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KIT Staff U.S.: Ramón Sender, Charles Lamar, Christina Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)
EuroKIT: Joy Johnson MacDonald, Carol Beels Beck, Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, Ben Cavanna
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from inside and from outside the Bruderhof. We reserve the right to edit submissions according to guidelines discussed at numerous KIT conferences. Obviously, it's seldom easy to know exactly how best to carry out KIT's mission of allowing many voices and various points of view to be heard. We do not, and cannot, vouch for the validity of any opinion or assertion appearing in the KIT Newsletter. The opinions expressed in the letters that we publish must remain those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflect those of KIT editors or staff.
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Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe
KEEP IN TOUCH
Here we are, once again, after the August 'vacation' from the KIT newsletter, and the annual Friendly Crossways gathering. We were sixty-some strong this year for the Tenth Anniversary, a very relaxed event it was, which felt more like a family home-coming than anything else. A few familiar faces were missed, but some of us comforted ourselves with the thought that we would see them next time around! Meanwhile, the Bruderhof continues to leak members back into the wider society at a rate that causes both concern and delight -- concern because we know how traumatic the transition can be, but also delight at knowing that another family has been liberated from what most of us see as a totalistic and soul-destroying way of life. Welcome 'out,' all of you! May you thrive and revel in your freedom to be able to be yourselves!
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Wendell Hinkey, 8/12/99: A true story. Last spring I had a dream. A large gathered meeting at the Bruderhof waits quietly as Christoph sits at the head of the meeting in deep contemplation. After some time, Christoph rises slowly and seriously and stands before the gathered meeting.
He speaks: "Brothers and sisters, I have pondered long and prayed deeply about what I am about to say. We have spend much time and effort suggesting to others that only love overcomes hatred -- in Iraq, in Yugoslavia, Cuba, Mexico, our own prison system and many others. We have urged them to heed the words of Jesus about treating one's enemies with love.
"I have come to feel that the most effective way we can get this message across is to demonstrate it ourselves. You know, my father used to say that example is the best teacher. Therefore I suggest that we start treating our enemies with loving kindness, that we return good for evil.
Melchior Fros -
Lauslub - 'Primavera Deutsch'
Ramon Sender et al to Findhorn
Ruth Baer Lambach
MIriam Arnold Holmes
Careol Beels Beck
Joy Johnson MacDonald
Margot Wegner Purcell
Margot Wegner Purcell
Carol Beels Beck
Nadine Moonje Pleil
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Wendell Hinkey, 8/12/99: A true story. Last spring I had a dream. A large gathered meeting at the Bruderhof waits quietly as Christoph sits at the head of the meeting in deep contemplation. After some time, Christoph rises slowly and seriously and stands before the gathered meeting.
He speaks: "Brothers and sisters, I have pondered long and prayed deeply about what I am about to say. We have spend much time and effort suggesting to others that only love overcomes hatred -- in Iraq, in Yugoslavia, Cuba, Mexico, our own prison system and many others. We have urged them to heed the words of Jesus about treating one's enemies with love.
"I have come to feel that the most effective way we can get this message across is to demonstrate it ourselves. You know, my father used to say that example is the best teacher. Therefore I suggest that we start treating our enemies with loving kindness, that we return good for evil.
"So no more dirty tricks, no jamming phones or tapping them, no more million-dollar lawsuits, no electronic snooping, no harassing people, no keeping parents away from their children, or children away from their parents. No sending negative references. Just loving kindness as Jesus so pointedly tells us.
"My grandfather Eberhard used to have on the wall of his office a painting of Chinese chirograph done by a famous Buddhist painter. When one asked him what this meant, he would explain, 'Loving kindness alone brings harmony.' All great religions have this basic concept. It is up to us to show the world that it is true.'
"So. Let us treat our enemies -- even our perceived enemies -- with love. Let us show the world that we mean what we say about love being stronger than hate. Love -- not we -- shall overcome! What say you, brothers and sisters?"
Stunned silence. Then, "Yes, yes yes! YES, YES, YES!"
Everyone claps and stands. Someone starts to sing, "HAL-LELUJAH, HAL-LELUJAH, HALLELUJAH, HALLELUJAH, HALLELUJAH!" All join in. They are standing, waving their hands in great excitement. People outside the meeting peek through the door to see what the jubilation is all about. They are brought in and join in the singing.
When the singing is over, a deep silence envelops the gathering, and tears, tears of joy stream down the cheeks of many of the group, especially older people. Drip, drip, drip.
I wake up. And outside a much-needed rain is falling and dripping from the trees. Drip, drip, drip.
In the garden on the wooded slope toward the pond the columbines are resplendent with almost all colors of the rainbow gleaming in the damp morning light. On the cable over the pond, two bluebirds slump wetly, seemingly wondering "Now what?" Our resident oriole flashes back and forth across the yard, outlining his territory, while the mocking bird on the highest branch of the great locust tells everyone where to go and what to do. A yearling wild turkey skulks along the edge of the pond, just stepping in the water as if his mother told him not to get his feet wet. They do skulk, don't they?
Yes, God does make it rain on the just and the rest of us, the unjust. God, certainly not made in our image, does not say "Hey, you read something I don't like! So tough, buster, you get no rain!" Nor would He say, "You associate with someone who is not my friend, so you can't see your aging parents!" God's love encompasses all of us. And the tears run down my cheeks in gratitude for His loving kindness.
Belinda Manley, 8/2/99, The Red House Nursing Home, London Road, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 8NB; phone - (0) 1227 472 353: What a lovely couple of computer banners, reading "Get Well" and "We Love You (signed)." They cheered me enormously and they are here in my room in The Red House where I came last Thursday by ambulance to a room kept "for me, alone; only me," by dear Rosemary!
Things have moved quickly. I decided to come and live here. I gave a four-weeks' notice on Flat 23 Whitgift Court, confirmed, and am now in the midst of a clear-up of my flat and working out 17-1/2 years of "hoarding" in my time in my Blean Cottage. I'm aided and abetted by a dear friend Sheila Wood who helps me almost every other day to bring here what I select, such as two Paulmer (sp?) Knoll comfortable arm chairs.
My room is lovely, looking out from the Annex block over the side garden. "No return to hospital for a hernia operation," says my Dr. Townsend who came to tell me to refuse with a polite thank-you letter for all they've done, and 'no thanks' for their hernia operation offer.
He said at my age (91 this year) I'm better off without it. It only becomes a repeat performance. I was amazed and delighted and agreed!
This is a short letter, as Joy told me last night she has (on e-mail, I think) kept you informed.
So it comes with much love and, please, in the next KIT, just tell people I have moved in here permanently.
I am weakened by the "fluids-only" necessary for the endless tests for the two weeks in the hospital. But the food and care here is simply marvellous, and I'm making good strides and walking now with my 4-wheeled pusher.
Normal life will begin again with my art class in September onwards. Two booklets in the making! One, a guide book for St. Dunstan's Church through the eyes of Henry Hedgehog who lives in the Church and is meant for young children to guide them around the church. Much Love,
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, 8/23/99: I had booked a flight to Boston on August 5th to take part at the tenth anniversary of the 'Keep In Touch' contact around the world. After a troublesome journey with landing difficulties due to a bad storm and lost luggage (which came a day later), I was happy to meet Hans' cousin Geert Burger at the airport. He took me to Muschie's home where I was welcomed by Muschie and Ramon. Both had been waiting for me for too long a time; it was good to see them and especially to have such a warm welcome at Muschie's home.
Friday we went up to Friendly Crossways. It was a wonderful sunny day and once again I marveled at the beauty of the place. It is an excellent place to meet and feel at home and at ease. While Ramon, Muschie and Charlie went shopping for the weekend, I stayed to welcome people who slowly started coming from all over.
As I had expected, this meeting with old and new friends was lovely and very worthwhile. There were fewer people than other times, which can be taken as a positive sign that many feel healed from their difficult past and are moving on in life, to challenge the future with less baggage. This is what KIT is set up to do, on the one hand. The other, was to find a new way to contact our families within the community. Sadly, the second aim has not been reached. Instead of taking our hand, they have rejected us even more, and demonized the name of 'KIT,' which is merely "Keep In Touch," nothing more and nothing less. The Bruderhof even speaks about "a KIT spirit," whatever that might be, and accuses people within the community of such an evil spirit if they only do as much as ask about their loved ones 'outside.' (Maybe they just need an enemy outside to keep the flock inside!).
The whole weekend was marked by a happy and relaxed atmosphere. It was more about exchanging thoughts about the present and the future, rather than dwelling on the past. There was much song, joy, talk and laughter. We all enjoyed ourselves. Once again, it was proved that the past has bonded us in a way only brothers and sisters feel when they meet again after so many years. I especially enjoyed talking with Evi, my childhood friend, but time is always too short.
Also I found it very helpful to talk with Julius Rubin and Thomas Mansheim. They helped me to see things in their true proportions and helped me understand the force of a totalitarian power, whether it is a State (Nazi Germany, Communism in China, Russia, Eastern Germany or Cuba) or a small community led by a totalitarian regime of a power-hungry leader -- as opposed to the word of God, by which the Bruderhof profess to live. I find it quite distressing to see what happens to good-willing, faithful members when they lose their capacity to think for themselves or the trust their own inborn instincts and feelings. Even a small community or family can break up if one of the parents presumes to assume the power of leadership in a totalitarian manner. This is truly frightening. I personally see no way out of the mess the Bruderhof is in unless there is a profound change from within, like the underground movements during the Nazi regime.
The Bible is no longer their road sign, but, fearfully, they hold onto little passages from the New Testament, like in Matthew 10, verse 37: "He who loveth father and mother more than me, and he that loveth son and daughter more than me, and he that taketh not his cross and follows after me, is not worthy of me." If you read from Matthew chapter 5 until 11, this statement will be understood in the right proportion. Even in the same chapter it says in verse 22, "Whoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be in danger of judgment." If only Bruderhof members were brave enough to read the Bible for themselves, we would find a common ground for communication.
I want to thank all those who made the Tenth Anniversary possible! It was good to see you and share once again our joys and sorrows.
Sunday night I left with Mike Boller for Connecticut and spent a happy week with my nephews Eb, Chris, Dieter, Johannes and Daniel. We had a wonderful time together enjoying Eb and Kellie's second daughter Kimberly as well as Dieter and Pattie's little son Trevor. I really enjoyed being with them. Monday morning August 16 I arrived back in Holland with many good and positive impressions of a wonderful time with friend and family. Love to all,
Hilarion Braun, August 22, 1999: Quite a few on the hummer and in KIT have told us of their background recently, and others have done so a long time ago. Maybe we should reprint these stories from time to time to remind us of who is who. Here is my attempt at some of the moments in my life that were terrible, but also intermittently beautiful. I'll try to tell some of my story, especially the bad parts in the hope that this may help anyone out there who is suffering.
I was married to Pally in 1967, just as I was beginning my graduate studies in physics at the University of Vermont. My teaching assistantship and Pally's salary as a secretary were not enough to live on, so I took on work as a building contractor, tutoring, teaching in a position at Trinity College, and as a night watchman when I could. My Bruderhof work ethic (a very good one, I believe), made me survive this heavy workload.
I loved teaching, but hated the construction work and being a night watchman. After about 7 years of marriage, Pally fell "in love" with another man who was married and had 4 children. The pain of this was so bad that I often thought of suicide or simply disappearing. This was during my Ph.D. exams and thesis defense, and I was a total wreck.
One of Beethoven's piano concertos (Emperor) became a symbol of betrayal, and to this day it rumbles and growls that theme for me. At our wedding in a Quaker group, we had promised each other the usual in public, but had privately decided that those promises were hard to keep, so we promised each other total honesty, not necessarily openness. When I noticed that she was changing I asked her what was up and she told me in detail what was happening.
I fell apart, but thought I should give her time to let this unfold, knowing well I could do little else. Finally I asked her to choose between me and him, and she managed to do this eventually.
Now our marriage was different. There was a sadness, a lack of trust, and for me, the kind of despair that changed me from a romantic optimist to a fatalistic "optimist", and into a person who knows the difference between forgiving and remembering. Shortly after this episode in our marriage, Pally begged to have a child. I asked to think about it, and procrastinated probably too long. Without telling me, Pally stopped using contraception, and Cassandra was born in 1976. I quit my teaching jobs and we moved to Venezuela where I was offered a teaching job in Maracay where we lived on a beautiful farm that grew mangos, avocados, oranges and cattle.
During the two years there, Pally went into a deep depression. I begged her to seek medical help, but she refused. I had many friends, and could have gotten her the best doctors, but she was determined to recover through her own strength.
These were two years of intense, often beautiful and exciting, often terrible and frightening experiences. I loved the evenings when Cassie would climb on my back and we'd go for long walks. Every evening when I came home from work I'd let the car coast into the farm so that I could hear Pally's piano playing. If she played Baroque music, she was well and happy. If it was Beethoven, I had to take Cassie away so that Pally could cry.
Suddenly, Pally decided to return home to Vermont where, over the years, we had built a beautiful home overlooking Mt. Mansfield. "You can join me any time," she said, and I saw that she had bought airline tickets. We talked late into the night, and I reminded her that she had always wanted to see Machu Pichu. We agreed to return home via Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru.
Her spirits were high now, and when we arrived in Paraguay she became very attached to my dad. One day after a trip to the market place I found Pally crying. When I asked my dad what had happened, he said it was confidential, but that Pally had told him about a terrible childhood trauma, which had made him weep. She had never told me anything, and when I asked her, she simply said, "You don't need another burden."
We had a great time in the Andes, and when we got back to Vermont, Pally went into counseling. We were supposed to go together, but she claimed that she needed to get rid of garbage before I could join in. Eventually she said she was better, and had been helping me to find work, which led to my job in Ink Jet in Dayton, Ohio. Her pain in her right knee finally convinced her to at least have an X-ray taken. It showed a healthy knee, but a lesion on the femur. A CAT scan showed the whole story, but by mistake, a biopsy was made, which spread the osteo sarcoma throughout her body.
Her leg was amputated in the Mayo Clinic, and by Christmas the lesions in her lungs were the size of quarters and so widely spread that surgery was out of the question. While in the Mayo clinic waiting for her to come out of surgery (amputation), I read up on the disease, and to my horror, I realized we'd have only about ten to eleven months together. I drank a whole fifth of whisky in my hotel room and started dying.
The next 11 months were sheer terror and pain. Cassie was so attached to Pally that I dreaded the end even more on that account. During the last weeks of Pally's life, she distanced herself from Cassie. The last four days we both spent in the hospital with Cassie drawing or reading in the waiting room. Death came in a cruel and morbid way. Pally was in constant pain, until I managed to persuade the doctor to raise the analgesic levels, and to add a sedative to the regimen. Now we could talk and even laugh in between the morphine stupors.
When I could no longer hear her heartbeat I broke down, and it felt as though I could not find any of myself anywhere. It took over an hour to find the strength to drive home. When I picked Cassie up to tell her that Pally was dead, she said: "Oh daddy, what are we going to do all alone?" That was the first time she called me 'daddy,' and the last time she called me 'Lar.'
When Pally died Cassie was almost 5 years old. Now Cassie is 23 years old, has finished her University studies, and is getting her certification for teaching in Grammar and High School. Pally was a lot like Bach, but many many minor keys, and many painful ones. When she was on top of the world she could do everything, and when depression set in I was shut out of her world, often for days, but I had married her to stay faithful in sickness and in health, and when we made those promises we didn't know what the hell we were talking about. Now we do.
Cassie is like all of the major keys of Pally.
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, 5/27/99: Greetings from Holland. Winifred Pacy was a young Oxford student when she decided to join the Cotswold Bruderhof in 1939-40. She had studied music and French, and was a very happy, warm and joyful person. She left for Primavera in the second group, I think, and helped build the community in the back woods with literally nothing. When my mother was diagnosed with TB Meningitis, and Margot (who had been our 'mother' for many years) married Dr. Cyril Davies, Winifred came to look after the Zumpe children. Rudi, whom we knew well and loved, came to help her out with the five of us and it was not long before their engagement was announced.
We loved Winifred, although we made life difficult for her at times. She had to see that we washed and went to bed before 7:00 PM when she would go to supper, but it was always at seven that we seemed to be terribly thirsty and she would run to the kitchen to get us a jugful of water and then was late for supper. She used to sing a lot with us and taught us many French songs.
All throughout the years, the warm contact with both Rudi and Winifred remained. They had 7 daughters. The only little son died at childbirth. They went to the Wheathill Bruderhof in 1952 and Winifred was housemother there for many years. I met her again in Woodcrest in 1984, and it seemed she had not aged at all, joyful, happy and very enthusiastic about every new idea. On the Michaelshof in Germany, I saw her for the last time. She prepared tea for my family when we popped in on our way to a holiday in Switzerland. I will hold warm memories of a dedicated, intelligent and loving person when I think of her. In many ways she was special. That must be all for today. Much Love and Good Wishes,
Melchior Fros, 7/14/99: A Parable Every morning when I open the garage door, a sparrow flies into the garage and sits atop the door rail. It chirps merrily and appears to be seeking a safe place for it's mission of love: nest building and offspring rearing. And every day, without fail, I say "No, you can't do that here, Frau Spatz! I'm the one who sweeps this place; keeps it clean. I don't want your straw and poop in here. Find another place! "
I press a button, the overhead door closes, and the little thing sits outside, forlorn but not defeated. It will try again tomorrow.
