My life there and afterwards

Archive for February, 2015

Reclaiming the Past

As I look back at what I have experienced, I am beginning to be able to pick out some threads of my life that I value and am proud of. In ICSA Today, Vol. 5, No. 2, Greg Jemsek says “These…stories are not false accounts of a person’s life; rather they are stories that have become invisible to the person…The purpose of discovering such invisible stories is to allow a more nuanced perspective of what has happened to him – before, after, and during his involvement in a cult – to be discovered.”

I think about my handwork and how that was a constant thread throughout my life there. That was a hidden story thread that they didn’t care about. It went unnoticed for a long time. I knit baby blankets and sweater/bootie sets, and then graduated to sweaters for all three of my children as they grew. Aran, Irish, color-ways, fancy stitches, I did them all. I loved it and I made many beautiful things. It was a place of creativity for me, as well as solace. It was one place where I was ME, alone and away from the constant corrections about my sin.

I knitted and I crocheted. I did cross-stitched pictures and needlepointed pillows. Nowhere was I recognized for my talent and eye for color, and at the time I felt – well, I didn’t allow myself to feel. It would have been terribly self-centered of me to want any praise. Ego was to be denied and put down in every area. But I did feel sad and invisible. What meant a lot to me and brought me joy was literally nothing to anyone else. Occasional dreams would pop up of selling or displaying my art, but I quickly dashed them to the outer darkness as self-seeking and not God’s will.

In later years, after my children were no longer the recipients of my creations, I made shawls and blankets, and gave them away.

Once I joined the sisterhood my talent was finally noticed and directed into the service of the group. I made quilted wall hangings and quilted bedroom sets. I helped to embroider exquisite liturgical vestments for the leaders and clergy to wear at the Dedication of the new church.

At my insistence, I and another sister were allowed to learn weaving. I’ll have to tell the details of how that came about in another blog. For a while I was very excited with this new avenue of creativity, but even this was soon controlled and restricted. We had to weave what we were told to weave, and we had to beg for any and all thread to weave with. We were given no money to spend on this. So the weaving, as well as my involvement in the music, was a mixed bag. In these two areas my personal talent and love of the art was a hidden thread, but that thread all too often was hauled up to inspection and mauled over by those who wished to tear it apart.

To reclaim it – I am knitting again. I dream of finding a small loom cheap and doing some weaving. I have a violin that I worked very hard to afford, but have not been able to play it yet. Too much sadness cloaks that instrument still. But the handwork is becoming reclaimed and it brings me much joy.

A work in progress – thank God for freedom!

BITE: Information Control

Information was deliberately held back. A lot of the workings of the Community were on a need to know basis. If you were picked to be part of a group, then you would know some things, but you did not share your information outside of the particular group. If you were not part of a group, you knew better than to even ask. The inner group would meet, but the rest of us had no clue what they were meeting about. We would just be told the decisions and how it affected our daily lives, where we lived, work/life schedules.

This was true even with something as huge as building the new church. It was not a group decision. We were told God had given the go ahead to do it. We did have Chapter meetings that everyone attended and we did vote to go ahead with it and to borrow money to pay for it. But for me, and I suspect for most of the others as well, I would have rather died than to have publicly disagreed. I can’t tell you how many elections we had that put the current leader in charge where I held the black and white balls and told myself, put the black ball in, no one will see you, vote your conscience. And at the time the box reached me I put the white ball in. I was too scared that someone would see me still holding the white ball, and I would be “spoken” to. (Being spoken to was being raked over the coals)

Information was distorted to make it more “acceptable”. This happened a lot about the founders’ illnesses, and certainly hiding any suspicion that they might have a drinking problem, mental problem,s or be lesbians. We were told that their living together in the “Study” and sharing a bedroom was a holy partnership, and had no sexual involvement. They wanted us to think they were mainline Christians, and their stance was that homosexuality was against the teaching of the Bible. At the same time they were living opposite to what they told us. The hypocrisy is the sin.

Deception was also used in how they handled the Chronicle articles of 20+ years ago. They told us that the articles and videos were full of lies, that the members who had left, the dissenters, were blowing everything out of proportion, and the media loved scandals and so were exaggerating everything, and that it was all biased against us. We were told to not watch the video or read the newspaper, that it would “just upset us”.

Since leaving and watching the full content of the Chronicle videos I can testify that all the accusations from the “dissenters” were true.

The leader has lied outright on the Chronicle TV interview when she said there were no more light sessions going on. At that very time they were going on, and there have continued to be light sessions. We just didn’t use that term anymore, but the structure and format and what goes on in them had not changed. She also lied when she said children were not taken away from their parents and put into other houses. Over the years we did change slightly and go through the formality of “asking” the parents if they agreed to the move, but the social pressure has always been there to say yes, whether you agreed or not.

As far as “critical information” goes, I seriously had never heard this term before leaving CJ and did not know that critical thinking was a positive and valuable thing to do. It was considered worldly and rebellious to think too much about spiritual things. The mind was supposed to take a back seat to the spirit, as interpreted by the leaders.

News Flash – families seperated at CJ

Families have always been “under the gun” at The Community of Jesus. In the early years kids were sent to live in other houses from their parents without the parents being asked. After the Chronicle coverage 20+ years ago, CJ tried to clean up their act a bit, and and parents were asked if they minded their kids being sent to live at other houses. By then we had all bought into the idea that this was good for the kids, and we were thoroughly indoctrinated that parents were the worst possible persons to bring up their own kids. Parents are supposedly too blind to see their own kids’ sins. And if you didn’t really believe this, you wouldn’t dare speak up. We had been well trained that to disagree with leadership policy would bring a lot of intense corrections and group action against you.

When I left 4 years ago, we liked to put good words onto our life. We always said any seperation of kids from parents, or seperation of husbands and wives, were only with the agreement of everyone involved, and always for the spiritual good of those involved.

I have it on good information from someone I trust that currently most of the young married men are not living with their wives and children at this time. This has been going on since about March of 2014. This long term seperation from their families must be meant to break their spirits, and cannot be good for their marriages or their children. How are these children to understand their fathers not living with them for so long? What kind of message is this giving?

It is giving the message that “God” comes before family, and this “God” is defined by the beliefs and practices of The Community of Jesus. These children do not get any other input about what Christianity is all about, and they do not get a loving example of family life. Starting with Middle School they are home-schooled, so they do not even have interaction with other children. They have no idea that their life is not a normal life. Not only is it not normal, it is abusive, and they think that is normal.

Oh how I wish they could be made to be accountable to the norms of society. This is not healthy for the children, and in some cases could be seen as abusive.