I am a Christian by virtue of trying to follow the teachings of Jesus. That is one reason that I feel compelled to speak out about the experiences I have had at The Community of Jesus. It is my opinion that although they have taken the name of Jesus into their title, they are not following his teachings.
They extended help to me back in the 1970’s at a time when I was looking for direction in my life. Over time, the help trickled away and then stopped. I ask: if you are being fed, and slowly over time chemicals and other poisons were added to your food that made your health deteriorate, and eventually you realized what was happening, and changed your diet, wouldn’t you think you would have a responsibility to speak out about those who had fed you the harmful food, even if some of the diet was OK?
Another analogue; do you agree with the Catholic Church’s stance in hiding and protecting from public accountability those priests who molested the young boys? I’m sure in other areas those priests did some good, and gave good advice to many people. But shouldn’t their crimes also be dealt with?
I am not bitter or vindictive. I stayed at the Community of Jesus as long as I did because I believed in the original vision, and worked as hard as I could, and sacrificed much, to live it and make it happen. But as time went on, the vision and the daily life diverged more and more, until eventually my spirit recognized the rift and I had the courage and conviction to leave. Yes, at this point I could just go on with my current, new life, and let my life at CJ become a part of the past, a silent past. I do not feel that is the right thing to do. Silence is the enemy of righteousness, and the willing enabler of those who do wrong.
It was once said to me that CJ exists because the members accept that way of life. That is true, but I am also learning that a high-control environment with charismatic leaders is a subtle and strong force that can blind a person to what is really going on. You can be conditioned to accept as “normal” that which is anything but normal. I have been lied to and when I questioned or had any “trouble” with anything that went on there, I was strongly “corrected” and made to feel that I was the “wrong” one, not that anything could be wrong with the people, teachings or situations I was reacting to.
I do not believe I am bad-mouthing them. I am speaking the truth about what I have lived through. There is a big difference between those two attitudes. I am not out to destroy the lives of those who live there. I do think the leadership should be held accountable for their methods and past and current actions. I think the membership should be given the freedom to talk, question, and search for a mutually agreeable way to live their life, using their ability to think critically, to voice their opinions, and to disagree.
Although that is the democratic way to live, and I assume most Americans take it for granted that they have these freedoms, freedom of speech and freedom to disagree, that was not my experience at the Community of Jesus. Obedience was taught as the supreme virtue, and disagreements were not allowed.
Jesus taught love of God and neighbor, not blind obedience. I care about my friends who are still at CJ, and wish for them to know the love of God also.