My life there and afterwards

Steven Hassan’s BITE model.

Behavior Control

1. Regulate individual’s physical reality.

The leaders had a tight hold on how all aspects of our life was to be lived. The basis of their teaching was bringing the Gospel of Jesus into everyday life. From this start, they addressed every detail of daily living, from how to fold towels properly, to whom you should marry.

The women in the Community of Jesus had sessions with the leaders, for example, where they would show us how to fold towels with their ends perfectly matching and they had to be in thirds so no edges showed. From this teaching, if the house “parents”, the ones in charge of each house, found your towels folded otherwise, you were “corrected” for being rebellious, and not caring enough to bring glory to God. Gardens had to be kept up, flowers dead-headed regularly, kids toys picked up. One of the leaders ran the guest house, Bethany. It was a bed and breakfast before CJ started, and she had a flair for fashion, loved to have beautiful and expensive things around, loved antiques, and demanded that everything be orderly, clean and in place at all times. She instructed us how to do housework, and we had to dust everything every week even if it didn’t need it. She said that if there was no dust visible, then we were polishing the furniture. She was a stickler for routine. These are fine values if they are kept in balance with the rest of your life. There was no balance. It encouraged competition and a drive for status. It taught us that obedience was the highest virtue.

I will talk more about being told who to marry under number 3: When, how and with whom the member has sex.

This is just a small everyday example of the detailed control they exercised. They presented this control as a teaching about how to live your daily life for God. But instead of giving a general teaching, and allowing each of us to find our own ways of applying it, they set up the ways in which we were to glorify God in everything.
The scrutiny and control was applied to more than towel folding of course. It included how we did everything, how we related to each other, our worship/spiritual life, our work lives. We were told who would work within the Community grounds and offices, and who needed to have a job in the “outside” community. We were told where we would work, what department, what job. This usually did not take into account what your skills were.

I worked in the audio/visual department for many years. I learned how to record and mix the audio, splicing tapes before it went digital. It started out by recording all of the teaching sessions. I would love to get my hands on those old recordings and take a fresh look at the original teachings. They have been transcribed, but I highly doubt that they would let me read them. Even a non-member would probably not get to see them until they had been sanitized. Then I was the video editor when we expanded into cameras and video productions. For a year I was the supervisor of the shipping department at Paraclete Press, run by CJ. Then I worked for several years in their business office, called the Scribe’s Office. I managed the community calendar and the membership database. Then I was unexpectedly moved over to the financial office, called the Bursar’s Office. After a year there, I was pulled out and put into the IT department. I had done a terrific job in finances, cleaning up a long standing mess with the A/P, and this move was totally to yank me around, keep me out of control. The leader said it “…was for my healing” !!!

This is a brief glimpse into how we were moved around in our jobs, our talents were not considered, and there was no place where we could develop our skills or contribute in a responsible way. Any suggestions I had over the years for job improvement were ignored or put down.

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