· P.O. Box 460141 · San Francisco, CA 94146-0141 · telephone: (415) 821-2090 · FAX (415) 282-2369 · http://www.matisse.net/~peregrin/
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramón Sender, Charles Lamar, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)
EuroKIT: Joy Johnson MacDonald, Susan Johnson Suleski, Carol Beels Beck, Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, Benedict Cavanna, Leonard Pavitt, Joan Pavitt Taylor
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from inside and from outside the Bruderhof. We reserve the right to edit submissions according to guidelines discussed at numerous KIT conferences. Obviously, it's seldom easy to know exactly how best to carry out KIT's mission of allowing many voices and various points of view to be heard. We do not, and cannot, vouch for the validity of any opinion or assertion appearing in the KIT Newsletter. The opinions expressed in the letters that we publish must remain those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflect those of KIT editors or staff.
Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe
Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe
T h e W h o l e K i t A n d C a b o o d l e
Name Withheld - Contest! Win Big Prizes!
Joy Johnson MacDonald
Christrose Johnson Sumner
Stanley Vowles to Christian Domer
Stanley Vowles to Miriam Arnold Holmes
Ruth Baer Lambach
Eulogy for Arnold Tsukroff
George Maendel to James M. Wall
Guillermo 'Kulla' Fischer
Hans J. Meier
ITEM: James Wainscoat
When John showed up, we walked to a small cafe where he excused himself briefly to the men's room. When he returned, Judy began to describe some of the conflict resolution work she's been involved with (in a women's Middle East dialogue group) and her involvements on subcommittees of the Mayor's Commission on Human Rights, etc. I had barely launched into the preset agenda when a stocky, 200-pound man approached our table.
"Mr. Sender, these are for you," he said, and served me with two duplicate sets of legal documents. "By the way, I was on the same airplane as you out of San Francisco," he added chattily.
That sent a chill down my already cooling spinal column. This new action named me, sociologist Julius Rubin (whose book on the Bruderhof will be out in December and who also was interviewed on the CBS '48 Hours' show along with me in March) and KIT reader Blair Purcell (recipient of 1700 Bruderhof harassment phone calls two years ago on the 800 support line number) as codefendants in a twenty-million-dollar-plus defamation lawsuit [Bruderhof member Joe Keiderling has been telling people that the twenty-million-dollar figure is too large. Yes, indeed, on a recount, it seems to be only twelve-and-a-half million dollars in actual damages, plus three million dollars plus in punitive damages]. The Bruderhof claim that we have wrongfully accused them of unreported child abuse, of interfering in their factory rezoning attempts by providing 'media packets' to the township officials, of inviting a police investigation by accusing them of 1700 harassing phone calls to the 800 number (provable by phone records in our possession), and so forth. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson, a prestigious law firm already providing us a pro bono defense on the copyright case the Bruderhof brought against me and the Peregrine Foundation in March, has also decided to represent us on this one.
It does seem as if life is too short to waste on these sorts of games. We have tried three times to mediate differences with the Bruderhof leadership and they turned us down, the last time two days before they served us with the copyright action. We have shown ourselves consistently eager to dialogue with them about outstanding concerns.
Meanwhile the Bruderhof mounted what they call "A Children's Crusade To Death Row," and marched a sizable group of their children for three days on the public highways of western Pennsylvania, 30 miles from their communities to the state prison. I expressed some concern for our grandchildren and other youngsters out under the hot August sun, but it seems as if it was carefully organized with orange-vested monitors and special police directing traffic. The media had a wonderful time photographing all those neatly dressed, shining-faced, idealistic Bruderhof kids waving their banners and breaking into song.
Rhodes called Ramon in early July and suggested a meeting. After a call or two by phone, the correspondence switched to e-mail and I found myself invited. The ensuing e-mail dialogue should give the flavor and the assurances presented.
Rhodes wrote initially on July 9th suggesting an agenda for the meeting that included what steps would we like to see from the Bruderhof to clear the way to a new relationship. "These are substantive questions," he wrote. "But... I cannot see any future in continuing as we have in the past. I see more and more misunderstanding and distance growing between us, and I do not think it is necessary." He again requested my presence.
Ramon responded: "I appreciate your contacting me, and also your assurances that anything we talk about 'will be held strictly in confidence and will not be made a part of any legal proceedings.'
"You must understand that this looks to me like a serious 'change of pace' from a Bruderhof member, and Bruderhof members are known never to act on their own. So even with your kind assurances, I feel we must proceed with some delicacy."
I responded as follows: "John, your points are important and I am certainly willing to discuss them. It will probably be difficult to get very far in a first meeting so I will limit my suggestions to, perhaps, the following points. "1. Reduction of tensions created by lack of family contact. "2. Provision of timely information concerning health and well-being of family members. "3. Steps the Bruderhof is willing to undertake to meet these concerns.
"These issues should be discussed face-to-face rather than here on-line. Thank you for including me. Who else do you and the Bruderhof suggest attend on your behalf? You may know that Wayne Chesley and I had suggested mediation through the office of the Mennonite Conciliation Service. Since that was turned down by you folks (the offer still stands, by the way), it will be difficult for me to have you include Joe or Christian in the talks you are suggesting. I am perfectly comfortable meeting with them under the auspices of MCC -- but not in the get-together you've suggested.
"In order for me to meet with you in New York State, I would have to have an assurance of this [that none of the planned discussion would be used in legal proceedings] in writing -- and ok'd by my attorney. May I suggest the possibility of meeting with Ramon and me at some point during the actual KIT conference near Boston? This isn't so much the avoidance of New York state (I'm sure you are willing to provide the assurance I mentioned) but it will be very difficult for me to take the time away from our business just prior to going to Boston. I recognize it will be a longer trip for you but please consider the possibility. Ramon will get a copy of this letter; we have not previously discussed the possibility of a Boston meeting with you.
"John, it is never too late. Your initiative is appreciated."
Rhodes responded that he had no problem with adding my points to the agenda, and that he would be willing to sign a confidentiality agreement for a meeting in New York that would "guarantee that our discussions would be unrecorded and private and that neither side could use them in any kind of legal proceedings, i.e. 'off the books'."
Note that Rhodes did not promise that there would be no 'service' of a new lawsuit. I had asked John for the assurances he offered above plus an assurance that I would not be served with any legal papers for a period for 12 hours prior to the meeting to 12 hours after. There was one last effort to arrange a meeting in Poughkeepsie on Thursday. At this point Rhodes tried to include both Julius Rubin and Ben Zablocki in the meeting. However Ramon and I felt that this would widen things out beyond the scope of two hours, which was about all the time we could afford en route to the KIT conference.
Poughkeepsie remained a possibility for a few days, with Rhodes offering to book a room "so Judy and Margot could relax in a private room while we meet." However he still kept pushing for a Manhattan venue as easier for him to arrange. As far as the documents I requested, Rhodes seemed to feel that they would be difficult to arrange because they would have to "pass through our corporate office for approval and signature. There is a possibility that our brothers who work there, Christian Domer, the only individual plaintiff, is a party to the suit and works in this office -- or so I understand -- would rather scuttle the meeting entirely than exchange documents with you two... But I'm prepared to broach this with them if you feel it's important."
Rhodes continued: "Until now, I have deliberately downplayed the importance and the formality of this meeting, because among the few older brothers I consulted prior to contacting you, there was considerable skepticism regarding this meeting. But I received reluctant approval to 'give it a try...' I believe that if I can report back favorably, there is enough discomfort here with the recent turn of events that perhaps we can come up with some new solutions."
I believe that this last sentence refers to the Internet newsgroup activity following the threatening letter sent to Bill Peters.
In conversation with Rhodes, Ramon revealed the airline on which he was to travel and the exact date. John appeared to be realizing that I wouldn't meet without the assurances in writing. I ultimately told him that I wasn't following the route from Maryland that he assumed I would take. Presumably, he was dredging for information for the process server assigned to me.
As it turned out, Rhodes announced that he "had been called to a business meeting in England" and was unable to meet with me (and Ramon) in Poughkeepsie. Instead he arranged to meet with Ramon and Judy in Manhattan on Thursday morning just a few minutes after my family and I began our drive from Maryland to Boston for the KIT get-together.
When Rhodes first arrived at the restaurant, he excused himself and went to the men's room where he probably used the cell phone he had with him. He returned and the three of them chatted for fifteen minutes before the process server walked up to Ramon and said "These are for you!" The server went on to say that he had flown with Ramon and Judy on the same flight from San Francisco. In my opinion, this was a clear message stating, "We can follow you where we want and when we want."
The server could have served him the moment the plane landed. Instead they waited until the breakfast in order to stick the knife just that much deeper. By the father of his grandchildren.
Of course, now fully protected by my superior analysis of Bruderhof motives, I drove right into New York at Port Jervis and up highway 209 to Roundout where we stopped for a brief visit at the high school attended by my wife and brother-in-law years ago. As we stood in the parking lot stretching out the kinks, I was served with the same twenty-million-dollar lawsuit. [Bruderhof member Joe Keiderling has corrected the twenty-million-dollar figure -- see above in Ramon's report] Given the shadowing of Ramon all the way from San Francisco, it appears likely that we were shadowed all the way from Maryland.
I hope the server had to sit up all night outside our house waiting for us to leave for Boston. In spite of my "wisdom," there is no other way to describe myself except as a sitting duck! Now, we need everyone's help more than ever; suggestions are solicited and will be read with great interest. The least we can all do is to let John Rhodes know what we think of him. My personal opinion of him and whoever put him up to this dreadful parody of Christian community activity is not worth repeating here.
A major topic of conversation was the new lawsuit seeking twenty millions of dollars in damages [Bruderhof member Joe Keiderling has corrected the twenty-million-dollar figure -- see above in Ramon's report] , filed by the Bruderhof against The Peregrine Foundation and against Ramon, Blair and Julius. Ramon reported that in retrospect it became obvious that he was set up to be legally served with the lawsuit in New York State. The son-in-law pretended to be surprised by the coincidence. Ramon stated that the whole affair gave him a marvelous opportunity to practice forgiveness. Blair reported that he was served with the legal papers when he stopped in New York State, on the way to the KIT gathering. He assumed that he was followed from his home in Maryland by a professional process server.
