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KIT Staff U.S.: Ramón Sender, Charles Lamar, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)
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The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from inside and from outside the Bruderhof. We reserve the right to edit submissions according to guidelines discussed at numerous KIT conferences. Obviously, it's seldom easy to know exactly how best to carry out KIT's mission of allowing many voices and various points of view to be heard. We do not, and cannot, vouch for the validity of any opinion or assertion appearing in the KIT Newsletter. The opinions expressed in the letters that we publish must remain those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflect those of KIT editors or staff.
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KEEP IN TOUCH
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Toll-Free Phone for former Bruderhofers in need of advice and referrals: 1 888 6 KINDER
For ongoing discussions between ex-members, members and other interested parties, access the newsgroup alt.support.bruderhof
We should also point out that Matisse Enzer and Internet Literary Consultants allowed us a free guest account at their web server for many years. Thank you, Matisse!
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The Rocky Gap Rendezvous and Reunion 1998, on May 16-17. Call 1-800 672 9089 for further information.
The U.K. get-together at Lower Shaw Farm on July 24-26 (see the March KIT for details), and the Taylor-Cavanna wedding, also at Lower Shaw Farm the following weekend, August 1-2.
The Friendly Crossways Conference in Massachusetts, August 7th-10th, featuring a workshop by exit counselor Steve Hassan on Saturday afternoon.
Address update: Andrew Bazeley, 6904 West Fifth Street, Sioux Falls, SD 57107
Phone number updates: Katherine Brookshire tel: 706 839 6178; Norah Allain in Brazil (as dialled from the USA) 011 55 19 876 1827.
Last year, a flock of scarlet tanagers worked its way down the mountain side, right through our campsite. I think we counted sixteen males feeding in the tops of trees before moving on a bit further to explore the possibilities in the next grove.
There were a few ducks on the lake. Fishing is pretty good - but you will have to have a state license (available at park HQ I believe). Canoes are available for rent - biking is good for the younger kids in the campground area. A nearby valley road leads northward into Pennsylvania and is suitable for biking for adults. Not too steep either! 8 >)
There's some good restaurants nearby for those that don't want the campsite fare.
Last year, surprisingly, the Bruderhof didn't send "observers." They have always known when we would be there and it has appeared as if their outings, coinciding with our own, provided an opportunity for them to "check us out." There is even speculation (based on factual conversation) that they may have sent a private detective down to visit openly with us one year. After meeting us all, I think he quit!
At any rate, it's always a lot of fun. Looking forward to seeing many, plus the new faces who have been in touch.
One of your observations was that all members must shoulder at least some of the responsibility for the wrongs committed because they all "chose that life at some point." I think of my mother, a very devout Jesus-follower and deeply committed member of the Bruderhof. It is hard for me to imagine that she would give her approval to some of what has happened more recently. Still, as you point out, it is in the hands of each of us to participate responsibly in the groups we commit to. To a certain extent, I feel a part of the Bruderhof wrongdoing and perhaps this explains why my love for the people persists and why I want to help make things right again.
Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts with us.
And now on to Hans Zimmermann and your "Mercedes" story. Fablehafft! Kolosal! Unmoeglich! These are some of the Primavera-Deutsch expressions that come to mind when reading your account. Your love for the land, the animals and the time in which you lived are evident in your writing. I love the details! The Guarani words... the names of the horses! I'm sorry you did not include old "Karopeh" and crooked-walking "Mondscheibe" in your account! That's because they were not worth your time training. I got to ride the cast-off " Karopeh." He was kindness walking on bones!
I could picture the nighttime round-ups west of Iba very well. Your descriptions of the rice field were accurate! I wonder if you could some time draw up a plan of Ibate and put names to all the woods and fields and forests. If you could do this for Loma too, you would be doing me a great favor. Perhaps others would care to receive such a drawing from you.
I remember the Isla work camp you refer to. And I remember hearing about the famous futbol match. My brother Haen, I believe, bragged about it upon his return to Isla. He was known for his thunderous "toe-ers" (toe-kicks). Now I have to believe that Delf Fransham also came over from Isla to play. He was a gifted, speedy player. Later, his son Johnny would earn the highest playing honors in high school. Hans, was this match not played in "Mucky Hollow?"
Keep up the good work! I look forward to the next segment.
However, we are hearing back from various sources that you are implying our family reunion is "proof" of our complete reconciliation with the Bruderhof. First of all, if there is to be reconciliation from our perspective, please be kind enough to allow us to declare our feelings in the matter. You do not speak for us and we will not be used by you or the Bruderhof in this manner.
As a consequence of your decision to use our private communication as you have, we no longer feel bound by your request to keep our correspondence out of print. Be informed that we now feel free to publish our entire correspondence in the KIT newsletter and elsewhere and will probably do so -- presuming your apparent lack of good faith is further established by your response (or lack thereof) to this letter.
The conditions set by Marcus for our family reunion reflect very little change in Bruderhof attitude. Both sides of the family were obliged to drive hundreds of miles in mid-winter in order to meet in a restaurant for three hours. Again, while grateful that we were able to meet at all, let us point out that the conditions under which the dinner took place seem to us to be less than ideal. Other brothers and sisters were not invited. Such restrictions are asinine, childish and silly.
When reconciling, one would anticipate being able to discuss the issues that divide us. While we feel no division from our family, they obviously feel we are anti-Bruderhof. Rather than allowing us to discuss our position, Marcus set the parameter to which we adhered. No discussion of issues. Further, you apparently have exactly the same attitude yourself. All correspondence is to be kept out of print; issues raised by us to you are flatly ignored.
Christoph, please remember you approached US to seek forgiveness for "where I have hurt you." Well, we ask you now to state, in writing, that you are seeking forgiveness for the following actions undertaken by the Bruderhof. Since you are the elder, we hold you personally responsible. Failure to respond will be viewed by us as a lack of sincerity in your request for forgiveness. You hurt us in the following ways:
1. You have torn our family apart. Parent from child, brother from sister, grandchild from grandparent. Are you asking our forgiveness for doing this?
2. You have sued us twice, the latter suit for $15,000.000.00. Are you asking our forgiveness for doing this? Have you asked forgiveness of all the other defendants? Have you told our parents you sued us?
3. You had knowledge, at the very least, of an orchestrated harassment campaign towards our toll- free help line. This included the placement of filthy pink stickers which invited obscene calls into the home of Joel and Karen Clement. Are you asking our forgiveness for doing this? Have you asked forgiveness from Joel and Karen? Have you asked forgiveness from those you asked to carry out these vile and degenerate actions?
4. You apparently approved an effort to bring electronic equipment into the Kingston church where you knew we would be meeting with our friends. Are you asking our forgiveness for doing this? Have you asked forgiveness of Rev. Arlene Dawber?
5. All of the things above, done to us, have been done to our personal friends and family as well. Are you asking our forgiveness for doing these things to them by which means you have caused us great pain?
You are going to have to be very specific about the forgiveness you seek of us. No platitudes, no glossing over, no wiggle room. No hedged statements as we've seen from other great moral leaders -- like Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein. May we suggest you re-read Matthew 5: 25 prior to responding to our questions? Very carefully.
How will you then respond to the inevitable questions which will someday be posed by others about a Bruderhof cover-up in the spring of 1993? Have you no respect for the laws of Pennsylvania? Or federal law against criminal conspiracy? This is one of the things we had hoped to discuss privately in mediation -- and it now appears it may be too late for that.
Also, within the last few days, we hear of Joe Keiderling approaching Mel Fros' mother with what Mel knows (and you know) is blatant mischaracterization of his correspondence with you. You have the unmitigated gall to use his sincere effort to establish a useful dialogue against him. Not only that, his aged mother is then placed in a position of hearing only one side of the story before writing to her son, cutting him off from all contact.
Shame on you for such transparent manipulation! There was absolutely no need to bring Mel's mother into the picture except as a tool of coercion to make him stop his criticism of your immoral, illegal and arrogant behavior. Why should she, who is in no position to freely judge the issues, be a party to your "private" correspondence with Mel?
We would also appreciate your comments on the apparent burglaries which have taken place in Phoenix at the home of Hilarion Braun -- and the extraordinary events in Mexico over Christmas.
Christoph, in your last letter, you spoke of the Gospel of Matthew and refer, we believe, to chapter 6, 14-15. We would never disagree that forgiveness is essential. However, there are other verses from the Sermon on the Mount that also apply to the ongoing situation. Matthew 7:15-18 tells us to recognize people's intentions by their actions, not by their words. We stand ready to be reconciled when actions prove to us that your words are sincere.
While it may not be impossible to forgive an unrepentant offender, lack of repentance takes just about all the joy out of it. Even Jesus would agree with that.
There are huge issues still outstanding between the Bruderhof and its former members. Perhaps there has been the tiniest amount of progress in recent weeks (we think of the outreach to Hans-Joerg) but several, besides ourselves, also recognize a continued pattern of manipulation. Perhaps you and others within the Bruderhof fail to recognize how your actions might be interpreted in that manner. Fair or not, that is the belief. And we will not be manipulated.
If this is an inaccurate perception, how can you demonstrate we are wrong?
Let us tell you something. We have no interest in trying to correct every wrong of the past. All we personally seek is a genuine effort to build for the future. The challenge, Christoph, is to change the perceived abusive behavior so that the suffering ends now, with this generation. We have yet to see that effort from the Bruderhof and, without it, your letters or ours won't solve the problems. Surely, such an effort would not go unnoticed by your family members outside the Bruderhof.
We will always cherish our goal of full and open reconciliation with everyone as opposed to isolated and secretive "forgiveness" among the few. The latter, without the former, remains a meaningless exercise leading to continued frustration, anger and pain. Join us in a real effort to achieve this goal, please!
Finally, we ask that you re-open your e-mail to our correspondence. If you choose to respond to this letter (we hope you do), please do so by e-mail. It expedites give and take, reducing the time required to recognize sincerity -- or lack thereof. Mis-impressions may be more quickly corrected. We promise not to send anything other than responses to your notes or letters unless otherwise invited to do so. If you are serious about reconciliation, we insist now on open channels.
Use this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let's determine whether this "reconciliation" is really going anywhere. We're tired of mind games and evasions; time is truly running out. Very truly yours, KIT: The above letter was answered by Christian Domer who indicated that Christoph would not respond.
The U.S. press is so out of touch with what matters that it's only guide is income. If a story is assumed to have sales value, it is pedaled, no matter who is hurt. I would assume the story of the Bruderhof and its adventures with the Hutterites is one that matters because it shows how poorly Christianity mixes with capitalism. It also shows how dangerous a mystical leader/servant is, and how quickly a relatively benign socialistic/Christian commune becomes wealthy and heady in America. Just as the Paula Jones case, the Bruderhof files frivolous lawsuits because it has the money to do so, not because damage was done. Paula Jones did not have the money, but a right wing fanatic supplied the money which made this travesty possible.
