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The Church of Bible Understanding
9th February 2021 • Let's Start A Cult • Cultiv8 Podcast Network
00:00:00 01:19:13

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Currently fueled by the millions of dollars that they earn through their several business ventures, many of its members continue to see it as a legitimate Christian group, rather than a cult. Today we will be talking about The Church of Bible...

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Transcripts

Josh:

hi, Fred.

Josh:

My name is Josh shell post a Blitzer called podcast.

Josh:

The only podcast that has officially made it to 10 episodes.

Josh:

That's right.

Josh:

No other podcasts has achieved this goal and I will not rest until I'm the only podcast with a hundred episodes.

Josh:

Now, with that unfounded claim out of the way, I'd like to introduce to you my guest, this episode, she is from the incredibly insightful podcast.

Josh:

Ignorance was bliss, a podcast that makes the darker parts of life.

Josh:

A little more understandable in a way that will make you say I felt better before I knew that.

Josh:

Please welcome to the communion.

Josh:

Kate Willinga Kate, how are you doing today?

Josh:

I'm doing well.

Josh:

Thank you.

Josh:

That's awesome.

Josh:

So in your podcast, ignorance was bliss.

Josh:

Have you ever covered the topic of a group think mentality or Colton into.

Josh:

Uh,

Kate:

yes.

Kate:

Um, not in this sort of structured if I ha oh God, if I have I forget.

Kate:

So I, I am the only podcast that is only officially recorded more than 300 episodes.

Kate:

So I have lost count.

Kate:

Um, I have had two former cult members on my show and have covered out one or two, but I don't, I don't do structure very well.

Kate:

So also, no.

Josh:

Fair enough.

Josh:

What is your take on the phenomenon?

Josh:

Why do you think so many people fall into, into these kinds of groups?

Josh:

If it like just a wild stab, like, uh, what would you think?

Josh:

What would you say

Kate:

I've taught sociology.

Kate:

There you go.

Kate:

So I could make it up.

Kate:

I mean, most simply people want life to make sense and they want to believe that's fair

Josh:

enough.

Josh:

That makes a lot of sense, actually, in most of my episodes that would fit.

Josh:

You've summed up my whole podcast.

Josh:

In two words,

Josh:

actually, on today's episode of let's start a call, we will be discussing the most controversial Christian group ever created.

Josh:

What started as a simple gathering of friends in a Pennsylvania coffee shop evolved into a sinister organization that span decades transcending the borders of the United States.

Josh:

Leaving hundreds of members traumatized and is directly responsible for the death of over a dozen children currently field by the millions of dollars that they earned through their several business ventures.

Josh:

Many of its members continue to see it as a legitimate Christian group, rather than a cult.

Josh:

Today, we'll be talking about the church of Bible understandings, also known as the forever family.

Josh:

So Kate, have you ever heard of this call before?

Kate:

I, I think so.

Kate:

I don't know it well though.

Kate:

So bring it,

Josh:

I mean, yeah, that's fair enough.

Josh:

The church of Bible understanding sounds like a pretty generic cult name.

Josh:

It could classify

Kate:

that part.

Kate:

Doesn't ring a bell, but forever family does.

Kate:

And I grew up in upstate New York, right on the border of Pennsylvania.

Kate:

So I feel like this may have used over the border a little

Josh:

bit.

Josh:

Don't go to Pennsylvania for coffee.

Josh:

That's the moral really?

Kate:

Don't just, don't go to Pennsylvania, you know, honestly

Josh:

I never have, so I don't

Kate:

recommend it.

Josh:

All right.

Josh:

Well, I'll jump into a little bit about the perpetrator of the.

Josh:

The church of Bible understanding was the brainchild of a man named Stewart Tanner trail, who was born in Quebec, Canada on February 19th, 1936.

Josh:

So if anyone, you can blame come back.

Josh:

If you want.

Josh:

It's also fair.

Josh:

His father Donald had been born in Edinburgh, Scotland going on to earn a master's degree in sacred theology from the union theological seminary in 1929.

Kate:

Nice.

Kate:

So he can blame Edinburgh.

Kate:

We can blame Quebec and we can blame Pennsylvania.

Kate:

Like

Josh:

we, we can play so many people.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

Actually my last episode was blamed.

Josh:

I go back to, so this is just a, it's just a continuation.

Josh:

It's this Canadians in 1933, Donald married, Lorraine, and the couple eventually had four children together.

Josh:

They moved their family to Allentown, Pennsylvania, sometime in the 1940s or Donald found work teaching in local colleges.

Josh:

As a child, Stewart was incredibly intelligent.

Josh:

A trait that even as high school teachers remembered him for.

Josh:

He studied at Liberty high, where he was a member of the chess club and debate club further showing an astounding proficiency in science.

Josh:

After graduating in 1954, he attended lay university, but dropped out after a few semesters, ending his formal career for good.

Josh:

A lot of the cult leaders seem to leave schooling at some point in their, in their career.

Josh:

And I think it's because they think of themselves better than the other people.

Josh:

So they don't really like listening to people, teach them

Kate:

by definition.

Kate:

Right.

Kate:

You, these are people that don't like to follow an established.

Kate:

We're established rules and, you know, they want to branch out religiously.

Kate:

They want to branch out educationally.

Kate:

And I mean, education really is just jumping through a bunch of hoops.

Josh:

That's very true.

Josh:

That's how it felt to me.

Josh:

Actually it

Kate:

legitimately is like, know, look, I look at, you know, myself and my husband both have way too much education.

Kate:

And we look at the process is that the further you go in school, it's just, the hoops are like on fire, smaller

Josh:

and smaller,

Kate:

exactly.

Kate:

Higher off the ground and that sort of thing.

Kate:

That's all it is.

Kate:

It's just, it's just one big

Josh:

circus.

Josh:

Fair enough.

Josh:

Not much is known about Stewart's early years, largely due to the fact that his siblings and relatives were and still are reluctant to talk about.

Josh:

However, his former teachers were more than willing to talk about the young Stewart trail whom named described as an independent thinker who often questioned their teachings.

Josh:

They claim that he expressed doubt at their knowledge, confident that he knew much more than they did.

Josh:

They didn't doubt his intelligence, but for them, his inability to discipline himself and submit to authority would bring nothing but trouble.

Josh:

So there is that lack of discipline and a ability to listen to authority in 19 59, 23 year old Stuart married 17 year old Shirley's son.

Josh:

And found work as a vacuum cleaner repairman and salesmen.

Josh:

Understandably, this line of work didn't provide much income, especially since the couple had five children.

Josh:

At one point, this trail family had to live in an old school bus, but they eventually moved into a unit at the Cumberland garden apartment in Allentown.

Josh:

So a little ironic.

Josh:

He had to live in a school bus, I guess I can't,

Kate:

I mean, I have four children myself and I can attest that it is far too many.

Kate:

I would be much more prone to just leaving them at the side of the road and driving away some days.

Kate:

So, you know, it's just as well that I never lived in an old school bus saying, well,

Josh:

then you can drive away because you'd be driving away with them.

Kate:

That's the

Josh:

worst.

Josh:

According to steward himself.

Josh:

The early years of his marriage saw him as an avowed atheist on a quest to discredit the Bible.

Josh:

He fearlessly studied various world religions in an attempt to bring up his own children with a unique new fangled form of belief system.

Josh:

And keep in mind that this is like from his point of view.

Josh:

So it could be some part of his grift where he's saying I was an atheist.

Josh:

And then I transformed into this, this Christian believer.

Josh:

So you can as well, basically, I that's kind of what, what, how I get the feeling of it, but this is how he portrays himself.

Josh:

More than that though.

Josh:

He claimed that he was on this quest, that he found Jesus Christ, welcoming him with open arms and converting them to Christianity.

Josh:

When he realized that miracles outlined in the Bible could neither be explained nor refuted, which I don't understand this take because as he likes saying that nothing can be made up.

Josh:

Like I can write down on a piece of paper.

Josh:

Josh's podcast is the only podcast at 10 episodes, but it doesn't mean it's true.

Josh:

You know what I mean?

Kate:

Yeah.

Kate:

Okay.

Kate:

You're totally starting a call.

Kate:

Let's do it.

Kate:

Um, I already have a name for my call by the way.

Kate:

Perfect.

Kate:

Let's hear it.

Kate:

Um, I am going to start a cult.

Kate:

That is the cult of don't be a Dick.

Kate:

It's an off shoot from Wilmington.

Kate:

So like, I can't take credit for the name of it, but I feel very strongly in the doctrine, which exists entirely of the rule that you should not

Josh:

be a Dick a lot.

Josh:

Uh, I think, I think more, more people should follow it.

Josh:

I also think you should, as the leader, and now that this is your grift, you should take complete control over that name and say that you came up with it.

Kate:

It's true.

Kate:

But I mean, that's, that is an odd, that's an odd way of re you know, I don't understand this thing.

