“It is only partly true that religion does more harm than good in society. The community makes God into the image it wants, vengeful, or milky sweet, or scrupulously just, and so on.” – Mary Douglas, British Scientist
The One-Directional Nature of a False Community
Others writing about the community have spoken of the way the community rules are one-directional in nature. In other words things like the command to be brutally honest with each other about faults only applied to those in authority. Leadership is allowed to criticize followers and the followers are allowed to criticize each other but not the leaders. Everyone can criticize the children and I guess they are left to deal with the resulting pain in their own various ways. This one-directional nature of relationships was definitely a part of our family structure and I still struggle with its effects.
One experience in which the one-directional nature of COJ relationships is easy for me to see in the response to my mother’s illness and death. My parents spent parts of every summer and Christmas holiday at the Community of Jesus for most of their adult life. And for a span of more than 40 years they made regular financial contributions to the group. Many people will only make commitments like this to people who are like family. And maybe you could argue that for COJ members they are like family. But it is also important to note that these visits and contributions were required to remain members of the group. And membership of the group was deeply connected to deep favor from God.
When my mother got too ill to make their regular trips to the Community, the response from the COJ was to chastise my father for not coming for their required trips. And when their finances got tight due to her medical needs, they were unhappy with his reduction in giving. There didn’t appear to be any obligation of the community leadership or members to reach out to our family with any kind of support. When Mom passed away in 2012 they made no acknowledgement of her death to our family. You might expect a member of the COJ to have actually come down to Mississippi to be there with our family during her final days, or at least for her funeral. Some might say that this lack of response is easily justified by the distance between Orleans, MA and the small town of Decatur, MS where Mom spent her last days. Okay, I will give them that. But no card, flowers or other acknowledgment? That’s right. The COJ’s response to the death of a long-time committed member was crickets. I feel nothing but sadness for anyone who could believe this group is Christian. I feel the same sadness for those who think that the word “community” in their name means anything. Or the word “Jesus”. Jesus is God, God is love and when we lost our mother true love wept. The so-called Community of Jesus merely adjusted their membership records and resumed its relentless pursuit of my father’s “obedience”. This sounds harsh when I read it, but I don’t know any other way to put it.
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