The KIT Newsletter, an Activity of the KIT
Service, a Project of The Peregrine Foundation
P.O. Box 460141 / San Francisco, CA
telephone: (415) 821-2090 / (415) 282-2369
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramon Sender, Charles Lamar,
Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom;
U.K. : Susan Johnson Suleski, Ben Cavanna, Leonard
Pavitt, Joanie Pavitt Taylor, Brother Witless
(in an advisory capacity)
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and
encourages the expression of all views, both from within
outside the Bruderhof. The opinions expressed in the
publish are those of the correspondents and do not
reflects those of KIT editors or staff.
March 1995 Volume VII #3
-------------- "Keep In Touch" --------------
----- The Whole Kit And Caboodle -----
ITEM: Dateline Germany: Jorg Barth accuses the
Michaelshof neighbors of "not helping refugees of the Nazi
Susanna Ales Levy (formerly Fischli), 1/1/95: I
have been reading KIT on and off at my father's and since
July 1994 have been getting it on subscription. I find the
idea of KIT attractive, especially for all those who have
had a hard time finding their feet outside the Bruderhof.
But there have been pretty unattractive outbursts in KIT
in the past, and although I accept that people can only live
and breathe more freely again once their hatred and pain
and bitterness has been aired, it evokes reticence in me to
declare my own hand. It was meeting Ben Cavanna last
July that convinced me there was no need for anxiety. So I
will give up my voyeurism and let my voice be heard.
I get uneasy, agitated and disquieted whenever I read
KIT. It can be quite unsettling at times, even spooky, to
realise that the Bruderhof world of yonder years still goes
so strong and still unleashes so many different passions.
There seems to be a kind of 'fatal attraction' about it all.
Don't they just love being in control!
I find the Bruderhof itself quite unthreatening. For
me, Christoph Arnold was always the Wasserkopf as we
kids used to call him (how unkind, I know!) I have not an
ounce of reverence for that guy, never had. But I do
understand why people get so beside themselves. After
all, leaving the Bruderhof can mean loss of one's close and
extended family, loss of one's roots, of one's culture, tribe,
herd. I guess I was lucky when I left Primavera of my
own accord in March, 1960, just before that devastating
wave of "spiritual cleansing" began. I have had a varied
and colourful life. Things are going tough for me now (I
am caring for a husband with Alzheimer's Disease), but
one thing I never felt was a need or attraction to return to
the Bruderhof life.
They still send me their Plough, probably their last
delusion as to my interest in them. Anyhow, I'll probably
be struck off their mailing list after they find me in KIT. I
am much more worried about intrusion into my life by
ex-Bruderhof people with whom I might not wish to liaise.
I do understand some people's curiosity -- after all it has
been 35 years since I went away. But just because I was
someone's friend as a teenager doesn't necessarily mean
Andy Harries, if that seashell was white with a pink
rim, then yes, I vaguely remember something. If not -
sorry! Best of wishes to all and everyone,
Ruth Baer Lambach, 1/15/95: A plethora of
proverbs or 'Ruth's truths' in response to January 1995
KIT. The comments by Staughton Lynd: "Why did it seem
appropriate for men who had belonged to the community
three or four years to exile persons who had put twenty
or thirty years into building up the Bruderhof?." And
paraphrasing, why did people like Mark Kurtz, Art Wiser,
Jack Melancon and Doug Moody play such significant roles
in the Bruderhof so soon after they arrived?"
I am reminded of my brother Elam's advice to my
son: "Go into politics. That's where you can get to the top
in the shortest amount of time. In your thirties you could
be at the top of your career." About religion I think one
could say the same thing. When I remember the
aforementioned leaders in the Bruderhof in the mid
-1950's, I think of them as being in the prime of their life,
radiant with health, enthusiasm, having a superior
education, healthy, intelligent, handsome, committed and
burning with zeal to change the world. They entered our
complacent life with lots of fresh ideas and they had us
charmed. Perhaps the only thing lacking in them was
wisdom and experience. I am afraid that this is often the
case as l look around in the area of politics. Often I think
of Yeat's 'Second Coming:' "The best lack all conviction
while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
I am not suggesting that they had evil intentions, only
that because of their lack of wisdom and direct experience
in communal living, they moved into positions of power
and authority for which they were not prepared. We don't
give degrees in wisdom. It's not really validated out here
and therefore with the help of good looks, money,
education and connections, people can move into positions
of power and do a great deal of harm if they lack the
necessary wisdom. To quote another hackneyed phrase:
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions." From
what I know about the people who came to Forest River,
their intentions were honorable and so were those at
Forest River who sought to be engaged in the world rather
than 'hide our light under a bushel'. My experiences in
communal living and on the outside with expert
consultants has left me forever suspicious of outside
experts who come along to 'fix' something. They
frequently destroy whatever good there was before they
are finished. Real change is slow, gradual and at times
almost imperceptible and according to the Hutterites "the
wisdom of God is the best education."
I also want to comment on A. Allen Butcher's
thoughtful, wise and provocative letter to the Bruderhof.
My favorite passage from his letter is his quote from
Kristin Anundsen's book Creating Community Anywhere:
"The best way to keep your community from becoming a
cult is to continually expose its processes and dynamics to
the light. Cults cannot withstand scrutiny." Indeed, and of
course I thought of a phrase that I've memorized:
"Sunshine is the best disinfectant." I think this was said
by a well- known supreme court justice. I'd add to that,
"and exercise is the best antidote." If each member of the
commune would have to share equally in the dirty
housekeeping duties, everyone would be a lot healthier.
It's probably not possible for human beings to avoid
categorizing and stereotyping because that is one of the
most fundamental ways in which we begin to sort out the
world. We heap experiences upon experiences and then
certain patterns emerge. In reflecting on the comments by
Nadine who states: "Our family did everything to be in
good graces, but it was all to no avail. Once you get
labeled, you are labeled! One never gets rid of the stigma...
we had to be sent away to get rid of it." It is precisely
these labels that inform people where they belong. Every
family and every human system that I know of does this
and I have to say that it is this capacity to label, to judge,
to form categories and to maintain a judgmental mind set
that saved me in the world when I first emerged. It is
precisely this mindset that also gets me into trouble. We
move between the twin desires of wanting to belong and
wanting to be unique; of wanting to be accepted as one of
the group and wanting to stand out and be exceptional.
I'm not sure that one can have both. The Japanese have a
proverb about how the nail that sticks out above the rest
gets hit on the head. Those of us who are "out" chose to
follow the unique path, and so here we are with a sense of
loss. But there are compensations. Freedom is not cheap.
Freedom is not easy.
To Miriam Arnold Holmes: Your father's dream is a
jewel. I think we should get it printed up by some
calligrapher and have it framed. I think it would sell like
To Hilarion Braun: Not all spankings are equal. Some
are more beneficial than others. The ritualized spankings I
got in the Hutterite colony were simply reminders to each
of us that we were in this thing together and that we were
responsible to each other. In other words the whole was
more than the sum of its parts. We needed to take care of
the whole, not just our narrow little part. The most
memorable spanking I got was when all eight of us oldest
girls whose job it was to sweep the school at the end of
the day, got into a fight and left two rows unswept. Since
we had strewn oiled, red sawdust on the floor to minimize
flying dust, the unswept rows were very obvious during
the evening church service held in the same building. The
next morning all eight of us were hauled up in front of the
boys our age and told to hold out our hands. The German
school teacher, Paul Maendel, gave us each several
perfunctory taps on our outstretched hands and told us
that next time we were to consider the effects of our
actions. Being shamed in front of the boys our age was
more painful than the leather strap. Quite frankly, from
what I see in the public schools and colleges in our
country, I think we could do with a little more simple,
direct Hutterite style discipline. Thousands of people
would be saved from really serious harm and they would
be better at managing things in their personal lives and in
the public arena.
A. Allen Butcher to Martin Johnson 2/8/95:
Thank you for responding to my earlier letter, and please
pardon me for taking so long to answer your letter of
12/27/94. ...One of the main issues in our discussion... is
whether or not the Bruderhof may be characterized as
having an authoritarian government. This is an important
point, I think, because being clear on this would help
clarify what I believe is the primary issue, which you
phrase as, "the main leader and financial supporter of
Peregrine has said that he will oppose us as long as we
believe in Jesus."
First of all, I must say that I don't know who you are
referring to in that last sentence, but I assume that it is
Ramon Sender. I have no idea whether or not he has
actually said this, or if he indeed is Peregrine's main
organizer, but I will ask him. What comes to mind about
this is that there could be a great deal of
misunderstanding here, and that it could be cleared up if
both parties would talk directly with each other rather
than through a third person like myself. I encourage you
and others in the Bruderhof to contact Ramon and other
ex-Bruderhof members. (Their address: Keep In Touch,
P.O. Box 460141, San Francisco, CA 94146-0141.)
Reconciliation may not be difficult once people feel safe to
express their honest feelings, and as they honestly listen
to the other's concerns.
It is this kind of communication process, this kind of
open and regular discussion within a particular
community and between members and those outside, that
I believe marks one difference between a community
with a participatory government as opposed to one with
an authoritarian government. I think of this political issue
as a continuum ranging from participatory process
(consensus decision-making) to authoritarian (strong
leadership), with democratic process (majority-rule) in
the middle. An important note to make is that merely
open discussion alone does not qualify a community as
having a participatory government. Leaders can
encourage and listen to feedback, and still refuse to
respond to what they hear. This was a problem in the
Emissary Communities for many years, until they came
around to recognizing the need to incorporate all of their
members' concerns into the community decisions that
were made. The difference may be hard to grasp, but the
change in the community is transformational (or so they
are reporting). Exactly how various communities have
developed participatory governmental processes is
information available through the Fellowship for
Intentional Community (FIC), if you or others are
interested, so I will not get into those details here. I
encourage you to look into this if you like. You can contact
the FIC by writing to Laird Sandhill (at: Sandhill Farm, Rte.
1, Box 155, Rutledge, MO 63563; tel: 816 883- 5543).
It is this concern for how your community and your
movement in general governs itself that I believe is the
primary issue that you have with the Peregrine
Foundation, not the issue that you identified of whether or
not you believe in Jesus. What a person or a community
BELIEVES and what they DO can be two different things. It
is possible for two people (or two communities) to both
believe in Jesus, while one practices authoritarianism and
the other practices a participatory form of governance.
Such ambivalence can even be seen in the Bible, as for
example, one can read the dictum that humans have
"dominion over the earth" to mean either that we are free
to exploit its resources, or that we are responsible for
stewarding and protecting our common heritage. I find
the same to be true in the passages that you referred to
me: Book of Acts, chapters 2 and 4.
As you point out, these chapters give evidence of the
"brotherhood and unity" of the Early Christian Church, but
it is not explained what type of unity we have here,
whether it is to be an authoritarian unity or more
participatory. One would assume the latter, but the
problem with all established churches is the trend toward
authoritarianism. The classic example is the rise of the
Roman Catholic Church. Such a growth toward
authoritarianism inevitably results in an eventual rise of
reform movements, of which the Catholic Church has
experienced many. Now it appears there is need to
reevaluate the state of the Bruderhof movement, as has
been done before (an earlier experience of renewal I
understand is presented in Torches Rekindled). Just where
do you fall today on the continuum between
authoritarianism and participatory governance? And what
trends exist indicating what the future will be?
You wrote that you want to be "more open and
responsible to the true spirit of brotherhood and unity,"
suggesting to me that you want as participatory a
governmental process as possible. Yet I read from your
ex-members that you are going in the opposite direction.
Unfortunately, I am not close enough to the Bruderhof to
have any real idea about what is going on in your
In closing I would like to share with you a Biblical
passage that I have found which is closest to what I am
trying to say:
"But this is the new agreement I will make with the
people of Israel, says the Lord: I will write my laws in
their minds so that they will know what I want them to
do without my even telling them, and these laws will be
in their hearts so that they will want to obey them, and I
will be their God and they shall be my people."
Of course, this also sounds rather authoritarian, as
though we have been programmed to act a certain way
and to believe certain things, without explaining what
those actions and beliefs are. (One must keep in mind that
this was written at least a thousand years ago, and
translated and rewritten a few times since.) However,
there is also a participatory message here. To me it says
that any person who wants to become, or who finds that
they are a leader in their community, must listen to the
people ("... these laws will be in their hearts ..."), or better
yet ASK the people what is in their hearts. Leaders must
find out what is in the hearts and minds of the people
through setting up a form of government in which the
people can see that what they say has an impact upon
their government, their community, and their lives. The
processes of participation must be set up and maintained
such that everyone with something to say is included, and
such that even those who tend to silence are encouraged
to speak. Leaders must get beyond feeling that they can
lead by simply listening to what God tells them, and
realize that it is equally important to understand what is
in the hearts and minds of everyone in the community
(that can be the best place to find God). I believe that
good leadership requires balancing one's own
consciousness with the expressed ideas of others.