Kate:

And this, this miracle that was written 3000 years ago on parchment, somewhere in, in several different languages in, you know, repeatedly translated to something that I sort of kind of understand now, since I can't fully make sense of it, it must be true.

Kate:

Like, man, I want to introduce this guy to calculus.

Josh:

I that's magic to me to be honest, but yeah, I don't like, like it's a, it's a wild claim to be like, and I'm not saying that the Bible is fake, but that's not what kind of what I'm going at, but I'm going at, like, you can't say that the stories are like irrefutable.

Josh:

It's just like Moses parting.

Josh:

The sea is a little hard to comprehend, but like the values and stuff I can, I can get by.

Kate:

Well, it's all well, and good if you, if that is what you believe in, but your entire reason for converting to Christianity based solely on, I can't explain this aspect of it.

Kate:

So therefore it all must be true.

Kate:

Like that's, that's a big leap.

Josh:

It is a big leap, but I guess as a religious leader, you have to be urban.

Josh:

Now he's not a leader yet, but he will be easy.

Josh:

Going to be prone to taking leaps of faith.

Josh:

This is going to make somebody

Kate:

else do it

Josh:

anyway.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

Well, that's true too.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

The exact year of stewards conversion remains disputed some say he became a Christian in 1964 while others claim that it was in 1966, regardless of the year of his conversion, the fact remains that Stewart only created his organization when he was a Christian.

Josh:

Uh, fanatic convert from atheism who had been brought to God's light after being unable to prove that the Bible was fake.

Kate:

That's fantastic tagline.

Kate:

That should go on all of his official

Josh:

stationary.

Josh:

It shouldn't be on their shirts in March, according to the lamb ledger, a cob use official newsletter, which church of Bible understanding.

Kate:

Okay, wait, let's just back that up for us second, and look at the irony of I'm gonna call it the church of Bible understanding

Josh:

when he doesn't understand the basis

Kate:

of the path that he doesn't understand these things from the Bible, like boy, you know, points for audacity on this

Josh:

guy.

Josh:

That's a good catch actually, cause this, most of his grift is claiming that he understands it, but his statement is clear.

Josh:

But he doesn't understand it.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

You're, you're spot on with that now.

Josh:

So the, the church of Bible understandings official newsletter posted one of Stuart's diary entries from 1970, where he talked about how Jesus would use him to reach the entire United States.

Josh:

He went on to explain that he would someday lead an evangelical group that would be known across the country, which is something that he definitely achieved.

Josh:

Although the reputation and image was probably not what a, what do you envision.

Josh:

Yeah, it's not, it's not good.

Josh:

I'll spoil it.

Kate:

Um, good thing.

Kate:

It was sitting down for that.

Josh:

The majority of cob use members believe that in 1971, Stuart started a movement of young, energetic, evangelical Christians, whom he called the forever family.

Josh:

If you

Kate:

were, if you were not energetic, you were

Josh:

right out.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

They didn't allow you in the forever family.

Josh:

You were in the never family.

Josh:

But I do like the forever family better than the church of Bible understanding.

Josh:

I will say that.

Josh:

I don't know why they rebranded, but

Kate:

just same, same, well, I mean, okay.

Kate:

I have both pets and my youngest child is adopted.

Kate:

And for both under this is terrible circumstances.

Kate:

When you bring them home, there are people who will use the phrase that you were bringing either the PA or the child home to it's forever family.

Kate:

Oh

Josh:

yeah.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

I have heard that.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

So let me make that connection.

Josh:

It's the

Kate:

rebranding, you know?

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

I would imagine that like, orphanages would maybe rebrand after this, not the other way,

Kate:

but you

Josh:

know, so the members believed that he had started this movement.

Josh:

However, according to Mike Montoya, the creator of the history of the forever family and the church of Bible understandings website members of Stewart's group had originally been a part of religious get togethers hosted by 20 year old, George O'Neill, George who went

Josh:

Which were held in whatever church, apartment or house was available that day skip.

Josh:

And his friends were a unique feature in the 1970s, an era that bred a culture of religious fanaticism among the American youth.

Josh:

These young adults were exhausted and sick of the rebellion that characterized the 1960s desiring to find meaning and purpose in their life, which they believed could be accomplished by turning to God, unlike their parents.

Josh:

So they askewed formal religious practices such as hearing mass every Sunday and fasting during the Lenten season.

Josh:

Instead, they sought to serve God wherever and whenever they could spreading his message and welcoming new followers into his light.

Josh:

And I've talked a lot about this because so far, a lot of the cults I've covered have evolved from the seventies and eighties.

Josh:

And it's like, it was like the perfect mix for creating a bunch of cults because it was like American politics were pushing a lot of religion on the, on the population layers of war that they were trying to, like youth were rebelling against drugs were very popular back then.

Josh:

And it just created this perfect.

Josh:

And I'm not blaming drugs or anything like that, but the illegal, the illegal NIS of drugs, I guess, was kind of a segregated them from the mainstream, I guess.

Josh:

And it created this perfect stirring pot for a bunch of cults just to break off and, and say different segregations of Christianity to break off and just get more and more isolated big

Kate:

in the, the, you know, everybody's got to rebel against something.

Kate:

Every generation wants to rebel.

Kate:

Something.

Kate:

And

Josh:

so,

Kate:

yeah, well, and some rebellions are better than others, you know what I'm saying?

Kate:

And so, you know, you get the initial rebellion against the boomers in the regular mass and behaving well, visual quotes behaving.

Kate:

Well, you know what I mean?

Kate:

And then it was yeah.

Kate:

In the sixties in that it was like a complete rebellion into drug sex and rock and roll.

Kate:

And now what are you going to rebel against?

Kate:

Right.

Kate:

You got to find something new, some new direction to move things, because you don't want to go all the way back to mass because you know, you don't want to be your parents, but you don't want to be your older siblings either.

Kate:

So

Josh:

that makes sense.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

Stuart and skip first met each other in August, 1971 at the Robin hood.

Josh:

This was a section of Allentown's little lay Parkway, a park where church organizations and groups often congregated in on the night that they were introduced to each other.

Josh:

Skip had been smoking a cigarette and Stewart had tried discouraging his vice by making choking.

Josh:

Perhaps ingest that his cigarette smoke was hindering his ability to breathe.

Josh:

At the same time, Stewart was wearing a button emblazoned with the words, get smart, get saved, which skip instantly recognized as a symbol.

Josh:

That meant he was a Christian.

Josh:

This whole interaction is why could you imagine going up to a random person and just like making choking noises at them where they smoke.

Kate:

You know, I can imagine it now, but, but I just do it because you know, it'd be fun.

Kate:

No, I cannot imagine any of this as being the foundation of like a friendship or whatever, you know, the wearing a buttons.

Kate:

That's cute.

Kate:

That was big at the time.

Kate:

And there's a thing that kind of fell out of Vogue through.

Kate:

Teens and twenties was, it was not a thing for awhile.

Kate:

And now my older kids, my oldest is almost 21.

Kate:

And my older kid is always asking about buttons or, you know, can I get this button or whatever?

Kate:

And I'm like, you know, it all comes back around again.

Kate:

So she may, I mean, she may be shooting a call.

Kate:

I don't know it's possible.

Josh:

Well, as long as it doesn't say, get smart, get saved where I

Kate:

leave buttons,

Josh:

which sounds like a phrase coming from like the dare program.

Josh:

You know what I mean?

Kate:

And it's probably just as effective,

Josh:

but that's probably true.

Josh:

You're right.

Josh:

After their initial meeting at Robin hood, Dell skip and Stewart ran into each other again at a diner.

Josh:

And this turned into regular contact between the two men.

Josh:

However, Skip's wife was wary of Stewart as we're there for other Christian friends, with whom they regularly studied the Bible out of all of them, skip seemed to be the only one who trusted and believed in Stewart.

Josh:

So, so this goes to show if your wife and all your friends say that one guy is a troublemaker, maybe, maybe take the hint.

Kate:

It's a little stereotypical to say that you should always this near white, but I, you know, as, as a wife of 20 years, I'm going to say that you should always listen to your wife like that.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

I always listen to my girlfriend.

Josh:

She's usually smarter than me.

Josh:

So by then, Stewart had been holding regular meetings at the message, a local coffee shop that attracted a wide spectrum of people from hippies to pastors and from church ladies to young religious finance.

Josh:

During these get together Stewart and his friends would share stories about how Jesus rescued them from destructive and abberant lifestyles.

Josh:

So this seems like a wild coffee shop like pastors and hippies, all congregating in one area.

Josh:

Like

Kate:

I live in Salem, Massachusetts.

Kate:

So it kind of sounds normal to me, but yeah, for Pennsylvania, it's pretty progressed.

Josh:

It's it's forward-thinking later on Cal covert, the son of the coffee shop owner would claim that Stewart carried on mostly about nonsense.

