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KIT Staff U.S.: Charles Lamar, Editor; Vincent Lagano, Assistant Editor; David E. Ostrom, research.
EuroKIT: Linda Lord Jackson, Carol Beels Beck, Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, Benedict Cavanna
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K e e p I n T o u c h
Table of Contents
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald
Evi Dreher Pleil
KIT - JCA steps down
KIT - Australia News
Danny Paul reminiscences:
(Carol Beels Beck, Ben Cavanna,
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, Matt Ellison,
Elizabeth Bohlken Zumpe)
Irene Fischer (trans. Margot Wegner Purcell) -
Friedel Sondheim reminiscences:
(Margot Wegner Purcell, Melchior J. Fros,
Phil Hazelton, Miriam Arnold Holmes,
Charlie Lamar - "Some Observations On The Bruderhof, The Holocaust "
New address: Joy and Wolfgang Loewenthal, 21975 49 Avenue, #215, Langley BC V3A 8J7, CANADA · Phone # (604) 539-5027
KIT: Friendly Crossways Conference weekend: Just a reminder: We have reserved the second weekend in August, Friday the 10th through Monday the 13th, at Friendly Crossways. We have booked the Friendly Crossways youth hostel facility exclusively for both Friday and Saturday nights. Please find the registration form on the next to the last page of this issue. Make your summer plans accordingly!
|Joy MacDonald, 4/11/01:
Recently several of us spent a weekend in Shropshire visiting Youth Hostels
and other likely KIT gathering venues. (See photo). Initially viewed by
Pauline and Linda, we have now decided on a really great venue for a long
weekend, July 26th to 30th, 2002 i.e. next year.
It is on the River Severn and part of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site. This recently converted hostel which we have booked exclusively has every facility, several common rooms and a restaurant which is open all day. At least four riverside pubs within 1 mile and many interesting walks and other attractions right on the doorstep. The highlight of the get-together is likely to be a visit to explore Wheathill and its surrounding countryside, steeped in memories for so many of us, with hikes and smaller strolls of nostalgia, taking us back to the English roots of our heritage and giving those who lived there the chance to share with those that didn't. Worth starting to save NOW! for next year!
Evi Dreher Pleil, 4/10/01: It is with great sadness I have to report the passing of my Stepmother Hanni Dreher. She was very active until two weeks before her death when she was taken very suddenly to the hospital. The doctor diagnosed her with cancer of the liver.
Many of us will remember Hanni as the nurse in Primavera. She enjoyed looking after sick people and took her job very seriously. But she also had a great interest in the tropical plants trees birds and also the Spanish and Guaraní languages.
I feel she lived life to the fullest right until the end. Now she will rest next to my father, Leo, in Hombrechtikon, Switzerland. I was in contact with her constantly and will miss her very much. Love,
Ramón Sender, 5/31/01: As of August, 2001, twelve years will have passed since I mailed out the first 'round-robin' letter to those handful of ex-Bruderhof folks I had been able to track down. Among them were Alan and Edna Baer and their children, Jim, Ricia and Christina Bernard, Dave Ostrom, the Dunlops, Lee Kleiss, Jeri and Katerina Bruner, Miriam Arnold Holmes, Dieter Arnold, August and Nadine Pleil, Luke Staengl, Renatus Klüver, Ebo and Anneliese Trümpi. I think twelve years is a long enough 'term of office' for anyone in any organization and for this reason I have resigned from both KIT and Peregrine, although I must emphasize that my sympathies remain, as always, with KIT and the Hummer. However my energies more and more are focused elsewhere, especially because of the forty hours a week I now spend on my job.
My removing myself from the KIT masthead, and shortly thereafter from the Peregrine board, seems to have coincided with various other events, both on and off the 'hof, but there is no connection. Actually, the KIT/Peregrine changeover had been under way for some time. Meanwhile, many thanks to Charlie, Vince, Dave and our new board members for 'carrying the ball.' I would say 'torch,' but the word has a, shall we say, peculiar connotation? Meanwhile, Judy and I will keep in touch! Much Love,
|Elizabeth Bohlken Zumpe,
4/11/01: I just had a telephone call from Migg Fischli that Hannie Bühler
Boller died yesterday. It is only two or three weeks ago that she phoned
Migg that she was going to hospital for further tests. She actually laughed
that the doctors had told her that she might be suffering from hepatitis.
She said: "I am a nurse I know what is wrong with me." She had had an operation
for cancer a few years ago, but now she had metastases in the liver. Her
daughter Rene, who lives very close to her, as well as her son Don who
is a medical doctor in Geneva were with her all the time, as well as Doris
Hannie was a cousin to Else Boller Ursel Lacy's mother. She joined the Bruderhof in the early '50s. I remember her as a soft spoken dark-haired, slender person, who would never accept anything without understanding what she was agreeing to. She was sent to Primavera to help in the hospital. She married Leo Dreher, who had been a widower for some years.
She was good for the Dreher children and accepted the task of being a mother to them and loved all of them. They in turn loved the two new babies a boy and a girl, that were given to Hannie and Leo.
In 1960 - like most of us - the Dreher's were kicked out and returned to Switzerland, where they raised the two young children, Rene and Don. Hannie managed to remain in contact with all her family even after Leo's death. She wrote to all the children, Evi and Felicitas in the States, Maieli in Berlin, Helmut in England, Josua in Paraguay and also those on the Bruderhof, Maidi and Martha. The oldest son, Tobias, died a few years ago in Germany.
She was very upset by the death of Josua's son Antonio and his wife, and this year by the death of David (Migg and Leo's first wife Trautel are brother and sister) really hit her hard. Somehow she had believed he would survive this illness, as he was such a fighter!
It would be nice if one or the other sends a card to Evi, I am sure she would love that. Love for now,
KIT, 4/11/01: KIT has heard that a letter from JCA to Jake Kleinsasser Vetter (Crystal Springs) has it that he (JCA) has stepped aside from the eldership temporarily taken over by Glenn Swinger, Richard Scott, and Jakob Gneiting.
5/7/01: Richard Scott has been confirmed as the elder at this Sunday morning's meeting May 6th, '01. That is what Jake Kleinsasser V., Crystal Springs, announced at church this morning. There are alleged "issues with Christoph."
KIT, 2/26/01: Word comes from Australia that the Bruderhof is purchasing another 8000 acres in the neighborhood for 3.2 million Australian dollars. The local thought is that they would not be moving ahead with purchasing more land unless their about-to-be-issued permits were 'solid.' Christian Domer has been down there allegedly offering some sort of 'co-farming' deal to neighbor Alex.
Currently the Inverell council is seeking an amendment to the Local Environment Plan that would allow the Bruderhof to create a 'village' and do light manufacturing on prime agricultural land. Hearings are being held so that various arguments pro and con can be heard. Australian media is covering these events in some detail.
Tom Sayvetz, 3/9/01: After years of benefiting from it, this is my first submission to KIT but I daresay it won't be my last. My wife Holly has assured me that it is time to step up to the plate, in particular to document memories of childhood psychological trauma at the SOB. I lived in Wheathill 1954-57; then at Woodcrest 1957-68. This covered the period of all my formative years, first thru twelfth grades. I am fifty now.
The so-called "clearings" or group crackdowns occurred about every couple of years in the elementary school at Woodcrest. The first one occurred when I was in second grade, and my brother Paul in third.
I knew something was very wrong, presumably with us individually and collectively, but what? For many days in a row, I believe up to two weeks, we had to sit in a classroom hours on end, without moving or talking, with our heads down on our arms to "think" probably about twenty of us. Periodically a child would leave, presumably for one-on-one sessions at the office. I can remember my fear and anxiety, and the clear awareness that I had no idea what I or we had done to deserve the treatment.
Several days into this, an event occurred that had a permanent and powerful negative affect on my psychology. I can relive it as if it were yesterday. Dick Wareham, the school principal, was striding around the room from child to child, enumerating "sins," with a large book in his hand. He reached my brother and bonked him with the book while saying "...and Paul, you're just plain COLD BLOODED..."
|I remember how the white-hot hate
burned within me, and from that time on they became the enemy, and I the
prisoner. I instinctively realized that they were wrong, distorted, fanatical
whatever the righteousness of their religion.
One of the clearings ended (it may have been that first one) with our Christmas being shut down no presents. I remember the awkwardness and humiliation I felt at home. Another episode I remember crystal-clear was Dwight Blough (whom I loved) bringing to my attention something serious that I had written. I had done my first poetry assignment and ended a verse with the couplet "I'm a poet, didn't ya know it?" I was seriously counseled on the evilness of this PRIDE. To me it had been only lighthearted wordplay, but this sure put me on notice as to the intensity and irrationality of their psychological exposure and purification system.