A brief summary of some the Bruderhof's complaints in the lawsuit are:
1. That Peregrine/Kit Information Service was established for the sole purpose of undermining the goals and membership of the Bruderhof and has as its only goal the ultimate dissolution of the Bruderhof.
2. That SENDER/KIT tried to influence officials of Wharton Township in Pennsylvania against the Bruderhof by giving officials false and misleading information, and that SENDER/KIT falsely accused the Bruderhof of various violations of the law.
3. That SENDER/KIT falsely accused the Bruderhof of criminal failure to report cases of sexual abuse of children.
4. That BLAIR PURCELL, writing in the KIT Newsletter, falsely accused the Bruderhof of moving individuals in order to avoid investigations by local authorities.
5. That SENDER/KIT initiated a criminal investigation of Bruderhof members by giving civil authorities false information.
6. That SENDER/KIT & PURCELL falsely accused the Bruderhof of harassing KIT's telephone help line.
7. That SENDER/KIT & PURCELL falsely accused Bruderhof members of making death threats against certain KIT people.
8. That RUBIN/SENDER made statements on a radio talk show that were false and derogatory about the Bruderhof. They allegedly said that the Bruderhof was guilty of covering up cases of sexual abuse of children, that the Bruderhof was guilty of spiritual brutality, and that the Bruderhof played fast and loose with the Social Security System.
One of the questions asked at our first KIT Conference meeting was "What is the purpose of this meeting?" Among the purposes expressed was to announce that now was the time for people to support Ramon, Blair, Julius and Peregrine because the lawsuit filed by the Bruderhof is fundamentally against the KIT process. A suggestion was made that people should think about the best way to support those who are attacked by the Bruderhof, especially Ramon, since he does so much work to publish the KIT Newsletter and because he is the focus of the Bruderhof's attacks against KIT.
It is ironic that the Bruderhof wants to force KIT people into adjudication of some of the same issues that they refused to discuss in the forum of the Mennonite Reconciliation Service. This strategy could serve the intention of the KIT process in that it may bring up for review and discussion issues that we have tried to negotiate with the Bruderhof.
There was a discussion of the appropriate editorial policy for the KIT Newsletter. The purpose of KIT, according to one person, was the same as it has always been, for people to keep in touch so that they don't have be alone, especially when they are cut off from their family who may live in groups such as the Bruderhof, and to help people when they are cut off from the only social and economic life they have known.
At the same time, KIT should make known the desires of KIT people to be able to communicate with and to see their family members who live at the Bruderhof. Persons living outside of the Bruderhof should be able to reach their family members on the Bruderhof by phone, mail and personal visits, with freedom from undue pressure. The same person said that, in their opinion, the idea that KIT could try to change the Bruderhof is futile.
Someone offered the idea that it might be a good time to suspend publication of the KIT newsletter so that the whole KIT process could undergo a reevaluation. The idea was compared to attending a silent retreat in order to define the role of speech. Suspending publication of KIT did not find much support among the group.
We heard a report about the new Internet newsgroup 'alt.support.bruderhof' and how it is on the Net with a life of its own. Concern was expressed by some that the KIT newsletter should keep a certain distance from the interactions on the newsgroup because we don't know some of the individuals responding and because the language they use is sometimes less than civil. Part of the commentary on the Internet regarding the Bruderhof seemed to some as an example of free speech without responsibility.
Various people reported about meetings or attempted meetings with family members who are in the Bruderhof. The meetings often took place at cafes near one or the other Bruderhofs. Outside family members usually heard what an evil organization KIT is before they were offered copies of the latest Bruderhof book to buy. Most ordinary members of the Bruderhof seem unaware that the Bruderhof had filed lawsuits against KIT. When asked why the Bruderhof was suing KIT, they denied that there were any lawsuits.
Someone asked whether the Bruderhof isn't due a certain amount of respect. The final question left in everyone's mind was whether, as an organization, the Bruderhof was benign or malignant, salvageable or irredeemable?
I'm reminded of this every time I look at their web site. Fine-sounding words, and a smattering of nice "works" thrown in to show what nice, compassionate other-worldly folks they are, but the words are really empty, as evidenced by how they treat their own children and ex-members.
It's real easy to talk about love and reconciliation when you're protesting the death penalty and your audience is the cameras; it's another thing to practice it with your own sons and daughters. The Bruderhof published a book recently on forgiveness, but have they put any of those fine words into practice? What are other ex's experiences with the words and reality of the Bruderhof? What do you think?
The prizes (which I will pay for) are: First prize, a lifetime subscription to KIT. Second prize, a copy of Miriam Arnold Holmes' new book, Cast Out. Third prize, a copy of A Plea For Purity. Winners who do not wish to receive these prizes may instead elect to have an equivalent cash amount donated to any bona fide charity organization currently working against capital punishment.
August-September Issues of Previous Years
September 1989 - Ramon Sender: I do hope that the new Bruderhof openness I keep hearing about -- their willingness to see where they were overly judgmental in the past -- is correct. Then we can all look forward to a time when ex-b'hofers are warmly welcomed on visits without the need to challenge them to rejoin. As I learned from visiting my sister's Episcopal convent, the spiritual maturity of a religious community can be measured by the width and sincerity of the smiles with which visiting ex-members are welcomed.
September 1990 - Open Letter excerpt: The frightening prospect of expulsion leads to community-wide fear of honest communication. Members and children dread the effects of their candor. Genuine honesty is only possible if the results are not calamitous. Guaranteed financial support and the right of continuing contact with family and friends are minimal requirements for making the prospect of departure from the Bruderhof less calamitous.
September 1991 - Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe: My points have always been:
1) A man is ready to commit suicide after confessing to a sin. He is not helped by his brothers, but is kicked even deeper into the mud so that he almost drowns.
2) He wants to speak to the person closest to his heart. That is forbidden. He is put on a plane to another country.
3) He writes to his wife and the Servant of the Word. His letters never reach his wife.
4) His wife writes to him, but her letters are never sent off but find their way to the dustbin or the archives.
5) He asks about his children 8 and 11 years old. He never receives a reply, even though he sends a monthly payment for their upkeep.
6) She writes a short letter from the boat to England to him to let him know that they are moving to England. From this he realizes that all his letters have never reached her as she does not know his address...
7) He answers her letter and she gets excluded for that, sent away from the community to some nuns in Gloustershire. She almost goes mad with grief and pain and total loneliness amongst strangers. She fights her way back to the brotherhood in the hope that he will come also, and promises under pressure never to write him again of her own accord.
September 1992 - Lee Kleiss (from a reprint of her 5/11/62 newsletter): I raised the question especially about the older people who have been left homeless and penniless after their life-work with the Society. Here we mentioned quite a few people, and thus I heard that G.W. was now again at Bulstrode, brought there by his relatives... And the many others who are still outside and alone. Repeatedly I had to press my conviction that we have pledged to each other before God, which no man has a right a break, and emphasized our mutual responsibility, at least to each others' material necessities. I was asked when I had been in Primavera. Consequently Art repeated that "We are now again experiencing the true brotherhood as it existed before 1935, and that in-between there was not really a true brotherhood... We are simply not responsible for any decisions made by the Brotherhood during the years 1935-1960. It was not a true brotherhood."
September 1993 - Nadine Moonje Pleil: Ian I heard that my mother passed away.
Ian: Yes, that is right. She passed away at 1:30 p.m. yesterday.
Nadine: Is it right that you did not inform me? Anywhere in the world, common decency demands that you let someone know when a loved one passes away.
Ian: Nadine, think of your commitment, your vows.
Nadine: No, Ian, it has nothing to do with commitments whether you tell me about my mother's passing or not. I will tell you why you did not want me to know. You did not want me to come and contaminate your 'holy ground.'
Ian: Don't sling that stuff at me!
Nadine: Ian, just think for a minute about your reasons for not phoning me, and you will see that you did not want me to come to the funeral.
Ian: Yes, you are right. We did not want you to disturb the atmosphere.
Nadine: You are cold, loveless and unchristian. Your attitude is very cold. Just very loveless. Just that.
[Nadine repeated his being loveless, cold and unchristian about six times. Ian finally agreed.]
Ian: I am sorry, forgive me.
September 1994 - Judith Sender: ...it saddens me to hear that again Ramon and I are denied visits, and that Sibyl is so far away from the grandchildren herself. It is strange to me, a family-oriented person, to be cut off like this. I am married to a loving man, a globally and ecumenically sensitive man with his own ministry-outreach to refugees like himself. We have been very hurt about some of the characterizations of Ramon. In our world, friendly reconciliation/acceptance is our hope, and we trust it is yours. Please help us together to find the common ground. Sincerely,
September 1995 - Hilarion Braun to 'Dick' at Woodcrest: ...Think for one moment how ironic this situation is. The German compensation for my parents (for their forced exile from Germany) was paid to the Bruderhof after my parents had been expelled. Not only did the Bruderhof pocket this money, but it refused to consider financial compensation for the theft of Primavera, the home of many who were expelled. Germany, a country not known for its virtues, felt compelled to symbolically right a wrong by financially compensating those who had been exiled. The Bruderhof, on the other hand, a "Christian body," plunges many of its members into abject poverty and misery and refuses to even discuss a compensation for those in question. Can you see why I and many others cannot take any of your commentary seriously?
September 1996 - Charlie Lamar: Time is on our side. All we really need to do to catalyze the process is to keep our cool, continue to amass the growing body of our first-person eyewitness literature and be there, ready to help such individuals as may emerge. And those who would engage with the Bruderhof would do well, in my opinion, always to remain dispassionate, keep the playing field level, keep everything on the record, keep their eyes wide open and assume nothing. Remember, when the day was done, the Soviet empire simply crumbled of its own weight. The underlying reason was that spirituality and freedom are both inherently personal and inherently linked.
Dear Christoph Arnold: I want to write to you regarding a Plough article entitled "A Poison Tree". Read in a detached manner, I found it to be helpful and clearly written. It was good that you quoted several other authors to bolster your points. We all need to be reminded that our own forgiveness by God hinges on our readiness to forgive our fellow-beings. "With it, our lives will be more richly blessed than we can ever imagine."
