My life there and afterwards

I wish to speak here of the process of leaving the Community of Jesus, what their own Rule says about this subject, and what I experienced in my own leaving. It is my purpose to point out the hypocrisy between what they profess, which sounds like it is based in love and reasonable logic, and what they practice, which seems arbitrary and cruel.

In the Community of Jesus’ Rule, it states on pg. 30-31 that the leadership cares for “…the welfare of the one who is leaving as well as for that of the whole Community”. I did not experience this. To give credit where it is due, they did care for me by giving me $1,000 when I left. At the time that seemed generous, but once I got out into the world I soon realized how little that was and how fast it disappeared. I did not receive any offers of counseling help. No one sat down with me and asked what could be done to help me with my inner turmoil and conflicts. My repeated requests for a leave of absence were denied and I was told to leave for good. From the frame of mind I was in at the time, I was looking for help to resolve my conflicts, and was still trying to find a way to live within the Community. For them to so cruelly and blatantly kick me out after 40 years of hard labor and full-given-ness service to the place was beyond imagination. It was the shock I needed to wake me up, to help me realize the full hypocrisy of the leadership.

Also on pg. 31 it states “The request for a leave of absence by the member is normally submitted to the Superior in writing, stating the reasons for the request, and such a request may be granted by the Superior with the consent of the Council.” I did hand in a written request 3 times. However the Superior flatly denied my request each time. The 3rd time she did not consult the Council, as she gave me a blunt reply in person the moment I made the request. The other 2 times I suspect she did not consult the Council, but cannot say for sure.

On pg. 33 it states “Separation from the Community by any Solemn Professed member is a matter of great seriousness. It is expected that such a decision will normally occur only after a significant period of serious prayer and consideration.” I had been in my own inner turmoil for several years, but had never spoken of it to others. When I finally did admit that I was struggling with wanting to leave, I said it in great conflict and anguish. Once I made this confession, it only took a few months for the leadership to boot me out. Again I have to point out that this was a surprise to me, and happened without talks or counseling or investigation into why I felt this way or if there was any avenue we could take together to resolve my issues.

Also on pg. 33 it talks about “Dispensation from Solemn Profession” initiated by the member. I did not initiate a request for Dispensation. I asked for a Leave of Absence. On pg. 34 it talks about “Initiation by the Superior.” This was the case with me. The Rule says “After consultation with the Council, a warning may be given by the Superior that a dismissal is being considered, including the reasons. Such a warning is to be given in writing or in the presence of two members of the Council.” This was not done in my case. I received no warning, either verbally or in writing.

“A solemnly professed member may be dismissed for grave reasons including the habitual neglect of the obligations of one’s profession, illegitimate absence, obdurate disobedience, or grave scandal.” None of these reasons were applicable to me. I met all of my profession’s obligations, I was never absent, I was obedient to a fault, and was never involved in a scandal. The Superior did issue a “Dispensation from Vows” to me, and it was told to me that I had to sign it in order to leave. At first I said I would not sign it, that I had asked for a Leave of Absence, not a Dispensation. I was then told I would not be driven to the bus if I didn’t sign it. After many hours of inner turmoil passed, I gave in and signed the Dispensation. This was all done through an atmosphere of coercion, not through a mutual agreement.

It states on pg. 35 that “…arrangements may be made at the time of separation to provide financial assistance. Such arrangements, if made, would be based upon the values of charity, equity, and justice.”  I contend that after 40 years of sacrificial, unpaid service to The Community of Jesus, $1,000 was not a charitable, equal or just compensation to start me off on a new life that I was unprepared to face. I also received no help in finding a place to live or employment. I received that help from family, friends and strangers after I had left.

Following are 2 quotes from people who wish to remain anonymous. They are from 2006 but what they say is still pertinent.

Posted on Tuesday, June 6, 2006 by Laetamini

“I would like to chime in about the leave-of-absence, since it was my post that was being quoted. You’re darn right it’s loosey-goosey. And while that sounds great, all that means is that there’s loads of wiggle room for leadership and a very unstable foundation for the membership on which to stand. Leave-of-absence is like many other aspects of life at the community, whether stated in the rule or merely understood in daily life. The allowance made for some and not at all for others are arbitrary, and in my case were not open for discussion.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 6, 2006 by Exmonk

“Your explanation of the “rule” and specifically, “leave of absence” only confirms the stated opinion (if not actually factual) that the individual in leadership uses that loose translation at his/her discretion. So in fact, the rule is manipulated as that individual leader so chooses to serve his/her designs and members requesting some time/space away are given varied responses.

So it potentially is at great risk for a member to request leave of absence since some who have were given the choice to permanently leave the organization under unfavorable circumstances or be denied temporary leave and receive disciplinary action and disgrace.