Once everyone is listened to, and their concerns affect
the decisions made, then conflicts are resolved and true
unity can be found. In the case of the Bruderhof, I feel
that you have not just your current members to include in
this process (although this is a good place to begin), but
also many ex-members as well. How you might do all this
would be another long discussion, and again, I am not
close enough to your communities to be of much guidance,
but there are others who are. I do hope that you have an
interest in pursuing this. It is this kind of change in your
governmental processes that I believe the Peregrine
Foundation, and many of the rest of us in the intentional
communities movement, wants to see in the Bruderhof's
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe, 2/10/95: Thank you
everyone for your contribution in the January KIT letter,
which was a little late arriving here in Holland (February
2nd) so I am eagerly awaiting the next issue of February
soon. I do realize, that you people in San Francisco do an
awful lot for us and hereby want to give you a great big
By now we all know that the Bruderhof people have
separated themselves once more from the Old Hutterian
Order and maybe this will have to go on and on -- every
30 years a change. I think it was not good and not wise
for the Bruderhof to write the letter they did in the last
" ...... The young people today no longer have the clear
guidance and direction from their ministers, teachers and
parents. Many young people are baptized with burdened
consciences. Many young couples enter marriage with
burdened consciences. There are illegitimate children.
Premarital sex is rampant. In other words, the Hutterian
Church has lost its salt and has become as shallow and
superficial as any other world church."
This summarizes the Bruderhof's arrogant spirit, not
only towards the old Hutterites (500 years) but toward
ALL Churches in the world! This is the Pharisee in our
time! People that think they have caught up God the
Almighty in their little church -- this is what made the
Bruderhof a cult!! I still believe that my father was right
when he said in 1936: "Let us learn from the Hutterites,
let us respect them as they are, let us be inspired by their
life and teaching, but let us not try to be a copy of the
Hutterites! There would be too many misunderstandings if
we tried to go back to the 16th Century. We would lose
our identity and also our respect for them in trying to
mold them into our own pattern! ... Let them be as they
are and let us try and be open for God's guidance and live
a pure and Christian life. Then we will find that we have a
lot in common, and unity in many spiritual areas will be
I believe that from the very beginning my
grandfather was really gripped by the testimony of Jakob
Hutter, Andreas Ehrenpreis, Claus Felbinger and Peter
Riedemann, but he also saw that the Hutterite
Communities in 1930 lived in traditional unity and he felt
that a new spiritual awakening to their own teachings
would be needed to let them reawaken to the life of their
forefathers. Being so inspired and spiritually alert to a
complete surrender to Jesus Christ himself, he hoped that
God would use him as a new link towards finding the way
back to the roots of the Old Hutterite Belief. The Bruderhof
today took this longing from my Grandfather (to be a tool
of the Holy Spirit) as an arrogant task "to change and
convert the Hutterites". This cannot be and will always
lead to disaster. I do hope with all my heart that the
Bruderhof and the Hutterites will remain true to their
own original calling and then they will find a basis, a
common root, to build on in the future with love and
without hatred and false accusations toward each other
(as in the Bruderhof letter from January 7th).With all my
heart I hope that some of the original spirit and love will
guide both groups to a better and more loving approach!!
2/16/95: We have just lived through two days and nights
without electricity, which is an incredible experience. No
light, no TV, no typing -none of all the kitchen and
household machines that make our life so easy. Seems
that because of the high ground waters, a lot of damage
was done to the current system that is all underground.
30 minutes ago the lights went on again, and I hasten to
get this letter off in time for the next KIT issue.
The February KIT letter was a good but sad issue! The
Bruderhof is going from bad to worse and all our families
seem to be in line! I find the whole matter pretty
depressing, although I have known for a long time that it
would have to come to such a step!! The Open Letter in
The Plough reflects the attitude they have had for many
years: "The whole world lives in darkness BUT we have
the light!" For many years, we-- the KIT folks -- were the
sinners and evil in God's eye! What struck me in the letter
is that they dare to show their loveless arrogance in this
manner to the Old Hutterian Order of people who have
actually lived in peace and without the many and
destructive crises that the Bruderhof has had in its short
time span of some 70 years ... I quote: "Members withhold
money and other foods for themselves" (is this not what
the Bruderhof did with special bank accounts for Heini
and for Christoph?) ... "Communal Work Departments have
become independent kingdoms..." (is not the Elder of the
Bruderhof the king of kings?) "There is little or no
spiritual leadership ... ministers are no longer servants of
the flocks, but lord over them..." (seems as if they are
looking in their mirror!) The whole letter is evil, arrogant
and so very self-serving! I get quite sick when the name
of Jesus or God is misused in the way they do and feel I
want NOTHING more to do with these self-righteous
people. The whole letter gives the witness of what they
are today. If only our mothers and brothers and sisters
were not still there, and so much under the influence of
this evil that their eyes do not see, their ears do not hear
and their mouth is used to give false witness.
The evil thing about the Bruderhof today is that "They
are always right and on God's path, the rest of the world
is wrong and evil!" As long as it just concerned me and all
of you, I laughed about their spiritual arrogance. But what
they do now is, they BLAME the Hutterites, and even the
neighbors in Germany. They have to leave Germany
because the Hutterites no longer pay for a "joint venture,"
but they blame the neighboring people for not welcoming
the poor Nazi victims back home after they had been
kicked out of Germany by the Nazis. It's all bad -- inside-
out -- upside-down! I wonder if we could not just march
in on them sometime and just tell them as friends how
very misled they are. This is not what my Grandfather
wanted and it is what my father tried to prevent, namely,
a community driven by an emotionally unstable
person into self-destruction and into a human
kind of loyalty to a person rather than to our
God!" I feel sad about the whole matter.
We have had their book on Heini, May They All Be
One, on loan from a friend. First I thought it was OK, or
shall we say at least better than Torches Rekindled, but
it's not!!! It is just as evil as the rest. Why? Because in it
all things are twisted into Heini's sickly vision. Even the
smallest event of his childhood and Bruderhof history,
makes Heini "the special child of Eberhard Arnold"
who was blessed with the vision in dreams and all kinds
of things. He was the light in the darkness, the sufferer in
silence, the spirit of God on this poor earth of ours. I think
it is a dangerous book because it sort of tells in a nice way
a very twisted and untrue story. I still believe that in our
poorest time in history -- in Paraguay -- we were the
closest to living the life that our God wants from us.
Miriam Arnold Holmes to Emmy Zumpe,
Woodcrest Bruderhof, 12/28/94: I just got off the phone
with Don Noble and he suggested I write to you about the
concern I shared with him. It is my understanding that
you returned a letter Monika Trumpi-Arnold wrote to
your mother (Emi-Margaret Zumpe - ed] with a note to
Monika saying that you and your mother no longer wish
to communicate with Monika. This is extremely painful for
Monika who is also getting sick and frail. Don explained to
me that it is painful for your mother to hear from Monika
because she is unfaithful to the life. He also assured me
that this was your decision and not the decision of the
servants or Brotherhood.
What I don't understand is why this after over 30
years? Monika has visited your mother and also my
father, Heini and Hans Herman while they were still
living, and it is my understanding that those visits were
very much enjoyed by all, and that everyone had a
gemutlich, harmonious time. I have a real hard time
believing that this is your mother's wish. I know my
father Hardi would not have wanted such a restriction of
communication. Monika and your mother are the only
living children of Eberhard and Emi, and they shared a
tremendous childhood and youth, and later a great deal of
joy and pain together as adults.
I think it is so important that they be allowed to
communicate when there is not much time left in their
lives. It is very distressing to me that they might need to
share something important with each other and are
prevented from doing so.
God is so much bigger than the Bruderhof, and this
restriction is in direct opposition to the love Jesus
commanded us to have for one another. I just can't
imagine that Emi-Ma, who has such a loving heart would
want this. You know, Emmy, we all make mistakes, I have
sure made plenty of them myself. The important thing is
that we recognize them and make amends. Will you please
reconsider and drop Monika a line. I wish you all a very
good New Year, your cousin,
P.S. Balz and Monika know nothing of my phone-call or
1/11/95 : Dear Emmy, Klaus and Heidi (Woodcrest B'hof):
Thank you, dear Emmy for your letter. Let me tell you a
true story. Over 30 years ago, my brother Gabi was sent
away from Oak Lake. We barely had any contact with him
until about a year later when I looked out of the window
of the hotel and saw my brother outside talking to a
servant. I was so happy that he came to visit. I loved my
brother very much. A few minutes later the servant called
me to his office and said that Gabi came to visit but that
he does not think I really want to talk to him, but I should
tell him myself; he would be calling from Farmington. I
knew that if I protested or contradicted the servant I
would be in trouble, so when the phone rang and I
answered it, and Gabi said he would like to talk to me, I
told him "I can't". He said he understood and he hung up.
The next time I saw him he was dead.
Years later that servant and Heini told me how
unloving it was of them not to let me talk to my brother,
and they asked me for forgiveness. I did forgive, but
believe me, this was a bitter pill to swallow, and
something one never forgets. Who knows what Gabi
needed to tell me, and he never had the chance again? I
want to tell you something I learned from our dear Moni,
who had such a loving, big heart."Never push someone
away who wants to show you love, no matter whether
they are "in" or "out". I feel so priviliged that I was
allowed to help take care of Moni after she had her stroke.
I greet you with hope,
------ A Conversation ------
The following is an edited transcript of a conversation
between two women, whom we shall call 'Ruth' and
'Anne', that took place during December, 1994.
Ruth: We are walking through the woods in North
Carolina, and Anne, you really have a community here.
Anne: I have a very nice support group.
R: How many years have you been here?
A: Two and a half.
R: Before that you were out of the Bruderhof for how
A: I left in 1987. I graduated from Long Island University
in 1991 and came right down here and started working as
a physical therapist.
R: You've made an absolute beeline to success!
A: Straight to success -- which is bizarre, because I had no
idea how to do it. But I guess I had enough smarts and
enough luck. I feel extremely fortunate, I really do,
because I'm a lot more successful than most people in
their late twenties. But then, at the same time, I stayed a
lot more focused -- I didn't have the sexual and social
distractions. I worked two jobs while I went to school for
the first four years. I didn't have any kind of relationship
or anything until I was twenty-one. That gave me a good
head start on life. Work-work-work-work-work!
R: That was actually one benefit that you got from being
A: My man friend Johnny and I were talking about it the
other night, how I stayed much more focused because my
life was such a narrow pattern when I was growing up,
and not being allowed to relate to other patterns.
R: You were not distracted.
A: I wanted to be distracted! Now I can be focused, but I
allow myself to get distracted. I allow myself to indulge. I
probably fritter away lots of time.
R: That gives life variety. Life without distractions is not
fulfilling. You've got to get out there and experience life.
A: I agree with you on that one. I used to feel kind of
relieved that I didn't have to keep up with my 'outside'
age group, but the worst part about it was that once I
decided that I was going to do it, then I didn't know if I
was within the norm, you know. It took me forever to
figure out what was normal and what wasn't. First I'd put
on too much make-up, and now I hardly use any make-up
at all. I figure if somebody doesn't like who I am, I'm
perfectly happy and they don't have to be part of it. I
never wear lipstick or anything like that.
R: Not even at work?
R: And is your hair naturally curly?
R: You're lucky.
A: Some days I look like Little Orphan Annie, though, with
the Afro. My brother Steven and I both have naturally
curly hair, and our four oldest siblings have straight --
very different gene pool in the two of us.
R: Maybe that's why you took a 'kinkier' path. You didn't
take the 'Straight and Narrow' of the Bruderhof. It's all in
the hair -- in the genes, right?
A: Exactly! It's the curliness! The weird thing is that the
two of us -- I mean, all our family was rebellious to a
certain extent, but I decided early. When I was six years
old I told my parents that I was going to leave as soon as
I could. My reason at that point was because I would have
a better chance of getting married if I left the Community
because I was tall. All my sisters were getting old and not
getting married, and I thought that marriage was the
R: So how many of your sisters are married now?
A: All of them, and all have kids. Linda married Justin
Peters, Anne and Don's son. They have a very tall, skinny,
red-headed little girl who looks just like a Peters. Now
Amy, she feels best when she's pregnant. She married
Alan MacPherson at 27, and Jen married at 24 or 25. They
all had careers and were very strong people.
R: Did the men come into the Bruderhof or had they been
A: Well, Linda married Justin and he'd been out probably
for about half of his life. He came with his family when he
was a kid, then he left, then he came back and married
her two years later. Allen, Amy's husband, joined as a
single guy in the early 1980s, and abut four years later
married her. And then Jen married Mischa Mathis who
had been out of the community for three years, and came
back. They all been out and had different experiences, so I
think that's why they could relate to my sisters better,
because my family always has been more open-minded
and a little unusual. Mom made sure of that.
R: That was one of the questions that I had. What are
some of the ways in which your mother supported your
rebellion towards the Commune?
