My life there and afterwards

Archive for April, 2014

Chronicle article 20 years ago

About 20 years ago Chronicle Magazine did a TV series on the Community of Jesus. You can still see it on YouTube. Type in “Community or Cult” and they are the ones posted by TruthIsVictory.

The leader says on there that there is no “sex direction” at CJ. I personally was at several of her teachings where she taught the sisters and the married couples about sex, that it wasn’t worth all the fuss and bother, that it was almost always sinful, etc. She was very graphic and rude with the sisters, saying things I cannot repeat publicly. The founders taught a lot of restrictions about sex in marriage.

The leader says that the 40 day grape fasts were all voluntary, there was no authoritarian direction to do them. I remember the founders telling us in no uncertain terms that we were all going on those fasts, and that no one was exempt. I suffered, as did many others from malnutrition and physical exhaustion from those fasts.

The leader says the “old light sessions” were no longer practiced. When the leaders heard that the ex-members were targeting the light sessions, and we all knew that abuse had happened at them, they told us to not mention that word anymore. They were officially stopped and banned, BUT, that we would continue the practice, just not call them by that name. “Light sessions” were no long going on, but carry on the practice with no name.

She says that children are not moved out from their parents home against their wishes. There was a variety of feelings on this. Some parents and children wanted the separation. Others, myself included, did not. Those of us who did not had no choice. It was the CJ practice, the decision came down from all the leaders, and there was no arguing with it. I personally have suffered untold grief over what they did to my family.

And so leadership is very careful not to appear to be using coercion. She is always phrasing it in the terms “you have a choice”. But she’s working with the people that are already brainwashed. I knew very well that there was really no choice involved. Just tell me what to do, tell me how high to jump and I’ll jump. So she can phrase it as choice all she wants to, but I was already conditioned. So she gets away with coming off and looking like, more benign, and more loving and more reasonable. I really thought that, that when she was going to lead us I thought “Oh, the reign of the founders is over. Yeah, she’ll be more reasonable with us, working with us, leading us, this is awesome” Huh, I was fooled, but that is what I thought, and that is what she actively portrayed.

She told us that one leader had suffered a mental breakdown, from her ADD or whatever, and that is why she had to step into full power. that leader went off to a mental health place for a while and the leader wanted to have her committed there for good, but her children, fought it. Legally. Got legal action that she could retire in her own home, and she did. She had a beautiful apartment at the Community, where she lived until she died..

The leader took over and what I saw of her method was spiritual disapproval, and kicking people out. She told another sister and me, when we were Senior Sisters, “I want so and so out of this community” This was an older sister who was beginning to express dissatisfaction with our life. “She is too much trouble” OMG, so OK, here I am struggling and this is just another nail in my coffin, that if I start to spout off about how angry I really am inside, if I start to tell people I’m miserable, I’m going to be the next one on her roster to be kicked out. Toe the line, baby, and make the best of it that you can. That was the message to me. And also another sister. She said “Get her out of the Convent, put her with her mother. I cant’ get her to leave the Community but we’ll get her at least where she’s the least trouble. And I don’t want a lot of people going over there”

So she comes off, she can stand in front of a camera, and insist, “I always give everybody a choice. Everybody’s here by free choice. People do these things because they are dedicated to the work of God.” ON THE SURFACE. An unknowing person could say “Yeah it’s true”, but only because of what you see when you walk on the site. Live there a month and then see what you say.

No one had a chain around my ankle. But they did have a chain around my mind. You have no idea how your view of life can get warped if you are in an enclosed, high-control environment. Since I left and have learned about cults, and gotten a perspective, I can see it so clearly.

I just wish something could be done to expose them, to bring what is done in darkness into the light. If they are living such a wonderful life, why won’t they be accountable to mainstream churches?

Suppresion of youth

I have permission to include the following from an anonymous friend.

“I definitely support and confirm the accuracy of your letter. I’m not even sure if I could add anything to what you have written, except for the squashing of the sexuality of the second generation. How every conversation with the opposite sex, if it wasn’t absolutely dry and factual, and if you didn’t have a stern look on your face, was considered flirting. Flirting being equal with running someone over with your car on the sin scale.

“In theory, we were supposed to be friends with the opposite sex, innocent and clean, but how was that supposed to happen when you weren’t allowed to have a conversation? I’ve been told … that (the leader) ramped things up. Telling the young couples that sex should be only for procreation. If you weren’t trying to have a baby, no sex allowed. Couples were of course encouraged to tell on each other.

