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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
------ Table of Contents --------
Margot Purcell - Ohiopyle Reunion
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe - Winifred Hildel
Item - JCA review in Publishers Weekly
Sea Welham - Inverell Report
Ruth Baer Lambach
Renatus Kluver to Christian Domer
Mel Fros to Joe Keiderling
Miriam Arnold Holmes
Paul C Fox MD to Editor, Christian Living
Konrad Kluver to Johann Christoph Arnold
------ alt.support.bruderhof excerpts -------
J SanGiacomo, W Chesley, B Purcell
W Chesley, W Chesley, W Chesley
P C Fox, Tim Domer
Pauline Ellison Davies
PKIT: Lee Kleiss had surgery in late May, hopefully to repair the nerve damage to her lower back and legs. Cards can be sent to her home: 1012 Westmont Drive, Fayetteville, NC 2830. Hospital room phone: 919 684-4706; home phone: 910 323-0700.
Ricia Bernard has been visiting the Bay Area on the way to a family reunion on the Big Island. Thanks for all the help naming faces in photos, Ricia! And the yummy Costa Rican coffee!
PMargot Purcell, 5/22/99: We are just back from the Ohiopyle reunion weekend, unpacked, with the first load of laundry in, dishes washed, food put away. Tents are still packed, waiting for a sunny day to dry and air out.
We had a great time! Three families camped, all arriving Friday evening at 7:00, tents set up and fire made. Thanks to a dear cousin we had dry firewood. Stars were out in glory and it was not too cold. Slept well except some of us were kept awake by some campers who had sites all around us and who were all part of a Christian singles group outing. Some seemed to be first-time campers.
Our three sites were lovely, quite grassy and easily connected, so we used the center site for our gathering. Cicadas were coming out of the ground at night and hatching. In the morning they were all over the bikes, tents and trees. I had never seen them come out of the ground and out of their pupa stage. Someone indicated that this area was in for its seventeen-year cycle of lots of cicadas.
Saturday morning was sunny, and after breakfast we drove the bikers to the town of Confluence (this is where our family had gone to highschool for one year while we were out). Blair, Emily, and others all biked along the old western Maryland railroad bed. It is downhill ten miles to Ohiopyle. We dropped them there, then parked the cars at the end of the line so they could drive back. Then the rest of us did some walking, and luckily finished our walk just as the bikers finished their trip. Back to camp while dark clouds loomed.
Upon our return to camp, we found that several other families had arrived. Around 5:00 PM it started to rain and would not stop. We had anticipated thunderstorms and hoped that they would pass by quickly. We soon decided to go out to eat. Some went to Glisens on Route 40, past the hof, while we campers all went to the Pizza Hut in Farmington. By the time we were done and had a short drive around the NMR hof, we returned to camp. By this time it was only a drizzle, so we lit the fire and sat around with marshmallows and talked.
By 10:00 the rain started again, although just a short shower and drizzle. Those who were motel-bound departed and the tenters retreated. Blair and I were roused at 3:00 AM by a loud car engine and headlights shining into our site. When we looked out, we saw a man bending down to retrieve some sticks we had in our site. We asked if we could help and the answer was, ŇThis is Andrew.Ó Andrew Bazeley had driven in after attending a wedding elsewhere. He got lost because we did not know he was coming and had not had the chance to send him any information. It took him a while to locate our site. He was so happy to get to our site that he closed the car door with the engine and lights on and in error locked the door. He finally found a stick that he could pry off some moulding around the window and managed to open the window and shut off the ignition. He settled into the car to sleep and all was quiet again.
Rain fell on and off during the night and more cicadas kept coming out of the ground. By morning we managed breakfast and a nice fire. After packing up the site, wet tents and all, we drove to the picnic area. It was a cool, foggy day, but luck was with us as both shelters were available. Soon hamburgers, hotdogs and lots of food were ready. I have not tallied how many were there, but I think we were 42-45 for the picnic.
The weather did not participate too well, but the spirit and joy of being together was great. Yes, two vans of Bruderhof families did go by looking for --? They waved politely -- I donŐt think they knew who we were. When the second car came by, Nadine and I and others stood right next to the road so they could see us. They again waved and smiled as they passed. ThatŐs all the news for now,
PITEM: The June issue of Publishers Weekly reviewed the new book purportedly written by Johann Christoph Arnold, Cries from the Heart. A brief quote: "Although the stories are sometimes moving, Arnold's brief interpretations of them are not profound and fail to teach lessons that cannot be found elsewhere in a livelier form."
PIn Loving Memory Of Winifred Hildel
by Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, 5/23/99
Winifred Pacy was a young Oxford student when she decided to join the Cotswold Bruderhof in 1939-40. She had studied music and French, and was a very happy, warm and joyful person. She left for Primavera in the second group, I think, and helped build the community in the back woods with literally nothing. When my mother was diagnosed with TB Meningitis and when Margot (who had been our 'mother' for many years) married Dr. Cyril Davies, Winifred came to look after the Zumpe children. Rudi, whom we knew well and loved as children, came to help her out with the five of us and it was not long before their engagement was announced. We loved Winifred, although we made life difficult for her at times. She had to see to it that we washed and went to bed before 7:00 PM when she would go to supper, but it was always at 7:00 that we seemed to be terribly thirsty and she would run to the kitchen to get us a jugful of water and then be late for supper. She used to sing a lot with us and taught us many French songs.
Throughout all the following years, the warm contact with both Rudi and Winifred remained. They had seven daughters. The only little son died at childbirth. They went to the Wheathill Bruderhof in 1952 and Winifred was housemother there for many years. I met her again in Woodcrest in 1984, and it seemed she had not aged at all, joyful, happy and very enthusiastic about every new idea. On the Michaelshof in Germany, I saw her for the last time. She prepared tea for my family when we popped in on our way to a holiday in Switzerland. I will hold warm memories of a dedicated, intelligent and loving person when I think of her. In many ways she was special.
