My life there and afterwards

Posts tagged ‘Sexuality’

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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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.”

BITE: Control types of clothing and hairstyles

My husband and I had come into Christianity from the Haight/Ashbury, hippie movement in San Francisco, CA. When we moved to the Community of Jesus, we were still wearing some of our hippie clothes. These included jeans, blanket serapes, and hand-crocheted tops.

The leaders talked with us about the drug/hippie culture, and how we knew who to give drugs to. We talked about how we could tell, both by how a person acted, and by what they wore, who might possibly be interested. Jeans had previously had a reputation for being a working man’s clothing, and the hippies had taken it on as a symbol of “the people”. Since the leaders were interested in controlling every aspect of our lives, they taught about clothing styles, what was appropriate and what wasn’t. They decided that since hippies wore jeans, they were part of Satan’s culture, and no Christian should be identified with them. They became outlawed, and those who owned jeans had to throw them out. They also determined the length of our skirts, and outlawed pants for the ladies unless we were gardening or exercising. When we did wear pants, our shirts had to come below our buttocks; otherwise we would be tempting the men. We were not allowed to have pierced ears, and those who came with them could no longer wear the earrings for them. Everything was cloaked under the rule of modesty, modesty, modesty, but everything was geared around suppressing any sexuality, even normal, within-bounds expressions of normal interests.

We also went through a similar time about hair styles and length. I had come to CJ with beautiful long hair, almost to my waist. Because the leaders saw this as part of the hippie movement, they labelled it rebellious. Everyone had to get their hair cut. All the women went to short haircuts, and the men went to crew cuts. It was hyped up as freeing us from the satanic influences of the world, and branding us as God’s people.

Nowadays I just shake my head at how superficial it all was. If we “looked good”, that was what counted. No real care was taken for our hearts and the needs, concerns and problems that we felt inside our heads and skins. It was all focused on behavior, and the leaders decided what behavior was legit.

I’ve been reading about Hobbes’ Leviathan in political philosophy, and that’s the model for the Community of Jesus. We gave all authority to the leaders, and then had to obey them.

BITE: When, how and with whom the member has sex (young people)

The founders did not model a good marriage. They lived together first in their homes, and then up in the Study, a lavish apartment they had built for themselves on the top story of the retreat house, next to the old Chapel. Their husbands also lived at CJ, but separately from their wives. They were background people, and it was obvious to me that the marriages were not happy ones. They were never a part of the ministry. One husband ran a carpentry business, and so he was somewhat of a role model for the men, hardworking, but not where marriage was concerned. The other husband was always in the background, worked off-Cape a lot, and seemed very suppressed.
The model for marriage was that the women led and were the more spiritual ones, the men were bossed around, and sex was non-existent.

Young people were kept separate from each other. As far as I know, there was never any sexual/marriage teachings, other than that chastity and purity were requisite, flirting or other outward expression of desire was forbidden, and that the world was going to make whores out of all of us. As parents we objected to sex education classes in the public schools. We kept our children home on the days they talked about reproduction. My children learned of sex from their friends, although I did sit down and give the birds and bees talk. Everything was so suppressed I was never able to open up a safe atmosphere with my children so they would ask questions. My husband was a little better with our son than I was with our daughters as he was generally more laid back than I was. That got him into a lot of trouble, but it helped with the kids.

Teenagers especially were kept busy from waking until sleep so there was not time to sneak off and flirt. They were taught that virginity was the only way, and marriage was a call not everyone should answer. The monastic sister- and brother-hoods were held up as the superior call, and all the young people were strongly encouraged to consider joining. Some were even told that the leaders had received words of knowledge from God that they were supposed to be monastics, and that they were fighting God if they didn’t take their vows. My own daughter had this done to her and was coerced into taking her vows.