“It is my opinion that (the leader) is a sad, sad, miserable human being who wants company in her misery. Thinking about it, it’s amazing how much “being in the closet” has affected and directed the path of the C of J. First (the founders), and than (the leaders husband). Is it just a coincidence that the the first two leaders (we’ve been told) were gay, and the second leader was married (we’ve been told) to a gay man? It’s a study of how repression and self loathing can do so much damage and how wide the affects spread.

“I would also add the part where the leaders acted like pimps for the second generation. For example, I still cringe when I think of (two people). (One founder) pressured her into marrying him to keep him happy and at the C of J. There was also the pressure on the girls to become Sisters. I think (leader) knew she couldn’t keep a hold on many single girls and keep them from leaving. The solution, marry them to God! Plus, get their money, which (leader) was running low of for the other Sisters, and get a fresh, young working force. All strategic moves.”

To add to what my friend has written, above, I want to say that in my hearing, the leader used ugly, down-grading language to denigrate the act of sex, even in marriage, in order to dissuade the young sisters from longing after it. Instead of a healthy discussion on what celibacy was about, and how to deal with your emotions, she made the whole subject seem dirty and shameful. I was shocked to hear her speak so, and this was part of what was slowly waking me up to how un-Christian the life is at CJ.

Before I became a sister, and was still married, the leaders would teach on sex in the marriage, and it was always to the point that we shouldn’t do it, and it was always sin. We were never taught about the beauty of a union between a man and a woman in the state of marriage. Their teaching was repressive, stifling and from my viewpoint, un-holy.

I also remember one young couple who got caught sneaking away and had kissed. Just kissed. It was treated as a scandal, and they were not allowed to speak to or look at each other for about 6 weeks after that. Once they were allowed to talk to each other again, it was always with a chaperone present.

They were also told to look for a possible future mate within the Community. If they even considered looking outside the Community, it would have to be with the understanding that the person would have to be willing to become a member and join them at the Community. None of them did. They either married within CJ, or they left.

Aside

Family shut out

I was recently reminded of the Community of Jesus’ attitudes towards family members who do not live as members of the Community. In their attempt to be super-spiritual, the leaders have laid down the edict that no family members can come onto the property during “Enclosure”. Enclosure is a time of spiritual retreat for the community, when they can concentrate on spiritual refreshment and take a break from ministering to the needs of the people who come to them for help. Sounds ok so far. (Except that my experience was that the exhaustion came from over-work. There weren’t that many people who came onto the property) The timing of these periods of enclosure, however, are at Christmas and Easter, typically family times. All the children who have been born in the year are baptized at Easter vigil, the night before Easter.

What this interprets into is that if you have a child who has married and lives at CJ, and they have a new baby, come Easter time when your grandchild is going to be baptized into the Church of Christ, you are told that you are not allowed to come and celebrate in that baptism with your family because it is “Enclosure”. You will be told that it is for the spiritual good of your children and your grandchild that they stay within the confines of their spiritual enclosure, and you are not welcome to come and share the blessing with them.

I ask you – IS THIS CHRISTIANITY? I have never read of Jesus teaching us to do this. If the Community of Jesus would allow themselves to be accountable to the larger community of believers in the Love of God and the Teachings of Jesus, I believe this would not be happening. This kind of behavior to family members who are trying their best to be loving and supportive spreads hurt and anger and is wounding to the soul and spirit. It is not in the spirit of Christ to behave this way.

It hurts me to hear of good people being treated this way. It reminds me of the hurt my husband and I endured because we were instructed to cut off visiting with his parents. They wanted very much to be involved with us and their grandchildren, and because the leaders decided they were too sinful, and that my husband was in “idolatry” with them, he was told to tell them to not visit anymore. It hurt them very deeply. I am not making this up. The leaders talked with us about how sinful they were, naming specific sins, and told us that we should not associate with people who were so deep into their sin, even if they were his parents. They loved to quote, and often did, Matthew 19:29, “And anyone who gives up his home, brothers, sisters, father, mother, wife, children or property, to follow me, shall receive a hundred times as much in return, and shall have eternal life.” They used this scripture to justify cutting off all contact with family, unless of course they had money to give. After years of separation from my parents, per their direct order, they wanted me to break the silence to fundraise. I couldn’t and didn’t, but I was made to feel guilty that I didn’t.