Josh:

He had been 13 at the time and remembered how people gradually started turning up to meetings, wearing a, get smart, get saved by.

Josh:

The very same button that had attracted skip in the first place.

Josh:

He had a large presence and great charisma.

Josh:

Cal said about the founder of the forever family Stuart and his group held meetings at the message regularly, which gave Kal plenty of opportunities to observe their dynamics.

Josh:

I think what initially drew me to steward like so many others was that he was so unique.

Josh:

You just wanted to know what this character was all about.

Kate:

Apparently he was about faking choking so far.

Kate:

That's what we know for

Josh:

sure.

Josh:

Fake choking and buttons, whereas thing that's, that's what.

Josh:

At first Stuart had a friendly relation with the owner of the message, Harold covert, who was cow's father.

Josh:

Pretty soon though, Harold began to have misgivings about Stewart's teaching and confronted him, calling him a false prophet.

Josh:

Many other Christian groups had held gatherings at the coffee shop, but none of them exhibited the same dynamics as stewards group did skip, tried to defend his friend, but ultimately Stewart was kicked out of the message.

Josh:

Still.

Josh:

His gatherings continued instead of heading to another coffee shop or different public establishment.

Josh:

Stuart began hosting Bible studies at 1 28 south church street, the home of skip and his wife, where they also lived with another.

Josh:

Stuart referred to these meetings.

Josh:

As I hate this word, nuggies sharp for nuggets of gold

Kate:

kid refers to, she can make nuggets as nuggies.

Kate:

And she does it specifically because it bothers me like that's exactly why, like I have this visceral reactions.

Kate:

Yeah, no.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

It just, it feels so weird to say like, People would use it to talk about knowledge.

Josh:

Yeah, it does.

Josh:

It does sound like something.

Josh:

A kid would say

Kate:

my 20 year old that says she does it to be an asshole.

Kate:

Like, let's be clear.

Kate:

Oh God, I hate think about this.

Kate:

I hope I hope they served chicken nuggets at there.

Kate:

I know.

Kate:

Geez.

Kate:

I don't know.

Kate:

Make you say it again please.

Josh:

I know, but I don't think it comes up again in this group, but just know that I am thinking the word nuggies.

Josh:

Every time we talked about his teachings,

Josh:

it was, um, it was here that he hones the crux of his later preachings that the Bible in order to be interpreted correctly, needed to be poured over and analyzed.

Josh:

He encouraged participants to dig for the scriptures, hidden wisdom and meaning teaching them that the figure.

Josh:

Which he himself had created and developed in the simplest terms.

Josh:

Stewart's figure system was the expansion of the Bible by the use of symbolic language.

Josh:

He began preaching his own interpretations hinting that he had been blessed by God himself with the one true interpretation of the Bible.

Josh:

At one of these meetings, he presented a copy of the lectures on the figurative language of the holy script.

Josh:

And the interpretation of it from the scripture itself, which was an early 19th century pamphlet written by William Jones who had been a prominent and learned scholar at his time.

Kate:

And then I was going to say, that sounds exactly on-brand for 18 hundreds pamphlets.

Kate:

Like the pamphlet is like, you know, they could, they could just say it's figurative language in the Bible, but instead they're like lectures on the figurative language.

Kate:

And the number of times the letter E appears and take the hand grenade and

Josh:

half the pamphlet is art.

Josh:

It's just the title.

Josh:

That's all.

Josh:

Yeah, they did.

Josh:

They definitely didn't know clickbait titles back in, back in May 19th century for Stuart Jones, his writing was proof that his figure system was correct and that he had been gifted with the Bible's true interpretation.

Josh:

This line of messaging solidified the devotion of his following, but it also alienated the rest of the Christian community in Allentown.

Josh:

Many of whom shared Herald covert sentiment.

Josh:

As winter of 1971 rolled around Stuart began to actively discourage, skip, and his friends from attending other Bible studies and having fellowship with other Christians, giving disparaging comments and asserting himself as the only legitimate biblical teacher in the town.

Josh:

However, no one paid attention to him with the Christians who met at the message dismissing his words.

Kate:

Yeah, I dunno.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

I mean, if they'd kept on like this, we might not be talking about perhaps though they shouldn't have ignored.

Josh:

His staunch belief in himself as the prophet, as the only person on earth who held the key to unlocking the Bible's real message was exuberated by the religious fervor that gripped the 1970s, Allentown, and by the growing conflict with other local Christian groups during

Josh:

Back to Pennsylvania, he became visibly agitated and was determined to attend a Bible study at the message coffee shop that night.

Josh:

Once they arrived at the coffee shop, Stewart took most of his loyal followers and formed one of the most notorious Christian organizations of the 21st century.

Josh:

The forever family.

Kate:

Okay.

Kate:

So first of all, there's a lot that, first of all, the Mr.

Kate:

Sick CISM, that, that, you know, that, that approach of like mathematically or symbolically parsing, the Bible out is not uncommon among cult cultists.

Kate:

It is also not uncommon among people with profound schizophrenia.

Josh:

Oh,

Kate:

okay.

Kate:

So in the thing about people with schizophrenia is that they tend to be really pretty smart.

Kate:

They just have a lot of extra going on at the same time, but they, they, they see patterns.

Kate:

Then they perceive patterns in the world differently than, than neuro-typical brains would.

Kate:

Interesting.

Kate:

That makes life a lot harder for them inherently.

Kate:

And it makes it so that they would not be an ideal cope leader.

Kate:

And it sounded like this guy's leaning in that direction

Josh:

a little bit.

Josh:

Well, I mean, yeah, like you said, a lot of cult leaders do this and a big reason why, and I don't know if they truly believe that they have the answers, but if everyone else believes that they have the answers, then they have to come down to the leader to get the answers.

Josh:

So they rely on him.

Josh:

That's why, so it's not quite, quite the same as like, I guess it's.

Josh:

It's similar to schizophrenia, I guess, in that way, but I don't know if they truly believe it, or if it's just a grift, you know what I mean?

Josh:

I think mostly

Kate:

they ha I mean, they have to believe it at some level, you know, because you have to be so consistent.

Kate:

You think about, uh, writers now, writing fiction, if they're, you know, writing a series from they get, they get readers who get so into the world, the star wars, for instance, as a, as a particularly relevant cult at the moment where the, the cultists memorize aspects of the world

Kate:

And you've got people like parsing out, like what, what does it mean?

Kate:

And then they have to know.

Kate:

And so the leader has to kind of.

Kate:

You have to have such a deep understanding that they really do have to believe their own words, which is what makes them dangerous.

Kate:

Right?

Kate:

They're not liars because a liar can step out of it.

Kate:

And a liar can eventually reach a point where they're like, you know what?

Kate:

People are dying and that's probably bad.

Kate:

And me, perhaps I should change the things that I'm doing.

Kate:

But if you can't see that, if you, if you have lost all of that perspective, because you're believing your own words, that's dangerous.

Kate:

I mean, that's that's, to me, you know, the difference between an effective.

Kate:

Politician in an indie scary one, right.

Kate:

Is an effective politician will learn all the rules and lean into them, but they kind of, they know when to step out, they bail out, you know, a scary politician such as Trump, but also such as, um, I, I got to attend a taping of the daily show when Jon Stewart was still behind the desk.

Kate:

That's awesome.

Kate:

It was super fun.

Kate:

And the guest was rod Blagojevich, who was the Senator from Illinois who tried to sell Obama.

Kate:

Seat when Obama was elected and just all, all manner of corruption.

Kate:

And the fascinating thing about watching we'll go ahead and speak.

Kate:

And this is before his trial, he has since then was convicted and imprisoned and blah, blah, you know, like you do all

Josh:

that fun stuff.

Kate:

Yeah.

Kate:

Was that watching him speak?

Kate:

It was really clear that he believed his own words and that's like, those are the scariest.

Kate:

The ones who maybe they lie, but then they believe their own words.

Kate:

So that's all that.

Kate:

I also think it's fascinating that an overdose of caffeine followed by a trip to a coffee shop seems like a good idea because you know, the more caffeine, but also as a side note, since, since we were talking about schizophrenia, caffeine, and nicotine help treat the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Josh:

Interesting.

Josh:

I thought it would do the opposite for some reason though, that like, in my mind, that's I always thought it was like, it would Agra aggravate.

Josh:

Is that the right word aggravate?

Kate:

No, it, it seems to it w we don't clearly know why it helps, but like I used to work at a group home that was a couple of blocks from a Dunkin donuts coffee shop nearby here.

Kate:

And I swear to you that there was a pet.

Kate:

They, they, they didn't need a sidewalk.

Kate:

Like they just would have flattened the path between the house and there, and they would talk about, you know, cause I'm sitting around, I'm going to ask them questions cause I'm sitting there otherwise, you know, it would be like, why do you, why just, you can have coffee here at the house.