To loved ones at the Bruderhof Inc.: I and others are like that sparrow. We hope, we seek, we pray and we knock at the door to your collective heart. We are not easily discouraged, nor will we go away. Love for you stirs strongly within us. Just think for a moment what could happen if you and we joined together to create a safe haven for nest-building and child rearing.
Sam Arnold, 8/1/99: I received this letter from Migg Fischli the other day, in reply to my bit about my father in the July KIT. He suggested that I send it on to KIT, so I transcribed it.
7/22/99: Dear Samuel, Reading your contribution in KIT, my memories of your father, Hans Hermann Arnold, sprang to life again. I was 13 in 1929 when I met him first in our home in Bergdoefli. He was a shy and rather timid boy. His face was without color, but his eyes made friends. He was on his way to England to Nona Mathis in Celerina. He admired me because I struggled with my first lessons of French in school. Some months later he returned on his way home to the Rhoen Bruderhof. His cheeks were round and his clothes filled out better due to the good food and the loving care from Nona Mathis.
The next closer contact with Hans Hermann was on a lorry trip to Rosario. He was my companion. With our heavy load of timber we got stuck in a treacherous mudhole. With our shoes off we had to unload and carry the heavy planks through the muddy water to a firm place. The sun was burning, the sweat running. After digging and heaving we got the good old lorry out of the hole. By the time we had reloaded the lorry it was getting dark, and we decided to stay there overnight. We shared a tin of corned beef and bread. From a nearby tiny almacen (store) I bought a bottle of ca–a. Lying on the hard boards the ca–a made us imagine a soft mattress. Thinking for this experience together we felt and were much closer than many so called "prior meetings."
I remember Hans Hermann as very lively from the time we spent together in El Arado. A warm family-like atmosphere ruled mostly, and I felt, despite some hardships, quite happy. Many times we went together on the reparto, selling our eggs, chicken, apples, jam, marmalade and vegetables to our customers. With our van almost empty, we ended up in an old restaurant in the center of Montevideo. After the hornblowing traffic -- the first and bigger vehicle is always right -- we were ready for a meal. Usually we had a milanasia (?), followed up with a cappucino. Often Franzhard came with us. I wonder how he is getting on.
The last contact with Hans Hermann was a letter that he wrote shortly before he passed away. He asked me for forgiveness, and pleaded that we should come back to the community. Well, I had always felt at peace with him.
I ponder about eternal life -- isn't it so that as long as we remain in people's hearts, that is a piece of eternal life?
If you would like to send this letter to KIT, do so after correcting it. This way it may also reach your sister and brothers and others who remember your dear father. Mit herzlichen Gruessen, Migg
(Note from Sam: My father had TB. He was sent to stay with Nona Mathis so that he could recover in the fresh mountain air.)
Lausbub, 7/28/99: "Primavera Deutsch" is a phrase I coined to describe the unique way in which we children-of-the-jungle used German words to fit unique, Primavera-Bruderhof experiences. The words and phrases derive their richness not from their literal meanings but rather from the memories they evoke. For this reason, I make no attempt to translate them and apologize to those of our readers who may feel "left out." Another of you may feel inclined to compose an essay on "Wheathill English."
My interest in the subject goes all the way back to Loma, to the early 50s. An incident is still fondly remembered by "older ones" from a German "news report" my mother translated: "The dog bit the man in the meat." In a humorous way this illustrates the difficulties encountered in "the early days" when the community was multilingual. As you will see, there developed some truly unique traits: who can forget (or explain) the rough German "r" pronunciation of the English word "red" by children growing up in English-speaking households? Why did the children of German parents have difficulty with the classic glottal fricative "ch" and pronounce it as "sch" instead? Akah (aka. Karlemann) and his friends all said "nischt", "Isch" and "foenf" (fuenf). How did "verrueckt" (crazy) become an emphatic adverb, a superlative of "sehr?"
My mother cringed in pain at such expressions as "gib mir die Kaese." It hurt the ears of Marianne Zimmermann if daughter Annemi or Monte Mathis said, "Ich kann nicht mit, wegen ich muss zu Hause helfen." Clearly English and German eloped in hasty union in those "early days."
Mark Twain was correct when he remarked that Spanish could be learned in a matter of hours, French in a day, but German not even in a lifetime. He understood "damit" as an expletive and bemoaned the fact that a male cat -- "der Kater" -- was masculine, while a group of males was apparently feminine.
Let's begin with the "Babyhouse years." Many of you will remember brother Grimm tales (were they not grim!) and poems from Die Goldene Brueke. Remember this song?
"Klopfe, klopfe Ringelchen.
Da stehn zwei arme Kinderchen.
Gib sie was und lass sie gehn,
Die Himmelstuer soll offen stehn.
Kommt Jesus aus der Schule,
kocht Maria ein Apfelbrei,
Setzen sich alle Engel bei,
Klein und gross, nackt und bloss,
Alle auf Marias Schoss."
I remember my dad or another brother coming to the Kindergarten with two heavy pots of "Mem-mem" hanging from a "Joch." From earliest memory, it was clear to me that a "Bock" at mealtimes was verboten! All food, even "Wabbel" (the fat or gristle in meat) or fat-skinned-over-cold- tomato- soup had to be eaten before dessert ("Schlempe," "Armer Ritter," "Eierstich" or watermelon) was served.
I hated this arrangement, because invariably the others would finish the main course ahead of me and start singing, "Da sitzt der Pummelpeter alleine!" (aside: perhaps it is from the word "Wabbel" that the more recent put-down "spineless" was coined?). I well remember a hole in the wall of the children's dining hall in Isla. A skilful move of the foot by one of my "Stummi" friends ("Stummi" = "Stumpel", meaning, stump) could dispose of unwanted Wabbel-material even under Kore McWhirter's watchful eye. What goes into the mouth has to come out, nicht? Let's examine "Klo-lingo."
There was a whole vocabulary associated with the need to "go" ( "Ich muss"). I knew this vocabulary quite well and successfully manipulated it to achieve my end. What was known to me as "Beb-bep" in the babyhouse, soon became "Gross" ("Voll"). Its counterpart was "Klein." I hated the midday nap and found it rather easy to get permission "to go" provided I used the right expressions:
Mel: "Wache, Wache ...Ich muss."
The Watch with serious expression: "Gross oder Klein?"
Mel,convincingly: "Gross... Voll!"
Wache: "Also gut. ...bitte bummel nicht." (see KIT Oct '97).
One certainly never wished to go to the Klo at night. The "Klo Lampe's" shine was simply too weak to prevent one from treading into a "Klex," a "Raupe" or some other matter.
Related to this "unerhoert" subject were new meanings formed by adding the suffix "ei" to a word. Thus "Verkelei," "Schinderei" and "Sauerei" all expressed a sense of displeasure. And then there was a priceless word coined by a Dutchman trying to learn German: "Windelasserei." To understand the word properly, you will need to keep in mind that it derives from the words "Wind," the verb "lassen" (to let go) and the "ei" suffix .
What exactly is "Windelasserei?" The story is told of a certain Loma boy who found a "catch" of ripe bananas and hid it from view of the gardeners, Walter Huessy and August Pleil. Day to day he watched the bananas ripen. When they showed their bright yellow with telltale black spots, the young boy stuffed himself with the fruit. Later, for lunch, he ate beans. Then, after siesta, he reported for P.T. (P.E.) class led by Jan Fros. In the boy's words:
"There I was, full of wind, still half asleep and the beans and bananas had been absolutely devastating... We were made to lift our arms and jump with our feet apart and together. I could not hold it any longer, and as I jumped, each time it 'banged.'
Your Dad, not having learned German so long ago, said quite embarrassed, "Die Windelasserei muss aufhoeren! Das ist unanstaendig." That brought the house down. Franz and Bastel, Ben and Peti, all burst out laughing, leaving (me) as red as a beetroot. I jumped up and down, blowing off like a put-put motor! Your Dad told me to go behind a big lapacho (tree). He looked for a stick and then said, "Bueck Dich." Suddenly I realized the earnestness of the hour and the terrible thought came to me, what if the stick comes down, "und vor lauter Schreck lass ich noch eine sausen?""
That is exactly what happened. Your Dad did not hit hard, as the stick was rotten and kept breaking. Your poor Dad, may God forgive him, did not know the German word for this embarrassing act was 'Forzen' (aka. "foozen" or even "detzen").
Another example of a homespun word is "Bauchklatscher," which derives from the German words for stomach and clapping. A "Bauchklatscher" is a belly-flop. I should know! My brother Haen took me swimming at the Loma repressa after the noon meal one day. The unstirred water was hot on the surface but cool lower down. Haen and I climbed the diving tower. There he persuaded me to try a "Bauchklatscher." I "worshipped" my brother and dutifully did as instructed. Oh, the pain, when my little tummy hit the hot water... and the laughter from above!
As children we frequently had "Weh-wehs" -- scatches or cuts that bled a little. It was customary to pick up a handful of sand and run it over the wound in order to create a "Kruste." For this and other reasons we had to endure "die Kur" anually. This process consisted of not eating the night before, taking 10 large, ugly tablets the following day, and feeling like an old dishcloth a few more days.
Associated with these Kindergarten years were the many trips across the Hof to see community members at work. I recall watching the natives thatch one of our school roofs. "Oh, da sind die Beia-beia," Sam said innocently. "Das sind unsere Arbeiter," Lotte corrected, then explained that "Beia-beia" was considered a derogatory expression. Actually, it was just a mispronounciation of the German word for worker. Another time, Franzi Whitty took us down to the "Segewerk" (sawmill) to see Vasil, our Russian carpenter, about our broken play wagon. Sizing us up from the distance, Vasil sang out, "Alles kapuh. Kapuh, kahpuh (kaput)!" and flashed a toothy grin that revealed his many gold-crowned teeth.
As we grew older, we used a unique vocabulary to describe appearances and feelings of fondness. Many of you will remember such expressions as "Sie sieht verhaun aus.".."Du bist unmoeglich" (an expression still in vogue on the B'hof -- "you are impossible")... "O, wie nett" (how "neat")..."Du bist ein Witzbauch (literally, "you are a laughing stomach).."Du bist ein Floh" (you are an imp).
Unlike today, "Schimpfwoerter" (cuss words) were off limits! Therefore children and adults coined their own phrases to express mild displeasure. "Verflixt noch ein Mal" (darn) was a common expression. Some expressions were a bit stronger: "Verflixt und zugeneht" (darn and sewn up) or "Donnerwetter-noch-ein-Mal." "Quatschkopf," "Du bist bloede" or "Er ist doof" all referred to stupidity in varying degrees. To call someone a "Schweine--hund" was sure to lead to "gepetzen" and discipline. Therefore, the older boys coined the word "Ceasar" (one of the most vicious of our "Schweinehuende") to describe an adult not well-liked by them.
I can mention specific cases of unique pronunciation. Erna Friedemann and my mother both come from Northern Germany where the "st" is pronounced as in the English word stick, rather than the more common and softer "scht" heard nowadays. It was fun imitating Erna and Susi: "Stephan stolpert ueber die spitzen Steine." Arno Martin pronounced "Begleitung" (to accompany) as "Bekleidung "(apparel). Thus the older teen girls would teasingly say they could not walk through the woods without "Maennliche Bekleidung."
There were a number of expressions that had no literal meaning and yet were understood perfectly well in context. Others derived their meaning from our common life. "Nun, also gut.".."Na ja.".. "och!" are examples of the former. On the other hand, a positive conversation might end with "Na ja, das Leben ist suess."..and a not-so-positive one might end with " Na ja, das Leben ist schwehr." If an adult asked for incriminating information, one might reply "Wer weiss davon." "Darauf kann man nach Ibate reiten" -- an Isla expression illustrating inter-Hof rivalry -- was used to refer to a dull hunting knife or "Dolch." (In Guaran’, it was a "Heimbeh" that was not "quiseh"). A joke heard more than once could draw the comment, "Der Witz hat einen langen Bart" or as Gabi Arnold said, "Laut ertoent unterirdisch das Getroene der Bartaufwickel Maschine."
I want to thank those who contributed material for this delightful sojourn into Primavera Deutsch. In closing let me mention two expression of endearment. "Isliebedie," often accompanied by whistling, was something the locals shouted our way on the streets of Rosario. I could never quite make it out... that is, until I reached the age of ten and began to take an interest in girls. The other expression, "schoen," I fondly associate with Alfred Gneiting and the perpetual smile that hovered on his face. When Alfred said "schoen" he really meant, "you are loved."
Letter send to Findhorn Community from Ramon Sender, Hilarion Braun, Susie Zumpe, David Ostrom Jr., Miriam Arnold Holmes, Judith Tsukroff, Colin Hazelton, Ruth Baer Lambach, Benedicta Cavanna, 8/5/99: Dear Findhorn Folks, we note that you are inviting the Bruderhof elder Johann Christoph Arnold to your mid-October conference. May we respectfully suggest that he address the question of why he, as the Bruderhof leader, continues to cut off outside Bruderhof family members from contact with their relatives inside his organization? He may reply that this is a question of individual families' choice, but this reply is merely a smoke screen, in the under--signers' opinion. Again, in our opinion, he is desperately trying to keep the rank-and-file members unaware of the abusive and illegal nature of various activities carried out in the name of the Bruderhof communities, including the placement of illegal recording devices in ex-members' homes, telephoned death threats traced directly to Arnold's family, his self-described 'hit men' skulking outside an ex- member's home and even alleged break-ins. All of this is coming from a group that claims to attempt to live by Christ's Sermon on the Mount and sells books on peace and forgiveness.
You might also ask him about the phone call harassment campaign that Arnold blamed (during his appearance on a CBS '48 Hours' program) on out-of-control Bruderhof children rather than admitting that it was a campaign planned by the leadership and implemented by Bruderhof members and their children. We know this is true from an ex-member that protested as unchristian the group's decision to start the harassment campaign. He was asked to leave the membership meeting and finally left the Bruderhof with his wife and children.
Why does Arnold refuse the ex-members' offer to sit down together and discuss outstanding differences in the presence of the trained mediation experts of the Mennonite Conciliation Service? Why does he refuse the offer to have the Quaker-based CERJ (Center for Equity and Restorative Justice) from Vermont mediate, as well as an earlier offer by Rev. Alan Howe and Rev. Dave Janzen of the Reba Place Fellowship in Illinois?
Please take a moment to browse our web site of the accumulated testimonies of some of the children and ex-members of the Bruderhof: www.perefound. org/knsltrs.html, and the news group alt.support. bruderhof
Dr. Timothy Domer's recent letter in the latter regarding the Bruderhof's definition of 'respect' is of special interest. Quoting briefly:
"Christoph [Arnold] writes and speaks of loving one's enemies, forgiveness, seeking peace, seeking the truth and the importance of family. Yet toward those of us whom he has labeled "enemies" he has shown nothing but sarcasm, coldness, hardheartedness and disrespect. He and his advisers have rejected many sincere attempts at true reconciliation. They cut off all attempts at contact by blocking e-mail, returning letters unopened or refusing to answer or acknowledge letters. Anguished children have written to parents and grandparents, but for the most part the letters are ignored or returned unopened. On some occasions cold, loveless, businesslike answers have been returned, written not by the intended recipient of the letter but rather by a Bruderhof 'spokesman'."
These are the voices of those who were thrown away, or retained enough remnants of self-preservation to be able to escape from what can only be termed a life of indentured servitude in a 'company town,' with zero equity, no social security, and no health insurance when they left. When you leave, you leave basically with the clothes on your back and a 'kiss off' from Arnold. Meanwhile the Bruderhof's multi- million-dollar corporations grow wealthier and wealthier, while their publishing company continues to publish books of "concern" for the poor and downtrodden.
Despite the utopian veneer displayed to visitors of an orderly community of beautiful children singing and playing, and of admittedly truly sincere (albeit hoodwinked, in our and others' opinion) rank-and-file members, and despite the many beautiful words published by the Bruderhof -- allegedly written by Arnold -- the leaders' actions mark them as hypocrites. Again, all the foregoing expresses the undersigners' opinion, formed by their own personal experience and from the ten years of accumulated and published testimonies of those no longer inside the Bruderhof.