I was, however, unable to read your article in an entirely detached manner. I found myself wondering if this article had not been aimed partly at those who are currently at odds with, or holding grudges against the Bruderhof. Read with this in mind, your article raises some points that need to be considered.
In Matt. 5:23-24 it is the sinning person who is commanded to seek reconciliation. In Matt. 18:15 it is the wounded party who initiates steps towards winning over the erring brother (or sister). One can conclude that the responsibility to seek forgiveness and closure is a mutual one, as it indeed should be. Your writing places emphasis on the "disastrous effect "of bearing a grudge, and you correctly note that "it renders our prayers powerless". You therefore encourage your reader with the following words: "instead of grumbling about others behind their backs, we (should instead) lovingly (confront) them face to face." However, you do not take into consideration what should be done when the loving "confrontation" is rejected over and over again. Many, many times, the Bruderhof has been approached "in a humble, straightforward manner" with the result that it has often not been "the best way to diffuse smoldering resentments or other pent-up feelings".
Your grandfather wrote that "direct address is the only way possible; it is the spontaneous brotherly or sisterly service we owe anyone whose weaknesses cause a negative reaction in us." You yourself have been quoted as saying, "when you love somebody, you tell them straight where they're off" 1. I personally know of a number of people who have followed this directive only to be rejected; in some cases even dismissed as no longer being a brother or a sister.
I plead with you, Christoph, to once again examine the deepest meaning of Christ's directives regarding forgiveness and how they apply to you and the Bruderhof. You and those who once were yours must continue to find forgiveness, healing and peace. Please consider how your present actions may be withholding forgiveness, and how these affect the prayers of others as well as your own. "You hold the key to His heart" 2, and to the hearts of those who once were yours.
With love, Mel Fros email@example.com
Note: all quotes are taken from "A Poison Tree" by J. Christoph Arnold, The Plough #52, except for 1, quoted from The Mennonite Weekly Review, June 15th, 1995, page 6, and 2, which is a taken by memory from a song we sang in the early 70's. P.S. I wish to encourage all in the KIT network, especially those who follow Christ, to help the Bruderhof become more Christ-like. Let them see by our words and our actions that we love them deeply even in this moment in which they seemingly reject us.
Over the years I have occasionally voiced concerns about the direction of KIT and the fact that the "movers and shakers," those that want to "do things and get reactions," have a much higher profile that the less pro-active people. Just one example. There was understandable frustration and dismay at not being able to forge a better relationship between ex-bruderhofers and their relatives still in the Bruderhof, but when a small band of enthusiasts wanted to form an action group to push this ideal forward, an overwhelming number of people voiced strong misgivings at the Rookwood July 1994 conference. Although sharing the ideal, there were many who felt the likely ramifications had not been thought though sufficiently. Despite this, Children of the Bruderhof (COB) was formed and even received support from detractors such as myself who wanted to show solidarity with well-meaning, sincere people who clearly wanted to do the best they could for KIT folk. I feel the "do-ers" were more intent on rushing headlong into action than listening to further discussion and argument in the pages of KIT.
Recently I have been alarmed at what felt like a steady shift in tone from the "do-ers." Increasingly, the wish to highlight the wrongdoings of the Bruderhof, to discomfort them in every conceivable way, seems in danger of becoming the chief focus of activity. I would prefer KIT to focus on other aspects such as making contact and meeting ex-bruderhofers, supporting people in their quest to understand what had gone wrong for them in the Bruderhof, and more individual's experiences of their journey through life since leaving the Bruderhof, and about their life now.
KIT has come a long way. I am eternally grateful to Ramon and the other KIT Editors for the tremendous effort in publishing KIT each month. During these early, formative years, KIT has evolved but remained essentially without formal organization and that has been one of its crucial strengths because it remained a forum for people to express diverse views and for people to utilise and support whichever aspect of KIT suits them at that particular time. The fact that KIT does not curtail any one individual's actions does not of course mean that that action does not have an impact on others, and this is where my dilemma arises.
The most recent KIT contained long excerpts of e-mail correspondence from a great many people who are not ex-bruderhofers. E-mail, Internet and the Hummer seem to invite instant response which at times feels more like ill-informed verbiage from people who did not grow up on the Bruderhof, which those of us not on the Internet have thrust upon us in the pages of KIT. These people's agenda and forum (Internet) are their own choice, and KIT people who want that dialogue are free to join in and tell us about that aspect of their life, but I personally feel very uncomfortable with the aggressive language and the fact that we know nothing about these individuals except that they are not ex-bruderhofers. I don't mind other people, including the Bruderhof, receiving KIT, but I would prefer the publications to remain essentially from ex-bruderhofers, plus the occasional contribution from known people with a Bruderhof or KIT connection, such as Alfred Ames, etc.
I tried to express these misgivings at Friendly Crossways, but felt yet again the strident determination for "Free Speech and 1st Amendment Rights" seems to close some minds to the consequences for other people. The Bruderhof can't silence us, but screaming and shouting may not be the only or best way to be heard or to empower others to give voice. Feeling "heard" when one gives voice, even in a whisper, may actually develop a better way of communicating.
I believe the Bruderhof to be a totalitarian cult where the individual freedom of members is exploited by an all-consuming commitment and dedication to the leader, and where unethical and manipulative techniques are used to control its children and deny them their inalienable rights as human beings. However, they are also too programmed to be able to understand or "hear" any opposing view emanating from KIT. Thus the Bruderhof hierarchy are able to demonize us and unite the membership against a "common enemy" instead of allowing them to question their own leader's un-bruderhof activities such as financial excesses and lawsuits. The bruderhofers' latest lawsuit, served just before the KIT conference, is an outrageous, wicked perpetration -- a frightening escalation without any justification. Their intention seems to be to silence KIT and all criticism. This action will have to be vigorously defended. I feel the response needs to include an obligation on the Bruderhof not only to withdrawn their lawsuit but also to cease their threatening harassment immediately, and to be legally bound-over to seek mediation before turning to legal redress in the future. This should be our minimum demand.
Well, that's enough for now. I thoroughly enjoy every KIT gathering, meeting people I have been able to reconnect with or who have become new (ex-bruderhof) friends. Best Wishes,
Greenpeace has just been threatened with a lawsuit by British Petroleum for hassling them one step too far and then, when Greenpeace said "Oh poor little us, we have no money and we do such a useful job for the environment and people, and now we'll be sent under, BP said "Ok, if you stop actually hassling us over this particular issue in this particular way, we'll withdraw because we think you are a jolly worthy little outfit and, yes, the people do value you." I don't know what the outcome will be, but I do know that I think more of BP for that response and I don't think I would support Greenpeace to disregard the offer.
One doesn't want to cave in under threat, but I do feel that we could sidestep now. Focus on the original goals (outside ex-Bruderhofers improving their communication with each other, and their support for each other and, separately, encouraging improved contact for outside ex-Bruderhofers with their loved ones continuing to live in). I don't know enough about all the communications between all the players; everything is hearsay and third party and/or partial. So take anything I offer in that context, please.
Why don't you just stop publishing KIT until further notice? Give the Bruderhof a small victory so that there is a chance for a peace to be won. No one is gaining at the moment. How important is KIT? You aren't getting genuine "keep in touch" letters much; we all know each other's addresses and e-mails etc., so that interpersonal contact would continue under the momentum that you have built up. We will continue to meet, and can handle mailings to that effect, with additional items if they are received between times. The non-personal KIT material can be posted on a [computer] bulletin board (probably is anyway) and from time to time the mailing list can be notified that news is up and given the chance to see it. We all have access to the net, even if only through friends, family and cybercafs. The address list, with updates and requests for new contacts and snippets of keeping in touch, news of books etc. could be sent out every six months just so that everyone was reminded of each others' existence.
And you'd get a break. I am really concerned that the process is damaging relationships and lives outside the Bruderhof, not just those between folk in and out. Dark is triumphing. That used to happen when we were inside; we don't have to let that happen now.
On a personal note, my elder son, Daniel, attained adulthood in late June (18) as he completed his final school exams, which we call A-Levels. We don't have graduation as such but before the exams a great deal of class/department/year etc. parties take place and then school life just peters out as different people have their last papers at different times. Anyway, results are just through and delighted/proud to say he passed with flying colours and got into the university of his choice, King's College, Cambridge, to start early October. Benjamin (14) also had external exams he passed excellently, and has just been called up by Hertfordshire County to represent them Pole Vaulting, an honour I would better value if they also gave him a little coaching. He jumps so high naturally, I feel he could do wonders if he knew how! Work running the Fine Art Trade Guild continues fine, one year on, and I will be in Atlanta for Art Buyers Caravan September 12-16, then continuing on for a few days with Tim and Carol, and visiting Susie and Duffy and Nashville. There are unpleasant elements, but hopefully I shall see them off. I hope to see you both before long, and wish you well with all your challenges. Let me know if you feel something I could do or say would be helpful. Publish or not as you choose; share or not as you choose. Love, hugs and kisses,
It used to be that civil society was held together entirely by taboo. But taboo, even religious taboo, will not compel a scientific and philosophic people. Religion must eventually lean on science wherever human psychology and biology are concerned, and special kindness give way to factual understanding. Actually homosexuality has never been a problem for Christian society as long as it wasn't discussed. But now we discuss everything, and homosexuality is controversial -- proclaimed value-normal by those who support it and a cosmic scandal by those who don't. But there is a clear-cut, logical reason why those who oppose homosexuality should actually tolerate it: to breed it out of the population. Homosexual people should not be forced to pretend to be straight, and thus pass on genes that would otherwise naturally drop out of the gene pool. After all, homosexuality represents biologic, although not necessarily cultural, failure.
One reason we see so many social problems today caused by parental degeneracy and disregard is that we now reap the genetic harvest of thousands of years when, generation after generation, people were all forced into families by the trickery of mother nature and the coercion of taboo. However from now on this will change: birth control and the social toleration of other forms of non-reproductive sexual expression will ensure that, increasingly, children are born only to parents who really want them. So the human race eventually will breed for a closer and closer identification of the sexual instincts with the parental instincts. At least this will be the rule in capitalist societies where parents must first culturally qualify, and then personally sacrifice to support their own children, although it may not necessarily obtain in socialist societies where egalitarian political theory turns evolution on its head, and everyone raises everyone's children.