A: It was very subtle. Let me see if I can give you a good
example. At home, she would make fun of authority. She
would pick on somebody, "So-and-so talks so slow that by
the time he finishes a sentence I've forgotten what the
beginning was." Stuff like that, which isn't that
outrageous, but to speak anything negative at all was
pushing the envelope. Klaus Meier was teaching us in
school, and she would laugh about how little he knew.
R: You mother had a college education, right?
A: She went to The Art Institute in Chicago, and then went
home to her mom because she couldn't make it with the
R: My gosh, a woman who has experienced the Art
Institute of Chicago joins the Bruderhof! That is
A: You see, her life took a real twist because she was in
art school in fairly rebellious circles. She hinted at it a
couple of times. She went back to stay with her mother
and work until she could get enough money to go back,
and during that time she met my dad. They got married
three months later and had a kid within a year, and
within six years had four kids. So her career stopped at
that point. My uncle thinks that the reason my mom
embraced the Community so much was because she was
really overwhelmed by the kids.
R: Great place for kids!!
A: Exactly! She felt that she could have a life, because
Mom is very loving and everything but she likes to do her
own thing and have her own free time. A very
independent woman. Dad just wants 'Peace On Earth, Good
will Toward Men.' That's why he fits in so well up there.
In the beginning he didn't. He got kicked out right after I
was born. He was out for three years.
A: Mom raised us six kids. I think that's a lot of what
Steve has trouble with, because Steve was two when Dad
left, and when he came back Steve was five-and-a-half.
R: Did he come back to visit regularly? Could you see him
A: No, nothing.
R: Just nothing, no contact? No telephone?
A: I wasn't even aware that this had happened until I was
eight years old and my sister said something about it, and
I said, "What do you mean, 'Daddy was gone?'" And she
said, "Yeah, he was gone until you were three years old,"
and I didn't even recall it. Steve remembers the whole
thing. I don't know if Mom and Dad had contact, but I'm
pretty sure if they did that it was very limited, because I
know that he never visited during those three years. He
told my uncle that the only reason he was going back was
because of his kids. They kicked him out because they had
made him Steward in Evergreen and within a year he got
the community out of the red. So they admonished him
for being too focused and aggressive and money-hungry,
and threw him out -- for doing a good job! Because my dad
is like all of us. We set our mind on doing something, we
do it. I guess he didn't have much contact with the family.
I don't know. By the time he did come back, Mom was
wearing the pants in the family.
R: That incident created a change in the family dynamics.
A: Oh yes, because anyway they were one of these couples
where Dad was the supporter and Mom was the mover
and shaker. Then when he left, my oldest sister Linda
became the second parent. And when he came back, there
was a lot of tension between those two. Then Linda
decided she was going to be my parent, and I rebelled
against her, and she rebelled against Dad, and Mom and
Dad were crossing swords, because he had six kids he
hadn't seen in three years.
R: What did he do while he was out?
A: He went back to his dad's business and worked in
R: Those of us who came from the outside and have
relatives on the outside, we know that there's another
world out there. There are grandparents and aunts, and
the visits may be infrequent, but there are visits. In your
case, did you ever see any of your grandparents?
A: Oh yes. They came to visit. My cousins came, my Mom's
sisters, my Dad's brothers all visited. Maybe once a year
somebody would visit. We'd see my grandparents at four-
year intervals, usually. And we went out to visit them
twice. We went out to my Dad's youngest brother's
wedding when I was five, and I remember that very
clearly. The whole family went out for a week, a huge
experience. We went out to restaurants and everything. It
was just like Wonderland!
R: So you SAW another world!
A: Mom always talked about the outside very fondly, and
all the wild and crazy things they used to do, she and Dad.
To me when I was a kid, it was always the land of ice
cream and sunshine. You could get ice cream every day,
like "Dick and Sally" -- those little reading books. I just
thought it was the most wonderful place to be.
R: So you had a real sense of another world out there.
A: Oh yes. Like I mentioned, when I was six I told them I
was moving out. Plus we got kicked out in 1975 when
they had the crisis in Evergreen. We were moved to
Salisbury, CT., between Woodcrest and Deerspring, when I
was in Second Grade. We were there for a year, and I had
a ball. We had a blast, we had good times with the family.
Steve and I went to one public school, and Jan and Paul
went to another. Linda stayed in the Commune, and Amy
went to nursing school in Albany. But that was the first
time that the family really had a blast. We went on trips,
and stuff. I absolutely loved being outside.
R: What do you think made your dad go back in again? It
seemed as if he had a supportive family in Michigan and
could go back and work with his father and so on.
A: He told my uncle it was because of the kids.
R: And your mother at that point didn't want to come out
again. Don't you think your mother and father had some
contact with each other during his three years out?
A: I never asked about at all. The only things I know
about it came from Steven -- he might have a better idea
-- and from my uncles. My uncles were the ones who told
me about it how distraught and angry my Dad was when
he first came back to Michigan, but I never really talked
with him about it. In fact, I was never really curious
about it. It's weird to me that my Mom stayed in the
Commune and didn't go with him. I think that the whole
kid thing and the support group kept her inside. Mom
likes to have a support group, an audience kind of thing.
R: She found her support group in the Bruderhof?
A: Oh yes. But of course she will always challenge the
support. That's how she gets her kicks.
R: She needs the barrier there, the boundaries, so that she
can push against them.
A: Exactly. All my life it's been like that. My Mom got in
trouble many times for things that she said. We would see
her get disciplined a lot too. My Dad was the quiet
follower, and now he's completely into it.
R: Straight and narrow. So tell me about your attempt to
visit them over Christmas, 1994. You went up there and
your expectation was that you were going to visit?
A: Yes, we decided that we were going to pay a nice
surprise visit. We hadn't seen my brothers and sisters in
two years, and there are now seventeen grandchildren,
five of which I haven't seen. So about a month ago Steve,
Johnny and I reserved rooms at the Woodlands resort
right on top of the mountain across from New Meadow
Run. We told my sister Amy who lives at the Catskill
bruderhof that we were going to go to New Meadow Run
and surprise Mom and Dad.
"Don't tell them!" we told her.
"Oh, that's great!" she said. "Do it!"
So we drove up with total expectation of surprising
them and everybody would be happy. We'd visit for a few
hours and then we'd go off and do our thing. We weren't
going to interact with the Community in any way, but just
see the family. So on Christmas Day, Steve went down
early before they went to a communal breakfast. He
walked into our parents' house -- he knew where they
were living because he had stopped by another time a
while back -- and the second thing out of my parents'
mouths was, "Did you ask if you could visit us?" And when
he said that we hadn't, they told him that he would have
So Steve comes back to the hotel, and meets us in the
hallway. He's almost crying.
"Don't go down there," he said. "It's a big mess. They
didn't want me there because we didn't ask."
R: Is it too late to ask on the morning that you're visiting?
A: I don't know. I didn't even think about that because I
was so shocked. It really took me by surprise, which is
amazing because I should have known by then. But it took
me by surprise, and then my second reaction was, "Well, if
that's the way they want it, that's the way they can have
They started phoning up our room, and my brother
Paul and his kid came up to the resort to find us, because
they wanted to visit with us off the community. We had
just told the desk that if anyone from the Commune
called, we were not there because I didn't want to deal
with them. When we walked outside, Paul pulled up in a
"Mom and Dad want at least to spend some time with
you in a nearby coffee shop."
Paul had come up to run interference for them or
something. He's married to Beatrice Gneiting, the Servant
Jacob's daughter, and has four or five kids. He's climbed
the hierarchy quickly and is principal of the school.
They've given him a lot of privileges because they want to
hold onto him. He's the only one in our family who has
never really fit in as far as personality and whatever. He
was almost crying. It was horrible. But still there was no
seeing the other brothers and sisters, or anything like
So I said, "Cool, okay. I can show them how to be
Then Mom and Dad came up, and they didn't know
that my friend Johnny and I were there too, so that was a
surprise. They were very happy to see us, and we just
avoided the subject altogether, about 'how come you did
that to us'. We looked for a coffee shop, but nothing was
open, so we invited them up to our hotel room, not really
thinking along the lines that there was only one bed. It
was a very luxurious room, and one bed, and me and
Johnny there, and they've just met him.
But they were fine about it. "Yeah, sure, that will be a
fine idea. Sure! No problem."
So we went up to the room, and nothing was said.
Nothing at all was asked. No prying into our business,
nothing. I had photos of Costa Rica -- we had just gotten
back from Costa Rica a few weeks earlier, and some of
them were rather revealing. I forgot to edit them -- My
mind was sort of dull from the shock of driving six hours
and then not being able to go to their house. I handed the
photos to them and they looked through all of them. I
tried to edit a few out at one point and Mom said, "No,
leave them here. I'm looking at them!" She knew what I
was trying to do. They looked at all of them and
commented that it looked like we had had a wonderful
trip. No problems. They were really nice to us, but I'm
expecting a letter in a few days. After Dad thinks about
the photos a little bit, he'll definitely put them down.
R: They never said anything about the bed?
A: Nope. We ordered some food from Room Service, they
brought up this really nice wine, fruit and bread thing. We
sat down and talked and laughed, and Mom and Johnny
went and got ice, and they talked the whole way.
"Do you mind if I'm dressed funny?" she asked. "Can I
walk with you?"
R: She says that about herself?
A: Oh yeah! That's the kind of thing she says! She'll say, "I
know I look really funny in this outfit," or something like
R: How many years has she worn it?
A: Since 1973, when they changed over to the Hutterite
R: Twenty years! And after twenty years of wearing those
clothes, she still has that kind of consciousness!
A: It's more for humor than it is for -- she always goes for
the shock value in her humor. Also it's for making people
more comfortable with the situation, because she knows
exactly where we're coming from, but she can't admit it to
us. My life -- the way I am -- is just so much like the way
she used to be. She ran away from home in Birmingham,
Michigan, to Florida at fourteen to some camp owned by
friends of her family. She didn't come back for three
years, she got into all these funky scenes, I'm not exactly
sure what. She's a very independent, very strong-minded,
creative, funny person -- and I'm so much like her in
many ways. But Steve is more like Mom because he's got
the nervous stomach and the hyperactive worry-worry-
worry thing going on. At least I got Dad's even keel, for
most of the time. It takes a lot to fluster me, thank God.
R: You see, it's difficult for me to comprehend what it
would be like to live in the Bruderhof and have this other
consciousness. Because I have a Hutterite consciousness,
which I have when I meet Hutterites and when I go to
their colonies. I know exactly where they're coming from.
I know how it feels to be inside and to consider that way
normal. But I had a 'twisted thing' from what your mother
does. When I walked down the streets in my Hutterite
outfit, I thought I was the only normal person out there --
and I certainly was a single minority in Grand Forks,
North Dakota. I judged all the other people and thought,
"My gosh, don't these other people have any aesthetic
sense?" Their short skirts -- why, you can see their ugly
A: Really, you perceived it that way?
R: That's how I perceived it! If you never have seen TV, if
you don't go to movies, I could not even begin to look at
people's faces because their garish, mismatched and
heterogeneous stuff so confused my mind. It disturbed
me. I did not even have a sense of what a beautiful face
consisted of on the outside, or what was decent hair, what
wasn't decent hair.
A: That's a hard thing to understand, isn't it?
R: I had no sense of that. It made me understand how
very powerful the environment is in which you grow up.
A: When I first started seeing other people's dress, I
thought, 'Oh my God, I would love to be like that! Look at
that! Now that's neat!' I hated my outfit. I wouldn't wear
it half the time. You perceived your Hutterite dress as
normal, and I perceived mine as horrible.
R: And you grew up in it. That's what I find --
A: I grew up in it and I despised it. I think that's part of
what made me so crazy towards the end of my time in the
Community. I felt that the costume was the only thing in
high school that was keeping people from getting to know
me, or me getting to know people. They couldn't see past
the dress, and when you're a teenager, it's all looks to you
at that point. I remember when I was little, I always had
my bonnet pulled off. I never wanted my bonnet on my
head. I thought it was very constricting. I always told
Mom, "I hate having something tied to my head. I hate
that." And she'd say, "Oh don't worry about it."
Then people started getting onto her about my not
wearing my head covering, so she had to get back onto
me. "Maybe you should really wear it," she said.
When I went off the 'hof on trips, I always desired to
be 'in' with the other people that I saw on the outside. I
always thought they had the better lot in life, and they
must have thought I was weird. That was hard for me,
that people thought I was weird, because I wanted them
to think I was GREAT! Then when I went to high school, I
really started to hate the costume bad. I always did
everything I could to make my dress as different as
possible. I felt that my dress was really the only thing
that was keeping me from being a part of the 'in' group,
although by the fourth year I was popular with the 'in'
R: Did you play sports with them?
A: We weren't allowed to do anything at that time. Now
they're doing sports. We weren't allowed to do any
activities with them at all.
R: Really! So how did you get out of doing physical
Anne: Oh, we did that. We always had to wear the pants to
our knees and the blouse. We couldn't wear the shorts and
R: So the skin between your knee and --
A: And the hip is the VERY SACRED part. THAT is the
erogenous zone! By the time I left, their swimsuit straps
went all the way around, all the way around your neck, to
R: You mean the Bruderhof made swimsuits?
