THE COLLECTIVISM, SOCIALISM, COMMUNISM & CATHOLICISM OF THE BRUDERHOF COMMUNITY
republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, and research purposes:
Why I Believe the Bruderhof is a Cult
I found that writing this down for myself helped to crystalize in my mind exactly what was wrong. After posting to alt.support. bruderhof, it also forced me to take a stand publicly against the Bruderhof.
As a result [of the stand] I have lost all contact with my parents and sibings in the cult. The sacrifice, while painful, is necessary for me to live out my belief in truth and to warn others regarding the true nature of the Bruderhof. My grieving for my parents and siblings started when the Bruderhof sued an organization I started called the Children of the Bruderhof. I asked my mother if she would support me going to jail if necessary over the lawsuit. Her response was "If it is for the greater good, yes!" I responded, "Whose greater good mom? My kids? My wife?" She could be heard softly weeping in the background. I had reached my true Mom then. I recently met with them to try to determine if there was any way to bridge the current impasse. My brother was there and did most of th talking *for* my parents. In the end it was clear that they would hold to the "party line", and wouldn't even consider a next step in attempting to heal the rift. I now give them and the Bruderhof entirely up to the Creator to sort out. Due to the grieving I had done prior [as a result of the lawsuit] I was able to almost ignore the pain of this last abandonment.
I write this to let people know you can heal, even from the family wounds. Yes, cults will use the leverage of families to attempt to stem the flow of the truth to the outside world. They are fighting for survivial, and the ends justify the means in their eyes.
Below is an expansion of Liftons characteristics. I wanted to follow it up with why I see the Bruderhof as a destructive cult. I do this in hope that their road to eventual decline can be turned into a renewal for its membership. Opening up of the Bruderhof to change and meaningful discussion with its ex-members and children would go a long way to bring positive change. Holding up the Bruderhof to close scrutiny about the difference between its espoused beliefs and how it acts can only will benefit the group in the long run. I am only doing what they taught me... to live my life the way I think Christ would have me. I cannot suborn my relationship to God either to a group or another individual.
While the argument rages as to what group is or isn't a cult or to what degree a group displays cultic tendencies, cult observers and ex-cultists alike will agree that a destructive group or cult is best defined as a group that espouses one thing, yet its actions are quite another. In other words, does a group practice what it preaches? Do its members exhibit positive influence on each other and the world around them? Or do they withdraw? How do they treat ex-members?
The following borrows heavily from Lifton's and others work. While every group or religion may possess one or more of the characteristics, cults will usually exhibit almost all of them. The degree as to which each is met is also telling. Rate your group, and if they exhibit most or all of these... your group is probably a destructive cult. If you are a parent, sibling, or friend of a cult member, investigate the group. A good place to start is by contacting ex-members. Find out how the group teaches its ex-members or others critical of the group. Observe the current member inside and out of the group's compound or away from other group member. Is critical thinking impaired? Has the members thinking taken a radical turn? What is the positive effect of this thinking on the individual?
The group is focused on a living (or dead) leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment. The group focuses on the leaders special insights that he/she alone can possess. These insights are often surreal or mystic in nature. "Deification" of leadership to the point of disregarding critical thought for oneself, changing thought patterns from one's former life to such an extreme one completely disassociates oneself from friends, family and other past associations.
*** The Bruderhof has long idolized it living leadership. The founders writings and teaches were (are) read more often the Bible. The founder's son Heini was revered as a prophet and charismatic leader. Both Heini and Eberhard's writings are treated like Holy Scripture, while the Bible gathers dust in the homes of members. Leadership has passed like "divine right" from father to son in the Arnold dynasty. The current leader is revered and held in awe much like his father and grandfather. His books, most likely written by ghost writers, once again are placed in a higher place then the Bible itself. These books are so important to the Bruderhof that they hawk them on the back of various causes, including the anti-death penalty movement and the protest against the Cuban blockade. I see that as incredibly self-serving. Christoph (or his ghosts) writes about forgiveness, yet entraps Dave Meandel in a lawsuit. I don't condone an attempt to extort money from the Bruderhof, but nor would I condone entrapment with the use of state law enforcement. As for family members, I have lost all contact with my parents and siblings currently in the cult, as I have chosen to speak the truth. If they were truely living out their stated beliefs, it would be necessary for them to reach out and love and convince me that I am not living up to Jesus example. "For what you do unto the least of these, My brethren, you do unto Me" Not only am I a true Child of the Bruderhof, but I am also one of the least of these.
