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KIT Staff U.S.: Ramón Sender, Charles Lamar, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)
EuroKIT: Joy Johnson MacDonald, Susan Johnson Suleski, Carol Beels Beck, Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, Ben Cavanna, Joan Pavitt Taylor
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from inside and from outside the Bruderhof. We reserve the right to edit submissions according to guidelines discussed at numerous KIT conferences. Obviously, it's seldom easy to know exactly how best to carry out KIT's mission of allowing many voices and various points of view to be heard. We do not, and cannot, vouch for the validity of any opinion or assertion appearing in the KIT Newsletter. The opinions expressed in the letters that we publish must remain those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflect those of KIT editors or staff.
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Toll-Free Phone for former Bruderhofers in need of advice and referrals: 1 888 6 KINDER
Belinda Manley has successfully moved to a new address:
Flat 23, Whitgift Court,
Fisher Road, Canterbury, Kent,
CT1 8JJ ENGLAND
Hans-Jorg Meier died on February 28 at 8:30 A.M. His loving wife Lux was with him, as well as his old friend Ingmar. He will be much missed by his friends and family.
Monika Trumpi reached her 80th birthday on February 20th, and it was celebrated by family, neighbors and friends over the weekend. KIT staff wishes to add their congratulations and best wishes for many, many more years of health and happiness!
In 1952 he went to the Wheathill Bruderhof in England to do an electronic-mechanical training in Wolverhampton. During those years, the youth group had a joyful period and we went on wonderful youth trips. Of these many of us will especially remember our ten-day trip to Glasgow, Scotland. The lorry broke down near Manchester and all our travel and food money went for repairs on the old truck. In order to continue with our planned excursion, we started folk-dancing in the open marketplaces in the towns and cities. Then Hans-Jurg (with his most friendly smile) would go around the watching public with his hat and ask for contributions. Many times the police asked us to leave, but we just continued on to another town and managed than way to "earn our living," which was truly fun!
It was during that time also that Hans-Jurg, very moved by the early death of our friend Peter Boning (age 17), asked for the novitiate and was baptized later. We all have fond and happy memories from that time spent together.
The 1960s brought a change. Like many of us. Hans-Jurg left for England where he met Lux (Lucrezia) Fischer. They married and he found a good job with Coca-Cola in Brazil. Later he wanted to build his own business together with Lux's brother Guillermo in Paraguay, but that did not work out as planned, so he made a meager living doing technical repairs for different people around the neighborhood. My brother Kilian and I visited them in 1992, and I remained in contact since then. His illness became obvious in August of last year but must have troubled him much longer.
Two of his brothers, Danny and Andreas, came down from the American bruderhofs to Paraguay at the beginning of February and the visit was a good one, as far as I have heard. At least for that one can be thankful! Many of us will remember H.J. as a happy, sometimes all-too-honest friend who never worried about putting his foot into something when he thought it would help bring clarity to the truth.
I am happy to say that Ingmar was able to bring a small financial help from his European friends, just a little extra to make his last days easier and give him some things he needed. Also I am thankful that Ingmar could be with Lux during those last difficult days. I think for Lux, and their son Marcello, it would be nice if different friends dropped them a line.
Also I heard this morning that Susanna M. Alves Levy's husband Michael died in England. KIT readers will remember her beautifully written story ['Love Story,' Vol. VIII #10] about his Alzheimers and how bravely she lived with that, even though it must have been so hard and difficult. That must be all for now. Much Love,
In the last KIT, the whole collection of writings re forgiveness made me laugh! At last, one biblical passage that can't be disputed! Forgiving someone who sins against you frees your heart for further love. It has nothing to do with the sinner. The SOB sees its crimes as "tough love." I can just see Christ slapping a whore and calling it "tough love!"
The threat against me is not based on any facts, but rather on rage. The SOB is enraged by the support network of KIT and, in particular, when women who they have condemned as whores become successful, happy contributors out in "that terrible, evil world."
An addition is soon being made here in the Phoenix area and we may need help. The critical mass is not yet here! The police are aware and are very helpful. Any SOB person who visits without prior consent will be dealt with swiftly and effectively. The SOB still has not withdrawn its threat, despite Christoph's Xmas card.
Once the child abuse investigation is over, the matter of the threat may be of interest to the State of New York, and it may wish to prosecute for attemped obstruction of justice. It would seem that the attorney involved may also become a litigant.
In any case, the only enemy of all creatures is Evil, and the SOB ultimately will have to give up its demonization of others to see this.
Update on my phone system: there are still three areas in the house with strong radio signals. Work is ongoing to fix this situation and to find the scanner being used to listen to our cordless telephone conversations. A man resembling Christian Domer was spotted here driving a dark, small convertible. We had time to study him because we were stuck side-by-side at a stop light. He refused to allow us to see his face after that first view, but that was quite enough.
According to the RCMP, they made numerous interviews and conducted a lengthy, detailed investigation. Nothing was found that warranted legal action. The RCMP said they also informed those who made the allegations that the case is closed!
Late last December, I was contacted by one of the academic editors of the book. He was concerned after Kim Comer of the U.K. Bruderhof began threatening a lawsuit. Comer demanded a letter of explanation and apology from the editors clarifying that the Bruderhof was not a "cult," and apologizing for my essay. The academic editors complied and sent the letter in the middle of January.
Comer also began negotiations with Simon Kingston, an executive at SPCK. Consequently, the book has been taken out of circulation. It appears that someone or some group has simply purchased the inventory of unsold copies of Harmless Religion.
These matters raise troubling questions. What does the fate of my essay and the book tell us about freedom of speech, academic freedom, and the conduct of critical debate in a democratic society? Are Bruderhof actions consistent with their profession of Christian faith and discipleship? Have they shown love and forgiveness to their "enemies"? Have they put their complete trust and faith in God to protect them, or have they resorted to threats, intimidation and bully-boy tactics? Surely the U.K. press will ask these difficult questions and ask SPCK and the Bruderhof to account for their actions when this story becomes public in the near future.
A little history is in order: In November, 1997, I read about the lawsuit the Bruderhof had filed against Ramon, Blair Purcell and others. I had been told over the years, among other things, in various discussions I had with my father and my brother Christian, that KIT was full of lies, that people associated with KIT were not to be trusted, that KIT was out to destroy the Bruderhof and that KIT was suing the Bruderhof.
I never subscribed to the KIT newsletter and in fact had never read more than a few items that were shown to me on various visits to Woodcrest. In the past year I gained access to the Internet, found various sites pertaining to the Bruderhof, including both the Plough and Peregrine web pages. When I read that the Bruderhof was in fact the group that had brought the suit, I thought that this must be more lies.
I wrote a letter to Christoph asking if it was true that the Bruderhof was suing "KIT" and, if so, how this squared with his book on forgiveness as well as Christ's admonition to settle with one's adversary before going to court. I also expressed a concern about a comment that Christian had made regarding his relationship to Christoph which had bothered me for some time. I addressed the questions to Christoph because of his position as Elder and because he is the author of a book on forgiveness which was being vigorously pushed by Plough and members of the Bruderhof.
Christoph chose not to answer my questions but instead said that he missed in me "a heart of flesh".
I wrote two more letters and asked the same questions. In his reply to the second letter Christoph again tried to turn things around and did not answer the questions. After the third letter I received a short letter from my father in which he said "you have gone the way of KIT". He said they would not answer any letter, accept any phone call and had advised Christoph to ignore my letters. He also wrote that I would be a bitter old man with only my grudges.
It was clear that I had been completely cut off. When I tried to e-mail a reply, my message was blocked.
This occurred at the end of November. With the exception of a phone call from Christian in answer to an e-mail I sent from a different address, during which he said I was out of touch with reality, there was no communication with my parents, Christoph or anyone else from the Bruderhof until the telephone call from the airport last week.
Before my parents arrived at our house, I phoned Christoph to find out the reason for the visit. He said he had read my posting on reconciliation(on the alt.support.bruderhof site), thought it was "awesome" and that he was proud of me. He was sending my parents just to "show love". I told him that it would have been better to call first. A lot had happened and it was not right just to send my parents all the way across the country without even calling first. His reply was that "they are your parents, this is my reply to your posting, you can take it or leave it". I told him that we expect the same courtesy that the Bruderhof expects. It has been made clear to me in the past that I may not just drop in. He replied "the whole brotherhood is waiting for me, good-bye", and hung up the phone abruptly.
We left it with my parents that they would call again when they reached a motel and we would arrange a time and place to meet for breakfast the following morning. When we did not hear from them that night or the following morning I called Woodcrest to find out what had happened. I was put through to Christian who said, among other things, that the comments Christoph had made about my posting were made "tongue-in-cheek." After the comments from Christoph the night before, and this comment from Christian, I seriously doubted the sincerity of the "love" that went into the decision to send my parents.
I will not go into the details of that visit at this time except to say that it did not go well. I do, however, wish to comment on something my parents said when I asked why we had not been called before they were sent all the way across the U.S.
The answer was that Christoph had had this idea and had said to go. They should not call but rather trust in God. If He wanted something to come of it, it would.
It seems to me that this is another example of the "lowlier-than-thou" approach. Saying that "It is God's will" relieves one of responsibility of how things turn out. If we did not accept the visit as presented, it was our problem.
If one truly puts one's trust in God, shouldn't this be reflected in other aspects of one's life?
For example: if a person truly trusts in God and Jesus, would that person buy a .44 magnum for self-protection? Would such a person hire lawyers to sue people who say things he does not want to hear, even when those things may be the truth? Would such a person place listening devices in the apartments or houses of people to spy on them and find out what they were saying? Would such a person encourage other people to do such things for them? Would such a person get involved in telephone harassment or encourage others to do so?
It seems that in the current situation with the Bruderhof the only thing left that will reveal the truth is facts. Words such as "forgiveness," "love" and "reconciliation" have been used in so many convoluted ways that they seem to become almost meaningless.
When people communicate with members of the Bruderhof they must measure the spoken and written words against known facts. If someone asks for forgiveness it is important that it is clear what specifically an individual or group is asking forgiveness for.
I believe that it is only when all sides address facts, specific hurts, illegal activity and wrong-doing, and that this is done in the spirit of humility and true reconciliation, that anything meaningful or of lasting value will be accomplished.
If people in leadership positions have lied to people they are entrusted to lead, that must be addressed truthfully as well. Sincerely,
I met with the patient and discussed the pathology report. I explained that colon cancer is one of the truly curable cancers -- if it is treated in time. The treatment is surgical removal of the area of cancer. The patient did not believe he had cancer. He said he felt too well, that people with cancer were sick and had pain. He knew people who had cancer and he wasn't like them.
I explained that in early stages of many cancer, patients often have no symptoms. As far as successful treatment is concerned, this is the best time to expose the cancer. Furthermore, I explained, the patient did have signs of cancer. He had lost weight and blood had been found in his stool.
The patient still did not believe he had cancer. I met with his family. They understood the situation and tried to make the patient understand. The patient replied that he had talked to some of his friends and they told him they didn't think he had cancer. He looked too well, they told him. Doctors are often wrong. I convinced him to see a surgeon who repeated the colonoscopy. The second pathology report was also cancer. The surgeon wanted to operate immediately, as it appeared that this cancer might be curable. The patient did not keep his follow-up appointment with the surgeon or me. We sent letters but he did not respond. The public health nurse found the patient, but he refused to come back. He still did not believe there was a problem because he looked and felt too good.
