The Best of The Best of KIT 1992

From January thru December,1992

The KIT Newsletter, an Activity of the KIT Information Service, a Project of The Peregrine Foundation

P.O. Box 460141 / San Francisco, CA 94146-0141 / telephone: (415) 821-2090 / (415) 282-2369
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramon Sender, Charles Lamar, Christina Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom;
U.K. : Joy Johnson MacDonald, Ben Cavanna, Leonard Pavitt, Joanie Pavitt Taylor.
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from within and from outside the Bruderhof. The opinions expressed in the letters we publish are those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflects those of KIT editors or staff.
This collection skims the Best of KIT 1992 file, which is derived from The 1992 Annual, to create a Best of the Best of KIT 1992. We understand that the sheer volume of articles and letters available can overwhelm the casual browser, and so we offer in this manner a sampling of the most interesting and informative.

------ Keep In Touch --------

---------Food For Thought--------
"The Bruderhof demands the whole man. To show what we mean, we quote the satanic words of Adolf Hitler: 'In this one thing we are like the early Christians: we demand the whole personality.'
"Those who refused to become part of the Nazi state were shot. Now that is a satanic caricature of something we want in a divine way. We want to love all men. We want to love you all. But we do not want to delude or fool you into thinking that you will find a secure, comfortable nest to live in here. This life demands sacrifice, more sacrifice than in ordinary society."
p. 26, Living in Community by Heini & Annemarie Arnold
Plough Publishing, 1974
"Early religions were like muddy ponds with lots of foliage. Concealed there, the fish of the soul could splash and feed. Eventually, however, religions became aquariums. Then, hatcheries. From farm fingerlings to frozen fishsticks is a short swim... Of course, religion's omnipresent defenders are swift to point out the comfort it provides the sick, the weary and the disappointed. Yes, true enough. But the deity does not dawdle in the comfort zone! If one yearns to see the face of the divine, one must break out of the aquarium, escape the fish farm, to go swim up wild cataracts, dive in deep fjords. One must explore the labyrinth of the reef, the shadows of the lily pads. How limiting, how insulting to think of God as a benevolent warden, an absentee hatchery manager who imprisons us in the 'comfort' of artificial pools, where intermediaries sprinkle our restrictive waters with sanitized flakes of processed nutriment."
Tom Robbins in Skinny Legs and All .
Status/addresses needed: Mary Worth, Jack Melancon. Also (via chats with Mike Caine) the following: Harry Little (Koinonia in '50s), Ken Meister, Walter Bennet, M. Boning, Necki Boning, Toby Kadish, Hans Herbert Blocher, Maureen Burn's boys, Howard Cheney, Fred Kemp, David Caynes, Jonathan Phillip Cavanna, Oliver Christoph Dyroff, Ernie Dyroff, Fred Wild, Felicitas Dreher (in Oregon) Maya Dreher (married in Berlin), Don Dreher (laser surgeon) Roy Dorrell (in Paraguay) Francis 'Potto' Rhoda Dorrell (in Australia) Bernhard Dyroff (near Sydney, Australia), Donna Ford, Benjamin Emil Fontes (Curotiba, Brazil) Regula Fontes (husband Anton), Dorothy Ellison (Hereford), other Ellisons (Shrewsbury), Carla Hall, (actress in London), Ruth Janney, Phil Janney, Daniel Habbakuk, Eddie Halliwell (Cheltingham) Oren & Vera Hoffman, Sue & Virginia Housmann, Jo Housmann (joined Catholic order), Else Von Hollander (Sacramento, CA), Annaliese Ingold, Peter Keiderling, Ben Keiderling (in USA) Irmi Keiderling Ricketts (England), Ina Koopman (Holland), Ida Freiling, Dorothy Lomas (Liverpool), Hazel Johnson (Liverpool?), Marsh family, Clem Marsh (works for BBC), Olga Mercoucheff, Tanya Mercoucheff (Bristol, CT number unlisted), Lewis McCann (south of England), Dave Newton (died in Ecuador in 1988) Jeanie Newton, Jill Shapley (Wales), Michael Vigar (Newbury, England), Nickie Vigar, Peter Trapnell (Rio de Janeiro), David Trapnell (England) Johanna Vaijling, Francis Watts (Australia), Fred Wild (Habersham, England) Barbara Mitchell (Macedonia person now in her 80s) Johanna Wirtz, Ray & Betty Saban (Boston?)