A: Absolutely! All my entire life!
R: Interesting. As a Hutterite, you know how we went
swimming? With our whole goddam dress! Yes! In the
river, in the creek with the whole thing on.
A: It's amazing that people didn't drown with that much
material around your legs and everything. Amazing!
R: We did take our apron off.
A: Your skirts went up in the air and your panties
showed, probably. We at least had the shackles down to
about here, like the pictures you see of the swimsuits in
R: I think how you dress is very powerful. I know if I
dress up, if I put on my biking outfit, if I put on my
waitress outfit, I get into a different mood. So the B'hof
has enormous control over people's emotions.
A: Also they basically make you look ugly, no matter how
beautiful you are, although sometimes the beauty shows
R: You thought everybody looked ugly?
A: Yeah, and I was convinced I was ugly, and I thought
that almost everybody in my family was ugly. I thought
Steve looked good, because people told Steve he looked
good. That was the funny thing. He was the Golden Boy. He
was funny, he was good-looking. Mom would tell him all
the time, "You're good-looking" -- and you weren't
supposed to do that either.
R: Didn't you think that any women on the 'hof were
A: Yes, but I gauged 'pretty' by length of hair, thickness of
R: With the bonnet you can't really tell,
A: But the braids. They used to wear braids down to their
rear end and stuff. I always had the little curly mop that I
had to pull back. And I was always heavier, and bigger
and stronger than everybody else, so I thought I was an
R: You weren't petite!
A: And my feet were HUGE! But I always turned it around
to my advantage. I competed, and everything I competed
in, I was usually the best, the top of the class in grades,
the fastest runner, the most aggressive player in soccer. I
was always picked first on the teams, I hit the hardest. I
was very-very-very competitive, because that was how I
could show people that I did have something going on.
R: In a way, the Bruderhof made you competitive.
A: Oh, it did!
R: It prepared you for the world.
A: It did. Look at all of those kids who are within the
twenty-five to thirty-five-year age range and who left
within those years. All of us in our group are successful.
Some of them stumbled along the way because of drugs
and women and men, but now everybody is successful.
The oldest Zumpe boys don't have a degree. They have an
education but not a degree, but our school education was
beyond most people's high school education anyway.
R: By successful you mean 'reasonably successful'? More
A: I mean higher than average, right. Higher than average,
on a higher pay scale, on a higher job security, on a higher
independence level as far as having your own place.
R: So how many people are you talking about?
A: Well, like Steve's a doctor, I'm a physical therapist, I
put my money into the house, he's got the practice. He
doesn't have a house yet, but he will shortly. Simon
Marchant is a licensed plumber, makes good money, has a
house. Mike Gneiting makes good money as an electrician.
He's married with two kids, and very much enjoying the
whole family thing. Ebo Zumpe's married with a kid, does
plumbing and works as a private contractor. He takes care
of his little sister Susie as well. Chris Zumpe is married,
Danny Wiehler just got his engineering degree, and Mike
Boller has his own sheet metal fabricating business. There
also are others. We all get together every Memorial Day
weekend and go camping. We're very much an 'in' group,
because we are all within five years of each other.
R: Is there any other woman in the group?
A: Hilda Gneiting, who's now moving back East from
Oregon. She's a year younger than I, and we were real
tight growing up. When she moved out, she traveled in
our circle but then she very quickly got involved with
Traveling Nurses and went all over the States. She's a
very, very strong woman, and very funny. She lived in
Albany, New York, and then moved to California and then
met someone there. They moved to Florida, then to Boston
-- all through Traveling Nurses -- and then out to Oregon,
where she's had two kids, and now they're moving back
R: You'd think as a nurse she'd know about contraception.
A: Well, this brings up the whole sex issue, doesn't it?
There've been a lot of problems sexually for the women
who have left. Some even have had an abortion.
R: How could they bring themselves to have an abortion?
A: I wouldn't have any qualms about the abortion issue
because I take bringing kids into the world and raising
kids extremely seriously. I look on them as an eighteen-
year commitment, and I've not been able to make any
commitment to anybody other than to my brother Steve.
R: You know, when I had my little baby Karl, he was a
twin. The girl died, and I had this little boy. I looked at it
and I said, "Oh my God!" All of a sudden I realized, "I am
going to be stuck with this eighteen years! I can never
just jump up and change my mind! I can't undo it!" I
looked at the baby -- it didn't have a name yet -- and I
said, "Oh my God, I wish you'd be graduated from Harvard
already!" Then I put him to my breast and started nursing
him, and then the relationship started. Then you're
A: It's all about love and relationships, and you just don't
allow the relationship to start. I would never figure out in
my mind, "Nine months from now, when would it be
born?" I would never let myself in any way travel in my
mind at all about it. A friend of mine went for the
abortion, and her mindset was "Take it out. Just take it
out! I don't want it any more!" The doctor told her, "My
God, you're the best patient I've ever had!" She was
totally relaxed about it, and I would be too. I've worked
hard, and have just gotten to the point where I have my
own house am flying smooth. Also I would never bring a
kid into the world without a partner, because I know
about myself that I'm too selfish to raise a kid by myself.
I'm much too selfish. I want my time. I love kids, and I'm
great with kids. I love the kids in the neighborhood and
all my babies that I treat at work, and all their families
love me and want me to do this and that with their kids,
but I can walk away from it.
R: I think I look forward to grandchildren because of that,
because you can always hand them back to the parents.
A: What about the men in your life?
R: I'm friends with all the guys I've ever dated. They're
all fairly local, and I'm friends with all of them still. If
they care to be involved in my life, I'm more than happy
to see them. I still play Ping-Pong and pool with them and
let them come over and we drink and stuff. Johnny, the
man I'm with, we're very secure with each other, so
there's no jealousy or insecurity at all.
R: Earlier you said that you've never had a longer than
nine-month relationship with any one of them.
A: And the one I had a nine months affair with was an ex-
Commune boy. He's the one who took my virginity too. He
was the first one who understood me enough for me to
free up myself and offer that kind of intimacy. We slept
together for two weeks before I would even get that close.
Max [neighbor and friend]: Religion is kind of like
thinking about a vacation. If Anne calls me up and says,
"Come on, Max, let's go skiing in February." So here at the
end of December until February I'm thinking, 'Man,
February 14th we're going skiing! We're going to have a
big time!' Stuff like that. All of us will build up such
expectations as to what it's going to be that by when
February 14th comes and we all go skiing, chances are
that we might not have that great a time, know what I
mean? I'll probably have a good time, 'cause I've never
gone anywhere without a good time. But it wouldn't be as
good as if Anne just had run up to the house some Friday
night at six o'clock and said, "Come on with me and John!
Let's go night-skiing!" And we take off and we just have a
great time. So that's kind of the way religion is, that
people expect so much that they can't enjoy it when they
A: Or they live for the end so much that they don't enjoy
M: You always have to live for right now.
R: Be alive and aware in the moment.
M: See, a lot of religions rely on guilt.
A: Max wrote me a song called "Jacuzzi Susie." Let's see,
how do the words go...
R: You let your parents listen to that?
A: When they come to my house, I do what I do. And if
they don't like it, they can go. I always get letters from
them afterwards: "We didn't like this, we didn't like this,"
but they enjoy it while they're here. Then the process of
guilt locks in. Mom and Dad LOVE being here! They drink
and eat and play pool and Ping-Pong, and watch TV and
carry on. But when they go home to their environment, all
of a sudden they start feeling bad about things.
R: They have to start judging it all.
A: Oh Max, I didn't tell you. My parents wouldn't let us
visit them in the Commune. I saw my Mom and Dad
outside, but I haven't seen my sisters or nephews, nieces
for two years and they wouldn't let us in because we
didn't ask the Elder and get permission ahead of time, and
that was against their rules. It's the Christmas Season, and
the whole world is into loving and giving, and here the
Commune's whole life is based on the life of somebody
whose mother and father were turned away this time of
year -- and they turned us away! I told Dad, "Well, thank
God we have plenty of swaddling clothes up here in the
M: What I can't understand is, all these people have all
these different kinds of religions, and they all preach love
and caring for their fellow man, but they all want to effing
kill them! "If you don't believe in what I believe, then
we're going to kill you!" I say that if there is a God that I
worship, he is much more than that.
R: He's like you.
M: Yeah, he's kind of like me.
R: How did you first meet Anne, Max?
M: When she bought the house and moved down.
R: You just walked up to her and said "I'm your
M: I think we had a party or something. It just seemed
like we kind of fell in together.
A: It was just like instant friendship. Fran came down
here and brought me a welcome gift, and then I wandered
up there next Saturday. We started partying together and
-- it was easy.
R: So how big is your neighborhood here, or your
M: Michael, who owned this land and built this first house
here, he is our extended family. He lives right up there.
He's built and owned four houses right here in this
neighborhood, and he's the only man I ever knew that's
built so many houses and never moved out of any of
them. He still stays here, he ate supper with us last night.
He's one of those people that you don't want to have any
money dealings with, but he's got one of those
personalities that you just can't be mad at him, no matter
what he does, no matter how he poops on you.
A: He's sorry, lazy and takes advantage of your kindness.
He's like the Prodigal Son.
R: How many people are in this group?
M: We have our own little commune. Me, Fran, Keith,
Steve, Johnny, Mikey and a bunch of others.
A: About ten.
M: We're always there for each other. It's like an
A: We go out a lot partying together and have a
designated driver. We recreate very well together.
R: Wouldn't you say, Anne, that you learned some of that
in the Community?
A: Oh yes, and that's what I was looking for too. That's
why I am so happy here. Absolutely.
M: She does have an extended family. We all do.
A: When they turned us away at the Commune, I thought
'Well, the hell with you guys. I've got a family in North
M: It's like Steve, her brother. He's not down here all the
time. Sometimes he is, sometimes he ain't. We called him
at Christmas, and he knows he can come down here and
unload on us when his things ain't going good.
R: How far does he live from here?
A: Forty-five minutes at most.
M: I understand, in the circumstances that Anne and
Steve come from, and not personally knowing -- like some
of the worst whippings and beatings that I ever had were
those in religion. We got a little saying, you know, even
though I didn't grow up in that kind of violence that they
grew up in, we had a summer preacher who came very
summer and set up a tent with wood shavings. He would
talk in tongues -- I guess he was 'holiness preacher.' The
funny thing about it is that when he talked in tongues, he
always said the same thing -- "SHAWN DILLY-DUH-MO-
SEE-YA!" I memorized it as a kid: "SHAWN DILLY-DUH-
MO-SEE-YA!" I was running through the house hollering
"SHAWN DILLY-DUH-MO-SEE-YA!" and Mama just
whupped my ass. I can never forget that saying. Anne and
Steve both have memorized it. They're extremely
intelligent people, although I know they act like buffoons.
A: That's the thing about North Carolina. As soon as I got
here I realized this is where I needed to be, because they
still have a real sense of community and family. Even if
you don't have a family, they'll take you into their family.
People really build support around you if they like you.
Now if you screw somebody, don't even bother going
M: Now I wouldn't say that. You've got to prove yourself
wrong several times. Basically I think people down here
are really forgiving. The first couple of times they'll
forgive you, but we when you reach three strikes, then
maybe. And when they're done with you, they are DONE
A: They're forgiving, but they'll tell you what they think
about you. They don't mind saying "You're a mean mother,
blah-blah-blah-blah-blah." I mean, they'll let it out, and
then put you like in exclusion of their friendship for a few
months before they'll let you back in. Make you suffer a
R: So you have to work your way back in, but it's not
A: Like Max said, they're very loving, forgiving people,
but at the same time -- well, we're really close. I could do
something that might anger Max, but it wouldn't --
M: I can't hardly imagine what it would be.
A: I can't either. When you plan and you act purposefully
to destroy something, that's what I'm talking about. That
is taken very hard, especially if you love somebody.
M: It's one of those things with all of our friends and all of
the people that we know, there's still the politics in
certain way. But everybody is so kind-hearted and so
easy-going that they never want to hurt anybody's
feelings. Never ever!
A: We'll talk about each other, but there's an
understanding that there's a love there. It's talking about
them but it's still loving them.
R: I understand that. It's only when you love somebody
that you can really criticize them.
M: People basically, what we call 'Homo Sapiens,' are
really the same all over the world. They have different
wants and desires. What may turn you on may not do
anything for me, but I may have something else that
turns me on, and vice versa. But everybody has wants and
needs and stuff like that. The hard part about it is that
people in general don't understand life enough. They
worry about all this other stuff so much that they can
never enjoy their lives. They can never enjoy living. I
mean I've had my guilt trips. I mean I've been hung up
on some guilt things and stuff, and I just decided to get
over it. There no need for me to feel guilty about the way
I felt or whatever, or what I've done, because basically
whenever I die I know that I never, ever, intentionally
done anything to hurt anybody, that I never intentionally
set out on a mission in my life to say, "Well, I'm going to
do something that is going to mess Anne up." I have never
intentionally hurt anybody. Now I have gotten drunk and
run my mouth and hurt people's feelings and stuff like
that, and said stuff that was out of the way, and just been
my obnoxious self and stuff like that. But whenever I lay
down to sleep at night, I never ever lay down and say, "Oh
God, I wonder if Ruth is going to find out that I done
People like people that just say, "No! That's not what I
want to do. Let's don't do that. Let's do something else."