In the case of the Bruderhof, it's even more bizarre. The money used to harass and intimidate those deemed "enemies of The Life" comes from the hard labor of brothers and sisters who have lost their conscience and are unable to speak or have their own ideas and have been kept from the knowledge that would set them free.
The new twist of using young people "outside" to foul-mouth and slander KITfolk is one that will surely backfire. The Internet will spread this shame all over the globe, yes, even all over Cuba. It will do JCA no good to claim innocence as he has done in the past because the old adage about "by the fruits you shall know them" will always be there to haunt him.
I have just one suggestion for a new beginning, and that is because I've had to reject so many ideas that only one stayed in my mind that I could really support. That idea is simply to take the Corinthian letter on love and see if indeed it could provide a foundation for a meeting. We could then compare our lives and our activities to it and drop everything else that is at odds with it, and see what is left. We would then take that as a starting point. Even a non-Christian can view Paul's description of love in Corinthians as universal truth and use it as a guide for life. Christoph, would you be willing to do that? Who could it hurt? Is not all the world in need of love?
Thank you to all of those who have sent help to stop the harassment of the Phoenix Group. Greetings to all,
January 25, 1998
Dear Christoph: Thank you for your personal letter. I appreciate the earnestness of your effort, and hope that together we can begin to clear up those things that have caused misunderstandings between us. Yes, as you say, it has been stressful to have had this 'Berlin Wall' between us. Perhaps, even just this talking and writing together personally, something new can start. You mention Martin Luther King, and it reminds me of his "I Have A Dream" speech: "I have a dream, that some day this nation shall rise up and live out the true glory of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and woman and children, of course!) are created equal."
Equality is a word I have thought about a lot, because it seems to me that without equality -- a level playing field, if you wish -- there is no chance for dialogue. I have tried to practice equality as often as possible, even (and you may find this amusing!) with other species. I have found 'equality' a good way to open communications with even a lizard sitting on a rock, or a fly buzzing around the room. From these experiences I came up with my own formula:
It means "equal equals equal," which may sound a little silly, but actually helps me a lot, even in prayer. Why? Because I have discovered that God likes to be talked to 'personally,' and not as if He is sitting on a lofty throne and that we thus should be awestruck and approach him at a crawl. He likes 'company' because, after all, being God can be a somewhat lonely job. So I try, in my own small way, to be his friend -- sort of like a caterpillar sitting next to a lion for a chat. Does that make sense?
I'm sorry if this sounds a little preachy -- I just wanted to share a my own personal feelings about having a good relationship with God. And I have a feeling that He likes it this way of dialoguing!
Your son Christoph Andreas phoned me again last night to discuss his feelings about the so-called "Arnold Dynasty" and how he never, ever would accept a leadership role in the Bruderhof. He seemed very serious and sincere about this, and I was glad that he felt like sharing that thought with me. He also seemed to want to "go on the record" about this, so I will include his words as an 'Item' in the February KIT. He seems a very earnest young man! I appreciated his apology for that stupid "Eyebrows" letter, but I can forgive him his youthful zeal for defending his father and grandfather. What I told him was that the thing that really bothered me was not so much the insults in the letter as the fact that it had been read aloud to a group of servants/witness brothers who chuckled and slapped their knees while listening to it. That seemed, somehow, a little bit below the ideals that the Bruderhof aspires to of brotherly love and to 'love thy enemy.'
I must tell you also, Christoph, that once we are able to relate openly as two normal people, there is still much to be accomplished. We must go beyond personal apologies and forgiveness to a true spirit of reconciliation and mutual respect. I have concerns that, of necessity, involve others beyond just the two of us, and at some point we have to talk about them. This has nothing to do with my being what you call 'a mouthpiece for the KIT organization,' but more as a grandfather, a father, a brother, a friend to others, and so forth.
But continuing to talk on a personal level, I would like, for example, for my novice vow to be rescinded by the Bruderhof. Inasmuch as God has rescinded my novice vow, I feel that the Bruderhof as an organization should also do the same. Every other religious group with whom I have had contact has a way of allowing an ex-member to be freed from his or her vows, and I would suggest that you think about this very seriously. It would also benefit your group because, if you hold ex-members to their vows, then you also must hold yourself to your commitment to them and accept ongoing responsibility for their physical, mental and spiritual welfare.
Anyway, that's just a personal thought that we could discuss further. Beyond that there also remains the business of renewing our visits to the grandchildren, but I hope these can be resolved within the wider context of visiting privileges for all those who are living outside. One suggestion: why not seriously consider an open house weekend for everyone on one of the hofs? Perhaps Deerspring could be used for this before it is sold? Just an idea.
I hope I'm not 'pushing too hard!'
All the best to you and Verena -- and Chris,
Judy also sends her greetings,
Ramon: I received a brief reply, basically saying that novice vows could not be rescinded. I replied as follows:
February 14, 1998
I received your note in response to mine today and, speaking frankly, I was saddened to read that somehow you would find rescinding my novice vows doing me "a great disservice". Exactly the opposite is true. This attitude also makes the Bruderhof probably the only religious group in the world that has no mechanism for releasing disaffiliated members from their vows. Curious, and tragic, actually, because people change and grow into new awareness of what God asks of them. God makes allowances for these changes and growth, but the Bruderhof doesn't. What are you afraid of?
At the same time, although you continue to lay claim to our souls, you refuse any responsibility to care for the physical and emotional well-being of your ex-members. Doesn't this seem exactly 180 degrees out-of-phase with what God desires from all of us, that we develop loving, caring relationships that anticipate the needs of others on as many levels as possible? The sort of love this requires is called "unconditional love," and frankly I see very little of it coming from the Bruderhof. It's all, "If you say you're sorry then I'll love you" type messages.
I would very much like to find a way to respect your path, Christoph, but I think there might be a little underbrush that needs clearing out before we can really see where to put our feet! This might also include more than personal apologies from individual brotherhood members, but a recognition of where, as a system, the Bruderhof has proved toxic for many people -- or rather, speaking for myself, toxic for me. I understand that one obstacle standing in the way of an apology from the brotherhood for where the church went wrong in the past is the fear that such an admission would lead to lawsuits. This is very ironic, because it seems to me that this is exactly the same position that President Clinton finds himself in, unwilling to 'come clean' because of the legal consequences. I wonder where this sort of behavior is recommended in the New Testament.
And as for learning who "Ramon Sender truly is" as you state, that is not very difficult. I have no secrets, and what you see is what you get, eyebrows and all!
On another topic, Judy and I celebrated our wedding anniversary today. Our life together has given me everything that I ever hoped for in a marriage, and I especially appreciate the caring concern that she expresses for Dorie and Gareth. We both do wish that somehow that they could remain a part of our lives. Please convey this to John and Margrit for me. We do not have to continue the discordant pattern that was set up with Xavie. I am convinced that the pain caused by that separation was not healthy, for either of us. Why recreate those old mistakes?
I remain concerned for John, sensing that he may be laboring under a burden because of the way that he tricked Judy and me (into meeting with him by raising false hopes of coming to an understanding) in New York City last July. I continue to pray to God to lighten his weary load.
Hoping for Real Communication, and not just pussyfooting around the real issues,
P.S. After thinking it over, in my view there are only two reasons not to rescind a novice vow: either because you want the person to return or you want to make the person uncomfortable. I would ask you, "Why do you want to make me uncomfortable?"...
It seems to no avail! The religious ups and downs of the Bruderhof have always been there. They need crisis and then euphoria to survive their lifestyle, but it is so very frustrating as all of this has no personal depth, or at least a level on which we could reach them. I would very much like to meet you at the KIT conference at Friendly Crossways this summer. I remember you well, even though I think you were something like 11 or 12 years old.
Tim Domer, I am so pleased that you have found your way to us KITfolks, who really only want to understand what is going on in the Bruderhof and who feel so helpless in finding contact with our families inside! I was so glad about all the things you were able to share, and I hope we will also meet some time.
Since I wrote the book Torches Extinguished in 1993, I have been in contact with various Hutterites who have read the book and liked it. They feel it is written without hatred or ill feelings, and that the uniting with Eberhard Arnold in 1931 is reported correctly. They have invited me several times, but as it is a very long trip and I wasn't so well, it just never happened. When I read in KIT that the SOB actually had accused the Hutterites of abusing their children and reported this fact to the Canadian Police, I thought 'This is really the limit!' The Bruderhof itself has so much guilt on their shoulders regarding their own children that I really felt they were looking for splinters in people's eyes and did not realize their own roliso (beam) that was blinding their vision. It was then that our connection with the Ritzville Colony became even stronger, and we received an invitation to visit them.
So Hans and I are off to Vancouver this coming Wednesday morning. We will go first to Hans' brother in Vancouver to rest up a bit and then see how to get to Ritzville, Washington. It seems to be a 10-11 hour drive, but we are looking forward to the new experience! I have always wanted to see a real Hutterite bruderhof and try and understand what my grandfather felt when he joined with them. We are both looking forward to meeting brothers and sisters there. We will stay with them until May 1st and then go back to Vancouver.
Last night I phoned Margot Davies in Paraguay. She is such a sweet person and, despite her 87 years, still very clear and easy to talk to. She said that Cyril's health remains delicate. The death of Hans-Joerg touched him deeply, especially since Cyril was unable to alleviate H-J's pain and just had to watch him wither away. Margot says, however, that every phone call and letter gives Cyril joy and encouragement. On Easter my brother Kilian phoned, and Ingmar as well, and also their son Raphael from Spain. Son Jacob (Joggely) stayed with his parents in Minga.
Margot also told me that they have had a very bad tornado in the Primavera area. A whole Mennonite village in Friesland whipped away, and the nearby cities of Itacurubí and Santani had no electricity, and most houses were down or badly damaged. Ludwig and Irene Fischer and Lucrezia Meier went down there to help Joshua Dreher, before Ludwig and Irene return to Germany. So that is the news from Paraguay.
Hope all is well with Hummerfolks and recently kicked-out young folks! The April KIT is truly wonderful! I liked Muschi's letter and Dave Ostrom's story! Also I liked the article review (not book review) that Renatus wrote about Julius's chapter in Harmful Religion. He knew Heini well, so what he has to say is true and important! Much Love to each and every one,
Speakers announced include: On Iraq: Ramsey Clark, Kathy Kelly, George Cappacio, Eileen Story, and Debra Swinger. On Chiapas and "U.S. World control": Bishop Gumbleton, Wes Rehberg, Ruben Ayala, and Rev. John Nelson. On criminal justice: Dr. Alice Green, Eddie Elis, Jonathan Gradess, and Ernie Preate. On AIM: Raven Big Warrior on AIM, Tom Midgley and Shep Gurwitz. On reconciliation: J Christoph Arnold. Against the system: Against the System and Activism beyond the rhetoric. Daruba Ben Wahad, Colia Clark, and George Edwards. US Political Prisoners & the Death Penalty: Ali Bey Hassan, Susan Burnett, Pam Africa, and Joe Dubovy. The School of Americas: Jaci Domin.