Kate:

Like you can even have Dunkin donuts, coffee.

Kate:

Meet here at the house.

Kate:

Like, what do you mean?

Kate:

And how on earth can this be good for your prostate and things like that?

Kate:

All of the questions that you ask, and maybe you should not smoke quite as much in their answer was if I don't, the voices are louder or if I don't, some of the other symptoms, my thinking gets foggy.

Kate:

But if I have the caffeine, if I had the nicotine, I'm able to focus better schizophrenia.

Kate:

I'm not going to go off into the whole lecture, but it's actually quite a lot like, like ADHD in a lot of ways.

Kate:

So if you have ADHD, you got to know what it's like this

Josh:

schizophrenia.

Josh:

Um, damn, I did not think we would go into schizophrenia, but, uh, that's, that's very interesting.

Josh:

So for, for the next part, we're just going to, we're going to dive into the Colton and kind of how they established, uh, the forever family.

Josh:

The forever family began meeting in a basement of a local church, but soon enough membership numbers skyrocketed and they were forced to move to a bigger place.

Josh:

Uh, fellowship house was established at 1 37 south church street, just a few doors down from where skip and his wife resided.

Josh:

The early days of the organization were rough.

Josh:

Stewart's abrasive and aggressive behavior combined with his shocking language and blatant manipulation of those around him, surprised many members, even those who were loyal to him, he was often mean and went out

Josh:

His interpretation of the scripture was the only one that mattered.

Josh:

He even went so far to ban one of his followers from buying books, commentary and Bible aids.

Josh:

We'll add a Christian bookstore.

Josh:

He also chided his followers from reading Christian literature that wasn't written by devout Christians, such as the works of CS Lewis, C H Spurgeon's as well as the texts from the Pilgrim's progress and martyrs mirror.

Josh:

But despite his reprimands, his members continue to read these and share them with.

Josh:

So they're still not quite listening to them, which is the, that's the crux of when the cult starts turning, uh, usually towards not so good means is yeah.

Josh:

One of the things that Stewart emphasized was the act of witnessing members of the forever family were sent out to malls, diners, street corners, and other public establishments, where they were told to persuade other young adults to convert to Christianity.

Josh:

Many of them did so out of genuine desire to bring others to Jesus Christ.

Josh:

However, it became clear that steward had other more moral motivations.

Josh:

As an experienced vacuum salesman, Stuart began to implement some of the techniques used in his day job on the forever family, rather than on my

Kate:

own resume.

Kate:

Now

Josh:

you can make any sense

Kate:

professionally.

Kate:

He introduced me that way.

Kate:

That's an experience vacuum salesman.

Josh:

That's okay.

Josh:

Rather than the quality and depth of their evangelicalism, he focused on numbers, enforcing a sort of sales quota on those who were witnessing the emphasis proved to be unnerving and frustrating by

Josh:

So I have a, I have a friend in car sales and he definitely goes through this.

Josh:

And like a lot of his coworkers do, if he's not making the sales or it looks like he might not make it, it's like just crushing, like it's.

Josh:

And it sounds like it was exactly the same.

Josh:

So it doesn't matter if you're saying.

Josh:

Cars are faith.

Kate:

You're selling God or selling a Buick.

Kate:

You know,

Josh:

it's the same type of anxiety.

Josh:

Well,

Kate:

and it's in witnessing is tough because at least with car sales people generally come to you because when you're witnessing, you're going out into the community and you kind of invading other people's personal space, you get a lot of people that are trying to find polite ways.

Kate:

And many who are not trying to find plate waste are telling you to fuck right off that they, you know, they just don't, don't get your religion

Josh:

on me also a little different as well as like, if you're selling a car, it's just an object.

Josh:

It's not, it doesn't have any meaning to you, but when you're trying to sell your personal religion, it has some, you have some sort of stake in that game where it's, it's, it's kind of a personal attack.

Josh:

If someone says, no, I feel in some ways anyway.

Josh:

Yeah, for sure.

Josh:

Those who failed to meet steward's set goals were accused of faithless.

Josh:

Because of this.

Josh:

Some members forced themselves to stay out all night or to stand in open areas, even in bad weather, just to convert Passerbuys to Christianity and meet their quotas.

Kate:

It's going to work more, right?

Kate:

Like I'm more likely to buy your God if it's cold and dark.

Kate:

And 2:00

Josh:

AM, despite the abuse and manipulation, the forever family continued to look up to Stewart, seeing him in the exact same way that he saw himself.

Josh:

Their devotion was intensified when Stewart asserted that he had the gift to discern spirits thing, that he was capable of looking at another individual and instantly determining where they were with regard to their spirituality.

Josh:

This gave his members a false sense of openness and vulnerability Stewart's gift led them to believe that they had no privacy around him and would be unable to keep even their innermost thoughts hidden from.

Josh:

However, this isn't to say that his followers were all fanatically devoted to him in 1972, some members of the forever family began questioning Stuart's leadership and the direction that he wanted to take the group.

Josh:

Some of them openly opposed him and ended up leaving the group altogether in response to his detractors, Stewart wrote a document called concerning how the whole forever family is breaking up and what we can do about it, where he treated

Josh:

So I think it's funny, the title

Kate:

back to the pamphlet, you open the pamphlet itself and it's like nothing.

Josh:

He's just like it's self-explanatory and an expert from this red quote, it is easy for an experienced EF effort to be led by the Lord and to have revelations usually sufficient secrets to be convenient, which are nothing more than cleverly concealed ego trips to counter stewards authority.

Josh:

And are designed to permit return to the womb and flesh.

Josh:

The Lord wants me to grow slowly or one should stay at the same place where he was saved, et cetera.

Josh:

We, from time to time see those who are led to leave the forever family, usually because of the tired one about yous don't show love unquote.

Josh:

That was a lot of, I don't understand.

Josh:

He doesn't understand structure, send instructions,

Kate:

great writer.

Kate:

No, not, not great.

Kate:

I, again, inexperienced FFR and an experienced vacuum salesman.

Josh:

He's got it all.

Josh:

That's why he's a leader more than this though.

Josh:

Stuart also authored two homilies, the Catholic homily and the forever family homily, where he outlined his perspective on the current societal culture, as well as his mistrust and disdain for.

Josh:

Those over the age of 25, the police and other Christians, which meant those who weren't following him.

Josh:

So literally almost everything out of the two books in the Bible steward prioritize the old Testament more, which he claimed he could safely satisfy one desire for understanding, many of his preachings

Kate:

which well Stewart miracles happened in the new

Josh:

Testament.

Josh:

That's true.

Josh:

I guess it's easier.

Josh:

It's harder to disprove the old Testament.

Kate:

I don't think this guy being saying, I think that's the answer anyway.

Kate:

Sorry.

Josh:

That's fine.

Josh:

A lot of the Colts do lean towards more of the old Testament because it is more, it fits in line with what they're trying to do.

Josh:

They're trying to create a domineering presence over these people.

Josh:

So, which is the God that is portrayed in the old town.

Josh:

So, I guess that's probably why, but it's, uh, uh, who knows with Stewart on the other hand, the majority of modern Christians tend to concentrate on the new Testament, which is largely considered to

Josh:

The God in the new Testament is more loving, more understanding and more compassionate blessing Jesus Christ's followers by multiplying loaves of bread and fish.

Josh:

So that a crowd of over 5,000 people could eat their fill out of only a few pieces.

Josh:

In contrast to this, the God of the old Testament sent a 40 day flood to start a world of fresh and demanded absolute loyalty from his followers, even going so far to ask Abraham to kill his beloved son, to show his utmost love and devotion.

Josh:

And then saying J K, you don't have to do that.

Josh:

It's on the script.

Josh:

That's what happened.

Josh:

Stewart's focused on the old Testament.

Josh:

And the fact that his teachings were based upon it serve to alienate him as well as his followers from other Christian communities before long, they were no longer perceived to be a group open to having fellowship with others.

Josh:

Rather, they began to develop into an exclusive fanatic cult.

Josh:

One led by a man who saw himself as a special and personally favored by God.

Josh:

One of the things that Stewart developed in the forever family, aside from the figure system was the color code, which he deemed to be the only way the Bible verses should be interpreted it involved 10 different colors, including

Josh:

But in reality, he'd learned it from one of Stuart's friends.

Josh:

So just like you should claim the title to your call,

Kate:

it'd be a Dick.

Kate:

And I'm also gonna, I'm also gonna rank people.

Kate:

Well, it, it almost, you know, with his, he's leaning into this symbology and, you know, the color scheme and everything.

Kate:

I wonder if he did have, you know, schizophrenia or by synesthesia, which is when your, your senses get a little bit crossed.

Kate:

So, you know, people who like a COC, a music with colors, interesting, or tastes, or that kind of thing, like that sounds like what he's doing here is he starting to associate, you know, colors to the way a Bible verse should be interpreted

Kate:

It's, it's very Plato, I don't know.

