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. : Susan Johnson Suleski, Ben Cavanna, Leonard Pavitt, Joanie Pavitt Taylor, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and 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.

January 1995 Volume VII #1

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

A VERY HAPPY 1995 TO ALL OUR READERS! The KIT Newsletter now begins its SEVENTH year of publishing, unbelievable as it may seem, with more than a million words in print in 61 issues. We have reprinted these in spiral-bound annuals that total over 1800 pages. Also we have three books in print, Roger Allain's, Bette Bohlken-Zumpe's and Nadine Moonje Pleil's, with two more planned for the next years. We have enjoyed five Friendly Crossways summer conferences in Massachusetts, three EuroKITs in England, as well as a two-day gathering at Wheathill in 1992 attended by 65 people. EuroKIT reports at least seven ad hoc informal get-togethers at various people's houses with up to 30 people attending (one on only two weeks' notice! This does not include innumerable individual contacts with friends, old and new. In the States, there have been the ongoing Christmas sing-alongs with Muschi and Heidi's families (now also started in the D.C. area), as well as a 1994 Spring Camp-out that was attended by 42 happy campers. On top of all this, we have a very active computer Bulletin Board (The Humming Bird Express) and e-mail connections (in the States except for the Cavanna Connection) with roughly 15 people chatting almost daily. Ben Cavanna also reports that the U.K. group continues with three useful support groups. Those of you who have a computer or want to think about getting online for cheap, we have a $200 possible deal to get you started. Contact KIT staff for info! We also have quite a successful Lost & Found Super-Sleuth Service that found Andrew Bazeley's dad and is working on a list of others. By the end of January we hope to be able to provide access to the Newsletter over the InterNet (WorldWide Web, complete with a home page, newsletter back issues and various articles. So if you're feeling 'poor and lonely' like the song says, there's no reason to sit and mope. KIT is ready to connect you into the network in whatever way suits you best! 1995 KIT Conference! The Friendly Crossways gathering this year will be held on the weekend of July 28-31, 1995. Mark Your Calendars!

----- The Whole Kit And Caboodle -----

EuroKIT Staff Change: As of this issue, Susan Johnson Suleski will replace Joy Johnson MacDonald as coordinator for EuroKIT mailings. Joy has taken on a degree candidacy in counselling, and has more than enough to keep her busy. KIT staff would like to thank Joy for her wholehearted efforts over the years that helped to create the nurturing environment for KITfolk existing in the U.K. and Europe today. Despite the 'changing of the guard,' we are sure that Joy's loving presence will continue to be in all our lives. Thank you, Joy!
ITEM: Monika and Balz Trumpi-Arnold reported that the letter they mailed to Emi-Ma Zumpe on the anniversary of the death of Eberhard Arnold was returned unopened. Enclosed was a note from Emmy Zumpe stating that the Zumpe relatives in the Bruderhof felt that they could have nothing to do with the Trumpi- Arnolds as long as they are a part of KIT, whom they consider a group that trying to destroy the life they are leading.
Ben Cavanna, 1/5/95: An update on the Paraguay photos. We are still checking the cataloging of the negatives with the prints as we found a few errors. That is nearly finished and then we can get all the reprints done and out to those of you who ordered at EuroKIT. Sorry for the delay. We are at the same time continuing the identification of the photos which was started at the conference, but there is quite a long way to go. If you think you can help with this, please let me know. The photos are circa 1954. The project is to produce a photo album of these wonderful pictures which are a great record of what was achieved in Paraguay. Love,
Joe Keiderling to Plough mailing list 11/23/94: Dear Friend, this year has been unforgettable for us here at the communities of the Hutterian Brethren. I am sure some of you have heard about the difficulties we have encountered at our Palmgrove community in Nigeria, but for those who have not, you should know that in June we discovered that the two Nigerian leaders who originally pleaded to join with us had secretly assumed control of significant assets of the Hutterian Church in Nigeria. They made it clear to us they didn't want us at Palmgrove.
As you can imagine, this was a stunning blow, and in many ways we are still recovering. Tragically, there are many Nigerians involved who have become victims to the personal whims of their two leaders. We felt we had no choice but to withdraw temporarily until Palmgrove could be restored to its original purpose. We made every effort to ensure that those remaining in Palmgrove would be cared for and provided them with ample resources.
There is much more I could say about this. Over the past years you shared in the excitement we felt in this new venture, and you supported us generously, and if there are any questions you might have, I would be happy to answer them. We still trust that none of our shared efforts will have been in vain. To ensure the responsible care of the buildings and people, we have two Hutterian ministers from Canada there with their wives.
But though our work in Nigeria has been scaled back significantly, the work of building community and of service goes on in other areas. We have maintained active and rewarding exchanges with groups in India, Japan, South Africa, and Israel. Our young people have helped with flood relief in Georgia, and in emergency relief work in the neighborhoods around our communities. But one project in particular has been the focus of the resources of the Hutterian Brethren Service Committee this year. I would like to introduce this to you.
You probably know that our communities operate a business called Rifton ['Rifton Products' - ed] that manufactures equipment for the severely disabled. Through this, we have become deeply involved in a new approach to special education developed in California called MOVE.
Through our nonprofit Service Committee, and in collaboration with a team of rehab and education professionals in Bakersfield, California, we are helping to create a new charitable organization called MOVE International whose mission is to improve the overall quality of life for people with severe disabilities and for those who care for them. The new MOVE International will revolutionize the way people with disabilities are taught. Indeed, the revolution has already begun. Thousands of people with severe disabilities around the world have already discovered the hope MOVE offers. From children with cerebral palsy to adults affected by debilitating accidents, those people are stepping out of their wheelchairs and into a life of choice, independence, and dignity.
Naturally, the communities of the Hutterian Brethren are committed to the success of this new venture. But much must be accomplished during the next few years. The burdens and joys of liberating individuals with severe disabilities are only now becoming better understood. Both learners and caregivers require further education, guidance, new supportive equipment, proper research, and new techniques if exciting progress is to continue to unfold. To this task we dedicate the new MOVE International.
This year we will assign all proceeds from our Service Committee's annual fund drive to the creation of the new MOVE International. Would you consider a charitable contribution to the HBSC to help us? Your donation will provide us with the resources to set in motion a new movement that spells hope for rehab's forgotten people.
I look forward to hearing from you. If you would like more information or a free copy of our new booklet on MOVE International, please call.
Yours sincerely, Joe Keiderling
P.S. Since the HBSC is a 501(c)3 organization, your contribution will be fully tax-deductible.
ITEM: it was pointed out to us by a reliable source that the MOVE solicitation letter from Joe Keiderling contained at least one substantial inaccuracy: Joe stated that the Bruderhof arranged for the western Hutterite ministers to look after the welfare of the faithful and to maintain the physical plant at Palmgrove. According to our source, the Bruderhof had absolutely nothing to do with the western ministers being on site at Palmgrove, and in fact they are there in defiance of a directive from Christoph Arnold to the Western Brethren to shun any overtures from the Nigerian brethren. What has become obvious is that Palmgrove seceded from the Arnoldleut, but not from Jake Kleinsasser.
Name Withheld, 12/16/94: First time writer. Did you hear that Christoph was run out of Crystal Springs Colony by Jakob Kleinsasser and told not to come back? One of the 'Oiler' Elders (Big) told Christoph that "The fire between the Oilers and the Gibbs is burning so hot -- the biggest fire department in New York could not put it out. And Christoph, we just now realize that you are shoveling the coals." Christoph went home mad, and on his next meeting in the East he said, "We are through with the Western Brothers. No more letters to the West, no more Ploughs to the West. The Western Elders will come back on their knees begging till we will let them BACK INTO THE CHURCH AGAIN." What a soul murder is this monster anyways? Thank GOD!!
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe 12/28/94: I have just finished reading through the December issue of "our" Keep In Touch letter and must say, I think it is the best issue yet. What I usually do is to skip through the letter first to see who wrote in it and if it is someone I know, I read that first. This time I went through it step by step and think that this is a better way, as you are sure not to miss something!
But first of all, let me wish all of you -- far and near -- a happy, fulfilled and healthy 1995! I was too late to wish you a happy Christmas, so this counts double! Also this year I have not managed my usual number of Christmas cards due to bad eyesight, which again is due to the Multiple Sclerosis with which I keep on fighting and struggling!
The December letter was so good because it was so honest about personal experiences and feelings and I could find myself so well in many of the accounts. I would just like to answer some of you personally in this letter because I just cannot manage individual letters at the moment, and hope this is OK with the KIT editors.
Ben Cavanna: Your letters -- both of them -- are important to me and I am sure to others, because you say quite clearly: "I disagree with you, but I still love you!" That is what I have been trying to bring across to my family for years, but they will not understand. They see in me "enemy number ONE," which most certainly I am not!! I was very thankful for your story, which covers a time when I already had left and know very little about. I felt very sad that you had to go through the same struggles as I, only much more vile and mean, really an attempt to control all your feelings by undermining your trust and childlike spirit. That this happens so much in the community is the one thing I feel very strongly about. As you say, you were "robbed of your childhood in many ways". I felt a kinship, when you say on page 2, "I wasn't sure what they wanted from me, but became more and more desperate to go back to my class .... not knowing when the punishment would be over .... so I confessed to more and more things, hoping this would prove my repentance...." This is what brought so many of us into a vicious circle from which it seemed there was no way out at all!
What you say on page 9 about the talk with Heini is amazing too, as I have had exactly the same experience: "Asking for the novitiate is asking to become a Christian and not necessarily to join the Bruderhof .... " I was a baptized member when Heini told me, that I should be quite clear whether God wanted me to live with Hans in Holland or remain on the Bruderhof, and accept either way I chose as a leading from God! Which I actually did and still do! But why can they not simply accept this now? Why all this hardheartedness in sending all my mail to my mother back to me unopened??
Thank you, Ben, for your story! I know it cost a lot of grief and pain to put it on paper, but finally it will give you joy and a sense of freedom in life -- like you have actually closed a chapter for good, in the willingness to remember the joys and forget the tears!!
Hilarion Braun: Thank you for many of your last contributions! I loved and respected both your parents, and it is wonderful to hear from you and your strong vision of faith for all of us human beings. I am sure that raising your daughter alone must have been hard, but is it not wonderful to do what you yourself feel is right? To give love freely without the constant threat that it might be "emotional love" and therefore to be despised? Your questions to Duffy were exactly what I felt. Yes Duffy, we were crippled sexually as children and is it Christian to not allow a family visit even for Christmas and undermine even the most personal Christmas mail? Neutrality -- 'lukewarmness,' as Heini would say -- can be very frightening for us, the Bruderhof sabras -- refugees-- because again we feel that we are not understood or loved. I do think there is a difference between coming from the outside world and "choosing" to have your life dictated by others "who know better," and indoctrinating the spirit you admire in a person into a third person or a child! This is dangerous, as it is far from the direct line of love from man to man -- brother to brother! I do believe like you, Hilarion, that the Bruderhof is not just a nice little experiment of Christian brotherhood ".... but a cult that exhibits psychotic neglect of the sacredness of children and as such should be exposed for what it is!" Thank you for having the courage again and again to say what really moves your heart and makes it tick!!