Speaking of socialist societies, the Bruderhof we all remember was a socialist society that ran a hypocritical theory of social equality superimposed on a sharply hierarchical, primitive tribal ideology where status was determined by one's biologic relation to the chief. This is, of course, one meaning of all their arranged marriages. Survival in the Bruderhof depended on how adroitly one could uphold this fundamental hypocrisy, how obsequiously one could kowtow to the will of the leader, and how reliably one could keep Bruderhof secrets. All forthright testimony of Bruderhof survivorship is unanimous on these points. The Bruderhof hierarchy has always been formal and explicit; no Bruderhof leader has ever tolerated dissension. Stated otherwise, the brotherhood has always been a creature of the leadership, the leadership has never been a creature of the brotherhood.
Given all these very, very well-corroborated observations regarding the Bruderhof, I am often astonished at the way KITfolk keep running the ideas that KITfolk and the Bruderhof should somehow get together and negotiate away our "differences," or that we should limit our discourse in KIT to something less than the complete Bruderhof/post-Bruderhof picture, leaving out the Hutterites, for example; that the full exposure of Bruderhof secrets would somehow harm our recovery. Free speech is not a difference of opinion to be negotiated, but a necessary prerequisite to a just society. Fully recovered people will always be interested in the most complete perspective possible, although those yet unrecovered may not. (But it was ever thus in KIT: the individual always has had to pick and choose what would be helpful to them personally.) The full exposure of evil Bruderhof secrets may explode many myths about ourselves, but only those myths that were never really true. And besides, if we do not expose those secrets, we will be complicit in their continuing evil.
But perhaps the most stubborn and pervasive of Bruderhof falsehoods is that the individual is always wrong, one corollary being that there was something wrong with us as individuals; that's why we were kicked out. I think that this is what underlies all the hand-wringing over the lawsuits and the persistently recurring notion that deep down, the Bruderhofers must really be reasonable people. -- "Can't we all just get along?"
I don't think so. At Friendly Crossways, someone who ought to know, was asked: "What does the Bruderhof really want?" He answered: "They want you to say nice things about them, and buy their books." That's all the Catholic Church wanted. Those who recommend temporary suspension of the publication of KIT should consider what would happen if the rest of society were temporarily to suspend discourse about the Roman Catholic Church or, for that matter, any other monolithic institution. Can you spell "pedophile priest?"
Maybe the Bruderhof and other similar groups should enjoy some level of immunity from public scrutiny as long as they live peacefully by themselves, seek limited participation in society at large, break no laws, and desire no publicity. But now, it seems that the Bruderhof has chosen to abandon its choice of anonymity and voluntarily enter the arena of news media and publicity. They decided to hold very public hearings against the death penalty in Philadelphia's City Hall. They have decided to file three lawsuits to the tune of 20+ million dollars against people interested in, or formerly residents of, the Bruderhof. And now their children are demonstrating and marching against the death penalty. All of these actions, to me, are signals that the Bruderhof has voluntarily given up any possible immunity from public scrutiny and entered the arena of freedom of information and public opinion.
My feeling is that they are consciously trying to create news and gain the positive PR from those news events. In fact, based on comments I've seen here, it seems that the news of the events may be more important to them than the actual events.
The demonstration outside Graterford Prison by 35 teenagers belonging to the Bruderhof, "a Christian community movement opposed to violence," was considered news by The Philadelphia Inquirer. Would they consider the information about the lawsuits filed by the same organization to be newsworthy as well? I don't know.
I don't want to subject the Bruderhof children to interrogations by news media, but isn't that exactly what the adults desire? Why would they issue press releases if they don't want questions from the press? Would it be unfair if the media asked the kids about the lawsuits? Probably. But then, isn't it unfair for the adults to put the kids out there and advertise their presence to the press?
KIT: The Children's Crusade To Death Row was all over the local media, although the march was rained on and it was a well-soaked crowd that gathered on the final day outside the prison. As Christoph mentioned in his speech, "The bible says that the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. When we think about that, we want to think about what side we are on."
Do not suppose that you or those you seek to silence (you never will) are wholly right. Of course not we are all fallible humans under God The sooner forgiveness is understood and practised, the sooner healing will be given. It will not be easy, but was ever anything worthwhile so?
You may think you have the community behind you or on your side. But beware, not for nothing is it said that pride comes before a fall, and I would save you from that. You may exercise power now and it may well be true. It is essential to recognise that power over, or power to do, are diametrically opposed to each other. One serves the ego, the other serves others. A very fine line.
You may know that, for many years now, Amnesty International has been campaigning and obtaining releases from prison, torture, etc. for those termed prisoners of conscience. Some of the community activities, led by the hierarchy, certainly come within its mandate. While not having been referred to Amnesty International, it is surely plain that the writings and reports of many individuals indicate unnecessary suffering and blatant injustice meted out to them, all in the name of so-called love. What actually has happened is that those in power have had, on the evidence, no intention of giving it up. Consequently there has been no redress for those individuals with valid and justified reasons for asking for access to relatives, family, and so on.
It seems to me there has been a policy of divide and rule, and a marginalising and demonising of those who, as individuals, do not and will not give up their pleas for equity. There is no solution in law. If Ramon Sender (an innocent and fine man, not leader of a group for there isn't one, he is simply a coordinator and editor) is silenced by the law, no good will come of it. All that will happen is that others will spring up to take his place. The more unjust persecution that occurs, the more defenders of the truth there will be. And, dear Christian, you cannot fight God. Humble yourself and use your undoubted gifts to serve more than just your apparently narrow view of what you seem to perceive as your brothers and sisters. Greetings to those who know me, and to you,
Strange thoughts come as one tries, often not very successfully, to grapple with the joy, contradiction and yes, here and there, downright evil which crept in. Yet are we not all fallible and subject to the same mores, desires, longings and contradictions in ourselves? Well, at any rate I am. Then that makes for not being judgmental of others. It simply is so that Helen and I only lived for 15 years in the communities, and what years, from 1945-1961. So now it is 36 years since we left, or were virtually thrown out for a really trivial reason. It is in a way, we had an advantage over many of the younger people, including yourself, in that we had live a life of growing up to full age earning our livings, etc., so that in a sense we returned to what we knew -- well, more or less. By the time we came to retire -- I won't say "leave" -- from Bulstrode, we had been blessed with a family of nine. Here is not the time or place to go into all that, but suffice it so say we received little help from our so-called brothers and sisters, and this remark is not motivated by bitterness (fortunately we were not or have ever suffered from that). One person now dead, Willi Kluver, storekeeper at the time, for a while regularly brought us food, which we much appreciated. Yet he told us to keep quiet about it, for whatever reason is anyone's guess. We received much help from Helen's ever-loving mother and brother, and this understandably helped to sustain us, for which we will be ever thankful.
We've had KIT from the first copy, thanks to Carol Beels Beck, and though obviously we do not agree with every expression of opinion and attitude, we see it as an extremely therapeutic publication and safety valve for many. We are not unmindful of the fact of the suicides that have clearly arisen out of deep despair and loneliness. We are indeed thankful, Miriam, that you were enabled to take that hurdle in your stride, although how difficult it was, no one, only you, will know how. I had great appreciation of Hardi from the time he met us, seven adults and thirteen children, off the boat in Buenos Aires in 1949, together with Peter Mathis who were both out on werbung at the time. Hardi was so obviously joyful to meet with us and to help us to the very utmost overcome the Customs hassle, etc. (at that time Paraguay was controlled by the Argentine, before Paraguay acquired a Customs place of their own, so consequently the Argentine got a rake-off from all goods on their way up river -- very cosy, eh? Then there was the Customs again in Asuncion, together with Peter. Peter, as you know, was a rather quieter person.
Helen and I were fortunate in the sense that she was also being met by relatives who had come to the Argentine some sixty years before as missionaries. Helen was the first member of the family who'd ever visited since that time, so for the week we had to wait for the boat up river. We lived in the house of a cousin who'd kindly gone on holiday to Pucuman together with his wife to free their house for us. Wasn't that kind! Helen's aunt was of Dutch origin, her husband Helen's blood relative being dead. Other younger members of the family saw to our every need. Wonderful! One of the other families stayed with the Bachmann's in B.A...
We saw Hardi and Peter often and they assured us "Things" were progressing. Not, I might add, without some crossing of palms with silver, or was it pesos? Hardi thought that hilarious, but went along with this custom of graft and corruption, for as he said the officials were often months behind with their salaries from government. This we were to learn more of over the years in Paraguay. I well remember Hardi saying, "Let's go for a meal" with a twinkle in his eyes. So seven of us, with your dad and Peter, visited one of the good restaurants set up by Eva Peron to hopefully retain the support of the working folk, of course largely manual workers. So at a meal 'Economica,' we had a wonderfully satisfying repast one afternoon. I'd never seen or tasted such marvelous meat, and in such quantity! All cheap. Why those in charge of the place did not object to such obvious foreigners I've no idea, but I wouldn't be surprised if it had something to do with those two resourceful brothers.
Anyway, all our stuff was cleared through Customs (and did we have a quantity, for it was a good opportunity for Wheathill to send goods to Primavera as 'personal baggage.') including thirty-six six-foot-long saw blades for the Isla and Loma sawmills. I never bothered to enquire whose baggage as to whose they came, for as you can imagine they were rather difficult to pack in a suitcase or a trunk. Anyway, all was loaded on the 'Ciudad de Corrientes' and we said a thankful good-bye or rather Auf Wiedersehen to Hardi and Peter as we embarked on the five-day run up river. Changing boats at Corrientes for a smaller one was an event it itself, for we had to make sure all our stuff -- and I mean all -- was safely transferred.
So to Asuncion and a joyful welcome by all in Bruderhof House. The next day on to Puerto Rosario in the lancha 'Guaran' overnight and our amazement to see all the stuff of whatever size carried by hand (tumba tumbad) up the steep bank of the 'port.' You surely know it. We reloaded at the house and how Harry Fossard and one other young man fitted us all on that then small lorry of the time for our last run to Primavera is still beyond me. Harry waited until late afternoon until it was rather cooler before setting out. Consequently it was evening before we saw the lights of Loma, but not before we had a whooping welcome from a few of the younger people who'd come across the campo to meet us. Though a wood just there somewhere, one or two rode on the shafts of the wagons, racing to keep up with the lorry. Highly risky, I thought. Then we heard what we came to know as the steam engine whistle in Loma. We received a tumultuous and joyful welcome at Loma -- perhaps you were there -- a welcome such as only the Community knows how, singing Keine Schone Land, etc. So to a Love Meal in the evening, all tiredness forgotten in the joy of being among brothers and sisters again.