We would suggest, at the very least, that you invite one or two of the many ex-members in the U.K. to present a gentle rebuttal to Arnold's pious and empty chatter. Respectfully,
Michael Vigar, 7/10/99: Some of you may remember that I left Ybate at my request something like 2 years before the dust-up. I was given a bus ticket to Sa› Paulo to meet up with Peter Trapnell and Paul Allain who were living there in considerable poverty in a pension working as labourers daytime, and "studying" electrical engineering or whatever at night. After the shock of my new surroundings and the glories of a large city and new environment, I joined Rolls Royce. My work involved the repair, maintenance, overhaul and calibration of jet engines. By now I was no longer living with Peter and Paul, and we slowly drifted apart as my social and professional life developed. These were interesting times for me, especially after I was sent to the UK for special training and returned to the with an 'expat' contract and guaranteed employment at RR in the UK Midlands on contract expiry.
After gaining my flying qualifications, my responsibilities also included working with several South American airforces. It was during this time that my parents and some of my family arrived in Sa› Paulo, after the events in Primavera. As these events did not concern me, I really showed little interest one way or the other. However I was pleased to be able to help my family financially until my father was employed by the British Council. My brothers, Piers and Nick, had left Paraguay for the UK, and an independent life there.
After my contract expired, I returned to the UK and continued to work with Rolls Royce and accessory suppliers. Initially my work kept me in the UK only. However, slowly, I was given responsibilities which included travelling in many parts and corners of the world. During this time I married an accountant Yvonne -- and we completed our family with the birth of Michael-Andrew and Dianne. Houses were purchased and sold, and life and fortune were kind to us. As my overseas travel increased, I decided to switch from technical to international marketing activities. This necessitated increased and prolonged travel over a period of years. This included the USA, which allowed me to visit my sister Eve Alexander and her family in the Community. Naturally I met up with some of my former classmates and colleagues living there. As a result I was included on their Plough mailing list. Early 1980, both I and my family had enough of my travel and prolonged stays away from home. For the next years I therefore worked close to home in the management of a USA company, Raytheon, consolidating their European activities. In other words, we were closing down or selling off many of their European factories, product lines and operations. Neither I nor my wife -- a Scott -- have any particular emotional affection for England. Our children by now are safe away from home in university.
By now we again needed a change, so we decided to retire early to the south of France near Nice where we had a house. We have always been a close family, with few relations near us. Yvonne is an only child whose father up and left when she was very young. Piers and Nick moved to Brasil just after our marriage. My frequent travels and house moves did not encourage many family friends. So no real ties to England in our household.
The spirit of adventure and restlessness seems to move strongly in both Yvonne and me... However, our plan assumed that our children would go along with the new arrangements -- i.e. continue their study and make their own way in life with our help only when needed. Not so, they too wanted "the good life' away from the UK. In short we had to modify our plans to include university study for the offspring. Cape Town was one of our choices. So here we are and have been for nearly 10 years now. I run an Estate Agency business and Yvonne is the practice manager for a group of well known cardiologists. Michael Andrew is heavy into computer technology and returned to the UK 2 months ago to seek his fortune. Dianne, after a brief marriage which produced our grandson Douglas -- now 4 years old -- works with me.
Well, what are my views on the goings on in the Community? My infrequent visits there proved to me that there are still dedicated and -- well -- nice people there. Naturally I am slightly biased, as I spent most of my time there with my sister. I also met up with people that I have great affection for, and that enriched my life as a youth. I never met -- nor wanted to meet -- any of the leaders. I have ceased my subscription of the Plough. Maybe it was that I found it hard to take that the spirit seemed only to move the offspring of the original founder to lead and write. Frankly I found it remarkable that wisdom appeared to confine itself to the Arnold family. In fact it seems a little like African politics.
Just in case any reader takes offence, please accept that my experience of members of that family are far from pleasant. In fact Heini is responsible for great hurt and permanent damage to me and members of my family. Yes, as a result I am biased and jaundiced when I see his saintly words and preachings. How I wish that the spirit could have moved him sooner -- either to a millstone, enlightenment or as far away from little children as possible, prior to the descent of latent wisdom. I therefore choke on such enlightenment and cast it away -- bath, baby, water ... the lot!
And the future? Well frankly, we may well decide to leave SA. I have the feeling that the glorious scenery and mostly good weather will not be enough to hold us here much longer. Democracy invariably comes to African countries with a heavy price tag: corruption, ignorance, violence, crime, and a rapid erosion of all the values that we in the western Christian tradition take for granted. In fact as many of you will know, democracy is an alien plant in this African environment that has little chance to flourish.. Traditional leaders, tribalism, ignorance, poverty, disease, attack and kill it or worse, and so many African countries at this time fertilize it with such a poisonous brew that it gives birth to a new and all devouring monsters. So we too are beginning to feel the wind of change here in this beautiful country. A wind that has all the ingredients to turn into a hurricane. If it does, we -- that is my family and I -- would prefer to be somewhere else. So plans are being made. And who knows -- quo vadis the Vigars of Cape Town South Africa?
Gillian Burleson, 8/16/99: Dear KITfolk, This is Gillian Burleson writing one general letter to answer a bunch of questions I've been asked by a bunch of people. I want to tell my saga from Bruderhof to the present. Those of you who were at Friendly Xways, please bear with me.
I was born in 1963, the seventh of eleven children of George and Vonnie Burleson, who joined the Bruderhof in 1957 in Woodcrest, after having lived at Macedonia in Georgia for a year, and previous to that, on a cooperative farm cofounded by my maternal grandfather in the San Joaquin Valley of California.
Growing up in the Bruderhof had its joys and its pains, as all human lives do. However, I found that my personality was not the type that fit easily into the cookie-cutter behavior demanded of Bruderhof children. I was always getting into trouble, and seldom understood why. So I had my share of kiddie ausschlusses and "groundings" as a schoolchild and teenager. I thought I believed in the Bruderhof way of life, but took it far too seriously to make a lifetime commitment lightly. I'd also been made to feel unworthy of so great a call until I could pull up my socks and show God I was worthy enough to be called His.
There was a spirit of revival moving in the Bruderhof in March and April of 1980, around the time of Annemarie Arnold's death. I certainly didn't want to miss the bandwagon, but neither was I prepared to "ask for the novitiate." Heini Arnold wrote a general letter to everyone at Eastertime, thanking them for the prayers and support during Annemarie's sickness and after her death. In that letter, he exhorted everyone to take seriously the Easter message, and said something to this effect: "If we don't allow Christ's spirit to rule in our lives, He will have died in vain for us."
Those words really grabbed my attention. -- I didn't want Christ to have died in vain for me. So after stalling for several days, I stood up in the Good Friday meeting and declared my desire to live for Christ, that His death wouldn't be in vain for me. As I reflect back on that time, I think how everyone was glad I'd made a public declaration like that, but no one explained to me further what Christ's death meant for my life. I still was a sinful human being, and I still was rebuked and exhorted to "pull up my socks" every time my sin nature reared its ugly head. No one told me that I couldn't do it alone. No one told me that only by allowing Christ's spirit to live in me could He save me from my sin. And so I struggled on through the rest of my high school and junior college years.
I found that I thrived in the academic environment, and as my community college days were drawing to a close, the future loomed large and bleak before me, as I contemplated spending the rest of my days cleaning other people's toilets and chopping salad for the community. Even though my training had been in Early Childhood Education, I hadn't been trusted enough to work with children's groups on a regular basis. I also couldn't stand the vicarious living (i.e. "Let's all get excited because so-and-so is going to Israel). I had been so conditioned to think it was wrong to let my desires and wishes be known, that I always was passed over when interesting outreach trips even locally were planned. Academics were something that I thrived in, and I saw the potential for far more interesting work (in the Archives and as a teacher) if I could study German (which had been my major in high school, and at which I'd excelled). So I asked if I could continue my studies at the University of Connecticut in German.
It was agreed that I could apply, but I was told I'd probably have to support myself once the Bruderhof helped me get started. Thankfully, through grants, scholarships, and federal aid this was possible. Then, shortly before the school year began, I was told in a sort of hedging way that it might be difficult to arrange transportation home every weekend, so I'd probably only get home for vacations. This was devastating, and actually untrue, as it later turned out there was a Bruderhof boy studying at the same university and going home every weekend. The Bruderhof was forcing me to make a decision about their way of life. I tearfully said my "Good-byes" and went off to the big world of the UCONN Huskies.
God in His mercy had His hand on my going out. In the first semester I was plugged in with Evangelical Christians who preached a very different Gospel than what I'd ever heard before. I learned that Salvation is a free gift through the Grace of Christ, paid for by His shed Blood on the Cross. I learned, that as long as I accepted this free gift and allowed Jesus to be Lord of my life, His death would not be in vain for me. I could be assured of eternal life with God, simply by accepting these truths for my own life. It's strange that at the Bruderhof we used to sing the wonderful Salvation Army song "We are not under law, but under grace." But when I was there, I sure didn't understand what that meant until I left the Bruderhof.
As my two years of study at UCONN progressed, I slowly exerted greater independence in my thinking and planning for myself. My dear Dad had spent hours finding a place for me to live when I first left. That place fell through for the second year and he found another place, but so did I. Both were acceptable to him. I went with the situation I'd found. Then I decided in my last semester there to move to Boston using contacts I'd made. During my UCONN days I continued to wear Bruderhof clothing, even the kopftuch for most of them. At Friendly Crossways an old friend of mine said "Gillian was on the fringe for ten years." It's true that I didn't go out and throw every reminder of the Bruderhof down the toilet. Since I was on a very low budget most of the time, my Mom continued to sew clothes for me, obviously Bruderhof-type styles. It's taken me years to wean myself of external resemblance to Bruderhof styles. I think because of that, my family was holding out hope for me for about ten years that I'd return.
In Boston I primarily worked as a daycare teacher, and got involved in various churches and Bible study groups. I've grown in different ways through all of it. I've had my thinking about many things challenged and been willing to consider non-Bruderhof world views. I'd always been under the impression that the Bruderhof was willing to have their thinking challenged. My Dad and I would have great discussions about world issues whenever I went back to visit.
In 1993 my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I had some great phone conversations with Jonathan Zim, my Dad's Bruderhof doctor, about the symptoms and possible cures. He was amazingly open with me. He also told me how the cancer progresses into the bones if it doesn't go into remission. He said he'd felt it would be unnecessary to tell my parents this as he didn't want them unnecessarily anxious about anything. Every medical (not homeopathic) treatment possible was administered, from surgery, to chemotherapy to radiation treatments. And for several years the cancer seemed to have gone into remission. But then in 1997 my Dad's femur suddenly broke one evening when he stood up from the couch to go to bed. The cancer had gone into the bone -- the worst possible situation and very painful. At the time, I was in Siberia (more of that later) so when I returned stateside in the summer, my Dad asked for me to come visit him.
I had a sinking feeling about that visit and asked some folks in my church to pray with me beforehand, and for me while I was there for a week. I determined that I would stop living the lie I had during previous visits and pretend to go along with Bruderhof positions on issues where I actually felt and believed differently from them. I hadn't always been completely open with my Dad but this time, I felt I had to be truthful, regardless of the consequences.
For the first few days of that visit, I received earfuls about all the Bruderhof was experiencing. One thing several of my siblings and my parents told me was that they'd realized they needed to listen more to people with other world views. Interestingly, they'd scarcely asked me about my time in Siberia. So one evening when the whole family was sitting around my parents' living room, I started sharing what concerns I had about the direction the Bruderhof was going in. After a while, my brother David said, "Gillian, can't you respect the way the spirit is leading the whole Brotherhood?" I responded, "There's only one way to be sure that the spirit leading the Bruderhof is the Holy Spirit, and that's if it's in agreement with the Word of God, the Bible. Groups have gone way off base by following spirits that led them to suicide. We can be sure the spirit leading us is the spirit of Christ if He is leading us in a direction that agrees with what the Bible says." Everyone seemed very grey by the end of that evening. I think they all knew that I had just rung the death knell to any future visits.
The next day four of my siblings and in-laws sat me down and told me I could leave that day if I wouldn't be more sensitive to my Dad's suffering. They told me, "This will probably be your last visit with your Dad." I went to him afterwards and asked his forgiveness if I'd offended him in any way. He said I hadn't.
During that conversation with the siblings, my brother David (who had spent several years in California and lived a very active Christian life there, involved with a bunch of churches and ministries) said, "Gillian, you know what I was involved with in California. I've had to realize that that was all demonic. It's demonic, and I have to repent of it every day."
I was shaken by that and started to weep. My brother had repented of his earlier commitment to the Lord and was calling it demonic. He was also, by saying that, implying that everything I was involved with was demonic. I was able to bite my tongue and stay the duration of the planned week-long visit.
On Saturday of that week, Christoph and Verena came to New Meadow Run in preparation for a big Brotherhood conference the following week. I was aghast at the blatant idolatry of Christoph I saw in the members. I guess I hadn't seen him for about ten years and had matured in my own faith during that time, so that the idolatry was scandalous to me by then. There was a communal picnic to welcome them out on the meadow. Some brothers were playing in a band for our dinner entertainment, including a drummer. Christoph said, in front of the whole community, "Brother (using his name), you used to be a lot better on the drums." Everyone chuckled but I was livid that he would publicly humiliate a brother in front of everyone like that. You can see how blind I'd been in the past -- or have things gotten a whole lot worse?
It was a relief to be on my way after that week, although it was very hard to say good-bye to my Dad, knowing it would be the last time I'd see him alive.
Shortly after that visit, just after the conference they had there, my Dad wrote me that from now on we'd not be in touch by phone but just by letter. Well, I'd always called and they'd always written, but now they stopped writing and my calls never got through.
A year later I was in California preparing to go overseas again, this time to Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. I desperately wanted to talk to my Dad one last time, so I had a friend call for me and tell the operator (truthfully) that she was a friend of the Burlesons and wanted to speak to George and Vonnie. She was told that they wanted the name and phone number of people calling and would call back. So she gave them our number and her name. Soon the phone rang and I picked it up. It was Mike Pappas, my brother-in-law. He was living right across the hall from my parents and had a cordless phone. I told him I wanted to speak to my father one last time before going overseas. He refused to hand the phone to my father. He said, "You represent a different spirit than we do." After about 5 -- 10 minutes of beating around the bush the conversation was ended. I hung up and wept. But I felt like the truth had been spoken. If the Spirit of Christ dwells in me because I have asked him to be the Lord of my life and am seeking to live my life for Him, then the Spirit of the Bruderhof must be the spirit of Antichrist. They certainly put a nice face on it, but wasn't the Devil originally and Angel of Light--Lucifer? He knows how to make his ways look good, and even religious.
With that experience heavy on my heart I made my way to Kyrgyzstan in late August of 1998. In late October I received the dreaded word that my father had died. My sister Anna (Mike's wife) had written a very thoughtful letter telling all about his last minutes and how he was laid out for the wake. She wrote, "You know Daddy loved you deeply, as you'll see by the enclosed letter." A final letter from my father, in his own unique left-handed scrawl!!! I read it and wept. It was his request that I not come to his funeral; that I only be informed of his death after he was buried, because the time of someone's death is a time of "inner gathering" and he didn't want me disturbing the atmosphere of the Bruderhof by my presence at such a sensitive time. He said he'd always been praying that I would find my way back to "the life" and he would "continue praying for you from eternity." My final illusion of my Dad's being different from the others and understanding me better than they, was shattered. Talk about rubbing salt on the wound.
There is a miracle story in the midst of all this pain. I'd been looking for free Christian counseling while in Boston, to help me work through the pain of rejection and other issues from my Bruderhof past. I was unable to find it. Shortly before my Dad's death, a mature Australian couple came to visit their daughter and her family who were missionaries in Osh, the city where I was working. She had let it be known that she was a counselor and wanted to make her services available for free to all the expats in Osh, for the two months she would be around. I'd already met with her once before I heard of my Dad's death. She was there to help me bear my grief, vent my anger and pain, at that most crucial time.
What a blessing from the Lord! During our last visit together I suddenly realized that I was free: For all these years my faithful earthly father had been praying for me to return to the Bruderhof. As my father, I believe he had a great deal of spiritual authority over me, although I was usually distant. But now, I believe, he is face to face with the Heavenly Father, the Father of Light, the Lord of truth, and sees the spiritual realities for what they are. Although he said that he'd continue praying for me from eternity, I know he can no longer be praying for my return to the Bruderhof, because he now sees how deceived he was by the leadership there. In fact, I believe he's now praying with me for an end to the deception and lies that hold so many of our loved ones in bondage there. May it be so! Soli Deo Gloria! I will write about my mission work in another epistle. 8/17/99: Where No One Has Gone Before. This is Gillian Burleson writing, once again, to KITfolk to answer many questions about my work overseas. But first, let me give a little background.
In 1987 I was encouraged by a friend who was working with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in Boston to sign up for the triennial conference in Urbana, Illinois, on missions. This conference takes place between Christmas and the New Year on campus at the University of Illinois. It primarily targets Christian students and young adults who are trying to figure out what to do with their lives. There were about 20,000 people in the stadium -- a pretty awesome sound when we were singing praises to God together!