Instead of the sheep kind of thing.
A: There are no guessing games, it's all straightforward.
You don't pretend to like somebody if you don't like them,
and that way your friendships are strong and true, and
you're secure. I'm very secure with Max and Fran,
Johnny's friends and the other people I associate with.
R: Are you that way at work also?
A: Yes, I run my department like that. When somebody
says something that aggravates me or there's a problem
between us, I deal with it straight to their face right then,
and then forget about it and go on. That's the environment
I try to have. In the beginning I could pick and train my
own people, but now I've that I have a bigger group,
we're going to have some backstabbers.
R: I have the same sort of thing in my little group, and I
think this is another thing that you got from the
Community. In a sense, you really have taken what the
Community preached and put it into practice. And the
Community doesn't do it.
A: Exactly! I try to love and give and be open, and I take
people as they are and don't judge them. The people
around here that I know who don't claim to be religious
are the best 'Christian' people that I know.
M: The beautiful part about it is that whenever people go
ahead and express and live the way that we were taught
to be, it is really nice that you can be open and say what
you want to say and not hurt people's feelings.
A: You know, in my intimate relationships is where I've
done my biggest growth, in the relationships and through
the break-ups. Those have taught me more about myself
and other people and life in general. If I hadn't had all
those messed-up relationships with men, some of them
good, some of them not so good, I would not have arrived
at as good an understanding of myself as I have. They
were all positive experiences, although most of them
involved a lot of pain as well. But I learned, I grew, and I
don't see how I could be who I am today without having
had those experiences. I don't really regret or resent any
of them, but it takes time to get that perspective.
R: Do you think that every human being needs to go
through a lot of relationships?
A: No, but I think everybody needs to have the
experience of giving and losing. "If You Never Loved, You
Never Would Have Cried" -- you know that song from
Simon and Garfunkle? I really believe in that a lot.
M: I don't believe in human nature so much. I could never
emotionally ever consider myself giving my 'all' to any
person or to any god or whatever it is. I'm always gonna
hold just little bit back. It maintains my sanity.
A: I don't see how anybody can develop, though, without
having those kinds of relationship experiences. I see the
people in the Commune as underdeveloped personalities
because they never had the challenge of meeting their
weaknesses and taking the consequences and learning
from that. Everything is so damn safe, so damn protected
that they don't develop their character. The life doesn't
develop their minds, but it also doesn't develop their
sense of self, and in that way they can be more 'followers'
because they are not allowed to experiment in any form.
R: See, I married the first guy that I kissed -- can you
imagine how stupid? I was frightened as hell of him. I had
nightmares about him, and I married the guy because I
felt -- "I've kissed him, I have to follow through." It's the
Christian thing -- you put your hand on the plow and
when you once start, you don't turn back until you get to
the end of the row. That caused me to lose my child when
he was three-and-a-half years old. We divorced, and my
husband got custody of the kid, all because of my
stupidity. I was so darn stupid! I spent ten years in hell
because of that.
A: Young women who leave the Community are not
prepared to save themselves. The incidence of rape among
this group is extremely high because they are not given
the knowledge or the self-esteem to help them prevent
that. At the same time I don't know how the Community
could give the girls the knowledge to cope with that and
still maintain the ignorance that they find so holy.
R: Do you think that the same thing might be true of other
conservative Christian people or do you think that's
something unique to the Bruderhof?
A: I think probably the same is true of anybody that's
brought up in a very sexually repressed family where
nobody talks about it. I don't see why, even in the
Community, the parents don't talk about it. It's such a
personal thing to dictate to parents how to inform their
kids about sexual issues. But lack of basic knowledge and
a low self-image are the reasons why every Bruderhof girl
I know who has left, except for myself, has been raped,
and all of us either have had abortions or become single
mothers. We don't know how to socially relate. What
saved me was that I didn't have the time to associate with
men for the first few years because I worked two jobs, at
night and on the weekends, and I went to school in the
R: But actually, all these girls were raped?
A: Most of it was date-rape, men whom they knew. I
know with one girl, her body language was probably very
inviting and he took it that way, and she didn't know how
to handle it.
R: I am frequently misinterpreted. Recently my body
language obviously told the man something that I wasn't
intending. It's almost as though anybody who is open -- if
they feel an openness -- a liveliness --
A: The majority of people that come out from the
Commune are bright, intelligent and beautiful people. Just
a lot of fun to be around.
R Earlier you mentioned two women who have been in
and out of institutions. Who are they?
A: One I've met a couple of times, and she's just kind of
fried, I think mostly because she wasn't able to cope with
society's pressures. I don't really know about her. She's
outside, but when I met her she had been institutionalized
a couple of times. The other one left in her late twenties, I
think. They told her that she'd have to leave because she
wasn't headed towards becoming a baptized member. So
they put pressure on her, and basically forced her to
leave. I think only a couple of months later she went into
a mental institution near New Meadow Run. She wasn't
there very long, a couple of weeks or a month, and was
given a combination of medications that killed her.
Our parents visited us not long after that, and were
saying how wonderful the experience was. They really felt
close, and her father was touched by the experience.
R: What experience?
A: I guess sitting around her bed while she was in a coma
and feeling like they had a contact with her or something.
You know how they can always blow up something like
that. Apparently it did change her father quite a bit. I
wouldn't swear that I have all the details straight, but I
challenged my parents when they came here. "You know,
that could've been ME!" I told them. "Do you realize that
could've been me or Steven or any of us kids that left? It's
amazing that we didn't all end up in mental institutions.
It's amazing that we aren't crazy or dead!" Mom kind of
accepted the shock of that knowledge, I think. They of
course thought that it was just God's will or whatever. It's
amazing how little responsibility they take. I think they
really have no sense of responsibility whatsoever.
Did you ever hear about that little girl who lived in
New Meadow Run? She had two brothers, her mother and
father kept going in and out of the Commune. She was in
the third or fourth grade, and she just snapped. She
started attacking the kids in her class, literally trying to
strangle them or something at recess. She had behavior
problems because her family had been in and out of the
Commune so much. This time her family was living on the
edge and she was in the school, and she probably had
been extremely marked. Anyway, when that happened,
they just shipped her off to a mental institution in New
York, an eight or nine-year-old. After that she didn't want
anything to do with her parents. She and Hilda Gneiting
had some connection, but I don't know where she is now
or what's going on with her. That was a real sad situation.
From the time I was a child, as long as I can
remember, they were talked about as being in and out of
the Commune. Everybody knew that they were poor folks
who couldn't quite stay on the path.
R: It is amazing how the children reflect their parents'
situation. If there's anything wrong or slightly unusual
about your parents, they don't quite fit or they don't quite
mold in, boy, you are targeted! So that would be very
A: The Commune is really like a very mean, tough society
where, basically, if you are in any way different, they
almost try to kill you. That's how I felt literally for years,
that they were trying to squash me or kill me.
R: When did you first feel that you were different?
A: I don't really remember. I was always fascinated by
the 'outside world,' as I said earlier. I think in the
beginning it was a romantic feeling about the world
outside, but there was never any point that I can
remember where I thought I was going to stay. There was
always a progression toward leaving, even when I was
attracted to boys at the time when for some girls the
thought became "Maybe I should stick around -- maybe
this wouldn't be so bad.' My thought always was 'How can
I get them out?' I think a lot of the young people who do
stay there stay for partnership reasons. I know one of my
brothers did, and Steve almost would have if he had been
assured of achieving that with one of the girls up there.
The main thing is that I think it's pretty much the
way things are. I don't know a whole lot about what's
going on now, but I know enough to scare me, though. I
know enough to be alarmed by the whole scene.
R: What about the other experiences that you had with
the 'outside' group?
A: The so-called 'Hartford Boys?' There were no sexual
experiences. It was just drinking and getting high and
exploring the wilder side of life. When we got together, we
knew that we'd look out for each other -- it was like an
unspoken law. We were all very secure about that, and so
we'd go out and get totally blitzed. Basically it wasn't that
unusual of an experience for young people, except that we
were a little older than most who were going through that
phase -- and we were less worldly-wise. A lot of times
that can be dangerous, and is an aspect of the rape issue
too. The reality was that we were younger than our actual
age. People perceived me as being very mature and
knowledgeable, but I was mature only on a very narrow
plane, and not mature socially. People just assumed that I
The Hartford Boys group was all young men. I was the
only woman, so there were a lot of escapades and
carryings-on. The thing that entertained us the most was
copying the community and the way that they talked. We
parodied all their stuff, pretending to admonish each
other and so on, like seeing the whole 'St. Matthew
Passion' at Christmas very drunk and raucous. We
reflected our rebellion off each other and had a good time
laughing about it. There was nothing sexual in that group,
which is interesting. They were my brothers, always, and
always have been and always will be. Back then I was still
a virgin. I wasn't flaunting or flirting very much.
R: Do you think that Bruderhof women know how to relate
A: In the Bruderhof, women get married without even
knowing how sex is accomplished. Now that is scary. You
go out into the world like that, and you're bound to have
R: I met a Hutterite girl who is now in her thirties. She has
eight children and is living in a tenement dwelling. She
was on Public Assistance, they had taken the children
away from her, and on this particular weekend when I
visited they had brought them back to visit her. The first
one was Filipino, the second one Chinese, the others were
half African-American, but this woman had produced
each of these babies from a different father. She left the
Hutterites when she was seventeen years old, and I
looked at her and thought, 'Oh my God, she left at the
same age I did! There but for the grace of God go I!'
A: Me too! That's exactly what I'd say. Can you imagine
how low her self-esteem must be! I left at seventeen, and
I could be just as messed up as she is.
R: That's where I could be!
A: I credit my Mom for making me feel like a strong
person, so that I didn't end up in that trap. But almost all
of the Bruderhof girls I know were brought up to be so
programmed to the men, to satisfy the men, wash the
babies, have sex with the men, feed the men. So when
they leave the Commune, they are looking for the men.
R: Without a man, you don't feel like you have an anchor.
A: Without a man, they feel like they don't have a life! But
then that's very common, isn't it? Our life was so
different, but at the same time so much the same as many
other people's. How many times were we taught "The
Church is the sun, and you are a plant, the Church is the
building and you are a brick." You cannot be a whole thing
-- a whole person by yourself.
R: It's the loaf of bread metaphor and the grape metaphor.
The grape has to be pressed and become wine. You never
got that one?
R: And the skin is the ego, because if you don't let go of
your ego, the juice can't meld together and make wine.
And wine is something positive. The same with the bread.
The grain has to let go of its outer core to be ground into
flour and be baked into a loaf.
A: So if you try to make your own beliefs, then you are
impeding the final goal of everybody else. You're a thorn
in their side, in addition to which you are totally going
astray because you can't achieve wholeness on your own.
R: It reinforces the idea that you're always supposed to be
vulnerable, you're supposed to have no boundaries. That's
the biggest negative that my friend in New York accuses
me of -- that I have no boundaries. You don't have any
sort of shell or wall to protect you. Most normal human
beings have a wall, and they say "This is private, this is
public. I share this with these people."
A: You share everything with everybody.
R: When I was first outside in Pittsburgh at seventeen,
and I got on a trolley car, I would introduce myself to the
people on all sides of me. I'd tell them how many brothers
I had, how many sisters I had, what their names were,
where I was going, what I was doing. For about three days
I talked the whole way to wherever I was going! I'm sure
these people thought I was demented. Then I woke up
and realized, "Oh my God, look what these other people
are doing! They're not talking, they're reading! I'm
making a fool out of myself!" So I walked into a drugstore
and bought myself a paperback book, and it was "On the
Beach" by Nevil Shute. So after three days I was socialized
-- I figured out what you had to do. So I read this book,
and it's the most devastating novel about the end of the
world after a nuclear holocaust. And that was what I felt
like -- I felt like I had landed on Mars!
M: It's like when these friends had to go to Washington,
D.C. -- a boy and girl and their mom. So I asked the boy,
"How was the trip?" And he said, "Man, you get on them
subways, and everybody's sitting around reading. They
don't talk. They don't look at each other, no contact
whatsoever!" I told him, "You know the first thing I
would've done? You seen that old commercial about the
guy that's standing in the elevator and looks around and
says, "I feel good all over!" I think it's a Haines Underwear
commercial. That's what I would do. I would've gotten on
and said, "Hey, y'all! How y'all?" They'd have thought I
was crazy, because I would've waved and nodded.
A: I used to get on the elevator and say, "Who called this
meeting?" And everybody would react like -- "She's
TALKING!" "Don't look at her!"