As the years went on, I always had the warmest feeling for Hardi. Later Hardi and Sekunda's marriage was a gift for them both, for we'd heard about the sad circumstances surrounding Edith and Fritz's deaths, as we'd also heard of Philip Britt's decease while we travelled over the ocean. We learned more of Fritz's abilities over time, though not enough, and got to know Philip's songs and poems. And of course we heard of Joan too, as well as many others. Little did we know of the various traumas you had to endure as a child and growing up. Were we not far too secretive about so many things! Or rather was it not so that much was kept form the 'hoi polloi' or, as Nadine said 'the plain folk?' For knowledge is power. Why, I even had one sister say to me on a visit to us here once, "Why, I've lived in community for fifty years now and I do not believe such things go on." This after I had asked her from a remark she made to me in reply to a question, "Have you ever seen or read KIT?" "No, and I don't want to. There's much of evil in it." I tried to disenchant her, but I fear I did not succeed, and she died a naive and loving person. There are surely others, to this day. This is not to blame, for as one well knows, the hierarchical setup militates against the spreading or sharing of information, a lot of it actually vital to know for the inner health of folk. So I certainly go along with you, dear Miriam, about gossip, so long as it is not malicious, which I suppose is always a danger. Helen Vowles: Dear Miriam, thank you for sharing so much with us all. In 1945, when we went to Wheathill, we had a clear leading from God that the way of brotherhood was the only way we could live. As we see now, there is a loss of true vision in the Community. It was always a struggle to maintain the life and go forward. Our experience has taught us that God's love is always with us and will never fail us. Love,
I'd like to contribute a poem that was read at my recent birthday and Master's degree celebration. Some 60 people attended the event. There was live music, singing, eating and poetry. The poetry spanned all the way from e. e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, Hildegarde von Bingen, Robert Frost to many others.
I look forward to reading more of Ramon's story in KIT. Everything in it resonates with my experiences at the Bruderhof. Congratulations,
Ruth Baer Lambach, KIT Conference, Summer 1997:
"The only experience as powerful as having a family is the lack of a family."
I quoted this at the beginning of the reunion with our family this summer and I quoted it again when retelling the story at the KIT conference.
Having a family or a solid home where you can depend on it that if you are down on your luck and need a place to stay, they have to take you in, is an important psychological buffer against the isolation of the world. Having spent a lot of my adult life a long distance from my own large family, I have often thought of George Burns' epithet, "Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, closely knit family living in another city." Yes, even if you don't see them but once a year, they are still important because you have the knowledge of that solid base inside of you. I've drawn strength from just knowing that if I drive there, I am welcomed and can have food and shelter.
Hutterite colonies are like families. They visit each other unannounced and expect that they will be made welcome. When my parents were alive, our farm was like a Hutterite colony. A panel truck full of Hutterites would arrive around mealtime, and my mother would pour water into the soup to make it stretch further.
I feel rich having the experience of family and colony inside me. It makes me more able to extend this kind of hospitality to others when they visit me. This is the experience of KIT. If you show up, you get food, shelter and warmth. You don't have to give a presentation. You don't have to have a project to report on, you just have to show up. Ramon will guarantee delicious, gourmet food and you can step into the kitchen before any of the meals and get your hands into the process. If you're lucky and like to sing, you can even sing along and harmonize singing rounds.
It's even more comforting to return to the same place, Friendly Crossways. Something like going back to a farmstead or a familiar home. Things look the same, and yet there are subtle changes.
I submit my report on our Baer family reunion with poignancy, knowing there are those who read KIT and whose who don't dare acknowledge they read KIT because, by admitting to reading KIT, they are prevented from seeing their families in the Bruderhof. I hope that everyone will come to an understanding that life is short and love is all there is. God is love and there is one God and we are part of Him and we are love too. So let there be love between family members.
KIT: Ruth's family reunion report will appear in the October KIT.
Now, 37 years after, a whole generation has grown up who just do not know the real truth. They believe that the years in Paraguay were dark years. I tend to look at them as the years of light when love still ruled amongst brothers and sisters, which we children felt and were part of. The poverty and sickness united us. Now the wealth and riches of the Bruderhof have blinded their hearts and minds, and they do things that we would not have dreamed of:
a) Demonizing a whole group of ex-Bruderhofers
b) Lawsuits against former brothers,
c) Division between parents and children
d) Telling lies and untruths about their own children to justify their actions
e) Singing and marching against the death penalty while actually trying to murder our free minds.
f) Pronouncing KIT as the devil who wants to destroy their way of love, and meanwhile never seeing that the love is no longer amongst them. The light is extinguished and gone. What keeps them together is fear, and where there is fear, there never can be faith!
Let us be happy that we have found each other and that we are able to support each other,. Even though we live totally different lives on different continents, we were raised the same way and have a deep understanding for each others' need. Let us support Ramon, Blair and Julius, and let us Keep in Touch. With love,
I wouldn't wish to go through it again, but in fact I can find a good deal about it that makes it into a positive experience. I was taking homeopathic medicine, so there was no question of me going to hospital, thank God! But it did mean that someone had to be with me, and everyone, of course, has a job and is fully occupied. But somehow, between them, they arranged to take turns looking after me until, in the fifth week, I announced that I could manage on my own again with some help in the house from my caseira. Now I'm almost back to normal again, and just have to take rather more rest and refrain from the heavier work in the garden. But I have a feeling that becoming helpless and having to be looked after was a good experience for me, as I could see that it was for Roger too. You learn something which maybe you could not learn otherwise, which brings you closer to the ones who look after you, and closer to understanding and sympathy for fellow sufferers.
I would like to thank Bette for that very interesting report about the Covenant Union Church. If it does nothing else, it puts the whole Bruderhof affair into perspective. Just imagine someone who thinks she is in direct touch with God needing all that protection from the outside world! By comparison, the Bruderhof leaders' antics sound rather funny. I noted with interest, however, from Barnabas' meeting with Christian D. and Joe K., that he found them utterly convinced of their own rightness.
Thinking about Heini, I could never quiet make up my mind if he was fanatically convinced or just cynically after power. But when I get reminded about all this sort of thing, I can't help but appreciate all the more the wisdom and humour and sanity of all that I find in the Seth books and in Jane's works as well. I've just reread her trilogy of Oversoul 7 books, and it's great! I go on rereading Seth the whole time in-between reading other things. Now I'm buried in a book by a certain scholar, Secharia Silchin, called The Twelfth Planet. Fascinating! The book was published in 1976 and says on the flap that he was born in Russia, lived many years in Palestine, studied in London and then became a consultant for NASA.
While I was ill, I read a book from Dourado, my doctor friend, who got it sent from the U.S. But he himself doesn't' know much English and has sort of permanently lent it to me. Then he tried to find time to come and see me and learn a bit more English. It's by an American doctor, Andrew Weil, titled Spontaneous Healing, and is extremely interesting. I even wanted to tell Bette that he talks about all sort of alternative ways to deal with illness and mentions also some very useful plant remedies used by ancient Chinese doctors that are still used today. One of them is a plant called ginko that has a stimulating effect on the circulation and can help M.S. sufferers, amongst others. I got Paulo onto it, who has buzzing and increasing deafness in one ear. It takes some time to have an effect, however, so we shall see. But he is trying it and has also gotten the book. My son Ebo read a bit and was so impressed that he also is getting the book and even had the idea of translating it into Portuguese. Likewise Isabel says she is getting herself a copy.
This doctor, by the way, has written a number of other books and is definitely going in the direction of believing that the mind is the decisive factor that activates the body's natural power to heal itself. However, as Seth says, illness or even deformity may be chosen by individuals in their lives for a specific purpose in order to develop some special gift or quality. Of course, consciously they will probably not realize this. Here I'm reminded of the fact that my daughter Clara must be doing herself in with the effort to finish translating a book by the famous Stephen Hawking. It had to be ready by the end of the month, and she tried to get help from Betty who is also a good translator, but the man who gave her the work noticed a difference in style between chapters and wouldn't have it. That's the trouble with trying to live from translation -- you are always under pressure.
Betty moved a few months ago from Sao Paulo to Curitiba (circa 600 km south of me) having received permission from the newspaper to work for them from there. Her life there is much less stressful, but it still does not resolve all her problems. She misses me and other brothers and sisters, but at least has her brother Chris and his splendid wife and children. My son Jean-Pierre (Penang, Malaysia) has recently become director of a local branch of Compania Aerea Argentina in Thailand, and spends about a week a month there with a small apartment in Bangkok. The motive was chiefly so that they would have a footing in Thailand if the Malaysian government, which never gives them official permission to stay, shoves them out. J-P writes that he is becoming a Buddhist, so evidently they feel very much at home in that part of the world. Isabel is going to visit them in July.
I'm hoping to go to England next year again, and I see there's going to be a KIT conference in the U.K., so we might even meet again, Ramon, but in that case I must find out when the conference is in good time so I won't just miss it.
Phil Hazelton is now based in Brasilia and has twice rung me from the airport in Sao Paulo while waiting for a connecting flight, but he doesn't manage actually to arrange a visit. We are all rather frustrated. Such is modern life, so near and yet so far. But it's wonderful, anyway, to hear someone's voice on the phone. Ebo and Cisco fixed me up a second phone by my bed, and I got a number of other improvements and additions to make my life easier. But I refused a microwave oven. Well, now, I think that's enough about me. I loved Joan Taylor's contribution in this KIT issue. I can endorse every word of it myself -- I mean, the quotation from the Cathars. I was surprised to see myself in print again but, of course, KIT was a bit short of copy this time, wasn't it?!! Much love,
Losing Arnold feels different from the other major losses I have experienced. When my father left my mother when I was 13 I felt so abandoned, and the resulting defenses I put up with Arny as the man in my life made me very difficult to live with. I was very fortunate that he hung in there with me until I could deal with that baggage and be the loving wife that he always wanted. When we were forced to leave the Bruderhof I felt so rejected. In one Brotherhood decision we were sent away from our home, our jobs, our church, our neighborhood and friends, our children's schools and day-care; our whole way of life was gone and I was depressed for decades. One reason given was "To become closer to God". Their treatment did not help us, but in spite of the Bruderhof we eventually found our spiritual foundation in Twelve-Step programs, and for Arny in his Judaism.