PRuth Baer Lambach, 8/11/95: Enclosed find a photo of me with a torch. Several weeks ago for our July 4th celebration I found myself holding a torch, a used toilet plunger, in front of several hundred refugees and saying:
"This is a toilet plunger; a used toilet plunger. It symbolizes freedom. A toilet plunger frees things up. That's what you have the opportunity of doing here in America; you can free yourself from old prejudices and hardened categories."
I do believe we will eventually have Serbian and Bosnian refugees sitting in the same ESL [English As A Second Language] classes. It's a miracle, just as we had Cambodians and Vietnamese and Iraqi and Iranians in the past during their feuds.
The teachers hid their faces in embarrassment at my talks, and the students who understood the language roared. They loved the symbolism. The talk was not premeditated -- and it probably could not be duplicated.
4/13/99: Brother Witless -- I loved the rubber-tipped knitting needles! And I loved Migg Fischli's recounting of life in the original Bruderhof. The scene he described of ex-lawyers and professionals sweating in the garden along with ex-convicts and derelicts, exchanging ideas and experiencing the warmth of the sun and the dirt under their feet -- yes, this is what Chairman Mao was trying to teach his people when he took the privileged classes out into the good earth. Some of that stuff is positive, only they took it too far.
The Bruderhof also went over the edge when they attempted to get my father to wash dishes, which he thought was woman's work. So he kept track of all the names on the dish-washing list and figured out that some pigs were 'more equal' than others and never got their names on the list. Thus he exhibited 'the wrong spirit.' Those spirits sure are ephemeral! They love to play havoc in people's lives by trading places frequently. Greetings to all,
PRenatus Kluver - Open letter to Christian Domer, 4/14/99: Dear Christian, since you are an avid reader of the KIT newsletter, I am using this forum to write to you, being absolutely sure that you will also receive and read my 'open letter' to you. I am using the polite form of address, since this also reflects my attitude of a believing Christian towards someone who is in need of help.
I am glad to note that you still have the capacity of "being astonished" when referring to people you have no control over. I refer to the letter you wrote to Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe [KIT XI #3 p 4] where you write in the most astonishingly aggressive and ill-conceived, bad-mannered way. You state that -- and I quote from your letter to Mrs. Bohlken-Zumpe dated 3/18/99 -- "let me advise you that we at the Bruderhof have checked our sources" where you imply, no, actually state, that Mrs. Bohlken-Zumpe is "ignorant of the majority of facts" and claim that it is "our history." First of all, who the dickens do you think you are that you have the gall to think you have the right to give "advice" to someone whose grandfather was the founder of the movement called the Bruderhof, the name of which you have now usurped?! You then glibly claim that it is "our history," obviously referring to yourself.
Now my dear boy, it is not your history at all because your parents are not founder-members of "The Bruderhof." They are founder members of Woodcrest, and that is a fact. The organisation to which you seem to belong, and which is using the name "Bruderhof," certainly is not the organisation Mrs. Bohlken-Zumpe is referring to. You refer to the time of Sannerz in August, 1923. Interesting, because that beginning in community of goods was actually dissolved by Eberhard a few years later. My parents joined the new beginning in the early thirties, out of which grew the Rhn Bruderhof, The Alm Bruderhof, The Cotswold Bruderhof, The Wheathill Bruderhof, the Primavera Bruderhof, the El Arado Bruderhof, The Bullstrode Bruderhof and Sinnthal, There was never any mention of "The Law of Sannerz," which has been confirmed by Bruce Sumner and others who then joined in the 1930s. Your less-than-mature outburst that "we at the Bruderhof have checked with our sources" -- and the following, which I find quite funny for someone to state who holds such a dominant position. No, on second thought, it's not funny at all but it actually is rather pathetic -- "which by the way are hundreds if not thousands of times more complete and exhaustive than your sources."
So what does that prove? If your sources are so overpoweringly accurate, and running into "thousands," then why for heavens sake do you feel so threatened by one individual to whom you deny correspondence and visiting rights with her ailing mother, daughter of Eberhard Arnold, founder of The Bruderhof?
I think Mrs. Bohlken-Zumpe wrote you a very good, loving letter, which I hope you give the respect that it deserves, in which she points out the essence of people not talking behind one another's backs, which, incidentally is Biblical and not "Sannerz," to clear matters between individuals 'before the sun sets.' This leads me to another point. Last year, in August, when I showed up at New Meadow Run, I had very much hoped to be able to see my sister Christel. Now why did you not show up and have a word with me if, as you instructed Wayne to tell me, "there were outstanding matters to be discussed?" And then you advise Augusto and Nadine that you would have like to meet with them, referring to the same visit that I tried to make, and you question them as though you have a right to give them instructions. I find that your actions are contradictory to what you say, that you have me blocked to see someone I could have had a talk with, to clear up "outstanding matters" and you then offer "talking-terms" to someone else who has not the slightest interest in talking with you, or anyone on the Hof.
I endorse absolutely what Mrs. Bohlken-Zumpe wrote in the April KIT issue in response to your vitriolic attack on her, regarding the 'First Law of Sannerz.' As Christians we believe in only one first law and that is to "love your neighbour as you would yourself." It might help you to go to Acts, in the New Testament, and read Paul's letter to the Corinthians, I Cor. Ch. 13, 4-8: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails!" Christian greetings to you,
PKIT, 6/2/99: As of this date, there has been no response to the following letter.
PMelchior Fros to Joe Keiderling, 4/25/99: Dear Joe, I would like to respond to material you, Chris Z. and Christoph have recently written and sent to Ramon. It is you primarily, whom I wish to address.