So one evening Tony Campolo spoke about making a commitment to missions at some level. He said "We need to be a Star Trek generation, challenged to go 'where no one's gone before'." Those last words were said together by over half the audience--a lot of Trekkies. He also spoke about how much the various professions are needed overseas, while the American job market is glutted with qualified doctors, teachers etc., why not go where we can really make a difference?
I was among the thousands that night who made a commitment to seriously look into serving as a missionary for at least a year. However, the cost of education to pursue my dream of being a Bible translator was prohibitive, so after a couple of years working toward that goal, I put it all on the back burner and just went back to the daycare teaching field.
By 1995 I was sick of the politics of daycare centers, and frustrated at a system of unnatural bonding and breaking of bonds with babies. When little 10-month-old Andrew would run to me and away from Mom at the end of the day as she came to pick him up, I felt I was supporting a system I didn't believe in. I really wanted a career change--perhaps go overseas, or something, when I received a packet of 3 x 5 cards advertising a bunch of missions and various other Christian organizations. I filled a bunch of them out, posted them and waited only a few days for my first response. It was from Educational Services International (ESI). With only a few thousand dollars to raise and a few weeks of intensive training in Pasadena, ESI sends a couple hundred English and business teachers overseas each year to China, the CIS, and Eastern Europe (we've now expanded to Turkey and Morocco). ESI advertises itself not as a missions organization, but as a Christian humanitarian organization. We go to serve various countries as English teachers (also a few as business teachers), but also hope that we can reflect the Light of Christ wherever we end up.
When I saw that they were sending folks to Siberia, my heart jumped. Ever since I'd looked into the missions options, I felt I'd rather go to Siberia than the tropical places that most missionaries end up. I'd had one semester of Russian in college and some exposure to Russian emigres. So I was sent along with one teammate to Yakutsk, in the frozen taiga of the Sakha Republic, a semi-autonomous republic in Russia which is about the size of India in land mass, but has only 1.5 million inhabitants. The native peoples are Asiatic. The largest people group there speaks Yakut which is in the Turkic language family group. Unlike their cousins in Central Asia, however, they've never been exposed to Islam, because they migrated north before the Turks proselytized that region (there are Turkish Muslim missionaries currently trying to make up for that oversight though).
I worked as an English teacher in Yakutsk for two years. Then ESI decided to discontinue the program there, as it was too hard to recruit teachers for it. (Amazing?!?!)
While working in Yakutsk, I kept a map of the Soviet Union (predating the break-up thereof) on my kitchen wall so I could get to know the region better. During that time I became increasingly interested in Central Asia. I was back in Boston for a year when I heard that ESI was planning to start new programs in Kyrgyzstan, on the western border of China. I was there!
I felt strongly that that was where I was meant to be. I was sent with one teammate to Osh, the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan, located in the southern portion of the country, in the eastern end of the Ferghana Valley (the fruit basket of Central Asia). In fact, Osh is more of an Uzbek city than Kyrgyz, but the arbitrary political boundaries drawn by Stalin in the 30's have maintained through the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Unfortunately, we were unable to get an ESI contract with any institution in Osh for the coming year, as $50 per month is too steep a price for most schools and universities to pay foreign teachers. However, I felt so plugged in there, and so much like I was where God wanted me to be, that I made arrangements with a private school to teach English there in the coming year. Without the ESI contract, however, I have to pay my own rent ($100/month) and utilities, in addition to the cost of travel there and back and a variety of other expenses above and beyond what $50 / month can pay for. (This school could afford that salary, but didn't have enough work for two teachers. ESI has a policy not to send teachers out alone to a city.) So I'm trying to raise around $8000 and have, to date only raised about $1200.
I'd like to be flying over there by mid to late September, but can't do so until enough money, or pledges have come in. The support is being raised through my local church, to grant tax-free status to donors, and to give them access to the funds that come in through the year when I'm overseas, so they can forward them to me.
I hope that things have been clearly stated. If anyone out there feels like they'd want to support such an endeavor, please send checks to: Tree of Life City Church, with Gillian's mission, or Osh mission written in the memo. The address is: Tree of Life City Church 874 Beacon Street Boston, MA 02215 USA If someone has questions for me and would like to get more information, you could either email me at email@example.com or call me in the USA at 617-489-4057.
As indicated above, I'm hoping to leave here by the end of September, trusting God to provide the finances somehow. In the meantime, I'm working part time, and speaking in some local churches about the work there. It's pretty exciting how God is working. I'd love to share more if anyone's interested. But I don't want to burden those that aren't with more here. Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. Wishing you all God's richest blessings,
A Visit to Crystal Spring Colony near Winnipeg, Manitoba
by Ruth Baer Lambach, June 8, 1999
When I arrived in at Crystal Spring, A two-month-old baby was sleeping on the sofa and the two-and-a-half-year-old was roaming about the apartment. In the bathroom a twenty-year-old girl who'd just left the colony was grooming herself. We ate a great breakfast of freshly baked homemade bread, Mennonite apple butter, which my hosts had brought along from Ontario where they had gone to pick up their son Matthew just returning from eight months at the colony in Nigeria.
I was impressed with the kitchens I found in each of the Hutterite homes. They are larger, better equipped, with micro wave ovens, a stove, refrigerator and lots of find wood cabinets, as well as spacious counters. Each kitchen is similar, and always there is the solid oval or rectangular wooden kitchen table around which the family can gather. Clare came in from the barn, but was called out several times, once to sell eggs to a local, and another time to help fix something in the barn.
We toured the place. The first stop was the Kleineschule. Both women there were friendly and positive. There was a large fenced in yard with lots of swings and playthings for the children. Inside, the large rooms were filled with substantial wooden toys, chairs and other furniture from Community Playthings. The women sat side-by-side visiting with each other. Each held a child, and others were close by.
Next stop was the home of Jake Kleinsasser. His wife welcomed us warmly. She had looked out the window and thought I was my cousin Mary. As we sat down in the living room, Jake emerged from his office down the hall. He immediately accused me of writing negative things about the Hutterites. I didn't counter what he said. I listened to his rantings about John Hostetler as well. Hostetler, the recognized scholar on Hutterites, used to be very close to the Hutterites, but in Jake's eyes, he'd compromised himself and he, Jake, wanted nothing further to do with John Hostetler. However, he said, John was extending himself and attempting to reestablish their relationship.
Jake essentially dismissed all writings about Hutterites as a selfish wish for recognition and status. If you really love Hutterites then why don't you live here. As I left his house, he told me an anecdote about a man standing by a crossroads telling people not to go down that road, but when the time came for him to leave he went directly down the road he'd advised others not to go. I got the message. "Irdisch, irdisch, irdisch! Alles ist irdisch und eitel!" Jake, like most Hutterites, has a very distinct and simple way to dismiss what he doesn't want to deal with.
I did not want to get into an argument. My visit was short. He invited me to return again and gestured upstairs indicating they had a lot of space for overnight guests. I believe him. I believe Hutterites who welcome guests. As I left, he handed me two color brochures on Hutterite life. These brochures, the toys and ambience in the Kleineschule, and especially the school were definite influences from the Bruderhof. I'm sure if I were still a Hutterite, I'd belong to the Oilers. They are progressive, in a good way.
I tried to keep the conversation on a friendly basis. As I saw the two women, both very attractive and warm looking women with grey hair, I could just imagine my mother sitting there. She'd fit in perfectly. Her attitudes, her ideas and behavior patterns would match those of the women in the room. Jake's wife went to the back of the room and came out with a package for me. Two bars of store bought soap and 5 pair of underpants were what I found when I got back. The homemade underpants are made of some slinky fabric, very comfortable. I don't know what she was trying to tell me with this gift. Perhaps I would have expected scratchy flour sack underwear and homemade, unperfumed soap. She's trying to show me that Hutterites evolve too. The Maendel sisters
My next goal was to visit a bit with Miriam, my former classmate in New Rosedale. She's married to Eli, a brother to Jake Kleinsasser. Two of her sisters, are married to my cousins, Paul and Elton, who've been to the Baer Poultry Ranch on numerous occasions. The sisters do not communicate with this sister, Miriam, who is part of the Oilers or the Jake Kleinsasser bunch. Another sister, Ruth lives in Winnipeg, married to a Mennonite. She and her family will soon be moving to the country to raise goats. Still another sister, Leah lives on the outside someplace far away, married to a professor. Two older sisters, Eva and Rebecca, live on the colony and are aligned with the more conservative Hutterites, the real Schmiedeleut.
It pains the Hutterites that there is this split, and that they do not visit back and forth freely. I learned that the three branches of Hutterites, Lehreleut, Dariusleut and Schmiedeleut made it to Ottawa before Jake Kleinsasser did, and established that they were the real Hutterites, and that made it impossible for Jake to excommunite them.
I watched Rachel Baer as she received her two grandchildren with their mother. She was as happy and nurturing as any grandmother anywhere. While at the Crystal Spring Colony, I felt no animosity toward the other Hutterites. Only in the Kleinschule one woman commented cheerfully and boldly, "If we are called Oilers, I'm proud to be an Oiler." She'd left her baby back at her mother's house. She ran back to be with the baby. When I left I saw her in the center of things with her sisters and other babies. She was at home. She was happy showing off her new baby and visiting with family.
Our next stop was the school, an impressive looking building. By any standards this was an active and stimulating place. Immediately as we stepped in the from door I spotted a large poster "All about sweat" Some student had obviously done research about sweat, and this was posted on the bulletin board. This looked like a colony on which they encouraged children to think.
It was almost noon time and time for everyone to eat together. One big tall barefoot young man came out of the room and went to the bathroom. His teacher commented about how he was back in school to complete his high school degree. He chuckled sheepishly as though school were a sissy thing to do.
The teachers at the Crystal Spring Colony school are members of the community. Two of them are people who've joined the colony from the outside. At dinner I sat across the table from the woman who'd joined. She and her family had actually joined the Bruderhof and been transferred to Manitoba. When the split came they remained in Manitoba because as she put it, "we joined the Hutterian Bretheren." I could sense her devotion and commitment. Down the table from me sat the oldest of Jake Kleinsasser's sisters who remembered me as a very proud and capable young Hutterite. We joked about Krischtel Katrina, the woman who insisted her bed sheets be changed daily as she lay dying. I had been named Krischtel Katrina as a young Hutterite because I was a fanatic housekeeper.
The prayer, which started the meal was shortened. I pointed this out and repeated the whole thing to their surprise. At the end of the meal Jake did the prayer in English. During the meal there was no official talking nor announcement, only silent, focused eating. Danny Moody's wife, Dora, daughter of Jake Kleinsasser was pointed out to me. One of Peter and Sarah Hofer's sons was also pointed out to me. In the distance, way up on the other side, was Danny Moody. As I left the dining room, I introduced myself to him and we shook hands.
Hutterite meals have changed. Nutritionally, they have improved, with more fresh vegetables and salads. The other innovation is presentation. We used to have four people assigned to each serving bowl. Each table had two of everything. Now, all the food is set out in bowls or platters on counters in the kitchen. People pass by and fill their plates and then take their place in the dining room. The women like this system because it saves on dishes.
As always in this visit, I get to sit at the table with the oldest women in the colony. Whether I was in church or in the dining room, this seating arrangement gives me pause to think about what I did with my life. I was here in this place where each person is honored with a place at the table. I once belonged. That was long ago when I was a child. I looked forward to becoming an adult, but we left Forest River before I could announce in front of my schoolmates: "Paul Vetter, Ich bin funfzehne Jahre alt."
I feel the gap as I look down the tables and benches filled with young and middle aged women in the middle of their productive lives. Here I am already relegated to the retired women. Hutterite women are relieved of heavy work at age forty- five. I'm already a decade beyond that and so am really ready for the margins. It's a strange feeling, and I wonder how my life might have been had I stayed a Hutterite.
There is little time for these lingering thoughts. I have to find my way through a strange city to the airport. I don't know what kind of traffic to expect; I have to fill the rented car with gas, drop it off and get to my plane by 2:30. It is now 12:30. On international flights they want you in the airport two hours before departure. The drive into town is an hour. On the way out, I get Eli Kleinsasser to scratch out a map. His comments: "four turns." Nothing like a Hutterite to simplify your life. I take his lines and drive off. I don't like long good-byes. I quit reminiscing, and focus on reality. The reality of the modern world with schedules, a world which does not care whether or not I exist. In this world, I do what I want; I am not bound; I am free. I am neither watched nor acknowledged. If my life has meaning, I bring this meaning to it through my involvements. These are the words and thoughts of a Hutterite, now forty years out of the colony.
-------- From the Hummer listserve --------
Sam Arnold, 7/2/99: Ernst asked me to relate for the Hummer the following story about him and our father, Hans Hermann. It puts a different perspective on our father from my recent posting.
Ernst was fifteen or sixteen years old in Bulstrode when his school group went on a day trip to the nearby Cadbury chocolate factory. He remembers the trip as being quite interesting, but also uneventful. However, one student in the group afterwards confessed that all in the group had felt superior to everyone that they met, and a crisis was hatched. On cue, one child after another chimed their accompaniment to this confession, except for Ernst. Embarrassed by his son's lack of admission for this apparent sin, Papa thought that what Ernst needed was a good Aussprache (talking to). Instead, Ernst told Papa that he didn't feel superior at all. This annoyed Papa, who sent Ernst to his room to "think about it."
Later that evening following the brotherhood meeting, Papa came upstairs to talk to Ernst, who was by now asleep in bed. Papa woke him and asked, "Do you now agree that you feel superior?" Ernst answered sleepily, "It all depends." Smack! Papa slapped him across the face for the impudent remark. He stomped out in a huff. The next day Papa tried again to get Ernst to confess to feeling superior. Ernst replied, "You have always told us to tell the truth, and I am telling the truth!" But Papa was intent on compliance, insisting that Ernst was as guilty as the rest of the group. Frustrated, Ernst looked Papa straight in the eye and said, "If you want to know the truth, I feel inferior to those people!"
That did it! Papa lost it completely and went into our parent's bedroom area in the corner of the living room and came back with the stick. He went to strike Ernst, but Ernst wrenched the stick out of Papa's hands and broke it in two. He said hotly, "Never try that again with me, or with any of my younger brothers and sister!" In disbelief Papa walked out angrily and disappeared for several days to cool off. We were not told where he went. The topic was never brought up again, although Ernst was Ausschlussed from the high school group.
A few days later while Papa was still away and Ernst in Ausschluss, Mama surprised him by asking him if he wanted to go with two brothers to Germany to make a delivery of Bromdon Products there. Ernst quickly said yes, and off they went the next day. He had great trip with Paul Gerhard and Fritz Wuertzlie. (Fritz was a short-term member from Germany who probably came over when Sinntal closed. He was a neat guy, but did not stay on the Bruderhof for long.) When they returned from Germany, Papa was home again and nothing more was ever said about the incident, except that Mama had expected Ernst to show more gratefulness for being allowed to go along on the trip.
Name Withheld, 7/1/99: I visited with Migg and David Fischli for one day and two nights. Got on so well. Migg was very well, and full of humourous and deep thoughts and observations on life as he experienced it in the Bruderhof. David and Migg send their greetings to everyone.
We were actually staying near Geneva in France in a friend's cottage. I just hoped to visit Migg for one day. He insisted it was no trouble to put us up. He cooked the first evening meal. It was delicious. He is very fit for his age. He and David took us up to the old Alm Bruderhof. It was a wonderful day of wonderful views. It's now a guest house, very reasonable priced for the area. A lifelong wish come true to get up in the Alps (snow capped) on a glorious, sunny, clear summer's day!! It was a peak experience for both my partner and myself!!
I received a letter from my parents before going on holidays and I just wanted to share it. I just want a family relationship with them!!! Ever hopeful.
They are totally brainwashed. I hold the leadership mainly responsible for the present deadlock. My parents have, in all these years, never said one word against the Brotherhood. In order to meet my parents, and knowing how much pain they feel because of my involvement with KIT, (their own doing for so blindly following the leadership) I shared with them that I now pick up the Bible again and read it at times, and find it meaningful. I did not expect a reply, as I haven't had one for a long time, even though I write.
Their reply: First, they were very thankful for my long letter. I know how much they actually long to hear from me. I've often swallowed a bit before writing yet again, after not getting any answer, so this confirms how much it means to them. My Dad goes on: "How important are those words in our daily prayer that we ask that we may be forgiven as we forgive others", that we free ourselves of any grudges against others." (I feel 'yuck!' and want to scream at them, thinking of all the hypocrises of forgiveness in the recent books -- Hans Zumpe in particular.) "You write because life is so full I needed to withdraw from concentrating with people in the Bruderhof... But you know it was not because you were writing to 'people in the Bruderhof' that we stopped writing to you or answering your letters."
"You know that it was because you continued 'communicating with people' who were no longer on the Bruderhof but had been as members or children of members. We love them and hope that they too will find a change of heart, but they are no help to you as they are now. Has your new approach to things helped you to see this? For each of us have to make a decision where we stand!"
