My life there and afterwards

Posts tagged ‘BITE model’

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.


BITE: Impose Rigid rules and regulations

We had a very strict schedule and there were no excuses for not being at every service and meeting. Any disobedience was noticed and addressed. You couldn’t get away with anything. Telling on each other was encouraged. It was considered obedience to report any variation from the rules that we noticed. If we did not tell on someone breaking the rules, then we were considered to have joined them in their sin, and would receive the same correction or punishment. Sickness and exhaustion were not considered good reasons to miss, as the meeting or the service was considered to be the spiritual food you needed to get well. In the case of Band, I foolishly ignored my pain and was on the field when I should not have been. When I did go to the Field leader and said I could not continue, he said I was needed and that I could just stand on the sideline if I needed to. Once out there, however, I did more than I should have, and injured myself further. No one checked up on me to see how I was doing.

Absolute obedience was expected and demanded. If we were told to not watch the news, that was that. Anyone caught disobeying was brought before the group and humiliated. The same was true of the dress code.

Every aspect of our lives had a rule, a right way to do it, and we were expected to follow the Mothers instructions to the letter.

BITE: Discourage individualism, encourage group-think

We were often told that if we were all connected to God, and listening to the Holy Spirit, that we would all think the same. Being a good follower of Jesus, and being filled with the Holy Spirit meant that we would all hear the same message from him. If there was disagreement or dissension within a group, then it meant some one, or more, were “out of the Spirit” and it was the responsibility of the group to find out who that was. They were in sin, and it was our duty to ferret out that sin.

I think it is obvious that in such a situation the most vocal and angry people are the ones who will rise to leadership. Those who are feeling vulnerable, unsure of themselves, afraid, will be the quickest to deny their own individuality in order to survive. Being singled out as the one who was “out of the Spirit” was an extremely threatening situation.

There were times that I saw the leaders tell someone they had not heard the Lord properly and to go back and pray again. This was repeated until the person came up with the answer that the leaders wanted to hear. It happened to me many times, from minor things like whether I should volunteer to help in some clean-up, to whether I should visit family or not, to which groups I should be a part of.

The result was to take my power of critical thinking away from me, to numb my brain, to suppress my emotions, to make a dependent follower of me.

BITE: Rewards and punishments used to modify behaviors, both positive and nagative

I would sometimes be surprised by a public compliment. It would always be after a time of laying low, being meek and humble, and working hard with no complaints. Inwardly I might be bored, tired, and struggling with feelings of worthlessness and depression, and then they would throw a compliment at me. This was proof that the more I conformed to the lowly servant role, the more approval I got. Following this would be a period of relative happiness, knowing I was in the smiling grace of the leaders. This reinforced the positive benefits of cooperation with the regime.

A sister who frequently burst out with anger was punished by denying her the simple pleasure of watching a ball game on TV. All the sisters watched sports from time to time, and this sister in particular had found this to be her one joy in our pressured life. The leader told me and the other Senior Sister that the way to keep her in line was to tell her that whenever she burst out in anger, her TV watching would be taken away from her until she could cooperate. This was devastating to her, as this represented the only place where she felt alive as a person. This was done to her, and it did force her to become submissive.

There are countless more examples like these two. We were controlled by throwing us bones of relief, and by threatening and denying us the few things that gave us relief.

BITE: Thoughts, feelings, and activities (of self and others) reported to superiors

When you first go to the Community of Jesus, as a live-in or a new member, or are a novice in the sisterhood, you have to write daily notes about your sins. You are to confess every thought and feeling, and things you did during the day. It is to be a self-examination and exposure of everything you can find that is sin. There were times where I had had a good and happy day, wrote that, and was confronted by 2 of the sisters that this was not helpful. It was not the good things that needed to be confessed, and I was in unreality to think I had not sinned that day. I was to go back and find what my sins had been, and re-write the note.

Once I was thoroughly trained in the daily note writing, I could graduate to weekly notes, and eventually no notes unless needed. Once the thought reform had sunk in, the confessions happened verbally, as the day went on. We were all trained to seek out our sin, in ourselves and in each other, and to make this a constant focus of our lives together.