---------Food For Thought----------
Cults: What Parents Should Know by Joan C. Ross and Michael D. Langone, Ph. D. American Family Foundation (excerpts):
Common Tactics used by Groups to Effect Conversion:
Discouraging rational thought. For example, many cults dismiss members' doubts, criticisms or questions with statements like "Everything will become clear in time," or with threats, 'Satan is at the root of all doubt,' or with exhortations like, 'If you want to know God, you must reach beyond rationality.'
Effects: Prospects feel guilty for doubting, questioning, or using their intellectual abilities to evaluate the cult. Many even come to regard their minds as troublemakers, generators of poisonous doubts, tools of Satan and the like.
Confession Sessions , during which members are pressured to reveal extremely personal information about past and present transgressions and sins, whether real or imagined.
Effects: Prospects who reveal such information may feel an initial sense of guilt and shame, and then a sense of relief at having confessed. However, those who want to leave the cult are fearful that the cult may use the information they have revealed to blackmail or slander them.
Group Pressure , that is offering positive reinforcements such as approval, affection or raised status when members agree with group goals, and withholding such reinforcements or punishing those who speak or act against cult prescriptions.
Effect: Prospects may succumb to group pressure despite strongly held convictions that conflict with cult beliefs and practices.
Repeated threats of sanctions for leaving, such as: "If you leave, your life will fall apart;" or "Your soul will rot;" or "You will go to hell;" or "Your relatives will suffer;" or "Your life will be in danger."
Effect: Converts become afraid to leave sect.
The promise of imminent fulfillment,peace, salvation, for example telling converts that if they "just try a little harder, give a little more" of themselves, they will attain whatever reward the cult has promised.
Effects: Converts are continually striving to attain utopian ideals, and blame themselves for not trying hard enough.
Limited or no access to outside information.
Effect: No contrasting views to stimulate critical thinking about the cult. Reinforcement of notion that doubts about the group reflects defects in the doubter, not the group.
Absence of non-cult relationships and emotional support.
Effects: Converts become dependent on the cult of friendship, intimacy and emotional support; feelings of alienation, hostility and paranoia towards the non-cult world are further reinforced.
Control of sexuality and intimacy within the cult; for example, the leader may dictate whether, when and whom to marry, whether and when to have sexual relations, children, sterilization, abortion.
Effects: Converts may develop a distorted, impersonal view of sexuality and intimacy. The leadership is protected from the possibility of intimates sharing and reinforcing doubts about the group.
Ongoing confession and self-denigration.
Effects: Converts feel ashamed, then relieved, then indebted to the cult for saving them from their "evil nature."
Excessive financial obligations, often requiring the signing over of inheritances, bank accounts and other material assets to the cult.
Effect: Members are left virtually penniless and financially dependent on the group. Also, if a lot of money has been donated, converts may justify their investment by blinding themselves to the destructive aspects of the group.
Julius Rubin March 21, 1992: ....
Field Notes in Progress on Allegations of the Sexual Molestation of Children in the Bruderhof
January 9, 1992: A number of women have come forward, independently and generally unaware of one-another, to offer biographical accounts of the experience of childhood trauma in the Bruderhof communities of Wheathill and Primavera in the 1950s. These life-histories seem to fit the following general pattern:
1. The idealized message of Christian love-agape and fellowship, promoted by the Bruderhof as the basis for life in community, acted like a magnet attracting individuals, couples, and families who hungered for such complete love. Not surprisingly, some of these people came to the community with personal histories of family violence, trauma, and sexual abuse. Some families had already begun to abuse and molest a child even before undertaking a life in the Bruderhof. Father- daughter incest and assault that have been alleged suggests that fathers considered it acceptable to use their daughters to meet the parent's sexual or dominance needs.