If a boy and girl were attracted to each other and wanted to date, they had to go meet with the leaders, separately at first, and state that they thought they were being called into a relationship with the other person, and get permission to start seeing each other. If the leaders agreed, they could start talking to each other, and sitting together at public functions; church, dinners, picnics. This was a big deal, and was a public statement. There was no touching, kissing, or sex talk. They were watched, by everyone, to make sure they stayed proper. If they were caught sneaking off or stealing a kiss, the relationship was terminated. Maybe in 6 months they could try again – maybe.

Some of the marriages were arranged. I have seen some budding couples split apart never to get together again. Some break-ups were initiated by the couple themselves, but some were split apart by the leaders with many tears shed on the part of the young people. I know of at least one marriage where they were told to marry. The man wanted to, but the woman did not, and to this day she is unhappy. They have children, and make the best of it that they can, partly by staying very busy to suppress the reality.

It is an extremely stressful style of life. There are many cases of people drinking too much, taking anti-depressants, migraines and other symptoms of suppressed stress.

BITE: When, how and with whom the member has sex (adults and monastics)

Sex was suppressed at CJ. It was denigrated and laughed at. It was seen as an evil force that had to be denied. The more you denied it and the expression of it, the holier you were. The body had to be covered up in order to prevent the mind from thinking of sex. No cleavage at all could show, and more than that, too much chest was also bad. High necklines were the norm. No sleeveless tops. Men had to wear shirts at all times. No bare chests for them, even when swimming. Nothing shorter than Bermuda shorts. We wore our skirts halfway between knee and ankle so that if we crossed our legs, nothing would show. For a while women could not wear pants, then it was allowed for gardening or berry picking, then eventually it was allowed, but not preferred. No shorts were allowed.

Coffee hours were a practice we used to have, where from 3-4 every weekday afternoon those of us on the property would gather to have coffee and snacks and fellowship. Nice idea, but I was always so uptight about doing something wrong I could never relax. Either I would express some opinion that wasn’t conservative enough, or my kids would be too loud in their play, or I didn’t have anything spiritual to talk about so would feel “out of it”. That was a favorite phrase we bantered around a lot if someone wasn’t fitting into the norm. One of the ministers took it upon himself to monitor how the ladies were sitting. This was before the length of the skirts had been dictated, and if a lady crossed her legs and wasn’t careful, someone on the other side of the circle could see up her skirt. The minister’s grandmother would always sit this way and not care, so he would call out “Grandma Gertrude” to the woman in arrears. Not long after that summer is when one of the leaders called all of us women in and laid down the law about the length of skirts. We had to stand in front while she eyed us and measured how long our skirt had to be to look the best on us and be decent enough. We were given the number of inches from the floor, and all our skirts had to be that length. For a while we were wearing skirts with an extra border around the bottom because we had to lengthen all the skirts we already had.

We made our own swimsuits because all of the ones for sale were too indecent. Our suits looked like tennis dresses. On one occasion, at a public pond, a couple was quite concerned and upset that our girls were swimming in their tennis dresses, that it was not safe to swim with that much material. We soon stopped going to public places to swim, and only swam at the beach in front of the complex.

I think suppression is a lesser evil than sexual abuse, but it also has many problems. When it is taught that sex is dirty, sinful, a chore, and unnecessary except to procreate, this shuts off a whole normal area of the human experience, and drives a wedge between married couples. It certainly tainted my relationship with my husband. They taught that unbridled passion was lust. Even in marriage if you allowed yourself to fully enjoy the experience, you were giving in to your lust, and that sin would contaminate everything else that you did. They taught that it would become obvious, and everyone would know that you were a lustful person. They brought up the sins of our past as proof that we were not free now of the same sins. Because after high school I was experimental and a bit promiscuous for a while, they said I had the nature of a whore, and that had to be denied, even in a marriage setting. It totally affected my ability to be loving with my husband, and drove a wedge between us. It was part of the reason we stopped talking with each other, and eventually led to our divorce, which the leaders and those who were counseling me all encouraged me to go through with. And oh yes, the missionary position was the only acceptable one. Anything else was Kinky and shameful and sin, sin, sin.