We also reported on each other, especially if someone would not accept a correction. Some people reported sins gleefully, for revenge, others reluctantly, but we all did it. We were taught that true love was to expose sin. Hidden sin kept you from God, so the best way to help your neighbor was to expose their sin. Every personal boundary was violated.

Some things were brought before the heads of the households, and others went straight up to the leaders. You learned quickly to be as appeasing as possible so that your sins did not get reported to the leaders, for you were then in danger of having a public correction, which was extremely humiliating and shaming. Shunning was always a part of public corrections.

BITE: Permission required for major decisions

Permission was required for all decisions, major or minor, but the most devastating effects involved the major decisions. Early in the 70’s I was writing back and forth with my parents. I had some unhealed issues and feelings with them, and the leaders’ counsel in family matters was to cut off any contact with them. This was their standard answer to all family troubles. I was told, and the letter was dictated to me, to write them a letter telling them that I was not going to write them anymore, I was dedicating my life to God, and to not write me, either. The next week I got a very thick letter from them. The head of my household told me to not open it until she could check with the leaders. The answer back was that I was to throw the letter out without opening it. I was to make a clean break, turn my back on them, and not even read what their response was. I cried and argued, but to no avail. I had to obey, and so I did throw it out. I have always regretted doing this.

I know of many people who were not allowed to go to their parent’s funeral, or to family member weddings because it would “distract them from God’s work” or “pull them away from their call”. In truth, I believe the leaders were in control and did not want people or money to leave CJ, for their own egoistic reasons.

Major purchases all had to be approved. House buying, car buying, vacations all had to be approved. The leaders had to give permission based on whether it was God’s will, and whether it was spiritually beneficial.

One of the most major decisions in life, who you are going to marry, was completely controlled by the leaders, past and present. The young people had to get their permission to start dating, to enter an engagement, and to get married. If they wanted to, the leaders could deny them permission, and this has happened several times.

BITE: Restrict leisure, entertainment, vacation time

Vacations were unheard of for the first 3 decades. When people did start taking them, it was a shock to me. How could they get to do that when I never could? We had no leisure time. You were considered lazy if you read too much, or sat around. No hanging out in the backyard, even on weekends. You always needed to be “accomplishing” something. No watching movies for the fun of it. We even went through one year where TV at all was forbidden. Even when our kids were young, it was rare that we ever took them out for a fun time anywhere.

It was when the richer people started becoming members that vacations were slipped in. The rich were catered to, and I suppose they weren’t about to give up their vacations. When word finally got out that they were going on vacations, some of the rest of us started to ask also. Of course you had to have money to do that, and for a long time Jeff and I did not save enough to pay for a vacation.

In the ’70’s we went through a full year where we were not allowed to leave the property. There were designated shoppers for groceries and necessary items like clothing. All of my stamps, envelopes, underwear, anything I needed was bought for me. We were not allowed to go to movies or miniature golfing or even to the public beach. We were not allowed to watch TV except for the news, and then only on specific days that the leaders told us we could. We were not allowed to read books unless they were the spiritual ones the leaders gave us, no recreational reading. By the time that year was over, we were all well indoctrinated into believing that the outside world did not have anything to offer that was godly.

In the sisterhood, we worked just as hard on Sundays as on any other day. There was no day off. It wasn’t like clergy in some churches that take Monday off because they work on Sunday. We were expected to serve God 24/7. When we did have leisure or fun times, it was as a group. The leaders would decide that we would all go to Nickerson Park for a day of picnic and swimming. Of course we were thrilled and felt this was a generous and loving gift. It felt so good to have some fun that we didn’t dare complain or even think that we should have it more often. In the last year I was there, the leader instituted a weekly recreational hour for the sisters and brothers where we all had to gather in the refectory (dining hall) and play games or talk or knit together. Then we had to take a walk together, and it had to be on a public road. She wanted the town to see that we were “normal”. Believe me, we looked anything but normal. A group of 60 women in beige habit like dresses straggling along the road. I had enough sense to be embarrassed. On one of these walks, I told the senior sister that I couldn’t go because I had sprained my knee and foot and could hardly walk. She said I did not have a choice. Even if I lagged behind I was to come on the walk. They stood next to me to make sure I went. I consider that to be cruel and unusual punishment. I really was in pain. They finally gave up watching me and I took a shortcut home and collapsed on my bed.