There were further "clearings" around fifth grade and eighth grade, increasingly masterminded by Doug Moody, especially the latter one. I was placed in a solitary small room for at least a week. I was never accused of anything specific, and don't remember confessing anything specific. In retrospect I was never really singled out in these cataclysms, and probably got off easy. I was not physically or verbally abused. I never knew really what my brother or classmates had to undergo, and of course we NEVER talked about it. There is NO QUESTION that the adults involved believed that they were doing the right thing and that this was simply the appropriate method to keep children on the right track.
It truly did isolate, intimidate and break you down psychologically. One learned that one's actions, words and very thoughts would eventually be known by the "inquisitors," and one's only hope was to confess ALL. I learned that silliness, teasing and all ego or prideful behaviors (about half of what kids do normally) were capital sins. They rooted out all the cliques, all the nickname-makers, all the "too-close" friendships and all mystical "wrong-spirited" behavior.
As a child you learned to take this in stride, as it was only the age-specific counterpart of constant psychological stress aimed at purity of thought in the SOB at large. It hurt far more to see families having to leave, to see parents disappear overnight from their children and be gone for months or forever, and to see the sad empty faces of adults under Brotherhood disfavor or discipline.
In retrospect, I became an expert at reading the faces and body language of depression. There is no question that this psychological hazing or torture was (is) used to initiate or inculcate children into the system. By the time one reached high school age, one was totally schooled in the processes of self-guilt, self-censure, confession, egolessness and the submission to church authority that is required of members or potential members. I suspect the process would also root out "bad" families and allow their expulsion earlier rather than later. What I saw later at a Brotherhood meeting resembled nothing more perfectly than a Salem Witch Trial. It made me realize that childhood hazing was as nothing compared to the adult hell.
I personally never EVER believed in, nor was affected by, the RELIGION, for which I am profoundly grateful. I learned to live a truly double psychological life. On the one hand I tried to be as good as I could, given the level of my piousness. On the other, I smoldered with hate and loathing, counting off every month and year toward liberation.
The legacy from all this to my psychological makeup is a mixed bag. The crucible of SOB childhood psychological stress forged a mental toughness in me that I dare them to test or measure. I am a confirmed rationalist who finds all religious belief distasteful at best. I have an ingrained fear of authority and institutions. I give a wide berth to all group and conformist behaviors. I believe there are differences in DEGREE only between SOB psychological methods and those of all authoritarian systems such as Russian Communism, German Nazism, and right-wing dictatorships. I believe that the freedom to THINK, to TALK, to ASK, and to FEEL, without intimidation; and the acceptance of the human ego and sexuality without guilt, are what we owe to ourselves and our children. All else I reject.
I must admit that I constantly relive my childhood humiliations, and suffer extreme regret at not having fought back at the system. On the other hand, KIT has put all into perspective and, whatever my trials were, they were as nothing compared to the suffering of others. I am grateful for a terrific father who has always loved and liked me. My wife of nearly twenty-nine years (Halldis) is my best supporter. My son is all the fulfillment I could ever dream of. I enjoy life, love intensely, and have many fine and fond memories of both children and adults at Woodcrest. I could hug so many of you.
|Elizabeth Bohlken Zumpe,
3/13/01: Tom, I want to thank you for what you wrote! I remember you as
such a happy little fellow in Wheathill and I am glad for you, that you
had your father for love and support and now Holly, whom we have all gotten
to know as a wonderful person!.
What happened is just terrible we never had anything like this when we were children! I feel sad for your Mom too, who came so full of trust and had thought that she really found the way of true brotherhood.
Testimonies like yours are needed so that we too can get a picture of the Bruderhof today. I left in 1961, which is a long time ago and I guess things went from bad to worse. I did not feel happy in Woodcrest, although I found the setting of the place just marvelous! The big Maple trees the view from the dining room window it was beautiful! But I felt a strange kind of pressure to make me walk aware of every step I took and afraid a cloud would gather above my head like I had seen happening to others!
Thank you Tom for writing your story! Much love to you all,
KIT: The next five pieces are reminiscences of Danny Paul whom we believe to be living on the south coast of England, which were posted on the Hummer, an electronic bulletin board for ex-bruderhofers.
Carol Beels Beck, 3/03/01: Does anyone know what happened to the son of Cecilia and Tom Paul?
For some reason when once visiting Darvell and he was visiting and then hearing he was living outside I was quite shocked ... Anyone got any insight on this?
Ben Cavanna, 3/3/01: Danny Paul is who you are asking about. He has lived in sheltered accommodation outside the Bruderhof for most of his life since the sixties. I always liked him when I was young and used to enjoy playing football with him at Bulstrode on his visits there. He was left in England when the Bruderhof closed down Bulstrode and moved to the U.S. During the five years before Darvell re-established an English base, Tommy and Cecilia visited him maybe twice.
He came to live at Darvell at various times, but found the regime on the Bruderhof too restrictive in work pattern and then there was a problem when the Bruderhof as one gave up smoking that was one of Danny's real pleasures in life.
He was found institutional care homes at various times and last I saw him was in Darvell in about '93-'94 when he was living in a flat or room in a sheltered home for people with learning disabilities in Eastbourne or Brighton. One of his sisters and one of my sisters would go and clean his place once every two weeks or so and bring him to Darvell for the weekend.
During the times that Tommy was not living in Darvell, my parents would have him in our family, so we would often meet at my frequent visits there in the late eighties early nineties prior to my banning from Bruderhof property in '95. He seemed happier in later years living where he was with short visits home.
My Dad was very fond of him and I always enjoyed meeting Danny and going for walks (smoking excuses) with him and my father.
Elizabeth Bohlken Zumpe, 3/4/01: I was sad to hear about Danny. I remember, when I had just finished my training and was asked to do the nurse's duties in the Wheathill Bruderhof it must have been in 1958 that Danny came to the little medical office near the men's toilets in Wheathill. He had been playing around with a boat that was being tarred and the boiling tar got his attention, he put sticks into it and then the barrel fell over and covered his legs with black-sticky - messy stuff. He was burned so badly, that he was beyond pain and came walking to me! He was hospitalized for many months on the men's ward in Birmingham.
I think it was he, that had been burned before by an oil fire (those petrol filled things) , which we used to use in the huts at Wheathill. That is why it took a long time for him to recover and he had many skin-transplants. I loved the little fellow and always wondered what had become of him.
|Matt Ellison, 3/9/01: Lieber
I read your account of Dan's accidents with some interest. And although
in many ways what you say is substantially true, you have gone off on a
couple of tangents. It's that old elephant and the seven blind men again,
only this time he's retrospectively trumpeting an off- key tune out of
his backside. It is a particularly interesting quirk of fate that has made
you say those things. Since meeting you in Ridgeway, when you said you
remembered me well, I have been racking my brain without avail to place
you. Now to my delight the haze has lifted and I've rediscovered you.
Let me tell you first about Dan. He and I were the same age and went from Baby House to twelve years old through all those stage groups, until I was sent to Bulstrode. Dan was certainly a strange lad; what you might call 'a sandwich short of a picnic'. He was in a way similar to a mild case of Mongolism, or the PC term, Down's Syndrome; clumsy, slow learner, but happy and cheerful. He also had some mental problems, which manifested themselves as what we lads called 'day stallions' where he would wander around muttering to himself as if sleep walking, and be totally oblivious to us. I don't recall him being teased more than others, but that might have been because he could easily get agitated by that sort of thing, he was just there with us, but didn't keep up with our games. At times he was taught in lower age groups.
Dan had a major accident on his birthday, I can't remember which, but shall we say his 9th. He had been given a bought child's chef outfit consisting of an apron and hat. This was made out of one of those then new cellulose materials, which was highly inflammable. He was cooking pancakes on the family's paraffin (kerosene) room heater when he caught fire. His attempts to beat out the fire caused the material to stick to his bare arms and legs while it continued to burn. The stove got overturned and it was pandemonium. Tommy his father had the presence to wrap him in a rug and get the fires out. Dan was hospitalised for a long time suffering from large areas of deep burns. I also believe the trauma contributed to the deterioration in his mental state. I relate the accident as it was told to me; I was not present. The parents suffered major guilt feelings, and then a couple of years after that their number one son James died in a sledging accident aged 14.
We used to sledge down the first Bank, a steep field with a wicket gate at the bottom leading to the stream. On this occasion slushy snow had frozen overnight and the track was like an Olympic bob sled run. James and Dieter raced down the hill for the wicket gate, and James hit the gate post broadside. He died of internal injuries. The Paul family had it pretty tough. Our hut and theirs were together on the hill above the West Wing.
Now the incident you recall was not Dan, but guess who? That's right; but I remember it as being 10 not 12 years old, so that would make it 1956 or shall we say 1957. Could that be possible?