Kate:

And I'll have it, you know, forever family and color code and figure system.

Kate:

It's very kindergarten.

Josh:

You think it's M D I hate this question because it's impossible for you to answer, but do you think he might've been schizophrenia just based on what you've seen?

Kate:

I mean, yeah.

Kate:

Could have been like, I, I'm not, I can't obviously can't diagnose, but, but just like you said, you know, there, there's a lot of little things here and there, but there's, we're, we're hearing whiffs of paranoia.

Kate:

A lot of co-leaders have at least features of schizophrenia, even if they don't meet the entire disorder.

Kate:

And that includes, you know, a sense of paranoia, difficulty relating to others, understanding adult relationships in the same way that other people seem to.

Kate:

Um, sometimes they have difficulty with sensory issues, like hot and cold.

Kate:

They won't feel them in the same way that other people feel them, which concepts like sweat lodges or extended periods of time out in the snow or that you know, which some cults want their members to do.

Kate:

And the leader can do it.

Kate:

And so there's sort of this demand of like the leader can do it.

Kate:

Why can't you?

Kate:

And the answer is the leader can do it because sometimes they have a schizophrenia process happening that allows them to dissociate from the fact that they're freezing their ass off.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

I liked the way you look at it.

Josh:

Cause, cause I would have never, when I'm talking about cults, most of the time and I, I see these, these traits and these tendencies, I always think it's part of their grift.

Josh:

I think it's, I, I read it as, oh, they're doing this because they want them to follow them.

Josh:

They want to, they want complete control, but I could see that in, in, and maybe it is like some cases, maybe that is the case where, or the cult is just like the call leader is just a deck basically.

Josh:

Um, but I do like your interpretation that maybe they are just like, some of them could be schizophrenia or have schizophrenia tendencies and maybe they actually do.

Josh:

Fully believe in some of the stuff that's going on and, and have those, uh, sensory was a deprivation

Kate:

or, um, sensory issue, different ways of interpreting sensory input.

Kate:

I mean, Jim Jones, for instance, Well, we believe had schizophrenia.

Kate:

Very interesting.

Kate:

And he got very paranoid and now it could have been in his case, uh, methamphetamine, induced

Josh:

schizophrenia, drugs

Kate:

did a whole lot of drugs, but the drugs, he didn't do all of the drugs.

Kate:

True.

Kate:

He did a specific, you know, he did uppers, right?

Kate:

Which, like I said, you know, caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants as is methamphetamine.

Kate:

Um, which was his drug of choice.

Kate:

Cocaine was just one of his personal favorites.

Kate:

And those do tend to help people in the, in the short-term they tend to help people process.

Kate:

Like there's a reason we don't tell people, just do cocaine about it.

Kate:

Like it's not actually all

Josh:

that effective.

Kate:

But when someone's, self-medicating like you can learn a lot about a person's tendencies by what their drug of choice is.

Kate:

And so Jim Jones, for sure, also not a member of the cult, but don't be a Dick

Josh:

he's not allowed.

Josh:

Well, he's dead.

Josh:

So

Josh:

that's fair.

Josh:

I think there's a few people that might be on that list.

Josh:

That's very interesting.

Josh:

I liked that.

Josh:

Take restructures.

Josh:

A lot of what I did.

Josh:

I said about Jim Jones in that episode, but that's, that's very cool.

Josh:

I like that.

Josh:

Well, not like that, but you know what I mean?

Josh:

I

Kate:

think it's interesting.

Kate:

Right.

Kate:

Of course, but I get to make things up because I'm not talking to him about, on the stand anymore.

Kate:

And so I get to just make shit up and it feels, I mean, running a cult is a lot of goddamn work.

Kate:

Like it's a lot of work.

Kate:

You are on call 24 7.

Kate:

And just, I mean, like I said, I have four kids and just when they're little, especially now they're easier in a lot of ways, the older ones in large part, because they fear me in.

Kate:

So perhaps I'm a successful cult leader, but early on when they are, when they're toddlers, when they're first coming into my cult, it's a lot of work.

Kate:

It's a lot in, in, and then to be responsible for other humans and the more they can go out in the world, the more they can screw up in my job as a parents to let go and let them screw up.

Kate:

But if you can't and if you, if you see yourself as this like paternal figure, and you're trying to send them out in the world, but you try to control everything they do like that's exhausting.

Kate:

Why would you do that?

Kate:

If there's no.

Kate:

What do you get?

Kate:

You got to get, be getting something

Josh:

up.

Josh:

Yeah, no, you got to let the bird fly from the nest eventually.

Josh:

I mean, like they'll come back and you can be there for them when they need you, but

Kate:

it's the theory.

Kate:

You got to make yourself obsolete.

Kate:

Exactly.

Kate:

And so, you know, is a cult leader.

Kate:

Then there's something that they are getting out of being in charge of other people.

Kate:

It's not just a power trip because they could go into politics.

Kate:

If that was the case and they could make it have weekends off.

Kate:

Do you know what I mean?

Kate:

Like they could, they could, they could become a business executive or they could go into medicine or there's a lot of places where sociopaths can be really highly effective just saying.

Kate:

Choosing to go the coal route.

Kate:

There's, there's a heavy buy-in I think, I don't think they fake it in a conscious way, just because why would you, why, why would you, why would you buy maybe I'm just really lazy, like that is also quite possible.

Josh:

Or maybe you're just trying to find the better and people.

Josh:

Oh no, no,

Kate:

no, no.

Kate:

I'm cynical as all.

Kate:

Hell.

Kate:

So I just, but I'm re I'm, I'm really lazy.

Kate:

And so I feel like there's gotta be some sort of reward that you're getting, if you are doing this thing and, and you must really, really believe in what you do.

Josh:

Right.

Josh:

And I mean, we're getting way off topic, but that's okay.

Josh:

I love this discussion.

Josh:

Uh, like to my world, this is the thing like, and some courts I, when they're making money and stuff like that, that's when I'm like, okay, this is a grift.

Josh:

I don't know if they truly believe in it.

Josh:

Or if it's a cult that it burns, burns quick.

Josh:

Like it's a couple of years maybe.

Josh:

And it's done.

Josh:

That's when I'm like, okay, those people were probably Grifters.

Josh:

They were just in it for the money.

Josh:

The fame was the sex sex.

Josh:

Sometimes, sometimes it's just the power over people.

Josh:

But then yeah, there are the calls that are longer.

Josh:

Like they have longer-term goals in there.

Josh:

They're trying to keep everyone together and just like, really, like, they're not taking any money.

Josh:

And it's, those are the people that I think fall, maybe fall into your category of, they truly believe what they're after.

Josh:

No mine personally, but your theory that you're bringing to the podcast,

Kate:

I'm just saying like, I guess I don't, I don't actually want to call it like that's too much work too

Josh:

much.

Josh:

That's why we just talk about them.

Josh:

We don't start one wink, wink.

Kate:

Where, where are we?

Kate:

We, we're not being a Dick.

Josh:

We were not being a Dick.

Josh:

You're you're correct about that.

Josh:

We just talked about the color code.

Josh:

Despite the question will tactics that Stuart used to teach his followers.

Josh:

The forever families ranks continued to swell by 1972, they had grown from two fellowship houses in Allentown to seven, including some that were located in nearby towns.

Josh:

A member was even dropped off in Cleveland, Ohio to start a chapter there.

Josh:

Life in the forever family seemed normal enough modeled after Stewart's understanding of biblical church structure members lived communally while Stewart and his family had their own separate apart.

Josh:

The majority of his followers were conference and had been Christians for less than a year.

Josh:

They were also in their late teens or early twenties, which made them perceive the 37 year old steward as a parental and authoritative figure, which meant that they were more than willing to do everything and anything he said.

Josh:

So just as you said, a parent parental figure, a big thing is they usually do target younger people because they don't have quite the life experience or because they're trying to rebel in some way, or they're looking for some sort of purpose in life.

Josh:

And if they happen to stumble across some random person giving out pamphlets at two in the morning in the rain two in the morning in the rain there, they're more likely to go and experience that.

Josh:

Someone with bills and family.

Josh:

They're not going to just go off and sign up for some, some crazy religious fanatical group.

Josh:

The forever family adopted a rather odd way of speaking a language that combined contemporary slang, the figure system, the color code and trail isms, or a unique turn of phrase that Stuart claimed to have invented.

Josh:

For instance, old people were referred to as cows while the youth were called lambs or sheep.

Josh:

On the other hand, those who believed to be perverted were labeled as swine Stuarts to himself started saying praise God after each.

Josh:

And every statement initially, the sound is spiritual and mystical as time wore on, though, it became clear that it was a verbal.

Kate:

Which Tourette's is also neurologically tied in with schizophrenia.

Kate:

They're in the same part of the brain.