Konrad Kluver: I was glad to hear from you through KIT, as you never did answer my letter. Many things you write were absolutely new to me, but I do believe you. I was amazed that as early as 1938, when Heini first was elected as Servant of the Word at the age of 25 years, that he asked your father to listen to the "plain brothers and their feelings for him (Heini) and for that, he would make him a Witness Brother." I am sure that is how it went and still is going on in the Bruderhof today.
But why, then, is it that many of us were so deeply convinced that the loving community was the answer for the cry of all men of our time? Why did we feel the closeness of Christ himself, and why did we actually give up everything in order to find fulfillment of life and faith on the Bruderhof like I did? Why did we feel the happiness of unity and were filled with joy living and working as brothers and sisters? I think it was so because God works in spite of man's failings and can turn the bad to the good if we are willing to hear his voice, even if it speaks through a "small vessel" or through someone we do not expect to be the transmitter of God's will. I think actually that is what happened in Primavera. Brothers and sisters were ready to listen to a different voice, even though also during those years much went wrong, love prevented the coldness of heart from taking over and we had a lot to be thankful for, although here again it was a daily struggle for the clear guidance of God's people. I believe that brothers like Phillip Britts, Fritz Kleiner and Adolf Braun had a special gift of love and honesty towards the brotherhood and its leaders, and God used them to guide us through the difficult years of poverty and tropical heat and sickness.
George Maendel: Your report of your recent trip to your family in North Dakota was lovely reading and I find myself thinking: "Why is it, that "Ex-Hutterites are welcomed with love and as family members when Ex- Bruderhofers are treated like a terribly contagious disease?" It must have been lovely to meet all your friends and loved ones and talk with them freely! You know, any meeting of people with a shared past can be so positive and healthy. It saddens me deeply that all of us Bruderhof sabras are denied this experience.
Dave Ostrom: I read your piece twice and underlined the parts I really liked and then reread it again. I think you must have given the Bruderhof a lot of thought and feeling to be able to put on paper such a vision of your thoughts. I would love to talk to you! I feel that you have a deep understanding of the core of all the troubles of the past. I do not want to repeat your letter, but what struck me -- even though it is not a new thought -- was (page 5): .... "that Heini perceived himself to be ill- treated by his siblings. He would hold this grudge to his death .... Heini operated from a different set of values .... he was seeking the quick solution ...... he zeroed in on religious money centers, determined to outdo his brothers and brothers-in-law by bringing in more and more influence, saying: What did brother "Common" do? Look at all the money I raised and the influential people I brought to the life!! Who has the right to run the show? ..... Heini learned to talk the talk. The 1940s through the 1970s were the years for reaping great wealth by selling religion to disillusioned and emotionally dependent people ......"
You are right Dave. I never saw it quite so black and white, but it is important for us to understand why something we so wholeheartedly believed in fell apart and into shreds! At low moments we tend to "be homesick" for the Community -- the singing, the joy we had despite all the pain. That is why we need to understand what it is that makes the core so rotten and why it is that our families are afraid of us who are free! Thank you very much for writing down your ideas and thoughts! I still believe that amongst those living on the Bruderhof there are many who give every ounce of their being for a life they believe to be "Godly." I love and admire anyone who will go on believing, even though everything around him seems to fall apart. I believe that in Nazi Germany it was the underground movement of believers that made -- even if in a small way -- the difference. Theologians like Dietrich Bonhoffer and Alfred Dell gave the Christians hope, even though they were killed by the Nazis. I know that many brothers and sisters are no longer convinced, but are afraid to be sent away at their advanced age -- and where could they go to? How to start a different life? Others keep their ears closed for what they hear and their eyes closed for what they see and pray that God will intervene and make an end to this "show." Others again are so trusting that they will not allow a thought of criticism to enter their minds! They want to believe in the utopia to which they have given their lives, and therefore they will wash everything that is black or grey into white before the thought has had a chance to develop. So really they are dependent on the leader because they cannot cope independently!!!
Your last paragraph on page 6 put it all into a nutshell, and I believe you to be right [that the 'plain brothers' and the children have become wholly owned community playthings - ed]. But I continue to believe that each of us has this deep inner light -- also those living in the Community. I believe that God can and will eventually speak through the one or the other, and one day the blinders will fall from their eyes. Let us be prepared when this happens!!
Ramon: Thank you for your letter also. You are right, that the individual conscience is crucified by leaders of the Bruderhof today. Also, that after the experience of baptism by water, the inevitable "baptism by fire" exclusion will follow, to test the ego and the ability to submit to the will of the leader -- or leaders. You are also right when you say that the scripture says that Christ will set you free! And I continue to believe that, even though at the moment this seems against all odds! Why are we so happy when we meet at the KIT Conferences? Because we are free -- set free! Each person, also the Bruderhofers will have to experience this for themselves and we cannot do this for them. I spoke with a theologian the other day and he said: "From the very beginning the scripture was interpreted or translated in different ways. Take the Lord's Prayer. We always say, "And lead us not into temptation but deliver..." whereas in reality it really says: "And lead us through temptation ......." which gives us a totally new dimension.
I must close for today! Please take my best wishes for the New Year as personal ones. I do hope that there will be a EuroKIT next year of some kind. I can well imagine that the team that organized so far want to give others a chance to do so. But I cannot very well ask you all to Holland, can I? All my love and very good wishes to all of you, far and near!!
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 12/24/94: I noticed that Konrad Kluver is not in agreement about using the expression "Plain People" and that nobody has disagreed with it. Well, Konrad, I have used the expression to exhibit the fact that we were treated that way. I do not condone that expression! I wanted to show how the Upper Echelon, the Servants of the Word, thought and think of us. Some were more equal than others. Read Animal Farm and you will know what I mean. I do not accept the way we were treated. I was always one to speak up against such treatment until I got squashed by the Servants of the Word. So enough explanation!
As time goes on, I become more and more appalled about the horror stories I hear, which seem to constantly come from the Commune. I thought life was terrible when we still lived in the Commune and did not think it could be worse. However the stories coming to light now are so terrible that it is hard to believe that a Christian community can act so coldly, towards young people in particular. Of course I should have known. I had enough experiences from my life in the Commune. Where is love, where is compassion, and where is a listening ear?!
Duffy, I am glad to hear that you experienced some love from the Commune. In my book I describe the good times I experienced in the Commune. That, however, does not cancel out the heart's anguish I and my family experienced. When KIT publishes things about the Commune which are negative, it does not mean that KIT wants to destroy them. I, for one, am not out to destroy them. However, why is it that the Commune is always right? When we try to challenge them on something, we really never get a clear and straight answer. We are told, "We cannot remember," or "It had to be challenged," or "Ausschluss had to take place. There is no life without Ausschluss!" Some people always seem to be on the receiving end in regard to being shunned. The Elder never, ever, makes a mistake! Are we not all human? I, for one, if I have made a mistake, will gladly apologize for it. Out family did everything to be in good graces, but it was all to no avail. Once you are labeled, you are labeled! One never gets free of the stigma. At least we never did, and that hurt. Our children suffered under that stigma. We had to be sent away to be free of it all.
Again, I say it is good that some people experienced love from the Commune. I think I am on the Black List because I have written a book. The truth hurts and therefore I am being completely blacked out. I am very grateful that I have no loved ones there in the Commune anymore, as my book has caused them to cut me off completely. I am thankful for how my book is selling. It seems to have captured many people's interest!
Staughton Lynd, 12/31/94: During the 1994 Christmas season, I found myself thinking further about the Macedonia Cooperative Community. Alice and I had dinner with four members of the KIT staff (Charley Lamar, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom, and Ramon Sender) whom we had not seen since 1957-58, when we lived for a time at the Woodcrest Bruderhof after the breakup of Macedonia. I also read the following in a piece by Konrad Kluver in the December KIT:
I have been informed by reliable sources that Heini convinced several members of the Macedonia Community to change over to the B'hof by offering them "positions" if they would join! One of them who actually was an agnostic or atheist, and still is, according to his actions, was made Witness Brother shortly after his baptism.
I'd like to offer my own account of what happened at Macedonia. First of all, to the best of my knowledge the only member at Macedonia who "actually was an agnostic or atheist" was myself. If Konrad's sources have in mind Dick (now Arnold) Mommsen, who did indeed become a Witness Brother at the Bruderhof, I find it difficult to imagine him seeking that position or changing over to the Bruderhof for that reason.
More generally, as one who lived through the decision-making process at Macedonia, I believe that what happened there in the summer of 1957 was a group conversion experience or religious revival. Early in 1954 four families -- Kurtzes, Newtons, Stanaways, and Franshams -- had left Macedonia and joined the Bruderhof. When Alice and I visited Macedonia in the summer of 1954 and returned "for good" in November, the remaining members of the Macedonia community were Ivan and Alma Kneeland, Art and Mary Wiser, and Dick and Dorothy Mommsen. Besides ourselves, Norman Moody (Doug Moody's brother) and his wife Ann, and Sharon Pratt (later Melan¨on), were trying out the life.
Macedonia continued to have frequent contact with the Bruderhof in 1954-57 because Community Playthings, which had been created at Macedonia, was jointly operated by the two communities. Differences arose that required discussion. We at Macedonia felt the Bruderhof's advertising was too "hard sell." The Bruderhof felt there was a quality problem with the Community Playthings products Macedonia continued to produce. (I think that there was a quality problem, and that my work in the shop probably contributed to it!) In June 1957, the Bruderhof and Macedonia decided to dissolve their business relationship and to proceed as two separate businesses, Community Playthings and Macedonia Blocks.
Meantime, there had begun an exchange of longer visits. The Potts family and Stanley Fletcher spent time at Macedonia. The Mommsens visited Woodcrest and were much impressed. On their return they taught us the song, "Come now in joy preparing." As I wrote in the October 1994 KIT: "The Bruderhof had lasted much longer than our community; it seemed more experienced, more sure of itself, immune to the uncertainty, groping experimentation and catastrophes experienced at Macedonia."
Before his recent death, Ivan Kneeland told me something else. In late 1956 or early 1957 Ivan and I made a short visit to Woodcrest. Heini gave Ivan a manuscript by Blumhardt with an admonition to the effect that it should be shared only with those Ivan considered ready to receive it. Ivan did not show me or tell me about the manuscript. As I understood Ivan, on our return to Macedonia he did share the Blumhardt essay with Art Wiser, who likewise said nothing about it to me. Telling me about this thirty years later Ivan asked my forgiveness. After Ivan's death, I asked Art to see the manuscript and he sent it to me.
In June or July 1957, full and provisional members of the Macedonia community began to read together in the New Testament. At the invitation of Macedonia, Heini and Duffy Black came from Woodcrest and took part in the later stages of the process. On September 16, 1957, the Macedonia members (besides the Kneelands, Wisers, and Mommsens, Kathy Brookshire, Vonnie and George Burleson, Van Geiger, Janet and Gordon Keith, Sharon and Jack Melan¨on, Joan Nicholson, and the Lynds) issued a statement ending with the declaration that "Macedonia has become a community of the Society of Brothers."
The statement (quoted in full in Edward Orser's book on Macedonia at pages 234-235) recognized that: "There were marked differences among us, in that some felt ready to ask for the novitiate in the Society of Brothers, while for others there were strong questions." I was the least persuaded. As Orser puts it, "eventually only Staughton Lynd held out." But Alice was drawn to experiencing life at the Bruderhof. I did not feel strong enough to carry on alone. I concluded I should give life at the Bruderhof a chance.