Conference organizers can be contacted at: Generation Action, Catskill Bruderhof, Elka Park, NY 12427, Phone: 518-589-5103, Fax: 518-589-5325, e-mail: email@example.com
"You know the situation. Capitalism is going global and treading down people everywhere as it greedily concentrates money, profit, and power. MAI expands the tyranny of multinational investment, oil-driven sanctions kill 750,000 children in Iraq, our local arms dealers equip the killers in East Timor, and flexploitation hits workers at home.
"It's the right time to get pissed off. The old approaches for social change aren't working and haven't worked for decades. Everywhere, people hurt by the system are seeing just how much we need a successful resistance. The revolutionary movement has never had so many potential supporters. Bickering and in-fighting make less sense now than ever before. We need to move from the margins and seize the moment.
"RevolutionFest! will be organised as a Zapatista-style encuentro, where the different facets of our movement meet in a spirit of solidarity to fight the present social order. We'll have speakers, artists, musicians, and poets representing the diversity of the cause. RevolutionFest! is organized by Frente Palante and will take place on the grounds of the Darvell Bruderhof, a community dedicated to resistance and solidarity.
"We don't presume to think that RevolutionFest! will create a new movement or threaten the system on its own. But we are convinced that a new revolutionary movement needs to be born. Declare your independence on the Fourth of July and join the resistance.
"Themes: housing: immigration: globalisation kills: smash the sanctions: ylum hands off Iraq: ŃYa Basta!: civil disobedience: free Tibet now: racism: prisons: environment: direct action: revolutionary debt jubilee: no more imperialist wars: free East Timor: building community: keeping it green: from resistance to revolution: see you in Cuba: meat is murder: tri-denting it: encuentro: gypsies: ownership/exploitation: spirituality: political prisoners: Chiapas: autonomy
"Registration is £3. However, feel free to let us know if this is a problem. If you need overnight accommodation contact us to see whether we can arrange something. Contact: Frente Palante Brightling Road Robertsbridge, East Sussex TN32 5DR, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 1580 88 33 00 e-mail: RevFest@earthling.net"
Everyone is invited! Only ten dollars. Unlimited food, singing and dancing! Come one, come all.
Christoph Arnold, what utter hypocrisy! Shame on you for not allowing your elderly aunts Monika and Emmi-Ma to have contact with each other, while you incite the whole world to a conference on reconciliation and forgiveness! Do you know what those words mean? Obviously not. I am equally upset about all the other people on and off the hofs who are pining for contact with their loved ones. I keep bringing up these sisters because of their advanced age. The others I am concerned about, some of them also elderly to the extreme, I am sure you are well aware of. Christoph, I am well aware of the fact that you do not know right from wrong. So take my word for it: what you are doing is wrong! Stop it!
Love to all my dear friends,
Blair Purcell, 4/18/98: There is a particularly wonderful Yiddish word which seems to apply when one sees this sort of announcement: Chutzpah.
Maybe this is the year to become "activists" and do a little picketing at the bottom of the hill. July 17th - 19th.
Ramon Sender, 4/22/98: Other possible topics for the Bruderhof conference come to mind: "Prisoners of Dead Consciences in the Bruderhof", "Soul Murder in the Bruderhof", "Bruderhof Abuse of Ex-Members Basic Human Rights", "Bruderhof Attempts to Control All Aspects of Members' Lives". Perhaps these would make good posters for pickets to carry?
Tim Domer, 4/20/98: The Internet postings by the Bruderhof, announcing their upcoming "Revolution" conferences are alarming. The language reminds me very much of the rhetoric heard from well-recognized cults and militia groups in recent years, who pursued a collision course with the government, sometimes with disastrous results. Waco Texas comes to mind. What is the basis for the "Revolution"? The context of the conferences as advertised does not appear to have a Christian basis. Neither the Mission Statement of the "Generation Action" in Catskill, NY, nor the in-your-face posting announcing the "Revolutionfest" in Darvell, England, make any mention of finding solutions using Christ's teachings as a guide. There are several quotes, however conspicuously absent are quotations from Jesus, Martin Luther King or Gandhi.
Jesus made it clear to his disciples that his "Revolution" was not political, but rather a revolution of the heart. The Bruderhof has plenty of work to do in finding a just, honest, truthful, Christian reconciliation with the children and former members it has branded as "enemies". The Bruderhof has callously rejected the honest and often anguished attempts by many of its outcast children to find true reconciliation. There can be no meaningful or lasting solution to the world's ills until we collectively and as individuals, get our own houses in order.
Rather than work for Christ's revolution of the heart, the Bruderhof now seems to want to become a "major player" in a political "Revolution" of some kind. The Bruderhof seems to be aligning itself more with individuals and groups that have advocated and sometimes used violent means to revolt. The posting from Darvell states that the Revolutionfest will take place "on the grounds of the Darvell Bruderhof, a community dedicated to resistance and solidarity". Nothing about a community dedicated to following Christ's teachings.
Is this a new direction for the Bruderhof? Their actions, deeds and words toward their "enemies" in recent years have been far from Christian. Are they now going to downplay even the lip service they have paid to their roots in Anabaptist Christian teachings and traditions?
Anyone reading this site who has an interest in being a "friend" of the Bruderhof, or of joining a "Christian" community, as the Bruderhof has claimed to be, should go forward with their eyes open. Ask questions. Ask about how the Leadership works, how much discussion of issues goes on behind closed doors, away from most membership. Ask about the quality or "spin" of information the membership is given before they make their "unanimous" decisions. Ask about illegal and hostile activity on the part of the Bruderhof toward their "enemies". Ask about their policy of cutting off people who question the leadership. Ask about the Bruderhof buying up an entire run of a book with a chapter critical of some Bruderhof practices. Ask yourself if this isn't modern-day "book burning". Ask about the Bruderhof's reliance on lawyers and the advice of lawyers, rather than following the example of Christ's life and teachings to find real solutions to differences. Ask how the actions of the Bruderhof toward its "enemies" squares with Christ's teachings, or even the teachings of the Bruderhof's own founder, Eberhard Arnold.
Talk to ex-members or some of the outcast children to get their perspective.
The Elder of the Bruderhof, J. Christoph Arnold, author of books on forgiveness, child rearing and death, likes to say "the truth stands on its own two feet". In the long run this is mostly true. At present, however, the truth has been so twisted and distorted by the Bruderhof leadership that it will need a great deal of careful attention before it can stand again. This new "Revolution" approach will only serve to cloud the truth further.
It is also a dangerous direction to take. Talk leads to action. Angry, hostile talk leads to angry, hostile action. The government is well equipped to deal with angry, aggressive behavior. It is not well equipped to deal with non-violent, "turn the other-cheek", Christ centered behavior.
If Christ had been a political activist, bent on overthrowing the system, I doubt we would be reading His words or praying to Him today. His was a message of a revolution of a very different sort.
Paul C. Fox, 4/20/98: I share Tim Domer's concern about the Bruderhof's embrace of violent revolutionaries. This was one of our main concerns when we were tossed out a year and a half ago. At that time, Louis Farrakhan was being promoted as "another Martin Luther King," and the Momma-Nature-worshipping MOVE cult was being acclaimed as "more genuinely Christian than most churches."
It is hard to be sure how much of this is genuine, and how much is posturing. What does seem clear, though, is that it represents an even greater consolidation of power in the hands of Christoph Arnold and his clique. If Jesus Christ can be brought into the same context as Che Guevara without a word of protest from the Brotherhood, then the Brotherhood is essentially dead.
I hope that all the conservative, believing Catholic and Protestant authors who have endorsed Christoph's books will take note of this latest aberration. They may hesitate before endorsing his next one -- which I understand is about prayer. It would take a strong stomach to read Christoph Arnold on that subject...
Tim Domer, 4/21/98: The important point, I believe, is that nowhere in the Mission Statement of Action Generation or the posting announcing the Revolutionfest in Darvell is there mention of finding solutions based on Christ's teachings and life example.
The Revolutionfest posting states, "It's the right time to get pissed off". The Bruderhof Web page states, " The basis of our communal life is Christ's teaching in the New Testament, especially his words about brotherly love and love of enemies, mutual service, non-violence and the refusal to bear arms…" The Bruderhof also places emphasis on the Sermon on the Mount in particular. Nowhere have I read that Christ told his disciples or the masses to get "pissed off" at the political system or advocate a political revolution. He almost completely ignored the Romans and their unjust system. His was a message of a very different kind of revolution. For a group like the Bruderhof, which claims to be devout followers of Jesus, to leave an emphasis on Christ's teachings and life example out of a Mission Statement is wrong.
Perhaps the conference in Catskill has a different basis than the Revolutionfest in Darvell. At least the Catskill posting does not tell people to get "pissed off" and does mention the basis of the Community. Perhaps 'bc3000' [anonymous B'hof poster] or some other Bruderhof spokesperson "in authority" could clear this up.
Mike LeBlanc, 4/24/98: I believe a dichotomy exists where the singular Bruderhofer(s) does indeed wish to right the wrongs done to ex-members and children. The problem is that to come to full reconciliation it would be necessary for that person to shed his cult persona, and admit there are flaws in the system.
This is next to impossible. The fear that holds each Bruderhofer in place keeps him/her from stepping out of the cult persona and back into self. The death of the individual for communal unity is complete.
I have been warned by Joe Keiderling to be careful about making assumptions about the "current" Bruderhof policies, but when I have challenged him to show proof he has been strangely silent. Of course he has said that I am arrogant and heartless to boot. I would ask you if he is familiar with the terms projection and mis-direction. I have asked him many times to post here, as he does monitor this news group. It has become increasingly clear to me that the Bruderhof representatives are aware that if they entered into dialogue here publicly that the system they hold dear would be exposed by their own words, hence they feel they cannot afford to post.
What I would tell them is they do not own the Bruderhof(tm) or its members, God does. And His judgment is on their heads. The "Berlin Wall" will come crashing down, but the longer they wait, the less likely any pieces of the Bruderhof(tm) will be left to put back together. They have willing brothers and sisters in KIT and outside to help them live out their own "best dream", yet they demonize the very people that have their hands extended in peace and love.
Why? Fear! But life is about change! And the Bruderhof is in danger of spiritual death and the propagation of evil if it continues on its present course. Currently I would suspect only a small number are actually guilty of this, but with the silence regarding wrongs done comes condoning of such actions, as does the guilt of turning one's back to it to avoid its darkness.
