“You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16) What fruits do you see at The Community of Jesus? What fruits are you looking for? Material fruits can be faked, or they can be genuinely beautiful and impressive and yet hide the real fruits of the spirit, which can be rotten behind the glittering exterior. We have seen this before with certain tele-evangelists, and we have seen this with some Catholic priests. I state that this is the situation at The Community of Jesus. My life there is witness to the fact that the beautiful material exterior blinds the casual visitor to the rottenness of the life lived unseen by the public eye. “How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead people’s bones and every kind of impurity.” (Matthew 23:27)
Inside the “tomb” of CJ there is thought control, over-work, humiliation, sin-hunting, and abusive confrontations. These are some of the ‘fruits’ of the life lived at CJ.
Having said this, and I stand and testify of its truth, I also want to emphatically say that any truly good fruits of the spirit that can be seen at CJ come from the good people that live there, in spite of, not because of, the bad practices put forth by the founders and current leaders. I also want to emphatically say that good fruits don’t cancel out the bad fruits or practices.
Having experienced firsthand the effects of the bad fruits, how do I handle the spiritual idea of forgiveness?
First, what is forgiveness? I had to find the answer to that question first. I have not even wanted to approach this subject for four years. It was too entwined with things I did not want to do, like forgetting about the harm, which will never happen. Or saying it wasn’t so bad, and they didn’t know what they were doing, in other words excusing them, which will never happen. Or denying reality and pretending that it didn’t happen as badly as I thought. Nope, I’ll stick with the truth, thank you, even as painful as it is.
It has helped me to talk first about what it is not, which is all the things I just mentioned. Forgiveness is not excusing or denying or letting anyone off the hook of being accountable. At one point in the discussion it dawned on me – is it as simple as moving on? Is it simply getting to that point where “they” occupy less of my consciousness, and I am more consumed with the wonderful business of living my new life? I think so. Letting them go out of my mind does not excuse what happened. If I am ever asked to testify against their practices, I will gladly do so. Does spending more time living my new life suppress or deny or minimize the pain that was inflicted on me? Never. That pain lives as part of my life. Over time its sting has been softened by the joys and positive challenges of the new life I now have, but it is part of the fabric of who I am. I am stronger because of the harm they did to me. That does not put a good light on what they did, only on the ability of the survivor to survive, heal and grow. We survivors are an amazing miracle!
The place in my life where anger and outrage still over-shadow any feelings of release or forgiveness is not concerning the damage done to me. I think it is pretty universal that we can bear our own suffering a lot better than we can stand to see our loved ones suffer. When I witness the struggles my loved ones are still going through because of the life at CJ, the word ‘forgiveness’ is nowhere in the room. And it isn’t my place to forgive a wrong done to someone else. That is for each victim to do or not do, but as a mother, I feel intense outrage at what was done to my children.
Can I forgive them for the pain that was inflicted on me at the time they were controlling our lives? Can I forgive them for the continuing pain I feel now because of their way of life that was put on me? Cognitively I say yes. I understand that my rage is beating against a wall it cannot break down, a reality that cannot change. I understand that my frustrated rage is not productive. And yet, it has its place in my life. Suppression is worse than rage. As long as I need to go through the rage and express it, so be it. This too shall pass, but in the meantime, it is justified and has its place in the universe. Wrong doing needs to be cried out against and the emotions of a mother protesting the harm done to her children is a justified rage.
The true fruits of CJ can be best seen in those of us who have left, for it is only in us that they are not hidden. We are the ones who are in the real life struggle to cleanse ourselves of the bad fruit.
It is a ‘fruitful’ struggle, and God is with us to bring us new life.
I am still in the process of defining forgiveness and how it will be worked out in my life.