Kate:

So I'm saying

Josh:

your, your theory for this one is actually falling very like in line with what he's doing.

Josh:

So that's, I mean, poor guy, but he's.

Josh:

Yeah, it was kind of a Dick to be like, there's tons of people with schizophrenia who live normal lives and don't

Kate:

like, that's the thing

Josh:

they don't try and ruin people's lives.

Josh:

So

Kate:

that's well, but, but, but this does sort of Pauline too, if you are not diagnosed with what, like, whether it's schizophrenia or whether he has OCD or whether he has Tourette's or whether he is ADHD, like there's something in that part

Kate:

And it sounds like somewhere in there as falling apart for her, our friend, the connection's lost.

Kate:

Yeah.

Kate:

And when you don't get diagnosed, You don't get treated.

Kate:

And when you don't get treated, you do the best you can to try to put together a life that has some purpose and meaning and feels effective.

Kate:

But that doesn't mean you do well.

Kate:

And it can mean that you end up doing a lot of damage.

Josh:

So, so if anything you take from this episode, it's, if you are having trouble, definitely seek some, seek some help.

Josh:

Yes, please.

Josh:

It's never been easier.

Josh:

And, uh, it's becoming less of a stigma, uh, which I think is amazing

Kate:

if you, if you really, if you really, if you're starting to feel like you're hearing direct voices from God, or are you starting to feel like you have special answers that no one else seems to have at all, it, there are two possibilities.

Kate:

One is that you are just that special and you do have the, the answer that no one else in the known universe has figured out thus far and which case that's a lot of responsibility.

Kate:

Yep.

Kate:

And it's going to mean a lot of work or maybe your brain weasels or screaming in some way, shape or form.

Kate:

And maybe your brain is, is, is firing in a different way.

Kate:

So go in and get tested and get, get assessed by a psychologist because either you will get a diagnosis that you can then pursue different kinds of treatment.

Kate:

It doesn't just mean drugs.

Kate:

There are different kinds of treatment or the psychiatrists psychologists can say to you, look, you're fine.

Kate:

You don't have anything wrong with you.

Kate:

Then you can Lord it over everybody else being like, look, see, they said, I'm fine.

Kate:

Right?

Kate:

So it's a win either

Josh:

way.

Josh:

I mean, yeah, you're exactly right.

Josh:

If, if you do have the next equals MC squared formula and you want to just make sure that you're not, you're in your right state of mind, what's the harm.

Josh:

If they say you're okay, then you've got the answer and that's a win-win now that's, that's a, that's a great perspective.

Josh:

It's hard to say exactly what drew people to Stuart with his shocking words and oftentimes abusive language.

Josh:

However, the 1970s experienced social people, like no other brought about by religious and define atmosphere that characterize most of the 1960s because of this, the American youth were starved for meaning and purpose in their life.

Josh:

With most of them seeking answers to questions that they themselves couldn't think of.

Josh:

Unfortunately, they found what they were looking for in Stewart, thanks to his hippie charm and unorthodox way combined with his natural intelligence and self-confidence for wayward youth.

Josh:

His was the path that they wanted to take in 1976.

Josh:

Stewart changed the name of the organization from the forever family to the church of Bible understandings or C O B U for short.

Josh:

I might just say Cobra.

Josh:

That sounds cool.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

So he made this change perhaps in a bid to make them sound more legitimate and professional and less like a hippie movement before long fellowship houses had sprung up across the United States and camp.

Josh:

Including in Connecticut, North Carolina and Virginia, with the rapid expansion of cob you Stuart began seeing and fonting himself as the reincarnation of Elijah and John, the Baptist, his preaching, and began to

Josh:

He started traveling to the various fellowship houses, which he referred to as centers in order to preach and share his vision even more.

Josh:

I don't know why he specifically chose Elijah and John the Baptist, but those where he Huey, he identified most with which

Kate:

were they?

Kate:

Not both new Testament figures.

Kate:

Here's where I show the fact that I am not a Christian myself, but I think they're both in the new Testament, but he's leaning into the old Testament stuff.

Kate:

And man, this guy has got it.

Kate:

Like if, if, okay, let me tell you that if I can catch.

Kate:

In a doctrinal matters.

Kate:

That's a big deal because I know shit about shit when it comes to doctrinal matters.

Kate:

And so the fact that he's just getting the new and old testaments messed up is interesting.

Kate:

It's a decision that he made.

Josh:

I don't know why he chose those ones, but, and I, and I think you're right.

Josh:

I think those are in the new Testament.

Josh:

It's been a while since I've gone through the Bible.

Josh:

Um, but, uh, I believe you are correct.

Josh:

I think those are in the new.

Josh:

As the only licensed pilot in the organization, it was easy for Stewart to hop from one state to another, oftentimes accompanied by 18 year old, Gail Gillepsie his acting secretary.

Josh:

He flew an airplane that cob you owned convincing members that witnessing and converting others was much more economical with a private plane rather than fly commercial.

Josh:

So this is where I'm like, oh, it seems like a bit of a grift.

Josh:

It seems a little

Kate:

because maybe he buys in doesn't mean he can't also be a grifter.

Kate:

Like people, people are complicated, they can do

Josh:

multiple things.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

And you actually, and you know, I think that's probably, they, some people grift until they believe it too.

Josh:

So yeah, you're probably right.

Josh:

Exactly.

Josh:

The organization may have started out with a single airplane to be used by Stewart for witnessing other states at a moment's notice.

Josh:

But as the years went by the number of aircraft grew ultimately cob.

Josh:

You would own a total of four different planes, including a jet and a helicopter to be used in their Haitian operations.

Josh:

The latter would end up being destroyed in a fiery crash.

Josh:

An accident caused by Stewart while he was taking flying lessons.

Josh:

God

Kate:

did not want him to have a helicopter is the answer.

Josh:

And I guess he didn't know how to fly a helicopter, but he knew how to fly airplanes because he was taking flying lessons for the helicopter.

Kate:

I mean, there are a lot more dangerous, so

Josh:

that's very true.

Josh:

Cob used growth skyrocketed, but Stuart's family life was in shambles.

Josh:

His wife, Shirley accused him of infidelity and even poured a bowl of sugar on his head while the two were at a local diner,

Kate:

that'll teach him.

Josh:

Yeah, whatever was closest.

Josh:

Just pour it on him.

Josh:

Stuart filed for divorce against Shirley accusing her of adultery.

Josh:

So this is the equivalent of you.

Josh:

Can't fire me.

Josh:

I quit kind of thing.

Josh:

As the divorce proceedings wore on, he managed to persuade some members to kidnap his children, taking them to fellowship houses across the United States and Canada.

Josh:

When Shirley who had visitation rights stopped by to see the kids, they were coached with scripted answers to our questions and were trained to deny their father's involvement in their lives.

Josh:

So, uh, those aren't good things.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

And newspaper articles later on allegations surface that Stuart deliberately set out to trap Shirley into committing adultery.

Josh:

There were claims that he dropped her off at bars and clubs while wearing seductive apparel.

Josh:

Moreover, it was claimed that co BU members were tasked with keeping an eye on her at all hours of the day, relaying her movements and the people she interacted with to Stuart.

Josh:

He also reportedly castigated to his followers and humiliated those who came into her to.

Josh:

This is that, uh, what would you call it?

Josh:

The, uh, Saturday?

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

Saturday is a very good word for it.

Josh:

I was going to say I'm like, he always looking over his shoulder and, uh, like suspicious of people around him.

Kate:

Paranoia, paranoia.

Kate:

Yeah.

Kate:

He works as well.

Josh:

In one instance, one member called him out for his poor treatment of Shirley is inappropriate sexual advances towards one of his followers and his questionable relationship with Gail Gillepsie in response, Stewart openly humiliated him in front of

Josh:

So it all was true.

Josh:

He'd just put on a front for some reason that same year he decided to get their cob use older members into the Manhattan training center.

Josh:

One of the business ventures that had served as an institution where young Christians would be formally trained and schooled.

Josh:

However, those who worked there were subjected to extreme forms of verbal abuse with Stuart openly attacking their weaknesses and shortcomings.

Josh:

The trauma that the members experienced at the MTC would haunt them for years to come long after the institution had been abolished.

Josh:

Oh, so we're getting into the, uh, the abuse part of the cult.

Josh:

So it's the fun part as being sarcastic?

Josh:

No one clip that,

Kate:

uh, yeah.

Kate:

No, not all of that fight.

Kate:

No, but that is you start pushing boundaries and start pushing boundaries, and then you've got to maintain the boundaries.

Josh:

That's true.

Josh:

Or you lose control or you feel like you're losing control.

Josh:

Besides the MTC steward also formed the Philadelphia lamb house in 1979 and the Brooklyn young sheep house a few years later,

Kate:

it's back to kindergarten again, a house and sheep and pigs.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

Before your, your theory.