As for Christoph, my email to him was answered by Joe in which I was told that I wouldn't get to speak to the (my words) "Exulted One", and that I would have to "Deal with it!" Christoph must really fear me. I wish I knew how to take that. Maybe I should take it that I am indeed in His service and that we are engaged in spiritual warfare, thus the reactions I get from the Bruderhof are expected. Yet this is all so unnecessary. Peace and love want to conquer what stands between us and our beloved friends and family "inside".
I greet all my brothers and sister (in and out) and hope for the day we all stand together with joy, peace, love and gladness in our hearts. Peace,
But the true story of Art and his tractor is, in some ways even more amazing than what Michael wrote. There were some real miracles involved, and I did have no money when I got the tractor and did get it to South America without papers.
When Judy read the story, she said: "You never told me all this" and said I should respond with the real story but I'm too busy. We decided that if anyone wants the whole story, I'll make a tape for a $10 donation to Aquarian Research.
Between leaving the Bruderhof in Dec., 1964 and 1969 I lived in two other Christian communities, became printer for Students for a Democratic Society, then traveled for two years teaching peace people to set up printing presses. I did that without pay and was lodged for free by many different communes. Shame, dishonesty, and narrow belief systems caused me to make a mistake which may have cost some lives. I learned from that to be more open about everything personal which is how I now write my Aquarian Alternatives Newsletter. Here's a condensed report of my work since coming to Philadelphia in 1969.
Started with $50 in 1969, tax exempt 501 c 3 scientific and educational since 1970 (Tax exemption donated by law firm).
PURPOSE: to find ways this planet could have a positive future.
1971: Tried to solve world population problem by publishing The Natural Birth Control Book. Book sold 100,000 copies in English, four translations, had no impact on world population. Learned insecurity was major cause of the problem, not lack of birth control.
1971-1976: Taught printing to peace activists, continued to publish the book and Aquarian Alternatives Newsletter.
1974: Unpopular Science was published containing first five years of our newsletter. Sold 12,000 copies.
1976: Showed book publicly. Judy saw and liked it. Married her four weeks later, planned family.
1977-78: Learned to fly, bought 1958 Cessna to take folks on communal visits. Also bought our house for $5,000 cash. (These purchases were possible because Judy had $10,000 before we got married. I never flew a 1903 Wright -- but did want the community to buy a rebuilt 1940 De Haviland twin for $2,000 in Paraguay.)
1983-84: Printed, distributed 300,000 "Big Party Invitations" to change 1984 from year of Big Brother to year of Little Sister. Daughter April was born in the (UN) Year of the Child (1979). Was 3 when she appeared on Invitation: "Our Leader, Little Sister".
(The Big Party invitation is like a dollar bill, same size, but more pink than green, photo in center is face of little girl, not a military man, much humor and good stuff. You can have one.)
1984: Started to work on Reagan to end arms race. Tried fire walking as personal empowerment method, came to believe I could do anything (in time, that is).
1985-86: sent my Reagan letter to Gorbachov, was invited to Moscow, met with Gorby's Advisor on U.S. Affairs. Learned Reagan got my letter from Gorby in Geneva. I knew arms race would end. Few believed me.
1986: Had lunch with Ted Turner (CNN) to ask him to make films on a positive future for planet. He liked the idea. I produced positive future novel (with novelist). Failed to win Turner contest. Novel is on disk only.
1988: Gorby's advisor sent Dr. Peter Gladkov to visit U.S., fly with us for 3 weeks making video on communal living: Where's Utopia?.
Asked Gorby's advisor, Georgy Arbatov to ask Ted Turner to get on with positive future project. Ted then created Turner Tomorrow Award and 2,358 positive future novels were submitted. $500,000 prize went to Daniel Quinn for Ishmael. Quinn starts Future Positive Foundation later, 1997 (Houston, TX).
1990: Investigated Sonic Bloom system of organic agriculture, produced video.
1996-97: Flew my Cessna to Cuba as journalist. Learned of Cuban communes. (U.S. Gov't. didn't like that. I'm having to get my pilot's license back after refusing to pay huge fines for minor violations they caught me in.)
1997-98: Learned of new energy discovery that will end world pollution and fuel dependence, interviewed inventor Dr. Randell Mills, published all interviews, patent, etc. in Infinite Energy magazine, sent tapes to Radio for Peace International for worldwide broadcast. Expecting edited 35-minute world broadcast soon. Now we are working with Radio for Peace on world broadcast on communal living also to be heard by 500 million people in many languages, but not listeners of our corporate media. Note: NPR just did a good hour on community (not Bruderhof). We have tape.
Our daughter April (18) now is a "leader", political activist, writer, editor. Son Joel (13) a homeschooled computer teacher, prize-winning writer.
We just returned from 30-day trip seeking a community to join to carry on our work. We foresee real trouble soon from worldwide computer system failures and communal living of many kinds as the best way to survive and help many others.
Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and phone 215-849-3237.
1: Homosexuals in church membership: There is certainly a difference between "orientation" and homosexual acts. God's written word is clear enough regarding homosexual acts just as it is regarding fornication or adultery (or active/purposeful thinking that leads to such behavior). All such acts or thoughts are sin. A church should not accept as a member anyone who wishes to make a way for sin to remain in their life whether it be homosexual practice or any other sin that contradicts God's word. A church should be accepting of those who are committed to following all the teachings of Christ and allowing Him to deal with all inordinate affections in their lives. For some this may happen quickly and for some it may take more time. I don't believe there is any one except Jesus Christ (including all church members) who never has any wrong thoughts to deal with. The church is to be the gathering of saints saved by the power of Christ and committed to doing his will.
2: Head coverings for women - yes, I agree, and again because it is taught in the Bible; implicitly in the Old Testament and more explicitly in the New testament (Num 5:18 1Cor 11:5,6). And I also agree that both men and women should dress modestly both in "God's house" and elsewhere in public. It is interesting to note that the majority of women one sees who wear a head covering for religious reasons (whether Muslim, Hindu or Christian) usually are dressed modestly as well.
3: Dating -- I prefer to think of it as courtship -- is that time of developing a relationship between a man and a woman with the expectation of marriage as the end result. "Recreational dating" by teenagers is rarely done with that commitment in mind and I see no use for a Christian young person to even get involved in it. Courtship should begin (by God's leading) when a person is basically mature enough physically, emotionally and spiritually to enter into marriage. The appropriate age would be more like 20-something than 15-ish. The years up until that time can be used in preparing for life by commitment to Christ and also making friends without exclusive attachment to one partner.
Sex should definitely wait until marriage. Even many secular doctors and counselors advise this. Anyone with lax enough morals to have uncommitted sex with you, would very likely be willing to do the same with someone else and so you run the risk of deadly disease- even with no spiritual considerations. Also the failure rate for marriages between those that married as virgins is much lower than for those that didn't. Of course, the main reason I believe you should wait is because fornication is sin. The easiest way to achieve this standard is to have courtship based on developing communication without any physical contact that could make this standard difficult to keep.
I would be happy to introduce you to some of the many people who believe this way out of conviction. I hope you can find some near where you live. Certainly, I hope you can discuss these kinds of things with your parents or someone you already love and trust. But don't compromise what you believe is right just because someone else says you can. Look to Jesus, the author and finisher of faith. Heb. 12:2. I wish you encouragement.
I have given up trying to understand what is happening at the Bruderhof now. It is definitely not the organization I joined, or else I was greatly deceived when I was there and when I joined. I don't see it as a religious organization at all. It is more like a cross between a business corporation (with rather unsavory tactics) and a cult. And since mostly we can't visit, how can one determine what it is except as related by the various people who have had contact, as told in KIT?
I have been very busy with my new home, still sorting stuff and getting settled. Since the weather has been warmer, there is planting and other yardwork. I took time out to visit Tommy, Diana and grandsons, and more recently to visit Paul in Miami. I also visited an aunt of mine who is 90 years young. She and her older sister are doing very well. They are truly amazing!
I am expecting Tommy and his family to visit me here in Georgia in August. Unfortunately, the time is the same as KIT at Friendly Crossways, so I won't be able to go this year. I will miss seeing everyone there. However I extend an open invitation to anyone who is in this part of the country to visit. Be sure to call/write ahead to make sure I'm home. I still do travel, and hope to go to Denver with my sister in July.
I do have a computer now and can get e-mail. My address is email@example.com. I am a total novice in computering, so I don't always do things right, but I'm learning. And I'm a lousy typist as well. I also have a different phone number [see top of p.1 this issue].
I'm enclosing $35, $25 for a KIT subscription and $10 as penance for being so late. Actually I forgot that I hadn't sent it earlier. Greetings and love to all,
Something that struck me from what Thomas Cromwell wrote: he says that since everything he has found out in connection with our sister Ruthie escaping, the balance of his support has gone more against the Bruderhof and more in support of KIT. I am realising more and more that none of us know the true picture of all the abuse and harassment that outsiders and insiders are receiving from the Bruderhof. Each of us only experiences or hears of little bits here and there. I do believe that if we knew the whole story, it would be just horrendous. They manage to do this and get at individuals by many and various means of intimidation, such as playing people against each other, working on one person in a family, or on one partner in a marriage. Then maybe undermining a person's belief in himself or in what he is doing; then, when that person feels vulnerable and insecure, offering him support and pretend-love to get him round onto "their" side, no matter if it splits up a family or turns husband against wife, or vice versa.
I find nothing more revolting that the sort of "love" that they use on people to try and look as if they really care for you,' and then when you feel secure and safe in their big arms, they will start working on you to undermine your own self-belief so that you have to rely on their strengths and power. Then they have really got you and can start molding you into the type of person they want you to be. That is not love, that is power and control.
I have just very recently heard about some such goings-on to do with people whom I care about and who are actually in great need because of their Bruderhof background. Do they get help and support from the Bruderhof, their home, their family? No, they get pressurized and bullied and abused, but I must not say any more. 4/3/98: I saw a program on the telly recently called "Witness" that made me think a lot about our background. Of course our upbringing was quite different in many ways, but there were also so many similarities. It was about women who were brought up in Catholic institutions in Ireland, either in the last century or this one, up to about the early 1960s. Most were talking about their experiences of being in these institutions in the 1940s or early 1950s. They were there because in those days if a girl became pregnant outside of marriage, she had sinned terribly. They were shunned in society and outcast. Their family and friends would disown them and they often had nowhere to go, so would end up in one of these institutions.
These places were run by nuns and also priests. Usually the mothers had to work in a laundry for very long days with no pay, from early until late in the evening, with very little rest and poor food. The nuns were very strict and would control everything to make the life as difficult and unpleasant as possible. The women had to wear drab clothes that made them look unattractive and could not take pride in themselves in any way. They could not show any part of their bodies that might make them feel good and attractive. These were girls who were nearly always in their teens and were just developing. They had to wear tight clothes on their upper bodies to make them look flat. If they were pretty, their hair was forcibly cut short to make them look dull. They were told that they must not look at their own bodies, they must not like themselves.