Later when I became a sister, I saw how it cramped and warped the attitudes of the young ladies who had never been in love. It put a whole layer of guilt on them because they did not know how to handle their normal biological hormonal drives. Instead of intelligent education and counseling, they were made to feel dirty and guilty. The leader said once to a group of the young sisters that having sex was like “having a broomstick shoved up your ass”. She made it seem like the dirtiest, most uncomfortable, abusive thing a woman would ever have to endure, and that they were much better off never having to experience it.

The sisters were told to suppress and deny their sexual feelings, calling it lust, and those who had trouble doing this were a scandal. One young lady could not stop having trouble. She was told to wear gloves to bed, to pray extensively, to confess to one particular sister every single time it happened, to confess every single sexual thought or fantasy she had. This put her into a constant state of shame and guilt. It also drove her to be perfect in other areas to prove that she wasn’t a totally depraved person. She was very uptight and driven.
If any flirtings or misdemeanors were discovered, and they were, it was quickly hushed up and covered over, but the people involved were made to feel shamed and rejected. There was no healthy counseling that I know of. I certainly did not experience any until in recent years, after I left.

BITE model examples, Physical Reality

Steven Hassan’s BITE model.

Behavior Control

1. Regulate individual’s physical reality.

The leaders had a tight hold on how all aspects of our life was to be lived. The basis of their teaching was bringing the Gospel of Jesus into everyday life. From this start, they addressed every detail of daily living, from how to fold towels properly, to whom you should marry.

The women in the Community of Jesus had sessions with the leaders, for example, where they would show us how to fold towels with their ends perfectly matching and they had to be in thirds so no edges showed. From this teaching, if the house “parents”, the ones in charge of each house, found your towels folded otherwise, you were “corrected” for being rebellious, and not caring enough to bring glory to God. Gardens had to be kept up, flowers dead-headed regularly, kids toys picked up. One of the leaders ran the guest house, Bethany. It was a bed and breakfast before CJ started, and she had a flair for fashion, loved to have beautiful and expensive things around, loved antiques, and demanded that everything be orderly, clean and in place at all times. She instructed us how to do housework, and we had to dust everything every week even if it didn’t need it. She said that if there was no dust visible, then we were polishing the furniture. She was a stickler for routine. These are fine values if they are kept in balance with the rest of your life. There was no balance. It encouraged competition and a drive for status. It taught us that obedience was the highest virtue.

I will talk more about being told who to marry under number 3: When, how and with whom the member has sex.

This is just a small everyday example of the detailed control they exercised. They presented this control as a teaching about how to live your daily life for God. But instead of giving a general teaching, and allowing each of us to find our own ways of applying it, they set up the ways in which we were to glorify God in everything.
The scrutiny and control was applied to more than towel folding of course. It included how we did everything, how we related to each other, our worship/spiritual life, our work lives. We were told who would work within the Community grounds and offices, and who needed to have a job in the “outside” community. We were told where we would work, what department, what job. This usually did not take into account what your skills were.

I worked in the audio/visual department for many years. I learned how to record and mix the audio, splicing tapes before it went digital. It started out by recording all of the teaching sessions. I would love to get my hands on those old recordings and take a fresh look at the original teachings. They have been transcribed, but I highly doubt that they would let me read them. Even a non-member would probably not get to see them until they had been sanitized. Then I was the video editor when we expanded into cameras and video productions. For a year I was the supervisor of the shipping department at Paraclete Press, run by CJ. Then I worked for several years in their business office, called the Scribe’s Office. I managed the community calendar and the membership database. Then I was unexpectedly moved over to the financial office, called the Bursar’s Office. After a year there, I was pulled out and put into the IT department. I had done a terrific job in finances, cleaning up a long standing mess with the A/P, and this move was totally to yank me around, keep me out of control. The leader said it “…was for my healing” !!!