What happened was this: we had indeed made a raft, which was a simple structure of a door with four five-gallon drums fixed to it. I wanted it to be a proper job, so we borrowed a bucket of bitumen tar from amongst the building tack, and melted it on a pressure paraffin heater. We poured it onto the upturned raft and then Andrew Goodwin and I spread it around with brushes. We were a bit careless and Andy sloshed his brush up the back of my hand and wrist, covering it with the boiling tar. After jumping up and down a bit, I dunked my hand in a tin of paraffin, thinking that would dissolve the tar. It didn't but it had the same effect as cold water and must have been a good thing. As you say, I walked down to you, but I was not beyond pain, I was in agony; but big boys don't cry, and the strain of it was making me shake like a leaf.
Now I may be wrong, but I think you were in your nurse's uniform. You were a scrumptious young woman, put together to perfection and oozing that virginal b'hof sex appeal, and I could never have hoped to get that close to you. You wrapped my hand and wrist in what looked like half a pound of lard, and then joy of joys, you hugged me to your bosom and rocked me back and forth. It was worth getting burned just for that. I can still smell the woman smell of you. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven, you were like a ministering angel; all the pain just went away, I was completely overwhelmed and just burst out sobbing.
I was taken to Ludlow Cottage Hospital in the Wheathill car, a Morris Traveller (station wagon) and stayed in the men's ward for a few days. They didn't do much to me, and were mainly keeping me in to check for shock and infection, but despite growing like a potato, it sloughed off after 2 days and re-grew its own skin. I think the paraffin and the lard stuff must have done the trick.
|It was amusing when the Sister
came to check me over, she asked if I had opened my bowels, and I hadn't
the foggiest what she was talking about. I think I had become a bit of
a freak show, but there was a friendly policeman in the next bed who managed
to sort things out with a translation. Then they wanted a stool and urine
sample and I just couldn't imagine what they would want that for. I presumed
they thought I couldn't walk to the toilet. So they had to wait quite a
while for their samples.
Elizabeth Bohlken Zumpe, 3/10/01: Matt, you made me laugh, crazy fellow! Yes you are right, it was you who got burned, but I visited Danny in hospital several times with his burns and felt so sorry, that he had to lie on a men's ward he was just a little kid. And yes I remember the death of James sledging on the first bank. My brother Charius had just gone with James down the slope, before he raced the other boys and hit the fence! This truly was a terrible experience.
What you write of me, being in a nurses uniform is right. The Bruderschaft wanted to impress the "outside doctors" by having "their own British trained nurse" and Marjory Hindly actually bought me a uniform to wear, even when I only came home on holidays. Glad someone had a positive memory of me during those days. I really loved your Mom, worked with her for a long time in the Babyhouse. She was a gentle person but very much to the point if she needed to be!
Margot Wegner Purcell, 5/6/01: Irene Fischer sent me a letter and gave me permission to translate parts of it for the KIT readership. So here, to the best of my ability, are excerpts of her letter:
Irene Fischer, 4/14/01: Lupi and I have experienced so much in the last five weeks. First, our trip to Paraguay. After a two day pause, on my birthday, the wedding of our oldest daughter, Claudia. She was married near Frankfurt.
Paraguay was lovely. We met in Freisland at the family Braun home and slept on mattresses in three rooms. Stephan and Karola; Tina Jaime; Josua Dreher, Anna and Hans Schultz, (Anna is my sister who lives in Canada) Kuller Fischer, Lupi and me. Every morning after breakfast we drove to the River. It took us about 20 minutes. The Mennonites have a lovely campground there with changing facilities, outhouses and a picnic shelter where one can cook over a fire.
The couple who hosted us, Willy and Helly, prepared good meals for us. They served us rice with meat, sweetcorn, mandioca, melons, oranges, papayas, every day something different. Because Helly and Willy prepared the meals for us, we had the time to spend at the River with big sombreros on our heads. That was good as it was 40 degrees (celcius) in the shade. Josua went fishing most of the time. He even caught a pirana, which Lupi fried on the open fire. We did a lot of singing. All the German Wanderlieder and some English ones as well. A dear friend of ours gave me a wonderful Hohner accordion, which I left in Paraguay for future visits. Now I no longer have to haul mine along each time.
Evenings were spent playing volleyball till dark, then sit by the fire, sing and tell stories . Every night the stars in the sky were wonderful. We do not see such night skies in Europe. All in all we had a very, very good time.
We met Margot (Davies) at the Baptist church in Mingaguazú. Some of our group were with us and we sang "Ich bin durch die Welt gegangen" and they liked it. We also visited Margot at her house a few times and so far she is doing well. Celia's daughter looks after her with such love. Celia had also broken her leg in December or January and, sadly, the wound became infected. I was able to visit her and give them bandage material and instructions how to care for the wound and it looked much better before we left.
We spent most of our time with Lukretia, and she really is a good host. On our return trip we stayed for three days with Maria Vigar in Sao Paulo. Michael and Pierce Vigar picked us up from the airport in a VW bus. We drove to Maria's "Citio," which is named Primavera. It is a lovely place with old trees and palms by a reservoir.
Mama and Papa (Erna and Werner Friedemann) are doing well. They were looking forward to our return home.
Andy Harries, 4/11/01: Many people have written about abuse on the Bruderhof and especially about abuse to do with sexual matters in the February-March KIT. Holly Sayvetz wrote that "People publishing the old abuses may not heal the person writing." Actually, it does exactly that. It is all part of a healing process, whether we write in KIT or talk amongst each other at meetings.
|It is the same principle as going
to a councillor. A modern councillor is not so much somebody to give us
council or advice; it is mainly somebody who will listen to us, treat us
seriously and with respect, and value us. These are all the things we did
not get at the time of the abuse. By being able to talk things through
it helps us deal with issues, get over them and then put them behind us.
The reason we can help each other is that we treat each other with respect and belief in what that person is saying. If we go to anybody on the B'hof we will not be listened to and also not believed.
It reminds me of an experience I had at one of the Ridgeway KIT conferences. Some of the 'girls' (not girls now, but to me they somehow stay girls as I knew them at Wheathill where we grew up, and I suppose we will always be the Wheathill boys) from Wheathill told me about having been sexually abused by a certain man. This was done to a number of them over quite a long period. As if that was not bad enough, when it came out, the girls were questioned and interrogated, often by men, sometimes for days or even many weeks.
Part of the reason I am writing this is that during that same conference I was talking with one of the older ex-members who was there and whom I knew well from the time working on the farm there. When I mentioned that I had just heard about abuse taking place there he would not believe me. He just completely rejected that it could have happened. That is what we are up against. At the time of the abuse we are rejected and again now if we want to bring it up.
I was really shocked at what I had heard from the girls and then again that it could be so bluntly denied. Apparently this abuser was 'punished?' by being sent to another community, where he probably continued with his abuse.
I would also like to ask the question, "how much did the 'ordinary' Brotherhood members know about what was really going on?" Probably not a lot. It seems that the ruling elite could do just about anything they wanted and get away with it. Ordinary members knew nothing about a lot that was going on and anyway would have little power to influence decisions. One has to remember that the rulers held and still hold complete power. If somebody so much as questions one of the leaders, they will be punished and possibly expelled. That is the sort of power the leaders hold and use to keep in power.
I wonder if there is anybody in our KIT circle who has had more experience of decision making in the Brotherhood? In decisions about the family, how to bring up children, how to discipline them, how to question them, how to punish them and how to educate them with B'hof morals in connection with sex, etc.? How much were the ordinary members involved and how much decision-making and talking went on behind the scenes! I was also a member but I do not remember such things being talked about in meetings and anyway I was excluded for part of that time.
There is a sort of class system. There is the lower class and the middle class and the elite class.
When people on the Bruderhof are questioned or challenged about past events they will invariably say "things are different now." This is just a cop-out. An excuse for not accepting responsibility for what might have happened. I think we have all heard this many times over the years and they will still be saying it in the future about the present abuse. How else are they going to convert their children into good little Bruderhofers. They have to use abusive means like persuasion and pressure combined with punishment.
Lets face it, they have a super system for brain-washing children. They have complete control over them twenty-four hours each day and then the parents are pressured into doing their part. It amazes me looking back that most of us children were so well trained and brain-washed that we just accepted what we were told and how we were supposed to live the B'hof way, so that we rarely questioned anything. Some children questioned more and were more rebellious. Greetings,
KIT: The next few pieces are reminiscences about Friedel Sondheim also posted on the Hummer, one of the electronic bulletin boards for ex-bruderhofers.
Margot Purcell, 2/28/01: I remember Friedel very well from Isla. He was the "guard" to the banana house. I remember taking walks when I was in kindergarten. One of our "run ahead and wait stops" was at the bell quite close to the banana storage. I was afraid of Friedel and I guess the adults let us know that we should be afraid of him. I wonder what he did that instilled this fear or rather had the servants instill this fear on the membership then on to the children. Making fun of
|him was not chastised by the teachers
and they would laugh along with us. He was an individual who could be picked
Friedel was in our family in Oak Lake. I guess they figured that Papa and Mama knew him and should take him under their wing. We got along well, yet the fear of him was with us still. He had a good sense of humor. It was wonderful to see him laugh. He loved playing board games after family supper.