These were girls who in those days grew up with no teaching about sex or love -- they should not even think about it -- and who grew up completely ignorant. This was, after all, a strongly Catholic country. When these girls did meet men, they were ignorant and therefore very vulnerable. They often got into trouble and often pregnant. In those days a lot of stigma was attached to having an illegitimate baby, especially in rural Ireland. These mothers often were sent to these asylums. Their baby was taken away and they were treated very badly by "the Sisters of Mercy," as the nuns were called. This caused the girls to feel very distraught because they were still breast-feeding and they were told that this was "in penance." For some of the women speaking on the Telly, 40 or 50 years later, it still hurt them so much that they could not help but become upset and emotional.
They were completely cut off from the outside world (haven't we heard that before) so they were virtual prisoners. The nuns were like gods to them, so they did not question them. Friendships were not allowed. They did not know where their babies were and there was no escape, so many were there all their lives. Occasionally one would manage to escape. The nuns then immediately got the police to help capture them again. Occasionally one of them would rebel in some way, and then be harshly punished by the nun or by one of the bishops.
A few of these unfortunate women eventually were rescued by relatives after many years, or managed to escape with some help from others. They told how adapting to life outside was an awesome challenge. When they were outside, they felt very self-conscious. When people looked at them, they also felt that they were bad, and felt frightened to talk to them. These were all the scars of mental torture and sexual abuse.
Many of these women said that their upbringing had taught them that sex was wrong and bad. When they were free again, this affected them a lot because they continued to feel that it was not right to have sex or touch another or to enjoy it. The Catholic Church keeps secret all the records of who and how many women passed through these asylums. One of the legacies that remains for these women who survived is a lasting hostility towards the Church.
I am not writing this because it is the same as the Bruderhof we came from, but because there are so many similarities. There are many similarities in the control of people, in abuse -- mental, physical, emotional, sexual. I have experienced so many of these, and I have heard many people talk about similar experiences. I also have experienced many similar results of this type of upbringing. I am sure that if we are brought up in any very controlled environment, it is bound to have such bad effects on us. Of course, children have to be under some kind of control by their parents or other adults, but it is quite different when this control comes from other people whom we do not owe anything, and people who want to control us for some other reason, not just for our own well-being. On the Bruderhof where we come from, our parents are not allowed to bring us up as they would like. They are not supposed to show their children affection or love. They must do what they are told and that is to put the Bruderhof or what, in effect, is "The Way Of Life" first, and everything else must come second. Greetings,
Julius Rubin, Professor of Sociology, wrote a chapter about the Bruderhof. Why should this said chapter, "The Other Side Of Joy," cause so much upheaval among the Bruderhof leadership? If makes one wonder.
I personally can relate very well to the issues that Professor Rubin has very objectively discussed. The question also arises as to why the Commune did not let Professor Rubin have access to their archives. The Israeli scholar Yaakov Oved was granted access to their archives. Why he and not Professor Rubin? Professor Rubin asked the Commune for permission but it was flatly denied by the late Hans Meier as spokesperson for the Commune at that time. Now I ask, where is freedom of speech and of the press?
Professor Rubin went ahead and proceeded with his own research, and he researched well. As far as I can tell, he has not exaggerated his conclusions. The fact that the book Harmful Religion will now be reprinted without the chapter "The Other Side Of Joy" will, I am sure, at some point backfire and the Commune will have to eat humble pie! Such actions as those of the Commune will not go unnoticed by the public all over the world.
I repeat: the chapter "The Other Side Of Joy" is well-written, is to the point and portrays what really happens in the Commune. My opinion may not carry weight with the Commune as, I am sorry to say, I had to subject myself to much of the same treatment as portrayed in the book. Professor Rubin has written an excellent piece of literature and it is well worth reading if you are interested in religion and in harmful religion. I strongly recommend the book to anyone who wants to find out more about the "why's" and "do-not's" of religion. Sincerely,
I received the March KIT two days ago and the February one just one week before. That one got me rather disturbed and wanting to say something, especially that letter from Art Rosenblum. He is a very dear guy but pretty impressionable, and it seems that JCA has a nose regarding which people to try to sway in his favour. Mike Caine's article about Art in the March KIT is lovely. Mike has a real gift for conveying someone's personality when it's someone he appreciates.
A few other people who were showing signs of having "taken the bait" have already come round again and are realising what's up. After all, Hilarion is still being threatened. We just have to be more wary and realize what sort of people we're up against. As for wishing and hoping for the B'hof to change and evolve into what was the original dream, my own feeling is that it's too late. They're set on a course that will end in self-destruction. There are times when actual destruction is necessary before something new and better can emerge.
We all feel certain that there are still lots of well-meaning and fundamentally good people in the Bruderhof communities, and yet it looks to me very much like the situation of the ordinary citizens in Nazi Germany who protested after World War II that they had known nothing about the Holocaust, the death camps, etc. They were just afraid to admit it because then they would have to deal with their own consciences. I'm sure they at the Bruderhof are being kept in ignorance but all the same, there is such a thing as feeling the atmosphere. There is also such a thing as deliberately blocking one's awareness.
I do have the feeling that those of my generation, who failed to make the break in 1961 or soon after, lost their chance. The younger people hadn't had enough experience, so they remained and got into the more difficult time when Heini took over and none of the other Servants were really able to provide a check. Once more I say my thanks to Bette for coming up with a few more facts about that happened at the Bruderhof before we joined. I wish I had known them at the start of our life there, although, when I review the rest of my life, I can see that it is only through experience that one is entitled to make use of the information which is accessible and draw the right conclusions.
At this point I gave up on this letter and went to bed, and here I am, first thing in the morning after a cup of coffee, sitting with Mozart's "Requiem" going on in the background and my mind working at a deeper level. So, figuratively speaking, I am looking at the KIT-Bruderhof problem from a great distance, and from where I am, I can see that the conflict is causing many KITfolk to evolve considerably, so that we have the paradox that what looks to us humanly as a manifestation of evil -- however we explain it to ourselves -- is not only having negative (in the short term) but also positive effects.
If you transpose that onto the situation in the whole world as it is at present and then go backwards as far as you can in time, you begin to see an explanation for the existence of evil. It is part of the cosmic drama through which consciousness expands. I am not taking credit for this idea myself, mind you. I came across it earlier when reading Rudolph Steiner's book about occult science. And of course Seth affirms that there is no such thing as evil fundamentally, but under the conditions of our life on this plane, we have to behave as though there were. Likewise he says that space and time don't really exist, but our senses are attuned to this plane and so we can't understand what happens to us without these concepts. Our senses also provide us, apparently, with the proofs for our limiting ideas. And so, scientists and doctors are still researching in the wrong direction and will not make any real progress until they begin to look in a different way, not for tinier and tinier particles, but for significance, from the point of view that everything has meaning.
By the way, shortly after meeting with Seth, I had a dream in which I was with him, standing on a landing outside a very big room where a cocktail party was in progress. There were some others out on the landing too, and even there we couldn't easily hear one another speak, so Seth said to me that we'd better go downstairs in order to talk. I saw that there was a staircase, completely unlit, leading to the lower part of the house and I began to follow him down. There the dream stopped, as dreams often do at some crucial point. I got the general meaning, but by this time I've got a real feeling for the nature of the darkness into which we went. It is nothing frightening, and I couldn't be frightened with Seth going on in front, but it represents one's innermost being, which has infinite possibilities. There are no limits to consciousness... I depart for England in May. Much Love,
Betty Chesley, 3/23/98: Hi Dave, thanks for your provocative thoughts here. To answer "what unique thing made the "hof worth all the pain etc...?", at least for myself, it was partly the communal experience itself. In appearing to flesh out the Gospel through "the Anabaptist vision", the Bruderhof can be extremely challenging and alluring to a new visitor. I was very moved, feeling partly "I want what they have" but also "I don't want to live so restrictedly to get there." In spite of many visits that we made, we didn't "see" or really experience what goes on behind the scenes until we were novices with our bridges burnt.
I think there is a courtship that goes on with prospective members, honeymoon and all. It may well be that the "aforementioned negatives" are partly a result of our own naivete (and trust) but I think they are owned more by the Bruderhof for failing to present itself truthfully.
We were told very plainly that the Bruderhof had never sued and would never sue anyone, and that all leavers were very well-adjusted and involved in other churches. A rosy picture but not the reality. We were told "If you can find a church living truer to the Gospel than we are, then tell us, so that we can join them." A pressure-bearing challenge to the sincere seeker, but also a very egotistic view of itself.
Critical thinking is not encouraged. We have heard Christoph exclaim at a meeting how he was tired of everyone being "yes-men". Apparently some people wrote letters with their concerns (I remember specifically the dog-breeding program was criticized) and shortly after that, the brotherhood was chastised for not trusting [the leadership] and being critical and echoes of "our poor Christoph!" resounded.
Another time, I heard an older brother give eloquent testimony aimed at the college-age folks that "we don't have to understand everything," we "have to trust." Blind trust in men is just that, blind trust. The leadership have not proven themselves to be trustworthy - just a look at Bruderhof history is adequate proof. But these men are equated with being God's mouthpieces, at least that was the case when we were there. I can't tell from much of what I read or see if God is still taken seriously there. There was no credible witness from the young men posting recently on here, little Bible knowledge, just blind trust in the system they came from. I am sorry if this sounds overly harsh, it is not my wish to offend anyone, but facts are facts. Blessings,
Betty Chesley, 3/24/98: firstname.lastname@example.org [anonymous Bruderhofer] wrote:
"Does the Bruderhof believe that theirs is the only way to live a Christian life? It seems to me that this question reveals a singular and profound insecurity that appears to afflict many of those who have gravitated to the KIT network. The answer to the question, of course, is no. As a current member of the Bruderhof, I can say with assurance (and authority) that we have never believed that to be a Christian one must join the Bruderhof or live in community. However, it appears that there is a small group of people associated with the Bruderhof in some way who are continually preoccupied with this question. How do we explain this preoccupation? To those people who are secure in their chosen way of life -- their calling -- this question never occurs. It only seems to be a problem to those who have never reconciled with the choices they made in life, those who are unhappy with decisions made, those who are insecure."
Dear Anonymous Bruderhofer, I believe that your proposition is way off base here. It is typical of the "blame the victim" attitude that has been coming from other Bruderhofers here on the newsgroup and from various conversations. With the Bruderhof's apparent attitude of "we can do no wrong", with demanding forgiveness for what the Bruderhof will not identify (just before more book promotions), for demanding trust where it has only betrayed others, it is small wonder nothing ever really gets worked out with ex-members or family members with grievances who leave the Bruderhof. The Bruderhof protects itself.