Tim Domer, 7/2/99: This letter is nearly identical to letters I have received from my father and JCA over the years, before I was cut off. The only question I would ask in reply would be, " you write that I must make a decision on where I stand. What stand and what decision are you asking that I make"?
When I asked my father that question, I never got a specific answer. I always thought they were talking about a relationship to Jesus. In reality they are talking about a relationship to the Bruderhof and support for their elder in particular. If you do not speak out against KIT and denounce KIT, you are not taking a stand. If you have any contact with "KIT," you are unclean and are serving the devil. If you ask questions indicating that KITfolk might have a point, you will quickly be cut off again.
In the final analysis everything comes down to this question: The Bruderhof believes that "KIT" is from the devil. If you do not stand against the devil you cannot come onto the Bruderhof, nor even have any contact. I find it ironic that they invite all kinds of guests to visit, not knowing what they believe or who they "serve", yet they will have no contact with "KITfolk." "KIT" is the worst of the worst, worthy only of Christoph's ridicule and sarcasm. They demonize "KITfolk" and, in so doing, can justify the pain, hurt and suffering they have caused so many.
The Bruderhof goes further: they believe they are the "lower church" directly linked to the upper church through the elder. They say they do not believe they are the only true church but in fact that is exactly what they think. They say "if we ever find a group that serves more strictly or fully than we do, we would join that group immediately." So far they have not found a group that meets those standards.
It is interesting that they hold "children of members" in the same contempt as they hold "former members." If you were associated with the Bruderhof, in whatever role, and "turn against them", you are turning against God. You had a piece of the "lower church" but you threw it away.
I believe that the reason "KIT" is held in such contempt is because it forces Bruderhof members to look at a history they want to believe is righteous, but is not. They do not want to look into the mirror of truth.
You will notice that Bruderhof members do not ask about one's relationship to Jesus. They ask about one's relationship to the Bruderhof. They practice "Arnoldianity," not Christianity.
I wish you luck in your correspondence with your parent. I long deeply they they and all our parents, families and friends have a change of heart and see the truth. Time is short but is being wasted.
Hilarion Braun, 7/4/99: Jere Bruner wrote: "Hilarion, what most struck me in reading Gegen den Strom by Marcus Baum, the English version, was that Eberhard was indeed a charismatic dictator. Another thing was that he kept changing his mind about what the truth and the right life was, and of course at the same time, who the right people were to be with on The Way. I'm looking forward to your study of this complex.
"My own legend about my going to Primavera, the story I have kept telling myself, stresses how I wanted to defy the State as an absolute pacifist, but that phase lasted less than a week, until I heard about the Bruderhof in Paraguay. And then, it was for me The Answer. I am reflecting now on how much I too was looking for Some One who would tell me what to think, tell me what to feel, tell me what to be, as in Archibald MacLeish's poem about "the city of masterless men has found a master" -- a huge armored giant, a suit of armor with nobody inside it.
"Still, what I remember most is the love and friendship, not of the DAWs, but of individual people -- Fred Catton, Wally Bennett, Albert Wohlfahrt, Will Marchant and his family -- and many others. Some part of me still cherishes the idea that I was wrong and a failure, and that the Gemeinde was right. The other much larger part of me is thankful to KIT and our fellowship, especially to Ramon, but really to everybody else as well. In a workshop in Arizona, two weeks end of May and start of June, I got sharply in touch with some of my horrors from the Paraguay years, things I had never told anybody, and came to feel the blessing of the Light as a loving presence. I can pass that on in my 12-step group, where recently an unusual number of new people have come seeking the way out of their own horrors. Last Friday's meeting was one of great blessing. As we say: "Keep coming back. It works if you work it, and it won't if you don't."
Jere, So good to hear from you! I remember you well from Isla. My mom always spoke highly of you. What I find in the German version, Gegen den Strom is quite different from what I find in the English version. One thing especially, is that to Emmy, the Bruderhof was a burden that only she and Eberhard could carry. She very openly and arrogantly puts the Bruderhof down, almost reflexively, while praising her and Eberhard's saintliness. What I will do in my analysis is give page numbers, because the stuff is so unbelievable. I've come to the conclusion that neither Eberhard nor Emmy tolerated any questioning at all. A small group of Eberhard worshipers kept him in power just as the Heini thugs did for Heini, what Keiderling and Domer et al are now doing for JCA. The usual story which emerges for instance in Bette's book, is that Eberhard was a humble servant of the community, and that everything was fine until evil Heini came along. Even if one went only by what Emmy wrote, the opposite picture emerges. I had the advantage of being in touch with Herbert Sorgius until his death, and he told me much about the early life at Sannerz and the Rhoen Bruderhof. He also sent me publications of the type that Emmy decries in her biography. He also sent me copies of letters that discussed Eberhard's role in staying in power by always encouraging anyone who disagreed with him to leave, rather than have these disagreements publicly recognized. Emmy's version of Eberhard's constant traveling also shows that Eberhard liked being away from the Bruderhof, and basically carrying on as he had before the Bruderhof was formed, very much the way JCA is traveling and publishing. Love,
7/4/99: The other night I was phoned about something I had written about Eberhard Arnold, and was told to withdraw it as a blatant lie. This encouraged me to read Gegen den Strom again. This book was written by Emmy, Eberhard's wife, and was published in the early 80s. The book purports to be about the Bruderhof, but is in fact a biography of Emmy, and a glorification of Eberhard.
My main point in going back to the early times of the Bruderhof is that I feel that the evidence is that Heini and JCA copied many of Eberhard's tactics. Those earlyites who worshiped Heini, and felt that Woodcrest was like Sannerz are just as close to the truth as those who saw through Heini and JCA, but cannot critically view Eberhard's role in what now is the mess called the Bruderhof.
My theory goes this way. The euphoric, almost hysterical and often hysterical revolutionary atmosphere in intentional communal settings causes the members to shut down their critical thinking in order to fully experience "the spirit." The myth of course is that such a suspension of intellectual activity frees the mind and heart to receive the spirit. Those who decided not to do so left the Bruderhof, and thus a very homogeneous group remained, that believed that what was happening was a purely religious experience devoid of any brainwashing and hysteria inducing staging by the leadership.
It is not important to know whether Eberhard and Emmy were always conscious of their central role. What is important is to understand the pattern in which vivid memories survive for over 70 years of the glory of Sannerz vs. the lack of memories of details that show the other side.
So far the writings about that period are so biased in favor of it all, that I found Emmy's book quite revealing in that she did not think it necessary to hide Eberhard's and her own privileged status. On the other hand, other authors have continued to portray Eberhard's role as selfless and saintly! Emmy writes in a very revealing style in which all those who disagreed with Eberhard were filled with hatred, and that the Brotherhood always went astray when the holy couple was absent, which was often. One particular, poignant event happened in 1922 when the Arnold family, with private secretary, went on a one month vacation to friends in Holland. When the Brotherhood asked them to return to the Bruderhof because of a financial crisis, Eberhard refused, and stayed the full four weeks! When they returned, the Brotherhood was very critical and "full of hatred." but Emmy gives no details. Next she describes the change of name of the publishing business to the Eberhard Arnold Verlag, and Emmy comments that all those who had left in hatred, were against this change in name.
Emmy repeats several times that the main criticism of Sannerz was that it was all a great lie. The ultimate sign of Emmy's delusionary visions is her portrayal of Eberhard's last days and hours as a parallel to Christ's suffering.
Herbert Sorgius told me that after Eberhard's death the most fanatic Eberhard worshipers ran around the Hof at night yelling into the windows of the homes "murderers." When I arrived in the States, I felt that the atmosphere in Evergreen was contrived, tense, and had enormous sexual tension. Woodcrest was much worse, and Oak Lake a little bit less so. This was the time when the destruction of Primavera and other communities was planned, and I remember how gleefully Heini bid farewell to the first group of thugs sent to Primavera to "Clear up things." His last words to them were: "Macht keinen Unsinn!" He wore a broad grin on his face and so did his disciples.
I am convinced that the same hysterical religious blindness was present then as it was in Sannerz, and that had Sannerz had the same economic basis that Woodcrest had, Eberhard's story would have been very different.
A good example of Emmy's arrogance and the Heini hysteria after the destruction of Primavera can be seen in the following anecdote.
Biene, my sister, proudly told me that Emmy had told her in confidence, that my dad had never been meant for "the life", and that she had known that from the beginning. Neither she, nor Biene realized that such a judgement is completely against all of the teachings of the Bruderhof. Both were convinced that they "loved my father" in that sterile "Christian" Woodcrest way.
Interestingly, my father was expelled in Primavera for not taking back the comment: "Eberhard Arnold is not Jesus Christ", a comment he allegedly made in 1938. Remember, Emmy likened Eberhard's last hours to the last hours of Jesus Christ... Did she help Heini make up the list of "enemies?" After all, she did know who was "meant for the life."
Miriam Holmes, 7/6/99: (To Hilarion) To clarify a few assumptions you have made about Emi and Heini. It was my observation that Heini used his mother like a trophy. Emi was very unhappy in Heini's family. She was besides herself about how badly Heini treated his brothers and sisters. Nadine is right about what was reported to the brotherhood about this, but there was more to the story. Heini had, for the umpteenth time, excluded Hardy and sent him into exile near Oak Lake. Oma was besides herself and screemed at Heini telling him she is sick and tired of him abusing Hardy. Another time Oma was put in the small exclusion because she had been "rude" to one of Heini's daughters. Oma was excluded because she challenged Heini's leadership.
In Primavera it was a tradition that when sisters were over the age of 55 or so, they were considered "elderly", They would sit at the Alten Tisch in the dining room, and got a soft diet. They also would spend their days sitting in the shade in a Liegestuhl and knit or wrap bandages. Oma would sit with Oma Elsbeth and mother Watkins. Die alte Marie also stayed home. She would not even come to meals but come to the kitchen and carry a tray home. You are correct when you talk about the elitism of Eberhard and Emi. You have to remember that the class system was firmly entrenched in Europe then, as it is now.
Emi came from an aristocratic family, and she was never able to shake that sense of superiority. It was entrenched in her bones. Eberhard was from the upper class and he intellectually believed everyone was equal, but he also could not shake his sense of superiority. By the way, Oma wrote Torches Together in Oak Lake in 1958 and 1959. She wrote it in longhand and in German. Secunda typed it out, and then Hardy and others translated it into English. I am wondering whether the German version is a translation of a translation or if it is Emi's original German version? We all know how things get screwed up in translation, reflecting the editorial views of the translator and the editor.
By the way, Eberhard published books he did not write. There was a whole series he called Quellen Buecher. They include a book by Dostojevski, Leo Tolstoi, the story of St. Francis of Assisi, Mystic Deutscher Frauen and others. Each book was bound in one of the colors of the rainbow symbolizing that expressions of faith can come from varied sources creating a harmonious whole. A rainbow coalition so to speak... Stay cool,
Hilarion Braun to Muschi, 7/10/99: Thanks for the input, but I don't think the age thing was adhered to across the line. My mom was in her late fifties when she left, and she was still working. Maybe it had to do with how energetic people were? Another thing that intrigued me was that Emmy and Eberhard always did as they wished, and the Bruderhof always "approved." For example, whenever they wanted to attend some public event in which Eberhard wanted to speak, the travel money seemed to come from everywhere, while they were practically bankrupt. I didn't mean that Eberhard published only his own stuff, but he certainly decided what was to be published.
In a real sense, he never changed his lifestyle appreciably, and certainly never subordinated himself to the Bruderhof. Before he started the Bruderhof, he roamed all over Europe and loved to preach. He continued that while he supposedly was a Brotherhood member. I'm in no way demonizing him, but I don't see much difference between his arrogance and that of good old Heini. Eberhard had no competition for his position of power, and so did not have to fight the way Heini did. The cruelty Heini showed your dad and others marks him as a particularly disgusting person, and in that sense he was definitely no Eberhard, but in terms of privilege, it was all wrong to begin with, and laid the foundation for what followed.
Also, the fact that Heini got away with brutalizing your dad shows how weak the Brotherhood was, and you can tell from Emmy's writings that the underlying assumption by which she lived and believed Eberhard did was that the Brotherhood was weak and sleepy while she and Eberhard were the real believers. I think that rotten, totally senseless concept stayed alive all throughout the years, and Heini, with his thugs exploited it more than others. The belief that the Brotherhood is always this weak and sleepy bunch of weaklings had no place in a real Bruderhof. I have all of the page numbers and I will publish them soon. I'm also puzzled by the German version and my suspicion is that the Plough cleaned up any and all of her writings. Even Woodcrest was worried about too much pride, even if it came from Emmy. I'm glad to hear she stuck up for your dad. Love, 7/11/99: Someone brought up one of those points (in their predictions regarding corruption on the Bruderhof) that is hard to evaluate, namely whether or not Bruderhof leaders are aware of the wrongs they have done and are doing. No doubt JCA knows, he's been confronted often enough. Heini was confronted also, but he always had this little group of worshipers who turned everything upside down for him.
His version of Primavera was that he was not aware of the "mistakes" that were made. Of course what he did was not wrong but loving etc.
From Emmy's writings one gets the notion that she never saw Eberhard do anything wrong ever! Those who were not enthusiastic Eberhard worshipers were "cold hearted and full of hatred." The Brotherhood was "sleepy." I think it very possible that delusions ran so deep, and were propped up so well by the small group of true believers, that many of the servants had a totally different view of right from wrong than did the followers.
To this day we have not had any ex-servant touch on the subject of servant family privileges! In a sense, the corruption that Al mentions is a form of delusion in which religious fervor and alpha male testosterone mix to create a super corruption in which each contradiction becomes a mystic confirmation of the mystery of the holy spirit rather than a realization of the lie. As Goebbels said: "The greater the lie, the more believable it is." It's parallel is the great lies of CEO's who constantly babble about their duty to the shareholders, and who actually begin to believe these lies the more so when the contradictions become more blatant.
I'll never forget the very painful initial talks with my parents, after their expulsion, about the past in which my mother was in total denial about the beatings she had given me. What was so terrible, was that she really believed her version of what a wonderful mom she had been except for having told me how unattractive and unmanly I was to keep me out of trouble with girls. My dad, who had stopped beating me when I was seven, remembered very well, and regretted his role very much.
For those who have never experienced the kind of denial my mom suffered won't easily believe what power our psyche has, and how self protective it is. In retrospect, my parents came to realize that in order to stay on the Bruderhof they had to shut down most of their intellect, and babble Bruderhof babble, never even caring whether or not they believed it. Heini and his thugs woke them up, and within days after my dad's expulsion my parents sat down and read the New Testament. That freed them in a way my mom described as: "Waking up from a nightmare." She told the Heini gang who visited to try to win them back, and apologize for their brutality, that she and my dad now belonged to a very large community -- that of mankind.
For me the question is simple, I have far more questions than answers, and an answer that today seems good, may not be of use later in life. As I grow older I shy away from most absolutes, not out of any principle, but because my temperament is one of questioning and adventure in contrast to a temperament that seeks eternal safety, constancy, and certainty.
If I believed in God, I'd believe that she made me the way I am, and would not reject me on judgment day because I did not fit into the form her other believers claimed to be the only form for ALL.
When I failed in my business venture in Phoenix, I failed for many reasons, and it took time to be able to say: "I've failed." Imagine how hard it must be for Bruderhofers who spent the better part of their life on the Bruderhof to view the past critically and realistically. It must be even harder for those who participated in the beginning to admit that the foundation they helped build was faulty. It's so much nicer to think: "The beginning was great, and along came these nasty people who corrupted it all."
When I was 9 years old I started a never ending questioning about the office of the servant. It must have driven my parents nuts. My mom would send me to my room, my dad would beg me to stop, and certainly not to mention my ideas outside of the family. My theory was very simple. Every attribute given to the office was a contradiction of community as we were taught to understand community. I didn't even know how corrupt the office was, it just seemed ridiculous to me to have someone exempt from having to work! I probably would have reluctantly accepted a servant who had to work. Love,
7/14/99: Hi everybody! Alt. support.bruderhof keeps challenging JCA and the phantoms on the Internet with their basis being the Bible and their faith, and it is quite clear that there is no basis for JCA's actions in the Bible. However, historically Christianity has derailed, as have other religions, almost always for money or power.
You are doing to the Bruderhof what the Bruderhof initially did to the world Churches, and that is to call attention to the basic premises of the faith. I think the basis for all derailments in any organization lies in ego worship. The mystical adoration of vague notions, and the euphoric trance like state of the Bruderhof have enabled JCA and others to adopt capitalistic extremes, just as drugs in the 60s allowed average American kids to temporarily shed their notion of greed, only to later continue the capitalistic pursuits of their parents. In the 60s, along with the alpha males who with their rhetoric provided the mantra that maintained the necessary mystique, drugs provided freedom from the shackles of the past.
Wherever there are people who want to be led, there will be a leader who will mislead. Euphoric hysteria is short-lived for most, and those who maintain it indefinitely, circle the leader in order to protect him from the unfaithful.