I was not on the 'hof when he died. I also do not remember hearing of his death. I'm sure that I did get a letter from Papa and Mama telling us.
I wish I would have known more about Friedel as a child so that I need not have been afraid of him. It is true how cruel the community could be to individuals. It seems when your name is mud that is how you are treated.
My mother told me sometime in the '80s that "they" realized how badly they had treated those who were out of the brotherhood for a while. She said that from now on they would show these folks more love to draw them back and help them heal. I think she meant it, but I do not think this was done.
Melchior J. Fros, 2/27/01: I can confirm that I did not treat Friedel with the dignitiy and respect he deserved. We boys made fun of his mannerism, his ungainly walk, and whatever mental condition he suffered from. We teased him. We goaded him. And yet, my work with him in the Isla store house (Dad was "Kastner" and worked with Friedel) made me regret my cruel behavior.
Friedel was the best time-of-day keeper in Isla! "Jan, Zeit zum Aufhoren" brings a smile to my face these many years later.
Phil Hazelton, 2/28/01: I might be one of the last KITfolk to see and know Friedel during the time (late 1961) he spent at the Sinntal Hof before being interned (at Bethel?). I got to know and love Friedel as a loving and kind if tortured man and stopped him on several occasions from walking into the Sinn River running at the end of the field.
Miriam Arnold Holmes, 2/28/01: Thanks for the memories of Friedel. I was not at all afraid of him as a child. I thought he was very interesting and often talked with him. He came from a very musical family His cousin was the famous American composer Stephen Sondheim.
Friedel had an astounding memory. He could "sing" whole operas verbatim. He used to sing Richard Stauss' "Die Rosenkavalier" the whole thing. He also used to read the posted duty list for Sundays and then would proceed to tell everyone what their job was for Sunday. We never had to check the list. Friedel let us know. He also knew al lot of funny sayings. I learned from him "der Apfel faellt nicht weit vom Pferd" (The apple does not fall far from the horse). Yes, he was teased a lot by the children and it is true that this was permitted. Sometimes he was very disturbed and confused, but then he would snap out of it.
I do believe he died on the Bruderhof (Oak Lake?). He was always deeply concerned about the fate of Jews in Europe and often talked about the new Jewish state in Israel.
Sam Arnold, 2/28/01: Muschi, what you wrote about Friedel's memory is quite amazing. I do recall that he had an excellent memory, so he could easily recall work lists and stuff like that, but that he was able to sing the entire "Die Rosenkavalier" is a bit much to believe. He could not sing on pitch, which amused us kids a great deal at mealtimes. In Oaklake he used to always sit in the same place in the dining room, and he would tip his chair too, just like we kids liked to do! Sometimes he would not sing at all, and other times he would sing along quite loudly, but out of tune and late with the beat. For a twelve-year-old, that's entertainment on the Bruderhof!
I had mixed feelings about Friedel. On the one hand he was obviously smart, and also kind at times. His eyes were about as piercing and as mischievous as I've seen, but his pinch was something else!
You are right, Mel. We knew when he was in the mood to pinch, and we would avoid him then. But sometimes he would sneak up on me and pinch my arm really hard and for a long time! He thought it was really funny to do that. The pinching must have been his way of getting even for all the teasing that he got from us kids. Actually, while I might have laughed at Friedel's singing and the other antics that embarrassed the adults, I do not recall teasing him. By nature I
|was not a teaser, and I also knew
that my father would not have tolerated that at all.
In a way, people like Friedel and Manfred were important to us kids growing up in an isolated commune, for they taught us about diversity and inequality. For some reason, having Friedel around made it easier for me to question authority, and also the very narrow future that the Bruderhof offered to us young people who were uncomfortable there. While Friedel may have been different, he sure stood out from the crowd. He certainly enriched our lives, pinches and all.
Stanley Vowles, 4/13/01: Dear Ramón and all at KIT, in Six Months to Live Learning from a young man with cancer, a recent publication put out by the Plough Publishing House, it is incredible the way the whole experience is used to bolster up and support those who wield and administer power in the community.
It is really wonderful the way the young man, Matt, gradually came to accept the fact that he was dying, which we all have to do one day, sooner or later. Also how, through her grief for her husband, Cynthia was finally able to come to terms with his going. With those things there is nothing untoward. The whole book, however, is written with the community as a background and guiding principle in all that is said, done and thought. Consequently there is a basic falseness in the whole matter, for the community leaders, those who wield and hang on to their power come what may, often say all the right words, but by their actions deny the truth of what is said and practiced.
For many years now many people have appealed, begged and asked for contact and communication with their loved ones and it has been wholly denied them, even to the point of lawyers and attorneys being used to threaten and browbeat those who simply long for a renewed contact with their families, who the applicants may not have seen for even decades. The deeply entrenched predjudices which uphold this non-contact suits very well those who do not, for whatever reason, want to be found wanting in their attitudes or beliefs.
There is much acclaim for such publications by the general public, scholars and others interested in the inner aspect of life. It is very difficult for those who have not lived the life to detect just what is going on. The time is rapidly approaching when it will be seen by all who are interested that false positions have been maintained for far too long. However no one is wholly innocent. We are all, all, only too fallible humans, hence we need guidelines as to how to live. The community vehemently claims to have found this, but by their fruits one can know them. The fruits are lovelessness toward those they should love; division, enmity and constant power seeking by the leaders.
History is against them. Look around in the life of the wider society; it is shown again and again for those who have eyes to see that never the worst can or will finally prosper. Changes come, and there is a power beyond all human activity that will see to it that these changes will come about.
Humanity everywhere is constantly being challenged and called to live in love, that much maligned, cheapened, often wasted and abused word. But just by its very emphasis in most pop songs and the media's obsession with it, it is shown how everyone recognizes the need for it. It is an all encompassing concept, and it behooves everyone to recognize the implications of it.
Sadly, some unprincipled people, be they politicians, businessmen and women or others, cleverly manipulate the unthinking and simple (in the sense of being credulous, ignorant or foolish) to their own advantage. True it is that one can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.
So this is an appeal to those who are closed to open up and be transparent in their doings, and that the light be allowed to flood in and reveal what is hidden and obscured. Then we will be enabled to experience such a warmth and sharing that has not been possible for far too long.
What a wonderful relief and gift that will be for all those who have wanted to share their life and living with all those already mentioned: parents, brothers, sisters and relatives. Sure there will be possibly a deal of pain and recognitions to be acknowledged on all sides. What does it matter if the final result is that love is enabled to expand and be all encompassing?
Dear Ramón, greetings to all and I hope and trust you find the foregoing helpful. Yours,
|Charlie Lamar, 5/29/01:
I wrote this article in 1991. It was published in the Annual of that year
but never in KIT. I was naive when I wrote this, I now realize. The Bruderhof
described herein never really existed. It is only the Bruderhof of my memory,
the Bruderhof I thought I lived in when I was a child. Nevertheless these
thoughts do represent a long journey, one which has continued since.
SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE BRUDERHOF, THE HOLOCAUST AND CHRISTIANITY
by Charles Lamar
This essay may prove controversial. Some people may even consider these ideas to be of the devil, but that will not bother me. My views have become what they are only because I have never been afraid to change them. I regard all opinion as written on sand. My faith is centered in God only, not in anyone's interpretations of the experience of God, even my own interpretations.
Jesus was not born into a cultural vacuum. Not only has his life had its impact on history, the world has had its impact on the version of Jesus' life and teachings which history has known. This is bitterly fought territory with well-hidden secrets. But the difficulty Christians have had interpreting their scriptures bears this out. Christianity has long since divided into those who believe that the Bible needs only a literal reading, those who believe the Bible must needs be interpreted somehow, and those who believe that the Spirit alone should prevail Truth being alive and wherever you find it.
The Bruderhof is the only group I have encountered, except maybe the Quakers, which, at one time or another, has fallen into all three divisions. But each of these approaches to Christianity and the Bible has its limitations.
All over the world little Christian children are taught how their parents view the relation between the Old and New Testaments. But the little Christian children are not taught that Judaism was only one of the religions ancestral to their parents' faith. Christian children are always told that the chief exponent of first century Christianity was a Jew named Saul of Tarsus who later became known as Paul the Apostle, but it is not brought to the children's attention that the chief religion in the city of Tarsus when Saul was a boy was called Mithraism.
From an encyclopaedia of comparative religion:
"Originally an Aryan god, Mithras was worshipped in Iran as the god of contracts (mithra actually means contract). He preserves truth and order, destroying the disruptive forces of evil, anger, greed, pride and procrastination, all evil gods and men... As guardian of truth he is the judge of the soul at death, and as a preserver of contracts determines when the period of the devil's rule is at an end. His coming "amid the homage of the meek and lowly" in the days of victory is awaited...