Regarding the First Law in Sannerz, I personally have little doubt that Papa Eberhard did indeed write such a document for his infant community. You will recall that Eberhard had a great reverence for Scripture and a disdain for quoting it lightly. You will also recall that there was a great deal of coming and going in those days: the Hans-im-Glucks and the likes. I can well imagine that Eberhard saw the need to post something known as "direct address" among the Quakers, based on the words of Jesus as we have them in Matt. 18. It is also possible that 'The First Law in Sannerz' remained exactly that and the author felt no need to post it in the Rhn or the Alm communities. Apparently, none of Bette's sources can remember seeing it. This does not mean it did not exist; only that it may have served a specific need in a specific period of time.
I recall seeing a translation of it hanging in my parent's family room around the time of my return to the community in 1973. Evidently, Heini and the brotherhood had felt a need to introduce the aged document into the life of the community.
My friend Bette feels an acute need to speak up on behalf of one who is dead -- her much-loved father, a man broken and contrite over his sin and one whom the brotherhood would not forgive and reaccept into its circle. It is this man, a sinner like you and me, chosen by Eberhard to help lead his young band of Christians, whom you refused the gracious, forgiving words spoken by Jesus to repentant sinners. It is his memory that continues to be trodden upon in Christoph's books. It is his memory and the suffering of his widow that only one of his children is willing to defend in a public forum. That person is Bette. I believe Bette is even now working on translations of her father's letters in the hope of demonstrating his remorse and heartfelt longing to make right what was wrong.
Proof of the existence of the First Law in Sannerz, however, is not what motivates me to write to you. Instead, I am saddened to see how the three of you Bruderhof representatives have failed to apply the teaching in your dealings with your enemies, Ramon, Bette and myself included. I am not trying to point fingers at you today, only to remind you that you have deeply grieved the spirit of Eberhard's words and those spoken by Jesus in your dealings with "us."
Today we need persons who can be courageous and proactive. I see the need for people on both sides of the schism who are willing to risk much in an effort to honor Jesus. We need people who will turn their proverbial "swords into plowshares" and not their ploughs back into 'sword-shares.' In short, we need people who are willing to put the most essential of Jesus' teachings regarding the enemy into practice.
Will the three of you join me and others in seeking a lasting peace? Will you dare to create peace rather than only hoping for it? In hope,
PJanet Stevens, 5/3/99: You may well receive other copies of the article from Christian Living magazine by Steven Nolt. In considering the change from Eberhard Arnold's time, he does not mention the reign of Heini Arnold, Christoph's father. I see that as the time of change to the hierarchy. And Heini's older brother, who would have been the rightful heir, let out.
My sons and I were in Woodcrest in the middle 1950s before the big shake-up of a while later. We were asked to leave on one day's notice, but I held out for three. Yes, I remember Christoph as a teenager. After school he always took two glasses of whole milk when the ration was one for each high school student. Emmy Arnold sat out under the trees in fair weather. Annamarie, Heini's wife, was an excellent housemother.
At 85 I am now in the assisted living section of a retirement complex. All goes well,
PPaul C. Fox MD, to the Editor, Christian Living magazine: The article "Would Eberhard Arnold join the Bruderhof today?" by Steven M. Nolt (March, 1999) was an accurate summary of the "public facts" about the Bruderhof, and Prof. Nolt also raises some interesting questions about how the Bruderhof has developed over the years. However, as a "vocal former member," I can think of a good deal more that could be said about aspects of Bruderhof life which only those who have lived there as members can know.
Contrary to its public image, the Bruderhof organization is highly centralized and totally undemocratic. The ultimate source of correct opinions and behavior is the Elder, Johann Christoph Arnold. Woe betide any brothers or sisters who persist in disagreeing with Christoph -- they will find themselves under church discipline, and may even be expelled.
Being expelled from the Bruderhof is not like being disfellowshipped from a non-communal church. Members of the Bruderhof have given up all property, and those who are expelled leave with nothing, or with what little the community sees fit to give them. Many of the expelled have suffered hardships and poverty because of this.
Moreover, former members and many "Bruderhof children" who grew up there but never joined have been completely cut off from their Bruderhof families by Christoph Arnold and his associates. They are not permitted to visit, phone, or correspond with elderly parents, brothers and sisters, grandchildren, or even (in some cases) their own small children. Recently four Nigerian men who joined some years ago, and who had married Bruderhof women, were expelled, and were told they would "never see their children again!"
In short, beneath the "fairy-tale village" impression that the Bruderhof gives the casual visitor is a system that routinely and systematically abuses and oppresses its members and former members -- a system ultimately based on what amounts to a personality cult centered on Christoph Arnold. Nor is this anything new. Christoph's father, Heini, also ruled the Bruderhof with an iron hand.
Ultimately, the pattern was set by Bruderhof founder, Eberhard Arnold. Though a genuinely spiritual man, Eberhard had, I believe, an essentially autocratic spirit. He laid great emphasis on his role as "Word-leader" (Wortfuehrer), and expected full obedience from Bruderhof members. Eberhard's successors appear to lack any deep spirituality of their own. Thus, only the autocracy remains as Eberhard's legacy.
This is not to deny that there are many positive, even beautiful aspects of Bruderhof life. I simply want to point out that it comes at a cost. The price, ultimately, is freedom of thought and conscience.
Interested readers may want to visit the newsgroup alt.support.bruderhof as well as the website of the Peregrine Foundation at www.perefound.org.
PKonrad Kluver to Johann Christoph Arnold, 5/23/99: My dear friend Johann Christoph, the "radio-zo'o" is spreading the news that you are planning some sort of settlement in Australia... Now this reminds me of childhood days when we, our boys-group in Ibate, started a venture in the woods, building a represa in a dry creek. We never finished it, and I can't recall why.