The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members. Often this is done using deprivation of food , or withholding of sleep from the targeted recruit. Asking the recruit to "suspend belief for just a minute" is the start to many cult propaganda lectures. Female members may entice recruits with promises of or actual sexual favors.
*** The Bruderhof uses the pastoral setting and well meaning members to entice new membership. Recruits are asked to work without pay at the Bruderhof. The true nature of the Bruderhof is held back from the recruits. Brotherhood meetings are held in secret, not open to the public to see how denunciation, using real or imagined sins is used to beat the helpless member to the leaderships will. The Lords supper and the emotional, spiritual, and psychic flagellation that occur before are nor open to the public. The same is true of baptism preparation. Being constantly surrounded by members who seemingly display such caring and love lulls the recruit into a false sense of peace and contentment.
The group is preoccupied with making money. This is often done at the expense of the cult member. Uneven distribution of wealth within the group, where leadership enjoys material goods (or services) not available to the normal member. Does the leader own flashy, expensive cars? Large homes? What does the normal member receive? Does the member give all his/her income to the group? What do they receive in return?
*** The Bruderhof has allegedly seized numerous estates, and in some cases is believed to have changed legal documents to obtain inheritances. The Bruderhof does not pay its members, and controls what the members eat and wear. The Bruderhof demands all wealth and possessions be turned over to the group when one is baptized as a member, and one is expelled, these possessions are not returned. Often, little or no help is given to those expelled, even those with large families. In a recent case, the Bruderhof actually interdicted the efforts of a father to achieve gainful employment, and tried to have his wife's ability to earn a living revoked. The Bruderhof owns and operates a Gulf Stream Corporate jet. It leader uses that jet to visit other compounds, or, allegedly to go on vacations. It is believed that the leader drives a expensive Sports Utility Vehicle, a privilege other members cannot share. It is believed the leader regularly uses his wealth to go to expensive restaurants, attend movies and rent videos, while the membership is denied all of these. In short, the leader enjoys a different lifestyle then the members, enjoying the perks of power and wealth while withholding from the membership. The membership is believed to have no knowledge of this privileged lifestyle.
Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. This punishment may take the form of shunning or banishment from the group. Critical thought is discouraged or disallowed. Fear of punishment, either emotional, or physical is used to make members follow leaderships edicts. Group "peer pressure" is used to force the individual member to question or change his/her critical thinking. The group and its goals hold higher priority then the individual. Deprivation of social interaction with others is used to mold thought patterns and punish the individual for supposed wrongdoing or questioning of the leadership.
*** Exclusion or exclusion from the group is common. In a recent case, when one member questioned the harassment campaign of a help line offered by the Children of the Bruderhof, he and his family were expelled as a result. His refusal to back down in his questioning lead to his expulsion. In another recent case, a member attempted to start a Bible study group, and was expelled as a result. This from a so-called Christian organization! A great crisis was created in the 1960 time frame to consolidate power around Heini Arnold, and as many as 600 people were expelled as a result. Unity for its own sake is a fact of life in the Bruderhof. A recent incident yielded this quote. "It’s not whether it is right or wrong, but that we do it together." This quote is attributed to the wife of a person in a leadership role.
Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s). Use of confessions or other real or perceived "sins" or wrong doings are used to browbeat the member under duress. Often crises are created, using imaginary wrongs, to have members look inward to ferret out non-existent faults. The breakdown of the individual in favor of "group-think" is commonplace. Poor diet or sleep deprivation may be used.
*** Group "unity" take precedence over all else in the Bruderhof (See above quote). Sin files and perceived sins are used in "Brotherhood" meetings to manipulate the helpless soul under the leaderships scrutiny. Other members join in to browbeat the individual for fear that the focus will turn to them if they do not. True forgiveness is not a reality at the Bruderhof. Often (alleged) sins are dredged up over a period of years or decades. Manipulation by manufactured "crisis" are commonplace int the Bruderhof.
The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act, and feel (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth). This may even go into areas considered extremely private, such as what a married couple doe in the bedroom. The degree as to which this happens is one of the key features of a cult. Is the leaders word all pervasive? Followed without question? What recourse does a member have if he/she feels the leadership is wrong? What happens to the member if they do not follow the leaders edicts?