Can they change?

Someone said to me “I’m sure you realize that we cannot change anyone.” Yes, I do know that I cannot change anyone. Not only can I not force anyone to change, but I don’t want to use force against anyone, having suffered force against myself for far too long. But I do think we can bring influence to bear on situations and groups. Not only can we, but in some instances we have a duty to speak up to make sure the voice of reason is still heard.

I also HOPE that the Community of Jesus can change. It would take a major shift in their xenophobia* for this to happen, but I think I still have a small part to play concerning this. I identify with what Jesus spoke about when he said, as quoted in Luke 12:2, “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” and “Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.”

If they have done nothing wrong, it will do no harm for me to proclaim what I experienced there, and if there are some things that they should be held accountable for, then it is past time for that to happen.

* Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an In-group (The Community of Jesus) towards an Out-group (the rest of the world), including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of the out-group’s activities, aggression (in their teaching), and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity (everything needs to be pure and perfect).
Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action urges all governments to take immediate measures and to develop strong policies to prevent and combat all forms and manifestations of racism, xenophobia or related intolerance, where necessary by enactment of appropriate legislation including penal measure. (taken from Wikipedia, parentheses are mine)

Small Pleasures

I went out to the College today after work to meet with an adviser and ask questions. I couldn’t figure out part of the schedule on what courses I need for my degree, and other questions. Driving home afterward, I was struck with a wave of gratitude for my car and the very fact that I CAN drive out to school. Life at CJ was so confined. We hardly ever went anywhere, and when we did it was as a group. Band tours, sisterhood outings to the local park, that kind of thing. That I now have the freedom, the choice, and the ability to move around is still amazing to me. The novelty of it has not worn off. I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world to have finally escaped the twisted version of Christianity that I had lived in for so long, and can now develop as God truly wants for me.

I am:
abounding with amazement,
bubbling with beauty,
chiming with confidence,
dancing with delight,
eloquently effusive,
full of fun,
gushing with gratitude,
high with happiness,
introspective with insight,
jingling with joy,
kinetic for kindness,
laughing with love,
mostly motivated,
nostalgically normal,
openly observing,
parading through paradise,
quietly quirky,
savoring the sensation,
tracing the transition,
understanding the union,
vibrating with vivacity,
whistling with wrens,
exiting the xenophobia,
yodeling with youth,
and zipping through the zone!

Church musings

So I go to church most Sundays, when I feel like it, and surprising to me, I usually do feel like it. I use the time to notice my reactions to what is being said, and I write down my questions/thoughts/disagreements/musings. Here’s what came up today.

They sang a song about needing God, leaning on Him, etc. I realize I cannot rely on an “outside” force or person. I have to find God within me. This is because I can no longer trust any other person to guide me, and this puts into question what is God like, and what is there to trust? If He works through people, and I can no longer trust people for answers, where does that leave me?

People are good for other things – happiness, friendship, talk, fun, but not for answers.

They performed a song and dance about waiting for an angel to come take me “home” ( a place of peace). Nope. If I don’t do it myself, no one would do it for me. Angels are caring people and opportunities, but I have to choose to act.

“Jesus takes our problems and pains”. Really? Are you kidding? How? As far as I know, I have to deal with all that myself. What I can believe, and do experience, is that a connection with God can give me wisdom and patience, but He doesn’t “do it” or “take it away” for me.

“How would you behave if Jesus took away your fear?” was a question that was asked. I say “How would you behave if you gave up your fear, or acted in spite of your fear?” These are 2 different ways of looking at the issue.

Am I leaning on, tapping into, my own inner strength, or God/Jesus/Holy Spirit? Is there a God? Is there an intelligence outside of myself that is trustworthy? I believe that God is love, but that is a relational guiding principle, not necessarily an intelligent force whom I can interact with personally.

It’s like subconsciously I still believe and trust, but I can’t consciously wrap my brain around it. I say to God, You gave me strength to endure and survive, you did not protect or remove me from the suffering.

The interpretation of the Bible and how it is applied to our life today. The Community of Jesus had their own twist. How do I now go back and argue and re-learn a different interpretation?

So don’t worry about me, I think all of this is fascinating, and I am on a journey of discovery. I like asking these questions and knowing where I am at in my journey. I think these are questions everyone should ask, and probably most of you have. I didn’t because I was in such a repressive group.