"The later 'Oracle of Hystapes' mentioned by Christian writers has been identified as a Mithraic oracle foretelling the god's coming at the end of the world to destroy the wicked with fire and to save the righteous. A number of Roman monuments depict his birth and some fifth-century Christian texts imply that there was a Mithraic myth foretelling the appearance of a star which would lead magi [in most sources, shepherds instead of kings C.L.] to the birthplace of the saviour.
"Mithraism first entered Rome in 60 BC, and in the second century AD it spread through the empire as far as Britain. Carried mainly by soldiers, it was an exclusively male cult. At baptism, when the initiate had to submit to both physical and spiritual tests, he renounced all crowns but Mithras, [during initiation, under apparent threat of death. - C.L.] and was expected to adhere to a strict moral code. In return he was promised a share in the resurrection.
"The central belief of the cult was the sacrifice of a bull by Mithras. The act was both creative and redemptive. The worshipper looked back to a sacrifice at the beginning, when life had come out of death, and foreward to the final sacrifice by Mithras when the last animal to die would give men the elixir of immortality. A foretaste of this divine gift would be shared in the regular communion meal of bread and wine in which the priest represented Mithras." 1
The sites of many of the early Christian churches were formerly the sites of Mithraic temples. Mithras' birthday was celebrated on December 25th.
To Christian ears all this may sound like blasphemous parody, because, along with the Mithraic contaminants, centuries of genuine spiritual experience have become associated in Christianity with real spiritual truth. But whether intentionally or unintentionally, new revelations inevitably are placed in old cultural forms. While the ritual or ceremonial borrowings
|from older religions may or may
not be significant, borrowings of concept always pollute a new revelation.
Since the four Gospels were not written until well after Paul's ideas had
become known and accepted, the mistaken idea that Jesus was the final,
Mithraic blood-sacrifice blighted the New Testament, God concept, right
from the start.
Catholic or Protestant, the Bible teaches Christians to believe that the Father Himself could not save mankind until a price had been paid off in blood by a subordinate Son who, by his own sacrificial crucifixion, made it possible for the Father to save those whom He otherwise could not. Isaiah knew better: "The arm of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save." (Is 59:1)
Esme Wynn-Tyson writes regarding the atonement doctrine of the Apostle Paul:
"...In place of the truly Christian doctrine of at-one-ment through the regenerate life, he substituted the pagan concept of atonement through death.
"In Romans iii, 23-25, (Paul) writes:
" 'For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely through his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.'
"And in Romans v, 8, 9:
" 'But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.'
"What has this dark and primitive doctrine to do with the simple teaching of Jesus who was never guilty of evolving the doctrine of vicarious atonement that so shocked the honest, modern Gandhi that he refused to call himself a Christian, for all his Christ-likeness, saying that he wished to be saved not from the consequences of his sins but from sin itself.[?] In this he was at one with Jesus but not with Paul, for the master taught, as all the major world teachers have done, that sin is forgiven only when it is forsaken. Each man must, therefor 'forgive' himself; no one can do this for him. Nor did Jesus ever present a picture of a wrathful God from whom man must be saved but always of an eternally loving, wholly beneficent Father who desired only good for His children.
"But the pagans had always believed in redemption through sacrifice and vicarious atonement. As Weigall points out:
" 'Adonis, Attis, Dionysos, Herakles, Mithra, Osiris, and other deities were all saviour-gods whose deaths were regarded as sacrifices made on behalf of mankind; and it is to be noticed that in almost every case there is clear evidence that the god sacrificed himself to himself.' 2
"Therefore when a Mithraist was confronted with the story of a great prophet who called himself a son of God, and who had been crucified and had risen again, he would at once have seen the hero of the story as 'the bull of Mithra killed by the God who was himself.' (Ibid.pg 169) And it is not difficult to understand how the zealous Judaic-Christian missionaries would have seized upon this mystical explanation of what had once seemed to them to have been the shameful death of their master on a cross like a common criminal.
"From the time of Abraham their race had known of the belief in the efficacy of human and animal sacrifice as a means of propitiating the deity. Searching the scriptures in the light of this popular belief, they may well have imagined that they had found the correct explanation of their master's tragic experience, an explanation that would conclusively prove his Messiahship since, if it were true, he had indeed saved mankind from the burden of sin.
"It will be seen from a close scrutiny of Paul's Epistles that he accepted this point of view with caution and reservations but he undoubtedly supplied the authority for the hardening into dogma of the doctrine of vicarious atonement which has always been so prominent a feature of the Christian church. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews on the other hand shows full acceptance of the pagan theory, saying forthrightly (Hebrews ix, 12): that Christ by his own blood "entered into the holy place having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls... sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God."
"All this is recognizably pure Mithraism, no hint of which can be found in the teachings of Jesus Christ as recorded in the gospels.
|"But the idea evidently spread
during the first century like a forest fire, not only among the pagans
but the Christians. In the First Epistle of Peter i, 18, 19, we find:
" 'Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things ...but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot...'
"And in the First Epistle of John i, 7.
" '...the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from sin.'
"In fact it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that at the time when the Epistles were written, the Christian Church had accepted the pagan 'rationalization' of the crucified and risen saviour, the God, or Son of God, who had not merely been crucified like a criminal at the instigation of Orthodoxy and the occupying Power but had himself elected to die as a living sacrifice for the transgressions of mankind. As Weigall writes, in the light of this theory:
" 'Jesus not only fulfilled the Judaic scriptures, but he also fulfilled those of the pagan world; and therein lay the great appeal of early Christianity. In him a dozen shadowy gods were condensed into a proximate reality; and in His crucifixion the old stories of their ghastly sufferings and sacrificial deaths were made actual, and were given a direct meaning.' (Ibid pg 169.)
"There can be no doubt that this familiar idea had much to do with popularizing the new faith. But it is bitterly ironical that in order to popularize the creed of Christ it had to be perverted; for not only did this primitive belief entirely reverse Jesus's vision of a perfect all-loving Father, who asked for nothing more and nothing less than the love of His children and their obedience to the beneficent laws made for their protection, presenting instead the picture of an inhuman monster who could only be appeased by the shedding of innocent blood, but it was in direct conflict with the main theme of Jesus's gospel...
"Jesus's immense contribution to the universal evolutionary process was his example; he was the transitional man, showing not only that the transition could be made, but how it could be made. Without such proof humanity would have no sense of direction, would not know in what its salvation consisted and could have no assurance that the thing could be done.
"Therefore the debt we have been supposed to owe the Founder of our Faith for his vicarious atonement, still remains in its immensity; for what he did was to establish the all essential precedent, the living proof, that at-one-ment with God could be obtained in the present life, and in this sense he became forever the hope of the world.
"But when this doctrine is perverted to imply that man is freed from the consequences of his own behaviour by the sacrifice of another, the spiritual law contained in the words: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap," known in the East as the law of Karma, is violated and the law of Justice is annulled.
"It is true that by at-one-ment with the Perfect Man we may put off our sins and, with them, their effects, and so find ourselves freed from "the law of sin and death;" but that cannot be achieved by the death of any man but only by the living of a regenerate life. And the biggest stumbling block to the living of that life throughout the ages has been the disastrously misleading doctrine of vicarious atonement." 3
Derived from ancient Judaic and Mithraic sources, and injected into Christianity right after Jesus' death, the Paulinian atonement doctrine implies that the character of the Father is not dominated by love, but by justice and contracts. It is implied that man had lost access to God's affection; that criminal responsibility transmits from creature to creature, and that God would be satisfied by the punishment of an innocent to redeem the guilty. These implications amount to a slur on the character of God. No one could square an actual experience of God to these tenets logically, so all down the centuries Christian believers have been forced into a mystic, symbolic, or allegorical approach.
