My life there and afterwards

Posts tagged ‘Children’

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.

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A re-Post from a friend’s blog: “The Oblates’ Daughter”

“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.

You can follow this posting at http://oblatesdaughter.blogspot.com/

Sharing someone else’s well-written post

This is long, but is beautifully written – so accurate and well said – that I quote it for you as this week’s post.
All references to the leadership and practices at Grenville Christian College were/are also true of the leadership and practices at The Community of Jesus.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2212017612/permalink/10150378407902613/

“CORE BELIEFS OF COMMUNITY OF JESUS/GCC:
All of these beliefs were learned over a period of many years directly from the Community of Jesus. None of them originated at GCC. We learned them on teaching retreats at the CJ, personal counseling sessions there, from listening to “Mothers’ tapes” (teachings of Cay and Judy at the CJ and elsewhere), “live-in” weeks at the CJ, from visits by CJ people to GCC, from our “oblate houses”, “Mother house retreats”, etc. We took vows to the CJ, vowing a lifelong commitment to the CJ and the life of obedience to this teaching. We were required to attend a certain number of retreats a year, spend a week a year “living in” there, and write monthly “notes” of a highly personal nature to the leaders of the CJ. The daily application of these teachings was done by those in leadership at GCC.

Obedience –
Obedience was first to God. Following God’s will for your life is a common modern day evangelical teaching. However, at GCC, “God’s” will was determined by those in charge within the community of GCC and above them in a hierarchy, also the Community of Jesus. After the initial contact, the decision to join was encouraged through a combination of both fear and enticements. The initial impressions of the community for a person considering following “God’s” will there were not unlike initial impressions for any other person-the place was beautiful, the people were thoughtful and “caring”….Once numerous bridges were burned, you were more privy to statements made by C. Farnsworth that included the statement that making the commitment to join GCC was the last decision a person ever made. Spiritual authorities spoke for God and were to be obeyed always. Disobedience to them was disobedience to God. The expectation of obedience was extended to staff children. In many ways they were the most vulnerable of anyone at GCC. Children were stripped of any parental protection (see the teaching of the sin of idolatry), were subject to daily corrections by any adult and were expected to be obedient in particular to those in leadership positions. In addition, they were taught that they were called by God to live this life of obedience at GCC or the CJ (see call of God) because they were children of people called to GCC. It was a lifelong call.

Call of God –
GCC members saw their work and life as a “vocation”, a lifelong call to serve God in one place. Members took lifetime vows of obedience to their authorities (at the CJ and at GCC), and also vows of “stability” (they would serve God in one of these two places). It was assumed and said that if GCC ever failed, members would “go home” to live at the CJ. This sense of devotion and purpose gave members a feeling that they were special, or at least they were part of something special (which amounts to the same thing in practice). “Many are called, but few are chosen”. We considered ourselves to be in that latter group.