Indeed it was I who on or about September 24, 1957, drove the Macedonia truck and the first contingent of ex-Macedonians up the Woodcrest driveway. Young people had stationed themselves on both sides of the road, and sang "Lift your hidden faces." We had hot chocolate in the snuggery.
Alice and our two-year-old Barbara arrived a few days later. The weeks passed. I loved my work as a teacher of the junior high schoolers (Edith and Lisa Arnold, Jonathan Clement, Annie Maendel, Jeannie Chatham, Linda Stanaway). By way of studying the hunting phase of world history we found an old bear skin and made bear skin hats. Years later when Alice and I were breakfasting with the Kneelands at Evergreen, Jeannie came into the room carrying a baby daughter who was wearing... the bear skin hat! When the class got to the pastoral stage of history, we got a great mass of greasy sheep wool, and Annie showed us how the Hutterites washed, carded, dyed, and spun it.
But I continued to be wholly unmoved by the religious life at Woodcrest. One day I posted the following poem near the dining room at the Carriage House:
The year is dying.
The aged one is ruddy,
Happy in his going,
But I watch with fear
The rain wash clean
The piles of bloody leaves around his bed.
We were led thus far by many solemn signs:
A blaze, a sculled leaf
Told of foregoers;
Where the trail ended
We found a dried-up stream,
A hint of sky on up the slope.
What we came to was a death.
We did not reach the sun,
But came in time to see him die
Sinking blood-red
Behind the naked trees.
At this death
And through the winterdark
We need a light.
There are many wanderers in the woods
And in fear we may do each other harm.
We see no path ahead:
For us the journey is over,
And the waiting begun.
Lord, see thy petitioner:
Wooden arms,
Heavy earthen feet,
Face red with shame;
Scarecrow world, poor man
Asking for spring.
No one ever said a word to me about this poem. Nothing changed. We left on November 17, 1957, to try life at the Glen Gardner community in New Jersey.
While Alice and I were at Glen Gardner, the Bruderhof asked to meet with us. The meeting took place at a diner halfway between the two communities. The Bruderhof representatives said it had been decided to sell the Macedonia property, and offered Alice and myself a first option to buy it. We declined.
Alice returned to Woodcrest late in February 1958. Lizzie and Hans Uli Boller cared for Barbara. Lee, our second child, was born in May. Alice asked for the novitiate early in the fall, but was asked to leave in December. Our memories about Alice's leaving are incredibly vague -- it is almost like the memory loss of an accident victim -- but we believe the Bruderhof concluded that Alice was emotionally unable to advance toward full membership without her husband. Ramon took part in Bruderhof membership meetings at the time, and remembers Heini saying: "We will not split this family."
Even if what I have written is basically how it was, what Konrad Kluver was told raises a different question. Why did former Macedonians like Mark Kurtz, Art Wiser, and Jack Melancon (and a former member of the Celo community, Doug Moody) play such prominent roles so soon after joining the Bruderhof, in the events of the early 1960s? Why did it seem appropriate for men who had belonged to the community three or four years to exile persons who had put twenty or thirty years into building up the Bruderhof? I do not know the answer. Something I do feel strongly is that my beloved friend Jack Melancon might still be with Sharon -- and if he is dead, might still be alive -- had he not been pushed so quickly to wield great power in spiritual matters.
In retrospect, I have always felt that the "road not taken" for Macedonians was to recognize that neither we nor any power that we might summon could solve all human problems. We could have said, for example, to struggling marriage partners: "Look, we can give love, but that may not be enough. You should feel free to seek professional help outside the community." Also, I think we should have challenged individuals to draw on their own inner resources, in the manner of a Quaker clearness committee. We lacked confidence in our own tenets when we failed to show faith in the untapped strength, albeit in very different forms, within each person. Had Macedonia turned its face toward trust in the inner light within all human beings, rather than in principalities and powers outside them, we could have survived as a community until the coming of the sit-in and voter registration movements opened up new vistas.
A. Allen Butcher to Martin Johnson, Pleasant View Bruderhof, 12/16/94: Good Day! Thank you for sharing your concerns about the material related to the Bruderhof in my work, Community Tools. I will be revising that booklet and your comments have helped me to become more clear about certain aspects of that work.
First of all, I must admit that I do, as you wrote, "... wish to encourage anyone who wants to give their lives fully in communalism to what they believe even if others feel it is wrong." I lived twelve years of my adult life in communal society, the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC). Although the FEC shares the economic aspect of communalism with the Bruderhof, unlike your communities the FEC is secular and has a participatory government, while I understand your communities to be religious/spiritually oriented and to have an authoritarian government. Do you agree with this characterization?
I certainly respect your right to build whatever kind of community you wish, and have the intention of helping your communities' growth, not to aid their destruction. Where we disagree is on the point of whether the Peregrine Foundation's material is helpful or harmful. In our experience, being open about problems and controversial issues in our communities does more good than harm. Although this openness can be painful, like bitter medicine, I believe that it is also growthful and healthy in the long run. I will attempt to explain my feelings on this and ask how you receive these ideas.
In the communities in which I have lived (the FEC), when we had members who left in disagreement with the community's policies we simply reminded them that they knew what those policies were when they joined; it was spelled out to them in the membership agreement which they signed. Since they join willingly, they have no basis for complaining about how things are when they leave. This argument would hold for the Bruderhof as well, as long as the nature of the Bruderhof communities is made clear to new members before they join. I have no direct experience upon which to base a judgment as to whether or not the Bruderhof adequately (e.g., in writing) explains the reality of its government and society to prospective members before they join. The kind of information appearing in the Peregrine Foundation's newsletters suggests that people are not adequately prepared before joining for the kind of authoritarian government and controlled society which they report finding upon joining, and subsequently leaving.
Please understand my perspective. As one who is providing information to the public about intentional communities it is my responsibility to provide all the information that is available, both positive and negative. It is important to report the negative as the public is (rightfully) concerned about the number of tragedies that occur in the community movements. I'm sure that I need not list those here. The best early warning that we have about problems in communities is what ex-members and families of current members are saying about the community or movement. If there is widespread concern it is my responsibility to let this be known. No other community movement that I know of has the range and volume of disgruntlements directed toward it as does the Bruderhof. Other authoritarian groups, such as the Catholic Monasteries and even the Hutterites seem to adequately explain themselves to prospective members, or more likely, take in few members from outside. Since the Bruderhof has a policy of growth by assimilation of folks who grew up in the outside culture, it is understandable that some of those would misjudge what life in Bruderhof communities is really like, and later leave in disappointment. Providing better orientation to these new recruits may be one answer to your problem.
Another potential answer is the one adopted by the Emissary communities, a network of spiritual communities that also has a large number of disgruntled, dissatisfied ex-members. (Unlike with the ex-Bruderhof folks, these have not created a newsletter to print their concerns; I only know of these via personal conversations and second or third person reports, so there is no material here for me to advertise, which I would do if it were accessible.) The Emissaries have begun a reformation process of change from a limited participatory/strong unelected leader format to much more of a genuinely participatory governmental system. The change is impressive, and by all reports, was only possible after the death of one strong paternalistic leader. His son then encouraged the change to greater degrees of participation by the members in each of their communities' governments, and in the coordination of their network as a whole.
When you state that the goal of the Peregrine Foundation is to destroy the Bruderhof, I do not believe that this is the case. I believe that their goal is to encourage the kind of reformation within the Bruderhof that the Emissaries are experiencing. For my part, I think that your problem could be solved simply by more adequately conveying to new members and the rest of the world the true nature of your governmental and social system, in terms that we understand, i.e. other than strictly Biblical terms. Notice that I employ a method of classifying different types of governments based upon a continuum ranging from authoritarianism to consensus participation. Social systems may be classified as ranging from controlled to open. (I have much more material on methods of presenting the different types of intentional communities if you are interested.)
In my view, some kind of change is inevitable, and since the Bruderhof leadership does not adequately report on these issues in its official publications, we who observe from the outside must rely upon the material that we have available from ex- members.
The message that I get from the Bruderhof leadership (may I count you in that number?) and their publications with regard to the concerns voiced by ex- members in the Peregrine Foundation newsletter, is one of blaming the messenger for their bad tidings, of ignoring the basic charges aimed at your leaders, and of denial of the degree of seriousness of the issues. The fact that you ask me to delete reference to these charges from my publications may be an effort at damage control from your perspective, but from my perspective as an outside observer this suggests that the Bruderhof leadership is engaged in a cover-up or whitewashing of the issues. I have seen no official, serious response from the Bruderhof leadership (specific names of "Bruderhof leaders" I expect I could infer from your own publications as well as from Peregrine Foundation material) with regard to the concerns of ex-members and of families of current members, nor have I seen any response to these issues coming from other current members. If you would provide such material, I would be happy to advertise it along with the other side of the issue.
Frankly, I remember when I lived in the FEC that we preferred to think of ourselves as being separate from the rest of the world with regard to how we conducted our communities' business, and that we did not appreciate outsider's opinionated meddling. I suppose that all communities feel this way to some degree, so I do not fault you for that. Yet we must awake to the fallacy of isolationism. Communities are like individuals. We may think that we are alone, and that what we do or say is our own business, but the truth is that individual communities and networks are part of a larger community of communities, just as individual people are part of a larger human community, whether we recognize that fact or not. What one of us does affects us all, and we must be responsible to one another. When we forget this and carry on behaviors that others object to, those of us who are concerned have a moral responsibility to voice those objections, and continue to attract attention to the issues of concern until some answer is offered and a resolution is found. I am sure that you understand what I am saying, and that you can see how the above relates to the Peregrine Foundation. Hopefully, the fact that only one side of the issues in question are now presented in the Peregrine materials will inspire an official or even unofficial response directly addressing the issues from the Bruderhof perspective. The hope for such a response is a good reason for me to continue to advertise the existence of the Peregrine Foundation publication. If you would ask, I expect that your ex-members would be happy to work with you in addressing their concerns rather than continue to appear to be working against you.
I recognize that you may not accept my position on this issue, but I hope that you will at least understand that my intentions are good. When one friend feels that they have to say difficult things to another, this is sometimes called "tough love." It is not easy to hear criticism, but working with it can be healthy and growth engendering. I hope that you will accept all of this as coming from one who sincerely wishes to help build, not to destroy. I have never visited a Bruderhof community, but I did briefly visit two Hutterite Colonies and met several Bruderhof and Hutterite members at conferences of the Communal Societies Association and of the International Communal Societies Association. I know your people to be wonderful, beautiful people, and I wish only the best.
I believe that it is possible for the Bruderhof to be a more open, responsive and participatory community and still live in, as you wrote, "full commitment to the Bible's words." If authoritarianism is Old Testament, then a participatory openness to renewal and reformation is New Testament. I encourage you to consider your communities to be New Testament with regard to this authoritarian/participation issue. For this reason I offer the following in the hope that you will find these resources to be helpful in addressing the problems in the Bruderhof communities that we on the outside consider to be significant. Sincerely, A. Allen Butcher, P.O. Box 1666, Denver, CO 80201-1666
"The best way to keep your community from
becoming a cult is to continually expose its processes and
dynamics to the light. Cults cannot withstand scrutiny.