I still am keenly interested in adventures of that style and colour and wonder, if you would take into consideration my offer of cooperation on location. I now would be free to devote my time and efforts to such a worthy project as you have planned. Please keep me informed! Your schooltime friend,
P"J. SanGiacomo," 4/5/99: To Wit: Once upon a time, there was this group that spent a lot of time fighting for the rights of death-row inmates and campaigning for free-speech, free-speech for everyone except their children who decided that "the way" was not for them. Those individuals have been expressly forbidden from making contact with other ex-members, or the group's children, on pain of being cut off from their families. The organization later realized that a lot of things they were doing such as filing multimillion dollar lawsuits against those that would dare defame the name of the Society were not exactly biblical, so they shamefacedly detracted the suit. They soon began to soften their approach to the whole faction of dissenters, resorting to silly tactics like inventing imaginary characters such as Dr. Jay Ortiz and Chip Wilson, carrying on the torch of self-righteousness and superiority high in the air, once again proving that they thought they were a great deal smarter and funnier than any ex-member could ever be, and in the end all they actually did was make complete fools of themselves.
The saga continues, with anyone who ever had a whisper of an affiliation with the Peregrine Foundation and its affiliates being treated with gross disrespect by the organization, all the while, the community becomes less and less recognizable to those who lived in it at one point (those that have lived there are fully aware at the organization's penchant for changing their habits overnight -- which shows what amazing control is exerted over it's body of members!!!) -- enough leftist causes to sink a ship, radio stations, airlines, nothing ever wrong in and of itself, but the dirty laundry continues to be thrown under the bed, and the feelings of its ex-members and children flagrantly trampled on in a most unseemly fashion.
What is it about the ex-members that posed such a great threat to the COB [Children of the Bruderhof] organization? How should so few people be able to become a legitimate threat to such a powerful, industrial-complex of an organization? Also, shall any man ask another man for a lifetime commitment to an earthly organization? Should Christian baptism serve one purpose (commitment to God) or dual purposes (commitment to organization, and to God -- although seemingly in the case of the organization, the God part seems to be a mere afterthought in some folks' minds!) These and other questions beg to be answered.
Discuss amongst yourselves (and in this forum).
PWayne Chesley, 4/20/99: David Goodwin wrote, "I also kindly explained that I was still very opposed to some of their [the Bruderhof's] corporate actions such as phone harassment of the COB phone number, and that it seemed to me that Wayne Chesley had been standing on the right side of things when he challenged this action and was dismissed from the brotherhood.
"He also said that although Wayne's challenge may have had some truth to it, that a right thing can be done in a wrong way, and that this must have been the case with Wayne. He said that "we would rather we all go wrong together, because so long as we are together God can lead us back to the right together."
To keep the record straight. I first apologized, saying something to the effect of "I'm sorry brothers, but this is wrong." I then quoted what Jesus said regarding how we should treat our enemies. The response from one of the ministers was strong to say the least. It has been said often to me and to people who have asked about the incident, that I may have been right (in some degree) but that I objected in a wrong way. Perhaps the Bruderhof will release the transcript of the meeting at which this occurred and then people interested can make their own judgment as to how wrong my way was.
I can only surmise from what Andreas stated to David that the right way would have been to enthusiastically embrace the wrongdoing and remain silent.
It was about four years ago that this happened. I'm glad I did not go wrong together with the rest of the Brotherhood. I wonder when they will hear God's voice calling them back? What I said in that meeting in which I objected to the harassing phone calls was not some special revelation from God, it was simply what Jesus said. When will the Bruderhofers listen to Jesus?
PBlair Purcell, 4/29/99: (As published in KIT, May, 1995) As starters we installed an 800 number (1 800 742-3052) See: http://www.perefound.org/kit5_95.html. Reaction from the Bruderhof followed swiftly. On the following days, harassing phone calls began to arrive:
May 9th 27 calls
May 10th 28 calls
May 11th 57 calls
May 12th 280 calls
May 13th 329 calls
May 14th 443 calls
Ultimately, over 2,000 phone calls appeared on our phone billing.
Dave Goodwin wrote: "This is quite interesting to me. In a discussion I had with Randy Gauger from the Bruderhof (see "Strange Meetings" [KIT XI #3 p 4]), he very emphatically told me that the harassing phone calls were needed to protect their children, because the 800 number mentioned above was posted around on bulletin boards in their local high school and in local phone books etc. in an evil effort to influence their children against the Bruderhof."
The 800 number was never posted at the high schools by any KIT folk. We did discuss how to get this number to Bruderhof folk who, if they needed it, would know about it. Yes, it was advertised in the Kingston, NY, phone book several weeks after the single note in the KIT newsletter and also in the Uniontown, PA, phone book a couple of months later. We received only one or two calls from non-bruderhof individuals and they were referred to one of the hof numbers. A few asked as to the reason for the listing and it was explained to them.
The first calls that came from the Bruderhof (immediately after the number and its original purpose was announced in KIT) were made by servants and older people who did in some cases identify themselves. They questioned why we wanted to turn their children away from life in community. They indicated their belief that we were trying to lure away children from the Bruderhof. It was explained the name we had adopted came from our identifying ourselves as children who had grown up there and still identified with much of it. We sent an e-mail further clarifying the purpose of COBI to the Bruderhof. It was shortly after that that the tone in the calls changed to serious harassment and the calls were now being made (generally) by younger folk who did not identify themselves. This is when the calls per day ranged into the hundreds.
By the time the two ads appeared in the phone books, the calls had dwindled substantially to no more than two or three a day instead of the hundreds received earlier. We believe it is a bit disingenuous for Randy to state the harassing calls were made because of the ads in the phone directories; they had not yet appeared. By the time the books were distributed, the vast majority of harassing calls had already been made and they did not resume (in volume). If we recall correctly, the three death threats were made after the phone books appeared.