But thank you for having the courtesy of being polite in how you expressed your thoughts. In my time spent at the Bruderhof, more than one person held up "the life" as the ultimate example of the Christian walk with not a little looking down on other groups of believers who did not live in community. I believed it then because I thought it was "the ultimate" too, but it is empty if it is not centered on Christ. We found that out the hard way. Now that would be a real epiphany, wouldn't it? Peace,
Ramon Sender, 3/24/98: Very well said, Betty! I certainly can echo your experience on the Bruderhof. While in the Bruderhof "mind set," part of it of course was that we were The Chosen Few living the life of the Jerusalem Church by "holding all things in common."
bc3000 also wrote:
"During the last several weeks I have spoken and corresponded with several frequent contributors to alt.support.bruderhof. After one particularly engaging discussion I experienced a private epiphany of sorts."
Now to our dear Private Epiphany: I believe thee protesteth overmuch, which of course you will interpret as immediate proof of your theory. Correct? Because you basically leave no room for another opinion, since in expressing that disagreement I am actually proving your point again. Right? This is the type of classic double-bind thinking that the Bruderhof has raised to a high art, and to which Dave Ostrom also alludes in his last posting, "many impressive words appealing to emotions while saying absolutely nothing." The classic Bruderhof example, which we have all known, is when the Bruderhof Comandante comes up to you and says, "Private Epiphany, you don't have the right attitude!"
What now occurs is that famous 'moment' in Bruderhof life. You know that you do have the right attitude, but if you insist upon it, that is "the wrong attitude." The right attitude is to humbly lower your eyes, submit to the Comandante's criticism and say, "Yes, indeed, I am lower than pig doo-doo and wallowing in the wrong attitude again," Even though, by doing so, you are lying and going against what your conscience knows to be true. This also can lead to an ongoing attack of Brother Juniper's Syndrome, or the Happy Idiot Defense to an Ausschluss Attack. How can you be relegated to cleaning toilets if you are already, at least figuratively speaking, wearing the toilet brush as a hat?
Moving ahead, although Bruderhof members pay lip service very readily to the theory that there are other Christians out there in the world doing good things, they do deduct points for:
1. Those Christians who own (shudder!) private property!
2. Those Christians who do not live communally.
3. Those who find the word of God in the Bible and not in the writings of Eberhard Arnold. Eberhard Arnold himself seemed to place a high value in a true Christian living communally, by the way, and seemed quite critical of those who were not.
To me it seems, perhaps, that you, Private E., might be projecting onto KITfolk some innate insecurity that Bruderhof folk may feel about their separateness from the world, about their surrender of their selfhood to a somewhat amorphous group mind that allows a kind of creeping case of group egotism to replace the individual conscience.
A number of other questions come to mind:
How does the security that you are living the optimum way of Christian existence affect your ability to really hear what others are telling you?
Is defending that "certainty" about your own world view getting in the way of your ability to hold a meaningful dialogue?
And perhaps you could comment on the Bruderhof phrase:
"It doesn't matter if what we do is right or wrong, as long as we do it together."
Epiphany may not be the word you're searching for, by the way... It means a mystical visitation.
Joanie Pavitt Taylor to Tim Domer, 3/27/98: Dear Tim, I have been meaning to make contact with you for a while, and your posting (the distorted picture) has spurred me on. I like the way you use images and parallel stories to make a point; it's the way I try to make sense of things. I also wanted to say how sorry and saddened I was to hear of the way you and your brother were treated by your own father... If it goes anywhere near helping to ease the pain that must have caused, I just wanted to say I hear you.
So often I see and hear of cases where the nearer you get to a truth the harder and louder and crueler people get when they can't or daren't listen. I can only assume that this applies in this case.
Just so you know, I am Joanie Pavitt Taylor, daughter of Joan and Len Pavitt, born in Paraguay. My family was one of the early ones in the then Oak Lake and Forest River. We left Paraguay when I was six months old (1955) and were kicked out when I was about four. (A few suitcases between the seven of us, no money, no house to go to, totally reliant on the kindness of those bad outsiders for our survival in those first months.) Now living in England, as I have done since I was seven (again we only made it back here because of the kindness and support of a Quaker couple who sponsored us.)
As I watch the continued destructive behavior of the leadership I can't help but be glad that all I have are a few sad memories of times when neither of my parents were there to look after me. One time my Mum was sent away for speaking out against the mistreatment of children, she was sent to do dishes in a Catskill mountain hotel while Dad was away on yet another fund-raising trip. All I know is that my Mum wasn't there and I had no idea why she wasn't or when she would be back; I was also kept from my brothers and sisters who were being looked after by others. Whilst I am sure the elderly couple that looked after me did their best, it's a pretty neat revenge on a woman who was trying to defend young people, because apart from the pain of separation from us it took me a long time to trust my mum again... that she wouldn't just disappear on me again.
All too often children and families get mangled by the tragic games being played. As I have said to others, it never was meant to be this way. This spell on good old mother earth was meant for learning, not destroying.
Anyhow, I have just been taking a break from decorating, and must dive back in. Hope all is well with you and your wife. Best wishes,
"D" [pseudonym for young Bruderhof-bred male living outside], 4/1/98: suggestion: close down this f____ web site for easter. since you're all such martyrs of your faith, why don't you experience yourself for two weeks and leave the bruderhof out of it.... ... i don't look up to a bunch of ____ers who drop their baptismal vows like a tree drops its apples, who don't have the guts to sort out a problem when it means admitting your wrong, who have to create "support" groups to ease each others consciences.
One factor that may play into this new, foul-mouthed aggressiveness is the Mumia-MOVE connection. In-your-face, noisy profanity is a trademark of the MOVE cult, and to all appearances, Christoph and Company are still in love with MOVE.
It would not surprise me if, in the next ten years, the Christian basis of the Bruderhof isn't downplayed more and more. After all, as long as the Bruderhof calls itself "Christian", there is the Bible and there are other Christians there to call the Bruderhof to account. Once the Christian connection is weakened or broken, Christoph will be subject to no external standard at all -- his whims become the sole determinant of good and evil.
If I am correct in my thinking, then breaking with the Hutterites was only Step 1 in the de-Christianization of the Bruderhof. Step 2 is the propaganda which says that Mumia, MOVE, and similar anti-Christian types are really "more Christian" than the churches (which removes any objective content from the word "Christian", which now simply means anyone whom Christoph approves of at the moment). Watch out for Step 3!
Margaret Fox 4/1/98: "D" wrote: "suggestion: close down this f_____ web site for easter. since you're all such martyrs of your faith, why don't you experience yourself for two weeks and leave the bruderhof out of it."
Leave the Bruderhof out of what? Easter? I couldn't even if I wanted to. See, so many of the lovely Easter songs and stories and such that my family knows come from the Bruderhof. But that's positive stuff. If you meant negative stuff, I haven't seen any mention of Easter on the newsgroup at all.
....Have you noticed that not all of the talk on the newsgroup is about childhood abuse? Much of it is about the things the Bruderhof is doing currently and a lot of it is just people keeping in touch with each other. I don't think you've graduated from the Bruderhof yet anyway. The way you talk is just like the others who are going to go back anyway. I'm beginning to think that writing nasty posts and e-mails is some sort of test to prove yourself to the Bruderhof and thus get baptized.
And if anyone "dropped" their baptismal vows, it was probably because they decided to listen to their conscience and follow Jesus instead of blindly going along with whatever the Bruderhof was doing. That really takes guts, especially when you know that you will be hounded by Bruderhof members about your membership and your "guiltiness". The support groups are to ease the pain that so many people went through when they were kicked out. "D," you too have changed, and I hope it's not a permanent alteration of your personality, that would be awful. You were one of the nicest, smartest guys when I knew you. What happened? Peace,
This excerpt was authored by Dr. Julius Rubin and is posted here for comment by readers who were unable to obtain the book prior to its apparent withdrawal from the market by SPCK.
It is part of the story of a young woman who, while living at the Bruderhof, attempted suicide. It clearly demonstrates the depths of despair to which she descended. I know this woman personally; she is telling the truth and has no reason to do otherwise.
"In the weeks that followed, Heini Arnold continued the clearances:
"I sobbed and begged for forgiveness. I said I wished I were dead. Life held no future for anyone as wicked as me. He told me to kneel down and he prayed for me to be given the strength to open up and to be totally truthful. This was demeaning, frightening and unpleasant. I was overwhelmed by anxiety and felt a sick, churned up feeling in the pit of my stomach.
"These sessions seemed to drag on interminably. There were such long silences between his utterances. I felt that I was drowning in the silence, gasping for breath, but unable to speak."
Faith entered a clinical depression and was treated by a Kingston psychiatrist, who prescribed major tranquilizers and sedatives. She became increasingly depersonalized and suicidal, but refused to submit to electro-convulsive shock therapy. Thus, after months of suffering from intractable depression, Arnold sent her, unaccompanied, to the Bruderhof in England. Here the interrogations continued by another servant and his wife. After one devastating round of clearances, Faith attempted suicide by taking an overdose of sedatives. The Bruderhof expelled her and she began her life as an apostate. She explains:
"I sank into the 'Slough of Despond.' My situation seemed irretrievably hopeless. I wanted to die. I managed to swallow a bottle of liquid chloral hydrate sleeping medication that was kept near the wash-up sink. By morning my miserable existence would be at an end. I lay down on my bed, my body racked by sobbing. I had no moment of regret or uncertainty. I came round hours later, retching uncontrollably, covered with my own vomit. My head was exploding and I was unable to move my body.
"My attempted suicide ended my life with the Bruderhof. They informed me that because I had rejected psychiatric help and had rejected their attempts to cleanse myself of sin through confession, then clearly I must leave and find my own way of reaching out to Jesus for help. Thus began my separation from and new life outside of the Bruderhof."
Let me first explain who I am.
At the time (c. 1990) my name was Trisha Block. I came from Ransom House, when they decided to join the 'hof. Because of several (unimportant) reasons, I was the first to go, and went to Woodcrest. I spent approximately 3 months there, and was content, at least for a while.
When I was at Ransom House, we had regular Bible Studies, Worship Services, and a true love for each other was extremely apparent. I went to Woodcrest with many hopes.
When I got there, I expected a lot of worship (something that I am extremely fond of, as many of you Christians are). But I got discouraged very quickly.
There were no formal Bible studies, worship services, nothing that would increase my relationship with Jesus Christ. (Let me add here, that Jeff and Tammy Kipphut are the ones specifically responsible for my belief in Jesus. Their faith was exhaustive and contagious!).
