The Bruderhofs - a lot like JW's

by DanTheMan 5 Replies latest jw friends

  • DanTheMan

    I just stumbled across this - very fascinating reading. I had never heard of this group, but just another example of how fundy/world-renouncing religions have the same core spirit. My comments are in red.

    A Case Study of the Conflict between a New Religious Movement and its Critics

    by Julius H.Rubin, Professor of Sociology
    Saint Joseph CollegeWest Hartford, CT 06117

    This paper was presented at the annual meetings of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, November 5-8, Montreal, Canada.

    The final version of this essay will be published in a forthcoming book Misunderstanding Cults, edited by Benjamin Zablocki and Thomas Robbins

    "The battle has been about free speech, and free speech is about disagreement. And so we disagree."
    Salman Rushdie regarding Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's 1989 religious edict
    charging blasphemy and authorizing Rushdie's death for Satanic Verses.[1]

    This essay examines the strange and troubling story of how one new religious group has attempted to suppress freedom of speech for apostates and social scientists who have published critical analyses, raised troubling questions, and made serious charges about the institutional practice and individual conduct of members of this religious group. We will consider the masterful public relation efforts where this sect has manipulated the media to produce puff pieces that have supported their protected and idealized image. We will detail the strategies employed to attack and quiet the voices of apostates and academic critics, branding them as the demonic "enemies of the faith." This story reveals an irony: to protect their religious brotherhood the sect has engaged in unbrotherly actions as they oppose their critics and the organized resistance of apostates.

    Right now you're thinking this is about JW's. You are incorrect!

    The group in question, the Bruderhof, is a high-demand Christian community of goods. Within their church-community, they struggle to create and maintain the absolute unity of their brotherhood. The faithful surrender in radical discipleship to the mandate of the Holy Spirit, as mediated to them by their leadership. The Bruderhof cleaves to a single belief system, a dogmatic orthodoxy. The leadership prevents their common brothers and sisters from enjoying unrestricted access to newspapers, radio, television, popular culture and the Internet. Within the sect, they do not tolerate open debate, but instead demand unquestioning conformity to community standards of belief and practice.

    ...(omitted non-essential info, I am linking the full article at the end if you care to read the whole thing)

    The Bruderhof (also known in past times as the Society of Brothers or Hutterian Brethren), is a Christian intentional community founded in the 1920s in Germany by Eberhard Arnold. It is now entering its fourth generation, with eight settlements or 'hofs', and approximately 2,200 members in America and England. They support themselves by manufacturing quality children's toys under the trade name 'Community Playthings', and products for disabled people through Rifton Enterprises.

    Visitors to the Bruderhof encounter a peculiar combination of a medieval village community and late twentieth-century technological sophistication that includes ultramodern telecommunications, Japanese manufacturing techniques, a community-owned Gulfstream jet, and extensive computerization. Hof life appears idyllic. Violent crime, illicit drug abuse, or economic and material concerns are largely absent from their lives. Premarital sexual activity is prohibited, and single parent families are largely unknown in the community. Divorce is not permitted. Thus, Bruderhof families are not disrupted by family patterns that characterize the wider society.

    The ethical mandate of the Sermon on the Mount serves as the biblical foundation for Bruderhof settlements. Believers, surrendered into radical discipleship to Jesus, strive to overcome their sinful alienation from God through conversion and adult baptism. They emulate the apostolic Church by devoting themselves to the fulfillment of the Sermon on the Mount, espousing the principles of pacifism and non-resistance to evil. The brotherhood holds all things in common, rejecting the divisiveness caused by private property and the pursuit of worldly privilege and power. The faithful are bound together in unanimity of thought and belief and espouse an ethic of brotherly love.

    In strict conformity to the teachings of Jesus, the community enforces purity of conduct, thought and intentionality in the hearts and minds of true believers. The Church community keeps close watch to ensure that members hold to their religious ethos, motivated by the leadings of the Holy Spirit. They practice the brotherly watch to purify themselves from sin. Their ethos strictly regulates all forms of conduct, belief, appearance, dress and demeanor, with particular emphasis upon the repression of premarital or extramarital sexual expression. Brothers and sisters are prohibited from gossip or idle chatter. Should differences or conflicts arise between members, they must go directly to the person or persons in question and strive to bring a peaceful and loving resolution of these differences or 'unpeace'. Church discipline requires public confession and repentance of sin, and exclusion of the errant sinner into the world. Only by fostering absolute unity, the Bruderhof maintains, can it collectively form a vessel to capture the Holy Spirit in childlike joy, humility and surrender to Jesus.(!!!!!)