Josh:

I would've thought he, and so a lot of cults do this where they rename everyone to either one name or they give everyone different names kind of thing, as well as themselves.

Josh:

And I think that cuts them off from their personal life.

Josh:

It's like the last thing, their name is their last lasting.

Josh:

So I would have assumed it was that they were just, you're all lambs, you're all sheep and I'm Elijah or John, the Baptist, whatever.

Josh:

But yours, your theory might make sense where you just.

Josh:

You're all lands because God said so or something like that,

Kate:

like lambs.

Kate:

And so like he, in some way made me believes they're personifying some lamb Bish Snus or something

Josh:

fair.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

I think that's very interesting way to look at it.

Josh:

These were also schools, although their lessons were highly skewed towards Stewart's teachings.

Josh:

For instance, the Philadelphia lamb house only had three courses.

Josh:

What just happened to you the next few days and faith or feelings?

Kate:

Oh my God.

Kate:

I've I've taken those courses basically.

Kate:

That's that's basically grad school for psychology.

Josh:

You were a lamb for a bit, for sure.

Josh:

It's.

Josh:

Eventually the cob used business ventures would make Stewart a millionaire in 2017, the old good New York based retail stores that they had developed with funnel over 6.8 million into their coffers.

Josh:

Most of which they got to keep as a religious and nonprofit organization.

Josh:

So got all of those goddamned tax breaks.

Josh:

So we're kind of getting to the current day stuff and there's actually been quite a few major events that have happened.

Josh:

I think it was last year.

Josh:

Uh, so we'll, we'll kind of get into that right now.

Josh:

In July, 1977, Stewart began to introduce the idea of conducting missions in Haiti, building orphanages for the countries, many abandoned children.

Josh:

He began to use this initiative to manipulate his followers saying that those who left cou were also abandoning the improv Haitian kids.

Josh:

This mission may have resulted in a wealth of good things for him.

Josh:

But it recently came under fire, literally on fire on February 13th, 2020, almost.

Josh:

I think it will almost be a, a year from when the sleeve releases, this will be next week.

Josh:

So yeah, pretty close to a year ago, fire swept through one of cob use orphanages in Ken scoff, Haiti killing a total of 15 children.

Josh:

Half of the victims were babies and toddlers, as well as kids between the ages of 10 and 11.

Josh:

This devastating tragedy only raised more awareness to the whole slew of controversies that have plagued the organization for you.

Josh:

Especially since the fire started because the orphanages was using candles instead of generators or battery, despite being situated in a country that frequently experienced power failures on a massive scale.

Josh:

So yeah, they're making millions of dollars.

Josh:

They don't have to pay taxes and they can't, they can't seemingly afford to power these orphanages properly.

Josh:

And it causes fire, which unfortunately 15 kids had to pay for it, which is terrible.

Josh:

C O B U had lost accreditation for its two Haitian orphanages.

Josh:

After a series of inspections were launched in November, 2012, their institutions were faulted for overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and inadequately trained staff.

Josh:

Much of the global media contrasted this with the organizations income and business ventures.

Josh:

And one of the more famous comparisons, a limestone mantle from Waldorf's a Storia that kobu was selling through its antique retail store old good things carried a price tag of $8,500.

Josh:

On the other hand, they only offered compensation to the families of the dead children.

Josh:

Uh, some between 50 and a hundred dollars along with $150 funeral related costs.

Josh:

Ooh.

Josh:

So they're basically saying, and this is max, your kid's life was worth $250.

Josh:

That's a really shitty thing for something that was like, they were your responsibility.

Josh:

You should have kept them safe.

Josh:

Like, yeah, that's

Kate:

not great.

Kate:

Great.

Josh:

Haitian prosecutors also launched a criminal investigation into the homes.

Josh:

Some kids said that they were being treated kindly while others claim that physical abuse, social isolation and beatings were common.

Josh:

According to 19 year old Anika Francoise who was in sex when she first entered cob use Haitian orphanage.

Josh:

Children who wet the bed were physically punished, stretched across the table and spanked by a staff member.

Josh:

She said, quote, they would often produce marks.

Josh:

In which case the monitor would give you a bath with warm salt water unquote investigation into cob use mission in the Haiti are still currently ongoing since it's only been kind of a year since the whole thing broke out.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

So there are doing terrible things in Haiti and making millions of dollars.

Josh:

So I don't care if you have schizophrenia running out, you're kind of a shit

Kate:

person.

Kate:

Well, and, and you, because he can, he may be the, the leader of the cult, but there are other people that are running the orphanages.

Kate:

There are other people that are running the finances, that kind of thing.

Kate:

You know, you end up with a pretty typical corporate structure in any cult of any given size that's making money.

Kate:

And so yeah, this particular dude may or may not have symptoms of schizophrenia, but there are people who do not, who know better who are just selling children down the river kind of literally.

Kate:

Yeah.

Kate:

And also let's just point out if we could name the store into the antique store called old good things.

Kate:

And it's old with an E all the old.

Kate:

Good things is the name of the store.

Kate:

I want to talk to their marketing

Josh:

department and congratulate them on such a great naming job.

Josh:

I

Kate:

guess I know what it is that they're selling.

Kate:

Don't die

Josh:

much like their pamphlets.

Josh:

You know what you're getting into.

Josh:

As soon as you read the title, I'm

Kate:

surprised the name of the store.

Kate:

Isn't a mile and a

Josh:

half long.

Josh:

They couldn't fit it on the New York building.

Josh:

It would go too far.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

So I mean, Stuart trail was in charge when these orphanages were being set up.

Josh:

He is no longer with us.

Josh:

He passed away in his sleep on October 9th, 2018.

Josh:

While the ranks of the church of Bible understandings have certainly dwindled through the years, his death was still largely mourned by what remained of his followers and idolizes.

Josh:

However, those who left the organization of their own volition felt conflicted over his death.

Josh:

He was a man who brought them to Christianity and introduced him to the word of God.

Josh:

But he had also abused and manipulated them and they questioned all the things that they did and were forced to do well within the church.

Josh:

In particular, they mauled over their witnessing and missions.

Josh:

Were these done with genuine intention of bringing people into the light of Jesus Christ or were they purely motivated by stewards, greed, his staunch belief in the myth that he had created for himself and his deep desire to be looked up to, to be deemed as a person superior to everyone else?

Josh:

Unfortunately, it seems as if these questions will continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Josh:

So that is the church of Bible understanding and the forever.

Josh:

It's still around today.

Josh:

Obviously still operating, still, probably making millions, but seemingly dwindling.

Josh:

I think it's interesting that some of the cult members are conflicted and they think he might've done good for them.

Josh:

You have

Kate:

to, I think you, I think you have to believe that there was something good in it and that you pulled something good out of it.

Kate:

Cause otherwise you

Josh:

lose your mind otherwise, what is your life worth?

Josh:

Right?

Josh:

Like you've you were either conned or you, I believe

Kate:

that you were, you were acting under the best of possible intentions at the time.

Kate:

And frankly, it's, it's a good thing that they're questioning it rather than going on and collecting more people into COVID Chi's mission here.

Josh:

COVID that should have been the name let's let's rebrand it.

Josh:

Do that.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

Yeah, no, you're you're right.

Josh:

It is a.

Josh:

It is definitely good that they are questioning it.

Josh:

And they, the people, all the people that have left anyway, and that they're reassessing their lives.

Josh:

And yeah, I mean, I feel bad for them because they were kind of just conned in when they were young.

Josh:

But at the same time, maybe God has brought them some sort of happiness in their life.

Josh:

So who's to say whether it was a total good or total bad to their life, you know what I mean?

Josh:

And

Kate:

there's not much, that's either no world.

Kate:

That's great.

Kate:

It's true.

Kate:

It's very rare that anything is an absolute.

Kate:

And I think that may be the issue with a lot of cults is.

Kate:

They sell you the belief that there is an absolute good or an absolute evil in the world.

Kate:

And that just isn't held up by reality.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

Everything's not black and white.

Josh:

It's all, there's more gray than there is black and white

Kate:

as hell.

Kate:

Right?

Kate:

Like birds and shit.

Josh:

There's other names.

Josh:

It's now time for my favorite segment of the podcast.

Josh:

Call critique the segment where my guests and I give each episodes called a rating at a five stars and give comments on it as if you're rating it on Yelp.

Josh:

I then go to Yelp and add the reviews.

Josh:

Sometimes it works.

Josh:

Sometimes they shut my page down immediately, which I think they did to my last.

Josh:

So does that make sense?

Josh:

We're going to, we're going to just kind of rate it at a five.

Josh:

Let's do it five.

Josh:

It's up to you.

Josh:

Whether five is good or fives best.

Josh:

Are we

Kate:

doing five stars?

Kate:

Are we doing.

Josh:

We'll do five Fred's.

Josh:

I like that.