We did want the ads to be effective; the ad in the Kingston book read as follows:
"HUTTERIAN BRETHREN, CHILDREN OF Ex-Bruderhofers provide Help/Information for those leaving Hutterian Brethren East Toll-free dial 1 & then 800-xxx-xxxx."
Oddly, the small display ad (rather large in comparison to the Bruderhof one-liners) appeared between the two listings (in the NY book) for the 'hofs located at Woodcrest and Pleasant View. That was done by the telephone company, not us. Obviously, the criticism would have been as sharp no matter where the ad appeared, but we were particularly taken to task for that specific positioning. Still, there is no way one could possibly believe this ad was placed by the Bruderhof. About the Bruderhof, yes, but not by the Bruderhof. We paid extra to have a larger ad that was completely clear as to its purpose.
Dave Goodwin wrote: "Randy overtly implied that if I only knew the 'facts' as he did, that I would soon agree that they were up against something very sinister with the 'KIT stuff' that really needed to be stopped."
Did he explain how this protected the children? Didn't they understand a harassment campaign would bring discredit to the Bruderhof? Would that not have harmed the children even more? Would not an effort of this magnitude reflect poorly on their faith? Why didn't they take these considerations seriously? Who damaged the Bruderhof's reputation by making those calls? It wasn't us.
I think they expected that former Bruderhofers would roll over and not complain -- as they always had in the past.
We cannot believe the ad shown above is sinister in any way. Nor was the ad in any way ambiguous. It would not have appeared, perhaps, if Elder Arnold had decided to accept our invitation to talk as originally requested. You should also know the reason it did appear was based on the fact that a young woman had run away from the Bruderhof the year before. She had considered suicide if she could not leave. She had brothers on the outside who came to get her on the night she escaped and our concern was for others, young or old, who might feel a similar desperation and who might not have relatives on the outside to whom they could turn.
Sometimes we wonder if folks like Randy have simply been told things on which they base their assertions? When Randy indicated that if you only knew the "facts" you would have a clear understanding of the sinister nature of KIT, then we will ask him here what those "facts" are. He didn't tell you the facts then; we doubt if he will now. We're not even sure he knows them. What we're saying is that Randy may have stated the truth as he knew it - but he didn't really know the facts at all. Or maybe he did.
Randy, if we have made any errors in the above statement, we would be pleased to consider your corrections and will gladly apologize for any mistakes we made in writing this.
In the few (and unfruitful) conversations I've had with Christian Domer and Joe Keiderling, there have been frequent references to "facts" which, if I only knew as they knew, would change my mind about the character of certain people. I have asked to be informed of the facts so I could be as knowledgeable as they. My request has never been honored.
What really happened, back in the winter of '94 and the spring of '95 was a recognition that the Bruderhof had no interest in reaching any sort of accommodation with former members and their families. They were out looking for their "fugitive from justice" Jason Barton, They bugged the home of one of their former ministers, they were seen outside the homes of several former Bruderhofers -- in one case, reportedly, a man disguised himself as a woman (so that he might not be identified. They attempted to bug the church where the Kingston meeting took place. They appeared to lie repeatedly both to the press and to individuals who attempted reconciliation.
The result was a collective determination by former members and their families to finally say (after thirty years or more of misdeeds and misstatements) "you can't do that anymore." Former members were just plain fed up. Those of us who had never been members took the stand that you can't do that to my wife, sister, husband, whatever and expect (as you always have) to get away with not being accountable.
Was it nonresistance on our parts? Maybe that isn't exactly the right word -- but we didn't sue them for $15,000,000.00 for harassment and death threats. We didn't entrap them at breakfast in Manhattan to serve the lawsuit papers. Sure, we talked to lawyers about it and the statute of limitations hasn't expired -- but we've decided not to sue them no matter how much they deserve it. That doesn't make us saints, but it sure is a better form of pacifism that they have practiced.
The fact is, for the first time in their history, they are being held accountable for what they do. And they don't like it. We simply say stop doing those things; somebody will end up in jail. We tried to say it privately (those avenues are still open) but it will be said publicly if there is no alternative. No alternative has been offered.
PWayne Chesley, 5/2/99: I missed the spelling [of "awsome"] there which would have triggered suspicion in my mind. I once did a fairly complex search of newsgroup messages while working on positively identifying 'charlie997' and "awsome" was one of the key words that uniquely identified Christoph as Charlie (and Charles, and at least one other personality).
It's interesting how distinctive Bruderhofers are. I was struck by this when some young men from the Bruderhof started posting some stuff on the newsgroup. At the same time I was receiving some messages by e-mail in response
I won't give away the keys I have detected, but there are very distinct styles and wordings Bruderhofers have that pretty clearly identify an individual as a Bruderhofer. Especially the young people who have not been out "in the world." Unfortunately, I will say that one distinctive feature is the strange use of certain obscenities.
On those same lines, I have never understood why someone has not taken interest in Christoph Arnold, the marvelously literate, well read and deeply spiritual and widely experienced author to the degree that they would actually compare "his" published words with his plainly spoken words in spontaneous interviews, letters and posting here on the Internet. It is so obvious that his authorship is fraudulent. 'Charlie' is not so articulate, it seems. It astounds me that so many, especially those on the "religious left" choose not to see through the fraud. Quite frankly I think it discredits their cause(s), don't you?
Still, I don't think CD or JK or CA are responsible for the garbage that ends up on this newsgroup at times, in spite of the Charlie-isms.
PWayne Chesley 5/9/99: Ben Cavanna wrote: "Yes it is interesting how patterned the behaviour of most of the Bruderhof young people is. The only way to conform is to follow the template set by Christoph and the senior leadership."