I have grieved Arny's leaving in a gradual way for a long time as he lost the ability to participate in life little by little. What stands out for me about his time of illness is his concern for me. He did all he could to care for himself. He put our financial affairs in order. And each day he let me know how much he cared for me. I felt so cherished. I am left with a gentle sadness. Not only for the loss of my best friend, but for Arny to not be able to dance and do all the other things he so loved now that I can be active again. But people remind me that he may be having more fun where he is.
When he became seriously ill, we were very fortunate in the care he and I received. By the early Memorial Day weekend, both his legs were giving him trouble, and the oncologist suggested hospitalization so they could work out medications to help him. By then we had opened the B&B again, on a weekends only basis, and I shuttled between caring for our guests at home, and spending time with Arny in the hospital. He was home in a few days, with symptoms alleviated for a little while.
The Visiting Nurse Service was wonderful, giving physical and emotional care to him, and providing support for me before I recognized how much I needed it. When medical tests showed that the cancer had advanced, the same agency provided hospice-at-home with increased services and support. The nurses and health aides came in two or three times a day to make him comfortable and instruct me and the children about pain management. I could call anytime, 24 hours a day, for information, with concerns, for help when he couldn't get back into bed, etc. They were always there for us, giving us what we needed.
This was the kind of care we had seen on the Bruderhof when we first went there. And when our family was sent away from the Bruderhof in the l960s I thought we would never see that caring again -- particularly in "the world". I thought that kind of love only came from the Bruderhof. My first real disillusionment came when our eighth child was a baby, and our oldest was just 13. I turned to the Bruderhof for help because Arny worked a 40-hour week plus overtime, and went to Hartford University to finish his Bachelor's degree so he could get a decent-paying job to support us. This meant keeping the kids quiet so he could study on the nights he was not in school. I was seeking enough relief so he would not have to do the overtime -- the last straw for me.
Welton Snavely came over and asked why Arny needed to go to school (Welton was a minister before joining the B'hof and as a minister must have had at least one degree). He told me that other families living outside were sending money back to the Bruderhof. I heard Ulu Keiderling, for instance, was doing building work to support his family. But Arny was never strong physically, and had some difficulty with his left leg from a childhood bout with polio so he could not do work like that. Besides, he was intellectually inclined, and good at challenging engineering jobs. So instead of the little financial help we needed then, the B'hof sent nice toys to the kids at Christmas. I was never able to tell them how that hurt us because we had too little money -- after providing the family with basic necessities -- to go out and choose toys for our children ourselves. I said nothing but thank you; otherwise the children would not have had those toys. This brought home to me how my own wishes and real needs were not understood or responded to at the Bruderhof.
At the same time, in desperation to find some kind of help, I had written to ministers in the area. I particularly remember the minister of the Methodist church in Litchfield who came over with a colleague and helped us get onto the Medicaid program. This paid for treatment for two kids with asthma, and dental care for the whole family, including bills for the previous three months. This made it possible for Arny to be home on weekends while he finished his degree. Later when we had to move because our rental home was sold and we had to buy a house ourselves, they steered us to the Farmer's Home Administration for a manageable mortgage. They, and other religious people, visited us and helped out in little practical ways such as furniture and baby clothes. That was when I realized how wrong we on the Bruderhof had been to judge the world for its unlovingness, because some people in the world were the very people who were helping us in the ways we needed, with no demands for us to conform to their spiritual beliefs.
During this time of Arny's passing, the kindness and comfort and sharing we have experienced from so many people in the world has been so different from the ways in which the Bruderhof showed their love to us. The experiences I describe further on were truly helpful. The kind of help the Bruderhof has given us since we have been out has never worked for me. Somehow it always hurts more than it helps. This was repeated a few days ago when we found a basket of flowers at the door with a card from Heidi (Zumpe) and Klaus Barth. Unlike all the dozens of other cards we received which simply expressed sympathy and support, Klaus and Heidi had to add that they hoped Arny found peace with God, and that they longed to reconcile with me. These expressions were not helpful. I prefer the way people in Twelve Step programs like AA and Alanon are careful to "not take someone else's agenda". (In other words not butt into a person's relationship with God.) I also found it strange for them to mention reconciliation when the B'hof turned down the Mennonite offer of help with reconciliation only this spring. Although I believe many individuals on the B'hof mean well, their Bruderhof way of doing things end up being hurtful instead of feeling loving.
For the last 28 years we have lived in this little New England town, in the house we bought with that reasonable mortgage. If you do not understand Yankee culture, the people here can seem cold. They are by nature reserved and undemonstrative. Yet they do express their caring when a family is in need. Each afternoon when I walked around doing errands, people would ask about Arny, and about how I was coping. They made helpful suggestions about resources and programs we might use. There is some hospital equipment available at the Town Hall which anyone can borrow when they need it. A neighbor volunteered to sit with Arny when I had to be late at work.
Our children were wonderful with their father, sharing nursing tasks while they visited. All the boys as well as the girls helped care for him so tenderly. Each one brought something different to him. With her friend Al, Iris (Faith) came home earlier this year especially to make peace about the past. When they came on Father's Day she had a long visit as adult to adult, and got to know some of Arny's growth in recent years. Milo called often and came over frequently (with a manageable number of children). Often Karin came with him for a welcome visit with me. Because Arny did not talk about religion or dying in particular, Milo wanted to be sure that his father knew that there is a life after death. So at his last visit he read to him from The Last Battle in the Narnia series, the part where they go on to eternity.
Nathan and Susan were here in June for three weekends through Monday, and then a whole week in between. This meant Arny was cared for while I was at work each Monday. They did countless chores to maintain the house, and some friends of theirs came to help them help us with gardens and painting. Ray phoned regularly, humorously shared what was going on in his own life, and with Keith made extra visits especially to be with him. Eliana (Helen) always brought a project to enjoy with her father when she visited. Together they did origami valentine cards, assembled motors to see how that would go for a class she was teaching, and went through the moves in a chess game published in the newspaper. Ian dropped in often to see how we were doing, and in the last week spent 5 days here helping to nurse his father who was heavily medicated for pain by then. He was the best nurse in the family. When I told Ian that I realized this was because he worked with horses who could communicate only with body language, he informed me that his understanding came from his own experience with drugs -- providing a helpful laugh at that serious time.
Brandon called often, his friend Rosemarie sent thoughtful gifts, and she encouraged him to interrupt his busy schedule to fly home before his dad died and to stay through the burial. I was constantly surprised at how gently and appropriately he and the others dealt with their Dad. Kevin phoned often, kept his dad aware of banking changes which might be useful to us (he was working in a bank then) and brought Kelley and their little boy and new baby to visit.
Arny and I had a special gift three days before he died. We had kept contact with the therapist who was most helpful to us in resolving personal issues that so affected our relationship. With her help we were able to be close and loving and happy together, even through the stress of all his illness. Several weeks ago, I had let her know Arny was doing poorly. This was hard for her to deal with because she was so fond of him and me. So she was only able to phone a few days before he died. By then she was eager to help and came down to spend time with us. Gina told Arny how well he had done his tasks on earth and reassured him that it was okay to let go now, that we would all be okay when he left us. She shared watches with me in the night and stayed through the next morning. She encouraged me to be more physical with him -- which I had given up when the pain was bad. But now with medication, I could caress and cuddle him. She suggested reading to him, but our favorite love was dance music, so I got our best tapes and played them most of the time over the next three days. While Gina and I sat with him, the nervous movements Arny's body was doing became coordinated with the rhythm of the music -- as if he were dancing to it.
When Gina left the children were coming in to be with us. Brandon arrived from California, Milo came to read from The Last Battle, then called to let Iris know her Dad had little time left. Iris came the next day with Heather and Heather's husband Paul. Arny had not seen Heather in a decade and had wished for contact, but we did not want to press Iris before she was ready to have us together. Milo had suggested that I bring out pictures of Arny for them to see him when he was not sick. And I brought down all the old albums I could find for the family to look at -- which turned out to be a wonderful pastime. Heather, with Paul, sat with her grandfather many times over the next 24 hours.
Eliana and Aimee arrived, and Ray and Keith came again. We shared the watches through the night and during the day. The visiting nurses and health aides were in each day to keep him comfortable and to see he had enough pain medication. Everyone had plenty of opportunity to say good-bye and to tell him what he meant to them. Eliana had made a tape of "My Favorite Memories of Dad" for her Father's Day greeting. We overheard Milo speak of his first ride on a horse when he was three in Paraguay. Each of us had this luxury of time to share our memories with him at the end, to tell him how much we loved him, and how we appreciated all he had done for us. Although he seemed unresponsive in the last days, there were small signs that he was hearing us and understanding what we were saying to him.
But still he lingered. His only brother had not yet come. Marty waited until he had time to spend with him on Sunday. I knew Arny had wanted to write a letter to him about his regrets for the way he was a big brother in their childhood. So I told Marty about that at Arny's bedside. Then they had a long pleasant visit with Marty talking to him, and to us about experiences in the family and the old neighborhood. Marty had to leave before supper, and by then some others in the family needed to get home too. As people left, I realized how exhausted I was. Milo was by Arny's bed when I said I needed to go upstairs to rest, but Arny got so agitated that I promised both of them that I would stay at his bedside. As Milo left for his home, all the other children wandered out into the cool evening air.
I put our favorite tape on with graceful English Country Dance music from lovely balls where we danced with many friends in period costume. I was so tired that all I could do was sit by the head of his bed, lean my head beside his on the pillow, close my eyes and rest my hand on his arm. The music played and we were so peaceful, alone together as if we were dancing, with the voices of our children drifting in through the windows. When Eliana came in awhile later, we realized that Arny had stopped breathing. He left so gently I did not feel him go. So our relationship ended as it had begun almost 46 years ago -- partners together in a dance.
