My life there and afterwards

Posts tagged ‘Community of Jesus’

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.

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..

What to do about Cults?

How does one grapple with the phenomenon of cults, and the harm that they do?

We are all human, and if we are going to try to live in a larger sphere than our own self-seeking, there seems to be a call on our lives to care about others, and this is indeed the case. Everywhere you see people helping people. Many professionals give most of their lives to the service of others, and bless and are blessed in doing so. I am in no way saying that nothing is being done. However, I do wonder how we are to grapple with the situation we find ourselves in, in regard to cults.

I want to start this discussion by focusing primarily on religious cults, and even to narrow the field further, Christian cults. Those who know me find that as no surprise, for it was a Christian cult that I lived in and have been affected by. What responsibilities do the individual players in this scene have? What is my responsibility as an ex-member. What responsibility does the cult carry, whether they wish to acknowledge it or not? And to cast the net further out, does the rest of the Christian world carry any responsibility? Do other churches have any responsibility for harm done by a group that calls itself Christian? And if so, what form would that responsibility take?

When I talk about responsibility, many images come to mind. It probably is not realistic to think that mainstream Christian groups are going to set up a task force to monitor and “watch-dog” other fringe groups that call themselves Christian. Not only do thay have their own lives to live, but what moral standing would they have to do that? And yet, without that kind of responsibility for our “neighbors”, where does that leave the victims?

One answer, and a very good one, is that the victims have recourse to a lot of very good help for recovery. I have been the recipient of such help. And yet, I long for a world where we could go a step further. I would like to see two things happen. Prevention, and Accountability.

Prevention: ICSA and other groups are very visible, and do fantastic work. But how visible are they? To themselves and those who know of them, visible. To an ex-member fresh out of a cult? I did not know about them. I did not know recovery groups existed. As far as I knew, I was on my own. I finally did hear about a support group, but I long to make this a well-known issue that everyone knows about. I think every college campus needs a cult awareness course. Every town hall should have a flyer up.

Accountability: I realize the court system is not set up to judge cases of emotional or psychological abuse. However, the abuse is real, and in some cases is worse than physical abuse. If the country’s law system cannot deal with this kind of abuse, can other Christians raise their voice publicly, and bring public opinion to bear? Can people, and perhaps the media, become those who seek for accountability?

Responsibility: I feel a responsibility to speak out. If I remain silent, I am saying in essence that what goes on in the daily lives at the Community of Jesus doesn’t matter, that what happened to me and my family, and many friends, and continues to affect those who live there, doesn’t matter. If I remain silent, I am turning my back on harm being done, and ignoring it. I cannot do that. It would be no different than walking past a rape or robbery and not at least calling the police. I may not have much power, but I have a voice.