M: If you stay in that situation long enough -- if you don't
have to get off and they don't -- you'll break that barrier
soon. Somebody else will start having a good time.
A: This Christmas we went on vacation, and we were in
the building with all these people, and every time we
were on the elevator it was like a big social gathering.
Even with my parents there, these funny little old
dressed-up people, they were just chit-chatting away. Of
course Mom probably started the whole thing when we
got on. I think she did.
M: I would! I learned it from my mentally unbalanced
sister, because she's never met a stranger. I'd stand back
and watch her do this interaction with people, and some
of the stuff she could say and get away with just amazed
me. I thought, 'She can do it and they don't know that
she's crazy. So I can do it -- just say whatever I want!'
Instead of having to pay for a psychiatrist or anything
like that, if I spend any time with you whatsoever, I'll tell
you my whole life.
A: That's what Ruth is like and that's what I'm like. We
talk just too much! And I don't care, except recently in my
work situation I've had to learn that if I talk too much
they can use it against me. I had to learn that.
R: You had to learn the concept of boundaries.
A: Yes, but I have very very few.
R: Because that's how you were trained to be.
A: That's also the way I want to be. I like that. We grew
up in a society where everybody knew everybody and
everybody talked to everybody, and there were no
R: This is what it's like: within the Community, within the
loaf of bread, you have no boundaries. But outside the
bread there's this thick crust, and you're very clear about
what's inside and what's outside. You have this concept. In
the Hutterite culture, because we spoke Tyrolean, I grew
up thinking that God could only speak German, that He
only understood German. My heart was full of compassion
for the people who didn't understand German. How would
they ever be able to speak to God? For us, all the people
who were not in the colony, who weren't dressed our way,
were 'English people.' It didn't matter if you were French,
Belgian, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, African-American --
you were 'English.' All the outsiders were English people,
and we inside were the German people. That was the very
distinct boundary that we had.
M: Do you think that's the reason that it was so easy for
Hitler and the Nazi party to convince the German people
that they were superior?
A: I think Germans, in general, are 'follower' types. And
those who aren't followers are fanatical leaders. That's
what I've seen in a lot of the full-blooded Germans. I
really think that the German culture has had a lot to do
with the destruction of the Commune. Tremendously. All
of the ones who treated me poorly and treated Steve
poorly and harassed our family constantly were the effing
R: Which ones are you talking about?
A: The Meiers, the Arnolds, the Gneitings -- Jacob was
hateful. Not the Pleils. The Pleils were big-time
scapegoats. We liked the Pleils, but they were marked
from the beginning. All their boys were labeled 'bad,' like
all the Buttons were bad too. But all the leadership is
frigging German, or at least heavily authoritarian-
R: We should write a tourist guide to whackos on the
A: Not 'Waco' but 'whackos,' -- similar pronunciation. It's
craziness. For instance, we were told about this whole
situation where Christoph Arnold, the elder, set this guy
up to do physicals on the young boys because he --
Christoph -- wanted something that would allow him to
discredit the guy. To kick him out. Christoph saw him as
some sort of competition, so he set him up for a fall,
because he knew the guy was gay. I knew he was gay
from the time I was little. When Steve and I first met him,
we were in high school and we both told our parents,
"That man is evil." He was so energetic and 'possessed,'
always running around trying to get groups of people
behind him and be so inspirational. I thought there were a
lot of adults in the Commune who were total idiots, and I
expressed it to several people when I was little.
R: That's the difference between you and me, because
physically we are similar types, and character-wise. I was
cowed into this kind of -- to think I was so
impressionable! I'd think, 'Oh, I've done something wrong!
I've walked barefoot!' And the adult would say, "Your toes
are going to grow north, south, east and west!" Can you
A: If somebody had said that to me when I was five or six
years old, I would've said, "Well, I can throw a rock fifty
feet with my toes. What can YOU do?" I could do that!
R: I thought, 'Maybe I should just walk on head! Maybe
THAT's what the Holy Spirit wants me to do!' Maybe I
shouldn't walk on my feet! You see, Anne, you had this
mother behind you. That's what I was curious about,
because I immediately focused in on that. I thought, 'How
did this woman undermine the whole Bruderhof to you?
She did it very effectively.'
A: Her behavior, her little quiet things she said, and when
we'd get in trouble she would tell me, "Just be quiet."
They would rant and rave at us and she'd just be sitting
there going, "Just be quiet. Just take it." Frequently I was
the ringleader and would get caught and excluded. We
used to climb up in the trees and pee and poop down, and
everything. It was all discovery, but with a lot of guilt, but
that of course made it more exciting. I was excluded so
many times over nudity. Then in high school I was out for
an entire year because of things I said. I said the 'F' word
once and was out for a whole year. They threatened either
to kick my parents out or I could stay out of school.
R: Kick your parents out because of you?
A: Yeah, and I was only fourteen. They wanted me OUT,
but I was too young to go by myself.
R: So your whole family would have to go with you.
A: Or I could choose to stay in my house for a year. So I
chose to stay in my house for a year. I thought I'd never
get through that.
R: You'd stayed in the house for a year?
A: They made me work. I cleaned the babies' house, and I
cleaned toilets for the summer, and I did high school
correspondence courses and then I could go out in the
R: Any time you visit the Bruderhof and you see
somebody cleaning toilets, you know WHY they're
A: You know that they are a good person! I cleaned toilets
eight hours every day for an entire summer, all by
myself, flat-out cleaning all the toilets alone.
R: Just to prick your conscience a little bit so that you'd
know what you were missing.
A: Just to still be better that I was. Just to make them
better people than I was. That's what they always do.
That's what their whole thing is. Whenever you interact
with them, they have to be better than you, which is total
bull because they don't know how to treat people any
I went through a time when I was so bottled up, I
would have these brief fits of rage when I'd pound the
walls, just kick and hit. I never did it where anybody
could see me, and I never did it loud or with screams or
anything, but I had quite a bit of time alone during that
year. I think probably it was my way of keeping from
snapping. Throughout all those years, I always thought to
myself, 'My God, how come they can't see what a great
person I am?' Isn't it unbelievable that I was able to
maintain that feeling?
R: There wasn't anyone you could speak to?
A: Right, you know how you form friendships and you
confide and then they turn around and report on you? I
had two girls in my class that I was pretty secure with. I
was very tight with them, and we'd tell each other quite
personal things about our feelings and stuff like that. It
demanded extreme trust, because you weren't supposed
to talk at all.
R: You weren't supposed to have special friends, even as
A: No, and if you did, they would try their best to
separate you. But how can you not form special friends? I
don't see how that's possible.
R: So the concept of 'my best friend' does not exist?
A: You were not allowed to say 'my best friend' back then.
I don't know about now, because the way they're raising
their children is changing so much.
R: You're supposed to love everybody.
A: In class I was always the one who was doing some
crazy activity on the sideline. While the rest of the class
was out doing one thing, I was off in the corner creating
something a little bit different, a little bit crazy. My
classmates kind of admired me and wanted to partake in
whatever activities I was doing. That of course boosted
my ego, and so I encouraged it as much as possible, and
was quite manipulative, intentionally so.
I was disciplined and out of school and in exclusion
many times throughout my life. During tenth grade we
had some sort of upheaval where we had a kind of a big
'extermination' thing. The adults just sat around and
drilled you and drilled you until you confessed to
whatever they were trying to find out. And those two
girls in whom I had confided turned on me, and I lost
them. By this point I wasn't talking to my parents. I was
living in the same house with them but hardly talking to
them at all because I felt that they had betrayed me so
many times that I didn't trust them. Things I would tell
them they would tell the ministers, or they would just
believe automatically things that were said about me.
They wouldn't give me any credit. I think the worst thing
about it was that nobody ever mentioned my strong
points. It was always, "When are you going to change? You
are bad. You're a bad character, you're the ringleader of
the group, you're the bad influence in the group." I would
say to them, "But what about my STRONG points?" I would
sit there and say to them, "Why are you so down on me?
Why can't you say something good about me once in a
while?" And they say something like "We don't need to,"
or something. I just started feeling really betrayed on all
levels, being a very expressive person and nobody to
express to, and nobody giving me any input.
At the beginning of my junior year we had another
big upheaval because the high school boys were caught
talking about pubic hair or some jokes about Tampons or
about something totally mundane. The ministers cooked
up this huge riot about it. They told Steven that they had
all four communities on the telephone, that there would
be thousands of people listening, and he and all these
boys would have to stand up in the brotherhood and
confess. They made all of the brothers and sisters of the
boys who were being twisted come to the meeting to
watch. This was exceptionally cruel, because Steve was
our Golden Boy, and to watch him be humiliated was
terrible. He was so humiliated that his blood pressure
went so high that his nose just started squirting blood. He
was crying and bleeding, and he was just a shell of a
human being. It was awful!
Christoph got on the microphone from Woodcrest and
intoned in that German zombi way of his, "Ste-ven, it
would be better off if we put a millstone around your
neck and DROWNED you!" That's what Christoph told him,
and Steve is very impressionable and always has been. At
this point I was just starting, without even really being
able to form the thought, I was starting to think to myself,
'This is totally screwed up!' It was all so Animal Farm-ish!
But then a few weeks after that, MY turn came to be
publicly humiliated, because it came up that the girls
ALSO were VERY BAD. I had said "shit" and "f---" once
each a year and a half earlier. So now, a year and a half
LATER, that was reported! They had a great way of saving
things up for years and years and then blowing the lid off.
People would confess things from like four or five years
We started hearing all these words in high school, and
at first I didn't know what they meant. I didn't even
know how sex was done at this point. I didn't know what
"f---" meant, but I knew where it went in the sentence.
We were playing soccer, I missed the ball, and so I said "f-
--!" It's amazing that I didn't say these words more.
I also had talked about the adults and the teachers,
saying stuff like, "Look at that idiot," or something. Of
course all this got reported, and there was another big
jump onto the brotherhood bandwagon, with the ministers
screaming things at me. It was at that point that I was
given the option, since I had been so bad for so many
years and I was such a destructive influence to "The Spirit
of the Child" and all this stuff, that I could either stay
totally away from anybody my age for an entire year, or I
could leave the Commune with my parents. And my
parents obviously didn't want to go. They would have
gone if they'd wanted to! Basically I decided to punish
myself rather than punishing them, so I did
correspondence courses at home for a year. Here I was, no
friends, I wasn't speaking to my parents, I was staying in
the house alone all morning doing schoolwork, and then
all afternoon I was cleaning. I was just sixteen years old!
My brother Steve, who was my idol and my friend,
was gone. This was extremely traumatic for me because
Steve and I always have been very close emotionally and
thought-wise. We'd talk a lot about things that we felt
were real sensitive. So I lost the only confidant I had. I
would try to write him letters and they would be sent
back. I would put the letter in the mail and the next day
my parents would have it, which was rather interesting
because that meant they were going through the mail.
It was a really traumatic six months . The whole
family pretty much fell apart when Steve left. When he
phoned home, the whole family would gather around the
phone and cry hysterically and fight and argue. It was
just horrible. I went into a period where I wouldn't talk to
Mom, I wouldn't talk to my sisters. I stayed in the same
bedroom with two of my sisters and didn't talk to them
for about a year. I was just real angry, and walked around
pounding my fists into walls, emotionally unable to find
out how I was supposed to express it. I never did it where
anybody could see me, and I never did it loud or with
screams or anything, but I had quite a bit of time alone
during that year. I think it probably was my way of
keeping from snapping. And throughout, I always thought
myself, 'My God, how come they can't see what a great
person I am?'
R: Were you cleaning in public places so that other people
would see you, and would walk by you and not talk to
A: I could talk to people, but a lot of people really didn't
talk to me. And I didn't go out of my way to make any
contact with them, because at this point I was just looking
at the ground.
R: One year. Did you do well in your studies that year?
A: Yeah, yeah. I cheated on every single thing. I did well.
I did Chemistry. I had this whole chemistry set and had to
do all these experiments. I made big explosions and
craziness with it in the house. And if the arithmetic did
not come out quite right, I'd manipulate the numbers until
the figures came out right, because I usually knew what
they were looking for. They had to give me my tests at
home and Mom would say, "Here's the test," and she'd go
off and do something.
R: One entire year of NO socializing?
A: It turned out to be nine months. I finished the school
year in like three months. I just did all the work -- boom-
boom-boom -- got it done, and then I had to work full
I pretty much covered up what I was going through. I
just seemed a very sarcastic, happy teenager, trying to
cover the whole thing up, but they took it as my being
Senior year I was back in high school, and basically
associating with the outside kids. I was out again at the
end of the year, but they let me back in just long enough
to look good for graduation. That summer I arranged for
me to go up and work at a summer camp in Maine which I
heard about through a friend in high school. The day after
I graduated I moved to Maine for the summer, and the
morning before I left, the Bruderhof high school group
came while I was eating breakfast and sang outside the
living room window songs like "God Bless Your Journey."