Later, as the funeral director gave us time to say our last good-byes, all I could think to say to Arny was, "Thank you" over and over. "Thank you for giving me all I wanted and all I needed". I felt so fortunate to have him share himself so completely with me and our family.
Because Arny had refused to discuss death with anyone, I was unclear about funeral arrangements. (When the social worker brought the subject up he told me us, in a respectful way, to talk about those issues in another room. Nathan and Eliana were clear that it was appropriate for their father to be buried in his Jewish tradition, even though he had not been as involved in recent years. (Our last outing had been to Eliana's house for a Seder at Passover.) His brother Marty also wanted Jewish burial, because Arny was born a Jew and died a Jew. The funeral director was somewhat knowledgeable of Jewish burial customs and went out of his way to have the burial as soon as possible, to find a shroud, and fetch a Jewish coffin without nails. The rabbi in Torrington kindly instructed me in Jewish customs and rules, and worked with us to include the family in the ancient traditions. I found these simple ways very comforting. The only exception was that we did have visitation at the funeral home before burial, as Christians do, so Norfolk people would feel welcome to come. I had been nervous about Bruderhof people turning up, so the notice in the paper stated that all this was private. But Nathan and I had walked around to the businesses in town where people get information and spread the word that "private" meant Norfolk people were included.
The rabbi conducted a brief simple service at the graveside here in the Norfolk Cemetery. Kevin and Ray read brief quotes from Arny's favorite books about positive attitudes, Milo read a small part from The Last Battle, and we asked the rabbi to read a poem by Philip Britts that we found in Arny's computer. It spoke so movingly about life and love, I could not read it aloud myself. I read the bit from Muschi's new book about Arny teaching dancing to the youth in Paraguay. And Eliana read the eulogy she wrote. Jewish tradition includes the mourners throwing handfuls of earth on the coffin, which was a meaningful close to the ceremony. The saddest part of the day was seeing Arny's elderly father there to bury his son.
After the service, many people came to our house, bringing food and comforting conversation. A member of the Beit Havurah Synagogue here in Norfolk (whose members do not live locally) had driven almost five hours to be at the service, and then had to turn around and drive back home. Sarina pressed a book called Mourning and Mitzvah into my hand because she knew it to be helpful to many people, not only Jewish, coping with loss.
The next day we went to Marty's house in New Jersey to "sit shiva". I was unfamiliar with the custom and did not know how to deal with it in my own home. So Nathan and Susan and Eliana and I went down to Marty's house in New Jersey to participate for a day there. Relatives and friends come to the home to care for the mourners in whatever way they need. They comforted us with their company and we caught up on much of the family news. We returned on Thursday because we had B&B reservations for the holiday weekend, made long before when Arny seemed well. Nathan and Susan and Eliana stayed on with me for support while I went on with the familiar guest routines. On the weekend, members of Beit Havurah synagogue were at their place in Norfolk, and invited us to a service that included memories of Arny. Nathan, Milo and Karin and I attended and appreciated their recognition of Arny's life. They continue to keep in touch with me, which means I do not lose my connection with Arny's Jewishness even though he is no longer here. I am particularly moved by their caring, because I am not a Jew and would not convert. But they care anyway -- with no pressure to conform to their ways.
Many people in the village are kind and helpful to me, offering understanding and support. And I have many other friends who are helpful too like from the stable where I can now ride again, and colleagues at work, and other friends from my training. Ian comes over often, and the other children check up on me frequently. We received many kind cards of sympathy from people who knew Arny and cared about him. I feel very fortunate to be living here in Norfolk, where all our children can visit freely. The spirit of love and concern for others that we sought, and found for awhile in the B'hof, is very evident in this little village.
In this stillness, in this silence
Speak the stars and speaks the sky
"Reconsider, O my people,
All the things you know me by".
Honeybee and woods of orange,
Pineapple and rice and maize,
Softest wings of sleep at nighttime,
Strength for labour through the days
Not that you should probe too deeply,
Burning mind on mystery.
Not that you should strive to reach me
Climbing by intensity.
What have you to offer to me?
What is it you feel I ask?
Reconsider, O my people,
What you see to be your task.
Not that you forever harp on
Things so clear To me above.
Simple are my Expectations.
All I ask Is that you love.
Love is clear, and love is simple,
Quick to help and slow to cease.
Love is gratitude and patience.
Love is kindness, Love is Peace.
Philip Britts, Paraguay, 1941
Eulogy for Arnold Tsukroff
read by Eliana (Helen)
At this time as we gather to say good-bye to Dad I'd like to take time to think about his life and what it's meant to us. I didn't know Dad too well while we were growing up, but in the last few years I've been inspired by how he changed and grew as a person. And that growing made me able to get to know him, and I really value that.
We all know some of Dad's interests: He was a member of the Society of Creative Anachronism. He researched family history: Tsukroff and Harrison family trees, and on Mom's side the MacDonald family crest. Dad was also a Justice of the Peace. Just a few weeks ago when I was getting my filling replaced, I found out that the dentist's assistant, Annie, had been married by Dad about eight years ago. She said that he was the first person she thought of, but Dad was on the way to a Renaissance festival and had his full costume on. So he performed the ceremony in full costume. I'd like to see those wedding photos.
Dad was also a computer buff. He did CAD/CAM and computer programming at work - in fact his coworkers nicknamed him Tron because he was so good with computers. He also organized the household on computer and we all remember the greeting cards he would make and send with his computer. But his first love was computer games.
Dad and Mom emphasized healthy eating. We all remember Dad's sourdough bread, and the granola he and Mom made themselves, his juicer that he would make spinach and carrot juice in. In fact Mom and Dad ate so healthy that you often couldn't find anything to eat at the house among all the beans and raw foods.
Dad's mother, our Grandma told me, "Helen, I hope you marry a Jewish man. They are good providers." And that's what Dad was. We never had to worry about food or where we would live. Dad finished college while we were little kids living in Litchfield. When he was out of a job when we were living in Litchfield he worked as an electrician and wired houses. Dad went to work every day and supported the family and that feeling of security and sureness is something I'll always have and I'm very grateful for.
Dad was an inspiration to me when he got sick. He never complained about getting cancer and he didn't complain too much about his pain and discomfort. He kept a positive attitude, always talked in positive terms about his life and the future. He talked about how many things there are to do in this world. Dad had a strong will to live - he wanted to live and he did everything he could to keep his health and that's why we had him with us as long as we did.
Part of being human is to have shortcomings. When we remember a person we also remember their shortcomings. And we don't ignore those shortcomings or say they didn't happen. But the thing I've learned from this experience is despite everything, how very much we love someone.
And what we take with us into our lives are the good things that were given to us by this person; and the good things I got from Dad are all the father-type things he did with us when we were growing up
I remember that he would play his guitar with us and he would sing folksongs; and he and Mom taught us folk dances in the living room, and when we were older, took us contradancing and English country dancing. Dad took us to museums on the weekends. Dad took us camping in the state parks with a huge green canvas tent and a sagging pup-tent. Dad was a big walker. He would walk after work and at family holidays we would always take a walk up to Haystack Mountain. I remember him baking on the weekends with folk music playing on the radio. But I think one of the things we all remember best is Dad reading to us at the table after supper. He read us pretty near the entire Narnia series by C. S. Lewis.
It's these things - the love of music, of dancing, of baking, camping, of reading. They are the things I will remember. They are the things I will carry into my life. They are the things I will tell my children about my Dad.
So now we have to say good-bye to someone who has been there for us our entire lives. Dad you'll always be a part of us. We'll miss you so much. We love you. And thank you for being our Dad. Good-bye, Dad.
The cottage is as big as a picture stamp with a small entranceway, a downstairs bath, kitchen and sitting room and two bedrooms upstairs. She has a little garden of flowers in the front. Belinda arranged with her cleaning woman to make room for her American visitors to sit on recently-cleared chairs in the sitting room. Belinda called the cottage "a rabbit warren," but there is so much charm and personality that emanate from the clutter. Her religious icons line the walls, books, magazines and papers fill every possible space on tables, overflowing onto the floor. In a place of prominence, Belinda had placed the telephone, KIT publications, and my first book on religious melancholy at the center of her main room. I was honored and deeply moved by this gesture. (My books costs 27 pounds -- a great expense for someone on a fixed income who can only afford one trip a week into Canterbury for marketing and visiting with friends.
After chatting for an hour, Belinda summoned a taxi and we returned to the West gate of old Canterbury -- an ancient walled city and the site of the cathedral. We continued our conversation and enjoyed a light lunch at one of Belinda's haunts -- a pub adjacent to the entrance to the cathedral. After lunch, Loretta and I toured the cathedral and Belinda did some marketing. We met again later in the afternoon for tea and finished our visit. Belinda told my wife her life story, and in turn, Loretta told her about our youth and early romance - a fair exchange of tales -- although Belinda's story holds more adventure, romance and drama.
I will not try to tell you that the Bruderhof is all evil, they are not, there is much that is good at the Bruderhof. I equate it to describing a father whom I might love and who is loving and has done many good things. I can also sometimes truthfully say, what an arrogant, paternalistic, egocentric SOB he is. As you probably know, a person or an institution can be both good and evil.
When a person can see themselves, or itself in the case of an institution, they can begin to understand. If they remain in denial, problems build up behind a dam of repression.
The Bruderhof has had, and has, serious problems. They have repeatedly lied to and used the humble ethnic Hutterites of the U.S. and Canada. I was seven years old when the Bruderhof gained control of the Hutterite Colony where I lived in North Dakota. I want to relate to you a tiny bit of my experience there, but before you dismiss it as an isolated incident, I can assure you that I have since investigated to see if that could be. I found that what happened to me was not new. I was not the first child to be abused at the Bruderhof and not the last either. When the Bruderhof encountered ethnic Hutterite children, happy , laughing, exuberant, playful children, they were alarmed. They started watching us at all times of the day, and they were busy spying on us at night. They wanted to know our every move, even how we went to the toilet. The assigned spies recorded and reported on the behavior of the children. When they had gathered what they saw as enough information to condemn us, they gathered us up and placed us in isolation 24 hours a day, in what has come to be known as the Children's Clearing House. We were "arrested" and placed in a "prison" for children. I was seven years old, could hardly speak English, and I spent months locked up 24 hours a day, away from my family, and I endured endless accusations and interrogations.