No one person should have that much power over one person much less a large group of people. God has given man free will to live and choose. This is a violation of that gift and is high demand cult oppression. And for the group to put complete trust in the free will of one person elected through proper or improper means, as the case may be, should not assume, under the mantle of Christianity, that such practice and control without other checks and balances in place…”

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News story – must-see

Channel W5, on Canadian TV, has just done a 4 part investigation into Grenville Christian College and this report includes the connection with The Community of Jesus, Orleans,MA. Here is the link:
http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/former-students-allege-psychological-physical-and-sexual-abuse-at-ont-christian-school-1.2766446
It is a must-see. Finally the abuse is becoming known and the class action suit is going forward.

One person said that her faith was not affected by the “Christian” abuse she endured there. I am truly glad for her, but many others did have their faith shattered, as I had mine shattered by the C of J. When you believe whole-heartedly that the leaders you trust are speaking for God, and interpreting scripture as it was meant to be understood, and then realize the hypocrisy and harm that is going on, it is devastating. It takes time to heal, but I am also very glad that I can now sort things out for myself. No one knows the ultimate answers for sure, and anyone who says they do has too high an opinion of themselves. Now I am free to embrace the journey of life for myself, and to seek for the answers that work for me.

Love is the only thing that transforms the human heart. If a group is Christian, they will see Jesus as fully revealing this divine wisdom, which takes the shape of gentle understanding and radical forgiveness–which is just about all that Jesus does. Jesus, who Christians believe represents God, does not tell the vulnerable how bad they are. Look at Jesus’ interaction with the tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). He doesn’t belittle or punish Zacchaeus; instead, Jesus goes to his home, shares a meal with him, and treats him like a friend. He does not submit him to a “light session”.

Anyone who thinks fear, anger, divine intimidation, threat, and punishment are going to lead people to love is on a power trip. Show me where that has worked. You cannot lead people to the highest level of fulfillment and creativity by teaching them they are the scum of the earth. The leaders at GCC and CJ were/are on a power trip and, from my experience, do not show any care for the lives of those they are supposedly caring for.

We are becoming

“Your True Self is who you are, and always have been in God; and at its core, it is love itself. Love is both who you are and who you are still becoming, like a sunflower seed that becomes its own sunflower.” (Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation)

My true self is what most of history, including the major religions, has called the soul and it is an integral part of my life. The message I got from the group I was in was that my ‘self’ had to be denied and subjugated to discipline and the will of others. By submitting to this teaching I almost lost touch completely with my true self and experienced a descent into a personal hell that defies description, but is familiar to those who have experienced cult life or a narcissitic partner/parent.

Since leaving that group, I am on the journey to discovering my true self, to being in touch with myself, to knowing myself. It is a wondrous journey, one that I am very happy with. Struggles, questions, thinking – anything that wakes up my curiosity or my concern – is no longer anathema, but instead is fruitful ground for discussion and discovery. I am becoming comfortable in my own skin, and confident that Life/God meant me to be who I am, not someone who is “broken” and needs to be molded into a different version.

It is from this whole sense of self that I can care for others.

Celebrate life and love yourself as you are and as who you are becoming.

God-in-me sees God

This is a quote from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, https://cac.org/richard-rohr/daily-meditations

“For Jung, the God archetype is the whole-making function of the soul. It’s that part of you that always wants more. I don’t mean more in the greedy sense; I mean more in the spiritual sense. It is the inner energy within the soul of all things, saying, “Become who you are. Become all that you are. There is still more of you–more to be discovered, forgiven, and loved.” Jungian analytical psychology calls such growth and becoming “individuation,” which I like to think of as moving toward the life wish instead of the death wish (the Biblical word for the death wish was “sin”). The life wish teaches you not to fragment, not to splinter, and not to split, but to integrate and learn from everything…the God archetype is quite simply love at work driving you toward every greater embrace and ever deeper union.”

This spoke to me, because it lines up with my sense of god as the Mystery of Life, and of how we as humans are always drawn to “something more”, we are always looking towards the next horizon. Life and health are wrapped up in growth and movement towards the next horizon, the next goal. Stagnation always brings sickness and unhappiness.

I used to worry that I was never at peace. My idea of peace came from my life at CJ, where lack of feeling was equivalent to peace. To not feel the constant humiliation, the lack of sleep, the degrading sense of never measuring up to the leaders’ standards was the only peace I could hope to find. Now I understand my search for “more” is a life force that brings peace and happiness. As the quote above says, it is not a quest for more driven by greed, but rather by the essence of life itself, which is one of growth and learning and expanding in experience. It is that desire to learn and to connect with others. And, ironically, abuse and dysfunctional experiences often increases our desire for that life of growth.

There is a season for all things. When I first left it was a time to protect myself and to give myself time to heal and adjust. Now is the time to expand. Now is the time to continue connectiong with people. It is an exciting time.

At CJ there was a demand to totally give myself to God. However, this was framed as a struggle to submit my will to the will of others, and to live an outwardly perfect life. It was a matter of will, not a matter of an inner dialogue of love and trust with god. It felt to me that god was invoked as the force to make me submit, not as a force of love and life that cared about me. Catholics believe in the Pope as the source of authority, Protestants believe in the Bible as the source of authority, at CJ I believed in the prophetic wisdom of the leaders as the source of authority. Now it all seems the same to me. That was about trying to believe in something outside of myself, instead of connecting with god in my spirit/soul/inner being. My faith life became dictated by the leaders, not something that was an integral part of myself.