Conforming to Christoph's "style" is certainly the safest way to live at the Bruderhof community. Betty observed something interesting in this regard. When she noticed several men from "outside" (Rick Burke especially comes to mind) starting to wear the Bruderhof men's hairstyle, she knew they had become "company men". It's really true, the closer one conforms oneself to Christoph's image, the greater they will achieve. When Christoph shaved off his beard, all the ministers shaved, then all the young men, then the older men.
Ben Cavanna wrote: "Have you noticed how many of the men there speak in a style imitative of Christoph? It is quite spooky actually as this kind of hero worship could and almost certainly will end badly. Suicide, murder and acts of terrorism become easier once the members' will has been broken by myriad acts of conformity and tests of loyalty such as cutting off family members."
I would not have thought the Bruderhof would sue anyone or harass their "enemies," but now I think, as they have not repented from their present course, that anything is possible. I hope their Australian soon-to-be neighbors are prepared for the worst, although let's hope it never come to that.
You used the term "hero worship." It's interesting to consider that the whole break with the Hutterites was probably just to save the Bruderhofer's "hero" from facing disciplinary action by the Hutterite church. At that point the Bruderhof really became Christoph-centered.
And of course the greater religious community adds to the aura of Christoph's heroism by heaping praise on him while ignoring the voices of his victims. I had sent a letter to Sojourner's magazine in response to a review of one of "his" books. It was not, of course, published. It would be interesting to see what some religious folks had to say about Jim Jones before it became plainly obvious that he had turned his church into a personality cult.
PWayne Chesley, 5/9/99: Paul C. Fox wrote: "Yes, Christoph has 'written' another masterpiece. This one is called Drained! Stories Of People Who Wanted More."
Interesting idea, given Christoph's lavish lifestyle. I'm beginning to wonder about the books being produced under Christoph's name. Here is one that (by the title at least) looks at greed, The last one looked at inner peace, before that we had one on forgiveness. The themes seem really antithetical to Christoph's life, where he lives the lifestyle of an elite cult leader (let's face it, he was the one who wanted the jet plane(s) for his own personal use), he sets himself between his flock and the God who gives true inner peace and is obviously insecure and perhaps paranoid, and he offers no forgiveness and rejects reconciliation (seeking instead retribution) to those whom he considers enemies, or a threat to his empire. I wonder if he has a fear of death, in consideration of his earlier book.
Perhaps these books are an attempt to mask weaknesses in Christoph's character and in the Bruderhof itself, a whistling in the storm so to speak. Perhaps someone will some day study Christoph and "his" writings and discover that the real Christoph and the real Bruderhof are revealed in contrary of what they claim. An interesting observation?
PTim Domer, MD, 5/2/99: Today, May 2nd, is my daughter Stephanie's 15th birthday. This is the second year that she has not received any card or call, or recognition of her birthday from her paternal grandparents. Her grandparents, my parent, are members of the Bruderhof, a group that professes to follow the life of Jesus. My wife, our two children and I one were cut off from any relationship or contact with them a year and a half years ago. No specific reason has ever been given. Though raised in the Bruderhof I had never become a member. I had remained friends with them and had visited often over the years. I counted the elder, Johann Christoph Arnold, as a friend. In recent years, however, I sensed something wrong. I no longer wanted to have a "special relationship" the elder of the Bruderhof, as power seemed to be corrupting him. I asked him questions about a multimillion dollar lawsuit the Bruderhof had filled against three critics and how such a suit squared with his writings and the principles I had been taught as a child in the Bruderhof. Mr. Arnold never answered my questions. My father wrote that I had now "gone the way of KIT" and would not be allowed to have any kind of relationship with him or my mother. Since that time they have either refused to reply to letters from my children and me, or have returned them unopened. The later was the case with a card I sent for my mother's birthday. A heartfelt, anguished letter my daughter wrote to her grandparents was answered coldly by her uncle, a Bruderhof spokesman.
My daughter Stephanie has spina bifida, with significant neurological defects. As a 15-year-old she faces all the challenges of being a teenager as well as the challenges and burden of being handicapped. She rarely talks about how much it hurts to be ignored and rejected by her grandparents, but the deep hurt is evident nonetheless. This is especially true at birthdays, Christmas and other special times of the year. This rejection just adds to the burden she already carries.
I have no doubt that my parents firmly believe they are doing God's will by cutting us off. Many Bruderhof parents have sacrificed their relationship with their children in order to prove their commitment to the Bruderhof. The Bruderhof labels anyone who questions its' elder, or Bruderhof practices, an "enemy." By cutting off children who do not join and who question, they believe they are serving God. They seem to view any questioning of the elder the same as questioning the will of God. The elder has been elevated to a very high and unhealthy level. I am apparently an enemy long as I do not hold Christoph Arnold up a special person, with some sort of special relationship to, or understanding from, God.
Much has been posted on this site regarding the hypocrisy of Mr. Arnold. He writes books about forgiveness, raising children, seeking peace, loving one's enemies, yet he is responsible for a great deal of suffering among former members, families of members, children and grandchildren of members and former members Đ people he calls "enemies". He may try to become famous, write books, give radio and TV interviews, tag along on overseas trips with better known religious or political figures, speak at various public protests etc. He may fool the Bruderhof membership, or "friends" of the Bruderhof who do not know the facts, into believing he has a valuable message. He is, however, personally responsible for a great deal of anguish and suffering among many people, innocent children in particular. He has dismissed or ignored numerous attempts at true reconciliation by children and former members of the Bruderhof. On the rare occasions that he does write to people it is generally sarcastic and unloving. As long as he does not live by the words he writes and speaks, he is a fraud.