On the Bruderhof the drugs were the constant repetitive singing of hyperbole and the obsession with purity, while the mantra came largely from the mystical distortions of the past... The more vague, the better. "At that time we felt the spirit moving us." Usually that meant that quite a few members had been expelled. "His death called us all anew to repent." This meant that someone had croaked, and that the servants wanted to augment their power. "Her struggles moved us deeply, and each of us felt the need to repent." Someone was very sick, and the moment was seized to whip up some good old guilt feelings. "It was felt that a wrong spirit had entered our midst." This was the prelude to house cleaning. Someone had challenged the leadership, and not only he would be expelled, but also those suspected of sympathy. "We had fallen asleep, and X challenged us to return to the spirit of Sannerz." This was the Arnold war cry. "When Z confessed his sin, we all felt the need to reach out to the needy in the world." This meant the servants needed to heighten guilt feelings and wanted to try out a new mission (position) strategy.
One could write an encyclopedia on these themes, and the title might be What You Need To Know Before You Join The Bruderhof. Love,
Margot Purcell, 7/16/99: Re: the incident with singing and music on the hof. I recall my mother found a broken record, a big chunk had been broken off and only one band was left. She brought it home and waited till we had a chance to borrow the record player that families could use. She played this remaining band of music over and over and lamented that someone had the nerve to toss it out despite that it was broken. I do not recall what the piece was, I think it must have been one of Beethoven's as Mama really likes his music.
We used to get into our pjs early so that mama could take us to hear the Meier family play, which they did just before going to supper. They often were practising their trio or quartet pieces. They lived within a short walk of our house so we would quickly get ready and go, then hurry back home before the parents had to rush out to go to supper.
Carol Beels Beck,7/17/99: Thanks for that memory. Quite an emotional for me. My mother for years and years 'struggled' giving up 'pride' because of her beautiful voice. I don't remember my mum ever being happy and free and excited about anything in Paraguay. So the fact that she called to you to up the music showed for her I think quite a bit of going with her own spontaneity. Something I rarely remember with either of my parents. Loyal to the last with doing the right thing. Mum must have been starved for pure high quality music to have responded like that. The same with 'flattery.' I loved that, Hila. It beats me why a gift like she had with singing and piano had to be such a struggle to give up most of the time. To me it was blocking, or killing her life energy. And that's what happened with so many in different ways.
Really sorry to hear that your mum 'always wanted me to be someone I couldn't be.' I really hope you will write for KIT your experiences on your parents and others. You seem to have very vivid memories. Do you want to say more about what you mean by 'one of the things that interests me very much is distortion of the past by retrofitting one's present insights.' When you do respond to this, I hope you will consider putting it in KIT as I can imagine it is very important for Bruderhof readers to see as well! Yes, we were very much brought up to just share and think positive things about someone who had just died, even if the person in life had been often in 'trouble' or quite insignificant. I'll never forget Guenther Hohman. After he died is when I really heard what a lovely man he was. I don't know why he was made fun of by the children when still alive. Anyone know what that was about? This kind of attitude usually trickled down from the adult world.
Hilarion Braun, 7/18/99: I remember Jack MelanŤon vividly by his interrogation skills. In two events in which I was assumed to have been sexually involved, he pressed for more than 3 days on the theme that if I had not been personally involved, had I not somehow precipitated the events that led to sin? In one case we were on Haystack Mountain and it was getting dark. I happened upon a scene of two people seated on the ground close together. I left them alone, and that was my sin. What had I been thinking, etc. etc? The other was a case in which a girl asked me to go to the shop with her late at night because she needed to talk with me. I couldn't understand why we had to go to the shop, and so we didn't. A long, emotional conversation took place, and I went to bed. She ended up confessing, was sent away the next day, and Jack insisted that I had somehow precipitated the event. At one point he said that he had a complete confession from her. Since I knew what had happened and had caught on to the techniques, I stuck to my story. In all of these sessions Jack would hug me for a very long time, and that always seemed manipulative. Often he would have Heini listen in to part of it.
What made all of Heini's American thugs so skilled at quizzing kids about sex? Judging by the Lewinski case, Starr should join the Bruderhof. Love,
Joy Johnson MacDonald, 7/22/99: Dear Nadine and Hummers all, I too have been rather "watching in the wings" but have found the recent Hummer postings wonderfully insightful and genuine. I hope KIT continues to have a place for sharp, critical analysis of the Bruderhof... The fact that Heini went "off the deep end" and skewed the Bruderhof down ever more dangerous and fanatical paths should not blind us to the malignant cancer of institutional and psychological abuse endemic in a religious cult where individual freedom is replaced by the emphasis of bringing every member's lives into conformity with its ideological principals, and thus establish a fully totalitarian degree of control.
Well folks (as Nadine would say) that's how I feel, take it or leave it! Love,
Hilarion Braun, 8/19/99: I have a problem with psychology-driven theories, in that the obvious contradictory cases are never dealt with: Why am I not a child beater? Or, if psychology and religion demanded child beatings of me, I would refuse. The secular search for the equivalent of religion should include the experience of defeat. Whenever a theory is proposed it should be tested, and the exceptions well noted.
The monsters of history will not be explained in terms of childhood trauma, just as the saints in history did not come from perfect homes. If my daughter had turned out to be a lazy, mean bitch instead of a funny, loving, beautiful person, I would not have regretted not striking or beating her. All we know about love is what we have experienced. The music of the universe is always there, even when we can't hear it, and the mystery of evil and good will always be just that -- a mystery.
Deep down, we know that cruelty, violence and greed have nothing to do with love. What we need not know, is what we will experience, once we do away with all that is not love.
None of the psychology that I have studied seems to go beyond the obvious, and, even there, adorns itself with a veil of obfuscation instead of stopping at the point of failure. The problem, I think, is that human beings are too varied for the term "normal" or even "norm" to make any sense. Without being able to establish, for example why the placebo effect varies dramatically with culture, one cannot glean much from psychology experiments.
The placebo effect may very well be likened to the false belief in some children that their parents beating them is a sign of love, and that the beatings are beneficial. Why would such children end up not beating their own children? But this is not because they were beaten, but because they were made to believe that the beatings were good. Love,
------ from alt.support.bruderhof ------
Timothy Domer, 7/17/99: Dear friends, I am a little concerned about this issue of "confidentiality". There are clearly times when confidence must be kept. In certain relationships, such as clergy-penitent, attorney-client, or physician-patient, there is a legal obligation to maintain confidence. Other relationships, such as husband-wife, trusted friend, etc., also require the ability to maintain confidence. Trust is very important and must be earned and maintained.
I do not think, however, that "confidence" covers situations where someone is trying to deceive others, or is asking someone to hold a lie or certain gossip in confidence, when, by doing so, the deception continues, or a third party is hurt by the lie or gossip.
An example would be someone who tries to maintain a certain public persona, but acts quite different in private, then expects those who know the truth to remain quiet. Jimmy Swaggart got along this way for quite a while. Many people have been "conned" in this way. The expression "con-man" comes from "confidence man" -- someone who gains confidence, and then uses it for personal gain or deception.
JCA writes to his "enemies" in a caustic and sarcastic way -- quite different from the books he "writes." He continues to do this, I believe, because people are reluctant to make his letters public. In effect he has their "confidence". Some may fear being sued, or may hope that by keeping quiet they will somehow be rewarded -- family contact, etc. By keeping this "confidence," JCA is allowed to continue the lie. More people are then taken in by the Bruderhof faŤade.
What I appreciate about the Hummer is the fact that there are many varied opinions. That is the way it should be. The Bruderhof strives for uniformity/conformity which they call "unity." They pressure one another into "group think." They also use gossip and the "confidence" of going to Servants anonymously to keep members in line.
If anyone is being pressured to think a certain way and then being told "keep what I said in confidence", there is a problem and this is wrong. This is especially true if the person seeking the "confidence" has another agenda, or is trying to protect a certain image. I do not think one is necessarily obligated to keep such a "confidence," because the confidence in such a case is being sought for dishonest reasons.
The fundamental reason we are all in the current situation with the Bruderhof is because of dishonesty, lying, and the seeking of false "confidence" by the Bruderhof leadership. I was a "friend" until I began to ask questions. JCA said to me "I trusted you" after I questioned something he had said. When my father wrote to cut me off, he said "You have gone the way of KIT, with all that means to us." What he meant was, "You have had contact with people who question the elder and betray the Bruderhof by sharing our dirty little secrets to the world." I am now the enemy and should be treated as one treats the tax collectors -- the most distrusted people of all.
I hope that people stay free to think and express themselves honestly. We will not all agree all the time -- possibly never. That is free will and free thought. The "unanimous decision" of the Brotherhood is a myth. If they are honest they will admit as much.
Let us not fall into the same trap.
Dave Goodwin, 8/1/99: I have always enjoyed exploring caves and tunnels. The natural geologic features and engineering history are fascinating. But I also enjoy returning to the light of day afterwards.
Recently I visited the Paw Paw Tunnel along the C&O Canal, near the Potomac River in Maryland. It is over 3100 feet long and was built during the 1840's at a time when such work was chiefly manual labor. The stone and brick work are amazingly done and well preserved. Near the center of the tunnel it is almost totally dark, except for the points of light at the far ends over quarter of a mile away. Seeps of water drip from the tunnel ceiling onto the tow path and into the old canal bed, which beavers now use as a short cut through the mountain.
The tunnel was not wide enough inside for the canal barges to pass each other. For this reason, the boatmen would post a signal with a lantern as they entered to indicate to oncoming traffic that the tunnel was occupied. Occasionally, however, barges would meet head on in the tunnel, and one of them would need to retreat to allow for passing.
On one reported occasion, two barges met head on inside the tunnel and neither captain would agree to back out. Their stubbornness was such that they stayed in there for several days, and likely would have stayed much longer, since they had each invested so much stubbornness in their situation (and men can be very proud of their stubbornness). Other circumstances prevailed however. The canal master responsible for that stretch of the canal had not managed to resolve the standoff, and other barges were waiting outside, whose captains had less patience than those inside. So the canal master finally bought a pile of cornstalks and built a large smoking fire at the upwind end of the tunnel. Both boats were out of the tunnel in short order.
This story demonstrates a striking example of human nature which may be more common than many of us would like to admit. Those two captains chose to exhibit their stubbornness in a dark damp tunnel, far removed from any human comforts and the beautiful reality of God's creation. It would seem that they could have chosen a much prettier place to be so bullheaded. The mountains and river valley directly outside of the tunnel create as beautiful a natural setting as can be found anywhere. But human nature does not always choose what would improve a person's situation.
Man, apart from the light of Christ, acts in a surprisingly similar way. Although the tunnel of human logic can be very dark and damp, man will often not budge because he has invested so much effort in his own ideas. It may be possible for him to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, he must make an effort to proceed toward it, and it may require a 180 degree turn to do so.
Unfortunately, many professing Christians will also engage in stubborn arguments with unbending fervor over the most inconsequential points. Some of the strongest arguments made throughout history have been to promote or defend so called Christian ideas. Many of these arguments have lead to unkind words and violent actions. Wars have been started this way, and many martyrs have been killed. Such actions are not like Christ. It should be sufficient for any Christian to state his case in support of Jesus teachings, and then to suffer or quietly bear reproach when others do them violence or oppose their ideas.
Let us be careful not to get caught up in unprofitable arguments that are so easy to get involved in these days, with all the modern media options of periodicals, editorials and argument forums often masked as "news" or discussion. If we allow ourselves to engage in such things, we may soon find ourselves stuck in a tunnel of our own making. We should, however, continue to engage in fruitful discussion of things that will encourage each other and draw us closer to our Lord as we wait for His return.
The canal master in this story acted very wisely. He likely could have called in other lawful forces to end the stand off, but he would have seemed partial to one party over the other. By using the wind direction which was not his to control, he removed the decision of partiality from himself, even though only one boat had to back out. In the Bible, the Spirit of God is compared to wind and fire. These are the ingredients that are needed to get all of us moving in the right direction again. We also can help others who are stuck by prayerfully discerning which direction the wind is blowing and allowing God to kindle His fire within at the most helpful place and time. By doing this, we may help others out of the darkness and find relief when we find our own earthly vessels running aground. May we all come out of our tunnels and walk in the sunshine of God's love. This love is found in completeness through Jesus Christ our Lord, whom we all need to believe and follow.
I originally wrote the above article in the spring of 1998 with no connection to the topic of discussion of this forum. There may not be much of a parallel here, because it seems to me as though some folks have remained stuck in their tunnel, even though the other boats have backed out many times and some have even offered to help with getting the stuck boat moving again. I do have the following questions about these figurative boats though, as relating to the topics of this discussion group:
Were the boats ever going in opposite directions of necessity? Was a captain mistaken that there was no way to move forward? What could be used as corn stalks in this case? Which direction is the wind blowing? Where can such a wise canal master be found? All the best,
Blair Purcell to Peter Forde, asb, 8/1/99: Nothing has changed the Bruderhof, and we are not any closer (apparently) to our goal of restoration of free family association. But, if you talk to those who call our help line for information and who have e-mailed us after being directed to various sites, I believe there are quite a few people who have taken a second look at the Bruderhof before making lifetime vows. Change and restoration of family may take more time.
As you are aware, a vigorous legal defence has been mounted on at least three occasions. None of us in the "mainstream" of former members and families have seen fit to initiate a lawsuit for a number of reasons. It would be VERY difficult and expensive for one thing. Another is that the Bruderhof has a great system going -- it teaches the Sermon on the Mount to its members, teaches the infamous "First Law of Sannerz" and portrays itself as poor and persecuted. When someone leaves, they retain the teaching and hesitate, sometimes for years, to pursue or even discuss the serious wrongdoing they may have suffered as a result of Bruderhof actions and/or policy.
One of these days, however, someone will leave and be so outraged as to decide to "go to law" immediately -- before expiration of the statute of limitations. The odd thing is that this will probably someday occur quite clearly on an individual basis and will not be done by one of "us." Nonetheless, the person(s) who ultimately file that first successful lawsuit against the Bruderhof will be recognized by the Broodies themselves as being "of the KIT spirit."
If someone gets kicked out, even if they have never been in contact with anyone of us, they would be (and are) immediately identified as part of the Kit conspiracy. Facts do not matter. First, that they were not acting because KIT told them to do any particular thing (or, for that matter, that any of "us" have talked to them at all) or that there is any strange conspiracy against the Bruderhof at all.
The Brotherhood has no idea what the leadership does on many major issues -- at least not in advance. I have heard (from someone who was there) that the hiring of a Madison Avenue PR firm was never authorized by the Brotherhood -- which was not even consulted. One of the first (probably the last) things the PR folks did was interest the CBS program 48 HOURS in doing a segment on the Bruderhof. Why Joe and Christian thought CBS would roll over and not research a subject in depth, I cannot comprehend. Naivety? Perhaps. Even those of us critical of the Bruderhof thought it both a fortunate coincidence that Heaven's Gate was featured on the same show (greater exposure of the Bruderhof to the world) and an unfortunate juxtaposition of a suicidal cult with a story about our own relatives. I'm sure we were blamed -- but we didn't hire the PR firm.
I don't know how much money they spent, but one would assume the cost of a Madison Avenue outfit would be in the tens of thousands of dollars -- while mothers and children within the Bruderhof are certified as being malnourished (or in danger of malnourishment) so that they can collect WIC benefits from the governments they despise sufficiently to want to emigrate to Australia. Who certified the malnourishment? Their own doctors. What a system! What a gimmick!
Same thing with the lawsuits. They were filed (according to my sources) without the knowledge of the Brotherhood. Several were sued, myself included, for over $15,000,000.00 by a church whose members were unaware of the lawsuit filed in their names. And that was only one of the lawsuits. It's as if the leadership has run amok in their efforts to control the little people.
Still, our Tripod website fills a function of informing others of an alternative view of the Bruderhof Communities. If the Bruderhof doesn't want the public to know some of the weird things they do, there is one way to prevent that:
STOP doing them.
Betty Chesley, 7/16/99: We recently received a letter from a Bruderhof member at Woodcrest. Our e-mail access to Woodcrest is blocked, and previous mail has been returned unopened, so we are posting the letter and our response here, since the author states that she has read from this newsgroup. We would truly hope for some honest dialog with the author and others to work out the problems and give honor to Christ whom we desire to follow. Letter received as follows:
"June 30, 1999. Dear Wayne and Betty: Hi! I'm sure you remember me. I worked with you, Betty, in the Deer Spring babyhouse with the Toddlers shortly before Laura was born. I read your postings on Deja News and they disgust me. I don't want to discuss them -- it's not worth my time or yours. I have only one suggestion for you both: move on. If the Bruderhof is such a bad place, the people so awful, the elder so terrible, just leave it alone! Get beyond it and do something positive with the time you've spent on the Bruderhof to this point. I'm sure God will show you how and what to do if you ask him. Wishing you the best for a new endeavor, DM (Babyhouse Teacher)"
Hello D, Of course we remember you and Eddie and the happy arrival of Laura Ivy. D, please if you are reading this, also read Mel Fros' posting called "A Parable." In the spirit of practicing Matthew 18, how can you write without making clear what offended you so that we could resolve it?