Eberhard Arnold, writing in Inner Land:
"The human conscience can be purified in no other way than through the sacrificed lifeblood of Jesus Christ, who was and is the only pure image of God. His sacrificed soul brings God's life to us. To have faith in our own blood faith in the beauty of the soul or the purity of the race is to confuse and pervert facts as they truly are. The blood of every one of us proves to be burdened with an evil inheritance. It shows its utter impurity. 'The soul of any creature lies in its blood.' (Leviticus 17:11, Moffatt) Therefore throughout the ages, all the weaknesses and failures of human life are revealed in the bloodline of the individual, of the nation, and of mankind. Faith in Jesus Christ holds firm to nobler blood. The soul of
|His blood was ruled and filled
by the pure Spirit of God's love. No other human life can be compared with
it. Therefore He is more than a living human soul. He is the quickening
"From God He once more sends this quickening Spirit down to us. Those who receive this pure Spirit will have their souls and consciences purified from all former guilt, and their lives will be protected from new offences. This is because the life of the Bearer of this Spirit, which was sacrificed for them, is purity itself the purity of a love that is perfect unto death. The blood that was sacrificed for them in death is mightier than death and more powerful than all its deadly, poisonous, and divisive powers. This is because it bears a life within it that has remained free from all the elements of death and decomposition, which are hostile to life and to God. Purification through the blood of Christ means that in His Spirit His spotless, surrendered life unfolds its powers here and now. Therefore it is able to set our consciences free from all impurity." 4
Nowhere in Europe did the atonement doctrine become more ingrained than in Germany. Look at the Mateus Grunewald Crucifixion for example, perhaps one of the most ghastly ever painted. Read the unbelievably morbid words to some of the Bach chorales. Esme Wynn-Tyson suggests the reason is that the Mithraic religion of the Roman soldiers took a firmer hold in Germany than any other part of the Empire. In any case, the atonement doctrine took its toll in Germany, and the subsequent failure of the resulting Mithraic-Christian God concept was, I believe, the direct, albeit underlying, cause of Hitler's Third Reich.
Elie Wiesel, quoted in the Plough:
"The killers' laughter and the hallucinatory silence of the condemned. The distant look of old men who knew.
"If we were to say it all, nobody would believe us. The screams, the moaning, the beatings. The thirst in sealed railroad cattle cars. The terror inside the barracks during the selections. The silent, almost solemn processions marching toward the mass graves or the ovens; the lucidity of some, the delirium of others.
"The shame of the starving, who pray to God for a crust of bread, who think of bread more than of God, more than of honor, more than of life.
"How is one to speak of such things and not lose one's mind? And not beat one's fists against the wall?
"For the first time in history, machinery was set up to exterminate a whole people. Children not even born were sentenced to die just because they were Jews. It defies analysis. Reason. Civilization.
"Time does not heal all wounds.
"There are those that remain painfully open.
"It is impossible for any but a survivor to know the nature of a world where, as in Moses' time in the desert, the living and the dead are no longer separate.
"The sincere Christian knows that what died in Auschwitz was not just the Jewish people but Christianity.
"Pope John XXIII was one of the greatest men I have known. He did feel guilty, that's what made him so great.
"He understood, also, that Auschwitz represented a failure, a defeat for 2,000 years of Christian civilization. Because, just think about it, the harsh truth is that in Auschwitz all the Jews were victims, all the killers were Christians.
"How is one to explain that neither Hitler nor Himmler was ever excommunicated by the Church? That Pius XII never thought it necessary, not to say indispensable, to condemn Auschwitz and Treblinka?
"That among the S.S. a large proportion were believers who remained faithful to their Christian ties to the end?
"That there were killers who went to confession between massacres. And that they all came from Christian families and had received a Christian education?
"How explain that the Christian in them did not make their arms tremble as they shot at children or their conscience bridle as they shoved their naked, beaten victims into the factories of death?" 5
When this passage appeared in the Plough, the text read: "...what died in Auschwitz was not just the Jewish people but [institutional Ed.] Christianity." But Elie Wiesel was right. It was not just institutional Christianity that died in Auschwitz; it was Biblical Christianity itself.
Because of the Mithraic emphasis in their God concept, the German people became particularly vulnerable to a loss of faith. After all, who, except perhaps a religious genius, could love a God who would have nothing to do with mankind until certain scales of contractual justice had been balanced by the blood sacrifice of His own Son? It is the repulsiveness
|of this contaminated God concept
that caused the underlying spiritual weakness and uncertainty of faith
which made it possible for Hitler to subvert the German people spiritually
and turn them back to a natural, tribal, pagan religion, a religion somewhat
like the religions of the Roman Empire before the times of Christ, a religion
that made it perfectly natural for a nominally Christian people to do just
what they did in the Nazi Third Reich.
Much has been said about the supposed economic, nationalistic and psychologic causes of Nazism. But these explanations merely shrivel and die in the face of the actual deeds of the German people. I am convinced that had this people actually known God, they could not have done these deeds. Modern historians don't seem to grasp the fact or the significance of the fact that, for a time, the German people actually converted back to an older type of religion, a religion involving the worship of their tribe and tribal leader.
Christianity failed in Germany.
From the Judeo-Christian tradition I personally can validate this: God is my Father; He loves me and I thereby am led to love all those He loves also, being the kind of person I know Him to be. This is my faith; I can verify it inside me. If this were not my experience I would not believe it at all. Although I cannot distinguish between the Spirits of Deity, everything in my experience supports the belief that Jesus is the divine Son of local astronomic jurisdiction to whom I look for passage from here to the Universal Father. But I depart from the Bible in that I believe salvation depends only on love. I take my salvation entirely for granted. I know that God loves me and He knows I love Him.
I see in the story of all religions a history of conflict between veracity and falsehood in the portrait of God. Difficulties dissolve and humans make progress whenever people realize that God loves, understands and helps his children. Difficulties multiply and human beings suffer whenever people believe God resembles anything like a barbaric, anthropomorphic, Judeo-Mithraic "judge."
Christians who want to cast aspersions often accuse each other of being "Old Testament." But the Old Testament at its best is better than the New Testament at its worst. Despite notable barbarities, the Books of the Old Testament generally present a progression of growth in the Deity concept; from Samuel to Isaiah, God is revealed with increasing truth and clarity. In some respects, the New Testament represents progress in concept over the Old, since the Father of the "Lord Jesus Christ" at last becomes the Father of every individual. But in some very important ways the New Testament concept fell short.
In Isaiah, the loving, Old Testament Father says:
"I have created you, I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are mine." "Everyone who is called by my name I have created for my glory and they shall show forth my praise." "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you since you are precious in my sight." "Can a woman forget her suckling child that she should not have compassion on her son? Yes she may forget, yet I will not forget my children, for behold I have graven them upon the palms of my hands; I have covered them with the shadow of my hands." "I, even I, am he who blots out their transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember their sins." "And the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is his ear heavy that it cannot hear." "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs in his arms and carry them in his bosom." "Come let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow... " "Let the wicked forsake his ways and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and to our God for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah, various verses and chapters.)
These lyrical passages, as opposed to many dark and primitive ones also to be found in the Old Testament, represent the truest portrayal of Deity I know.
The New Testament does not always keep pace. New Testament literalists have had to struggle with doubts about the basis of their personal salvation; with doubts about the basis of their personal salvation in God the Father's love.
On the one hand it says:
"For by grace you are saved through faith; and not that of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast." (Ephe: II:8&9)
And on the other:
"And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books according to their works." (Rev:XX:12)
|So is it by works or by faith?
Regardless of whether salvation is by works or by faith, the New Testament
writers seem to have lost some of the bright vision of Divine love, devotedly
sponsoring human growth and progress, that was so clear to Isaiah. While
they exalted the merciful and sacrificing Christ, they made the terrible
mistake of debasing and distorting the nature of the loving and saving
The Protestant Martin Luther, who was nothing if not logical and forthright in his approach to these problems, writes:
"If it is difficult to believe in God's mercy and goodness when he damns those who do not deserve it, we must recall that if God's justice could be recognized as just by human comprehension, it would not be divine. Since God is true and one, he is utterly incomprehensible and inaccessible to human reason. Therefore his justice must also be incomprehensible." 6
Again, speaking of this scriptural New Testament God, Luther is also quoted in an article by Eberhard Arnold that recently appeared in "The Plough:"
"This distress of conscience is the final, the decisive affliction. The unutterable agony that Luther experienced in his Black Tower could not be expressed in words. Those who are not acquainted with Luther's suffering, forsakenness, and despair cannot grasp his faith. Only this agony under God's wrath and his remoteness makes it possible to understand the certainty and joy of faith which was awakened in Luther as an entirely new experience. About this agony Luther wrote:
" 'I too know a man who declares he has often suffered this punishment. True, it did not last long, but it was so severe and so hellish that no tongue can tell of its severity, no pen can describe it, nor can any man believe it who has not experienced it. If it had reached its peak or continued for half an hour longer - yes for only a tenth of an hour longer he would have been utterly destroyed and all his bones burned to ashes. Here God appears, mighty in his wrath, and all creation too, so that a man does not know where to turn. There is no comfort, either from within or without; everything accuses him.' "
Eberhard Arnold then goes on in commentary:
"To face this 'just' God he saw before him full of wrath and punishment, whose peace and fellowship he had striven for in vain, filled Luther with passionate hatred. Today, others whose experience appears similar to Luther's, but whose consciousness of guilt is only shallow, see divine judgment spread over all mankind as 'unjust.'