2. The Bruderhof appears to have done a haphazard job in gate keeping and preventing multi-problem individuals and families with ongoing pathologies and dysfunctions from joining as full-baptized members and continuing their abusive activities in the community. It appears that persons predisposed toward sexual violence, sadism, and molestation of children were not identified in the gate-keeping procedures during the novitiate period. I do not believe that any B'hof community ever knowingly and intentionally let this happen. Rather, this gate keeping failure was more the result of a 'theological' or ideological blind spot. The Bruderhof world-view posits that individuals who allow their worldly, prideful, carnal selves to die in the imitation of Christ, radically reconstruct their identities in the childlike spirit of humility and simplicity.
The Bruderhof ethos of brotherly admonition, non- violence and non-aggression, ideally, promotes loving, tender, romanticized relations between spouses, and between parent and child. If conversion was understood as something akin to the therapeutic healing of the sinful, fallen creature and the emergence of the healthy Christian person united in community as God's revolutionary, then it was unthinkable that members of the bruderschaft or gemeindestunde would be capable of violent, heinous crimes against children. If excesses did occur in interrogations, clearings or adult allegations of the sexual misbehavior of children, it was rationalized and justified as action in the service of love, of rearing Godly, pure Bruderhof children.
3. The Bruderhof failed in gate keeping and in the systematic protection of children and the prevention of sexual abuse. Again, this was not the intention of the community, but the result of another theological blind spot. The Bruderhof established a ritual whereby a child's natural parents made a public offering of the infant as a gift to the community--a pseudo Baptismal rite. This rite was tantamount to proclaiming that the child "belonged" to the united brotherhood, that every adult had free access to the child and could discipline or guide the child. In addition, many children were poorly supervised or protected by the evening night watches when their parents were called away to the brotherhood meetings. At these times, perpetrators were alleged to have gained access to the children or took them into deserted work areas or bachelor quarters for the purpose of sexual assault. Today, we know that these rights of adult access to children are tantamount to an invitation to abuse.
4. It appears that children have been victimized or made pawns of adult power struggles during times of community crisis.
5. Children have been victimized by what Alice Miller terms "poisonous pedagogy" -- toxic ideas about childrearing and child discipline. In the Bruderhof, a hierarchical, patriarchal community dominated by an ethos of sexual repression (Arnold required the sublimation of erotic love in marriage to an expression of love to God ), elders were obsessed with controlling sexuality and they projected fantasies of hyper- sexuality upon children. Elders brought charges of sexual misconduct or accused children of evil spirit and satanic possession, labeling them as "problem children." Once labeled as a problem child, evil at the core, it was but a short step to commit psychological torture, beatings, or rape upon these "fallen angels" of childhood.
6: Respondents have provided accounts or explanations of the underlying or hidden meanings and motives behind the sexual molestation of children in the Bruderhof. Several of these accounts appear implausible. Hypothetically, if a person claimed that alleged Bruderhof child molesters received distant radio-wave instructions that commanded them to injure children, I would have difficulty believing this explanation. Unless I could find independent, corroborating evidence to support these claims, I would tend to discount seemingly fantastic or outlandish explanations of Bruderhof motivations or actions. Despite the sincerity of the respondent, I would tend to view incredible and unsupported claims as symptomatic of the continuing psychological injury inflicted upon these respondents....
Paul Winter for the New Meadow Run Brotherhood 3/23/92: Enclosed with this letter are all our back issues of the KIT newsletters which we are returning back to you. I'd like to ask you to take the New Meadow Run Community off your mailing list as well as Doug and Ruby Moody. We in the Brotherhood don't want to have anything more to do with the spirit of antagonism, enmity and murder. If anyone really wants to seek reconciliation and repentance with us, they are welcome to come any time. I hope you can honor our request.
Nathan Warren, Ulster Park Bruderhof, 3/26/92: Please remove us from your mailing list.
Cristoval Wright, Spring Valley Bruderhof, 3/23/92: We are returning your magazines and ask to be taken off your mailing list.
John Fransham Deer Spring Bruderhof 4/6/92: We have now been receiving the issues of KIT for some time, and I have consistently tried to read through each issue as it came. I now ask that we be removed from your mailing list.
