My life there and afterwards

We were told where we would live, in which house, and with whom. Even if you owned your own house (which my husband and I did not) this applied. If you owned your own house, you were the custodian of the house, and had the “privilege” of paying the bills. But you had no say in who lived in the house with you, or even if you could live there. We were regularly moved around from house to house. It happened without warning. We would alleviate the stress of this by joking about the “angel of move”. We would be told one Wed. or Thurs. or Fri. that a move was taking place and we were to be completely moved by the end of Sat. It was exhausting and unsettling to say the least. It was intended to keep us out of control. That was seen as a good thing – to be out of control. Control in your life, of your life, was seen as a bad thing, and had to be broken.

Who we associated with was less of an issue. We could associate with any other member of the community. The household members did not, however, have anything to do with the sisters or brothers and vice versa in the earlier days. That became a bit relaxed, and then went through a period where the sisters and brothers could not speak or look at any of the rest of us. Then in the later years there was a total change and we worked together and socialized together. Group socializing that is. Then sisters and brothers started becoming godparents of the newly born kids, once the first kids grew up and married. Of course we were kept so busy that there wasn’t any time for socializing, so our associating was strictly a matter of who we lived with or worked with. And of course we did not associate with anyone outside of the community. Also our socializing was not open and free. You would not be free to complain to a friend, or talk seriously about what was going on, on any doubts you might have. If you did, you would be reported on, and end up in a light session where your sin would be hunted out and you would be made to confess.

Isolation was also used as a very effective tool. If someone was having a hard time and was put on discipline to deal with their sin, they were mostly isolated from the rest of us. They could be denied sitting in their place in church, and had to sit in back. They were sometimes told they could not come to any of the fun activities, and had to stay home or babysit or do housework. They definitely would not be allowed to go on any trips, with the Band or Choir or to see the foliage or to Nickerson Park. If their attitude was deemed bad enough, they would be told to live outside of CJ for a time, 3-6 months. That happened to me twice. In looking back, it’s a wonder to me that more people didn’t leave at that point. It was so impressed into our brains that this was a rejection because we were bad people, that by that time we were desperate to prove we were going to be good, and to be allowed back in. By the time that punishment was given, the person was convinced that they could not survive without CJ. There were a few, however, that did leave once they were outside. Some of the younger couples did this. Those of us who had been there from the beginning had been totally convinced that we couldn’t live on our own.

That would actually be a good research topic. Do those who are a part of the original founding of a religious community have a harder time leaving than successive generations?


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