COBU still has a presence in the New York City and several other cities. It left the carpet business for its more successful architectural antique business called Olde Good Things. COBU was recently in the news when Haitian authorities threatened to close its orphanages down because of the poor conditions there. News stories contrasted the high earnings of these stores with the run down condition of the orphanages.
This book describes how James LaRue, a young seeker of truth, was approached in a mall by a cult member and how he joined the group and stayed in it for fourteen years. It is not as much a history of The Church of Bible Understanding as it is a story from the viewpoint of the average member of a cult. Though James's descriptions of daily cult life, the reader has a front row view of the manipulation, lies, harassment and abuse practiced by the cult's leadership and particularly by Stewart Traill, COBU's self-appointed pastor who had "the only true method of Bible interpretation," a man who portrayed himself as a right Christian example and the restorer of Christianity to its original purity (which he said had been lost since the time of the Apostles), who, behind closed doors, kept a harem of young women while denying marriage to his followers under the pretext that they were not faithful enough to God to be able to get married. He was a man who preached poverty, chastity and obedience to his followers, while amassing a private fortune, having many female devotees and being accountable to no one.
Stewart Traill began his career preaching about being born again and the second coming of Christ, but over the years, his teachings increasingly centered on death, hell and damnation. The man who once told his followers to go out into the highways and byways to compel people to come to God's kingdom was now slamming the gates of heaven in their faces and telling them they were not worthy of entering and that instead, the fires of hell awaited them.
Many people left the organization because of this treatment, but what this meant for those who remained was that there was a smaller and more dedicated group of those who believed in this way and who were willing to put up with this treatment. This meant an ever-tightening net of social pressure among members to conform to cult life. Fanaticism and a militant way of life replaced church members' original zeal to proclaim the gospel. It was a live-in situation where church members monitored one another and reported to "Brother Stewart," as he was called. The treadmill of work in the church's businesses and sleep deprivation caused by meetings that lasted until the early hours of the morning made sure members were too tired to think rationally, and combined with a highly loaded language and sloganizing that stifled thought, it created an undertow that swept members off the normal moorings of life and along with the current of cult life. The story documents James's entry into the cult as a true believer, his experiences there and finally, his effort to come to terms with this way of life, to understand the processes he was being subjected to and controlled by and finally, how he was able to break free from its influence.