I have not seen the patient since then. He will eventually return, but by then it will be too late for a cure. We will do all we can to lessen the effects of the cancer that will by then have spread. We will ease his pain and suffering, but the cancer will win.
It seems that there are many analogies that can be drawn between this story and the current situation with the Bruderhof.
A body of Christian believers, or church, has often been compared to the human body. The comparison holds in the healthy body as well as in a body affected by a serious disease.
It seems there are serious signs, symptoms and facts, being pointed out by many concerned people, that are being ignored or glossed over. There are many "pathology reports" that must be addressed if something disastrous is to be avoided.
People expelled because they ask questions or raise concerns about the direction the leadership is taking, are "pathology reports".
Children being cut off from their families for asking questions or raising concerns are "pathology reports".
Family members outside the Bruderhof being told of a loved one's death days or weeks after the death, even when the death was expected, are "pathology reports".
Lawsuits brought by the Bruderhof are "pathology reports".
Reports of voice-activated tape recorders and other devices used to spy on people both inside and outside the Bruderhof, are "pathology reports".
Reports of telephone harassment and the placement of stickers, implying some sort of sexual gratification if the number on the sticker is called, with the home number of a Bruderhof "enemy" listed, are "pathology reports".
A very serious "pathology report" was a duplicitous plan carried out to deceive a Bruderhof "enemy" into believing that there was a sincere interest on the part of the Bruderhof for reconciliation. The individual flew to New York to meet with Bruderhof members and was served with court papers. This plan was an abomination and made a mockery of the very core of Christian ideals -- forgiveness and reconciliation. It should be kept firmly in mind by anyone approached by members of the Bruderhof holding out an offering peace.
There may be attempts to "reconcile" with various individuals, or try to win their silence. These attempts remind me of people who are faced with a deadly illness and try alternative methods to cure themselves. There is usually an initial placebo effect. One feels good for a while and may even see evidence of an improvement. In the end, however, the change is cosmetic and the disease ultimately takes its toll.
The patient I described above chose to ignore the pathology reports and the advice of his doctors and family. Rather, he chose to listen to people who told him what he wanted to hear. He chose to believe a "truth" that he had deluded himself into believing, in spite of the facts and pathology reports.
These tragic, though conscious, decisions will cost him his life.
It was so refreshing to discern with what finesse and ability -- or agility? -- you reached out to someone rather unworthy and managed to put your finger with ever so much care and tenderness on the open wound in order to speed up the healing process. And to what length you felt it necessary to go -- maybe the New Testament extra mile? -- to free Bette of her paranoia and her oh-so-totally-wrong perception of the past; that is to say before she left or had to leave the SoB. You quite obviously speak with authority, especially from you vantage point of having grown up with Bette and spent the years with her in England and then Paraguay and Woodcrest -- or am I maybe wrong and you have no shared contemporary history with Bette?
You write with so much panache and linguistic skill, that I'm tempted to ask why you yourself have not yet written a book about your experiences. As someone in the SoB recently made clear, regarding Bette's book, you, or more correctly the SoB, have an archive and claim to have all the relevant material and documentation. But then you never knew Bette's father Hans Zumpe.
As you so humbly point out, the right view of the past can only be taken from the vantage point on Mount Woodcrest, where the unpolluted atmosphere gives such knife-edge vision with and incredible farsightedness, gained from there only.
Christian love to you, and do please keep up your so appreciated high standard of eloquent writing.
Admittedly, in a sense, her book was a reply to Torches Rekindled by Merrill Mow. It achieved that very well, giving an atmosphere of balance to that so-slanted book. Sad it is that Christopher doesn't say, "Yes, I am a member of that commune written about," and "No, I did not know most of the events written about in either volume. I am too young," and then commence his review. He might by such a device have managed a little more of the humility that is so patently lacking in his review.
At no point does Bette write that her father's adultery was right. No, what she complains about is the commune's rejection of her father's turning away from that sad event, for himself, his family and the commune. Hans Zumpe, a gifted man, under considerable strain when he, so to say, fell and repented of it with tears and remorse, was never once more allowed to return to his first love. Who can doubt, knowing him as I did, that for all his faults (and who does not have some) he was a dedicated and able servant of the commune. I make no defense of him, but rather concentrate on what his daughter has written.
For many years now she has been prevented by the commune from contact with her dear mother. And on what grounds? That she should come to repentance, admit her 'sins,' accept discipline, and then everything in the garden would be rosy. Such inhumanity dealt out by a group to one of its members is well nigh unforgiveable given also the parlous state of health that person is in. Bette does not want me to write that, but I do for the sake of truth. That a cry from the heart is slammed back in her face, as if she were some sort of pariah dog, that cannot be right, and it calls to high heaven for correction!
Now that the commune has withdrawn its lawsuits against several, now is the time for a radical review of past actions concerning so many others. In particular the uncommitted young ones (as they were and are) who had and have been turned out with literally nothing, to take up what for them was a strange life. Oh sure, what any of them experienced is no more or less than what millions of others have had to contend with in 'the world,' but with this difference: that what they had to experience was laid on them by a group who claimed that they lived from love. It sticks in one's craw that that has been so, and up to now there is precious little evidence of change. Let us hope it comes. Then there will be no need for Johann Christoph Arnold to claim the publicity afforded by a sadly mistaken filing of a lawsuit has only served to make the commune famous. Would not 'infamous' be more appropriate in such a context?
But I accuse no one, and only hope that a change of heart will become evident in the commune's attitude to its little ones, not obviously that they or some of them are wholly innocent. That should not be expected, but with a redress of past injustices, then the world would come to see that there is something genuine in the communes and more will want to know from where the inspiration comes. But this will not be achieved by such a carping criticism as that contained in, for example, Christopher Zimmerman's review mentioned above. Greetings,
Gerd & Gertrud look remarkably well. Gerd is very hard of hearing but that's not new. Gertrude seems to get about quite ably -- considering her neck injury from several years past. Conversation was relatively animated, with interest expressed in the well-being of other family members. They sounded pleased to hear.
Gerd was quite enthused and interested in the Primavera plates that Hans Wegner found and gave as Christmas gifts this year. We forgot to take it but he described it as if it had been "turned" yesterday, right down to the impressions stamped into the wood.
Marcus picked up the tab for dinner and we thanked him for inviting us; we also invited them all to meet us in Baltimore when the weather was better (summer) and the treat would be on us.
My parents both looked very well and Mama said that she feels good. They both have some medical ailments for which they are being treated. We went to the restaurant, TGI Fridays, in Wilkes-Barre. There were several TV screens going that Marcus watched on and off, and Papa also seemed intrigued by them. We were given plenty of time by the staff and were not rushed. The food was plentiful and Mama had her eye on the dessert pictures and went for some, even though we were all quite full.
Alexander was very well behaved and Rita kept him amused. We had not yet seen him. He is now 4 years old and even has a sister now who is 1-1/2. He also has two older brothers who are 7 and 6, they stayed home with Auntie Hannah. Hannah even baked a cake for us, which really surprised me. Marcus and Rita also brought along two boxes of cookies one for us and one for Helmut and Janet. We brought along some books of Emily's to hand down to her cousins, and a few other treats for the family.
We had quite a rainy day. On the way home it was thunder and lightning, heavy rain and fog in the mountains, so we were glad to be tucked in and warm at home.
My mother works in the sewing room and archives, my dad in the shop and occasionally in the book bindery repairing books for the library and school. Hannah is in the office and Marcus in the shop. We could not ask about too many things that did not relate to our direct relatives and at times talk slowed down. We had a local magician who works at TGIFridays stop at our table and he performed some great tricks which my Dad enjoyed and so did the rest of us.
Now we will send a thank you to them for making this trip. I just wish that all those who have loved ones on the hof could spend some time with them too, but we can hope that soon this may be, if we keep working at it,
In my past work as a Youth and Community manager I was witness to, and alongside some very extreme behaviour, both from young people and the adults in their lives. Remembering some of those scenarios and watching things unfold I am reminded of several things.
1. The abuser will go to extraordinary lengths to maintain his/her own self image, i.e. part of the deception involves them convincing themselves that they have done no wrong. I still remember the terrible sinking feeling I had when talking with a man who had systematically abused his 10 year-old-stepdaughter and then his 18-month-old child. He was a highly intelligent man who truly thought he loved his family. As the story unfolded it was evident that:
a) he too had been abused, thus presenting confusion over boundaries,
b) he had invested a tremendous effort in elaborate justifications that absolved him of all guilt.
When the situation had been exposed, he became more and more desperate in his attempts to maintain his innocence . What depressed me was that there was no initial footing on which to further any meaningful strategy because they all relied on him acknowledging the pain and damage he had caused.
2. The various situations I have been witness to had several stages in common; the whole mess is often held together by a sequence that goes something like this:
First, careful grooming or a honeymoon period to get someone hooked, followed by:
a) division and misinformation with victims and anyone who may be in a position to throw any light on the mess, making it hard to believe the abused and keeping them from swapping notes with anyone in the same boat.
b) followed by or including threats and intimidation.
c) often moving into a much subtler style of lies and manipulation. This is usually very effective because of the sense of relief that every one enjoys at the apparent lessening of pressure. d. this can then be followed by great sorrow and tears and breast -beating of the "no one understands me" type. "No one knows the troubles I, the accused, have been through, I was only..."
Unfortunately there will always be the very greatest resistance of any challenge to the behaviour because of the abuser's desire to think well of him/her self. Moving from and healing these patterns means the abuser has to take on board that something bad happened; that he/she was responsible.
Sorry if I sound pessimistic, but if the abuser finds his "softly, softly let's not fight" and "let's have some cosy private chats" doesn't work, what's the bet that we get a load of "no one understands the troubles I've seen...." all of it to keep people off-balance and most of it done as if by instinct because it's a learned pattern of behaviour, thus making it hard to challenge because it was not necessarily done by plotting and scheming, just the desire to think well of him or herself.
Smart behaviour or learned, I don't know, but it is very hard to stop. Apologies and promises are only as good as the level of understanding and true comprehension of what it is the abuser has done.
So how do I feel about forgiveness in these cases? I have watched abused and their relatives work through to a point of healing and from there even to one of forgiving the abuser, "forgive him, he knows not what he did." But there are two parts to that, one being that the abuse had stopped and the other being that there was no further trust or continued interaction with the abuser unless there were some very carefully constructed safety procedures...
Any use to the current line of thinking? I personally feel that the patterns on display feel very familiar and could be no more than a bid to buy some time and make someone feel a bit better about himself.
2/20/98: Goodness, this is hard to write. I guess I should put it as a supposition. It is in a way a continuation of what I posted earlier about abuse and the patterns therein, and based on yet another situation.
Suppose an abuser wanted to subdue criticism, make him/her feel better about him/her self ,and at the same time gain some leverage on the people that are being manipulated. What would be most effective?
1. Change tack in such a way that he appears to have given ground.
2. Create a win/win situation that appears to meet everyone's needs but leaves the abuser in an even stronger position.
Suppose there is a visitation issue between the people you are trying to control and the people who can do you the most damage by exposing that control. What's the best way of disarming that criticism? Allow a visit between the two parties, but set it up in such a way that; the abused have no chance of addressing any issues, the challengers have no chance of asking questions or are lead to believe that this is the first step of many and that they will get a chance later, then sit back and reap the rewards.