D, I very much grieve for what the Bruderhof has become. When we left, it was because Jesus' own words to love our enemies held no weight over those of men (specifically the phone call campaign against the now-defunct "Children of the Bruderhof" 800 number). Then came the lawsuits, from a community claiming to be dedicated to living out the Sermon on the Mount.
As a novice member, I promised to speak up when I saw something unfitting in the communal life. Wayne did that while we were still there and was put out of the Brotherhood. It has become clear to us (and many others) that the focus within the community has shifted from Jesus to the life itself and the fruits are obvious and sad: broken families, broken marriages, people hurt and totally against any form of Christianity -- and shame to our Savior's Name. It is a fearful thing.
Now, if you have truly read my/our postings on this group, you would see that I/we have not said all that you have claimed. And part of moving on is speaking the truth so that others not make the same mistakes that we did, not be deceived the way we were, and be spared suffering in their own seeking.
May God grant that we speak the truth only in love and forgive us where we fail. May there one day be peace between the Bruderhof and its children, family members and former members. May the Bruderhof simply become a band of people who love Jesus and want to give their lives to Him and may God, the Giver of all good gifts, be glorified! Blessings,
Timothy Domer, 7/20/99: The brief 'letter from Woodcrest' was indeed sad. D does not give an indication of what postings she read. She certainly would have more credibility if she had written what in particularly disgusted her. As it is, she appears to be parroting some of the cowardly postings from some Bruderhof members. At least D had the courage to sign her name.
By making statements such as "it's not worth my time," Bruderhof members avoid having to discuss specifics. I can recall nothing that either Wayne or Betty posted that would disgust anyone seeking the truth. What the Bruderhof has done to so many people over the years, and continues to do, is disgusting. The cowardice that Christoph Arnold, Joe Keiderling, Christian Domer and others show by cutting off e-mail, posting under various aliases, returning unopened letters, refusing dialog and playing games with people is disgusting.
This letter reminds one of a thief who steals someone's precious treasures, squanders them and when confronted by the person he has wronged, tells that person to "Get over it. You can't get your treasures back. Move on with your life. Stop bothering me." The Bruderhof has cheated the Chesleys and others, emotionally, spiritually and even materially, yet the Bruderhof tells them to "Get over it -- we are right, you are wrong. Ask God what you should do next because we don't care."
I am sure Wayne and Betty have asked God many times what they should do. The Bruderhof leadership should consider that perhaps what the Chesleys and many other former members and cast-off children are doing is what God wants. I believe God wants us to strive for His truth and His love.
Though they may try to convince themselves that they have done nothing wrong to others, the collective pride, arrogance and self-righteousness of the Bruderhof will not change the truth.
Melchior Fros, 8/13/99: 1. Blair Purcell wrote: "Jesus implored, 'Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do'."
'Them,' at first glance, would appear to be the Roman soldiers. They truly did not know what they were doing, having neither historic nor scriptural basis to know better. 'Them' more likely addresses the Jewish religious leaders, the very group of people to whom Jesus felt most akin. He had tried to show them the excessive burdens they were laying upon the faithful. He had exposed their spiritual blindness, their hypocrisy (hypocrisy is putting on a mask... making a good impression while hiding sinfulness). That made them increasingly angry. The forgiveness plea of Jesus is one of finality; there is nothing more to say.
2. Blair Purcell wrote: "Would He ask that same forgiveness of those who actually do know what they do? Is repentance required before God forgives?"
There are two kinds of sin: those of commission and those of omission. There are sins we commit knowingly and those we commit in ignorance. Let's look at a few examples of known sin.
Two lawbreakers were hung next to Jesus. One admitted his guilt; the other did not. One of them was welcomed into Paradise. Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son who willfully engaged in wrong conduct. Only when he was in deep trouble did he come to his senses and return to his father repentantly. As the story goes, the father was gracious and gladly forgave his erring son.
"Forgiveness is no sweet, platonic ideal... It is achingly difficult." The OT story of Joseph and his brothers makes the point. Here we see Joseph wrestling with the "unnatural act of forgiveness". It is almost as though Joseph tells his brothers, "I think it's pretty amazing that I forgive you for the dastardly things you've done." At the root of every act of forgiveness lies a "wound of betrayal" whose pain does "not easily fade away."
It is easy to compartmentalize people into two types: guilty and righteous. More correctly, there are two types of guilty people: those who acknowledge it, and those who don't (John 8:2-6). In the above examples, God gives where he finds empty hands. Forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered. A person unwilling to admit guilt can not accept forgiveness. "It is the saints who have a sense of sin... the sense of sin is the measure of a soul's awareness of God."
I sense, Blair, that your question really is about ongoing sin and forgiveness. The parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21-35) comes to mind. Though the context in which this story appears is that of forgiving without number, it is interesting to note how the master treats the servant whose debt was cancelled, but who continues in sin nonetheless. This apparent "loophole of grace" is addressed thoroughly in Romans chapters 6 and 7. "Why strive to be just as God wants when he accepts me Just As I Am?" "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?"
Scripture tells us that the ability to love is in proportion to the forgiveness received. Where there is coldness of heart (and action), little has been forgiven.
3. Blair Purcell wrote: "What responsibility does a bystander hold when he observes serious pain and abuse being inflicted upon a third party? Can it be considered "gossip" to discuss these events and how to deal with them with a fourth person?"
The parable of the good Samaritan seems to serve as answer to the first part of your question. As a Bruderhof song states, "No man is an island, no man stands alone. Each man's joy is joy to me. Each man's tears are my own." Regarding "gossip", you might like to check the Peregrine files for Barnabas Johnson's informative discussion of the word gossip and it root word "good sibling" ... "godsib". (KIT Sept. 92). According to Johnson, your friends talk about you out of concern for you ... "they (are) cooperating for your edification."
4. Blair Purcell wrote: "One additional question: what obligation is owed to someone who approaches the abuser described before and may put themselves in the position of becoming a further victim of the same perpetrator?"
A while back you stated that a cessation of hostile activity was sufficient. I doubt this will bring you peace. Phone harassment has stopped. So have attempted phone taps. You are no longer served with court summons (hopefully). Death threats have stopped (hopefully). But you are not at peace. This suggests that Bruderhof, Inc. abuse of others -- which you attempt to address in Good Samaritan fashion -- continues to bother you.
Your enemy "owes" you nothing! Not even an apology! The simple fact is that "a concern for moral values" alone is not going to help the Bruderhof. "Moralism apart from grace solves little." Your reward for helping the Bruderhof desist from ongoing, known sin will be rewarded by your Father in Heaven. ...(quotes from Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace, Zondervan Publishing House)
Ben Cavanna, 8/18/99: Paul Fox wrote: "So a lot of questions still remain in my mind about the Deer Spring evacuation. Why would the Bruderhof spend hundreds of thousands (at least) on recent renovations of the Deer Spring shop, on building a whole new school building, on additions and improvements to the dwellings and dining room -- and then evacuate the whole community before any buyer for the property was even in sight? And continue to leave the community empty and unproductive while still shelling out $70,000 in property taxes every year? Not to mention abandoning the sweetheart tax deal they'd worked out with the city!" Hi Paul, They have repeatedly done exactly this through all their history.
I have clients I garden for who fix up and fix up until there is nothing more to improve on the house or the garden, and then they sell and buy another property and continue to repeat the process. Keeps their minds off the bad parts of their lives.
Shutting a Bruderhof down keeps the general population real busy and disperses any factions that may have built up. Then they can put their energy into finding a new place (Australia?) and have endless reports at mealtimes, etc. of how that is doing, all the while keeping attention off the real issues they should be facing in their midst.
Peter Forde, 8/18/99: Hi Folks, I've unsubscribed to this newsgroup, except for this one-off. Been feeling somewhat alienated to the KIT people and KIT newsletter publishers for what looked like addiction to endless chatter on certain subjects, plus a strong tendency to express sore feelings about JCA.
I should have known better, and the answer for why people behave this way has been with me all along.
The Bruderhof is practising mind control, also known as brainwashing. If a person flees or is kicked out of such an environment, the brainwashing doesn't just vanish, but persists and leaves a legacy of impaired cognitive functioning and confusion. The chatter and noise against JCA isn't just a product of separation from relatives but the start of rehabilitation from the mind control.
Mind control isn't open to picking apart by reason, because it is built to be self-protecting. Instead it comes off in layers, like layers of an onion. The top layer involves a recognition that something isn't quite right in the group -- looks at the signs of stress and the grosser abuses. The next layer gets willing to discuss and criticize the disciplinary system. The next layer tends to attack the current leadership, scapegoating the leader for all the problems. There may be other layers too, before the rehabilitating person finally looks at the technology of mind control, picks apart how it was used on them, and reaches to know the correct balance.
In each of these layers there is a tendency to stick right there:
Push off the abusive group, but then join other groups that practice the same sort of mind control. Scientologists are notorious for this, and the splinter groups are far, far more numerous than the source cult.
Criticize the disciplinary system -- the discussion tends to spin on and on with issues like forgiveness, exclusion and forced confessions. There is a problem perceived, but it isn't quite resolved, because people aren't looking deep enough yet.
Criticize the leadership. Well yes, earlier leaders admittedly did create this cult with its abusive and disciplinary weirdnesses, say you. But note how attention is focussed on Christoph and his cronies, who did not create this system, and who probably don't fully understand the technology that's in use. With pushing blame onto Christoph, the rehabilitating person pushes away responsibility, thinking stops, and morale declines.
Now criticize Eberhard Arnold for how he set the thing up, and insights start to come, but that's deeper into the onion. I'll give you two clues to his technique
-- Semantic manipulation, -- PR positioning. -- Look directly at the subject of mind control and brainwashing, and study it -- hire Steven Hassan or Jon Atack or even me (scraping the barrel there!) to teach you all about it in a conference. That will set your thinking wheels turning.
The evil to be faced and exposed is mind control, not people, not disciplinary procedures as such, not the glaring abuses.
Mind control is what inhibits your willingness to express anger, inhibits your willingness to look, latches you into fruitless discussions on hypocrisy, inhibits willingness to attack the evil at source.
As a cult monitor, my main problem is money. I don't even have a budget to buy the Eberhard Arnold books and thus make the analysis. My other problem, linked to the first, is that cult survivors resist help and defend the mind control, and it makes cult monitoring a stressful and lonely task. Want to team with me, and help me get those books?
My own confusions and hang-ups have ended, and that also is a reason why I'm not on ASB anymore.
I am still contactable by email: farmerpentium @cwcom.net, and you may print this in the KIT newsletter. In Peace,
Betty Chesley, 8/18/99: Peter wrote: "I've unsubscribed to this newsgroup except for this one-off. Been feeling somewhat alienated to the KIT people and KIT newsletter publishers for what looked like addiction to endless chatter on certain subjects, plus a strong tendency to express sore feelings about JCA.
"I should have known better, and the answer for why people behave this way has been with me all along. Bruderhof is practising mind control, also known as brainwashing."
Peter, I think you are completely neglecting the fact that this is not simply an issue of mind control, but also a spiritual battle. Total resolution and freedom will not occur except through the Lord Jesus.
While it is helpful and empowering to many to understand the psychological ramifications of their experiences, it is not necessarily everyone's cup of tea. Last year, there was not an overwhelming response for attending Steve Hassan's workshops at Friendly Crossways -- right people maybe, but wrong time and place.
Peter: "But note how attention is focussed on Christoph and his cronies, who did not create this system, and who probably don't fully understand the technology that's in use. With pushing blame onto Christoph the rehabilitating person pushes away responsibility, thinking stops, and morale declines."
Disagreed. Many ex-ers have suffered terribly under Christoph's leadership and the abuses continue today. But many of those same ex-ers are responsibly speaking out, thinking critically, and living more fully -- not succumbing to a spiritual emasculation or "loser syndrome," as suggested by previous posters against those who leave the community by choice or by force. Consider too, the benefit of such speaking out of the truth about the Bruderhof to seekers who are essentially saved from our collective experiences. If we don't speak the truth, we aid and abet the lies.
Peter: "The evil to be faced and exposed is mind control, not people, not disciplinary procedures as such, not the glaring abuses."
Mind control is a part of it, but also a symptom of the larger decay within a group that claims to be a Christian community, living out the Sermon on the Mount and is obviously not, scattering a lot of rotten fruit, and attacking its critics in the process.
Peter, your thought-provoking postings will be missed and we wish you well. I thought Ellen's suggestion to check local libraries and churches for the books was a good one, saving much expense.
Dave Goodwin, 7/26/99 -- On July 27, 1999 the following appeared on the newsgroup alt.religion. scientology as part of a thread about burning up: "Not many people leave the Bruderhof. Only the losers who can't remain faithful to the vows they made to the church. You should make sure you know about the Bruderhof before you write about it, Ploughman"
Usually I see little point in answering the anonymous postings of Ploughman and his friends, but I do have the following thoughts regarding this one: It is not true, and it appears quite unkind.
The untrue part is about those who have left the Bruderhof, breaking vows. The majority of us who left the Bruderhof and who post to news groups (see: alt.support.bruderhof) from time to time never made those so called "vows." You can do the statistics for yourself if you like, but my count is that about twelve Bruderhof leavers have posted (to a.s.b) over the past couple of months, (not counting any that are too shy to name themselves) and only about four of them took the referenced "vows," and that is a perfectly forgivable mistake in my opinion. It should be easily covered under the "seventy x seven" forgiveness rule. I am one of the persons who left of my own free will, without taking any of their "vows to the church" (manmade vows, but not vows made for man in my opinion). For that, I am thankful to God.
Furthermore, I understand that because they had objected on grounds of conscience to decisions that were made by the bruderhof, at least three of these four former members were asked to leave the Bruderhof by the Bruderhof folks themselves, so they would have broken the submission part of the vows if they had tried to stay. They, quite likely, would have been physically removed by Bruderhofers, or arrested for trespassing by called-in authorities. Maybe someone will try that some day. I for one am curious to know what would happen.
But what would Jesus do? I think he would willingly leave when asked, and I think that is just what the "vow-breakers" who post here did. For that, I commend them highly. (The three people I refer to are P. Fox, W. & B. Chesley and there may be others. Those members who left of their own free choice may have had equally valid reasons for leaving.)
As far as the accusation about being losers, I find that comment very uncharitable and certainly un-Christ like. I imagine we are all "losers" from someone's point of view. Many of the folk in the office where I work view those who take government benefits such as WIC of welfare as losers. I believe that opinion is also not like Christ. I need to repent of such thoughts when I find myself thinking like that. My final question on the subject is, Does Jesus think of anyone as a loser? I think not.
Now in some important respects, we actually are all losers outside of the saving power of Jesus Christ. We all need to repent of our sin-nature inherited from Adam, and allow Jesus to save us through His finished work on the cross and His resurrection power. Then we need to daily walk in the example of Christ, and continually repent when we do wrong, or recognize wrong or prideful attitudes in our lives. I urge all readers to consider this carefully. By availing ourselves of the grace Christ freely offers we can all be found as winners on the great day of judgment. I wish to accept my own challenge with renewed zeal. In Christian love I ask that you Mr. Ploughman and friends accept this offer as well. You will find that past wrongs can easily be set right and put to rest, praise be to Jesus.
Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Mt. 11:30)
"Praise be to God on highest throne, And praises to His only Son, Who everything has done for us. Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. Now we ask thee, Lord Jesus Christ, Since Thou hast risen from the dead, Grant unto us that blessedness. Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. So that from sin we may be freed, To praise Thy Name eternally, Singing with joy forevermore! Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. Amen!" (Michael Weise, 1531) Now that's quite a hymn and a prayer! In friendship with Christ,
Margot Purcell, 7/26/99: ploughman@mailcity. com wrote: "You dont [sic] show Christoph the respect he deserves. None of you do."
Ploughman, I find it very difficult to respect Christoph Arnold for many reasons.
Christoph sends letters to various ex-bruderhof residents, that drip with sarcasm and hate. Most of you are so blind to the true spirit of his letters that you do not understand how he is perceived by those individuals.
Christoph writes to many of us that he loves us. From his behavior and actions I do not think he truly means it. They are just words he feels will sway the reader.
He "authors" books and parades about the world to "show off his talent". He sells "his" books rather than speak to the message they are carrying.
When an effort to correspond with him is made by an ex-resident, he does not answer. He gives the letter to others to respond on his behalf. "He is too busy, letter is too long, too many questions were asked, it was not in the right spirit" etc... these are the excuses given.
In your membership meetings, families are challenged as to their loyalty to their 'outside relatives.' Christoph, it seems to me, does not want any members to be corresponding with ex-residents. The members may find out what is going on, on their behalf, and question him.