***. The Bruderhof leadership says who can and cannot date or marry. They control what happens in the marital bedroom. Careers are chosen, made or broken by the leadership. Equal opportunity for college education is not offered to all members. Children of the leadership are given leadership roles early on, and are favored with education they chose. Most all aspects of (communal) life are controlled by the leadership.
The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity). How does the differ from their actions, especially to members or children who have left the group. Does the group have "secret" writings or beliefs it will not share with its members or the public. To what degree are it governing or religious (group) functions open to the public? To ex-members? Does the group encourage public scrutiny?
*** In a 2 hour long discussion I had with a childhood friend, I asked him how I could have a relationship with him a fellow Christian he answered that I couldn't, that I would need to live at the Bruderhof. While the Bruderhof will not publicly admit to it, they claim the Bruderhof is the best way to serve Jesus. Prayer is withheld from other professing Christians. Brotherhood meetings are held in secret, away from public scrutiny. The Lord's Supper is not open to members outside the group (including other professing Christians)
The group has a polarized us- versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society. Often the group beliefs are black versus white, leaving little room for discussion or adaptation. Groups may arm or secure their compounds against real or perceived threats. Ex-members are often demonized, and access to family is restricted or cut off.
*** The Bruderhof has long held an us versus them mentality. Only in recent years has it turned to the "outside" to further its aim. It had long held itself back from the world, including withholding newspapers, TV and the like from its membership. Outside influence of almost any kind is discouraged. The withholding of family visitation has increased over the last several years. Can you imagine having such them versus us mentality that you would sue your own children? The Bruderhof has done it, in the case of the Hutterian Brethren against the Children of the Bruderhof. Mike LeBlanc was one of the defendants, and his parents are current Bruderhof members. Ex-members and children have been demonized, and almost all access to the Bruderhof from family members has been restricted or cut off totally. Recently the Elder of the Bruderhof gained a permit for a 44 caliber handgun, the reason on the permit was "for protection of the community (Bruderhof) and its members. Also, expensive security systems have been added to the Bruderhof properties. Police records also show shots being fired into a neighbors house in NY state.
The group's leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations). Often disregard for secular or constitutional law is scoffed at or trod upon. Illegal activities are justified by suspension of critical thinking, or paranoia about "attacks" from the outside. The leader is obeyed without question. and his/her actions cannot and will not be questioned.
*** The current Elder and his henchman are certainly not accountable to the membership. And they currently abuse both the legal system and law enforcement (in the entrapment of Dave Meandel, an ex-member). Their use of wire taps has gone uninvestigated by the authorities. The leadership recently flaunted their disregard for the law by join the Caravanistas breaking the Cuban blockade. They support a murderer of a policeman. You be the judge.
The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group (for example: collecting money for bogus charities). Illegal or immoral acts, including use of harassing lawsuits, become commonplace. Wiretaps and theft of information are used. Email accounts may be interdicted.
*** See above. Could you sue your own children? What about making stickers for a supposed sex line using the help line number started by the Children of the Bruderhof? Wiretapping? Blocking children from visiting the grave of their loved ones? Parents? What about telling relatives of death months after the event? These and other acts are examples of immoral, unethical, and in some cases illegal activities the Bruderhof has taken to of late.
Members' subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group. Suspension of critical thinking is pre-dominant. Destruction of the individual in favor of the group is commonplace. Mail or other communication may be intercepted.
*** Calls are not taken by loved ones inside the compound. Email and other mail is either directly filtered, or by using peer pressure, the mail is handed over to leadership. It is believed that mail outbound may never be sent. We know email has been either directly or in-directly been intercepted by the leadership.
Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group. This is enforced enough that the member may suffer poor health. Their appearance may change. Often the members are forced to live or work in the compound of the group. The members earnings are given to the group and its leader, the member getting little or nothing in return.
*** The Bruderhof demands your life.. period. You are expected to give all time and money to the Bruderhof. Your relationships are controlled by the leadership. You thoughts, feelings, and emotions are constantly called into question and manipulated for the leaders purposes. Manipulation by fear and crisis are commonplace at the Bruderhof. Upon expulsion the members is often given little or no help. The Bruderhof has even made it difficult for ex-members to find work.