1. Now the abuser can truthfully claim that he/she was not obstructive, that both parties met and had a good time.
2. The people being abused feel better and can buy into the belief that their abuser is after all a nice person.
3. But best of all, the abuser is now in the win/win position of sitting back and seeing if the strategy has silenced the criticism. If it does, all well and good; if it does not, then the abuser can use the visit to claim that the criticism is unfounded. They, the abuser, had behaved in a most understanding and loving way and that it is the one who is criticising that is in the wrong. The abuser can use this to drive the wedge further between the abused and would-be rescuer, as well as to disarm any official investigations.
Sound familiar? Sorry, Margot and Blair, I am very glad you managed a good visit with your family, but at what price? Will you now go softly softly? When is the next visit? How do you have to behave between now and then? Why weren't you allowed a full and free discussion with your family members? If you should criticise the Bruderhof, how will that be reported back to the community?... "After all we did, after the great expense we went to, this is how you repay us..."
The outline above is actually based on the behavior of a widowed man and the control/extreme behavior he expressed towards his children. The would-be rescuers were the grandparents, and unfortunately the sad story was only resolved when one of the older children became aware enough of their rights and brave enough to ask for help that the youth service and then the local authorities were able to do something.
I find it very hard to write in this manner because I am basically an optimist but I am also an optimist that has picked up quite a bit on the way. I too feel that any contact with the Bruderhof should always be viewed in as wide a context as possible. The current "picking" off of individuals for favoured treatment, especially if they are the ones who have been most actively criticising the Bruderhof, is very suspect. When you then put it in the context that this same group of people have bought up a whole edition of a book in order to silence on unfavourable chapter... Well I rest my case, as they say.
No one person can speak for the Bruderhof. It is set up that way so that no one can say they have made any real progress unless there is an open public meeting, so everyone knows what was said and in what context. Therefore I view this stuff with personal little chats and granting of favours with great suspicion... Love to all on this wavelength,
I have been a lapsed KIT reader (let alone contributor) for a year or so. Too much travel, including a move from Cairo back to Athens, has dislocated the incoming flow. Just yesterday, though, I sat down to look over the latest. News of court cases, of the Bruderhof dropping charges, of questions raised concerning real motives for dropping charges, and so on. A rather depressing read ends with a Bruderhof panning of Bette's book. What cheerless material for a new year!
Standing back from the Bruderhof-KIT dynamic for a moment, some things appear rather clearly, or seem to do so to me. One is that the Bruderhof grossly underestimated KIT when it came to life some years ago. No doubt by demonizing it and those involved, the Bruderhof leadership thought it would poison itself and die. Quite the opposite has happened. It has grown in readership and scope. What seemed like a little grass snake then has grown into a python today. Confronted with such a huge danger, the Bruderhof has judged it necessary to defend itself by abandoning its very own pacifist principles: by arming its leaders, training attack dogs and seeking protection from the courts.
To the KIT people, this is remarkable behavior. No one in the network can figure out who the bad guys in their midst are. Certainly, Ramon, Hilarion and others wield sharp pens, but who is toting the guns?
The Bruderhof has simply fallen victim to its own exaggerated imagination, energized by the dichotomized logic of so many religions: we are good; the rest of the world is bad or at least highly suspect. The KIT of Bruderhof meetings simply doesn't exist.
The real KIT does exist because it has brought together a group of people who share strong bonds of common experience and memory, who share many of the same values, and who, by and large, share certain specific grievances vis-a-vis unabashed, calculated interference in family matters, breaking apart what God (or some related source of love) has put together, and manipulating family ties in a most sinister and ungodly fashion.
KIT has survived and grown because the Bruderhof has never taken its concerns seriously, preferring to erect a wall of distrust between the religious order and those who left it, which means between parents and children, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors.
In the embattled state they have chosen for themselves, the Bruderhof leaders have rejected virtually all offers at mediation, reconciliation, or even plain talk. And what has this policy brought them? An ever worsening situation, rising tensions and the need to build higher walls around the citadel. The line in the sand has become a gulf.
I have been what might be classified as a moderate KIT person. I have raised points of criticism about Bruderhof policies and practices, but balanced these with my appreciation for the religious / communitarian ideal at its core, and for the many good things I received growing up on the hof.
But I have to admit the balance has been moving steadily against the Bruderhof. The scales were given a particularly sharp jolt when my sister escaped last year. I choose the word "escaped" with care. Why, I have to ask, was my sister's engagement to a man she loved with all her heart broken up by Heini some 35 years ago? (I wish you could see the pictures of that happy couple then.) Whatever justification was put forward, it was a cruel and ungodly thing to do. Why, too, after devoting her whole life to the Bruderhof, did she find it necessary to plan an escape, going to great pains to keep secret even from her own elder sister? Why was she afraid that she might be stopped by the Bruderhof and drugged into submission? Why was another sister of mine, who helped her elder sibling leave, terribly harassed by Bruderhof people who knew she lived alone? And why was Interpol alerted twice to track down the escapee on both sides of the Atlantic?
Readers know, as I do, that my sister has always been as sane and sensible as they come. Her story is one of patience, perseverance, tolerance, intelligence and true love. Unfortunately, these qualities shine out against a dark backdrop provided by the Bruderhof. In fact her qualities are highlighted in that she doesn't want to talk about it, doesn't want to get back at those who hurt her life so much. She has not responded to harassment and Interpol with a vindictive campaign of retaliation. Her love has been vindicated after 34 years, which is all she wanted, all she wants.
Yes, dear Bruderhof readers, have you looked in a mirror lately? I have lived the last 23 years of my life in a region dominated by authoritarian regimes who refuse to look in the mirrors created by the people and institutions they affect with their myopic, self-serving policies. In fact I have just been deported by a government that thought it could remove a problem by smashing the mirror in which some of its warts were reflected.
History is not on the side of governments who are careless with their people's rights and aspirations, and it will not be kind to you either if you do not change. KIT is not the point. It is no more than one of many mirrors around. If I were in your position, I might not like KIT at all. But I would like a woman who gave her life in service to a cause I thought I was working for, and I would be deeply troubled that towards the end of that life she found herself completely disillusioned with the substance of the religious order she belonged to, to the point that she, in fear of her own "brothers and sisters", had to engineer a desperate escape.
That woman is my sister, which is why I have every right to challenge what you have done to her and others of my family, and what you continue to do. I am just one of hundreds out here who will not be quiet.
It's time for a change. It's time to put aside the lame excuses for building that gulf. I, for one, can vouch for an enormous well of good will towards the Bruderhof so many of us cherish. You should not take this good will for granted. And you must know by now, we will not shut up and go away.
At the risk of sounding too preachy, allow me to suggest an instructive parallel to the current Bruderhof-KIT confrontation. For over two decades, beginning in the 60s, the Palestine Liberation Organization fought a guerrilla/terrorist war against its arch-enemy Israel. Much blood was shed on both sides, burning hatreds and resentments deep into minds and hearts in both camps.
For most of the first two decades, Israel's policy was to criminalize any contact between Israeli citizens and members of the PLO. However, eventually, despite all the anti-PLO rhetoric, Israel eventually abandoned this policy as fruitless. After all, if you want to make peace, who else would you talk to if not your enemy? The ban on contacts with the PLO was lifted, a deal was struck in Oslo, and after 40 years of bitter conflict Israelis and Palestinians began to work together to find a viable peace. Although not always acknowledged, one of the main reasons Israel decided to talk to Yasser Arafat and the PLO was the appearance of even more radical groups, such as Hamas. Arafat and the PLO began to look pretty reasonable by comparison.
The Bruderhof is not another Israel, neither KIT a PLO. There is no territory to divide, thank God, but there are certain issues that divide and must be resolved if one side is to find peace with the other. Bruderhof readers of the KIT newsletter are fully aware of the diversity of opinions among contributors. There is no central committee to keep all in the KIT kingdom in line. Why not open a dialogue with those you feel you can best deal with? There will have to be concessions and compromises (ouch) but not of fundamental principles that underpin your faith and KITfolk concerns. The fact that KIT people care about the Bruderhof is not a negative, it is the basis for working together.
Why not work towards a peaceful solution by the end of this decade / century / millennium? We will then be able to start the next thousand years of human existence with lighter hearts, and perhaps those of us who care but are outside of the Bruderhof will be able to join those of you still inside in celebrating your 80th birthday. Give it a thought. With best wishes for the new year to all, in and out,
I have very happy memories of the Bruderhof. The hikes in the mountains and around the hof, visiting other hofs with my group, mild flirting, "running away" to a nearby property, camping, canoeing, helping out in my work department, going to my best friend's house during Brotherhood meetings (a leader's child and could get away with anything short of murder). I could go on and on. My friend was great fun to be with. I knew that my best friend was privileged -- the family always had goodies like soda and chips, and tons of comic books and cool stuff -- but it didn't go to my best friend's head. In fact my best friend used it to the advantage of our whole class. We could get the keys to the gym and go play volleyball whenever we wanted to. We often got to join in the highschool games before we were highschoolers. We always brought along goodies when we went camping and we'd congregate in a tent to gossip and of course -- eat! I had a great time.
A few years ago our group took on the garden. Every morning at 8:00 we hauled ourselves to work on our garden. We hand-weeded and hoed the corn and veggies and hauled buckets of fertilizer and water for the plants because it was a dry summer. We sold the vegetables, but kept some for our kitchen. Getting ready for highschool was fun for both the boys and girls,. with the girls getting several new dresses and kopftuchs. That was during the time when the Bruderhof started wearing bright colors and the girls all wanted to get the brightest material for their new dresses. They were all excited about exchanging their bonnets for kopftuches and decided to meet to put them on at the same time.
There was a lot of teasing from the upperclassmen who, like most highschoolers "inside" or "outside," gave a bit of trouble to the new freshmen. We spent a day at the beach to get used to all those new people and then our high school schedule started. The first day at high school was a bit scary, but I survived somehow. Luckily there were hof kids in all of my classes, and that helped.
In spite of all the happy memories, there were some weird things going on too. I always felt a vague uneasiness when some Kadima guy or girl got up and confessed to all sorts of "Sins" ( gossip, not having pure thoughts, flirting, being vain, being selfish, etc.), in the hopes of being taken into the novitiate . Then there was the time when we were celebrating an engagement and a family had just performed some songs and we clapped. Christoph stood up and yelled us that "clapping was worldly" and that the performers didn't need to hear clapping to know that they were appreciated. Of course, clapping was OK when we had guests or at an open house. Funny thing: all the fads and "worldly" ideas came from Woodcrest, which was JCA's HQ. (Woodcrest boys were the first to start wearing belts instead of suspenders, and the girls always had the "in" hairstyles.) Go figure.
I realize now that I only heard the Bruderhof side of all the issues on KIT. Inno Idiong, Ramon, the Hutterites and a whole bunch of people were demonized, and Louis Farrakhan, Mumia and MOVE were essentially sainted. Christoph did not hold with Catholics, but he tailored his books to appeal to the Catholic reader and sucked up (excuse the language) to the Pope and many Catholic leaders. Go figure again. I just read in 'The Plough Online' that some Bruderhofers went to protest U.S. military acts against Iraq. That's fine with me. Some of them were arrested, including Steve Wiser and Hillel Arnold, for kneeling down and praying in front of the White House (apparently you are supposed to keep moving around there). I noticed that Christoph was there, but he wasn't arrested. Interesting. Maybe he was too busy speaking to the people that he didn't have time to kneel down and pray.