And I hadn't even been in the high school group. They
had shunned me about two months before that, and here
they all showed up! So that was really wild that they did
that. I freaked out. I couldn't handle it because I was very
emotionally fragile at the time anyway. They made me go
out and shake all their hands and everything.
My plan was at the end of high school in a year to go
away for the summer and work at a summer camp in
Two weeks before I was supposed to go, they let me
back into the high school group, as if they were doing me
a huge favor or something. I remember at the time saying,
"Oh yeah, that's really nice of you. I've got two weeks to
have friends before I leave forever." I was just real bitter.
By the time I got to Maine I was almost ready for a
nervous breakdown. I didn't know why I was or who I
was or what I was doing. But then I met Lillian Maendel,
George Maendel's sister. She worked at that summer
camp, and when I walked in I was dressed like a
Hutterite, and she looked at me and said, "Oh my God!
Where did YOU come from?"
So immediately I found somebody I could talk to.
That's when I basically started to see the Commune for
what it was and not take it so personally. I was able to
have a really tremendous summer, but for some reason I
went running back to the Commune at the end of the
summer because they had arranged for me to go to school.
I walked in the door, handed my dad a check for a
thousand dollars, which was what I earned over the
summer. I hadn't spent hardly any of it because I felt like
it wasn't my money. I had never had money before, so I
handed it over. And they said something like, "Thank you
very much. Now you can go to school and get a job."
Basically that was about it. I went to college in Albany,
New York, and came home every weekend for a year. I
just started to get to the point where I was crying
uncontrollably for no reason...
I wasn't a Novice or anything. I wouldn't even go to
Gemeindestunde. I much preferred to play tennis or
something with the boys during the meetings. My family
and about four other families started the Pleasant View
commnity.Three of the boys and I would jump on the
train coming up the hill at night and ride it into Kingston
and then walk back and talk about just everything, you
know. It came to the point where I really knew that I
didn't have any choice. I had to leave. Now I can look back
and see that I was falling apart emotionally. But at the
time I just felt like "there was more happiness out there
than there was in here" kind of thing. But now I can see
that it was basically a survival thing.
R: You have an incredibly healthy ego!
A: I don't know how anybody could possibly maintain a
sense of self-worth throughout all the crap! I think it
must have my mother's doing. I don't know how it
happened, although I believed them to a certain extent. I
thought I was pretty bad, but I also thought I was having
a helluva good time, and so how could that be so bad?
R: Actually in my opinion one of the positive things about
the Bruderhof, or the Hutterites, is that every place that
you go in the system you are affirmed. You belong. You
belong to a group, and that world is set up for you. It
expects you there. It knows you're there. You're protected.
The entire system is designed for your welfare, which is
unlike the world we live in out here where a kid is out on
the street and then all bets are off. He isn't affirmed and
protected in the world in the same way you are in the
Colonies, and I do believe that it makes for stronger
individuals. Because you have the basic solid, secure sense
that you belong in the world and the world has a place for
A: What I would like to figure out is how the hell can I do
that with kids in this world out here. How can I give them
that by myself? I can't imagine growing up and not
playing in the woods and doing arts and crafts, and music
and all this input we had. And the security.
R: That's why people go in the Community and stay there.
A: I'm sure it's a huge attraction, but the sad part is that
so many of them now have just been born into it. They're
not even aware of THAT any more. Our parents and others
would look at the life and perceive something beautiful
and special and feel "I want to be part of that," even if
there were dirty underpinnings. Now they don't even
appreciate a darn thing. They just go through life trying to
be humble and subservient and never even stop and see
the beauty of what's going on around them. I mean, most
of them don't. They are just a bunch of idiots up there.
You would not believe it. Just a bunch of shells. They don't
choose it any more. It's just there.
R: They were raised in it and they don't see any
alternative to that way of life.
A: And they don't have one original thought in their
heads. It's stunning how thoroughly they've been able to
achieve their model of the good little sheep.
R: I've thought about that a lot, and I've often wondered if
they should not perhaps insist that people who are born
in there go out and do something different. I feel the same
way about American culture. When you think about this
country, why should everybody who just happened to be
born here automatically become an American? I think it
should be a choice, and there should be some training. It
should be very conscious.
A: You'd have to earn your citizenship. You'd value it
R: I don't know how one could do that in the Bruderhof.
A: The children should be forced to go out. The leadership
has this whole thing, "But our children go to public high
school so that they can really make a clear choice." We
went to public high school. We had a whole schoolbus for
the twenty or so Bruderhof kids, just us. We got off the
bus, we stuck together, we went through the whole day in
our group because that age group is cliquish anyway. We
hardly interacted with anybody except perhaps for me
and a couple of other kids in art class. Right after school
we'd be bused back home. It's so darn easy to stay within
your shell! I poked out once in a while to check things out,
but that was about it.
R: When we went to high school there were eight of us.
Given that it was a small school, we had one library room
with a glass window, and if one of us went into the library
for study hall, all of us went into the library. We occupied
the library. And then if we went out, and if one of 'them'
-- the outsiders -- went in the library, then it filled up
with the others. We would never mix.
A: My fourth year I was mixing a little bit, but that is
basically how it was. So the whole premise that "We go to
public high school so that we can make a choice" is total
bull. It's so transparent it's almost laughable.
R: Of course. And what about the training kids get later?
A: While I was going through high school the Community
went through this thing that "The children all think they
DESERVE a training, but the Brotherhood is going to choose
WHO gets the training. It's very very evil that you girls
talked about what you want to be, and how you think you
should be able to do what you want!" And kids didn't
want to be pushed toward a certain profession. The
Community would channel people towards professions.
My brother Paul wanted to be a doctor, Steve wanted to
be a doctor. "No, absolutely not. The Buttons don't have
enough spiritual understanding and power."
R: You have to demonstrate spiritual understanding and
A: Yes, if you're going to be a doctor or any kind of thing
where you'd know more than the damn ministers.
Anybody who knew that much had to be part of the
hierarchy. Had to be!
R: So you'd say that the ones that go out and get the
highest status trainings are the closest with the hierarchy,
A: Yes, and also the ones in whom the hierarchy is willing
to invest are the ones whom they are the most sure will
stick around. It's just another tool for them to manipulate
and control. Psychological politics.
R: To give you an example of how I was at Koinonia
Community in Georgia, I had graduated when I was 15,
and here I was 16 years old. The question came up, "Well,
what's Ruth going to do?" And in front of the whole
community, like a good little Bruderhof girl, I said, "Well, I
will do what the community wants me to do." Perfect little
Bruderhof girl! And my father piped up and said, "No,
Ruth is going to go to college!" Just like that. He had that
notion. You see, the lucky thing was that my father was
NOT born in the Hutterites. He came from the outside. And
so then I went to college, but to think that I said that!
What a sheep! What a perfectly pliable communitarian I
A: It's amazing to me, because as kids you and I were so
different, although now we've achieved a lot of
similarities. There you were saying that, and there I was
walking around saying "Those anal orifices, if they think
that's going to keep me out of school, I'm leaving! They
can line up and kiss my rear end!" Without that
terminology, but basically that thought. But the majority
of the girls were like you, "Whatever the brotherhood
wants," "I had a sinful thought, I want forgiveness."
R: Yes, it's frightening how outside of myself I was. I was
not in my own person, I wasn't speaking from me. The
one example I remember was when our house caught on
fire in the back, and I had no emotional response. I didn't
even report it. I saw it, and just waited and then casually
just walked away.
A: You were just powerless, weren't you?
R: I wasn't powerless. I think I was hoping a little bit that
something really huge would happen. I think there's some
mechanism inside the human brain, the mind-body thing,
that you recognize when you are not being authentic, and
you almost set the stage so that something will happen
that will force you to break through that.
A: That's where attempted suicide comes in for a lot of
A: You wait long enough, you're going to create the Big
R: It's almost as though something is screaming to be
heard. You took an active role. You pounded on walls, and
I internalized it and it came out in quite destructive ways.
For example when I was in Pittsburgh by myself, I was
nine months there without a period. My insides were just
hanging on for dear life. I had nobody to talk to, I couldn't
cry. One time during that whole time I went home for a
weekend visit to Oak Lake. I got off a Greyhound bus on
Route 40 there, at Gorley's Lake Hotel, and I'll never
forget that. I cried, and my body literally shook. I think it
was simply that it was at least home to something
recognizable. I did not sleep, but just wept through the
whole night. The next morning when I got up of course I
had to go back to Pittsburgh. My father must have
recognized what I was going through. Nothing was said,
nobody had heard me, I didn't tell anything to anybody --
can you imagine? All that experience and I didn't say
anything? My father took his big hand -- I'll never forget
that -- and he literally SHOVED me onto the Greyhound
bus. I think at that point he was himself considering "How
the hell do I get out of here?"
A: Like my dad saying "No, you can't come home,"
knowing that was best for me. Basically the same thing.
It's amazing, but if I had known ahead of time the trauma
I would go through when I left, I don't think I would have
done it. And if I hadn't had Steve, I would be in a mental
institution today or I would be back in there. I would
never have left. It is amazing the physical side of the
whole culture shock as well, like me being nauseated for
like months and months, on edge, with every nerve alert
R: I have sometimes thought of it as if I had been
preparing all of my life to go to the moon and then I end
up in Antarctica. You're not prepared for the kind of
world that you enter.
A: Ending up in a desert with no resources whatsoever.
We're an amazing group of people, those who have left
R: I want to hear that one your Mom said about 'Be Like A
A: "Be like a duck, quiet and serene on top and paddle as
fast as you can underneath!"
R: So how does your mom paddle?
A: She stirs things up. Even when she was here she was
doing that. She was squirting people with hoses.
R: What's her job in the Bruderhof?
A: She cleans. She cleans toilets. The entire time I was in
school -- after school we had to go work with our mothers
-- she cleaned all the toilets in the Main House. She would
clean and mop that huge dining hall and set all the tables
and then clean toilets. That was her job every day.
R: Wow! Clean toilets!!!
A: But she enjoyed it! She figured she was going enjoy it,
and she did.
R: She's a true artist. A true artist is able to make art out
of whatever is given to you. Even toilets.
A: She'd take pride on how fast and how well she could do
it. She'd usually have two or three people working under
her, like me the prodigal six-year-old daughter, cleaning
R: So even at six you were a prodigal daughter?
A: Oh yeah, I was labeled from when I was smaller than
that. At six I used to say to my teacher, "If you'd shut up
for a minute I could tell you my side of the story." This
from a little 'Amish girl' who is supposed to be -- like you
were -- totally impressionable -- 'put your head down.' I
stood up on my locker one time and leaned into the
classroom and said, "If you all would just SHUT UP, I could
tell you my side of the story!!!" Boom! I was gone.
Teachers would say how they wished they were "missing
the button," and stuff like that. I mean I was labeled from
where I was very little. But I lived up to it every day of
R: What about your grandparents?
A: My grandparents would send us whole bunches of
presents for Christmas, and the Community would send
them back, which was really hurtful to them. We didn't
even know it was happening. There were all kinds of signs
of love that were just thrown back in their faces. Then
when my grandmother died, Dad didn't go to the funeral
because he didn't even ask. He felt like he shouldn't ask,
because the Community needed him or something. So at
that point he was written out of the will. And Grandpa
died while visiting the Commune, right in our living room.
They called an ambulance and took him to the local
hospital, where they declared him dead, and then flew his
body back to Michigan. And nobody went to his funeral
R: Would you say that your father's family presumed that
you were in some kind of a cult?
A: They definitely did. They felt that they were totally
excluded from our lives, and they couldn't relate and they
couldn't believe it. Because when Dad was growing up, he
sued to have huge parties at his dad's house and trash the
house. Every time they went away the house would be
trashed. Dad was in this political group -- the Young
Republicans -- and they'd have all these wild parties at
the house. So here they were, with their son with four
grandchildren living in a house just nearby, with a job and
the whole American dream. Then all of a sudden they just
-- boom! -- went across the country and cut themselves
R: Republicans join the Bruderhof -- amazing!
A: A Republican schoolteacher joined the Bruderhof and
became a socialist plumber.
A: Religion is a strong drug. But you have to remember
that when they first joined in 1962, the Bruderhof was
much more liberal than it is now. Mom tells stories about
their having food fights. They'd be sitting at a meal in the
dining room and she would pick up a bowl of mashed
potatoes and walk across the room and dump it on
somebody's head. Then the whole room would go into an
uproar and there'd be food everywhere. Huge food fights!
Or they would have shaving cream fights all the time. Real
R: When I was in Woodcrest, there was this one woman,
Dr. Miriam Brailey, who left the Bruderhof, I hear, and
died by herself, a lonely old woman. But I remember one
time when we were eating corn-on-the-cob. Always at
mealtimes, when hundreds of people sit together, you
have to do something. So we would have singing or
A: The Buttons would be squirting apple seeds across the
room trying to hit people on the head.