The existence that I lead at the 'hof was one of breakfast, laundry work, lunch, kitchen work, dinner, and time. I became very bored, and felt very lonely. I left because I had to.
I had continued to hold the Bruderhof in high esteem until just recently. I felt that it just wasn't the lifestyle that I was looking for, and that it was me, not them.
Since then, I had gotten an email address for Rick Burke. I sent an email with great hopes of hearing how everyone was and excited to be in contact with them.
I received one email from Rick's wife Nancy, and haven't heard anything since. I feel hurt, betrayed, and neglected.
Now that I read some of these messages from young men who have recently "graduated," left, whatever from the 'hof, I am disgusted. The hate in those messages is something that Satan himself would be proud of.
The lack of response to my queries as to how people are is appalling.
I am glad that I didn't stay. I now worship Jesus with a happy heart, not an oppressed one. God has blessed me with a wonderful husband, a great career, and a very love-filled life.
I did not want my name associated with this newsgroup in the hopes that I would still hear from someone from Ransom House [Patti gave us permission to publish this]. I am "coming out of the closet" because I have come to the conclusion that the Bruderhof does not deserve my respect, admiration, or concern anymore. I will continue to pray for those that I have loved from Ransom House, but I will no longer justify the behavior displayed from 'hof members.
I wish everyone in this newsgroup a loving, peaceful Easter. Let us celebrate the greatest gift of love that God has given us, forgiveness.
Dave Ostrom, 4/7/98: What Jesus taught was we are all in the same boat, we all have our sins and weakness. We should be aiding our brothers and sisters, not judging them. In this light, the Lord's Prayer is clear, "forgive our trespasses (sins) as we have forgiven others..." If we don't forgive, we will not be forgiven!
As was pointed out previously in other postings, there is a difference in forgiveness and condoning. To me this is where the confusion/misunderstanding/whatever comes into the picture. JCA did not answer the question well in 70 X 7. He danced around the issue with a lot of hype but did not clarify what or how one evaluates an issue or situation for a decision whether to forgive or to make a stand against illegal or unChristian behavior.
Blair Purcell, 4/8/98: Can one forgive on the one hand and still make a strong stand against illegal and unChristian behavior? Holding one accountable for continuing actions is vital to reconciliation. Unless those actions stop, one must continue to make the stand on ethical, moral and religious grounds. As to who should stop first, the one offending or the one making the offenses public, well, it appears to me to be an open and shut case. No offenses, no reactions. That's simple.
None of this would be talked about at all if the events hadn't occurred. That's the responsibility of those carrying out the actions; not the former members.
It is interesting to note that when questions of the nature that Dave raises were addressed directly to JCA -- after he asked forgiveness, he refused to answer. Not only that, he turned the questions over to Christian Domer -- who apparently handles legal affairs for the Bruderhof.
From another perspective, Bruderhof activities seem to have moderated to a certain degree. While there is still some question about their participation in certain events in the Phoenix area, it appears they haven't appeared outside peoples homes unannounced, nor have they been involved in bringing electronic equipment into churches. To the extent we have taken stands when these things have happened in the past, it appears they no longer do them -- and that's progress.
The change, however, seems to be based on the fact that, for the first time, former members have resisted the coercion and intimidation of the past. Now, if restoration of family ties were to follow, forgiveness just might not need to be discussed at all. Ideal situation, that.
Wayne Chesley, 4/10/98: On my Bruderhof web page I quote a passage of scripture which I think is relevant: "Have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness, rather reprove them." There are other passages of scripture that warn against false teachers and false prophets. I do think the Christian believer has the proper task of warning others against counterfeit spirituality. Certainly Jesus and the apostle Paul spoke quite sharply against religious elitists who used God's Word and their own elevated positions for their personal gain.
When I was at the Bruderhof, people started justifying their actions against their enemies by citing Jesus' taking up a whip of cords and driving the money changers out of the temple. I think the leadership of the Bruderhof would be among the money changers and Pharisees and Saducees against whom Jesus spoke so sharply.
There is, I feel, some obligation on the part of ex-members to speak out. If I had heard from ex-members the things I now know about the Bruderhof I would never have joined and experienced the upheaval my family went through. When the Bruderhof's behavior changes, we can acknowledge that too. The Bruderhof will go out of its way to accommodate someone who will speak well of them, and they will make great efforts to silence those who criticize them.
Betty Chesley, [from a discussion about a cult evaluation form] 4/10/98: I am not sure if what I have to offer here will muddy the waters or clear them, but the Christian Research Institute International has some very good cult-watch materials available as well. A few quotes from some of their materials:
"Groups may be designated as cults on theological grounds, behavioral (or sociological) grounds, or in some cases, both. Theologically, a group is a cult if it claims to represent the true teachings of a world religion and yet redefines those teachings such that the nature of the religion becomes radically altered. To provide an example from a non-Christian religion, the Nation of Islam is a pseudo-Islamic cult.
"Pseudo-Christian cults explicitly or implicitly deny essential Christian doctrine. They operate under the guise of Christianity but deviate from the orthodox teachings of the historic Christian faith communicated by the Scripture and codified by the ancient ecumenical creeds. They are masters at taking texts out of context to develop pretexts for their theological perversions. Walter Martin put it this way: 'A cult is a group of people gathered about a specific person or person's misinterpretation of the Bible.'
(Continued...) "Behaviorally, a cult is a religious or semi-religious sect whose followers are controlled by a strong, charismatic leader (or leaders) in virtually every dimension of their lives. They characteristically have a blind loyalty to the guru and the group and are kept in line through psychological intimidation tactics and an all-consuming regimen of indoctrination and service to the group. Members of these cults more often than not have an extreme "we/they" mentality and are isolated as much as possible from all former associations, including their immediate families."
Source -- CRII Statement No.: DC-945
Several things come to mind here -- many of us former members can attest to some of these characteristics as related to the Bruderhof. Recently, I heard a reference to "the terror of church discipline"(!).
Patti Gambier posted a while back on this newsgroup sharing her hurt and frustration over having no contact except for one brief e-mail from friends with whom she'd been involved in an earlier community experience.
The "we/they" syndrome is very clear in how "KIT" (and its readers) has now become a deep spiritual enemy that has existed for a long time -- pretty impressive accomplishment for a newsletter. I am not meaning to be trite here, but this demonstrates very clearly the enforced polarization between those inside and those outside of the communities.
I understand that it could be argued that devotion and loyalty to the church and its leader(s) could be a fruit of the Holy Spirit, but I believe that in the Bruderhof's case, this would be a grave abuse of the concept of true gelassenheit. Gelassenheit was/is a yielding of oneself, of one's will to God through the Holy Spirit; it was something that set the early Anabaptists apart from other faith practitioners. It was not a surrender first to the structured church and its leaders with all else following. That displaces Christ as the focus. This is something that many of us believe has happened within the Bruderhof communities today. Although they may claim an Anabaptist heritage, they have rejected nonresistance through the use of the courts and lawsuits and have either broken ties with the Hutterian Church or been expelled.
"My main concern, which I'm sure many of us share here, is to find a way to open meaningful dialogue with the Bruderhof. Whatever they require in order to get this dialogue going, I would like to hear about. If what is keeping them from meaningful dialogue is the advice of their attorneys or paralegals because they fear that any admission on their part of abusive or unlawful or manipulative behavior as an organization would leave them open to some sort of lawsuit, then perhaps we could discuss a way to eliminate that roadblock. What I have suggested elsewhere is that we draw up some sort of Hold Harmless document that would state that at whatever meeting(s) is (are) held, and within whatever dialogue ensues, that none of the admissions or information revealed by either side could be used later in a court of law. Would that help get things rolling?
I don't know how much more could be offered to the Bruderhof! As long as they try to exercise the same control on people outside of the community as they do on the inside (you can't read or associate with people who read KIT, controlled or denied family access), I don't see how the Bruderhof leadership can honestly meet with others for true discussion and work for reconciliation.
But I can hope because I hope in One higher and bigger than this tragic situation. I have thought a lot this past week about our last Easter at the Bruderhof, where the focus really did seem to be on Christ, where things quieted, and I don't recall hearing much, if anything, against KIT or the Hutterites in the meetings. If there is a real longing for true change within those inside the Bruderhof, it can happen. But not if the spirit of fear rules the hearts inside. Praying for a blessed Easter for all,
Elisabeth says that getting justice due is not likely to happen in this world. She feels "it just simplifies your life to do what He (Jesus) says." Specifically, she reminds us to mediate on 1Cor.13 before we think of taking someone to court. Love, she reminds us "is not self-seeking. You want the wrongs to be righted? Think about this one: Love keeps no records of wrongs." Our willingness to be wronged as Christians, our willingness to love the enemy, can best be understood by the prophesy of Isaiah 53:2-5,7,8. Jesus was despised and rejected by men. He knew grief all too well. Most of us in this group are well-acquainted with the grief visited upon us by the Bruderhof .
I was personally challenged by the following words which Elisabeth quotes from Florence Alshorn. " 'To love a human being means to accept him, to love him as he is. If you wait to love him till he has got rid of his faults, till he is different, you are only loving an idea. He is as he is now. I can only love a person by allowing myself to be disturbed by him as he is. I must accept the pain of seeing him with hopefulness and expectancy'."
When I substitute specific names for the word "human" -- Dick, Christian, John and Christoph come to mind -- the paragraph becomes electric! I'm wondering if some of you might be willing to reflect on this paragraph and share your thoughts with us. I can envision having a relationship with each of these men despite the pain they cause me. But what does Elisabeth mean by "allowing myself to be disturbed by him as he is"? How can one be disturbed, how can one expose wickedness, and still do it in love? How can one do this and not get a "chill off" response from Elder Christoph? How can one get each of these men, Elder Christoph in particular, to shoulder in a Christ-like manner, the leadership responsibilities they have been entrusted with?
Wayne Chesley, 4/17/98: Surely you, Mel, and all of us who have had an experience with the Bruderhof and who follow after Jesus, face the multi-poled struggle of balancing forgiveness with enabling silence, shouldering personal injustice with seeking conciliation (especially on other's behalf), and granting pardon while shouting out a warning to others. The most difficult part of it all is that the Bruderhof leaders continue in their "sins" while expecting forgiveness, or they quietly acknowledge that something they did was wrong, but they do not attempt to make it right.
I am told (occasionally directly) that Bruderhofers think what I have written and done since leaving is hateful. I do believe they would not consider us forgiving (though they don't expect forgiveness) because we still speak out about what is wrong, and still seek to make things right and to warn people about the hypocrisy of the Bruderhof. They would only consider us to be forgiving if we were silent.
I too would like to know what others think about this. I wish someone from the Bruderhof would write (perhaps this might trigger another epiphany!). I most especially would like to know what other Christians who watch this newsgroup think about forgiveness and forgetfulness in this situation. Peace,
Blair Purcell, 4/17/98: I recently had the opportunity to meet casually with Mike, a clean-cut, young Bruderhofer -- recently baptized and a new member of the brotherhood.