    The first Bruderhof community at Sannerz, Germany, in 1921, began as a charismatic group devoted to Eberhard Arnold. This countercultural commune attracted educated, middle class youth from the student movement and German Christian Movement, who rejected the rationalized orders of modern society. The early members of the Bruderhof embraced an ethic of universal brotherhood, assured of the millennial advent of the Redeemer's Kingdom in their lifetime. The Bruderhof relocated in 1927 to Fulda, Germany, to the Rhoen community.

    In the period 1928-32, Arnold struggled to develop financial, organizational and doctrinal stability for his charismatic Church. He found the solution to the 'routinization of charisma' by adopting the religious orders and administrative blueprint of North American Hutterite communities. Arnold traveled to America, received ordination as a Hutterite minister, and affiliated his community with this Anabaptist conventicle.

    Bruderhof members steadfastly refused to cooperate with the Nazis, to surrender their sons for compulsory military service, or to utter the oath of allegiance to the Nazi race-based salvation state. One year before Arnold's untimely death in 1935, they founded the Alm Bruderhof in neutral Liechtenstein and secreted draft-age men out of Germany. The Gestapo and SS closed the Rhoen community in 1937, seizing the property and deporting the members. The Alm community relocated in England in 1939-41, until the British forced the relocation of German nationals. The Bruderhof could not find asylum in North America, but was permitted to migrate to the underdeveloped Chaco region of Paraguay. The Primavera, Paraguay, El Arado, Uruguay hofs served as the center of Bruderhof communitarianism until their closing in 1960. After World War II, new hofs were started in Germany and in England.

    Heinrich (Heini) Arnold, Eberhard's middle child, championed the conservative counter-trend, and continually attempted to redirect the movement to revitalize his father's theological vision.

    The critical turning point in the Bruderhof movement came in 1954 with the founding of the Woodcrest Hof in Rifton, New York. As Servant of the Word at Woodcrest, allied with enthusiastic American converts, Heini dissolved the Primavera and European brotherhoods, liquidated the community assets, and excluded several hundred baptized members during what is known as the Great Crisis of 1959-61. Hundreds of people were uprooted; many saw their lives shattered as they were rejected from the new brotherhood lists and made to forge new lives after decades of faithful service to the pioneering communities in Paraguay, Germany and England. Sounds like Bethel circa 1981, eh?

    The Great Crisis became the watershed that transformed the Bruderhof. Heini revitalized the movement in separation from the world as an introversionist sect, emphasizing evangelical pietist conversion models and extreme emotional fervor and devotionalism.

    The Bruderhof and Hutterites have shared the Anabaptist vision of a community of goods, pacifism, and separatism in a Church community to recreate the Kingdom of Christ in dynamic tension with the carnal kingdom of the world. They are organized as inclusive Church-communities, where the exercise of administrative and religious power is concentrated in the hands of Church leaders who interpret the Spirit and word of God.

    The Bruderhof members have passed down control of their movement to Eberhard Arnold's son and grandson in hereditary succession of office. This traditionalism is legitimated as emanating from the will of God, (in other words, A THEOCRACY!) whose divine order has also created a hierarchy of patriarchal relations between husband and wife, parent and child, and leader and follower. Authority patterns are believed to have originated with God; leaders serve as his instrument, providing spiritual and temporal rulership over the congregation. They also believe that God decreed an organic social order where men exercise authority over women, and parents over children.

    Here's where things get really interesting!

    The promises of salvation are inextricably tied to the surrender to God's will and the believer's submission to divinely-legitimated hierarchical authority. In this manner, the Bruderhof instills habits of unquestioning obedience to the authority of the witness brothers and the servant of the word. Church discipline derives from the book of Matthew, enjoining brothers, motivated by love, to engage in fraternal correction and admonishment of the offending member, urging the offender to seek repentance, reform and return to good standing within the community. However, those persons whose ideas or individual consciences endanger doctrinal orthodoxy; those who stand against the leadership and threaten unity; those who cannot or will not repent and reform from sinful thoughts and conduct, must be punished with increasingly severe forms of church discipline.