I have been sort of struggling with my faith lately, and I was wondering what some of you thought about some issues that I've been thinking of: 1) Homosexuality -- I personally think it is a sin and I am totally opposed to any church taking any homosexuals as members. I don't think that homosexuality is just something that a person is born with, any more than I think that a murderer is born predestined to murder. It doesn't make sense. 2) Head coverings for women -- I actually like that idea. I think it would be good if we all, men and women, could show a little respect in God's house. In my church, many of the teens wear awfully short skirts and clingy shirts and the boys wear T-shirts. The adults are a bit more conservative, but I think it could be even more conservative without causing anybody too much grief. I'm not saying that I don't love my church, I really do love it, but I just feel uncomfortable with the way people dress.
Please don't think that this is left over from my Bruderhof days. It's just that from what I've been reading in the Bible and also other books, I feel like we're getting a bit too "worldly" for my comfort, but I'm pulled between doing what I think is right and trying not to offend anyone. It's tough. 3) Dating -- I'm 15 and I've made a vow not to have sex until I'm married, but what about dating? To me, it seems that with dating it would be awfully tempting to do all sorts of scurrilous stuff. I hear the woes at school and even the so-called Christian kids do not seem to have any sort of values. I'm having doubts about finding a good Christian 'someone' who wants to wait for sexual stuff until they're married.
The kids in my youth group are great, but I don't go to the same high school as them and it's very hard to get to know people if you only see them weekly or less. This is something where I'm really confused. I do want to get to know the opposite and I have a crush on someone from church at the moment, but at the same time I'm worried about dating and stuff like that. It would be a great help if some of you could find time to respond in the next newsletter.
Well, I promised my littlest siblings that I would wake them up "in the middle of the night" and show them the stars, so, so long. And please don't feel obligated to put this whole letter in the newsletter. It just felt so good to get some of that stuff off my mind. Thanks,
by Hannah Goodwin Johnson
There can be no excuse for an overseer, no asking forgiveness based on understanding -- who wrote it? -- his mother! In the silence of excommunication there is no forgiveness either. Even after confessions, time is also necessary to heal and to strengthen those who have suffered. This cannot be overlooked. To understand that wisdom was lacking (in early develops of leadership) is to expect time to develop the necessary wisdom -- time heals and makes wise.
When the span of human life fails to make one wise, what can be said: Blood is thicker than water. So, for a religious leadership fallen into emotionalism in an effort to claim lost affections, much more time must be incorporated.
The resident settlements must enjoy some family recognition in time and place. Its still seems possible for Bruderhof families to continue, given a little placement wisdom. It is natural to fall many times while learning to walk. Now they seem bound to go for adolescent risks that are quite unwise.
As a parent, I made many poor judgments with advice in regard to environmental and spiritual conditions. For a toddler to fall is hardly an incident requiring repentance or forgiveness. When the child is angry enough at the sight of blood she is spitting to strike her protector, it is the parent who must understand. When a child resists punishment, it can only be seen as natural.
It is neither godly nor of nature to impregnate a woman, make her resigned to giving birth as all that makes her useful and retain the right to cast off the living child. You cannot say, "I raise the child in the way he should go and he departed from it." Adam was far more equipped to survive as an outcaste from Paradise than is a young person leaving a Bruderhof.
When morality is merely a punitive system, even the good lessons are lost! Let a woman claim her own child for surviving with her the pains of birth. Many Protestant men are caught in divorce claims against God. With Nietzche they rant... "Only that which never ceases to hurt stays in the memory." This is a fatal mistake that, like an avalanche, increases as it goes down. You cannot socialize the unsocial by being antisocial.
Most modern sermons dismiss naturalists for being weak and disregard, because of the thorn, the beauty of the earth. What could be the weeding work found by living in peace is dismissed (for heaven's sake) as not profitable -- no pain, no gain. The work ethic cross its own line. To the extent my pain is someone else's gain, my interest in the gain decreases. I may still give a damn: To postulate a position of being the cause of eternal fear within the human life span is to forget that the issues of death do not belong to man.
No mortal can be our heaven sent leader of this that "...stays in the memory" to the end. The parent confessing failure is a parent asking youth to move on. As the individual finds an identity, it is through understanding those things he must forgive and not repeat himself. I cannot repent of my attempts to KIT and reassure a few hofniks by rejoining the Bruderhof. There is that time given, God willing, to identify with healing that will take time.
There is more time passing, long since the stars of the morning were made with the songs in one song. I have been dreaming long, my time has passed and gone -- don't forget where you belong: Although you cannot hear it, the harmony goes on.
The KIT newsletter continues very good and I think personally that it has helped KIT to mature into the people that we are today, and good that you have contact on the Internet and in so doing can blow off some steam (when needed) but also crystallize your own thoughts in the process.
I do understand Bill Peters's reaction to Christoph very well. Didn't we all, at one time or another, really believe that something new was given only to be disappointed again? Christoph and other Bruderhof members can sound so warm (if they want to), so it is very easy to fall into their plannings. I will tell you a little story that happened in 1989. Part of it is in my book, but not the whole story.
Hans and I had questions about Merrill Mow's book Torches Rekindled, so we wrote to the brotherhood and to Christoph personally. One day we received a phone call, very warm and personal, from Christoph who was at the Michaelshof at the time. He asked if he could speak with us and, if possible, come to our Ameland beach house. So we agreed to go there for a talk with him and Verena. They were to come on a Friday night and leave again on Sunday to drive on to Darvell. I prepared the beds and food. Then a phone call came: "No, we can only come Saturday and we will bring Joerg and Renata as well." OK. We waited all Saturday, and in the evening a phone call came: "Sorry, we missed the last ferry to Ameland and will stay at a hotel here in Dokkum and come over Sunday morning. But we are coming with eight people" (some of Christoph's children were on that trip as well).
On Sunday the shops are closed in Holland, so I could not get more food! Anyhow, we had quite a good talk with both Christoph and Verena and felt quite happy about this. Later that year, my brother Ben came to Ameland also with my mother and youngest sister, "to surprise me," as they said. As we were walking on the beach, my brothers spotted a lady in a 'monokini' (without a top) playing with her children, building a wonderful sand castle. Now here in Holland many women just wear the bottom part of the bikini bathing suit. My brother looked shocked and said, "This will never do for our baptism group!" I looked at him questioningly and he answered, "Well, we had thought of using your place for our baptism preparations, but this is out of the question now!"
I said, "First, we have never offered this place to you. And secondly, who is having dirty thoughts about a very innocent situation? This mother is playing with her kids in the sunshine on the beach, and no one, really no one, is disturbed by this! You should examine where these impure thoughts come from!"
This exchange made me realize that when they want something, they will go a long way to please you and be really nice. I fell for it this time, and many other times.
I do like the discussion on forgiveness and feel very strongly that, for our own sakes, we should not hold a grudge against the Bruderhof or individuals, and in this way forgive the past, but you cannot forgive a person if he does not ask for forgiveness and does not see his failings and sins! This is a very important issue. They have hurt us, kicked us out into the unknown and left us without financial, moral and spiritual support -- and they are still doing this! As long as they cannot actually see this, we cannot forgive them.
Ingmar is leaving for Paraguay on Sunday the 22nd, and he first will go to Hans-Joerg and Lux, Margot and Cyril. Hans-Joerg is very bad now and actually there is not much hope. From the KIT Help Fund I sent German DM 200 a while ago and DM 700 to Ingmar to take with him. It seems that the Bruderhof called for news about his condition and Lux said that two of his brothers should come down to see him and make their peace with him. So Danny Meier and Andreas flew down last week and found a very weak, dying man. They were friendly and very shocked and actually made their peace with their brother Hans-Joerg, which is a good thing (although I cannot help feeling how we are not allowed to make our peace with our aged parents on the Bruderhof!). [the Bruderhof also sent $500 with the Meier brothers, a generous gesture.] Ingmar will rent a car in Asuncion and drive to Ciudad del Este and also to Carmen to speak with Michel and Elizabeth Gneiting. Keep up the good work in happy spirits! Much love,
2/23/98: There are one or two things I feel should be kept in mind:
1) I do not feel that "personal contacts" with Christoph are of any use or significance to the development of KIT having a better relationship with the Bruderhof. I feel strongly that Christoph is using us. He has contacted his "worst enemies" (as they see it) only! There is Mike, who has protested strongly, Bill Peters who has his own website, Blair who had heard "Dommerling" lie in court, and Ramon who has so wickedly started the KITletters, and Melchior who managed to touch on their spiritual chords (Art Rosenbloom as well). Why is all this on such a "personal level" that they are not allowed to share it with us?
Is it not an effort to get individuals under control and try and bring division amongst us? There were no telephone calls to me, or Balz and Monika (who had their diamond wedding anniversary and Monika her 80th birthday last week). No apologies to Julius, but just the contrary, even more efforts to block the publication of his book. Rachel was denied to chance to talk with her Dad; more children were kicked out without any means of support. Somehow I am afraid that they are cooking up something against us again and will use the personal efforts of Christoph to show the lawyers that "We, on the Bruderhof, have really done everything in our power to find peace and a better relationship, but they will not cooperate!"
2) Everything makes it clear that the Bruderhof has become a dictatorship, with Christoph having power over everyone and everything! ...What I want to say, really, is that all the signs are there for us to realize that a "personal, loving talk" will not change the core of the matter, which is absolutely rotten to the bone. How is it possible that they even can think this is or could be "a leading of the Holy Spirit?" I see neither holiness nor spiritual guidance in their actions. I think it's wrong that Christoph seeks out a chosen few and asks them to keep the contact personal and secret. It gives Christoph a chance to try and bring division amongst us. I think that under these circumstances I would not even like to see or meet my mother or brothers or sisters. To sit together in a diner somewhere and just talk about the coming springtime, the blue skies, the clouds and the sunshine, snow or rain, is no longer satisfying to me. I know my mother loves me. I even know, deep down, that she and my brothers respect what I stand for and try to do. But they are not allowed to feel and say what is in their hearts. That is the sad aspect of the matter.
All we can do, I feel, is honestly and truly make public what we hear about the life inside so that the world will know what is happening! We should confront them bravely and honestly with their actions and demand to speak with other representatives than Joe Keiderling and C. Domer. I feel sure there are still honest and good folks inside the communities.
I am upset today, realizing that the Bruderhof has lost the most important thing: the trust and belief that all living things are in God's hands. They do not use the Bible nor teach their children to use it. They are self-righteous and self-satisfied, and that makes them as a group weak to seek guidance and to find the right answers to what they feel as "their problems with the evil world."
I think if people personally are sought out by Christoph, they should try to point out the real wrongs on the Bruderhof, as far as they know about them. You have all read the first letter of Erna Friedemann to Christoph (in the January KIT). She received a most loving and enthusiastic letter in answer, inviting both her and Werner to visit and renew the contact with the Bruderhof. Erna was very upset and wrote a second letter in which she stated: "We were sad and disappointed that you in no way answered our concerns... Stop the heartless actions towards your former brothers and sisters and their children! Forgive and you shall receive forgiveness also (February KIT). Erna had an immediate reply from Christoph : "We love you and our invitation is still open to you at all times!... Please tell us of any one instance where we were heartless or caused pain to anyone so that I can put it right..." Erna was so upset that she stopped the correspondence because Christoph does not want to see how much hurt he has brought upon people and does not really want to hear about it. Much love and keep well,
Tim Domer in alt.support.bruderhof, 1/24/98: The discussion on forgiveness, over the past few weeks, has been very helpful for me. Much of what was written echoed deep within. What I have not seen, however, is much discussion on the need for reconciliation.