That is why many of them demand that members cut ties
with family and friends, ... and treat questions about the
community like arrows from the enemy.
"If you attempt to root out all cult behavior from
your own community, however, or label any other group
exhibiting such behavior a cult, you risk falling into the
righteousness trap yourself. Every person and group has
a shadow. This is as natural as the moon possessing a
dark side and a tree providing shade. The path to health
for individuals and groups lies in acknowledging the
shadow and integrating it into conscious awareness. In
this lies the secret of becoming whole."
from: Creating Community Anywhere, Carolyn R.
Shaffer & Kristin Anundsen, Tarcher/Perigee, 1993, p. 246.
If you agree that it is important to acknowledge and work with the negative or less perfect aspects of ourselves or our communities, please consult these other resources:
Meeting The Shadow: The Dark Side Of Human Nature, edited by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams (Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1991).
The Shadow Side of Community and The Growth of The Self, M. K. Woff-Salin (Crossroads, 1988).
People of The Lie, M. Scott Peck, M.D. (Harper and Row, 1986).
and other resources listed in Creating Community Anywhere.
P.S. This entire letter, along with excerpts from your letter to me are being shared with others in the Fellowship for Intentional Community, and copies are being forwarded to The Plough Publishers and to the Peregrine Foundation. AAB
Hilarion Braun, 12/17/94: How beating or caning of children was carried out on the Bruderhof has been the subject of some speculation, but little has been written that would shed light on how widespread the practice was. In the Primavera communities, it was very widespread, even though some children were exempt, for some reason. I, for example, was caned only twice by people other than my parents. However my brother (one of three) was regularly and often caned by Hortners (recreation leaders) and Servants alike. I must say, though, that his defiance of authority remained a legacy and has brought him much grief far beyond the reach of the Bruderhof.
To put this in perspective, let me give my own experience as an example and then try to describe what I observed in others. A school friend once told me that she had heard her friend describe to her his 'playing doctor' with a playmate. She wanted my advice on what to do, I told her to remain silent to save the hide of the transgressors. A few days later, she confessed the whole story to her parents, including my 'bad' advice. I was summoned to a Servant's office where he told me that I needed a Denkzette (lesson) and ordered me to fetch a stick. I had to bend over and was caned. It made no sense to me. I also was told that what I had done was to participate in filth.
Another time, a group of us boys did not keep up with the rest of the Hort (play group) on our way back from an expedition to the Wurzel. All of the late arrivals had to line up in the woodworking shop, bend over and be strapped with a leather belt made specifically for that purpose by a Hortner. Needless to say, I was never late again! The experience included a perverse, sexual aspect because it was obvious the Hortner enjoyed what he was doing. In general, he would joke about his practice of disciplining the boys at the drop of a hat! Once, when my brother was treated to the same ritual, my mother intervened and scolded the Hortner for not letting my Dad take this responsibility. I don't know whether or not her scolding had the desired effect.
Another Hortner, who later was a Servant, regularly caned children (I think only boys) when they were late in line for our evening procession to the children's dining room. He would take the boy behind a tree (we could still see part of them) clamp the boy's head between his knees and cane him. I always found it utterly perverse and humiliating. It caused us to feel a common bond of hatred.
To those whose culture is different, it should be understood that both the Germans and the English historically have believed in the virtue of ritualistic caning or beating. What is so grotesque and perverse is that it is not the result of anger or frustration, but instead a calculated administration of "discipline," believed to be as necessary as vitamin C. The more the better!
In my own development, I resented that my parents would resort to such stupidity. When I was almost seven years old, I decided to fight back physically. My father was shocked, and suddenly saw how violence begets violence. In one terrible moment we, father and son, were actually in a physical fight in which I was so enraged that I was willing to risk everything to stop him from hitting me. He promised me from then on never, ever again, to strike me, no matter what the provocation. In spite of his promise, my mother continued to use a belt to strike me, not ritualistically but out of frustration that I was not going to be the Bruderhof boy she wanted.
One of my closest school buddies, who grew up in a very Prussian home, was beaten mercilessly and very often by his father who was the schoolmaster. It amazed me how well he took these beatings and how quickly he would stop crying. Ironically I, who was caned quite infrequently, felt more horrified at the beatings of others and turned my rage inward in sympathy for others' pain. This morbid sensitivity in children makes the practice of violence doubly evil because it punished both directly and indirectly, and in a totally indiscriminate way. I donÕt mean to imply that psychological violence is any less perverse, but we have yet to grapple with the more obvious violence, namely physical violence in a pacifist community.
Miriam Arnold Holmes, 12/26/94: I enjoyed December's KIT very much, especially Andy Harris' and Ben Cavanna's childhood memories. It's so good to hear from the men how they experienced various times, good and bad. I also enjoyed Konrad Kluver's account of his father's exclusion in the Wally-Waldchen and his close communion with the wildlife of Paraguay. What a great storyteller Willi Kluver must have been!
I would like to address something else Konrad wrote about, re: the "plain brother" issue. I agree with Konrad that this concept should be totally foreign to anyone who is true to the original Bruderhof ideal. I would, however, like to correct the notion that this term originated with the Arnold brothers. I believe only one of the brothers, namely Heini, is responsible for this.
I came across it for the first time in the second edition of "Tortures Rekindled," in the letter Heini left for Christoph, his son and heir, with the instruction not to open it until the former's death. Frankly, I was horrified about how blatantly Heini espoused his superiority vis-a- vis the "plain brothers." Had he no shame? I never heard anything like it from my father Hardi, nor do I believe Hans Herman thought or said anything like that. Hans Herman, especially, was not particularly interested in power. I'm sure there were things in Primavera as well as in the U.S. that Hans Herman objected to and spoke out against, but never for the purpose of self-importance and power. My father Hardi in his humanness occasionally got bitten by the power bug. However he always very quickly got beaten down because he wasn't that subtle about it and Heini would not stand for it.
All through my childhood and youth my father impressed upon us how, in God's eyes, nobody is better than anyone else. To illustrate this, I will recount a dream my father told us that he had in Primavera.
The dream: "The brotherhood in Primavera received the message that Jesus was coming to visit. Everyone got very excited and eagerly gathered at an outdoor location to wait for Jesus to arrive. Somehow the local Paraguayans got wind of the impending arrival of this important guest, so they also came. They stood a good distance away from the gathered Brotherhood, humbly holding their straw hats in their hands, standing barefoot in the dusty road, hoping to catch a glimpse of the honored guest.
"Sure enough, here comes Jesus walking towards the group. However, to the shock and horror of the Brotherhood, instead of approaching them, Jesus walked past them and went to the Paraguayans. He spoke to them, completely ignoring the Brotherhood, leaving them to feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves because of their arrogance."
This was Hardi's message to his children. I wish everyone a very good, peaceful New Year.
Joel Clement, 12/18/94: While a Bruderhof graduate was visiting here at my house, I took the occasion to ask him about one girl whom I had known at the Bruderhof who seemed to be severely depressed -- let's call her Sophie Walsh. The Walsh family was quite large -- American in origin -- and had joined in the late 1950s. In 1968 the family had been sent away to the Saugerties, N.Y., area where the Bruderhof owned one of their famous Auschluss houses -- the same place where I think the Domer family was sent after Dick Domer's fall from power in 1973, which Ben Cavanna refers to in his life story in the December, 1994 KIT. The Walsh family remained out for several years until around 1971 when they were accepted back into the community. I do not know the charges against them. They were both very sweet people. They were probably found to be "in the wrong spirit" or something stupid like that.
When my family returned from Darvell to the U.S. (Evergreen Bruderhof) in 1973, the Walsh family was back at Woodcrest. Sophie was kind of shy and quiet and reminded me a bit of Laurel Durgin. She was about 3 years older than me, which in 1973 would have made her 20-21 years old. During occasional visits to Woodcrest from Evergreen, I sensed something about her which led me to believe that the exclusion of her family (due to some supposed fault of her parents) had taken a toll on her. I think this also might have been the case with Laurel Durgin. The children helped bear the guilt of their parents and were adversely affected by the massive shame associated with being sent away from the Bruderhof. Mike LeBlanc writes about this also.
I think that Sophie either was a novice or had asked for the novitiate, which was also a major step toward membership. It was clear that she was seriously seeking to become more committed to "the life, but she seemed sad to me.
For approximately one year I took part in the Gemeindestunde meetings at Evergreen where my family lived. I was about 18 at the time. Many of the meetings were conducted with a phone-loudspeaker connecting the three hofs together, Woodcrest, Evergreen and New Meadow Run. As you know, the Gemeindestunde was "The Church Hour" and the most revered part of the life of the church-community. It was here that those individuals who were experiencing problems or who were "not in the right spirit" would have to confess their sins publicly in order to clear it up before the church could come to prayer. Sometimes this happened before the teaching or reading and sometimes it came right after the teaching.
I remember Sophie Walsh making a weeping confession before the church. I don't remember what she said in terms of specifics -- I don't think there was any specific sin. It seemed to me to be a general feeling of being sinful. If memory serves me correctly, the reading that night was from Heini's book, Freedom from Sinful Thoughts, which had just been published. Doug Moody "had" the meeting from Woodcrest and was reading from that book, and then Sophie made this weeping confession. Doug then addressed her condition in some way, and I got the impression that she was under some kind of church discipline and no longer in the Brotherhood. She may have been confessing to having sinful thoughts as well as a general feeling of sinfulness.
Having been at the community at the time, my general impression is that the book was written as a result of many young people confessing to having problems with sinful thoughts and as a way to "help" us. For many, it just made matters worse and we became obsessed with our sinfulness. Then we were told not to engage in "self-circling" but to be more joyful. That kind of thing.
Some months later, Sophie was sent from Woodcrest to Evergreen and was put with a family that was mostly girls. Now she appeared to me to be quite depressed. From her general demeanor, she appeared to be very depressed. Perhaps she was being medicated, I don't know. I don't think she was in the Brotherhood or in the Gemeindestunde circle. I think she was under Church discipline. I observed that she was almost always accompanied by one of the girls in that family as though they thought she might harm herself or something.
One day I was in our living room in our family's apartment. I was sitting at the dining room table near the door, talking to one of the other young men who was visiting us. Sophie and one of the girls accompanying her were out in the hallway, passing through on their way somewhere or perhaps visiting a family down the hall. Before I knew what had happened Sophie was standing behind me and had put her hand on my shoulder. She didn't say anything. As near as I can remember she hardly spoke anyway -- it seemed like just speaking took great effort -- that's how depressed she seemed.
The guy I was with looked shocked and I didn't know what to do. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. It was very much out of the ordinary. The other girl quickly took Sophie away with her. We did not talk much about the incident - it had happened so fast. A few days later my mother came to me and talked about the incident to sort of clear it up. She told me that Sophie had become worse or something to that effect and was being moved away or was going to get treatment or something like that. I don't know what happened to her -- whether she went back to Woodcrest at that point or was put in some kind of an institution. I wonder what became of her.
Mike LeBlanc, 12/11/94: As the holidays draw near, I like to pause and reflect about events of the past year and look forward to what the new year will bring. As the seasons move from fall to chilly winter and then back to a sunny spring, the cycle of life continues. As new life springs from the ground, I find hope for the future, on a personal, then global scale.