I would strongly encourage anyone who has an interest in the Bruderhof, or who might believe, as I once did, that the Bruderhof "lives out the truest expression of Christian love", to look at the fruits of Bruderhof practices. Read the postings by Wayne and Betty Chesley, Paul and Diane Fox - all former members. Read the postings of Bruderhof children such as Mel Fros, Margot Purcell, others, and myself who have been cut off from their families. Read the postings from the last two years. Read the KIT Newsletters on the Peregrine web site http://www. perefound.org/.
Mr. Arnold and Bruderhof members will tell you "these are all liesÉ" Please be warned not to take what they say at face value. Ask questions, dig just a little and see what happens. If you do not accept their version of the "truth" without question, you too will be cut off.
The following is a letter I wrote to my father. So far there has been no reply. A copy was sent to Mr. Arnold. He too has ignored it.
1-23-99 Dear Daddy:
It has been over a year since we were cut off. I do not know how much longer you and I will be on this earth together. I long, however, that there can still be reconciliation between us.
When we ultimately meet God I think we will be asked what kind of relationship we had with those whose lives He entrusted to us. We will be asked how well we kept His Commandments. God knows the truth. We will not be able to convince Him of a lie.
Even though I was cut off, I am still your son. The relationship between parent and child is so sacred that God spoke of it in the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses. "Honor thy father and mother." You know in your heart of hearts that I have tried to keep this Commandment and over the years have done far more than just talk about it. The things that have been said about me in the last two years are lies and are said in an attempt to justify my being cut off. God knows the truth.
I have never been given a reason for being cut off. To cut off one's child is extremely serious. I would like a clear explanation of why my wife, your grand children and I have been cut off. You wrote "you have gone the way of KitÉ" but that does not mean anything to me. I asked questions and received no honest answers. My impression is that I was cut off because I did not have the "right relationship" with the Bruderhof, especially its' elder. Over the years you have said that the issue is not my relationship to the Bruderhof. I do not think that is actually the truth. The entire issue seems to have been my relationship to the Bruderhof. You never asked me about my relationship to God and Jesus or what I believe. I was only asked about my relationship to the Bruderhof - to Christoph in particular.
If I was cut off because you felt that I do not love God and Jesus, God knows that that is not true. I love God. I love Jesus. If you say I was cut off because I am an "enemy" of Jesus, God knows that that also is a lie.
There is no Commandment that says I must revere a human or honor some leader. That, however, is what I felt, and feel, you have asked of me. The elder of the Bruderhof is a human being, with human failings just like all of us. He errs and may succumb to the corruption of power like all of us. I cannot blindly follow any human being, especially when I feel they are wrong. To question the Bruderhof, its' elder or the Brotherhood is not the same as questioning God. I do not question God.
You said that it was blasphemy for me to say that I felt the Bruderhof treats Christoph in an almost worshipful way. It is blasphemy to treat any human being in such a way. You said I attacked Christoph and "to attack the head is to attack the center". I do not believe that any human is the center. Isn't it actually blasphemy or idolatry to equate Christoph, or the Bruderhof, with the Center? Isn't Jesus the Center?
I have many failings. I do not show enough love to everyone. I fail daily in being the kind of person God wants me to be. I do, however, get up and try again. I do try to keep God's Commandments. I want to have a loving relationship with my parents. That relationship cannot, however, be based on my relationship to a human organization or another human being.
Sixteen years ago you and I fought something through. You said you wanted not only to be my father, but also to be my friend. When I spoke in the Brotherhood a few years ago you said that what I spoke was the truth. It was and still is. I believe that if we look for what is God's truth, rather than what is of the Bruderhof or human beings, there can be reconciliation.
I want to live an honorable life, to serve God and to live for the truth. I want to be able to have a genuine relationship with my parents, based on God's love and truth. Time is growing short. There is still time, however, to find God's genuine love and genuine truth. Your son,
PRamon Sender, 4/12/99: Regarding the ongoing 'First Law of Sannerz' discussion, I'd like to quote Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe's quote (p. 1 in her book Torches Extinguished) of Eberhard Arnold's reply to Hans Zumpe's question: "What is the difference between a spiritually led group and a religious sect?"
"E.A: 'The first generation has the spirit, the second generation has the good example, the third generation has the vivid memory, and the fourth is often stuck with the rules and regulations. This will turn them into a sect -- a cult!'"
Now, if we assign twenty years to each generation and we use 1920 as the founding year of the Bruderhof, we find that the Bruderhof's fourth generation would be that of Eberhard's great-grandchildren, now mostly in their twenties and thirties. It seems that Eberhard's predictions are right on target because for this generation, Eberhard's "note" to his children not to gossip about newcomer guests behind their backs has become a LAW.
What about the fifth generation that is now emerging on the Bruderhof? What will they be like? If what we are receiving in the ways of messages is accurate, they are much more like their outside high school contemporaries in the use of obscenities.
Although Domer and Keiderling claim to have the 'proof' in hand, I do not believe that they will produce it because they probably have much more to gain by not providing it. Also, as someone expressed, it goes against the Bruderhof's track record to enter into any dialogue that includes divulging facts on their part. Personally, I would not want to see anyone assist them in their attempts to bend Bruderhof history to their own twisted agenda. However, I do believe that their agenda also includes sowing seeds of misunderstanding among KITfolk (JCA's sarcastic letters to various people regarding the ghostwritten Drained book).
I am certain that JCA's hateful comments were approved by JK and CD before he sent them along with the Drained copies, as is everything else that he does. I continue to believe that the Dynamic Duo basically acts as Christoph's trainers.
PPauline Ellson Davies, 4/10/99: Over the years, there has been a lot of controversial talk and discussion in KIT as to whether or not living in community is the truly Christian thing to do, whether in fact the early Christians did live in community or whether living in community was just the dream of a few well-meaning but ill-informed idealists.
