Control
1. Regulation of individual's physical reality
  a. Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with
  b. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears
  c. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects
  d. How much sleep the person is able to have
  e. Financial dependence
  f. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations

2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals

3. Need to ask permission for major decisions

4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors

5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques- positive and negative).

6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails

7. Rigid rules and regulations

8. Need for obedience and dependency.
"Behavior control is made very effective because it is a live in communal organization where members live with, work with and are surrounded by like-minded individuals who are loyal to the leader and who watch one another and report on one another. Any slight deviations from acceptable behavior can be instantly noticed in this situation."
Information
Control
1. Use of deception
  a. Deliberately holding back information
  b. Distorting information to make it acceptable
  c. Outright lying

2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
  a. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
  b. Critical information
  c. Former members
  d. Keep members so busy they don’t have time to think

3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
  a. Information is not freely accessible
  b. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid
  c. Leadership decides who “needs to know” what

4. Spying on other members is encouraged
  a. Pairing up with “buddy” system to monitor and control
  b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership

5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
  a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.
  b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources

6. Unethical use of confession
  a. Information about “sins” used to abolish identity boundaries
  b. Past “sins” used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution
"Though no one there is prohibited from accessing outside information or reading other literature or books, the leader, Stewart Traill is considered by them to have the ultimate truth on all matters spiritual and temporal and he is the filter through whom they interpret reality."
Thought
Control
1. Need to internalize the group's doctrine as "Truth"
  a. Map = Reality
  b. Black and White thinking
  c. Good vs. evil
  d. Us vs. them (inside vs. outside)

2. Adopt "loaded" language (characterized by "thought-terminating clichés"). Words are the tools we use to think with. These "special" words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous "buzz words".

3. Only "good" and "proper" thoughts are encouraged.

4. Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down "reality testing" by stopping "negative" thoughts and allowing only "good" thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.
  a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
  b. Chanting
  c. Meditating
  d. Praying
  e. Speaking in "tongues"
  f. Singing or humming

5. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate

6. No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful
"Thought and communication is controlled through the use of extremely loaded language and "though terminating clichés." Members speak in words and phrases invented or given meaning to by Traill, so much so that entire dialogs can sometimes be made of sentences of patched together "Stewart phrases" and buzz words and cult jargon. Dialog with members can be difficult, because they only speak on the themes driven and taught by Traill, such as one's soon death, giving up one's life in the world and putting self to death."
Emotional
Control
1. Manipulate and narrow the range of a person's feelings.

2. Make the person feel like if there are ever any problems it is always their fault, never the leader's or the group's.

3. Feeling-stopping. Like thought-stopping, this is the automatic suppression or blocking of feelings that are not acceptable by the cult identity- such as feeling "homesick" or feeling "depressed" or feeling "resentful".

4. Excessive use of guilt
  a. Identity guilt
    1. Who you are (not living up to your potential)
    2. Your family
    3. Your past
    4. Your affiliations
    5. Your thoughts, feelings, actions
    6. Social guilt
    7. Historical guilt

5. Excessive use of fear
  a. Fear of thinking independently
  b. Fear of the "outside" world
  c. Fear of enemies
  d. Fear of losing one's "salvation"
  e. Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group
  f. Fear of disapproval

6. Extremes of emotional highs and lows.

7. Ritual and often public confession of "sins".

8. Phobia indoctrination: programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader's authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.
  a. No happiness or fulfillment "outside"of the group
  b. Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: "hell"; "demon possession"; "incurable diseases"; "accidents"; "suicide"; "insanity"; "10,000 reincarnations"; etc.
  c. Shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family.
  d. Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group's perspective, people who leave are: "weak"; "undisciplined"; "unspiritual"; "worldly"; "brainwashed by family, counselors"; seduced by money, sex, rock and roll.
"Generally, members' emotions are shut down through years of "denying self." They hardly ever appear to be happy, because lightheartedness would be "levity" and not taking hell, death, and their "Christian training" seriously. No relationships or marriages have been permitted for decades, the last marriage between a man and a woman living in the church was in 1979. Traill will claim that he does not "forbid marriage," but tells members they are not faithful enough to Christ to get married. This whole area of members' emotional lives is shut down and not acted upon. Any kind of "human fellowship" and talk of feelings is looked down upon."
Group
Websites
OECB Home
Critical
Websites
My Autobiography as a Former COBU Member

COBU Essays

About the COBU Tapes

My COBU Journal

COBU, STEWART TRAILL, AND THE FOREVER FAMILY
Other
Resources
(articles, videos, information)
The History of the Forever Family and the Church of Bible Understanding

Tribeca Has NOBU...But We Got COBU

Essay from Former Member:


Maureen Griffo â Sociology of Gender, Summer 2000
© 2000 by Maureen Griffo