Cross life –
This teaching stated that each individual’s cross was his or her sin. It was each individual’s responsibility to deny his sinful nature by aggressively crucifying his own sinful nature daily through confession to others of those sins. It was also each person’s responsibility to speak against the sin of others. In essence there was an aggressive policy of policing behavior, since behavior was the expression of sin. Everyday mistakes could be interpreted as the result of sin. Confessions were randomly used to control individuals through public humiliations and at other times to manipulate them. This teaching started with a belief in the radical sin nature of everyone, even Christians, expressed in self-will, wanting one’s own way, own things, own will. This showed up in the everyday events of life – choosing simple things that you wanted or liked. The only way to solve this was by the breaking of the will. This came about through deep repentance, but because of our sin we were blind to our sin. The only way to see the truth was to have others speak it to us. This took the form of direct confrontation, person to person, or in a group (light groups).
If a person “resisted the truth”, the heat was turned up, bringing in more people, multiple meetings addressing his/her sin, changes in living arrangements or job, assigning disciplines to the individual, until he or she “repented” (had their will broken). This was usually followed by “love-bombing”. Affection was then showered on the person who was in a very vulnerable emotional and psychological state. The person by that time was so grateful for affection, approval, love….that this experience tended to cement their dependent relationship on the group and the leaders.
The other effect of this is that if it were done publicly, as it usually was, bystanders and correctors were also traumatized by witnessing or participating in breaking down the offender. So repeated traumatizations instilled in all members a knowledge of what resistance meant. After many of these over a period of time, most of us became experts in self-censoring our actions, movements, and even thoughts. The end result was a large group of people who were very good at “presenting” the correct image: smiling, cheerful, caring, obedient, ready to jump into action to serve the greater good.
If you ask why people would go along with this, there are two good explanations. The first is use of the tactics of brainwashing.. They work! Even with very intelligent people, which answers the question how smart people could be trapped in a group like this. The second and more powerful reason is the belief that ALL community members had, that we were called by God to this life, that disobedience to our leaders was rebellion against God, and the result of that rebellion was eternal damnation. On the plus side, we believed that we were a special group, chosen for a special job by God. We saw ourselves as an elite strike force for God. That combination of fear and pride was extremely powerful. The students were our mission field, sent to us by God. We were to love them, of course, but love also included “speaking the truth in love”, correction, verbal confrontation, etc. What if they resisted what God intended for them? A similar pressure would be brought to bear upon them. If they complied with our program, they received approval. If they rebelled outwardly, corrections (both private and/or public) and disciplines were sanctioned to “encourage” compliance in beliefs, thoughts and behavior. When compliance appeared to be accomplished, “love-bombing” followed. Again, even the students who were not directly confronted all knew people who had been, so that traumatization worked with the students as well. They learned early on what was expected of them, what behavior and attitudes were rewarded, and which were punished.
Given the fervor with which these beliefs were held, the relative isolation of the school (a boarding school), it’s not surprising that abuses occurred.

Honesty (Being honest and the danger therein) –This was called “living in the light” and was a large part of our commitment to each other. Brutal honesty was the expected norm in almost all cases. If you felt someone was guilty of any of the Seven Deadly’s below (or even if you just had “a bad feeling” about someone), you were expected to tell them, pulling no punches, not “sugar-coating” it, or “softening the blow”. Only real (brutal) honesty was helpful, as anything else would not have the desired effect of breaking the will. If you “sugar-coated” something you said, you ran the risk of giving them something positive about themselves to cling to, which would only delay or stymie their eventual healing (breaking of their will, repentance).
If you were the recipient of this brutal honesty, you were expected to reply in kind and “tell all”. This meant exposing other “sins”, related or unrelated. If you withheld information, self-accusations, etc., you were accused of being “hidden”, in itself a terrible sin. The antidote to this was to expose the person as much as possible, as publicly as possible, in front of as many people as possible (in some cases the person’s children). However, the unspoken exception to this rule was that this “brutal honesty” only flowed downwards. Taking it upon oneself to be brutally honest with anyone in authority was to open yourself immediately to an accusation of one of the sins listed below, almost always accompanied by intense light groups or disciplines. In other words, it was only done if you had a death wish.

Seven Deadly Sins
Sins were often discerned when “someone else” interpreted a person’s failure to perform perfectly in some responsibility and then diagnosed which sin caused it. Otherwise it was determined by their lack of heartfelt compliance with a given mandate, either verbally or in their behavior. There was a strong focus on changing a person’s work performance, their beliefs and behavior by sanctioning heavy-handed disciplines or random life changes that were primarily declared to target the root sin that was the cause of all. The result of constant “sin surveillance” was living in fear of being caught in some sinful behavior over which one had little control. In
the short term, the “discipline” was really a form of punishment as it really had no actual benefit except that of producing fear. In the long term, a person internalized the beliefs and unknowingly learned strategies to avoid the resulting pain of “sinning.” The following were the culprit sins:

Idolatry-The biblical teaching against idolatry (worshipping someone/something more than God) was applied to the dynamics of human relationships in such a way that natural family relationships and friendships would be considered idolatrous if there was no evidence that each party within the relationship would “stand against” the sin of the other. To be “in idolatry” with another person, someone would typically be blind to another person’s specific sin and/or unwilling to confront that person about his sin. Sin was typically thought to be acted out, often in some obscure way that was pointed out by one of the community leaders. The battle against sin played out in everyday life in some of the following ways: close friendships were nipped in the bud; spouses were pitted against one another; parents were told that they were blinded by their natural love for their children and so were incapable of being a healthy influence in raising their children. All adults in the community were responsible for the oversight of the children and were “responsible” to correct the sins of the children in everyday contexts. The specific sins of an individual may have been discerned by the more spiritual people in the community, but confronting that individual with that sin was often delegated to his friends or spouse. This teaching against the sin of idolatry led to power play dynamics within the community as individuals were “safer” if they were on the giving rather than the receiving end of corrections. Thus a lot of sucking up to those in charge and betraying of all others to protect yourself. It also was destructive within the family framework as parents were often publicly humiliated and disrespected in front of their children, children were encouraged to correct their parents, and parents were taught that others were better at deciding what was best for their children. Children were often randomly removed from the homes of their parents to live with another family. Parents were often corrected over and over for not discerning what was good for their children, losing any internal sense of parenting. Playing the idolatry card gave those in charge leverage to achieve control and the ability to manipulate a situation to their own purposes, if they so desired. It was the trump card.

Jealousy – was one of the worst sins for which to be corrected. In any situation that was played out less than perfectly, someone was bound to be randomly corrected for being jealous of someone else. This meant envy of another person’s looks, possessions, talents, status, family….It was generally considered that the best cure for jealousy was to have the person of whom another was jealous to correct the person that was deemed jealous. An even better cure would be to have that person be in charge of the other person’s spiritual journey out of the muck and mire of jealousy. Such a journey might include changes in the jealous person’s everyday routines, change of their job, change of their living situation, and undergoing disciplines as well. Jealousy was seen as an actively destructive force if not eradicated. To be known as a jealous person carried a heightened degree of shame.

Control or the desire to control one’s life or his immediate situation was considered a sin. This sin often would be noted when a person was unable to accomplish unreasonable goals that had been expected of him/her. That person’s anger (see below) within the situation was considered the reason for not accomplishing the task at hand successfully. When random changes that were decided for a person’s life were met with resistance, the sins of control and rebellion would be named in an attempt to bring a change of heart. If there was no change of heart, more pressure would be applied in an effort to create repentance. Being “out of control” was thus considered a virtue and a desirable emotional state. So random changes in policies, living situations, jobs, etc. all had the benefit of helping people stay “out of control”. Resisting such things was interpreted as being “controlling.”

Rebellion – As it says in the Old Testament, “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft”. This included not only outward acts of disobedience to the many rules, disciplines, etc. but also any inward attitudes of not wanting to comply. So in many cases, simply obeying slowly was an indication of rebellion. To be labeled as “rebellious” was a terrible judgement, and those who were labelled as such often went to great lengths of outward obedience to try to escape the stigma of being considered rebellious. Students, of course, were expected to obey directives as well, usually instantly. Allowing rebellious acts and attitudes to pass unchecked was also considered a very grievous sin, as that was often seen as “opening the door to Satan”, who was the original rebel!

Pride/Haughtiness – Reserving the right to have your own thoughts and opinions showed pride and haughtiness because you were saying that you were as good as, or better than, those in charge. And because those in charge had a direct line with God, you were in essence putting yourself above God. If you were corrected for something and you disagreed, your pride or haughtiness was added to the list of sins already named. If you engaged in critical thinking (wondering why some people got “special treatment”) that showed extreme haughtiness, since you were essentially saying you were on the same level as they were, or should be anyway. Of course, the antidote for pride and haughtiness was humiliation. So public humiliation, which could include a group of people pointing out your faults, or even mocking you, was a very good thing, because it was seen to kill your pride and haughtiness.