I won't bother you with sordid details!
What strikes me as appalling is that this thing called the Children's Clearing House was a regular Bruderhof institution, and was in use at other Bruderhof locations. They had institutionalized child abuse!
Those who question the depth of our feelings about Bruderhof policies should be furnished a copy of this letter.
You should want to know how such an institution as the Bruderhof's Children's Clearing House could come to be, or do you want to keep your naive image of the Bruderhof and dismiss this story as an aberration?
I am for forgiveness, we all need it, but there can be no forgiveness when there is complete denial.
Why won't the Bruderhof talk about this abuse or about similar treatment of many other children. I think the Bruderhof leadership is afraid to face the facts. I would like an explanation. Sincerely,
How little Domer understands about a live spirit is clearly seen by his personal vendetta against Ramon. As if shutting Ramon down would make these side products disappear. It is free thought, free expression, and the mere existence of Bruderhof survivors that is the real threat to their livelihood. I still remember what they told my parents in the 1960s: "If you have anything to do with others outside, we can't have you back." With good reason, the same policy applies today.
Ramon, I don't know you personally, but I wish you all the confidence in the world, and the conviction that these things are not settled in men's courts. Barnabas, reading about your meeting, I feel your approach is about right -- free from vindictiveness, just a sincere wish for reconciliation.
Looking on the brighter side, remember the saying, "If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade." For all we know, by really going public, as Domer is demanding, the Kitters might be the icebreakers for thousands who live under similar circumstances and have not found a way to rid themselves of this bondage.
Bottom line for today: what I value with and about KIT is there is nothing legality can get its hands on. We ourselves don't even know what it is. But it exists and it's alive. Greet you all,
It is doubtful the Hutterites will appreciate the "eye-opener" that KIT is, but I would venture to guess that they are far more appreciative of the disclosures of KIT than the Bruderhof is, especially when they stop to review their track record with the SOB. I recall the phrase of a Hutterite Minister in the 1930s who said, "We must be careful of helping these people. They are professional beggars, that's what they are." They certainly reflected that when, it appears, they made off with Hutterite monies between 1974 and 1989 during the first 15 years of Jake Kleinsasser's Reich as "King of the Mountain" for the Schmiedenleut Conference of the Hutterian Brethren Church.
The SOB "educated" the Hutterites in "self-destructive", dictatorial rule. The Schmiedenleut Conference of the Hutterian Church shifted governing styles from a communistic theocracy to a dogmatic dictatorship. Those within the system willing to "kiss up" with the new movement were assisted financially and smiled upon socially, while those that encountered internal conflict due to some unrighted wrong were literally destroyed by the "King of the Mountain" and his army of SOB-guided "Righteous Rulers". This involved individuals as well as whole communities.
"Come in to me upright, crawling if you wish, any way you want. Hand over to me all your belongings (in greenbacks) and then you can even leave me sooner than you wish. You'll get my "forgiveness" to keep permanently!" The big difference is that JCA's books is being sold by the hundreds. If I would write a book in the style that I suggested, I'd probably have an agent from Social Security come knocking on my door to ask my wife if she needs her pension sooner than expected!
You know, "Forgiveness" in the general knowledge sense is a thing -- a word very easy to pronounce, but oh so hard to put into practice! But it seems to be very much more uncomplicated to dish out "forgiveness" if one uses this word to extort anyone out of his money by promising him everlasting hell if he doesn't opt for your offer. This kind of extortion I learned from J.C.A. Not even Christ, after all, the most important man in human history as I learned at school, used this word as an extortion. He simply said, "give up your property, throw it away or give it as a present, and follow me!" And this "Follow me" doesn't mean to follow him in a Gulfstream jet. Jesus didn't even use a boat to cross the lake. He walked on it. So I am sure, to follow Jesus it would be very simple to catch up with him on foot. This, by all means, is no blasphemy. This is a thing I had to write because at school, I always had bad notes for the simple reason that things about religion didn't register with me, and so I received bad marks but obviously, coming from my teachers -- facts!
You know, to conclude my very angry (loco) reflection on this item that I read in the June KIT, on the one hand I want to apologize to KIT readers for my very farfetched suggestions some KITs back "to open a joke contest about the Bruderhof." To tell the truth and don't worry, I knew it wouldn't catch on. I "forgive" you for not reacting! On the other hand, I now come with a very concrete and serious idea in mind: let's join in, all of us KIT readers, and start a legal process against J.C.A. and his clever gang for "Extortion!" I want to see J.C.A. together with J.K. and you name them behind bars together. So, my simpatico KIT readers, I assure you I turn the spear. I "bribe" you this time with a seemingly very valuable asset: "Everlasting Forgiveness" if you join me in my suggestion: "Sue J.C.A. for Extortion!"
EDITOR'S NOTE: Obviously, from a legal point of view, the allegations above do not make a case for "extortion," properly defined, and it is not a crime legally to promise to forgive someone if he or she follows one course of action rather than another.]
A VERY RECENT NEWS ALERT added to the Internet edition only: Hans-Jurg is seriously ill in Paraguay, back in the hospital for a second cancer surgery. Those who know him may want to send a card.
It seems that words or Euclidean concepts utterly fail in dealing with this psychotic branch of human existence. One piece of Bach that seems to speak of this is the beautifully lamenting cello accompanying the soprano aria, "Es ist vollbracht" (It is finished). I like the German vollbracht better than 'finished' because vollbracht is active rather than passive. The passage comes from Bach's St. John's Passion.
The whole subject of evil's triumph over good is one of terror, and Bach manages to face it squarely but with sadness. The Bruderhof is an example of evil's triumph over good, and one is terribly hurt by it and challenged to stop the process. One has the choice of using evil deeds to counter the evil of the SOB... but the trouble is that most of us cannot accept the triumph of evil. Too many of us are pacifists or, at least, staunch democratic idealists who believe that dignity is earned, not inherited... What is needed is a multi-pronged approach, one (widely supported) the pacifist, Gandhi-type approach and the other a more activist approach. JCA's thugs must have read Goebbel's diary in which it becomes very obvious that the bigger the lie, the easier it is to make the public believe it. It would, for example, be useless to tell the brotherhood that Ramon grows tropical products in his garden and has a daughter named 'Cassie.' Both are lies, but trivial ones. It is far more shocking and 'incredible' (and therefore 'believable') to say that he is evil and wants to ruin the SOB -- a stupid, but nevertheless effective lie.
For example, the lies that Hitler spread about the Jews always included just a tiny amount of truth, enough to keep the propaganda hysteria going. And every lie he invented about the Jews could have equally been said about me -- an atheist "Aryan."
What Domer does not understand is that his intelligence, in my opinion, is far too limited to take on those he has chosen as his enemies. Money gets one into the courts and into the arena of hit men and the like. Eventually money from strange sources turns the tide, and the opposition to Domer becomes a powerful combination of creative minds and sheer anger. Christian Domer is not Christian, but rather an ideological sycophant, in my opinion just a common thug. These types busy themselves with attacking imagined enemies and, when the victims of their attacks defend themselves, they interpret the defense as proof of guilt. In my opinion, they are bullies who intensify their crimes as their victims stiffen their resistance.
Ramon's and KIT staff's activities have been those of typical journalists. They try to communicate, report and question that which they find mysterious or false. Those of us who write for or to KIT do likewise. These activities are protected by the First Amendment to the American Constitution. In the same amendment, religion is placed off limits to government interference. To question the practices of a cult, religious or not, is not a First Amendment breach as long as government is not involved. Government involvement is justified when criminal activity is likely. The use of courts to stifle our right to free speech by Domer et al is a breach of First Amendment rights, as will be shown eventually.
There is also the issue of big money vs. the poor. Juries in general sympathize with a poor victim of a wealthy litigant.
The methods we have not yet tried are those used by the SOB against us. Their irresponsible, vicious and malicious use of lawsuits will eventually enrage enough of their victims to strike back in kind. Since the SOB's approach is to try to ruin the livelihood of its perceived enemies, a like approach may be more effective... A class action suit may also be effective. There are plenty of abuse cases about which we know that would make for quite a trial. The fact that SOB leaders know of alleged abuse cases that allegedly have not been reported to the authorities makes them and the SOB establishment liable.
The process of discovery will finally expose the miserable charade. In one case, the parents claimed the abuse had not happened while telling the siblings of the victim that the perpetrator had confessed and repented. Clearly Domer at al would not be able to pay damages to the tune of 40-50 million dollars without consulting the brotherhood. A class action lawsuit could be a very expensive event, even for a wealthy group like the SOB.
In any case, Domer et al have started a war that invites new action and an aggressive pursuit through the courts. The SOB is willing to use violence against us in and out of court. We can be sweet and passive, or smart and aggressive. We have been sweet and passive for many years now, and it does not work. My guess is that they think (an oxymoron) that we will not strike back or that there is no solidarity, and I believe they are wrong...
If anyone near any of the communes is interested in distributing pamphlets, etc. and needs some financial backing, feel free to call me at home at (602) 507-0564.
Obviously I missed a great time at Friendly Crossways, but my business is still much in need of my presence. There are plenty of Apfelmelon seeds, and anyone who wants some should send me a self-addressed envelope and you can send KIT some $ in exchange. I'll also send instructions, if you need them. It's very likely they grew so well in my tiny garden because they heard a lot of Bach, but I suppose the horse manure had more to do with it than Bach.
NOTE: Once again, KIT editors wish to point out that, according to counsel, First Amendment issues are more complicated than Hilarion's article would make them appear.
ITEM: On July 28th, James Wainscoat, the self-appointed leader of the Ark of the New Covenant (a splinter sect made up of a few Hutterite families) was coaxed down from a Golden Gate Bridge cable. He had climbed some 50 feet before unfurling an American flag and waving it at the commuters. He told the police that he was "on a mission from the colonel." He was handed a cellular phone to call his doctor at the veterans' hospital who "encouraged him to abort his mission, and did so immediately" according to one source. He was held for a 72-hour evaluation.