Also during the holiday seasons, or on special days we hold dear for whatever reason, we experience something special. Whether it be Christmas, Hanukah, All Saints Day, a birthday, wedding or whatever, there are events in our lives where we experience a tremendous sense of joy, love and expectation. On these days, something very special happens, which I will call a "miracle". Somehow we feel inexplicably happy, bathing in what I believe is the presence of our Creator, or Source of Life, or Ultimate Truth or meaning of life, or whatever you call that thing which deep down in each one of us resides as a spark. This spark can sense the presence of that same entity, same force, yet many times more powerful. This can happen when we help others, give gifts to the needy, or just do something that "feels right". This brief moment, this "miracle", is to be treasured.
It is my hope, however, that we do not limit ourselves to trying to achieve this joy, happiness, or spirit of giving only during the holidays or other special days, but that we reach out to our fellow man whenever we see him in need, and in doing so, once again, can experience "the miracle" of LOVE. We can take that special feeling and spread it out over the whole year, and in doing so, will not only help out our fellow traveler on the road of Life, but will experience tenfold, the joy, hope, and love that we extend to others. This is not a mystic, or ethereal spirit, but can be felt and experienced as a practical reality.
My thanks go to all who have shared truth, pain, but most importantly Love, and in so doing, help me experience a "miracle", by helping me to see another side of the Bruderhof that allowed me to finally let go of the ideal of perfection, not only in religion, but all facets of life! As I struggle to create new beliefs, new ideals, new "miracles", I bid you all thanks, peace and joy for the coming year.
I would be amiss not to mention that I wish the same for those that are still held in bondage in the Bruderhof system. This extends from the lowest brother to the highest Servant, but most especially to the Elder. From my perspective, it is the Elder who will have much to answer for, when he stands at the feet of his Creator. I hope sincerely that he can remember a "miracle" that he experienced, and relive that miracle by expressing love to his brothers and sisters, whether "innies" or "outies", speaking the plain and honest truth, begging forgiveness, thus freeing himself and those he holds close, in fear through intimidation, from Bondage.
The Truth, blended with Love into a searing, cutting, molding, creative, joyful, exuberant Flame, will set us ALL free, to live to our full potential as creatures of the Universe!
My heart, my spark, my small flame,
reaches out to all of you,
wishing that where you hurt, you will find healing,
where you are persecuted, you find peace,
where you are confused, you find truth,
where you are hungry, you are fed,
where you are thirsty, a cool, clear drink is offered,
and where you are weary, you find rest.
For only with clear mind,
glad and joyous heart,
strong hands, and feet,
can you reach out,
to offer your brother in need,
a helping hand,
a smile,
a sympathetic ear,
to offer him
and Him,
and you,
a miracle,
come true.
In closing I offer once again, the following, hoping that each one of you can find the spark in yourself, to light another's flame, and in so doing find love, joy, truth, and fulfillment for you life:
A spark resides,
within each one,
joined together,
in innocence,
self sacrifice,
giving their lives,
for one another,
torches together!
Years of hardship,
Lives given freely,
lives ruined easily,
at whim of
founders son,
and others in
name of love,
Torches extinguished!
rising above the fire,
fall outside the circle,
over time,
fanned by healing,
reaching out,
join hands,
growing in intensity,
in all truth,
torches rekindled,
yet not the same.
Let us be truly "graduates" of the community, moving on to create, to live, to love, to be fulfilled, for living up to our potential, we become a beacon for those that are not yet "Free from Bondage."
Wendy & David Dorsey, December 1994: This year was marked by a significant passage: in February our son Reuben took off to travel around the U.S. with a friend, Jeannie. They ended up deciding to stay and go to school in New Mexico. Later, in November, they traveled to Amsterdam (Holland), stopping by to see us on the way. Reuben plans to pursue a degree in English and write (he's had three poems published, which precipitated a dramatic change in future career from chef to writer!); Jeannie is working on a Master's in Psychology. I suppose it's not totally coincidental that Jeannie has had experience as a counselor for troubled adolescents and loves working with them. We miss seeing Reuben, but he keeps in touch and we're happy he's finding a direction and some happiness in his life.
Our three younger children continue at Rolling Terrace Elementary School, which has a wonderfully diverse population, including children (many refugees) from all over the world, all colors, cultures and classes. Viviane, in 5th grade, has taken up the flute and continues in Girl Scouts. Eliana, 4th grade, chose to begin violin lessons, and is progressing in gymnastics, which she thoroughly enjoys. Paulo, 4th grade, continues in Boy Scouts and is beginning the clarinet.
David and I continue pursuing the dream of building a cohousing community in this area. We are actively searching for a site and there are some real possibilities, but nothing definite yet. We're also working with our church community to focus on greater inclusion of families and children in the life of the community. It is a time of renewal and re-looking at where we are as a church.
David and I also continue in our vocations, finding new challenges and joys. In the current political climate which mitigates harshly against those "at the bottom" of society, we are particularly grateful to be given meaningful ways to be engaged in encouraging and advocating for "the least of these." Kid-space/House of Ruth Child and Family Development Center will be moving and expanding to include babies and toddlers in the new year.
We greet you with gratefulness for the abundant life that has been given, and hope that each of you shares that experience of abundance and grace in your lives. If we haven't heard from you this season, we look forward to hearing from you in the new year. With love and hope,
Jon & Linda Greenwood, 12/15/94: Happy Holiday, Family and Friends! Another year is almost over and once again we wonder what happened to it. So we will mention the highlights of the year, not only to keep you informed but to remind ourselves of what we did in 1994. The children are getting to be more helpful in the house and in the barn. Clara is 14 years old. She is in charge of cooking supper and doing dishes. She can now cook just about anything. In fact she cooked our Thanksgiving meal by herself this year. She loves cats and wants to be come a veterinarian.
Ben is 12 years old. He mows the lawn, and helps in the garden. He also helps Linda with milking on the weekends. He loves to read and is reading Tom Clancy novels now. Ben's goal is to become a test pilot or an aerospace engineer. Ted is Ted and he is 10 years old. He said he wants to be a farmer when he grows up. He does have more of an interest in the farm than Clara or Ben. He is one of the top math students in the 4th grade. He is into computers and Super Nintendo. All the children make full use of computers at school. Ben helps other students in his class with them. Clara is typing this letter for us. They are all involved in 4-H. The boys had pigs at the fair this year. Clara had an art project that went to the state fair.
This year has not been good for Ben, health-wise. The week after school was out for the summer, he had surgery on his right hip. The bones were separating and a pin was put in to stop it. He had to spend 6 weeks on crutches. Before he was completely recovered from that problem his other hip developed the same thing. So in November he had the other hip operated on. It will be March before he will be allowed to run again. They were both caught early and no permanent limitations are expected.
We had a roadside stand for sweet corn. Our road was redone this summer and it greatly affected business. "When life gives you lemons make lemonade." So we supplied the IGA store with sweet corn. We will have this market again next year and a new road to sell beside. Linda is active in a writers group she started two years ago. She is also involved in "agriculture in the classroom" at the elementary school. She was recently on TV doing a lesson on corn. She and Clara took a 10-day vacation in February to visit her sister Marie in St. Louis.
Jon continues to shuffle his time between farming and politics. In November he was elected to a 4-year term as County Legislator. Then in the first week in December he was elected vice-president of The N.Y Farm Bureau. He also has been asked to be chairman of the Dairy Committee on the American Farm Bureau. Some of his travels this year included Fort Lauderdale, St. Louis, and Washington D.C. He crisscrosses N.Y state in-between his out-of-state travels. We had a great crop of alfalfa and corn. It was a tremendous growing year. The extra feed will be needed because we hoped to be at 275 cows next year. We also built a new barn for young stock, calves through springing heifers. It is 186 ft x 106 ft and well hold 300 head.
Some of our visitors included Jon's mother and father in April. Linda's sister Marie and nephew Eric in August. Glen and Karen (and their two sons Eric and Mark.) made several visits during the year. On a sadder note, Jon's grandmother Bessie died in February. She would have been 100 years old later that month. She is missed by all.
I hope everyone has time to reflect on the happenings of the past year and that next year will be all you hope it to be. Have a happy new year.
Nadine Pleil has had the following two articles about her book appear in the Western Pensylvania press.
Finding freedom a life's journey
by Don Herschell
The Observer-Reporter, Monday Nov. 28, p. 1
Washington and Greene Counties, Pennsylvania
MEADOW LANDS -- Stay in prison. long enough, and you get used to it. You may even fear being set free to make your own decisions and live your own life.
Sixty-two-year-old Nadine Pleil of Washington knows how it feels. She spent 40 years living in Hutterian Brethren religious communes in England, Paraguay, Uruguay and the United States. In Free From Bondage, a 368-page autobiography published earlier this year, Pleil writes of being told where to live and work, what to believe and who to love. She writes of questioning the decisions of the Hutterian elders and being shunned and eventually expelled for it, all "out of love."
"In my mind, man has taken over, and it did not start that way," Pleil said of the Hutterites. "To be very open and honest about it, I feel that it has become a cult."
Soft-spoken and unassuming, Pleil today answers the phone at the local office of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. She describes herself as open-minded, independent and even rebellious -- qualities that eventually got her labeled a troublemaker and her eight children branded as "problem children," she said.
Almost exactly 14 years ago, on Nov. 27, 1980, Pleil, her husband and six of their children were expelled from New Meadow Run Bruderhof near Uniontown and placed in a rented apartment in Washington. She said the other two children had been expelled earlier or forced to leave.
Although she had attempted to leave the commune several times over the years, it was with mixed emotions that she arrived in Washington that day. Making her own decisions was a new experience.
"One time when we said we wanted to leave, they said, 'Oh, you can't leave just like that. We have to make that decision for you.' I was married and had several children," Pleil said. "When it finally happened, I think I was upset because of the way it happened. But once we were out, we all said that we were not going back."
The children were enrolled in Washington School District and went through a time of adjustment. At first they wore Hutterian costumes, similar to traditional Amish or Mennonite attire, she said.
For years, members of the Hutterite commune in Farmington visited the family occasionally and tried to persuade them to repent and return to the community. Pleil said she was free from the commune physically, but she still felt its pull on her mind.
"I kept on worrying about what the commune would think," she said, recalling with a slight laugh how the neighbors gave the Pleils their first television set, which was against the commune's rules. "We used to cover it up. Whenever we knew that they were coming, I would really get upset.
"They really brainwashed us," she said. "They always described the world as evil, and then you thought, do I want to take my children out into the evil world? So in the end, you believed that what the elders did and said was right."
No members have visited them for three years, but Pleil said she believes the leaders are sorry they sent he family away, and they are afraid of what the book reveals. She said the book doesn't make any exaggerations.
Free From Bondage (Carrier Pigeon Press, $17) begins in pre-World War II England, where Pleil lived with her mother, stepfather and brother. When the war started, the bombings caused her to become hysterical, and her stepfather took her to stay at the Hutterite commune.
The arrangement was supposed to be temporary, but the war forced her family to move to India and the commune to move to Paraguay.
She believes the war made Hutterite philosophy -- a philosophy of living together in peace and harmony, of sharing everything you had and giving up your independence for the good of the group -- very attractive. But she said her faith in God has become stronger since leaving the commune.