Lust (SEX and other things!) – Sexual lust was considered the root of much evil, so much so that community members were not even allowed to talk about anything related to the topic of sex or sexuality except to Charles Farnsworth-not even to our own spouse. This topic was OFF LIMITS and was all encompassing in its boundaries. No specific point was too insignificant to be included. The arousal of sexual thoughts and feelings in men were considered the fault of the female gender. For this reason, there were very strict mandates in place to keep “inappropriate” behavior and thoughts under control. We were taught that sex was for procreation, not pleasure.
(Our corporate busyness was one deterrent to marital relations.) Also, men had needs. Personal counseling related to sexual abuse was straightforward-sexual abuse was minimized and declared “a garden variety sin.” C. Farnsworth gave instructions in the topic of sex to our own kids without our permission or even notice. (We learned of this after leaving.) This “teaching” or lack thereof was a strong force in our everyday lives. Its implications were wide ranging and insidious. It appeared righteous but was really a very strong control mechanism for those in charge. In our lives the bottom line was that everything about human sexuality was evil, not just lustful desires/thoughts.
Lust for other things-any complaints about working for pittance and having little materially was deflected by enforcing the mantra that “others may, but we cannot.”

Anger – Anger was generally viewed as a sin. If you got angry at someone or a situation, that showed that you didn’t really agree with it, that you thought you knew better than those in charge, that you lacked love, etc. The exception was “righteous anger”, the anger at sin. This, however, was only sanctioned if it came “top down”, or from a peer. Anger at anyone in charge could never be seen as righteous anger.
People were often “encouraged” to display or “get out” their anger. This usually left them in a vulnerable state, since all could see what they really felt. Although releasing pent up anger may have brought some momentarily relief from emotional pressure and internal guilt, that person’s real feelings and perspectives were typically used against them at some point. For the moment, “love-bombing” was their reward for being “honest.”

HOW THINGS REALLY WORKED

CLOSED SYSTEM –The vow of obedience to this way of life and the breaking down of ties with family members outside the community, as well as any friends outside the community, resulted in a very isolated, closed system. Other influences were cut off or discouraged, and the business of everyday responsibilities (which included not just running a boarding school but a host of other “community” responsibilities, like daily chant services, daily prayer vigil, and regular light groups) effectively closed all members off from the “outside world” and ensured that almost all personal interactions were constrained by the above values.
RANDOMNESS – The “icing on the cake” was the way in which things were enforced.

Even though the above categories seem clear and delineated, in practice ALL beliefs and policies were applied randomly. Some people could do almost anything and never receive any disciplines. Others only had to look sideways to call a staff meeting down on their heads. Since the “discernment” of all of these sins was up to those in charge, punishments were often meted out in what seemed like arbitrary fashion, depending on the current “party line”. The result was that those not in charge (almost everyone) were kept in a current state of emotional disequilibrium, never knowing what could happen next. Most tried to gain some measure of balance by currying favor with those above them, hoping that if something drastic happened, it wouldn’t happen to them.”

Why Cults are Harmful for Children and Mothers

I read an article in ICSA Today Vol. 5 No. 1 called “Why Cults are Harmful: Neurobiological speculations on Interpersonal Trauma” by Doni Whitsett. She mentions that researchers speculate that the mind has “internal working models of attachment” and that the “maturation of the right brain is dependent upon the interactions with the mother…that is, the baby is attuned to the right brain of the mother and experiences mother’s affect states as if they were her own.”

This speaks powerfully to the damage done when children, especially babies and very young children, are taken away from their biological mothers and given to other members of the cult to be raised. The child has a visceral attachment to the mother, and when this is broken the child can become insecurely attached. The child can often express this by becoming aggressive, feeling that they have to fight to have their needs met, or by withdrawing so they will not feel rejected, as a protective reaction.