Faith Tsukroff 4/27/92: I don't have much time to read KIT, but I do manage to read a bit of every issue. I would like to comment on some of what I have been reading, since I feel more points of view are useful. I fully support Loy McWhirter in her feelings and writings that I have read in KIT. She has very good reasons to be angry, and far from her anger eating her alive, I think her anger is energizing and life- giving. Keeping anger suppressed leads to things like depression and many psychosomatic illnesses. When anger comes out it can be released, and, also, it can be enormously energizing in terms of getting things done in your life and dealing with the causes of the anger.
I understand why Loy is so angry. The abuses suffered by children in the Bruderhof were enormous and horrible. And while, yes, I agree with some correspondents that adults did suffer, children suffered far more than adults did. I know, because I also was very, very abused in the Bruderhof -- physically, verbally, sexually and spiritually.
What I think adults do not understand is that they, as adults, no matter how hurt or damaged they may have been psychologically, had a psychic structure from which to operate and in some ways protect themselves psychologically. Children, when they are severely abused or brought into cult situations at an early age, simply do not have any psychic defenses to protect them. They have not been able to develop any kind of personality structure, which adults do have, from which they can operate and psychically defend themselves against their experiences. So that children, unlike the adults, had absolutely no inner refuge to help them get through the trauma and terror and abuse.
This is something that cannot be reiterated too often -- adults did have some kind of choice. Whether it was conscious or not, even if they were terrified or brain-washed into staying in the B'hof, they did have some choice. CHILDREN DO NOT HAVE A CHOICE. Children cannot survive on their own without someone to care for them, and children do not have the physical, emotional, or monetary resources to survive on their own. Also, and I think this is very important, because of their very limited experience of life, children do not know that it can be any different or that it might be possible to get out of the situations they are in. All they know is what they have experienced thus far in their lives, and if all they have experienced is abuse, that's all they know. They do have not choices....
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe (Excerpted from her memoir): July 22, 1991:My brothers and sisters (in the communities) feel that I should not continue to write my childhood memories because they will be too upsetting for my mother. I do not write against the Bruderhof, nor do I wish to hurt anybody at all. But I do wish to set the record straight where it concerns Bruderhof history as well as my own family. Throughout the past 30 years the B'hof history became more and more twisted. It placed the blame on my father for everything that went wrong in the past.
...Sex was not talked about. Old-fashioned methods were applied to keep "the children's community PURE." But then, all over the world it was not so very different in those years. Sex play among children was not tolerated, and those children who indulged in it were set apart as if contaminated by a sickness. E.G. if there was an outbreak of measles or chicken pox on one 'hof, that 'hof was isolated so as not to infect the others. There was a quarantine for three or four weeks, and we children were not allowed to meet with our friends. The same was true for any sexual play or interest. That child or those children were set apart -- put away -- excluded -- from the children's community until there was "repentance." I know of children who were taken out of their families and placed in the special care of an old unmarried sister or brother for months, sometimes for years. They were not allowed to go to school with us or play or talk with us. What it was that they had done I did not know, but we all assumed that it was something sexual that made them to be set apart. I know of little boys whose hands were tied to their bedsteads at night to prevent them from fondling their bodies before they went to sleep. I know of a little girl who was placed into special care with an old lady. That lady would smell the child's hands when she was sleeping and slap them hard if they smelled of her having played with her genitals. Although I knew all that, it did not really bother me at all. It was a part of life as I thought it should be. I hear the same stories of children who grew up in strict church communities or were raised by nuns or monks of a religious order. Religion seems to forbid all sexual interest in children. It is put off as dirty, sinful and bad. Then when you marry, suddenly sex seems to be holy, so holy that you cannot even talk about it or ask questions. Everyone expects you to make the step from 'dirty and sinful' to 'holy' without difficulty!