"Even if we are still far from Luther's personal torment, from the agony of separation from God as our personal guilt, in relation to the will to unity we are still in the same sin of isolation as he was, the same despair. We too can do nothing to overcome world need except by getting to the bottom of the abysmal suffering and our own guilt for the separation and isolation." 7
The God, which Eberhard Arnold and Martin Luther describe, is not the God I know and love.
It should surprise no one that a nation whose theologians, both medieval and modern, regarded God in such a horrible light would eventually erupt in a holocaust. The German people, fed on these pernicious doctrines, struggled with resentment and self-loathing, with a compensating sadistic sense of moralism and with hate. Inevitably they found a scapegoat on whom to project all this hatred.
Toward the end of his life, the father of the Protestant Reformation, whose spiritual insight Eberhard Arnold commended as noted above, wrote a treatise called "On The Jews And Their Lies." Here are a few excerpts:
"Therefor be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self-glory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practised most maliciously and vehemently, just as the devils themselves do. And where you see or hear a Jew teaching, remember that you are hearing nothing but a venomous basilisk who poisons and kills people merely by fastening his eyes on them. God's wrath has consigned them to the presumption that their boasting, their conceit, their slander of God, their cursing of all people are a true and great service rendered to God all of which is very fitting and becoming to such noble blood of the fathers and circumcised saints. This they believe dispite the fact that they know they are steeped in manifest vices. And with all this they claim to be doing right. Be on your guard against them...
"What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets
|speak, nor can we convert the Jews.
With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether
we might save at least a few of them from the glowing flames. We dare not
avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them
already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:
"First, set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians...
"Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their Synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn like the gypsies. This will bring home to them the fact that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.
"Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken away from them.
"Fourth, I advise that their Rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth upon pain of loss of life and limb...
"Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not Lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let them stay at home.
"Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safe-keeping. ...Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintainence of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God's blessing in a good and worthy cause.
"Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen. 3 [:19]). For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.
"When you lay eyes on or think of a Jew you must say to yourself: Alas, that mouth which I there behold has cursed and execrated and maligned every Saturday my dear Lord Jesus Christ, who has redeemed me with his precious blood; in addition, it prayed and pleaded before God that I, my wife and children, and all Christians might be stabbed to death and perish miserably. And he himself would gladly do this if he were able, in order to appropriate our goods. Perhaps he has spat on the ground many times this very day over the name of Jesus, as is their custom, so that the spittle still clings to his mouth and beard, if he had a chance to spit. If I were to eat, drink, or talk with such a devilish mouth, I would eat or drink myself full of devils by the dish or cupful, just as I surely make myself a cohort of all the devils that dwell in the Jews and that deride the precious blood of Christ. May God preserve me from this!
"I wish and I ask that our rulers who have Jewish subjects exercise a sharp mercy toward this wretched people, as suggested above, to see whether this might not help (though it is doubtful). They must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in, proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance. Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying three thousand lest the whole people perish. They surely do not know what they are doing; moreover, as people possessed, they do not wish to know it, hear it, or learn it. Therefor it would be wrong to be merciful and confirm them in their conduct. If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy and all their other vices and thus merit God's wrath and be damned with them. I have done my duty. Now let everyone see to his. I am exonerated.
"Finally I wish to say this for myself: If God were to give me no other Messiah than such as the Jews wish and hope for, I would much rather be a sow than a human being... Even if I could become the ruler of Turkey or the Messiah for whom the Jews hope, I would still prefer being a sow. For what would all of this benefit me if I could not be secure in its possession for a single hour? Death, that horrible burden and plague of all mankind, would still threaten me. I would not
|be safe from him; I would have
to fear him every moment. I would still have to tremble and quake before
hell and the wrath of God. And I would know no end of all this, but would
have to expect it forever. The tyrant Dionysius illustrated this well when
he placed a person who praised his good fortune at the head of a richly
laden table. Over his head he suspended an unsheathed sword attached to
a silk thread, and below him he put a red-hot fire, saying: Eat and be
merry, etc. That is the sort of joy such a Messiah would dispense. And
I know that anyone who has ever tasted of death's terror or burden would
rather be a sow than bear this for ever and ever.
"For a sow lies down on her featherbed, on the street, or on a dung-heap; she rests securely, snores gently, sleeps sweetly, fears neither king nor Lord, neither death nor hell, neither the devil nor God's wrath, and lives entirely without care so long as she has her bran... In brief, no thought of death occurs to her, for her life is secure and serene.
"And if the butcher performs his job with her, she probably imagines that a stone or piece of wood is pinching her. She never thinks of death and in a moment she is dead. Neither before, during, nor in death did she feel death. She feels nothing but life, nothing but everlasting life! She never ate of the apple which taught us wretched men in paradise the difference between good and evil.
"What good would the Jews' Messiah do me if he were unable to help a poor man like me in the face of this great and horrible lack and grief and make my life one-tenth as pleasant as that of a sow?...
"However, if I had a Messiah who could remedy this grief, so that I would no longer have to fear death but would be always and eternally sure of life, and play a trick on the devil and death and no longer have to tremble before the wrath of god, then my heart would leap for joy and be intoxicated with sheer delight; then would a fire of love for God be enkindled, and my praise and thanks would never cease.
"The Jews and the Turks care nothing for such a Messiah. And why should they? They must have a Messiah from the fools paradise, who will satisfy their stinking belly, and who will die together with them like a cow or dog.
"Nor do they need him in the face of death, for they themselves are holy enough with their penitence and piety to step before God and attain this and everything. Only Christians are such fools and timid cowards who stand in such awe of God, who regard their sin and his wrath so highly that they do not venture to appear before the eyes of his divine majesty without a mediator or Messiah to represent them and to sacrifice himself for them."8
Great religious pioneers may persevere - like Job - through a forest of false theology and find the Father in spite their entanglement in horrible misconceptions. But when whole populations are long subjected to such misrepresentations, eventually the lies bear fruit. So, four hundred years after Martin Luther wrote his horrible diatribe, all his recommendations and more, regarding the Jews, were meticulously carried out by his German posterity.
The Nazi Holocaust will always defy civilization, but it must not be allowed to defy reason or analysis any longer than we can help.
One of the differences between Judaism and Christianity is that Judaism is the more sex-positive of the two religions, again thanks largely to the Mithraic prejudices of the Apostle Paul. In Mithraism, chastity was supposed to strengthen soldiers for battle. In Christianity, the stigma of preemptive damnation by which we all are cursed has been commonly interpreted as a matter of human sexual imperfection. As the envy and jealousy which fueled the contempt in Martin Luther's theologic attitude toward the Jews (an attitude that did not originate with him, by any means) gradually permeated Christian social culture, it came to focus more on the psychological effects than on theologic causes.
Christianity puts a premium on human sexual abstinence, material poverty and psychologic misery. The fact that Judaism is more positive toward human prosperity and sexual well-being than is Christianity gradually weighed in to foment increasing resentment, jealousy and hatred of the Christians for the Jews.
The Arnoldian Hutterites and the older, hereditary Hutterites both have deep roots in the same soil which gave rise to the Nazis. Both represent the results of sincere but inconclusive attempts to grapple with the self contradictory Mithraic-Christian concept of God. But until Christian believers are willing to face down the Apostles of primitive Christianity and reject the doctrinal contaminations of their scriptures, there will be no answer for those who ask "Why?" and no assurance for those who cry, "Never again!" either to the problem of the Nazi Holocaust or the question of why so much evil comes out of so many Christian groups like the Bruderhof.
|However, if Martin Luther, Eberhard
Arnold and others were not able to conceive of any approach to God and
Jesus except through his blood-sacrifice, I am.
When I was about thirteen, I had little social and no spiritual comfort at all. I disbelieved in God. I was miserable and bitter. As I forecast my life I did not like what I saw. With nowhere to turn, I made the experimental offer: If there is a God, let him come in. He did, and I experienced God. I knew about Nazi Germany and the Jews, about the United States and the atom bomb. I realized that any of these or many, many other horrible things might just as well have happened to me. So the first thing I wanted to find out was: Considering all this horror and insanity, is it worth it? I found out from God that it is.
I know nothing of God from any book, but only from experience. Books are only good when they inspire or clarify one's personal spiritual experience. They are no substitute. I always thought it was stupid for the little children to be made to sing, "Yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me; the Bible tells me so." I never believed, or would ever have believed in God's love at all until, by personal experience, I knew it for a fact. It was also apparent to me when I first knew God that, unknown to me, my spiritual experience had been growing all along. Even as an atheistic child I had loved fairness, honesty, beauty, truth and goodness, and, to my delight, when I found God, I found that He does also.
So thereafter, when I came to read the Bible, I would compare the passages to what I knew from experience, and I saw that one clause would contain truth, but the next one horrible falsehood. I never hesitated to disregard any clause that conflicted with my own personal experience. But nevertheless, I have since found that false religious teachings do hinder spiritual progress, and I have very often been fooled in my search for truth. One pitfall is the confusion of psychologic with spiritual phenomena. But I am thankful to have been liberated from arbitrary reliance upon any sacred book as opposed to my own experience. And by personal experience of God, I know that the whole idea of salvation by any kind of blood sacrifice, literal or symbolic, is totally absurd.
