It was a brilliantly sunny afternoon, but the living room of the house at 1828 Taylor Avenue in Fort Washington was almost dark, heavy brown paper taped over the windows, the drapes drawn.

Inside, 37 men, many of them convicted criminals, all of them addicts, sat rigid in even rows of folding chairs. Two women sat on a sofa, their fingers tracing verses from the New Testament book of James highlighted in yellow ink.

The Rev. Robert "Shine" Freeman was holding a Bible study at the Save the Seed drug treatment ministry. Freeman paced before them, his arms flailing, his voice rising from a whisper to a shout that shook the framed and autographed photo of Lt. Col. Oliver L. North atop the big-screen TV.

"Gird up your loins," Freeman shouted. He grasped his crotch and gyrated. "Oh, gird up your loins."

The topic for the daily Bible lesson at Save the Seed is always the same: Sin. Subtopics: drugs, masturbation, oral sex, rape and the ever-present lust demon.

"Sex. That's the biggest thing that holds our people in bondage. I preach on sex more than anything," Freeman said. "I use the words from the street because these people {are} from the street and that's the only talk they understand."

He calls himself a "reverend," ordained, he said, in October 1988 by the pastor of a now-defunct Capitol Heights Holiness church. He is licensed in the District's Superior Court to perform marriages, but said that he has had no formal religious training.

He took the name of his program, Save the Seed, from sermons preached by Pastor John A. Cherry of the Full Gospel AME Zion Church, his program's chief sponsor.

The sermons caution that black men are in danger of being eradicated by drug abuse, lust, pursuit of money and power and sin and urge a return to spiritual values.

"My thing is to correct the black man," said Freeman, who is black. "It isn't just the drugs that are killing them. It's the sin -- the lust demon, the money demon, the power demon, but especially the lust demon."

On this May afternoon, Freeman reeled from scripture to scripture, whipsawing from Old Testament to New, his students following along.

The Bible lesson went for two hours and 20 minutes, a short session, by Freeman's standards. The Bible lessons, he boasted, can begin at any hour of the day or night and last 12 hours, 14 hours. That, he said, is his way of controlling the people under his care.

One by one, the people stood to give their testimonials. Their words, nearly identical, came like a common prayer.

"The drugs weren't my problem. It was sin," said Ronald Richardson, a former operating room technician. "Reverend Freeman showed me the sin and ministered to me."

Lawanda Brown, a self-described heroin and crack addict, said she, too, had overcome her problem through Freeman's ministrations. "Drugs weren't my problem. Sin was my problem," said Brown, who had dropped out of the program by the reporter's fourth visit a month later.

Weeks later, asked about Brown, Freeman declared that she was a "Pharisee" who had gone back to the streets.

"But," he said, "she'll be back. They always come back to me."