That internal faith life is now something that I am in process of discovering for myself, and it doesn’t matter who is “right” about defining what the term “god” encompasses. Some people believe that there is nothing outside of the personal experience, there is no god “out there”. Others believe that God is an actual person, just one that is greater than we are. And some believe something inbetween those two poles. I don’t think it matters. The life energy drives us forward, and love is to be found in the interpersonal space between people.

If it is not found in any particular relationship, then don’t continue that relationship. Be drawn to light and love and do not allow the darkness/sickness in others infect you.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not sentimentality. Forgiveness demands justice. In order to forgive, both parties need to acknowledge the wrong that has been done, and the offending party must show some repentance, some desire to right the wrongs, to address the harm that has been done and to make amends.

When someone has been hurt, violated, abused, they are exercising the willingness to forgive when they make the attempts to re-enter relationships. If a woman has been raped, for example, she is exercising a form of forgiveness, within her own psyche, to men in general, when she is ready and willing to open herself up to a new relationship. If a person has experienced spiritual abuse by a group or person, s/he is exercising a degree of forgiveness to those who betrayed her trust when she is willing to enter a new relationship with another group or person on a spritual or ethical basis.

However, full forgiveness towards the abuser cannot happen until the evil that was done has been acknowledged and dealt with. Forgivenes does not mean ignoring the past or moving prematurely to attempted reconciliation with the abusers. Only when those on the other side of the equation, the ones who did the wrong, are ready to admit their wrong-doing and to make amends does the possibility of full forgiveness enter the arena.

In the absence of repentacne on the part of the perpetrator, forgiveness is morally objectionable because it involves an abandonment of justice.

Forgiveness also does not mean that you necessarily re-enter a relationship with the perpetrator, even if they do repent of their wrong-doing. It will free both parties into new relationsips, but does not require re-committment to the old one.

 

Deep within myself

Freud seemed to think that the sexual, pleasure drive was underlining everything that we do.
The version of Christianity that I learned at CJ taught that sin was the underlining motive of everything I did.
Jung on the other hand talks about the very depth of us being where we connect with god (however you define that concept).

Within our depths are things we are afraid of, thoughts and desires that we have been taught to label as “bad”. We are a mixture, but in that same “darkness” live the angels, the wisdom, the truth of our capabilities. Denying your shadow self allows you to unknowingly do very selfish and evil things–and even call it virtue (John 16:2-3). This is what I think went wrong at CJ. The leaders, and to some degree all of us, bought into denying our true selves. “Deny your self” was a constant invocation. But in constant denial there is no accountability, first and foremost to yourself.

If I want to be accountable to myself, it means accepting myself, not labelling myself as “bad”, and learning to sort out what is healthy for me and what is not. God, life, growth and happiness are wrapped up in acceptance of myself and others, not in condemnation and constant denials.

Here is a quote from Richard Rohr’s Meditations:

“Jung believes we can do damage, therefore, by “petrifying” our spiritual experience when we try to name it, to express God as an abstract idea. Before you explain your encounter with the Divine as an idea or a name that then must be defended, proven, or believed, simply stay with the naked experience itself–the numinous, transcendent experience of allurement, longing, and intimacy within you… This is both a transcendent God and also my deepest me at the same time. To discover one is to discover the other. This is why good theology and good psychology work together so well. You have touched upon the soul, the unshakable reality of my True Self, where “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).”

The place of the wound becomes the place of the greatest gift. It is in our sorrow and pain that we are transformed, if we will not turn away from being aware. ‘Wounded Healer’ is an icon for me. It speaks of not only my own healing, but of the return of meaning, of purpose in my life, of reaching out to be connected with others, which is healing for both of us. Jesus was wounded and killed, and he is the icon of healing and love. (Don’t think Christianity here, just think Jesus) If we are meant to see his life as an example, then surely those of us who have also been wounded can take hope from his life. Our life is grounded in our common vulnerability, not in the power structures that try to tell us how to live and what to believe..

As I pause at the beginning of a New Year to reflect on my life, I see the multitude of friends who have been a help in my journey. I am grateful for you all. Thank you for:
– listening to my story
– believing me
– advice and encouragement
– monetary gifts and loans
– temporary living space
– rides to appointments and to buy my first car
– invitations to weekends and celebrations
– sticking with me over time
– thoughtfulness and gifts
– most of all for being my friends and being there for me.

I love you all!!

Although at times I may feel very alone, it is heart-warming and encouraging to remember that I am connected to a wide network of loving and caring people. I do not at this time have a daily companion, but when I remember to reflect on our connections, I no longer feel alone. In this remembrance I find solace and joy.

My mom always said that in order to have friends, you have to be a friend. I hope you know that I am here for you also, and will do all I can to be your friend.

Blessings on us all in this New Year!!!