I would like to add my contribution to this discussion. In order to paint an accurate picture of the truth about the early Christians, I find myself travelling back into time, arriving at the tine of Pentecost 33 A.D. (or 33 C.E. -- our common era). Jesus has been killed and resurrected to heaven. A handful of 120 faithful disciples have gathered together to pray, when suddenly the holy spirit that Jesus had promised comes down onto each one of them like flames of fire. To their surprise, they all start speaking in different tongues, or languages. They are not speaking 'gobbledygook,' that no one can understand like some modern churchgoers who speak in tongues in unrecognizable speech. No, they are speaking real languages. Why? For what purpose?
Well, thousands of Jews have travelled to Jerusalem from all parts of the world to celebrate the festival of Pentecost, a journey they make each year before returning to their homes and families in their own countries. They have travelled from Mesopotamia, Asia, Egypt, Libya, Crete, Arabia and even from as far as Rome. All these people speak their own languages but now, to their astonishment, they are hearing the disciples speaking to them in their own language and they can understand what they are saying! They are preaching about a Savior Jesus Christ. This is interesting; they want to hear more about this Jesus. So instead of returning to their homes after the festival, they stay for a while in Jerusalem. Imagine the chaos this causes, with thousands of foreigners wishing to extend their stay. These people have only brought along with them money and supplies for a week's stay, so their money is running out. Hundreds are becoming Christians and getting baptized. In fact, on one occasion, 3,000 were baptized in one day. That's an awful lot of people. How do the disciples solve the problem of accommodating all these visiting Jews? Well, the newly converted Jews of Jerusalem, the new disciples, generously open their homes to the visitors and share what they have. Many of the disciples start to sell property, fields and possessions, and use the money to help those in need. They bring the money they make to the Apostles who distribute it to those who need it.
Now it's important to understand here that the disciples do not sell all their possession and move to a community. Imagine how many communities would be needed with all these thousands of converts! No, those who choose to do so, sell a field, a house or private possessions, things they don't need, in order to finance those in need. This is an emergency situation and a temporary one, a situation that will be resolved as soon as the newly converted disciples from abroad travel back home to their own countries, taking their new-found faith with them. The disciples of Jerusalem not only have their own homes and properties, but some at least have servants as well.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira, which was wrongly explained by the Bruderhof, in fact makes it very clear that only those who desired to sell some of their property do so, and then it is up to them how much of the proceeds they donate to the disciples for distribution. In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, they sold a field, not their house, and then they secretly held back some of the money. They pretended that they were giving all the money that they got from the sale of the field. They lied about it. It was the deceit that warranted their death, not the fact that they wanted to keep some of the money for themselves. They wanted to look good in the eyes of the disciples, but God made Peter aware of their deception. Peter said to the, 'Why did you play false? As long as it remained with you, did it not remain yours? And after it was sold, did it not continue in your control?" It was therefore theirs to do with as they pleased. There was no compulsion to sell, and even after they had sold they were not obliged to hand over all or any of the money. It was their free choice. This is where the Bruderhof goes wrong. They always said that Ananias and Sapphira died because they did not give everything, but it was really because they lied. After all, it was only a field they sold, and not their house or other property that they needed. They held onto those things quite legitimately.
One of the arrangements the disciples have is to take care of their widows. This is primarily the responsibility of the family of the widow, but of course there are those who have no family to care for them and it is for these that the Apostles have arranged for a daily distribution of food and other needs. It is obvious that had these widows been living in community, a daily distribution would not have been necessary because they would have been provided for along with all the other brothers and sisters. In fact James, the brother of Jesus, said that "The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from God's standpoint is to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation." They would not be suffering tribulation if they were living in community (in theory).
It brings to mind at this point all those hundreds of widows, orphans and needy persons that Bruderhof so callously chucked out, leaving them helpless and vulnerable to care for themselves. But then, the cruel ethnic cleansing of the Bruderhof could never be mistaken for a Christian act. Not in a thousand years could they convince Jesus that they were right in what they did.
Back with the early Christians: as their persecution becomes more severe, many of the disciples are scattered throughout the land. But they go on preaching wherever they are, not living in community. A small number of Apostles remain in Jerusalem, forming a governing body to help coordinate and unite the rapidly spreading numbers of Christians, making decisions on such issues as circumcision, idols and blood. But others continue to travel and preach, forming new congregations, not communities with all things held in common. There is no mention of any of these new converts leaving their homes or selling everything and joining a community. Rather the record shows that the majority of Christians continued in their homes and jobs, and the only adjustments they made was to clean up their lives and live a moral, honest life, showing love to all by "preaching the good news of the kingdom" -- not "the good news of community!"
There was an example of Jesus speaking to a rich man who wanted to be a disciple. The rich man said that he kept all the commandments, and Jesus said that there was "just one thing lacking: sell all the things you have and distribute to poor people, and come and be my disciple." Jesus did not say "give to the community," or to the congregation, or to the disciples. He said "give to the poor," and then with nothing, go and follow Him. The man's test was that he was rich and materialistic and did not want to part with his riches. How different from what the Bruderhof demands that all should give their money and possessions to them. Jesus added, "How difficult a thing it will be for those having money to make their way into the Kingdom of God." I wonder where the materialistic, greedy Bruderhof stands on that score?
It's comforting to know that God does not require us to sacrifice all that we possess and go and live in a community, cut off from the world. Rather He expects us to use whatever we have in the way of health, strength and possessions to serve Him as best we can. Jesus foretold that this good news of 'the kingdom,' not 'community,' would be preached in all the inhabited world as a witness to all the nations. This is the obligation of all his followers, but how could we possibly do this if we all cut ourselves off from the world and lived in community? Idealistic, maybe even attractive, yes, but practical and scriptural? Definitely not! Greetings to all,