In looking back at my own experience, one of my children cried a lot. It was during a time when I was under a lot of intense scrutiny and ‘correction”. My own emotions were aroused, and I was often scared, angry, humiliated and worried. As Whitsett says, “As the baby views the negative face of the mother, the baby’s body is flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone. Alternately, if mother is relaxed and happy, the baby will see the smiling face of the mother and endorphins will be released in the baby’s body, just as they are in the mother’s…the stimulus or entity know as mother, and the child’s relationship with her, will get associated with either cortisol and the child will feel bad, or with endorphins and the child will feel good.”

The cult took advantage of this situation. They did not read the signs properly, and blamed me for my child’s crying. They said it was my sin that was hurting her. Because of this, they took her away from me and gave her to two teenagers to raise, for over a year.

How do she and I recover from this? It is not something that we can work out on our own. The damage has been done, and it takes the loving and tender help of others. The first step is to start looking and to find a therapist that understands. I am a great fan of talk therapy, as that is what is helping me. There is a lot of justified anger to deal with as I realize what they did to us. I am also learning to forgive where that is appropriate, but not to the point of denying what was done. It’s the age-old problem of finding the balance between forgiveness in order to release my own angst, and standing up for justice.

In this article, Whitsett talks about Judith Herman’s model of trauma recovery and identifies three separate phases. The first is with the therapist in a safe environment to tell your story. The second is to remember the dissociated parts of the experience and integrate them into your present reality and understanding. The third is to come out of feeling isolated and to re-connect with others. This will take some time and support but as my self-confidence builds I can feel myself being less afraid of what others will think of me.

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.

An untold story

All people seek to create meaning in their lives. It’s unavoidable and an integral part of being self-aware. Sometimes I feel like seeking for meaning in my life is like looking into two mirrors that are positioned to reflect each other, and your image is repeated indefinitely. There seems to be no end and no final solution or explanation. I think I have to accept and come to peace with the flexibility and unknowingness of a lot of life’s questions.

Having gone through the shock of betrayal and dislocation, i.e., realizing the cult was not the wonderful Christian group I thought it was, and suddenly being on my own with no planning or financial resources, I’m now at a point where I am re-claiming the good from those “lost years.”

I don’t know if other survivors have experienced this, but in the deep pain I have felt I have been afraid that others would not understand or not believe me, or try to minimize my experience. When I was told how well I was doing, it felt like a threat. “You mean I’m OK? Does that mean what was done to me wasn’t that bad?” Why I would see praise as indicating a lesser experience, instead of a greater healing, I’m not sure. That’s a topic for further exploration.

In this place of reclamation, I am looking for the parts of those 40 years that were my own, or that were good, without negating the horrible de-humanization I went through. The good from the past, and the healing of the present, are in spite of the wrong, not because the wrong was not there. That is a significant difference I need to remember.

In reading ICSA Today, Vol. 5, No. 2, I was struck by the article written by Greg Jemset. He says “Reauthoring is the process of a person looking back at neglected story lines in his life with an open mind, articulating them to a nonmanipulative audience, and rediscovering themes, values, and preferences for living that he may have disregarded previously.”

I get excited at the prospect of rediscovering my story lines that were neglected while at CJ. For instance, my love of children was torn from me in my own family, when my children were young. Many years later I was asked to be godmother to a new child, born to SGA’s at CJ. I was thrilled, and this child and I bonded. I became like his grandmother. I babysat him and took him to church. Our love grew and I looked forward to teaching him about the love of God as he grew. This love was noticed by the leadership and, as always, was interpreted as “family idolatry”. They came down swift and hard on me. They accused me of sinful attitudes and actions towards one of his parents (which was ludicrously false) and of an unhealthy attachment for the child. They forbade me to visit or babysit, and limited my contact to a weekly group kids’ lunch at the Convent with him. Not only could I not speak to the parent, I was not even to look at him/her. No explanation was to be given to the parent.

This was outrageously cruel and totally out of context. If there was a “fly” of sin in our relationship, this was killing it with a Mack Truck.

The one good thing about this extremism was that it broke my heart so completely and was such a repeat of what they had done years before with me and my own children that I sunk into a depression that was instrumental in bringing me to my senses and to leaving. This was a wrong that even I knew was wrong and could not excuse for some “higher good.” The outrageousness of it all gave me the courage to argue back against the blatantly false accusations.