I didn't really feel that I needed God. I was taken care of," she said. "But when we came out from the community, I really needed God and I needed faith. And when things looked very black, a way was always shown and we got help."
She eventually was adopted by a couple in the commune, and she considered them her mother and father from then on. Once she was given parents, Pleil said, she had a happy childhood, but she still regrets taking so long to leave.
Last year, her adoptive mother, who continued to live in a Hutterian commune in New York, died. It bothers Pleil that the Hutterians did not notify her of the death, but her mother's death freed her to publish the book without worrying about the consequences for her.
"Writing the book, for me, has been very good therapy," Pleil said. "It put everything in perspective, made me feel that I could get on with my life. Now I don't worry about what the commune thinks about me."
Pleil said the book started out as a way to explain her life to her children. She said she and her husband, Augusto, always taught their children to think for themselves, which is what she hopes her readers will take from the book.
"I think the message is, to the young people especially, not to jump into living a life that looks very attractive before they've really thought well about what the future might be with such a life."
The Tribune Review, Sunday Nov 13, 1994 FOCUS Section 'Book and Author'
Free from bondage: Unhealthy ties to brotherhood
By Dorothy Yagodich
Watching Nadine Moonje Pleil at her desk in the Soil Conservation office in Meadowlands, Washington County, one could scarcely imagine the life she endured for four decades. Nadine was 8 when England came under attack during World War II. Bombs blasted London, sirens screamed and gas masks became common gear at school, in church, even in the air raid shelter. "I had nightmares and was hysterical with fear."
Separated from the half-English, half-East-Indian father before Nadine was born, her mother asked if the child could be placed in the care of the Cotswold Bruderhof community for three months to get away from the bombings in London. A train carried the child and her few belongings to the Society of Brothers, a small Anabaptist splinter sect, to their Oaksey Bruderhof community. Nadine left behind her mother, a stepfather and a young brother named Vijay. Frightened and alone, she had to adjust. German was spoken all day long. Shuffled between different families and locations, before long Nadine and the community packed their belongings and boarded ship for the South American continent, settling in Paraguay. Nadine's mother, brother and stepfather moved to India. With Nadine in Paraguay and Vijay in India, the siblings grew up half a world apart.
The primitive jungles were Nadine's new home. Called "Primavera," the 20,000-acre ranch offered no amenities. Shelters with thatched roofs, crawling creatures and tropical diseases were commonplace. But there were pleasant memories too. The jungle flora, vivid sunsets, picnics, swimming the river and always new people.
When Nadine was 10, she watched a Bruderhof baptism. The "Servants" explained it meant to commit their lives to God and the Brothers with the promise to accept admonitions and stay loyal. Nadine was reluctant yet she felt grateful that the community had given her a home and taken her from war-torn England.
"They promised a life where people would live in peace and harmony, sharing all their worldly goods. On the surface it looks very attractive because everything is taken care of," Nadine recalls.
Asking why children of the Brothers received more privileges than children of the "plain people," she was accused of wanting to serve the devil. Each time she rebelled, she was chastised. The Brothers said they were punishing her out of love and began calling her "Nadine the Rebel."
The only thing that belonged to Nadine were her thoughts "the private part of me. They were mine to keep. Everything else had to be shared, but I held onto my thoughts as something especially my own." Later, she found that even her innermost thoughts were not allowed to be hers.
(photo with caption:
Nadine Pleil: Family free at last.)
When Nadine was 13, she was smitten with a 24- year-old man in the community. A kiss began a secret relationship that lasted for four years. "Paul was a baptized member and I was still a child, although maturing quickly. In the eyes of the Brotherhood we were doing something that was considered very sinful." The pair confessed their undying love to each other but when the Brothers found out, Paul was shunned into "great exclusion" and expelled from the community. Nadine was put in "small exclusion" and treated like a leper. She was just 17. The community demanded the few small gffts that Paul had given her. Rather than surrender them, she dropped them into the outhouse.
"You servants, you can take all my earthly goods, of which there are very few, but you can never take my heart, my love and my thoughts away from me. Those belong to me forever."
Nadine thought about running away. "I wanted to become a doctor. I'll always regret that I did not accept my mother's offer to study medicine in England." Bruderhof women were not allowed to use their brains or talents. "I was asked if I wanted to follow Jesus or go back to the evil world. In my mind, I couldn't be a doctor and follow Jesus.
"Women had three tasks in life, to clean, to cook, to bear and care for children. Women were to remain silent in meetings and not allowed to voice any opinion in public."
When Augusto Pleil, a baptized Brother, asked to marry the teenager, "I was given three days to make a decision." The union brought eight children, born on different continents.
The Pleils moved about at the whim of the community and were assigned tasks. Augusto worked as a cobbler while Nadine cleaned, worked in the community laundry, hospital or school. Children were sent to the "Babyhouse" at 6 weeks and the mother returned to work.
"We were brainwashed into believing we were bad parents," said Nadine. "We were harassed to discipline our children, forcing them to conform to the demands of the Brothers."
Many times the Pleils wanted to leave, but fear of the world kept them bound to the Brotherhood which threatened expulsion for little reason. Nadine said at one time, "600 people were sent away after having toiled for years in the Brotherhood."
Many of their friends, sometimes an entire family, sometimes a single family member, were expelled.
When Nadine was 29, the Pleil family was sent back to England. While in England, Nadine was reunited with her brother Vijay, who had become a physician and was living in Canada. She not seen Vijay in 23 years. Eventually the Pleil family moved again, this time to the United States. They were sent to communities in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The Bruderhof community near Farmington, Fayette County, became home. The children were growing, attending schools in Uniontown and finally Washington, Pa.
By this time, husband Augusto's entire family, his parents and eight brothers and sisters, were "kicked out" of the community. Nadine, Augusto and their children were dealt the final blow too. "We were just told we had to leave." The community provided them a home in Washington, a shabby shack with obscene words scribbled on the walls and the smell of dogs permeating the air. Nadine described it as "a pigsty."
The Pleils dug in to make the house a home and picked up the pieces of their lives without the community. They were visited repeatedly by the Brothers and told to confess their sins, to repent and then perhaps they could return.
The children, four boys and four girls, wanted no part of the community.They eventually went on to colleges, to jobs. Augusto worked in a shoe repair shop and also made musical instruments. He's retired now "but he's not retired," Nadine explained. "He's always busy." Nadine took jobs cleaning offices and as a nanny for years.
Then Green Thumb -- "they hire older Americans" -- placed her at the Soil Conservation Service where she has been for the past four and a half years. "I've learned a lot, even how to operate the computer."
And over the last 10 years, Nadine has been committing her experiences to book form. "The idea originated with my husband and children." She kept a diary and had letters from friends, but the Brothers demanded she turn them over. To ensure the memoirs would not fall into the hands of the Society, Augusto burned then. Still, her recently published book Free From Bondage (Carrier Pigeon Press, a Project of The Peregrine Foundation. 368 pages. $17) brims with names, photographs and details. "I've been blessed with a very good memory," she said.
Dorothy Yagodich is a Charleroi free-lance writer.
Paulo Allain, 11/16 '94: I received the Vol VI #10 Oct. 94 issue of the KIT Newsletter a few weeks ago. There are a lot of interesting contributions, especially the report I Leave the Bruderhof, by Belinda Manley, which is such a vivid description of those times. I got a letter from Hans G. Zimmermann commenting on the Palmgrove affair. Zimmermann also tells me a certain Martin Johnson has threatened Bette Bohlken-Zumpe with a libel suit for slander. Well, I think here is a good opportunity to make public all of the issues we ex- members have against the SOB treatment of children, young people and the procedures for ousting members. I should say, let's catch them on this, so the "slander" will have to be made public. Only a very narrow-minded and stupid executive of a corporation would risk his company's reputation to sue for slander when there are tons of evidence that the charges are correct and can be backed up by hundreds of documents and people willing to testify. We could even make them pay for a few hundred air fares to bring people to court!
Then you, Ramon, could also come in and threaten to sue them for having spread the idea that you are out to destroy the communities "as long as they follow Jesus" -- what a crab! I wonder where they could find written proof for such a lie. I think all of us ex-members should keep any correspondence containing any kind of material that could be useful in the event of a suit. We could even call in the press and let them record an attempted visitation of a family member. That could then be used as material for proving the "loving welcome" they are giving ex-members.
I think we have come to a point where confrontation sooner or later is bound to occur. I would like to see the SOB pay financial restitution, especially to the people who were cruelly sent away without a penny. I believe this will alleviate their much heavier karma in the future. I am not claiming any indemnification for myself, but for my brother, who still bears the scars of their cruel treatment up to this day.
I would like to thank for Hans G. Zimmermann for his letter commenting on the Palmgrove affair and giving his ideas for the reasons that made the SOB pull out without fighting. I am sorry for those innocent SOB women who married Nigerians and who are now probably in a tight situation. New country, different mentality, different religious and psychological background. And they probably have not had any previous experience in dealing with conflicting opinions and now they will have to learn the new premises on which to base their decisions.
After having read the October Issue of KIT, I feel we have come to a point where the usual means for reconciliation with the Bruderhof have lost their meaning. The SOB are getting closer and closer to downright criminality in the way they are treating youngsters who do not want to stay. I believe KIT can be instrumental in helping outgoing members to find a new way into life, but we could also try to hasten the final and inevitable break-up of the communities which, not intentionally, is being worked out by their leaders.
I'll try to explain this. You all know that a power struggle is taking place in the communities, with J. C.A. being the principal figure on the chessboard. But he probably is not the only one. The entire history of the Bruderhof points to the occurrence, from time to time, of a 'clearance' which, as far as I can see, was promoted by the servants and other members when they felt they were loosing their grip on the psychological surrender of the members. Throughout Bruderhof history one can observe this dynamic: as one 'clearance' followed the other, they became ever more radical and cruel. Just remember the last Big Crisis when Heini Arnold chucked out family members and even went so far as to mistreat his mother.
The next one will be worse, and could culminate in a major break-up. This sequence of "clearances" is due to a major snag in the psychological structure of the system, which does not allow any leeway for innovation and personal creativity -- except in the case of servants and sometimes witness brothers -- so that inevitably a time comes when members cannot suppress this kind of innovative urge completely, and then the leaders feel they are loosing control. The desire for control is probably what made the founder stress the need for unanimity in brotherhood decisions. There is a superior law which Jesus proclaimed: "He who would be the greatest among you, be a servant unto the others". Continued disobedience of superior laws brings forth the conditions for penalty, which in this case is the loss of leadership. But sometimes a "leader" will cling so hard to his position that the whole structure has to collapse so as to re-establish justice. This is what is going to happen to the Bruderhof.
Now, the longer this break up takes to materialize, the more insiders will suffer and their recovery into normal life will be even more traumatic. So I suggest we could help them, especially in the case of family members, through telepathy. I suppose most of you KIT readers have heard of or experienced transmission of thought through telepathy. As far as my experience indicates, transmission of thought between people does not occur exactly in the time and space continuum that we are accustomed to observe in normal life. They occur according to a different scheme in which these transmissions may be received at different times than the actual moment when the emitter is concentrating on emitting. But I am quite sure that if we KITfolk transmit to our dear ones that they would do well prepare for a final break-up of the communities, and that they should look for information outside the communities, then a major break-through would eventually occur. Many members who presently are too tied up in obedience to 'the system' will come out of their isolation and try to make contact with their family members outside. The best time for transmission is during the sleeping hours of the contactee. The message could be something like: "Dear _____, become free, look out into the world so you have a reference point for assessing your position. You have the right to be independent and free. I am here to help you," etc. These messages must be positive and constructive. A destructive message will boomerang back to the emitter and build up his karma.
