Why did we go along with it? I think the most compelling reason is that we did not see the forest for the trees. I know I didn’t. I am going to quote from my psychology textbook, “Psychology in Everyday Life” by David G. Myers. “Solomon Asch (1955) devised a simple test As a participant in what you believe is a study of visual perception, you arrive in time to take a seat at a table with five other people. The experimenter asks the group to state, one by one, which of three comparison lines is identical to a standard line. You see clearly that the answer is Line 2, and you await your turn to say so. Your boredom begins to show when the next set of lines proves equally easy. Now comes the third trial, and the correct answer seems just as clear-cut. But the first person gives what strikes you as a wrong answer “Line 3″. When the second person and then the third and fourth give the same wrong answer, you sit up straight and squint. When the fifth person agrees with the first four, you feel your heart begin to pound. The experimenter than looks to you for your answer. Torn between the agreement voiced by the five other respondents and the evidence of your own eyes, you feel tense and suddenly unsure of yourself. You hesitate before answering, wondering whether you should suffer the pain of being the oddball. What answer do you give? ” Asch’s experiment found that more than 1/3 of the time, intelligent and well-meaning people caved in to the social pressure. Even those who prided themselves on speaking their own mind found they could not tolerate the group pressure. “These and other experiments reveal that we are more likely to conform when we – are made to feel incompetent or insecure (sound familiar?) – are in a group with at least three people (we were never, or seldom, alone) – are in a group in which everyone else agrees (it always appeared to me that everyone besides me did agree) – admire the group’s status and attractiveness (the emphasis on LOOKING GOOD) – have not already committed ourselves to any response (I was an open slate) – know that others in the group will observe our behavior (when were we not under scrutiny?) – are from a culture that strongly encourages respect for social standards (all Christianity).” All comments in parentheses are mine.
Studying psychology/anthropology/sociology has helped me tremendously to understand how I could have been blind to how CJ got so far off track, weird, and became such a destructive and negative experience. I don’t even think they are Christian anymore.
There was another experiment, done by Stanley Milgram, in which an authority instructed the participant to deliver increasingly severe electrical shocks to the victim every time they gave a wrong answer. Most of the participants gave dangerously high shocks, and it was determined that the presence of the “authority” who kept telling them that it was alright, overrode their own reluctance to inflict pain, and their own common sense that what they were doing was wrong. The role of authority is a dangerous one, and at CJ I believe that the past leaders and the current leader(s), and those on the track to leadership, are misusing the authority they have. All authority should be accountable and questioned. The kind of blind obedience, and obedience for obedience’s sake that is taught and lived at the Community of Jesus is dangerous and destructive. It certainly traumatized me, and many others that I know of. I was blinded by my trust and naivete, my fervor of being a new Christian, and not having anything to compare the teaching to. I was taken advantage of. I chose the life, yes. It did meet a need in my life at the beginning. But I was also wooed, and suppressed, threatened and brow-beaten, and came to believe what I was told – that all my doubts were because of my own sin, and that I was not to question the “God-given” direction of those in authority over me.
Since leaving I have had the opportunity to compare life at The Community of Jesus to life as most people live it, and as I relate it to the teachings of Jesus, I cannot see any way that the life at CJ follows Jesus’ teachings.