    (Note the phrase "increasingly severe" - hmmm....private reproof, loss of privileges, public reproof, and of course DF)

    The threat of exclusion proves a powerful and dreaded method of social control in the Bruderhof. A brotherhood member's baptismal vow to the community takes precedence over any natural ties of blood to spouse, children or kin. Exclusion invariably disrupts families as those who remain must shun the offending brother, or watch helplessly as their loved one is forced to depart the community. The trauma of ostracism, exclusion, family disruption and shame is shared by the family, falling most heavily upon children. Paradoxically, the Bruderhof stresses joyful surrender and abiding love, yet imposes the most severe penalties of civic-religious 'death', mental suffering and unbrotherly rejection of the unrepentant sinner.

    (No commentary needed for that paragraph!!!)

    The members of the Bruderhof are, by their own account, "authoritarian with respect to Christ" requiring the undivided loyalty of their members.[3] The concentration of spiritual and political power into an elite leadership group of servants, ever-obsessed with unity,(!!!!) has resulted in the continued and systematic abuse of Church discipline as a political device to expel members, who because of individual conscience, question or oppose community policy. Such persons stand charged with sins of pride, selfishness and egoism, and are said to be motivated by 'the wrong spirit', or to have lukewarm zeal. (more !!!!!)

    Many Bruderhof apostates recount childhoods marked by family disruptions when one or both parents were excluded. Children suffered beatings, administered by parents, as ordered by leaders, with the purpose of using physical discipline to "win the children to the life."[4] Others tell of times in childhood when adults conducted interrogations, known as 'clearances', to garner confessions of sexual sin and impurity. (hmmm...I wonder if they ask the sisters if they were wearing a thong!! Or if they were on top!! LOL)

    Young women confront the issues of powerlessness and gender inequality in spiritual and temporal roles, and severe limits are placed upon their aspirations and participation in the community. Women especially bear the burdens of Gelassenheit,(is that German for submission?) resignation and self-renunciation to the will of God, as enforced by the patriarchy.

    Many journalists, visitors and guests have extolled the virtues of this Christian community by writing uncritical accounts of the Bruderhof. In the past five years, more than fifty articles in local and national publications such as Sojourners, Christian Century and The New York Times have presented an apologetic, uncritical, idealized and sentimentalized portrait of the community.[5] (sounds a lot like some of the fluff that gets printed about JWs) Local newspapers in American communities adjacent to Bruderhof settlements print a seemingly endless series of human interest stories that, for example, portray blond and fair children weaving garlands of flowers in celebration of nature and the coming of spring. Somber, bearded men in plain shirts, suspenders and trousers march in a 'peace witness' against nuclear war or the death penalty. Women with heads covered in polka-dot kerchiefs and attired in long, modest dresses go about their daily routine with heads bowed in humility. High-minded men and women unite in Christian community as seekers of God's Kingdom. I term these one-sided accounts of the Bruderhof, telling the "Bruderhof story" as a public relations exercise that presents the community in an unreflective and uncritical light. The community has attempted to preserve the Bruderhof story as the only credible and legitimate presentation of Bruderhof history and social reality by suppressing and discrediting the voices of apostates and academic critics.(Once again, no commentary necessary)

    Click here for the entire article.

  • Sangdigger

    Dan the man, all i can say is......WOW!!!! Is this de ja vu or what?

  • DanTheMan

    Wow is definitely the word - i could hardly believe it myself when I was reading this.

  • DevonMcBride

    These traits are similar in many cults. What amazed me was the similarity between the Amish and the JW's.

  • DanTheMan

    Can't say I know too much about the Amish. I'll have to do some reading up on them.

  • worf


    Thanks for this information. I had never heard of this cult before. This is really interesting.

    I also read a book entitled: "Twisted Scriptures" by Mary Alice Chrnalogar. this is another book that shows how so many so-called religions and ministries are just like the jw cult. After I read it I had to call the author and personally thank her for writing that book.


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