I find that KIT is doing a very valuable job in creating the network and opportunities for people to contact each other and recognize that they are not the only ones who suffer, and that it is possible to overcome the resentments and hopelessness by communicating with each other. I have a very strong urge to reconciliation as long as there is a sign of good will on part of the other party. But if there is no sign of good will, well then people and organizations have to face the country's laws of justice. Loving greetings,
---- Creative Writing ----
by "Name Withheld"
"The four of us are in this together," or so I believed, until the bitter end.
It all started with washing the dining hall floor. How did such a simple and mundane task as washing a dirty floor turn into this soul-searing issue of lies and consequences?
In the structured system of Hutterian tradition and rules that governed our lives, we were more to each other than ten-year-olds of the same peer group, or even partners in the same delegated 'work week.' Marela, Clara, Lissie and I were cousins and, I believed, "Friends Forever."
This was our week to wash dishes plus general clean-up in the children's dining hall, whose entrance was a heavy wooden steel-gray door with a full-sized, beautiful beveled glass center. This door opened to a large rectangular room with dark, leaf-green beaverboard walls. The wooden plank floor was painted gray to match the heavy door. Just inside the door in the right-hand corner stood the serving table and an old battered wooden chair which was the domain of Barbel Basel (Old Barbara), the rotund and stolid school mistress, attendant to 45 hungry youngsters aged five to fifteen.
The light from four small-paned, curtainless windows revealed three long wooden tables arranged along three walls, each table flanked by two long, narrow, backless wooden benches. The evening meal was over. The older girls, having dutifully cleared, cleaned and set the tables for next morning's breakfast, had gone home. Marela, Clara, Lissie and I had washed and dried the dishes and placed them properly on the shelf over the serving table. Gloomily we surveyed the two huge, heavy metal tubs of dirty dish water and rinse water that needed to be dumped, and contemplated the distasteful task of kneeling to wash the wet and dirty floor.
Two brooms standing in the corner caught our attention, and sudden inspiration hit each of us simultaneously. Four pairs of hands quickly lifted six benches on top of three tables and pushed the tables against the walls. Marela and I carried the heavy tub of dishwater outside, dumped it over the rail of the porch, and hung the tub on its nail inside the entrance hall. Gleefully we danced back into the room where Clara and Lissie already had turned the other tub of water over onto the floor. This erased all thought of drudgery from our minds. With broom in hand, Marela and I skated and sloshed the water around to clean the floor; Clara and Lissie skittered and skated with pails and floor rags in hand, trying to retain their balance. We had invented an impromptu skating party. Blissfully unaware of the passage of time and the deepening shadows of evening fast turning into night, we skated happily, as only ten- year-olds can.
The sound of splintering glass and a shrill scream followed by a heavy metal thud brought us to a sudden halt. Simultaneously, Marela and I turned to see Lissie stretched out full-length on the wet floor staring with horror-struck eyes at the door, which was now a spiderweb of splintered glass spiraling outward from the center. Engulfed by guilt at the consequences of our unconventional behavior, we huddled in our common horror, all of us pulling at Lissie as she struggled to her feet.
In our pathetic plight, we suddenly became aware that darkness had descended. Collectively we surveyed the scene and imagined the discovery and punishment the morning would bring. Somel Vetter, the minister, would mete out certain punishment! Quickly, with one accord, we knelt to the task and quickly wiped up the floor. Together we pushed the tables into their usual places, together we set the benches primly at each side of the tables. Turning to leave, we again faced the dreadful door, the unspoken certainly of what tomorrow would bring hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles.
The answer to our dilemma suddenly was clear. Together we descended on the door, broke the shards of shattered glass from the frame, swept up all vestigial evidence and disposed of it under the porch. With a good imagination, it would appear that the now nonexistent glass was clean enough to be invisible. Collectively we planned for tomorrow. Each of us agreed to deny any knowledge of the broken glass.
After a too-short and sleepless night, the breakfast bell tolled. The round, heavy form of Barbel Basel was seated as usual on her chair in the corner. Forty-five pairs of eyes seemed to look right through me as I entered the dining hall and took my place between my friends. I stole a furtive glance at each of them and gained courage from our complicity.
Breakfast did not taste good this morning, but Somel Vetter didn't show up. Reprieved, we finished our morning chores without a word.
The axe fell at dinner time. As the black-clad, black-whiskered, short figure of Somel Vetter shadowed the doorway, Barbel Basel got to her feet. Her words sounded like a knell of doom on my guilt-burdened heart.
"We have a bad case to settle here!" she said, pointing to the door in response to the question in Somel Vetter's eyes. "It could only be the big girls who did this. The boys would never have cleaned up the mess."
Without a word, Somel Vetter stepped to the wall on his right. With one quick move he hung his hat on a nail and picked up his willow switch. Switch in hand, with measured and deliberate step he approached our table. He stopped directly in front of me. His omniscient eyes pierced my very soul. My heavy heart pounded in my parched throat. 'Why in front of ME?' I wondered. (Hutterite custom dictated always to question from the oldest to the youngest.)
The 'Prophet of Doom' spoke. "What do you know about the broken glass, Maria?" In this moment bordering on eternity, it was my deepest desire to unburden myself, to tell the truth. But... I was protecting "Us!" We were in this together. Honor commanded, and I obeyed.
"Nothing" fell from my parched throat and petrified lips.
"Nothing?" Out of the stillness that surrounded all of us, his voice mocked me. "My, my, my, how you can lie! Your three companions came earlier today, confessed their deed and apologized. How can you lie like this?"
I turned incredulous eyes to Marela on my right, then to Clara and Lissie on my left. Although their eyes remained locked on their plates in front of them, verification of their treachery was written clearly in the deepening flush on their faces.
Judgment rendered, punishment was soon executed.
The startling pain of the willow switch on my cold, bare hands was nothing compared to the soul-searing pain of this unexpected betrayal by three loyal friends. My trust, like the glass in the door, was shattered.
The Bottomland
Name Withheld
If one were given a choice, "The Bottomland" is the last place one would choose to be, especially on this oppressively hot and humid day. The heat and humidity in this caldron is trapped by the range of rolling hills that surround it. The humidity is effectively sealed in by the woods and underbrush at the foothills. Winding down between two hills, a dusty country road dissects this ground, creating two fields.
Here is a freshly plowed garden. Long slim lines of green show between the fresh furrows of rich, black dirt. The weeds, thick as a woolen pelt, are stealing the sun from the struggling young plants.
Scattered at varying distances from each other, an approximate dozen young women and girls are inching slowly along the rows of green, wielding their hoes carefully. Bending down at times to pull the weeds from around the plantlings by hand, they straighten up again and continued to chop away at the relentless weeds. The occasional click of a metal hoe against a hidden stone sharply breaks the silence. The sound hangs briefly on the heavy air, then disintegrates into the stillness.
Although the silently working women are all dressed in similar costume, 'The Woman' stands out in silhouette against the horizon where heat waves visibly shimmer and dance. She looks fairly young. What is visible of her dark blonde hair is parted in the center and pulled back off her heat-flushed and perspiring face. Her head is covered with a black-and-white polka dotted triangle of cloth tied beneath her chin. Underneath the polka dot covering at the neckline, the pristine white of her cap shows, leaving a scant line of skin visible between the cap and the collar of her white blouse. Her dark vest hangs loosely over an ankle-length, fully- pleated skirt and apron, barely hiding the ripe fullness of her well-advanced pregnancy.
She lifts her apron to wipe the perspiration from her flushed face and heat-scorched neck. She shrugs her shoulders impatiently, trying to ease the discomfort of the sweat trickling between her shoulder blades. She rests briefly from her task, gazing into the distance beyond the trees and across the dusty country toad. The sound of a machine at work catches her attention, and a faint strain of music drifts by.
There is the other field. Just across the road from the Medieval scene of heat-burdened women inching laboriously over the clods of upturned earth and rows of weeds, run a John Deere tractor. Inside the shaded cab sits 'The Man.' His light-colored shirt is flapping open to the waist. He is cheerily whistling to the tune on his radio, which keeps him company.
Just like the country road winging down from the eternal hills, dividing the group into two fields, so do the structure, the rules and traditions of the Hutterite system define roles in the life of Man and Women:
Man is to demand subservience and obedience.
Woman is to submit and obey.
Thus it has ever been, and thus it will always be.
After all, was it not Woman's fault that Paradise was lost?
She bends down to her task. The little one inside her protests vigorously about its cramped quarters, adding to her discomfort. A soft sigh escapes her. Deep inside her, deep down in the very bottomland of her most secret soul, she breathes a prayer. "Please God, may this precious one be a boy." And deeper still, so deep inside her that the thought of protest does not yet exist, she dares to hope that this child might bring within its soul the spirit of the Great Emancipator.
Unholy Devotion, Why Cults Lure Christians
Harold Bussell (Zondervan Publishing)
reviewed by Joel Clement
I have found yet another book which should be dropped out of an airplane over the Bruderhof. But since the Federal Aviation Regulations frown on such activities, I thought it would be more productive and a lot cheaper to review the book for the KIT Newsletter. I have had this book in my growing collection for some time and refer to it often. It sits amongst the unlikely company of such works as God's Revolution, the Witness of Eberhard Arnold; Torches Extinguished, Memories of a Communal Bruderhof Childhood; A Kyrie Study Bible; The Joyful Community; Free from Bondage; Torches Rekindled; Churches that Abuse; and all the KIT Annuals. You might be tempted to say: "No wonder he's so confused."
Some of us got out of the Bruderhof with a seed of Christian faith intact and, as the Bruderhof puts it, "claim" to be Christian (as if to imply that we are not "really" Christians). Others have thrown out the baby with the bathwater, which is understandable. I personally believe that the latter group is completely and positively "under grace" and always will be -- but that would be another more theosophical discussion.
I would wager that regardless of your experiences with the Bruderhof and after, that you probably went through a time of confusion regarding Christianity and the Christian message. That is understandable too. This book may be a help as you seek to untangle the confusion. One of the most compelling aspects of this book is that it is based primarily on life experiences of the author. He recounts being involved with an Evangelical youth mission and the effect it had upon him:
"Upon arrival at the headquarters, each team member was given a 'victory sheet,' which instructed him or her never to question those in leadership and never to write home any negative comments. Questioning a leader was considered an act of rebellion against God and His chain of command. Team members were kept constantly busy, even overextended, for the cause. Married partners were separated from one another. All the organizations's demands were adhered to for the sake of 'spirituality.' When some of us grew tired, causing tempers to shrink, those in authority pointed out how sinful we were and how much we needed to depend on those in spiritual authority over us. Any of us who questioned exaggerated stories of miracles, finances or poor diets were accused of bringing sin into the camp.... We were with the group only six weeks, but it was almost seven years before I had overcome the psychological damage caused by their cult-like control and spiritualization."