Paul Fox wrote about the essential nature of each person's need to find forgiveness in their heart if we, as individuals, are to be forgiven by God. It seems, though, that this is a very personal thing between each of us and God. I believe we need to find that forgiveness, but it may be that even with this kind of forgiveness there is no reconciliation with the person or persons who caused the hurt. An example of this would be a person who was abused in some way, was able in their heart to forgive the abuser, but for various reasons, including unrepentance of the abuser, was not able to find reconciliation with the abuser.
Ramon wrote about a second kind of forgiveness, where a person who caused a hurt is contrite or remorseful, apologizes sincerely and asks the injured person for forgiveness. This kind of forgiveness can lead to reconciliation.
A third kind of "forgiveness" is, I think, what Ramon called the "lowlier-than-thou" approach. This is where "forgiveness" is used as an offensive weapon. The abuser does not feel real remorse, but expects the abused person to forgive. If the abused person does not immediately forgive, the abuser can say something to the effect "well if you don't find forgiveness in your heart you will be cut off from God..." In essence "it's your problem". In this kind of "forgiveness" there can be no reconciliation.
It seems that in the current situation with the Bruderhof, the approach is often the third. If there is a desire for reconciliation there will be people other than Christoph and his immediate family or Servants reaching out to children, family, former friends and members. Until people hear from their own families I can not believe that there has been a real change of heart.
When I was cut off in November, for writing three letters to Christoph questioning the lawsuit and raising other concerns, my father wrote "you have gone the way of KIT..." If KIT, and those the Bruderhof has associated with KIT, is no longer the enemy I would expect to hear from my parents.
Words are cheap. Judge a tree by its fruit. Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing.
Wayne Chesley in alt.support.bruderhof, 2/3 98: Tim Domer wrote: "Ramon wrote about a second kind of forgiveness, where a person who caused a hurt is contrite or remorseful, apologizes sincerely and asks the injured person for forgiveness. This kind of forgiveness can lead to reconcilliation.
"A third kind of "forgiveness" is, I think, what Ramon called the 'lowlier-than-thou' approach. This is where 'forgiveness' is used as an offensive weapon. The abuser does not feel real remorse, but expects the abused person to forgive. If the abused person does not immediately forgive, the abuser can say something to the effect 'Well, if you don't find forgiveness in your heart, you will be cut off from God..." In essence, 'It's your problem.'
"In this kind of 'forgiveness' there can be no reconcilliation."
I have wondered if, in the end, reconciliation is the goal of seeking and granting forgiveness. It is for this reason that I don't like the term "unconditional forgiveness". I like to think of "unconditional forgiveness" as a corollary to "cheap grace". When we seek after cheap grace we expect unconditional forgiveness from God, and we resent our fellows who do not grant it to us as well.
The Bruderhof's book on forgiveness is not about reconciliation, but of the first kind of forgiveness mentioned in Tim's post, the practice of forgiving for one's own benefit. This might be healthy for the individual, because it certainly is not good to hold a grudge or carry around bitterness and a heart full of resentment. It suits well the scenario of forgiving the unforgivable, especially when there is no possibility of reconciliation. It comforts our hearts and makes our own lives easier.
But when there is a possibility for reconciliation one has to go further, I believe. This is so both for the person who forgives and the person who seeks forgiveness. Jesus said to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you". This is not a cheap forgiveness, this is a hard step toward reconciliation, toward winning the soul of a man for God. This is something much deeper than offering "unconditional forgiveness". It is not enough to say "I forgive you" while hating and seeking to harm your enemy. That might be forgiveness, but it is not what God expects of His people.
I believe too this is not an enabling silence. Jesus spoke strongly against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They resented him for it and made trouble for him, in their bitter resentment they had him crucified. But he never raised a hand against them. It was they who rejected him, not he, them. In the same way we cannot expect God, or someone we have sinned against, to forgive us unless we are prepared to right the wrongs we have committed. Would I be sincere if I stole your wallet from you then asked your forgiveness, without offering to return your wallet? Would you be considered hard hearted to expect that it be returned when I ask for pardon from you? I do not think so.
I believe we can always be prepared to forgive. By loving our enemies, and even by reminding them of the peril they put their souls in, we are setting the stage for real forgiveness -- forgiveness that leads to reconciliation.
I have heard about certain people in the Bruder-hof seeking "forgiveness" from certain of their critics. But where nothing changes, where there is no desire or attempt to make right the harm inflicted on others, where the scope of seeking and offering forgiveness is limited to a strategic few (while the same wrongs are still committed against others) then there is nothing but cheap grace and empty words.
I looked over the book Seventy Times Seven. Given the "author's" statements against his enemies, and the actions of the Bruderhof against those with whom it should be reconciled, the book is just a lot of words in support of a cheap forgiveness. I feel it deeply grieves God to write a book on forgiveness, and then to demand the third kind of forgiveness mentioned above. But God is ready to forgive even that offense, if the author and his followers will repent, turn to God, make right the wrongs they have committed and seek reconciliation. Then the forgiveness they seek will be a real forgiveness, and the Peace they wish for will be a real peace.
Wayne Chesley in alt.support.bruderhof, 2/7/98: Mel Fros wrote: "I would like to bring up another topic for your consideration. I personally feel the need to better understand the practice of church discipline. It is a timely issue. Many of us, no doubt, have personally experienced abused church authority. How shall we understand the words of Jesus as recorded in Matt. 18:15-18? How shall we interpret them in light of his association with 'pagans and tax collectors'? How does this teaching relate to his other teachings."
That's a pretty meaty topic, especially with regard to the Bruderhof. I will write more later on this, but questions that come to mind are: under what circumstances can a church discipline it's members? Can it discipline it's members for not supporting the leadership? for not agreeing to go along with the rest of the church on some action or policy? for not lying?
What gives a group the right to call itself a church and to discipline it's members? And of course, what if the local leadership of a church (or church community) refuses to face discipline of the larger church body? what do the local members do?
I especially hope other ex-bruderhofers will share their stories and perspectives on this other facet of forgiveness and discipleship. Peace,
Mike LeBlanc in alt.support.bruderhof, 2/8/98: As I study and read all the information and experiences I see on both sides of the Bruderhof experiment, my predominant thought is one of compassion and love. I love all the people that are involved in the present struggle to find the truth about the Bruderhof and our heritage.
If I truly love my brother, then I must have compassion for him even as he perpatrates lies and evil. Yes, I hate the sin, the evil, but not the sinner. I can not stand in judgement (as in to cast stones) lest I be judged. This does not mean speaking out about injustice, or correcting the Body when it is in need of it. Nor does it mean believing the lies or tolerating the manipulative nature of the wrong doer. But after offering a clear challenge to that brother, I need to put the matter in God's hands. Through prayer, searching His Word, and waiting on Him, the answer will become apparent. This may not even happen in my lifetime, but His plan will be borne out.
While waiting for the answer I can continue to heal from the wrongs done to me, and to help others heal. I can speak out about the nature of cults and warn people away from them. I can share Christ and my heart with believers and non-believers alike. I can emulate Christ and the example He sent by practicing unconditional love.
So, dear Christoph and the "united" Brotherhood on all communities:
Know this, even while I believe the system and existance of the community today is an abomination in the eyes of God, even as the system continues to eject youth and put numerous people in need, even as you continue to use the name of Christ in vain to gather numbers and to hold them to breath life and more money into a multinational, multimillion dollar corporation, know this:
God is Love! God loves us all! God loves us so much, that He took the form and body of Jesus, a man, to die for our sins. And through His death and resurrection, we have a Savior, and the path to Eternal Life. Nothing you can say or do will change that. Nothing I can say or do will either. We all need to answer for the way we treat our fellow man, as Jesus said, "For what you do to the least of these, My brethren, you do unto me." Think long and hard about that, as we all will need to answer at His feet. I ask we put aside our pride, our hurt, and truly seek a way to heal the pain that has been caused throughout the history of the Bruderhof. If we allow Him, God can works miracles. This strife that is currently between us can melt away.
I ask you, Christoph, to read this out loud to the Bruderhof Brotherhood. I ask you all to think long and deeply. IS the coumminty more important then God's will? Is allowing and perpatrating the suffering of countless people worth the risk of eternal fire.
I was once asked by a Bruderhof representative what I could do for my fellow Kitfolk, and what help I could be, as reaching out to them in their error would only encourage them to continue. I can only respond thusly:
I survived my Bruderhof experience. As a survivor and graduate of the Bruderhof I can offering healing and insight to those suffering or in pain. Even if any of these have indeed commited a true sin, I must treat them with love and compassion. I can only follow Christ's example of unconditional love. My heart bleeds for them, as I have, in some small way, experienced their hurt. I can only pray to the One that suffered the Cross for us, that He use me as a conduit to facilate their healing.
I offer the same to you, even as you see no need for healing, or to see the pain that you and the system you live in created and continues to churn out.
Again, Christoph, I challenge you and the Brotherhood to live up to your words, and seek the healing of those that have been expelled or left the Bruderhof. But meat and meaning back into the words you utter and write about in your books and on your webpages. You visit the crimanals in prison, yet fail to offer comfort to those you have thrown out and created prisons of pain, hurt and continued patterns of abuse. None of us that have lived in the Bruderhof can ever remain silent until true and lasting healing and change occurs. We have a moral, ethical, and spiritual duty to speak out.
Once again, Christoph, Joe, Christian, John or anyone else in a position of power or authority. I extend the offer to spend time out of my life, time away from my family, to find a way to heal the pain and suffering on both sides of the Bruderhof equation. I, along with any that care to join with me will meet with you to help heal the pain.
The power lies within Him, and all we need to do is to tap it. Are you willing to be brave, humble, and willing to open yourself up to His will? Surely he cannot tolrate the pain that exists. Let's work to end it! Now! I greet you as a brother and as a follower of Jesus,
I have always found it interesting that, in the public eye, the Bruderhof ignores it's critics, almost behaving as if they don't exist. While privately they are at time obsessed with their enemies. It's odd too how this "code of silence" is, to some degree, respected by their critics, who often have kept their observations and criticisms in their own circle. The result of this is that zealous and gullible people (like me) are sucked in by the Bruderhof, seeing the shiny side of "the life," not realizing that there is (to quote Dr. Rubin) "the other side of Joy".
The Bruderhof seems to like to keep things in the dark, to keep quiet. The leadership can quietly tell the brotherhood members and the communities friends all sorts of lies, behind their backs, and few people make the effort to actually investigate. In any case, what does it matter that the Bruderhof will not respond here in this forum? Certainly only a select few read this (Christoph and the Bruderhof's pseudo-lawyers) They do not have to answer you or me or anyone else --Ęthey have the brotherhood to praise them and give them anything they want. And when one of their friends asks awkward questions? Well, one can always get new friends.
Mike LeBlanc said, "As I read the Bible, I see Christ's command to spread the Good News. If you believe what you stand for is God's will, the you must respond, to correct those that are wrong and bring them into God's kingdom.
I've pondered this idea a bit. I think the reason why the Bruderhof does not "preach the good news" is because they do not know what it is. This is why they can treat Mumia Abu Jamal like a holy prophet, even if he does not believe in Jesus. While it might obviously be a contradiction, to promote a plurality of religions, to one who believes the words of Jesus and his apostles, it is not for the Bruderhof. Peace,
Mike LeBlanc, 2/16/98: The discussions on forgiveness have been illuminating. I would like to expand on those by offering a way to achieve forgiveness for healing yourself. The underlying principle in operation is that unforgiveness is a negative draw beacuse it causes emotional drain on you. The object(s), targets, cause or focus of the emotions that go along with the unforgivness are blissfully unaware or not effected. The object, then, is to focus on your unforgiveness, face it squarely, then achieve forgiveness, allowing you the freedom to move on in life.