R: This string trio was playing in the background, and
Miriam Brailey started eating her corn-on-the-cob in time
to the music. Pretty soon the whole dining room was
chewing in time to the music. So there was a lot of playful
stuff happening -- this was in 1960. Then in 1973 the big
crackdown came, with the uniting with the Hutterites.
A: All of a sudden -- boom! -- twenty families thrown out
and everybody had to dress the same, everybody had to
quit smoking, everybody had to drinking, all in one day.
Isn't that amazing? Twelve hundred people!
R: They adopted the worst aspects. Before they joined,
they had been wild and loose and carefree and
spontaneous. They believed in spontaneity.
A: It was good before. My parents believed they joined a
genuine effort to have the best society support structure,
admittedly with a religion, but it didn't seem their main
R: One of the main focuses was to be childlike in spirit, to
be open and spontaneous. What happened? I don't know,
but I think the spontaneous structure cannot sustain
hundreds of people.
A: It threatened the authority. The Germans could not
quite handle that. I think it started to threaten the
structure and authority line, and also they hooked in with
the Hutterites who were much more conservative. But
they switched the behaviors before the people could
assimilate. The leadership just told everyone, "Now you
have to behave like this." They didn't let you grow into it.
It was all done in one day.
R: It might have been a grand experiment. Some of the
best experiences in my life spiritually, physically,
musically, happened in the Bruderhof. But then there's the
shadow side. For instance breaking a vow -- or even just
changing your mind about something is about the worst
thing you can do. At least that's the way I've internalized
A: So many vows or promises or understandings were
broken for me from the time I was tiny. Friendships,
loyalties, mother, father, mother-daughter, father-
daughter, all of these were betrayed repeatedly on every
level throughout my entire life -- and still are. I could
never -- if I say to somebody that I'm going to do
something, I always do it, or at least I make sure I tell
them why I can't. My friendships are very loyal, and my
friends are the most important things in my life. Keeping
my word and not betraying a friendship is the most
important thing in my life, I would say. That's why I don't
know if I could survive a divorce.
R: Once you have contemplated that, the world is up for
grabs. I think what I have done -- and it does help to talk
-- I think what I have done is to punish myself. I have felt
guilty probably for the past twenty years.
A: It must be "my fault."
R: Really, I punished myself in every way possible. I
mean, on the surface it looks like I'm successful and all
that sort of stuff. At least reasonably successful. But
underneath, I know that have not developed into what I
know I can be. I have continually put myself into
positions where I give myself a huge handicap.
A: I do the same.
R: I worked as a waitress after having been a teacher,
even in Milwaukee where they wanted to put me on TV to
teach German. I came to Chicago, and what did I do? I
looked through the job listings, and it was like I was in
1959 looking for a job. Actually I got a job , that I only
kept for three days, luckily -- I came to my senses -- in a
laundry with only African-American women workers.
A: And here you were a teacher!
R: Two dollars and fifty cents an hour working in a
laundry folding these GREASY rags that they use in car
garages. We folded them into stacks of twenty-five. For
three days I did that. The guy who hired me said, "You
know, we've never had any white women." Of course I
took that as a challenge. "Well, hell, you don't think a
white women can do this?" Crazy! Meanwhile I had gotten
a waitress job on the weekends, just for the kicks of it,
because the laundry wasn't open on Sundays. And here I
was a college graduate!
A: No belief in yourself whatsoever.
R: That's right. And I worked as a waitress, and that first
Sunday I made seventy-five dollars. I thought, "Holy
Moly! Seventy-five dollars in tips from here, and I make
two-fifty an hour over there?" It was very clear what I
had to do. So I quit the laundry job and stayed with that
waitress job for five years. Can you imagine?
A: Oh my gosh! But good money, though.
R: It was very good experience. And you know what I
realized about that job? I was belatedly living my teenage
years. The complicated part was that I was married to this
nice gentleman. Before we got married, I stayed up at
night and tape-recorded a Bach cantata from an FM
classical music station that we were going to use at the
wedding. At the same time I was writing out the
invitations to the wedding. I got a third of the way
through, and emotionally I did not want to go through
with it. At one point I was going to put all the invitations
in the garbage. But once again, "You put your hand on the
plow," -- and I don't know where that comes from in the
Bible, but boy-oh-boy it's deep in me -- "and you have to
go all the way through!" YOU DON'T STOP IN THE MIDDLE!
A: Even if you know halfway through that this is a stupid
thing to do?
R: That's right. You can see yourself destroying yourself,
you know. It doesn't matter. You chose this, you made
your bed, now you lie in it. Those are, in fact, the words
that my mother told me when I was out in the street in
Madison, Wisconsin, in December, 1972. I literally almost
killed myself during that time, and it was awful. I would
do things like jump out of the car on the expressway.
That's the kind of stuff I would do.
A: My gosh, you really were messed up!
R: At one point I was on the street with no money, and
somebody loaned me five dollars. Since then I have
passed that five dollars on when people have asked me on
the street. I had nothing. I had put myself back again to
where I was after the B'hof. I repeated that pattern.
A: That was really deep in you. It's amazing how we grew
up in the same kind of environment, but somehow I --
R: All the pounding on the walls, all the being in
ausschluss, all that stuff --
A: And my thoughts were always rebellious, as if I knew
better. Those were my thoughts, whereas the majority of
the children are like you, and that's what's so darn scary!
When you think about it, it's a miracle that you are even
alive, much less sane.
R: Given that passivity, that training, the deeply rooted
patterning which I saw in my mother, in all the women
around me. If you could see photos of me back in those
days! Ben Zablocki saw one and he couldn't believe it was
the same person because of the kind of serenity that I
had, quiet, dutiful, serene.
I'm convinced that life is a spiral, and you go over it
like a record. You go over the same kind of bumpiness,
and every time you come around and re-experience that
stuff, you iron it out a bit more. For me, the pain and the
trauma I experienced in Pittsburgh as a seventeen-year-
old was repeated again and again. The most powerful
repetition was when I lost custody of my son Karl from
my first marriage.
A: You had already lost everybody that you loved! You
probably had an extremely strong attachment to Karl
because of that.
R: I dutifully went back to Milwaukee from Chicago every
weekend to visit him on Saturday. I would bring a bag of
groceries there, and his father would not let me take Karl
out of the house. Can you imagine just coming back and
spending the day, and what I did is that I committed
myself to putting aside all of my pain and not to trouble
him. For me, being with Karl was playtime. We'd make
snow angels, and snowmen, we'd go sledding. I was just
with him in the moment, because I knew that that
moment would end, and that it would be hell. But I think
that's why Karl has a great sense of play and spontaneity.
A: Once again putting all of your personality and all of
your needs under so you could be there and take care of
R: I did that for a period of ten years, and I remember
A: You visited him for a period of ten years? Holy cow! I
didn't realize it went on for that long!
R: With his father being angry and recriminative. For
example,. he would drive me to the bus and one particular
time he yelled at the bus driver, "Here! You can have her!
She'll drop her pants for any man!" And here's my little
four-year-old boy, who just walks away quietly. And I
had to get on that Greyhound bus. And if anybody knows
what one of those effing Greyhound buses smells like, I
do. In that raw, emotional state, I would sit in utter agony,
and then back in Chicago I'd have to take the El back to
my place. Once back there, I'd just collapse and cry for
maybe two or three hours. Then I'd pull myself together
again, because Sunday morning was the busiest day at the
restaurant. What I did was I bicycled. That was one of the
healthiest things that I ever did.
A: Steve and I biked furiously for the first couple of
R: I bicycled every single day, every month of every year.
One time I even did it in a storm. It didn't matter if it
rained at night -- I'd come back at 10 p.m. The more of
that kind of stuff, the better. I bicycled a round-trip of
twenty miles every day, and I had the ten miles down to
nineteen, sometimes twenty minutes. I went like a BAT
out of HELL! I didn't need deodorants. I'd just take a piece
of lemon when I got to work and rub it under my arms,
and I didn't smell. Every once in a while when I didn't
bicycle, I'd have to use deodorants, because I didn't get all
that sweat out of me.
A: That's an interesting theory. Flushing it out.
R: That's the theory I subscribe to, anyway. So if it hadn't
been for that vigorous bicycling that I did -- and then
running all day as a waitress -- because as a waitress you
put on maybe ten miles in one shift. Then of course being
busy. And once again, as a waitress, I was there for the
moment, and was very present. I wouldn't allow anything
to disturb me on the outside. If I had had to go into a
classroom and be with children, I would have been in
torment. But as a waitress I was on stage. You put on a
uniform, you're on stage.
A: Nobody knows you, they come and go, they give you
R: And I had food there.
A: A perfect job for a Hutterite girl!
R: You know what else? It was a uniform. It was a brown
uniform. I didn't have to think about clothes, I didn't have
to identify myself, none of that stuff.
A: You've basically lived like five lives within one life. You
R: Let's get back to your family. How do you think your
parents raised six successful kids?
A: That's the reason I respect them now is because they
raised Steve and me. They basically raised the best person
I know. How can you not respect that?
R: And you think the best person you know is Steve?
A: Absolutely, hands-down. He's one of the people in my
life that saved me. He really did.
R: Is he older or younger than you?
A: Older. I'm the youngest of six. And yet in Steve and my
relationship, I tend to be the steady one. I have more
'continuum' than he does. He has more ups and downs, but
he's one of these people who loves to love. He just loves to
love. Steve is just the happiest guy when he loves, but he
doesn't have the best judgment about WHO to love. He
spends his time, money and heart to love, but he doesn't
use good judgment, so it just drains him.
R: Let me ask you: if you've had all these relationships, do
you think that you exhibit good judgment in love?
A: Yes, because I didn't love a lot of them. I have better
judgment than Steve, but not good. No way! It took me
seven years of going out with men to learn that to men,
sex did not mean love. Men would have sex without caring
a hoot about tomorrow. They didn't think about the
consequences. That was okay for them to be that way, but
that wasn't what I wanted. It took me a heck of a long
time to figure men out. Right now I'm in the best
relationship I've been in. I've been in a lot of relationships
where I was the caretaker, and felt needed and I wanted
to be needed and all this bull. I dated a lot of serious
R: Do you think you needed that many relationships just
because you were from the Bruderhof, or do you think
that every person needs to go through that many?
A: I don't think everybody needs to go through that
many. I think everybody needs to have a FEW. If I have
kids, I would hope that it wouldn't be more than five or
so. But for me, I had so much growing to do in such a
short period of time. I got out when I was seventeen and
had to be an adult and start making money and grappling
with the world in three or four years. I didn't know the
music, I didn't know how it was. It was one way that I
could grow up fast and experience a lot quickly, but it
went deeper than that too. We always were taught that in
order to be fulfilled you had to give. In order to have
people like you or be a good person, you were supposed to
give of yourself or whatever.
R: The very meaning of Bruderhof life has to do with
being of service, giving yourself, giving yourself to God,
giving yourself to the community, to each other. Whatever
situation you're in, you're supposed to give of yourself,
A: Plus we came out of there craving to love and be loved!
It was just like this thing eating me up inside, so I went
running out and loved everybody I met. Once I started, I
couldn't stop. It was just like my greatest motivator until
I started to realize that it was just sex. Then I realized
that there was more to it than that, not that I stopped
having just sex. But that's what I see with most of the kids
that left the commune. All the ones that I know have
gotten into some very bad relationships, not so much
physical -- like you hear about women who get into
physically abusive relationships and stuff like that. Not so
much physical as in being screwed around by some
manipulative, mean-spirited person.
R: Would you say it's difficult thing for an ex-Bruderhof
person to tell someone to get out of their life? It's almost
R: Because you're BREAKING A VOW. You're not keeping
A: And you're intensely hurting somebody, which
shouldn't be a big deal if they are intentionally hurting
you for six months, but it is. Ruth: Was the second time
around always better for most of these people?
A: Yes, I'd say so.
R: What is the key ingredient that your current man has
that the others didn't?
A: He's treating me like I am valuable, which I never had
before. I always treated THEM like they were valuable. It
was all give-give-give and no take. This guy just thinks
I'm fantastic. He's just a giver, like I am. It's just totally
amazing to me. It costs me nothing to be in this
relationship, no anxiety, no jealousy, no money. I don't
know if we'll marry, but then I don't think I'll ever get
married. I don't think I could ever have kids with
anybody unless I met somebody who was as caring and
loving as the fathers are in the Commune. The boys that
leave the Commune make FANTASTIC fathers. Steve
would make a fantastic father, and he wants to have kids.
R: Do you call the outside 'the outside?'
A: Not any more so much. I don't know when it happened,
but now 'home' is here. I used to say 'home,' meaning
there (the Bruderhof). I don't know when that happened,
but I don't say 'outside,' I say 'commune' now. Now THEY
are outside of the reality and I'm in the reality. I don't
know exactly when that happened.
R: The commune is marked and you are normal. In
linguistics terms, that's how you'd call it.
A: And 'normal' not being exactly the right word. I just
feel like I'm more developed than they are. I'm more
open-minded, more aware.
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