Well – I think I wandered off topic a bit, but this is a story that has not been told yet. All the gory details will be in my book, and perhaps future blogs.

Fruits and Forgiveness

“You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16) What fruits do you see at The Community of Jesus? What fruits are you looking for? Material fruits can be faked, or they can be genuinely beautiful and impressive and yet hide the real fruits of the spirit, which can be rotten behind the glittering exterior. We have seen this before with certain tele-evangelists, and we have seen this with some Catholic priests. I state that this is the situation at The Community of Jesus. My life there is witness to the fact that the beautiful material exterior blinds the casual visitor to the rottenness of the life lived unseen by the public eye. “How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead people’s bones and every kind of impurity.” (Matthew 23:27)

Inside the “tomb” of CJ there is thought control, over-work, humiliation, sin-hunting, and abusive confrontations. These are some of the ‘fruits’ of the life lived at CJ.

Having said this, and I stand and testify of its truth, I also want to emphatically say that any truly good fruits of the spirit that can be seen at CJ come from the good people that live there, in spite of, not because of, the bad practices put forth by the founders and current leaders. I also want to emphatically say that good fruits don’t cancel out the bad fruits or practices.

Having experienced firsthand the effects of the bad fruits, how do I handle the spiritual idea of forgiveness?
First, what is forgiveness? I had to find the answer to that question first. I have not even wanted to approach this subject for four years. It was too entwined with things I did not want to do, like forgetting about the harm, which will never happen. Or saying it wasn’t so bad, and they didn’t know what they were doing, in other words excusing them, which will never happen. Or denying reality and pretending that it didn’t happen as badly as I thought. Nope, I’ll stick with the truth, thank you, even as painful as it is.

It has helped me to talk first about what it is not, which is all the things I just mentioned. Forgiveness is not excusing or denying or letting anyone off the hook of being accountable. At one point in the discussion it dawned on me – is it as simple as moving on? Is it simply getting to that point where “they” occupy less of my consciousness, and I am more consumed with the wonderful business of living my new life? I think so. Letting them go out of my mind does not excuse what happened. If I am ever asked to testify against their practices, I will gladly do so. Does spending more time living my new life suppress or deny or minimize the pain that was inflicted on me? Never. That pain lives as part of my life. Over time its sting has been softened by the joys and positive challenges of the new life I now have, but it is part of the fabric of who I am. I am stronger because of the harm they did to me. That does not put a good light on what they did, only on the ability of the survivor to survive, heal and grow. We survivors are an amazing miracle!

The place in my life where anger and outrage still over-shadow any feelings of release or forgiveness is not concerning the damage done to me. I think it is pretty universal that we can bear our own suffering a lot better than we can stand to see our loved ones suffer. When I witness the struggles my loved ones are still going through because of the life at CJ, the word ‘forgiveness’ is nowhere in the room. And it isn’t my place to forgive a wrong done to someone else. That is for each victim to do or not do, but as a mother, I feel intense outrage at what was done to my children.

Can I forgive them for the pain that was inflicted on me at the time they were controlling our lives? Can I forgive them for the continuing pain I feel now because of their way of life that was put on me? Cognitively I say yes. I understand that my rage is beating against a wall it cannot break down, a reality that cannot change. I understand that my frustrated rage is not productive. And yet, it has its place in my life. Suppression is worse than rage. As long as I need to go through the rage and express it, so be it. This too shall pass, but in the meantime, it is justified and has its place in the universe. Wrong doing needs to be cried out against and the emotions of a mother protesting the harm done to her children is a justified rage.

The true fruits of CJ can be best seen in those of us who have left, for it is only in us that they are not hidden. We are the ones who are in the real life struggle to cleanse ourselves of the bad fruit.

It is a ‘fruitful’ struggle, and God is with us to bring us new life.

I am still in the process of defining forgiveness and how it will be worked out in my life.