There are three basics facets of releasing unforgiveness. These are cataloguing or aknowledging the hurts and pains, declaring the debt for those hurts, then releasing the cause of the hurts from their debt. The following steps outline a method to achieve this without the person that caused the pain. 1) Get a chair and place it opposite you. In your mind seat the person that caused the pains your carry with you. Often we need to look deep into the recesses of our mind or heart to find these, as often we bury them as a method of survival. Acknowledg e the pain and hurt. Verbalize it. Say to that person (in the empty chair), "You have hurt me deeply by doing (XYZ)" "This is how it makes me feel ...(cry, beat the chair, kick it, whatever you need to do to release the emotion of the hurt and pain)" 2) Say to the chair "You owe me a debt for this hurt" That debt would normally be paid by an apology. But since the object of our emotions will or cannot face up to those hurts, we must do so for them, so that we may release ourselves from the negative draw and drain the unforgivess causes. 3)Lastly, say to the chair "I release you from the debt of the pain you have caused me, making a conscious choice to do so" Once this occurs the immediate rsonse should be that you feel a burden lift off your shoulders as you relase the debt and free you rself from the emotions that go along with that particular hurt. You will also view that person in a different light. You will be able to see that person as forgiven, as another human being capable of making mistakes, as being on life's journey as we all are, with the faults we all have.
It is possible that we can achieve the above results with the person actually in the chair, but the above method focuses on what we can do to change ourselves, the one thing we can change. A recommendation would be to go through the above steps before approaching the person, thus releasing alot of the negative energy from your side of the eqaution. Thus, if the session does not go as planned, you can still walk away with a true sense of forgiveness.
In utopia, the person that has offended us would come to us. We would sit down and go through the above steps, and both would walk away from the session with renewed vigor for life and love for mankind. But then there is reality. I hope we can take the above and use it in our current struggle with the Bruderhof. I would love to hear from others if the have achieved forgiveness, and if how, how closely their experience tracks with the above. I think it's time we start to empower ourselves, rather then waiting to see what happens in the Bruderhof.
I hope this helps heal someone's hurts, pains, and releases them, allowing them the freedom to move on,
I find my mind wondering off to distant times... to an all-day outing my family took on a Christmas Day in Isla, Paraguay. It was a time-honored tradition to have several "family days" back then, when all communal activity would cease and families could enjoy themselves heartily. We packed our baskets -- mother had a habit of overstocking, so that not any possible item might be forgotten -- and headed off westward, past the dining hall, the swimming hole, and into the open campo that lay beyond. Then we turned Northward, into the woods, which, if memory serves my correctly, were known as Clement-Que.
"Mel, the apples need to be cut into 1/4-inch size. You have cut them too big. Use a wooden spoon to stir the sauteed items"....
Janet is reminding me to pay more attention to my chores. "Ja, ja, Liebchen, ich werede es besser tuhen," I respond...
Clemente-Que! Yes. We hiked onward, into the thickening jungle growth, upward, into more hilly, heavily-forested terrain, with ravines and a small stream offering a sense of adventure. Here we spread out a blanket, and opened our baskets. Father lit a fire, while Mama made herself comfortable under a tree, took out paper and pencil and began composing the lyrics and the music for "Frueh Morgens durch die Kluefte/ Wir blasen victoria/ Eine Lerche schwenkt sich in die Luefte/ Die Spielluet sind schon da." I spread out the food items, and broke an egg doing so, but nobody scolded me.
Overhead, noisy monkeys were letting us know we were not quite as welcome as we may have thought. We cupped our hands to our lips and responded in "monkey-talk" fashion. This, apparently, did not sit well with them, for one of the rascals, who had been pounding an orange on a tree branch and sucking out the juicy pulp, threw the fruit in our general direction. Haen threw it back, but missed his intended target.
"Salt-Pepper-Poultry Seasoning, 3/8 LB. of Margarine (or Butter), about 1/4 Cup of Milk"... Saute onion and celery and don't overcook; just heat up"...
We sat down and had our noon meal. I'm not sure what we had with the fried eggs, but life was simple back then and our needs, though many, often seemed but few. For me, life had an almost Paradise-like quality. I could not envision a happier, more secure life. Mama and Papa stretched out for their noon siesta while three of us, my sister, my brother and I, went off to explore.
We came upon a rather deep pit that had a curious mound in its center. It seemed mysterious, and Haen immediately climbed down to investigate while the rest of us stayed at a safe distance. "There's a hole in this hill," Haen called up, and started poking into it with a thin, long twig. And, suddenly, "it" appeared. A nasty, much-feared Koral-Schlange -- a "coral snake" -- presented its head and went directly after my beloved brother. Instantly he dropped his stick and nimbly climbed up the steep embankment... then tripped and fell... and could not get back up because he had hurt his toe badly. The snake followed him, straight toward his bleeding foot. "Mama, Papa, hilft mir!" my brother cried out in one of the few moments when I have seen him truly afraid.
"Start oven at less than 300 degrees... cover turkey with cloth"...
Thank goodness, for within inches of my fallen brother, the snake turned, and disappeared back into its hole. Haen lay there shaking. We helped him up. He was ashen-faced and quiet. In the distance, we heard the merry singing of Die Jugend, a throng of young Bruderhofers piled into a wagon. We hailed them over. The driver got down, and, not to be outdone by the raw bravery of my brother -- for many impressionable eyes were watching him, girls' among them -- climbed into the pit and cracked his whip in front of the mysterious hole. Then he poked about with the handle of the whip. "Nichts zu Hause!" (nothing at home) he yelled up, making light of the moment. The young folks climbed back into the wagon and drove off laughing and singing. "Wir wolln im gruenen Wald ein freies Leben fuehren"! (In the woods we wish to live a care-free life) they sang as they departed.
Here I am, preparing a turkey in another land, another culture, and an entirely different world. Yet the memories linger and I treasure them, because they remind me of a distant and happy time when I saw the unfolding of Life through the eyes of a trusting, almost-innocent child.
During my primary school years I became a rather introspective child because I was one of the smallest among my classmates. There was a lot of bullying going along among the boys during playtime and the taller and stronger ones frequently managed to hide their fights from the adult supervisors, so that the weaker boys had to endure their dominance when adult surveillance was absent. This was a long way away from the idealistic setting of a "community of children of God" which the commune was proclaiming to exist in school. There was a kind of double standard between the periods in which we played together under surveillance (when we sometimes had very good times) and those when adults were not around. Thus I developed a sharp capability in switching my attitudes according to circumstances, from a generally sociable boy during adult presence to a retreated and wary kid when the group was unobserved.
The periods of retreat from my classmate group led me to concentrate on designing and building little practical toys such as sleds and carts. As this was rather uncommon among the other children, and I was promptly nicknamed a "crazy" kid. But later this worked out for me in a positive way, as I developed a capacity for independent thinking. I must explain that the children in the school were very group conscious, so that in comparison to the normal setting in our society, their interests were much more group centered than personal.
There also was the overwhelming influence of the commune's philosophy or Weltanschauung of putting the individual entirely at the service of the community ideal and leaving hardly any space for personal development, especially in the area of sexual arousing and coming into age. The attitude of adults regarding sexual development of children and teenagers made me suppose, as a child, that there was a mysterious period ahead, when sexuality suddenly popped out from the infantile into the adult stage, which I of course discovered not to be true. Since I was accustomed to retreating into my own world, my process of discovering sex was entirely hidden from adult observation and I was fortunate not to be interrogated for sexual impurity, as most of my colleagues, especially the girls.
Since the adults were completely absorbed by the community life and this philosophy did not consider the child's need for a personal process of development, but rather forced the entire educational process into a strict model, most adults in the commune had little time and interest for "eccentrics" like myself. But I discovered that the Paraguayan workers who were hired to help out in the agricultural work were entirely different and showed interest in talking to me. As my father was teaching Spanish, I had an opportunity to learn the language earlier than my classmates and managed to communicate with the Paraguayans with relative ease. Speaking to the Paraguayans was forbidden, because the community was afraid of sexual abuse, especially of girls. But during all my hidden contacts with Paraguayans, they always were cordial and correct, although I could not understand their Guarani language. They used to exchange jokes and comments in Guarani and then one of them would translate into Spanish for me. They were instrumental in exchanging little toys or the like for a slingshot (hondita), a precious hunting tool for our (usually forbidden) excursions into the woods.
What was important for me is that the Paraguayans showed a keen interest in anything related to my activities, while the adult members of the community (with the exception of a few single brothers like Art Rosenblum) just hadn't the time and interest in following up on anything that wasn't related to the community ideals. I was tremendously fortunate in moving to the newly founded El Arado community in Uruguay, at the age of 15. This was a small community of about 4 or 5 families, in which the difficulties to be overcome with the practical work of building up a new place and growing enough farm produce for selling on the market, and the dependence on economic success for survival led the community elders to adopt a different attitude toward sex and sin in general, devoting much less time to these concerns in favor of a much healthier atmosphere of togetherness.
The turning point in the following years came through my friendship with Felipe Badessich, who came as a visitor in 1956, I think, and became a full member within 2 years. Felipe was a mysterious man, who did not comment about his past, which I learned was rather difficult. But he had a genuine interest in other people and even "adopted" a young boy (Gareth ....?) who was known to be a rebellious youngster. People in contact with Felipe were contaminated by his optimistic and happy way of doing things and resolving personal problems. I owe him a great deal in helping me during those few years to overcome my generally introverted ways with the others and becoming a socialized and extroverted person. Felipe was not concerned about sexual impurity, but rather on bringing a person's human potential to surface. This attitude usually helped people to sublimate their undesired tendencies into something positive and backed up one's self confidence.
The fact that El Arado had a lot of contact with visitors and other groups outside also contributed to my transformation and makes me frequently remember this community with tremendous longing. The dictatorial decision to close down El Arado, made by Heini and other commune leaders without consulting me, a full member of the El Arado community at that time, still revolts me and makes me sad. Also the way in which Felipe was dismissed from membership, in Primavera, is a heavy crime which will load the Karma of those who chucked him out, totally bewildered and without any justification for this act. Felipe, after 2 or 3 years of fighting his way out alone in Montevideo, committed suicide by drowning himself in the sea. God help me in overcoming my revulsion against those who decided to chuck him out and forgive them, if they ever repent.
The main point I would like to make is that today I recognize that for achieving life-fulfillment, one has to concentrate on the positive side of an ideal, and not so much on the negative side. That is to say, it's no use just repressing the "bad" trends. One has to concentrate on positive actions, and merely by giving them less time and attention, the "bad" things will dry up. I am thankful to everybody who helped me in my process of liberation, especially my parents and Felipe, from introversion and loneliness to sociability and idealism. Greetings to all of you,
Lawsuits have been flung about like sacks of dirty laundry and then, before Christmas, two of them were dropped. Luckily they just missed an ex-Klapsmuhler standing on the sidewalk right under them. And keep in mind, these sacks are heavy and could do some damage if they managed to land on top of you!
In the meantime, another Klapsmuhle scholar, Professor Rufus Trubenskoff (ahem!), is being threatened with similar sack flings because of a book that has been published, and another book that will be published. I do wonder what my friend Professor Denckenlos would think about all these goings-on! I think his pince-nez would drop like a demised diplopod from his prominent proboscis!