The author was also a pastor and is currently a college chaplain. He holds several academic degrees. The foreword to the book is written by Ronald Enroth and this book would make a great companion to Enroth's Churches that Abuse and Recovery from Churches that Abuse.
For those of us who were born into the Bruderhof, we might wish that this book had been around for our parents or grandparents to read before they joined the Bruderhof. It is indeed a warning of the inherent traps which Christianity holds. This book hits so close to home that it may be distressing to read. Worst of all, it may create more confusion in someone recovering from an abusive Christian group. You may want to wait another 10 years before reading it. I gleaned out a couple of tidbits which should not put the average Bruderhof Graduate into too much overload.
From the Preface: "This book is not an attack on either cults or Christians. It is an examination of the things cultists and Christians hold in common." "The issues presented in these pages have been born in my own struggles and questions and from my relationships with many who have completed a painful, long, emotional and fearful journey back to stability after being involved in a cult."
From Chapter 5, 'But We Have a New Testament Church': "Many cults, as with numerous Evangelical groups, present themselves as being modeled after the New Testament church. We all long and search for the "ideal" Christian community." ... Often students boast that their home churches are patterned after the first-century church described in the New Testament. With stars in their eyes they tell me of their congregations' thrilling impact and the evidence of God's blessing upon them. I do not deny their claims, but they frequently forget that the New Testament church was constantly beset with doctrinal, behavioral, even racial problems." ... "The Corinthians, for example, tolerated sexual aberration, misunderstood the resurrection of the dead, misused the gifts of the Spirit, and some even got drunk at Communion services. The Galatians misrepresented the gospel and turned to legalism for a time."
"As a child I was taught that walking in the light spiritually involved sinless perfection. As long as my life was free from sin, I was walking in the light. In studying Scripture further I have been forced to challenge this teaching as unbiblical and basically cultic. This view of the Christian walk says that if one thinks about immorality, bitterness, resentment, or exaggeration, then suddenly he or she is in darkness: 'Oh, now I have to breathe out a confession, so I can return to the light.... Wow! I am perfect again... Whoops! Thought a bad thought; now I am out of fellowship again.' This kind of thinking easily leads to schizophrenic behavior and deception in our fellowship with God and others."
From Chapter 6: "The mud and mortar of the foundations of all the groups mentioned in the first chapter of this book were made of the perfect church (usually independent) and a powerful leader who, because there was no system of checks and balances, was finally placed in a position beyond confrontation. Most cults allow one or more leaders to confront the laity and call them to accountability, but never the reverse. Ultimately this dynamic results in followers giving over to the leaders the complete control of their minds and lives. In many cases leaders are granted more authority over personal matters than scripture allows."
Under the heading: 'All Authorities are Vulnerable': "What does Scripture say about leadership? One thing is quite clear: The leaders of God need to be confronted. Moses stood under the law of the Ten Commandments. David was confronted by Nathan. Peter followed the Galatians to another gospel sometime after Pentecost and was called to account by Paul."
From Chapter 10: "Another problem is that parachurch organizations can be orthodox in doctrine, yet function like a cult in issues of authority and abuse of power."
Unholy Devotion is a expose of those aspects of Christianity which lend themselves to cultic behavior. Many Bruderhof graduates have spent years wrestling with these issues. One thing is certain, those of us who left the Bruderhof are not alone in our post-Bruderhof problems. Leaving the Bruderhof can be upsetting to the core. To find oneself alone and "apostate" can be very distressing. This book will help you put your mind at ease.
Discipleship, by J. Heinrich Arnold,
Compiled and Edited by the Hutterian Brethren, The Plough Publishing House, 1994
reviewed by Julius Rubin
The Plough Publishing House has recently released Discipleship, a book of excerpts from the unpublished correspondence, sermons, and previously published writings of their late Elder, J. Heinrich Arnold. This volume intends to commemorate and honor the teachings and memory of Arnold, to put forth his teachings to new publics, and to lend legitimacy to his leadership of the Bruderhof movement. Note the name change. In previous publications, he referred to himself and was spoken of as "Heini." In this work, he is known by a more formal address -- J. Heinrich Arnold.
The Plough has commissioned a leading Catholic theologian, Henri J. M. Nouwen, internationally renowned for his writings on spirituality and practical divinity, to write a Foreword. Nouwen offers a celebratory, uncritical essay, calling this a "prophetic book." Hela Ehrlich and Christopher Zimmerman provide the Introduction, completing Heinrich's commemoration. They write:
"He was not a charismatic personality, and he had no formal theological training. He was a true Seelsorger (italics) or 'spiritual guide' who cared deeply for the inner and outer well-being of the communities entrusted to him." (p. xiv)
They describe him as an emotional and enthusiastic devotee of Bruderhof piety, an exemplar of the imitation of Christ -- mocked and rejected by others, despised for his humility. Despite these trials of faith, he practiced Christian forgiveness for those who had wronged him. They write, ". . . he refused to set himself above a person who had sinned or to condone any harsh treatment or legalism toward that person." (p. xvii) Heinrich is depicted as a gentle, empathetic pastoral guide of souls, " ... he never criticized or belittled anyone who turned to him in trust."(p. xvii)
Discipleship forcefully presents Arnold's theology -- a Christocentric challenge for true believers to seek surrendered lives devoted to the fulfillment of the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus. Heinrich Arnold reanimates the Pietism of his father Eberhard, the movement's founder, but adds a special emphasis upon mystical contemplation and an emotional communalism of the faithful joined together in community. What is never examined directly are the psychological "costs" and consequences for believers who devote themselves to discipleship and the surrender of self to the church- community. The Hutterian Brethren who compiled and edited this volume do not refer to the alarming numbers of young adults who felt forsaken by God while attempting to experience the desired contemplation of Christ.
Against this backdrop, Arnold wrote Freedom From Sinful Thoughts (1973). This helps explain the meaning of Arnold's letter of encouragement to a depressed, spiritually disconsolate member, "Every serious Christian must go through hours of godforsakenness; even Jesus himself did." (p. 125)
The book divides into three sections, The Disciple, The Church, and The Kingdom of God, and conveys contemporary Bruderhof dogma. The unpublished letters, sermons, and writings are largely undated and pieced together by theme, without giving the reader any sense of the context of the writings. For example, reprinted under the subheading 'Surrender,' the following paragraph appears to underscore the sincerity and depth of the Bruderhof's commitment to surrender to the leadings of the Holy Spirit and to the teachings of Jesus.
"If we ever found a group--even if it were a much smaller group than ours -- where the love of Jesus was expressed more fully and clearly than it is among us, I hope and believe that we would want to join them, even if it meant losing our Bruderhof identity."
These are noble sentiments, indeed. However, this paragraph is a fragment of a letter sent to John Miller of Reba Place in the early 1960s. Arnold was attempting to persuade Miller to merge Reba Place with the Bruderhof which would require the liquidation of Reba Place with the proceeds and personnel going to Woodcrest. Miller voiced reservations given the untoward events that proved disastrous to the Forest River Colony, Macedonia, and Koinonia. Without a better knowledge of Bruderhof history -- the historical context of the paragraph -- a more complete understanding of the letter is not available, and the significance of the text is distorted. Discipleship does not place the text into a meaningful context. The aphorisms and pious words are treated as eternal truths that stand outside of historical time and context, and appear intended to proselytize new members rather than to provide a greater understanding of the development of Heinrich's teachings and doctrine.
KITfolk may find the commemorative and propagandistic aspects of the work annoying. However, Discipleship deserves serious consideration because of the abundance of new material written by Heinrich Arnold and previously unpublished, that documents the more ruthless and unbrotherly ideas and practices in the commune. A partial list of topics includes: sexual repression, child-rearing and discipline, exclusion and church discipline, and spiritual crises of Bruderhof believers. Here is a letter written by Arnold to a Sister (age unknown, undated, p. 66):
"Dear Sister, it seems to me that there is an
atmosphere of eroticism around you, and I want to
warn you about this. There is nothing surprising about
the fact that the powers of eroticism and sex are
problems any person has to face, and you are no
different form anyone else. But I plead with you to
value the gift of purity -- the light of absolute chastity
and virginity. Do not let the smallest shadow of an overly
casual relationship with boys or men come into your life,
also not in the way you dress or the way you walk. Please
take this advice from someone who loves you."
Or another letter:
"Your question, 'Why do I feel attracted toward
this boy if he is not meant for me but for someone
else?' is a bit of a rebellious one. It accuses someone
higher than yourself. Ultimately it accuses God.
Human nature being what it is, we often feel
attractions that we have no choice but to reject. That
is simply part of our human weakness . . . .The important
thing for you is to give your life to Jesus." (pp. 153-154)
Here is a letter regarding the Society Syndrome (probably written in the early 1970s, p. 200). Arnold is guiding a tortured soul:
"Until Jesus comes back and frees us completely,
we will always have to fight sin on this earth. The
fight is first a struggle against the lower nature.
Second it is a battle of spirits, a battle against Satan
and his demons. Your fall was not only a matter of
your lower nature; it was also satanic. . . ."
As a last example, Arnold wrote this letter to a member seeking readmission during exclusion:
"You ask for forgiveness for your envy and hatred.
We personally will gladly forgive you. But the
forgiveness of the whole brotherhood, which means
the renewal of unity with Jesus and his church cannot
be given until you turn fully away from your sin. We
are not angry with you, but cannot pronounce
forgiveness on behalf of the brotherhood for your
sinful attitude until you prove your repentance more
deeply. This may have already begun. If so, continue
in that direction. God is good, and he will not reject
you. The brotherhood loves you, too, and will not
reject you either. But we cannot reunite with you as
long as there is envy and hatred in you." (p. 127)
Heinrich Arnold's legacy will remain mired in controversy, the subject of contested collective memory and disputed truth-claims about the "real" nature of his actions and teachings. Discipleship does not help resolve this controversy.
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The Bruderhof leadership insists that they cannot dialogue with anyone who holds the mistaken notion that the Bruderhof is a cult. Therefore we offer once again 'The Checklist of Cult Characteristics' compiled by Dr. Michael Langone to encourage readers to judge for themselves how the Bruderhof measures up. Please share your views with KIT. We suggest you cite specific examples from your own experiences that can help others form their opinion.
The Checklist of Cult Characteristics
1: The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.
2: The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
3: The group is preoccupied with making money.
4: Questioning, doubt, dissent are discouraged or even punished.
5: Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and leadership.
6: The leadership dictates -- sometimes in great detail -- how members think, act and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth.)
7: The group is elitist, claiming a special status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or avatar; the group and/or leader has a special mission to save humanity).
8: The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society.
9: The group's leaders are not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks and rabbis of mainstream denominations). The group teaches or implies that its supposed exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group (for example, collecting money for bogus charities).
10: The leadership induces feelings of guilt in members in order to control them.
11: Members' subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with families, friends and personal group goal and activities that were of interest before joining the group.
12: Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.
13: Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
Carrier Pigeon Books Currently Available
Free From Bondage, by Nadine Moonje Pleil
Torches Extinguished, by Bette Bohlken-Zumpe
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KIT Annuals in four volumes: 1989-1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, all in larger typeface, spiral-bound with index: $25 each U/S./Canada, $30 Overseas
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