My life there and afterwards

Archive for April, 2015

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

This scripture, Mark 12:31, was a particularly strong teaching at CJ, but the leaders changed it. They taught that its’ true meaning was to Love Your Neighbor INSTEAD OF Yourself. They did many teachings on this, and reinforced it throughout the years. It became a flagship teaching for our life of self-sacrifice.

This is not what the scripture says, and it is not what it means.

I find it hard to express adequately the damage this twisting of scripture has wrought in my life, but I will try.

It produced a stream of thinking in me that goes like this;

I am not worthy of love

Anything I want is sin, I should always put others’ needs ahead of my own.

When I am desperate for something for myself (sleep, food, warmth) the strength of my want shows how much in sin I am, and how much harder I need to work to deny myself.

I will never get approval, because approval is self-serving. This was confirmed many times when I was told that the best I could do was the least I should do, the least I owed God.

One of the wondrous blessings of living outside of CJ is the realization that I can have and experience good things in life, that not only is it “OK”, but it is normal. Not only is it normal, but God actually WANTS me to have good things, material things, experiences, friends, good feelings.

Who knew?

Oh how I wish the Christian church outside of CJ would notice and bring them to accountability for preaching a distorted gospel. Why is it that Christendom turns a blind eye, an indifferent attitude, to “churches” that pervert the gospel and harm people. Not only is psychological harm done, but FAITH is twisted and eventually distroyed.

Man destroys, God renews.


Some Particular Form of Asceticism

I’m taking Theology II at college, and we are coming up on the end of the semester. The reading assigned for this week is an excerpt from “Black Theology” by James Cone. This phrase made me think of the Community.

“Man is challenged to participate in the sufferings of God at the hands of a godless world. He must plunge himself into the life of a godless world, without attempting to gloss over its ungodliness with a veneer of religion or trying to transfigure it…To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to cultivate some particular form of asceticism,…but to be a man. It is not some religious act which makes a Christian what he is, but participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world.”

The Community does not engage with the world. They sit behind their borders, build beautiful surroundings and make themselves think they are living to the “glory of God”. Meanwhile they cover over the suffering of their own members with a veneer of religion. They are deep into practicing asceticism, denying every aspect of individualism, but they do not engage with the needy of the world. They have been known to say that their ministry is to the rich, who are just as needy as anyone else. Sure, they are needy, but Christ came for the poor and the oppressed, and unless the Community also reaches out to them, they are hiding from reality. They refuse to acknowledge the pain and need of their own memebers. If they were to reach out and minister to the poor and needy of this world, perhaps their own members would identify and seek help for themselves.

The leaders denied us starting a soup kitchen in town. One person kept asking and after several years they finally said OK, and let me be the cook for it. I loved it, but CJ never supported it. Would not donate food or money towards it. They had to finish their beautiful church so they could attract the rich and artistic to their doors, probably hoping for large donations. There is no profit in serving the poor. It was a sad day when the leader told me to choose between a promotion to Senior Sister (leader in the Convent) and the food ministry. Another sister took my place at the food kitchen, and eventually we have both left.

I like to think that working outside of CJ and having contact with other, real, normal, and needy people helped to break the hold that CJ had on us.

The asceticism that is practiced at CJ is unhealthy. It is extreme. It is not balanced, and constantly serves to create guilt and self-loathing. This was true for me and for several others. One example: we all went on a 40 day fast of just grape products. Grapes, grape juice or raisins. Toward the end 2 couples were found to be cheating. They were publicly “corrected”, humiliated, and told to start the 40 days over again. They had to eat grapes during a wedding feast, and were watched closely by others to make sure they did not cheat again. I faired very poorly on that grape fast. Maybe it works for some, but for me it was starvation.

Another round

Well, they did it again. I am sorry to hear that the rut is deep and just keeps getting deeper at the Community. Here is the recent announcement from them.

“The Community of Jesus rejoices to announce that on the 21stĀ of March 2015 in accordance with the procedure set forth in our Rule of Life, Mother Betty Pugsley was re-elected Prioress for a term of four years.”

How well I remember those Chapter meetings where we were supposed to be free to speak our minds, and if we did we got an intense “light sessions” afterwards. I remember one year that one man was seriously being talked up among us as a possible replacement for Betty Pugsley, and he got sent to another country, to one of CJ’s outposts, just before the election. She announced that he had spiritual problems and that this new ministry was the right fit to heal him and to give him a place to be productive. Securing herself as the only real candidate for re-election. The only other possibility was someone who was even harsher than she was.

How well I remember the force of fear in my mind that I could not vote my conscience, and the agony I felt afterwards because I knew I was not being honest before God.

She has been in that office forever. Why do they not share the leadership? Why do they not have checks and balances? Why has no one there been trained in leadership so they can take a turn at serving God at the helm?