How can the Klapsmuhlers rationalize these events with their Charitable Organ-tuning and Inspection status? To my mind it would be so much better to sit down over some Schnapps and homemade Apfelstrudel and discuss the dirty laundry situation face-to-face, with a Bach tocatta chuff-chuffing in the background. There must be a better way to handle these matters than flinging laundry sacks out of windows! First of all, it's unsanitary -- and most unsightly. They land with a terrific "thwack!" and the sacks burst open and then you have to deal with all that dirty laundry -- out in public!
I have read some of the Klapsmuhle Welder's grandfather's books, and he speaks very firmly against such sack-flingings (except at potato harvest time). It went against his conscience to recommend more than just slapping the dirty clothes against rocks in the river, an old-fashioned, labor-intensive method but much more ecological -- and in the hot weather a refreshing place to hold members' meetings. Now the current Welder has gone against his grandfather's instructions and actually -- horrors! -- has taken up dry cleaning members' old clothes and selling them in fashionable boutiques! He even wrote a book "Drip-Dry De-smirching & Dry Cleaning," but all the time shouting "Back to the river! Back to the river!" as if that would fool anyone. Dry cleaning is dry cleaning, in anyone's book!
Furthermore, Klapsmuhlers have all been told that it was the ex-Klapsmuhlers who were responsible for these laundry bag drops, and that they never never change their socks. This is so difficult to understand! Why was dirty laundry being flung at ex-Klapsies in the first place? They just want to do share their Schnapps and homemade Apfelstrudel! At least that's how I understand the situation. Is the Klapsmuhle Welder against Apfelstrudel because the spots dry-clean poorly? Why not just tuck a napkin under your chin? These things puzzle me, and I have not been able to find out what is at the bottom of all these goings-on!
Maybe the current Welder can offer an explanation. Maybe it's because he is the current Welder that he keeps shouting "Back to the river!" Is he, perhaps, bucking the tide at this very moment? I am unable to discuss these very serious matters with my friend Professor Denckenlos because he continues his very important skull measurements on various indigenous tribal chiefs in the lower Sudan. He did however send me a fascinating postcard to say that he is using the Welder's recent book on multiplication to carry his measurement totals out to four decimal places. Hopefully whenever the good professor himself is carried out, he will be able to offer some decimals -- or rather decibels -- about these other matters. I never have been very good at math, really, and would appreciate an explanation! Puzzled,
I took the title for my book in the first instance from my grandmother Emmy Arnold's book, Torches Together, which concludes with grandfather Eberhard Arnold's death in 1935. Torches Rekindled, on the other hand, was to be a follow-up from 1935 onwards, and had so many twisted and historically wrong points that I felt urged to set them straight. Therefore I used my title as a direct confrontation with the book written by Merrill Mow in 1989.
It does sadden me greatly that the members who joined the Bruderhof Communities in the 1950s in the United States never had the chance to really know what happened during those difficult and stressful years from 1935 onward when the Community was persecuted by the Nazis, had lost their leader and had to travel from one country to another. But Dick Domer should know better, as he knew my father and loved and respected him as a brother and Servant of the Word.
As Dick Domer refers back to the 1930s and uses a letter written by Joseph Kleinsasser in 1939, I feel forced to go back in time to the uniting of the small Arnold group with the Hutterites in 1931. The small community was threatened from all sides and poverty-stricken. My grandfather had been collecting old Hutterite writings from German and Austrian theological archives, and was deeply impressed by the witness these people had given during the Catholic persecution when many of them were killed for their beliefs. When he found that descendants of the original Hutterites were still living in communities in the States and Canada, he had but one wish: to meet them and, if possible, unite with them. He felt that his little group would have a greater chance of survival as part of a larger community.
The brotherhood of that time made this very expensive trip by boat possible, thinking that it would be a matter of weeks, maybe a month. This trip was truly a sacrifice to the Rhon Bruderhof. My father, then unmarried, was only 23 years old when my grandfather asked him to lead the Community together with his wife Emmy during his absence. The trip to the Hutterites took much, much longer -- all-in-all 1-1/2 years -- and my father found it difficult to get all the new instructions and regulations necessary for the uniting with the Hutterites. But, with the Brotherhood, together they decided for the sake of unity they would adapt to the new regulations of manner of dress, no smoking, no musical instruments, and other things. My grandfather too was disappointed at the lengthiness and slowness by which his request for uniting was handled. One of the points was also that Eberhard Arnold should not be the only Servant of the Word (preacher) in the European community, so on Eberhard's return, my father was appointed as second Servant to my grandfather even before or during the wedding ceremony with my mother, Emi-Margret Arnold, on the 26th of July, 1931.
My grandfather and father worked closely together until my grandfather's death on Nov. 22, 1935. It was during that period that my father began to understand that the uniting with the Hutterites was a highly spiritual matter for my grandfather. It was not the outward forms that attracted him, but the example of faith given in the 16th century and put into writing by them. At no time at all did my grandfather feel that he should pack up in Germany and move to Canada and the States! What he wanted was the basis of the Hutterite belief together with the free spirit of the German Youth Movement and the faith of the German theologian Christoph Blumhardt. They talked a lot together, and my father felt that E.A. should not have united so completely with the Hutterites on his own accord, especially as no other member had seen a Hutterite community.
The bond between them was warm and strong. My father, who had lost his own father at the age of 4, saw in him a father figure, and my grandfather found a son who understood his deepest feelings and desires. As his own sons were much younger (in 1931 Hardy was only 18 and Heini 16) and they were still studying, it was natural that my grandfather chose Hans Zumpe to help him, but also to correct him when it was needed. Maybe the sentence "Hans Zumpe distinguished himself...." does not give the true picture. It was a close working-together, using the strong points of the individual. My grandfather help open meetings against the National Socialists. He would bravely speak to the students of the universities and write letters, even to Adolf Hitler himself. My father would travel to Berlin, Kassel, Fulda, and try and get an exemption from military service, a permission for a private school under the Nazi Regime, and such matters. He would meet with Nazi officers because he knew many personally from the time before he joined Eberhard. Indeed he put his life into great danger many times, even when the Gestapo were after him.
It is therefore natural that E.A.'s last letter would have been addressed to my father, giving him the task to carry on with him if it should happen that he would not survive the operation. In fact. my grandfather was a victim of the Nazi regime. After the death of E.A., difficulties came from within the group of communitarians as well as from without. My father had promised my grandfather that on no account should the Arnold "boys" be endangered by returning to Germany. So they were not present at their father's funeral and quite naturally had to cope with the early death of their father, but something else crept in as well: "Why should Hans Zumpe take their father's place? Was it not their father and their heritage? Was Hans Zumpe not far too self-assured?" Outwardly the Nazis were closing in on the group more and more, and every day in Germany was a risk to my father's life.
At that time there were two communes, one in Germany with mostly Swiss, Swedish and English members together with women and children. Liechtenstein with all the schoolchildren and the German young men that would be of military age. Hardy Arnold travelled to England and soon there was a small community started there. It was at this time, in 1937, that the Hutterites announced a visit of two brothers. They wanted to make sure that the young community was on the right track without their leader and founder E.A. Both Michael Waldner and David Hofer were loving, warm-hearted brothers, but as though they had stepped out of the 16th century. Everyone loved them, but it was clear that all the old regulations were not kept.
Their first stop was the Cotswold Bruderhof in England, so my father advised the Brotherhood to do everything possible to make them feel welcome and not to hurt their feelings by little irregularities. Smokers should do this privately, women should not speak up in meetings, and so forth. The Brotherhood just loved these two older brothers and were in agreement when they selected Hardy Arnold and Georg Barth for the Service of the Word in England and installed them as preachers. Then they travelled to Liechtenstein an Germany and were present when the Rhon Bruderhof was dissolved by the Gestapo and three brothers were taken to the Fulda prison. They very much wanted to see the old sites in Moravia and Yugoslavia where their forefathers had found refuge, so my parents made a 3-week trip (at that time!!!) with the Hutterian brethren to visit the places.
After they left, my father had to dissolve Liechtenstein, pay the rent for the place and travel to Holland to see that the rest of the group could be admitted to England. Then a letter came from Hardy and Georg asking him to come to the Cotswolds at once. He was to stand before the Brotherhood to admit to deceit and frivolous behaviour towards the Hutterian brothers by hoodwinking them into believing that we were real and faithful Hutterites. My father was excluded Nov. 1938 for these failings and the Service of the Word was taken from him because he did not play open cards with the Hutterites. But in fact, this was only a reason to have him step out and let the sons of E.A. do the job. My father wrote a long letter to the Hutterian brothers about how the whole brotherhood listened to his advice and that this should have opened his eyes to the fact that they were not really listening to God's word but rather to the voice of a leader, which he wanted to repent from.
The letter from Joseph Kleinsasser mentioned in Dick Domer's letter is in answer to my father's repenting letter. I have both letters in my possession. It was written in Jan. 1939. My father was taken back into the Brotherhood, as times were difficult in England again and the Brotherhood was trying to find a country we could move to. Heini Arnold and Bruce Sumner were then elected to the Service of the Word. Finally Paraguay seemed to be our new home, and the first groups left to cross the ocean. Our family was in the last group to leave, and my father spent days and nights packing up my grandfather's valuable theological library which was left in Paraguay in 1960.
The beginning years in Paraguay were very difficult, with much sickness and death and extreme poverty. Heini Arnold got very sick and on what believed to be his deathbed, put the Service of the Word upon my father and Georg Barth (who had lost it somehow!).
So Dick Domer is not right when he states "Zumpe lost his leader's service in 1938," as though this was a permanent stage. He was excluded for trying to be loving to the Hutterites and not show up the difficulties that arise when the 16th Century wants to unite with the modern-thinking man, but he was back in the leading position from 1941 to 1958 when he was excluded by Heini. He himself admitted to the adultery and asked for forgiveness from the church, which Heini would not give him as now was his big chance to be the Number One Ruler in Community life!
My father did not feel guilty for celebrating the Lord's Supper with the Hutterite brothers while he knew that many brothers were smoking heavily (amongst them Heini, Hardy and Georg!). But he felt guilty for not having realized that the Brotherhood members just followed suggestions and ideas blindly and without taking a personal stand.
During these last decades, the on and off relationship with the Hutterites formed a big stumbling block in the Bruderhof's history, and again, when I visited Woodcrest for the last time in 1985, it was clear that the Bruderhof was not keeping all the Hutterian regulations but when the Hutterite preachers came, it put on a good show! This was not different than in 1937. It is impossible to squeeze into the narrow customs of the 16th Century if you do not believe in the value of them.
I believe that using a letter from the Hutterites from 1938 is not fair, and Dick Domer should know better than that! On the other hand, it really grieves me that under the leadership of my uncle Heini Arnold, the new members coming in the 1950s never had a chance to know the truth about the Bruderhof's history. Very cleverly Heini managed to keep this from them, in blackening my father's name and using his personal charisma to tie the newcomers to himself. After his sickness in 1941, Heini lost his Service (task of preacher) as my grandfather had specially asked in his last letter not to burden Heini with the "caring of the souls" as he put it. Heini had always been a very unstable child and youth, and also in his sickness in 1941 made a big melodrama about meeting the Lord. My grandfather had sent him to an agricultural school so that he would be able to work under God's blue skies and in the fields. He was only re-elected into the Service in 1953 when he and his family were the first ones to apply for a emigration visa in the States as he was to work in Woodcrest, which was started and set up by his brother Hans Hermann (who had worked and lived in the Macedonia Community and Kingwood Commune for a year). The communities in Paraguay felt that the time had come for a permanent station in the States.