A Draft Statement of KIT's Editorial Guidelines
KIT was established to serve the information needs of former Bruderhof members and children by publishing whatever materials KIT deems relevant to their relationship with one another and with the Bruderhof. Although the staff embraces the journalistic privileges of a free press, we note that KIT has become an important vehicle for, among other things, healing, networking, reconnecting, informing, honoring and supporting those in need. As a free press, we remain committed to the individual and to the free expression of ideas and feelings. However we would request that our correspondents show a common courtesy towards each other and refrain from making ad hominem attacks. Because we wish KIT to reach its widest possible readership, we will limit the language to what is commonly regarded as the that of 'decent' public discourse. In cases where allegations are being made against individuals, we request that the accuser first make a serious effort to contact the individual or individuals involved, if they are still living. If a satisfactory response is not received, then KIT may act as a public forum for these allegations to be aired. KIT does not accept anonymous submissions, but will withhold the name of a correspondent upon his or her request. Finally, although KIT is a project of The Peregrine Foundation, editorially it remains completely independent of the parent organization. And last but not least, if you disagree with the tone or direction that KIT's correspondents express, the best way to change this is to write in from your own unique point of view.
The opinions expressed in the letters that KIT publishes are solely those of their authors. Although we welcome all correspondence, we reserve the right to reject letters that we deem unsuitable and to edit all letters in line with the guidelines expressed above as well as because of space limitations.
In the early 1960s, Lee Kleiss started a Round-Robin newsletter that continued for a number of issues. Since they are of historical interest, KIT will be reprinting some of them.
First I raised the question of "judgment," by mentioning the circumstances around Gunther Homann's death that had been bothering me for the past four years, and concerning which none of my letters had been answered (Gunther's case was a special case where I had been informed that the Brotherhood "decided' that his illness was one of self-pity and lack of will to fight. Two days later he was dead. Suddenly there was a shift in the attitude of people. There had also been other situations of near "judgment" about an individual's lack of health being caused by his or her spiritual state which had bothered me, but I only mentioned my situation here.) There was a very free atmosphere about these questions. I was immediately told that there had been a clearance about the circumstances around Gunther's death. The discussion was so free and open that I did not want to press for details. What was past and settled was past and settled.
Next I believe I raised the question of actions that are carried out contrary to Brotherhood decision. I told what I knew of the circumstances of a family sent from Primavera to Woodcrest, met at the airport in New York and asked to go to his parents in California to "think things over." The Brotherhood was only told afterwards "that they were not coming." Here I met with the first example of evasiveness. As long as we were speaking in large generalities, there was free admission of coldness and lack of love. But as soon as I pressed details, there was immediate evasion. Art said, "I was not there, BUT I AM SURE THE BROTHERS WHO MET THE AIRPLANE DID RIGHT."
-------- KIT Newsletter October 1992 IV #9 --------
Dear KITfolk: It has come to our attention that some Bruderhof members are telling KIT people that "KIT leadership has told us that they are out to destroy the Bruderhof." This is totally and absolutely untrue. In fact, although there is no "KIT leadership" as such, Ramon and other staff members have gone to special lengths, both in letters and in conversations, to insist on just the opposite. It bears repetition here, once again, that we wish the Bruderhof no harm. We also do wish that the Bruderhof would fulfill its legitimate destiny. It so happens that the KIT staff, because of what even the Bruderhof themselves would admit to as past failures, would encourage them not to fall into the same pitfalls of leader-worship, of blind faith in their 'system,' and to a 'them-and-us' state of mind that can only lead to a closing down and hardening of hearts. But that is just our opinion.
ITEM:The Woodcrest Brotherhood's round-robin letter of 8/22/92 to the Hutterite colonies (see KIT IV #9 p. 2) received a response signed by several ministers. They identified themselves as concerned and perturbed by Christoph's attitude, which they see as a "total violation of the fundamental Christian principles of the Hutterian Church."
"Reading your letters and faxes, one would think you come from a different planet. Your concept of unquestionable and even blind obedience to elders is totally foreign to us."
They go on to point out that their founder Jacob Hutter challenged an Elder and head servants. After a thorough investigation, these individuals were removed as corrupt. Christoph's call to blind obedience of the Elder they see as a return to Mosaic law of the Old Testament. They quote scripture, and point out how the tearing of the curtain hiding the Ark of the Covenant at the moment of Jesus' death opened that holy room to the public, where before only a cleansed High Priest was allowed access. From then on, the era of Priests, Popes and Elders was replaced by the "one true and holy one, Jesus Christ... the only one that the true Hutterite will call Holy and infallible. The only one that we dare not question, criticize or judge."
