Someone once commented to me “(I’m) not sure how (the leader) can constantly lie in God’s name and people at the CJ don’t see it….or choose to ignore it.” This is a very big topic, and what is a lie and what is truth is not universally defined. Any group can create their own version of reality.
Chronicle did a video series on the Community of Jesus back in 1993. Once the series was aired, we were told by the leaders, in one of our community meetings, to not bother watching them. We were told that they were full of lies, and the media had slanted it against us, against the truth, and that we were being persecuted by the devil. We were told that it would only upset us to watch them, so to not bother. Many of us obeyed. I did not see them until after I had left the Community of Jesus. I have found out that some people did sneak a look at them, and knew lies were being told by us, but I did not. The thing I did know at the time was that the big picnic we staged was such a farce. None of us wanted to do it, and we were told point blank that we were to all be happy, and that if anyone was in a foul mood and could not put forth a happy face for the cameras that they would not be allowed to come to it. I was a novice for the sisterhood at the time, and I remember sitting with my back to the cameras as much as I could because I was sure that my face would betray how I was really feeling. It was so stupid to be out there pretending that we were such loving happy Christians when our daily lives were not happy and we were only focused on perfection and getting the world to think we were great. We were not bringing Christ and His message to the poor and needy of the world. However, the pressure of conforming, and the fear of being cast out were extremely strong forces that ruled a lot of what I did, and kept me from thinking critically about my situation. I had been trained in submission since 1970. I will talk more on this in coming posts.
I was truly shocked when I finally saw the interviews, and saw what the leader said to the reporter in front of the camera. Before that interview, we had been told that since those who had left were making a big deal about the “light sessions” that we would not be using that phrase anymore. “Light sessions” were officially declared over, and that term was to never be used again. Of course, we were told, our life would not change, and we would still speak “truth” to each other just as we always had, but we would not be using that term anymore. Therefore, when the leader had the interview, she could legally say that light sessions weren’t going on anymore. But I for one knew full well that the same practice was going on, just without the title. At the Community of Jesus, speaking truth to one another is a vaulted virtue. Anywhere in this world we know we need truth. Our best friends will be honest with us, but in my experience at the Community of Jesus it is taken to an extreme in which it is no longer a virtue. Truth is a wonderful thing; most of us seek for it. However, truth that makes you feel humiliated, unloved, and rejected is wounding, not loving. And many times a very small truth was elaborated and twisted until it was no longer the truth. This has happened to me many times.
The leader says in the Chronicle documentary that there are many ways to perceive anything. This is true. For instance, concerning the grape fasts that we used to go on, my perception is that the Founders told us that the whole community was going to go on a 30 day grape fast. If anyone broke the fast they would have to start all over again. There were to be no exceptions. I was not given a choice, and if I had said no, it would have been rebellion, sin, and I would have been punished for it. If the leader or anyone else had perceived those instructions in a different light, I wish they had clued me in. One time I was so famished that I ran home early from church, sat on the floor before the refrigerator and stuffed my mouth with lettuce dipped in ranch dressing. That was heavenly. I never told anyone I had done that, or I would have had to start the fast all over again.
This is getting too long, and I am rambling, and don’t think I have adequately addressed the issue of lying and believing the lies. If you believe that you are serving God, and in the beginning are excited about building a life centered on God’s love, it can and does happen that slow steps to extremism can go unnoticed.
To be continued…