I do hope that this has cleared the situation. If ever you have questions, I will gladly answer them if I can. Sincerely,
by: Mike Caine
Once upon a time Art found a tractor in a field in Pennsylvania U.S.A. That tractor had not been used for a very long time. It was in a bad state of neglect. At the time it had become somewhat old-fashioned -- it had no battery to start the engine but generated a spark by magneto. So it had to be started by swinging a starter-handle that pendulum'd from its front.
Art was absolutely delighted with this tractor. It was made in Detroit by Henry Ford. Instead of tyres it had iron wheels, with spikes bolted to the iron rim for traction. Art went to find out who the owner might be. After some time he found the owner, who was surprised that somebody showed an interest in the old tractor. Art explained that he had absolutely no money, and quite blatantly asked the owner if he could have the tractor for a gift, to which the owner agreed.
A bit later Art came back to the tractor with a gallon can with fuel and his canvas bag that contained all that he might ever need -- whatever was not in that bag, Art had no use for. He busied himself with bits of cloth, a penknife, screwdriver, pliers, file and crescent wrench. All of a sudden there was an almighty noise plus huge clouds of smoke. The tractor actually started -- to Art's delight! Then came the most thrilling part of the exercise, driving the tractor. Once perchedf on the seat of the tractor, Art realised that there was nowhere to put his feet. So he put his left foot on the steering rack, and his right foot on the gearbox oil-filler plug II. Henry Ford did not think of feet when he made this tractor.
Round and round the field Art and tractor went, which was proof that it was working well. So the next thing was -- how to get this tractor to Paraguay? Art had just been to the Bruderhof in Paraguay, and the Bruderhof was in great need of a tractor, as he had discovered while visiting.
Art talked to the farmer who had given him the tractor. The farmer told him of someone he knew who had a truck that he drove on a regular basis from Pittsburgh to New York. Art approached this truck driver, and explained to him at some length how the Bruderhof had no money but, nevertheless, needed this exact tractor. The Bruderhof did a lot of good for very poor people in Paraguay, where they had a hospital that served many people who could not pay at all for any treatment they received. More often than not, the Bruderhof doctors worked around the clock as more and more pressing cases appeared, anything from injuries to very contagious diseases. After the truck driver heard Art's detailed explanation, he said he would very gladly oblige in order to help Art out in his endeavour. Yes indeed, he was willing to take the tractor to New York docks for nothing.
Early in the morning the truck driver left with the tractor on his truck for the New York docks. Art had missed his lift with the truck, so he had to hitchhike to New York, because he still had no money. On the highway the car that was giving Art a lift overtook the truck with the tractor. So Art got out of the car and waved the truck driver down, who was very surprised to find Art on the highway.
Eventually the truck, the driver, Art and the tractor arrived at New York docks. Somehow the tractor got unloaded. The next thing was to find a ship that was going to South America. Once that ship was found, he had to find a way of getting the skipper to take the tractor on board. The problem was that Art still had no money, but after another long explanation on the subject of the Bruderhof and all its good works, the skipper agreed to take Art and the tractor to Buenos Aires on his ship. After three weeks. the ship tied up in La Boca, the cargo port of Buenos Aires. Art had to find yet another ship to take him and the tractor to Paraguay, and then change to a river barge to take him up the La Plata and Paraguay river to Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay.
One more, rather big problem that Art was up against now: apart from still not having any money, he could not speak Spanish. But all the same, Art was very determined and managed one way or another to communicate his need to move this antique piece of farming gear further up river. Soon everyone in La Boca knew about Art's problem in great detail and before too long, the tractor was on a different ship, much smaller and much more primitive. With no last minute hitches from the authorities, at last the tractor was in transit to Paraguay. Even the customs inspectors did not know what was going on -- and Art had no papers for the tractor.
When the Fordson tractor arrived ten days later in Asuncion, Paraguay, the Aduana in the main customs house on the pier of Asuncion's harbour fell into a state of panic. The customs officials wanted papers, whereas Art insisted that "papers were of no use." What was needed was a crane to lift the tractor off the boat. "That tractor has no documentation!" screamed the head inspector. "There were no papers!" And Art still had no money, so no 'import-duty' or bribe could be paid.
What nobody ever could have accomplished, Art managed to achieve. He actually wore down the customs officials with his insistence that he needed a crane. Eventually the tractor was lifted off the boat and Art drove it out of the customs buildings without paying a bribe or duty. Nobody ever does that in Paraguay! Art has gone down in Paraguayan history! The bit about the paper and the crane became a standing joke in Asuncion; "I don't need paper! I need a crane!" people shouted at each other in delight. The last time I was in Paraguay, people still were talking of the tractor with 'no paper.'
I remember the Fordson TDA tractor arriving on the Bruderhof in Primavera in 1950. We children had never seen a tractor, apart from a steam-tractor that the Bruderhof used as part of a power-plant for generating electricity. Art was something else we had never encountered. He was a tall. very thin man with very thin legs who walked with a kind of lopsided swaying gait. With us children he soon had to have a nickname because that was the custom of the Bruderhof children. So we called him "And," (which is a rhea or Paraguayan ostrich). It was at a wedding when Art decided to demonstrate 'American dancing' together with an American woman. We called her "Wespe" because she had a figure like Marilyn Monroe, with all the right lumps and curves at the right places, with a very thin waist, which was the fashion of the day but not on the Bruderhof. She resembled a wasp, hence her nickname. The two were dancing the current hit-parade steps of the day to the words "Put your little foot, put your little foot, put your little foot right out!" A bit to the left and a bit to the right. There was no music, so some clown had to play the tune on a mouth organ. To us children that was most hilarious. We still laugh today when thinking about it. Art really fascinated us because he was so different than anyone "we" had ever encountered. Some of us boys made friends with Art. Anything we wanted to know about the tractor, he would explain to us, with great patience. He even taught us how to drive the tractor, while all the other men used to chase us away from the tractor, as it was supposed to be very dangerous.
One of the main jobs the tractor was used for, was driving the power plant in Ibate at night for electric lighting and domestic electricity use. In order that the tractor would not move while driving the dynamo, a hole was dug and one of the back wheels driven into this hole, because the tractor had no brakes. Brakes were another thing that Henry Ford did not think about. When I worked with the oxen, I was asked by Art to pull the tractor out of its hole so that the hole would not get too deep.
Art had a dog called "Carro" who was supposed to guard the workshop and power plant where Art was working. Art, the tractor and Carro all belonged together. Carro was a huge black dog who had only one small white spot between his front legs and looked really frightening, but like Art, he was a pacifist. Should anyone dare to break into the workshop, Carro would never bite an intruder, but would, more likely than not, lick the intruder to death. Carro was friends with everybody except his brother "Schlummy" who lived in the next village. Some of us boys tried to use Carro for hunting, but to no avail. Carro did not run through the forest, he crashed through the trees. If he got close to a wild pig, he would not seize it, but lick it and waggle his big tail instead of killing it. The only violence he displayed was with his brother Schlummy. Those two had the most ferocious fights. Another thing we tried with Carro was chasing wild cattle in the tall grass on swampy land. All he had to do was approach a herd and in seconds there would be such a noise as the cattle stampeded through the swamp. Carro would not run behind them like a normal dog, but right in amongst the cattle, in full unity. He never got hurt as most other dogs would have been. He must have benefited from divine protection.
Once the Bruderhof found out how useful a tractor could be, they acquired two more tractors. One came from Portage La Prairie, Canada, a John Deere '14' and a Fordson Mayor made in Dagenham, England. So with two Fordson tractors, they each had to have a name, as everything on the Bruderhof had to have a name. Art's tractor was then called the 'Artson'. The other two tractors kept breaking down, but the Artson always kept going and doing a great variety of jobs. As a power plant, driving the ancient McCormick threshing machine, pulling logs, pulling out stumps from cleared land, disking, cultivating, pulling trailers, pulling out trucks that got stuck on the non-existing roads. Anything could be done with the Artson, except for one thing: the Artson could not fly, as some Martians found out one Sunday afternoon when they highjacked the Artson and then abandoned him by the Lagerhaus for one possible reason only: because they could not make him fly?
Art decided to stay on the Bruderhof. Why I will never know, he had a very lucrative life in the U.S.A -- I believe he originally came from New York City. So why would he want to live in Paraguay, on the Bruderhof, in poverty, sleeping in a little wooden shack, eating very basic food, working very hard, having very little leisure time, living from one oats famine to the next, having to suffer mosquito bites, and the tropical heat? It is still a great puzzle to me why Art wanted to stay on the Bruderhof! On the Bruderhof there was a lot of brainwashing too, so after some time Art was excluded from the community for some trivial violation of their Holiness. The Bruderhof was an autocratic body, and therefore plenty of trivial rules had to be enforced, just so the ones in power could exercise absolute authority. He was given some hard labour jobs, and was not allowed to talk to anyone. In short, his life was made hell.
Even Carro was taken away from him and Carro even had to have his name changed, so from this time onward he was called "Spatz." I remember I once had to get some mandioca. It was Art's job then to uproot the mandioca, a very hard job, especially when the mandioca was as big as it was in the village where Art lived. That was the best mandioca- growing village in the Primavera Bruderhoefe. Whenever I went to that village, Carro came to see me as he had had become good friends with my dog, a Dackshound, whose name was "Waldi." Those two were good friends ever since we tried to introduce Carro to hunting, for which he always proved himself worse than useless. Nevertheless he was good company. On this day I whistled and, like a rhino, Carro came full of the joys of life at seeing Waldi. He then jumped on the wagon in order to lick me, after which he wanted to lick the oxen, who did not liked to be licked by Carro. We all arrived at the mandioca plantation were Art was still busy pulling up mandioca. All of a sudden Carro realised who was there and got so excited that he jumped at Art, who had not realised that Carro was there. Carro had a lot of licking to do. They were so full of joy at seeing one another, that both of them rolled around in the weeds which had been growing around the mandioca, and this euphoric greeting went on and on. I started to wonder if it would ever stop!! Whenever there was a problem regarding a tractor, Art would be called to sort out the problem. Then he had to go back to the hard labouring jobs assigned to him by some autocratic yokel.
Eventually the Bruderhof got destroyed in Paraguay, Uruguay, England and Germany. It was people like Art who had built up the Bruderhof from nothing, going back many years and many nationalities. Then a gang of greedy Americans came across the Bruderhof and totally destroyed it. So many people had put everything they owned into the Bruderhof and at the hands of these Americans were made homeless and totally without any resources.
Art went back to the USA. In a field near Kitty Hawk in North Carolina he found an aeroplane. It used to belong to Orville and Wilbur Wright, in 1903. In that aeroplane he now flies around the USA, still with his little canvas bag and tools, and the spirit of Carro right behind him in the aeroplane, licking whatever needs licking. For a long time the Artson tractor stood abandoned in Isla Margarita, Primavera, Paraguay, where a Mennonite found it, and took it to Kansas, USA, were it now stands in an agricultural museum. One day, perhaps, Art will find a Boeing 747 in a field in Nevada, USA. Flying around in that with his right foot resting on the oil-filler plug of the gearbox? Who knows what Art's next escapade will be!!!! Greetings,
Reclaiming your Personal Power
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