This is a brief glimpse into how we were moved around in our jobs, our talents were not considered, and there was no place where we could develop our skills or contribute in a responsible way. Any suggestions I had over the years for job improvement were ignored or put down.

Chronicle article 20 years ago

About 20 years ago Chronicle Magazine did a TV series on the Community of Jesus. You can still see it on YouTube. Type in “Community or Cult” and they are the ones posted by TruthIsVictory.

The leader says on there that there is no “sex direction” at CJ. I personally was at several of her teachings where she taught the sisters and the married couples about sex, that it wasn’t worth all the fuss and bother, that it was almost always sinful, etc. She was very graphic and rude with the sisters, saying things I cannot repeat publicly. The founders taught a lot of restrictions about sex in marriage.

The leader says that the 40 day grape fasts were all voluntary, there was no authoritarian direction to do them. I remember the founders telling us in no uncertain terms that we were all going on those fasts, and that no one was exempt. I suffered, as did many others from malnutrition and physical exhaustion from those fasts.

The leader says the “old light sessions” were no longer practiced. When the leaders heard that the ex-members were targeting the light sessions, and we all knew that abuse had happened at them, they told us to not mention that word anymore. They were officially stopped and banned, BUT, that we would continue the practice, just not call them by that name. “Light sessions” were no long going on, but carry on the practice with no name.

She says that children are not moved out from their parents home against their wishes. There was a variety of feelings on this. Some parents and children wanted the separation. Others, myself included, did not. Those of us who did not had no choice. It was the CJ practice, the decision came down from all the leaders, and there was no arguing with it. I personally have suffered untold grief over what they did to my family.

And so leadership is very careful not to appear to be using coercion. She is always phrasing it in the terms “you have a choice”. But she’s working with the people that are already brainwashed. I knew very well that there was really no choice involved. Just tell me what to do, tell me how high to jump and I’ll jump. So she can phrase it as choice all she wants to, but I was already conditioned. So she gets away with coming off and looking like, more benign, and more loving and more reasonable. I really thought that, that when she was going to lead us I thought “Oh, the reign of the founders is over. Yeah, she’ll be more reasonable with us, working with us, leading us, this is awesome” Huh, I was fooled, but that is what I thought, and that is what she actively portrayed.

She told us that one leader had suffered a mental breakdown, from her ADD or whatever, and that is why she had to step into full power. that leader went off to a mental health place for a while and the leader wanted to have her committed there for good, but her children, fought it. Legally. Got legal action that she could retire in her own home, and she did. She had a beautiful apartment at the Community, where she lived until she died..

The leader took over and what I saw of her method was spiritual disapproval, and kicking people out. She told another sister and me, when we were Senior Sisters, “I want so and so out of this community” This was an older sister who was beginning to express dissatisfaction with our life. “She is too much trouble” OMG, so OK, here I am struggling and this is just another nail in my coffin, that if I start to spout off about how angry I really am inside, if I start to tell people I’m miserable, I’m going to be the next one on her roster to be kicked out. Toe the line, baby, and make the best of it that you can. That was the message to me. And also another sister. She said “Get her out of the Convent, put her with her mother. I cant’ get her to leave the Community but we’ll get her at least where she’s the least trouble. And I don’t want a lot of people going over there”

So she comes off, she can stand in front of a camera, and insist, “I always give everybody a choice. Everybody’s here by free choice. People do these things because they are dedicated to the work of God.” ON THE SURFACE. An unknowing person could say “Yeah it’s true”, but only because of what you see when you walk on the site. Live there a month and then see what you say.

No one had a chain around my ankle. But they did have a chain around my mind. You have no idea how your view of life can get warped if you are in an enclosed, high-control environment. Since I left and have learned about cults, and gotten a perspective, I can see it so clearly.

I just wish something could be done to expose them, to bring what is done in darkness into the light. If they are living such a wonderful life, why won’t they be accountable to mainstream churches?