Josh:

I like that Yelp only allows me to do stars, but I will, we will consider it as friends.

Kate:

Yeah.

Kate:

I mean, because then also I get to do like three and a half or whatever, and you get to wonder what happened.

Kate:

Just

Josh:

cut it.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

True.

Josh:

You have to tell us which half actually it's just so that we have to know if it's a good three and a half or a bad three.

Josh:

So what would you give the church of Bible?

Josh:

Understand?

Kate:

Oh, uh, this is, is relative to other cults in its effectiveness and goodness or its effectiveness and horribleness.

Josh:

Honestly, there's no scale.

Josh:

You can call it.

Josh:

There's a

Kate:

scale.

Kate:

I can do whatever.

Kate:

Okay.

Kate:

Then I'm going to give it like a three and a half.

Kate:

Okay.

Kate:

It, because it is not as like to me a one Fred cult is going to be the cult that fizzles out under a very short amount of time and does zero demonstrable good at all, and perhaps ends up with its compound in Waco, burning down.

Kate:

Like that gets one Fred, as a, for instance, the most recent, you know, the former American administration presidential administration one Fred.

Kate:

Okay, well, you know where it's like a five Fred cult would be one where minimal number of people are hurt and a maximum number of people are positively impacted and it has some staying power.

Kate:

And I am flatly refusing to talk about how many Fred's I think the church of Scientology would get, because those people are terrifying.

Kate:

So good luck with that.

Kate:

But I would be.

Kate:

It would be as well.

Kate:

I, um, yeah, I have stories about that with my own show where I had somebody come on and mention it real off handed that like, Hey, I was, um, a family member of mine used to work for Scientology.

Kate:

Do you want to talk about that?

Kate:

And I was like, no, no, you really don't.

Kate:

Thank you because yes I do.

Kate:

But no, I don't.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

You're like, ah, I'm good.

Josh:

I don't need that heat.

Josh:

I can't afford

Kate:

a lawyer.

Kate:

That's where I'm at right now.

Kate:

So there's that.

Kate:

So I would give you these guys, like, I mean, cause obviously with the disastrous experiences with the orphanages, children died, that's terrible, but they died in a way that was, you know, it was arguably not deliberate and arguably in a single instance rather than a sustainable.

Kate:

I'm I'm of the opinion.

Kate:

When you look at kids who are abused versus neglected, that it actually takes a lot more effort to neglect a child because you can abuse a kid in a split

Josh:

second.

Josh:

Right.

Josh:

But you're still giving them attention, I

Kate:

guess.

Kate:

Well, and just, you could abuse, you can hit a kid.

Kate:

Mr.

Kate:

Second in, in it's done, whereas neglect takes time and it takes effort.

Kate:

It's hard to neglect a child in and still be allowed to keep them within your, your sphere of influence or whatever.

Kate:

And you know, and so there are these, there are other cults where there, there are these sustained abuses, either of children FLDS, for instance, type cult or of adults.

Kate:

No, you just covered the anthill kids.

Kate:

Right.

Kate:

And there were some pretty impressive abuses that occurred.

Kate:

So those would get fewer Fred's to me, this doesn't get five Fred's because.

Kate:

Children died and because they didn't do doesn't sound like they really had that much of an impact on society.

Josh:

That's probably fair.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

I mean, they're, the leaders are probably millionaires, so I'm sure they are doing something in politics.

Josh:

They're probably got their fingers and things.

Josh:

Yeah, there, they don't, haven't had a widespread impact religiously.

Josh:

Probably I would

Kate:

say.

Kate:

Yeah.

Kate:

Which w w one might imagine, would be the point difficult.

Kate:

So, you know yes.

Kate:

So I just, I feel like weak watered down, you know?

Kate:

And, and, and so like would not, would not return,

Josh:

which, which half of Fred are you going left to right up the

Kate:

middle.

Kate:

Okay.

Kate:

Like mostly torso.

Josh:

That's fun.

Josh:

That's awesome.

Josh:

I will Fred's is a concept more than a person, so it's fine.

Josh:

I will, I will add this as well.

Josh:

I, I would also probably give it a three or three and a half Fred's mostly because yeah.

Josh:

Obviously the kids stuff.

Josh:

They should have named it Cobra, Kai.

Josh:

And I think they would've got a four star.

Josh:

So,

Kate:

you know, that's a little bit less than the kindergarten imagery and a catchier name.

Kate:

And I might've bumped it up to a, for myself.

Josh:

Exactly.

Josh:

So take notes, everyone don't do it, but

Kate:

I mean, if

Josh:

you're going to do it to a, whatever, you're going to do it, do it right.

Josh:

Like.

Josh:

Thank you, everyone for listening, Kate, please tell my audience about ignorance was bliss and where they can find

Kate:

it.

Kate:

Ignorance was bliss is I basically I'm I collect stories.

Kate:

I am a former forensic psychologist and crisis clinician.

Kate:

So it started off as very true crime.

Kate:

And over time has sort of just evolved into talking to people of all genres.

Kate:

Sometimes I'm talking to people about a specific topic or a set theme.

Kate:

Sometimes I even have scripts and things like that.

Kate:

Like we're real rarely, but it happens.

Kate:

But the idea is just to collect stories and either get to know to allow people to get to know a creator, you know, a writer or a podcast, or in a different environment, you know, and.

Kate:

Or it's about kind of exploring the, you know, the side topics and the, the what ifs, because that was the whole point of going into forensic psychology for me, was people would ask these questions, like, why would somebody do such a thing?

Kate:

Or how did this happen or whatever.

Kate:

And I kind of understand that stuff.

Kate:

Like, I, I I've sat with serial killers.

Kate:

I know what they describe anyway.

Kate:

And it makes a little too much sense to me.

Kate:

Sometimes it's disturbing how much sense it makes, but, but so like if I can make that make sense, and then I can make an anxiety disorder make sense, then I can make creation of a podcast.

Kate:

Makes

Josh:

sense.

Josh:

That makes sense to me.

Josh:

You made sense of your podcasts.

Josh:

That was, that was perfect.

Josh:

Yeah.

Josh:

Where, where can they find your

Kate:

podcast IWB podcast?

Kate:

And that's the same as well on all social media.

Kate:

And I am online all the time, like way too much so they can, they can pay me on Twitter and Facebook

Josh:

whenever I think we all are online way too much right now with the lockdown.

Josh:

But are you guys still locked down?

Josh:

I'd actually done the,

Kate:

we never fell.

Kate:

That's a whole, that's a complicated topic.

Josh:

That's all their episode.

Kate:

Well, it kind of is Massachusetts has never gone into formal lockdown.

Kate:

Like again, they have never been done there.

Kate:

There's never been any consequences to ignoring restrictions.

Kate:

Really like some financial, like we're told.

Kate:

There'll be financial consequences and it doesn't happen.

Kate:

Right.

Kate:

So it's kind of, but I am auto immunocompromised.

Kate:

I have an autoimmune disorder.

Kate:

And so my four kids and my husband and I have been within the same four walls for almost a year, except for medical incidents.

Josh:

So it's wearing on you.

Kate:

I mean, the kid, like I actually quite like my kids, I worked very hard to make enjoyable humans and that's part of why I don't have anymore.

Kate:

You know what I mean?

Kate:

It took a lot to get for that way.

Josh:

So before who was the limit?

Josh:

Yeah, that's fair.

Josh:

Well, I appreciate you having, having you on Kate.

Josh:

It was, uh, you're very insightful and very interesting way of looking at people.

Josh:

And I, I enjoy that, so right.

Josh:

If you, if you enjoyed having Kate on indefinitely, Alyson and subscribe to her podcast.

Josh:

Like she said, unofficially over 350 episodes.

Josh:

Did you say,

Kate:

well, I'm over, I've recorded almost 350.

Kate:

I I'm about to release, I think 296.

Kate:

So come out

Josh:

tomorrow.

Josh:

So, so there you go.

Josh:

Almost a unofficially 300 episodes around that.

Josh:

So if you're, if you're bored, if you have a long commute, if you're locked down really

Kate:

long commute, I worry for people like each episode is standard.

Kate:

And so I, I expect people to dip in and dip out based on if they're interested in this topic or this person or whatever.

Kate:

And I'll, I'll talk to somebody who's like, I've listened to every episode and I'm like, I'm so sorry.

Josh:

You're like, how did you do this?

Josh:

I am so

Kate:

sorry.

Kate:

I worry a lot about them.

Josh:

So, so definitely give ignorance was bliss a listen, if you're loving this podcast, be sure to give us a review and tell your friends about it.

Josh:

If you want to keep up to date with the podcast, you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Josh:

At let's underscore calls.

Josh:

You can follow our facebookPage@facebook.com slash let's start a call pod, or you can go to let's start a call podcast.com and sign up for our newsletter.

Josh:

Thank you, Fred for listening and thank you Kate for coming on today.