When I was a child at Woodcrest I overheard conversations that led me to infer that some brothers and sisters of good standing in the "life" did not, at that time, believe in the atonement doctrine. If my inferences were correct, there must have then been some brothers and sisters who did not regard the entire Bible as the "Word of God." I don't think there are any now, because the idea of an Intercessionary Church, which I have heard reiterated more recently, is another branch from the same ancient, trouble-making root. For if it is necessary for Christ to make of himself a blood sacrifice in order to reconcile God and man, who will intercede for those who are not reconciled to God by this blood-sacrificing Christ? I believe this has been the Arnoldleut brothers' and sisters' view of the role they are called on to play in the spiritual economy of the planet, a role they believe so essential that any human costs, to themselves or to their outcasts, are simply irrelevant.
The trouble with the idea of an intercessionary church is that, like the atonement doctrine, it implies that people can't reach God and that God can't reach people. Although I cannot agree with this supposition at all, I can appreciate the intentions of those who do believe it. I would not have written this except for what I know of their dedication and faith. Nevertheless, the whole proposition strikes me as enormously egotistical. How ironic that a group who all try so hard to annihilate their own egos should believe that the salvation of others might actually depend upon them! But since the generation of German seekers who founded the Bruderhof were not spiritually liberated enough to challenge the Bible, I can't blame them for accepting the challenge of "witnessing to the Intercessionary Church." The vision is breathtaking, albeit fatally flawed. But the flaws are embedded in Christianity itself, that is in Christianity as it has come down to us from the Apostles not in the religion of Jesus that lives in the Spirit.
Nor can I blame the Bruderhof completely for many of the cruel things they have done in witnessing to this Intercessionary Church. For, since Eberhard Arnold could not sift the wheat from the chaff in the Bible, since he could not get past the Apostles who had poured Jesus' new wine into Jewish and Mithraic wineskins right after the crucifixion, the guiding star of the movement he founded inevitably fell below the horizon, and with little relevance to the future of religious evolution on the planet, the Bruderhof has effectively lost touch with transforming spiritual guidance, and so, hopelessly entangled with vested human interests and with their own propaganda, the brothers and sisters now can only fight battle after pointless, losing battle with such evils as may beset a retrograde religious movement.
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|By recognizing and validating the
inevitable plurality of individual intellectual viewpoint in genuine spiritual
experience, the Bruderhof might have achieved genuine spiritual unity,
not mere intellectual uniformity. The Brotherhoods could then perhaps have
taken up a useful position between Heaven and earth and sustained a real
spiritual intercourse with the contemporary world. But in the struggle
between the Arnold brothers and others of the servants of the Word that
followed Eberhard Arnold's death, it was by a charismatic and fundamentalist
turn that Heini finally won out and triumphed over other visions. At the
heart of this fundamentalism lay the doctrinal fetish of blood-sacrifice
atonement. The atonement doctrine was the wine, union with the older Hutterites
was merely the wineskin.
In the posthumous letter to his son, Christoph, which is to be found at the end of the second edition of Torches Rekindled, Heini wrote:
..."Before 1961 the 'plain brother' considered himself so good that I fear he no longer needed a crucified Christ. Repentance was scorned and rejected as 'emotional.' The 'plain brothers and sisters' did not need any of that.
"For all these brothers and sisters I want to fight constantly and pray to God. They have been blinded by a trick of the devil. Most of them, when they came to the Bruderhof, were quite simple people, plain in the true sense of the word, who had brought sin with them and who, as I believe, had been taken in to the brotherhood by your Opa through the crucified Christ...
"Without the cross an encounter with Jesus cannot be imagined. His person emanates the way of suffering, and his great love for all men floods our hearts and becomes an urge to go out to men, to save those who are in the grip of darkness. In the deep encounter with Jesus the wish to suffer for him wells up quite naturally. I cannot imagine a meeting with Jesus unless there is a deep understanding of his way of suffering..." 9
By the force of personal charisma and leverage of character, Heini led a group of intelligent, liberal, American Christians from the twentieth century back to the sixteenth. To follow him, they not only gave up their personal property but their right to self determination, their right to think and hold an independent thought for themselves. Why did they do this? What did they gain?
There was undoubtedly genuine spiritual experience in the equation. Heini introduced many of the Bruderhofers to God and to their own inner life. But he did not stop at that, for he too was trapped in the all-or-nothing system of the Bruderhof. He too could be excluded. The only way he could be sure of his own personal and emotional safety was to make certain the triumph of his own personal leadership. To this end, as have many before him, he sought to determine the terms of spiritual experience for his whole congregation and, as have many before him, for this he fell back on the elements of primitive mythical belief in Biblical Christianity. And Heini saw to it that, whatever they once may have been, his followers became anti-intellectual.
The notion that the central requirement of life is to believe in Jesus' blood-sacrifice is Christianity at its worst. And in the Bruderhof as elsewhere, the doctrine caused terrible harm. The integrity of men can be no greater than the integrity of the God whom they worship, and the atonement doctrine is an assault on the integrity of God. Whether he swallows and assimilates this pagan draught by means of allegorical mental gymnastics or by the negation of his intellect, the believer is left vulnerable to spiritual sabotage.
Sacrificial myths and sacrificial religious systems always entail social coercion and intellectual enslavement. Woodcrest soon went from being a place where you could hold any religious opinion to where you could be thrown out simply for questioning Heini. But this is nothing new. The paranoid and hateful reaction of medieval Christians to the Jewish people among them and the brutal purges and exclusions of the (pacifist) Bruderhof result from the same idea, the idea that people can and should be forced to believe and live a certain way in order to be alright with God.
Nevertheless, I cannot blame Martin Luther, Eberhard or Heini Arnold or others for failing to penetrate all the way through Paul and disencumber the gospel of Jesus. Neither can I blame the Apostle for the fact that his personal opinions came to be regarded as canon. Nowhere does he say that he thought he was writing the Bible. But there is an instructive parallel between what happened in early Christianity with Paul, and what has happened recently in the Bruderhof in the case of their beloved Heini. I do not mean to suggest that anyone thinks Heini was as great a religious leader as Paul. The point in both cases is simply that human beings are so love-starved they tend to canonize anyone who induces a spiritual
|experience in them. That, both
Paul and Heini did, and their followers canonized both of them. Only in
Paul's case, they canonized his writings also.
Neither Christianity nor the Bruderhof has ever been without the ideal of love, but love and tolerance are completely inseparable. Love can only be expressed in an atmosphere of social and intellectual tolerance, and by means of spiritual forbearance and personal generosity. There has always been a conflict between the ideal of love and many, many forms of intolerance throughout the entire history of Christianity. And the Hutterites, both East and West, following carefully in the footsteps of certain pioneers of the Protestant Reformation, are some of the most intolerant groups ever to talk about love. Socially, economically, intellectually and spiritually, the Hutterites all maintain the very highest barriers between themselves and others.
But Jesus never meant death and damnation to be presented as the calling cards of his Gospel. Neither did he foster any sort of economic or cultural barriers between his followers and other people. And there is no reason to suppose that the Father and Son want to see their children all huddled under the umbrella of some particular religious leadership rather than each facing the sun, the wind and the rain of personal spiritual experience on their own. The gospel Jesus brought to the planet is first a matter of the personal discovery of the beneficent parental relationship that exists between the Father, the Son and each individual faith-child, and then, on that basis, going on to realize and demonstrate the fraternity of all those whom God loves also.
And who is to judge between those who perhaps hear the sound of his voice and those who happen to call Jesus by name?
1 World Religions, From Ancient History To The Present: Edited by Geoffrey Parrinder, Facts on File Publications, 1984, p.182.2 The Paganism In Our Christianity, Arthur Weigall, Hutchinson & Co., Ltd. p.163.
3 Mithras, The Fellow In The Cap, Esme Wynn-Tyson Centaur Press, Ltd., 1972, p.135 ff.
4 Inner Land, by Eberhard Arnold, Woodcrest Service Committee, Rifton, NY 12471
5 The Plough, Plough Publishing (Late 1980s early '90s, I don't have the date.)
6 Here I Stand, A Life of Martin Luther, by Roland H. Bainton, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, MCML, p.255
7 The Plough, Number 28 February/March 1991 Plough Publishing House, Farmington, PA 15437-9506
8 On The Jews And Their Lies, Luther's Works Vol 47, "The Christian In Society," Helmut T. Lehmann, ed., Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1971, p.172 ff.
9 Torches Rekindled, The Bruderhof's Struggle For Renewal,
told by Merrill Mow Plough Publishing House, Rifton NY 12471, 1990
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