They ask Christoph why it is that he feel that he and Jake Kleinsasser are "not getting enough reverence?" An elder who lives in humility and shows compassion, love and tolerance to his flock, will not have to demand reverence. They challenge all Hutterite servants to ask themselves: are they true Leaders in their communities or are they Rulers?... Ben Cavanna, 9/17/92: Journal excerpts reporting on the EuroKIT Meeting: Ben Cavanna, 9/17/92: Journal excerpts reporting on the EuroKIT Meeting: It was such a great relief to find so many people who had experienced so much that I had thought only I had experienced; the loneliness and feeling of being a "stranger in a strange land." Also that other people had many of the same guilt feelings, even though one had developed one's own system of living.
Many of the things that were said were VERY painful and said to hear, but it was such a relief to share feelings that were so deep, and for me, in owning up to many of the feelings, I felt a great weight lift. So many were very careful of others' feelings, and when someone was in distress over something that they were sharing, often someone else would reply to them and say something that was really supportive and helpful.
Thoughts of what I experienced:
I feel empowered by finding so many fellow travellers.
It is possible for people to love each other.
You can only change yourself, not others.
Ignore the words and LISTEN to what the person is SAYING.
Forgiveness is something to be freely given, not begged for; if you are truly sorry, say so.
If the other party feels your sorrow, they will offer forgiveness.
We are all at different stages along the path and cannot be hurried.
The things we agree about are more important than the things we disagree about.
Life is a wonderful thing.
...News from the Bruderhof comes almost totally from third-party sources. There has been no attempt on their part to improve relations with KIT, nor has there been any visible change in what we can only interpret as a chilling in relationships with KIT contributors and readers. Despite Johann Christoph's original written guarantee that anyone was free to read or write to KIT without having their visiting privileges to the Bruderhof revoked, constant pressure to "choose between KIT and your family" has been put on many people. The Bruderhof's excuse is that these are "family matters" and not brotherhood policy, but as anyone knows who has spent time in the communities, there is no difference between 'family' and 'brotherhood' matters. It is merely convenient for the Brotherhood to shift blame for this cold-hearted attitude onto specific individuals. Recent news: as reported briefly in the November KIT, the Canadian Supreme Court sided with Daniel Hofer on his final appeal. Just exactly what all the implications will be remains to be seen.
From the Supreme Court of Canada's judgment setting aside the lower courts' judgment and allowing Daniel Hofer's appeal, pps. 33 ff.
B. The Requirements of Natural Justice The content of the principles of natural justice is flexible and depends on the circumstances in which the question arises. However, the most basic requirements are that of notice, opportunity to make representations, and an unbiased tribunal.
1. Notice
A member must be given notice of the cause for which he is to be expelled. It is insufficient merely to give notice that the conduct of a member is to be considered at a meeting... ...adequate and timely notice is as important for two reasons. First, it gives the person who may be expelled an opportunity to consider his or her position and either see the error of his or her ways and seek reconciliation, or prepare to defend himself or herself. Second, adequate and timely notice allows the members of the group who are to make the decision an opportunity to ensure that they will be able to attend the meeting and contribute to the discussion, or perhaps to ask for an adjournment if they are unable to attend.
2. Opportunitv to Make Representation
The member who is to be expelled must also be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him or her. There is some flexibility in the scope of the opportunity required, but this issue does not need to be addressed in this case.
A final comment from The Hon. Mme. Justice McLachlin's dissenting opinion: "I share the Court of Appeal's sensitivity to the apparent inequity that members who, together with their wives and children, have contributed to the assets of a colony, find themselves outside the colony without a share of the assets. But I agree with the majority in the Court of Appeal that the issue of property has not been placed before the court. The appellants sued to remain as residents of the Colony and as such to retain possession of their share of the assets of the colony. Had they made a claim for a division of the assets and judgment for their share, the court might have been called upon to revisit the question raised in Hofer v. Hofer [1970] S.C.R. 958, where the majority in this Court held that persons expelled were obliged to leave the colony without any share of its property. But the appellants' only claim at this juncture is for the right to remain as members of the colony. It is on that basis that we must decide the case."
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