In the years that Christoph has been your elder, wealth and status seem to hold more importance than "as a living example to the world". Life together living by the Sermon on the Mount, according to your little pamphlet "The Bruderhof" (1984) on page 4. Reconsider how many of these are still being held to: -- being poor in spirit -- reconciling with your brother (sister) -- not divorcing your wife (or husband) -- not swearing oaths -- giving away your cloak -- going the second mile -- loving your neighbor -- and your enemy -- not laying up treasure on earth -- and more.
As elder of the Bruderhof, Christoph Arnold has led all of you into a dark period which will be hard to come out of unless each one of you baptized members take a good look at your current life and speak up within your circle to correct the many wrongs. Come out of the darkness and into the light. Please do not bring up more children into this dark phase of bruderhof life. Please do not cast out more children into the world, ill prepared without family and friends. Please take better care and be more responsible for those who no longer can remain in your circle (be it their decision or not). Treat them with love and in the spirit of Christ so they may find their own way or return to you stronger and with renewed vigor.
I believe I give Christoph Arnold the respect he deserves.
Timothy Domer, 8/2/99: On July 22 ploughman@mai city.com wrote "You dont [sic] show Christoph the respect he deserves. None of you do."
The discussions and postings on this site are important. People who wonder about the true face of the Bruderhof often read this site. Those of us who have experienced the reality behind the facade already know the truth. We write because we feel compelled to do so. There is something in us that forces us to do what we can to expose the truth.
The issue of respect is central to the ongoing conflict with the Bruderhof leadership. I do not know who this "ploughman" is -- there have been at least three, with different addresses or spellings -- or whether or not he is a member of the Bruderhof. The statement, though, appears to be directed at those of us who have posted in opposition to Bruderhof policies and practices.
In her excellent July 26th response to the above statement, Margot Purcell outlined why she has difficulty respecting Christoph. What she wrote speaks to the experience all of us who have been cast off and cut off by the Bruderhof. Christoph writes and speaks of loving one's enemies, forgiveness, seeking peace, seeking the truth and the importance of family, yet toward those of us whom he has labeled "enemies" he has shown nothing but sarcasm, coldness, hardheartedness and disrespect. He and his advisers have rejected many sincere attempts at true reconciliation. They cut off all attempts at contact by blocking e-mail, returning letters unopened or refusing to answer or acknowledge letters. Anguished children have written to parents and grandparents but for the most part the letters are ignored or returned unopened. On some occasions cold, loveless, businesslike answers have been returned, written not by the intended recipient of the letter but rather by a Bruderhof "spokesman".
I believe that Christoph deserves the basic respect that any human being deserves. He is a person, created in the image of God. He has a wife and family. He has fears and desires, as every human does. When he asks a sincere, legitimate question he deserves a truthful, sincere answer. If he has been hurt he deserves enough respect that the person who hurt him seeks to right the wrong. He deserves the basic common respect and decency that all humans deserve and about which Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount. The Golden Rule is about basic respect.
The statement by "Ploughman," though, indicates that he feels that Christoph deserves a special respect, perhaps because of his position as elder of the Bruderhof. Though I agree that those in leadership positions or in positions of authority should be respected, that particular kind of respect is no longer deserved when the individual becomes corrupted by power and abuses his or her authority.
I believe that Christoph's actions toward those who question him show him to be corrupted by power. His actions toward those he has labeled "enemy" show his words to be a fraud. He claims the teachings of Jesus lie at the heart of the Bruderhof beliefs. Yet, as Margot pointed out, at essentially every level and in essentially every case in his dealings with those he calls "enemy," his actions and those of his advisors and others who prop him up are opposite to what Christ taught.
The Bruderhof talks about the "living word" of Christoph, Heini, Eberhard and some others, as opposed to the "dead letter" of the Bible. To elevate the teachings, actions and words of any human being above the teachings and life example of Jesus, particularly when those words and actions are at odds with those of Jesus, is dangerous, deadly and wrong. When this happens a personality cult develops.
Over the past months and years much has been posted on this site regarding specific abuses by Christoph and his advisors. Anyone seeking the truth about the Bruderhof would be wise to look back at the postings of former members and cast-off children. Read the postings of the Chesleys, the Purcells, the Foxes, Mike Lablanc, Mel Fros, Ramon Sender and myself and others. Read the KIT newsletters at the Peregrine web site.
All of us have posted honestly and as specifically as possible. Look also at the postings from the Bruderhof and those who purport to support the Bruderhof. The Bruderhof leaders dodge questions, give nebulous answers and most telling, post anonymously or use phoney names. What kind of witness are they making when they are so cowardly that they will not even put their real name to their words?
I heard Christoph once say that one of the worst sins of a Christian is to be a coward. Christoph, when you post anonymously or use another name, cut off e-mail, have others answer letters for you, refuse to meet with those who seek reconciliation, refuse to be held accountable for the pain and suffering the Bruderhof has caused so many people over the years, plead ignorance when you should know better, you are a coward. When you create an atmosphere where one of your close advisors refers to himself as your "hit man," you are a coward. When you sue those who speak the truth or stand up to you, you are a coward.
Christoph, we are on this earth for only a limited time. Perhaps you and your advisors gain some sick entertainment in sparring anonymously with those you have hurt. If you truly believe in the words, truth and actions of Christ, I challenge you to be a man, come out from behind your facade and seek the truth with us. It is up to you, as your followers have long since stopped thinking for themselves. They will follow your lead.
Finally, on the issue of respect, I and all those the Bruderhof labels "enemies", deserve respect as well. We expect to have enough respect from Christoph and those who support him that they enter into a sincere dialogue, that they answer honest questions honestly and that they use their own name. I deserve enough respect that I receive a sincere, truthful answer to the question, "Why have I and my children been cut off from parents and loved ones?' I expect the answer to square with the teachings and life example of Jesus. If I have done something so offensive to God that my parents and the Bruderhof will have nothing to do with me, have the respect to point out what specifically I have done.
Tim Johnson, 8/17/99: No high-minded contribution here on "forgiveness" or other contentious stuff, but just a quick update on the Johnson family eclipse gathering in eastern France last Wednesday, August 11, which some of you know about.
This was a long awaited and planned exercise in bringing together the eight Johnson siblings, along with assorted spouses, children, etc., for a week of familial cameraderie, highlighted by the total solar eclipse which passed right over our carefully selected rendezvous, about 120 km east of Paris. We converged from Armenia, British Columbia, Atlanta, Geneva, and (mostly) from the London area on Saturday, August 7, about when FC was in full swing in Massachusetts (to which some of us hoisted a suitable beverage of our choice). Altogether, there were twenty in our family group, at a rural farmstead, on a hill which gave us some fine views on eclipse day, while providing us with a fair degree of the creature comforts most of us appreciate as we advance in years. Only some of the younger set had to be relegated to tents. My wife Carol and I, as the oldest, stayed in the farmhouse B&B, while most stayed in the renovated "gite", which also provided us with a kitchen/dining area and sitting room, when we chose not to sit outside.
The first full day, most of us rested up, with just an afternoon visit to the impressive cathedral of Laon, only about a dozen miles from our aerie. Most days, both before and after the eclipse, we split into smaller subgroups, to see whatever grabbed our attention. Thus, one group "did" Paris for a day, while others of us, with different priorities, did the champagne route. Some of us used the opportunity to immerse ourselves in history, with the marvellous medieval cathedrals and churches, and more recent monuments and horrendous battle sites of WWI. For the eclipse, however, it was a Family Day!
The big day of the total eclipse dawned cloudy, and remained so as we headed for the sugarbeet field we'd staked out as the ideal site, on the western flank of the hill. Occasional cloud breaks encouraged us to set ourselves up with our visual aids (welders' glass, plus appropriate eclipse glasses). I also set up the telescope I'd lugged over from Atlanta, with its solar viewer in place, in case the sun would show its face.
At this point I'll digress to say that in 1991, a like-minded amateur astronomy buff and I had headed to Mazatl‡n, Mexico, to view a total eclipse. On that occasion, the day dawned clear, but storm clouds moved in, and just as we approached totality, partially obscured those climactic moments of totality, so that we really could not see the coronal flares which are the spectacular highlight of this celestial vision. Not so this time! Indeed, back to France for exactly the opposite!
As we approached totality, we had intermittent brief cloud breaks, which allowed us to see the sun as it was shaved down to an ever-thinner crescent. And yes, mirabile dictu ... just as the sun was about to slip behind the moon, the wispy cloud cover parted, and as the darkness of totality engulfed us, a final brilliant diamond of sunlight gave way to the dark disk of the moon, surrounded by the coronal flares shooting into space from the sun. Too breathtakingly soon, another diamond beam signaled that the show was ending. Yet not altogether, for we watched in awe as the sun resumed its former glory.
At this point, and while people took turns at the telescope to view the gradually growing disc of the sun, and the sunspots this revealed, the Johnson clan toasted the return of daylight with local champagne brought for the occasion, plus rounds of songs ranging from ex-bruderhof days, through pub songs, and even one Gilbert and Sullivan chorus. Some of this was to the considerable amusement of some other folks who had also come to this area, and set themselves up near us, but who cared? The sun was back, and we'd all been privileged to see the totality of its eclipse and return in all its glory, which cloudy weather had denied to much of western Europe.
What else can I say? One could well see how eclipses could be dreaded in earlier times as harbingers of ....almost anything. The actual approach of totality, the darkness at noon, could surely be terrifying. Even for us, or most of us, this was a surprisingly emotional occasion. I think for us this was heightened by the realization that this was the culmination of all our efforts to make this into a family reunion occasion, and indeed, it climaxed a most memorable week for all of us.
For those of you who are hazy on the Johnsons, all 8 kids made it, from the youngest, Rebecca, through Rosie (Sumner), Elfriede (Johnson-Gloag), Elizabeth (Simon), Susan (Suleski), Barnabas, Joy (Macdonald), to the oldest, yours truly, Tim Johnson
Rosie Johnson Sumner, from the Greek poet, Archilocus: "Now nothing can surprise us anymore; nothing be unexpected, now that Zeus, Olympian father, bringing night at noon, has put the shining sun out, put pale fear in men. From that time, everything became possible, everything. Dolphins might now exchange with animals and leap into the hills. Don't doubt. Beasts could desert the forest for the sea. They could prefer as pasture ocean's echoing waves to woods, water to fields. Let no one marvel if that comes about, nor swear it couldn't happen..." -- poetic fragments of 7th century BC Greek poet Archilochos who himself witnessed the total eclipse of 648 BC.
Carol Beels Beck, 7/11/99: I received a copy of Christoph Arnold's book for Christmas from my parents with whom, as it is with many others, I've had little if any meaningful sharing for a long time. So receiving this present seemed a bit of a mixed blessing although I'm glad to have the limited contact through this book and a few words of greeting. It also said, loud and clear, that all that is important to them is taking to heart what is expressed in Christoph's words. Simple, human loving contact with my very elderly parents is not important.
I was pleasantly surprised how most of the quotes and stories are from ordinary people in the Community or from their contacts outside. Even quotes from Buddhist, and Muslim sources. Very exciting for me, as for a long time I've disliked just mostly quoting their own Spiritual leaders. Still, I feel deeply about much Eberhard and Heini have said, but I'm glad a real attempt was made in this book to acknowledge and give voice to so many others who have lived out their deepest beliefs and suffered for it. However, sadly, there is so much here that just doesn't add up for me with what I now experience coming from the Bruderhof especially towards KIT people.
Just to mention a few: I was outraged, in fact I wrote 'despicable' in the margin, when I first read the part about Hans and Emi Ma's life in the chapter on "Repentance." I seriously question the motive of Christoph and his editors for including that piece. I can only think it is in response to Bette's book, and other clarifications which appeared in KIT, over the years. On page 226 Christoph says, "I think many good Christians will be surprised to see who is there when the angels gather the "elect" from the corners of the earth. ...the more convinced I am that if Jesus really came for those who "hunger and thirst for justice and righteousness", then his chosen ones must include the homeless, the prisoners, the outcast, ...the wretched of the earth."
When I read that I couldn't but help think of Hans, in particular. Didn't he and others ousted by the Brotherhood experience these things? What gives Christoph and the Bruderhof the right to pass such judgements on people? How can they call that peace?? Even on the dust jacket it says, "Peace demands that we live honestly before God, before others and in the light of our own conscience." Christoph, Joel, Christian, is that what you call honesty?!! If I can manage to block out all I know of the dishonesty, hardheartedness, arrogance, (just reading David Goodwin's encounter with two 'brothers' for example) coming out of the Bruderhof, then I find the book has a lot to offer as to how I wish and strive to live my life. But sadly, the hypocrisy and the way the writings just don't add up with proof, over and over, of the very opposite coming out of the Bruderhof dominate me when I want to read Christoph's book with an "open heart and mind."
In spite of all this, I'm glad to have a copy. So thank you Joel, Christoph and Christian. Easter Greetings, or Spring ones to the three of you, and each one in KIT,
George Maendel, 7/26/99: Some of my thoughts after reading the Bruderhof's latest book, The Forest River Story:
I don't know what started or propelled the hysteria that led to the establishment of a children's detention center at Forest River, or what behavior the Bruderhof learned about that caused them such alarm. This book only refers to it as: "the dirt among the children", or "the horrible stories about his children", "the miserable children's difficulties" and "the children's problems you write about."
The gravity that Bruderhof leaders brought to the situation, and the "clearing house" they set up, ended up causing tremendous harm to some of us, even though our questioner may have been convinced that he was "the Catcher in the Rye," saving us before we went over the deep end of perdition. But I think if it hadn't been one thing it would have been another. What they needed from their new Hutterite members, children included, was self-criticism, self-flagellation, subservience, a total groveling sense of yes-daddy-ism.
Thanks to the information and dialogue provided through KIT, KIT conferences and the Hummer, I no longer feel animosity towards any individual at the Bruderhof. It was the Bruderhof system that created things like the so-called "Children's Clearing House" at Forest River; those running it were cogs in the Bruderhof machine. I was caught in the trap, and unable to understand what it was about. My life suffered a major wreck in the late summer and fall of 1956, and accident reconstruction is helpful in cases like this. I wish it were possible to have access to more of the Bruderhof's records regarding Forest River, from the time they instituted the Children's clearing house until it was ended. By publishing this book, the Bruderhof is for the very first time publicly admitting that there were "difficulties with the children" at Forest River and that they took steps to deal with those difficulties. But they stop short of a full admission and they don't mention a children's detention center or even the euphemism "Children's Clearing House." Those things are only referred to indirectly.
What is really criminal, and what amounted to a power grab by Bruderhof leaders, is the story they told my parents about our behavior. It must have been an awful report because my parents agreed to the solution proposed, (that we -- four boys, aged 7 to 14 -- be separated from them and placed in 24-hour-a-day detention) even though they were totally heartbroken about it.
In all the one-on-one questioning sessions I endured, I never uttered a single word to my interrogator. I was in complete distress and unable, under the circumstances, to speak, especially since English was a relatively new language to me that I was just learning. The questioning sessions continued even though it must have been obvious that I had no voice, and could not answer.
They apparently never considered asking one of the Hutterite adults to attend a questioning session. The complete and condescending dismissal of Hutterite people who might have been helpful is evidence of a process that was set in motion at Forest River by the Bruderhof. They wanted to bring down any Hutterite who may have had stature or authority. What better way to emasculate Joe than to convince him that his sons were sexual deviants who needed to be taken over by them and reformed.
Much of what the Bruderhof brought to Forest River was positive, but the legacy created by the children's detention center they established, has been made unnecessarily more harmful than it might have been, because it has never been acknowledged for the wrong that it was and for the injuries that it caused, instead it has been hushed up and treated as though it had never happened. The publication of this book is the closest the Bruderhof has ever come to admitting that the children's detention center at Forest River ever existed.
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 8/23/1999: I have read the book titled The Forest River Story, Extracts From Letters Written By Heini And Annemarie Arnold And Emmy Arnold.
The word 'extracts' makes me wonder what the other part of the letters reveal. This Forest River story is one-sided. No word is written about the other side of the story. No word is written about how the many children were treated who lived in Forest River and were accused of sexual indecencies. These children were locked up and kept in a basement until the admitted to having taken part in sexual indecencies. Heini writes to Doug and commiserates with him about the great trouble he, Doug, has to put up with in regard to the children.
The Forest River adults are accused of being deceitful, the Johnsons are in Ausschluss, Joan Pavitt is in Ausschluss because she is too family-centered. In short, the people who were in Forest River at the time, I mean the Hutterites, should be given a fair chance to tell their side and then one would be able to read it all in context. I wonder what the purpose is in publishing this very one-sided account of the 1955 Forest River crisis. I also would like to hear the Hutterites' version of the Forest River Story.
The Forest River story as published by The Plough Publishing House is of no use at all without the other side which should come from the Hutterites. The report known as The Forest River Handel, which I translated into English is available. Some of it was published in a 1994 KIT issue. Maybe the entire translation should be printed so that the other side can be read.