Our meeting was an accident of time -- he was not there to see me nor I there to "meet" with him. Mike was courteous, a bit reserved during our social chit-chat. Then, near the end of our contact, he asked me what my attitude towards the Bruderhof was.
Our impression was that he was probably unaware of how "activist" we have been but lumped us, in his mind, with former members in general. My response was that I had no quarrel with the religious perspective of the Bruderhof but could not understand how a religious group could be responsible for immoral, illegal and unethical activities. I pointed out the limitations of time (I couldn't cover everything in just the few minutes we had), but mentioned telephone harassment (which he acknowledged in an offhand way -- he was aware of it -- as had Christian Domer over a year ago), the pink stickers inviting obscene phone calls, and the apparent attempt to bring electronic equipment into the Methodist church in Kingston a couple of years ago.
I told him these were a few of the problems I (we) had with the Bruderhof.
Well, like Christian Domer, Mike acknowledged knowing about the phone calls. I then pointed out that what was done was a crime. He said, yes, it was wrong and shouldn't have happened. He didn't know about the stickers at all (I'm pretty sure he was telling the truth) and knew nothing about the electronic stuff at the church.
He went on to say that the Bruderhof had made mistakes in the past but they didn't do these things anymore. He felt the Christmas card (from Christoph -- dropping the lawsuit) represented a turning point and that former members should now "get on with their lives." I pointed out that most had done exactly that -- but it wasn't up to the Bruderhof to set any former member's schedule in that regard.
Separation from family constitutes the biggest obstacle of all (yes, there are other obstructions as well) in getting on with life. It's impossible to just walk away from those you love without struggle.
My interpretation of what Mike said was that the Bruderhof had stopped doing these things kind of concurrently with the Christmas card. I told him that no one from the Bruderhof had made any sort of statement to that effect and there was some evidence, inconclusive so far, that the Bruderhof might be involved in the current Arizona "happenings" of which we are all aware.
I asked if he knew that JCA had written a letter seeking forgiveness for where he had wronged us. I don't believe Mike knew that had been done. I observed that when we had written back to JCA asking that he be specific in regards to the offenses for which he sought forgiveness, the letter had been turned over to the legal department (Christian Domer) for response. JCA did not answer.
There wasn't much more. Mike said he didn't want to get into "all that" in regards to the details of our discussion. He probably has no great stature in the brotherhood at his age, and little influence. Still, it was an interesting conversation. I asked him to take back a message (suggested here before) that if the threat of legal action is preventing the Bruderhof from reaching a genuine accord with its critics, then they should know many of us are willing to sign away threats of legal retribution in return for true resolution of outstanding issues.
We shook hands at the end.
Blair Purcell, 4/17/98: The phrase "we made mistakes in the past" has a familiar ring. I told Mike at the time that what had occurred was not a series of mistakes but reflected a conscious decision by someone (or everyone) to actually do the things that had happened. That's not "mistakes" -- they were done on purpose.
Can we give JCA credit for asking for forgiveness? My own thinking is that I don't give a tinker's dam about his apology. I do care how my wife is allowed to relate to her family and the lies that are told about her. I care about the fine people I've met who have left the Bruderhof and I care about the basically good people in the Bruderhof. Like Mike and so many others that each of us knows and can almost respect. And it is good that we recognize this -- finally.
Paul C. Fox, 4/17/98: As long as the Bruderhof goes on using the language of "mistakes" instead of squarely admitting that what they have done is wrong, there is no hope of reconciliation, or even of meaningful communication.
Even assuming that "the Bruderhof has stopped doing these things," the critical question is "why have they stopped?" If it is because they have recognized that what they were doing was really wrong, then that is a start -- but have they ever admitted so much?
I'm afraid they've stopped only because the tactics didn't seem to be working, or because they felt there was some advantage to be gained by a cease-fire. In other words, the decision to play dirty tricks or not is made on purely pragmatic grounds, rather than out of any moral principle. In which case, you may be sure that the cessation is temporary...
Wayne Chesley, 4/18/98: If the Bruderhof members think it was wrong, will they apologize to Blair and others specifically for doing it and pay for the phone bill? While they are at it, I would like a note of apology from the "servants" and members at Catskill for putting me under pressure to go along with the [phone harassment] calls and stand in unity with them rather than standing against what was wrong.
Mike seems to think ex-members and "children of the Bruderhof" should be ever so grateful for having the lawsuit dropped. It's like the bully who thinks you should like him because he stopped punching you in the face. "And no, you can't have your lunch money back."
All of the attitudes and actions you describe here add up to an indication that there has been no real heart change, just a change in strategy. The mistake was that the old strategy didn't work, the wrong committed was that they used an ineffective technique. The new strategy is to stop some of the bullying and demand "forgiveness" and silence. It will make them look good (to themselves) because they can accuse their critics of being "unforgiving". I'll bet this goes a long way in the Brotherhood.
Did you mention the continued threat of legal actions against Julius Rubin and SPCK that caused the book Harmful Religion to suddenly go out of print? I suppose some day the Bruderhof will see that as a "mistake", when they end up embarrassed and shamed by it; in the meantime it no doubt is seen as a good thing, because it worked!
BTW, did Mike believe that KIT had sued the Bruderhof rather than the other way around?
But we have come to expect that of the Bruderhof(tm). As a true Christian organization they would have strong enough faith to withstand the "Demon KIT". This without lawsuits. Remember the words: "If someone asks for your cloak, give them your coat also." How does this relate to taking someone to court? For common mark [trademark] infringement? Including your own children? Or perhaps the words, "What you have done to the least of these, my brethren, you have done unto Me."
If the Bruderhof wishes to continue to use the guise of a Christian organization, perhaps it needs to start to live up to His teachings. Otherwise those of us that lived there and know better will continue to expose how the Bruderhof fails, to warn others not to get snared and waste years of their lives in service to man (or worse) and not to Him!
You [bc3000] wrote: "All joking aside, it's too bad you never learned to recognize the self-deceit of overweening pride. You never learned that those afflicted with an inordinate self-esteem are the last ones to recognize their true state."
We can all see that you yourself haven't. Perhaps this mirror would help? Just like the mirror KIT holds up to the Bruderhof(tm). I pray one day the Bruderhof will have the courage to look in the mirror and change.
You [bc3000] wrote: "In community, these things are exposed fairly quickly, but I guess that's why you didn't last too long in community."
In the community, the concept of self is destroyed for the sake of communal unity. If one seeks to live one's conscience and finds oneself at odds with the united Brotherhood, the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Either exclusion or being asked to "see things more clearly." The novice vow itself, as well as the marriage vows, put unity for its own sake in a higher position than one's relationship to God or spouse, or other professing Christians not in the Bruderhof.
Wayne and others that question the Bruderhof actions and ask what the Bible tells us, or what Jesus would do in a situation, find themselves in hot water in the Bruderhof. "Its not whether it's right or wrong, but that we will do it together."
If this assertion is incorrect, I challenge the Bruderhof to show how a person in a non-leadership position has affected a change in Bruderhof policy by standing up to the united Brotherhood. Several such instances, fully documented, would be quite convincing.
While they are at it, they could explain why the Lord's Supper, Brotherhood and Society meetings cannot be attended by outsiders or those not having made lifelong commitments to the community. I would think that if what goes on in these meetings is so spiritually edifying, then they would all be open to the public. I cannot fathom why they need to be secret.
I look forward to signed responses here by Joe, Christian or Christoph. Perhaps they lack the courage to do so. I would love to be pleasantly surprised.
Blair Purcell, 4/18/98: Quoting from a recent letter received from a former friend of the Bruderhof: Dear Blair,
My apologies but I have accidentally omitted to put the Bruderhof response to my question in it's proper context.
I have been receiving The Plough for around 8 years now and had been quite attracted by their lifestyle, if only as an observer. Recently I came across articles on the Net criticizing aspects of Bruderhof life, and their treatment of ex-members in particular. I therefore wrote to The Plough office asking if it was true that they were conducting a lawsuit against former bruderhofers and I received the reply I sent you.
I responded to their reply with another e-mail saying that the circumstances of their going to law, however "difficult", were irrelevant since it completely contradicted the teaching on forgiveness contained in Christoph Arnold's recent book, Seventy Times Seven. Personally I'm not sure whether or not going to law is legitimate for the Christian, but it smacked to me of hypocrisy, especially as they are currently campaigning for the release of a convicted killer (presumably on the basis of forgiveness). It's a pity they can't extend the same principle to you.
Incidentally, I received no further correspondence from anyone at the bruderhof.
I have sent the writer of this letter a copy of this posting. I want to thank him for this contribution to the Bruderhof decision to drop the lawsuit last December. I believe there were a number of reasons for the Bruderhof decision. Public opinion, to a small degree, must have been one of them.
Being deposed (answering questions under oath or affirmation) was surely another. They were a short time away from that when they decided to give us a Christmas gift and drop the lawsuits. As much as any of us really didn't want to get involved in defending a lawsuit filed by the Bruderhof against its own children, there was an inclination to go to trial in order to get answers to the questions the Bruderhof refuses to answer.
Wayne Chesley, 4/22/9: Tim Domer wrote: "I agree with Wayne that one must be fair and accurate..."
"The important point, I believe, is that nowhere in the Mission Statement of Action Generation or the posting announcing the RevolutionFest in Darvell is there mention of finding solutions based on Christ's teachings and life example."
I see your point all too clearly, Tim. And I agree entirely with it. In actuality the Bruderhof's focus on Christ seems to be a lot of rhetoric. They would behave quite differently if they in fact based their lives on Christ's teachings.
The RevolutionFest posting states, "It's the right time to get pissed off". The Bruderhof Web page states, " The basis of our communal life is Christ's teaching in The New Testament, especially his words about brotherly love and love of enemies, mutual service, non-violence and the refusal to bear arms…"
I don't recall those particular words on their web site before. But it is a real demonstration of hypocrisy that they would post them. "Love of enemies"? -- empty words! I was put out of the Brotherhood for suggesting we follow those words of Jesus!
Nowhere have I read that Christ told his disciples or the masses to get "pissed off" at the political system or advocate a political revolution. He almost completely ignored the Romans and their unjust system. His was a message of a very different kind of revolution.
Again it shows how meaningless their rhetoric is. But I might suggest that the real problem lies in the fact that many in the Bruderhof, especially in the leadership, have not experienced the "inner revolution" Jesus promises to work in those who believe in Him. How can they preach the "good news" when they have not experienced it, and do not know what it is?
Question: "When is 70x7 a 2x4 in a fancy wrap?"
The correct answer wins a KIT annual -- their choice of year.