This week was my Leaversary! 40 years ago at the age of 18 I decided I needed to leave the Bruderhof and struck off on my own with one month’s rent and $50. I had started tech school in Pittsburgh and had arranged for financial aid so that was covered. That first weekend I walked to the nearest intersection and got a job at Penguini’s Pizzeria washing pots. I was cut off from my parents, childhood friends and the life I had known where I thought I would live out my days. It was exciting, scary and very lonely. I had to create a completely new life with different values and culture – music, movies, TV. I was suddenly exposed to all of the 60s and 70s rock and roll in a single day! Wow!! I watched a lot of bad sitcom reruns and learned some of the wrong things. It took me three years to kiss a girl and immediately confessed that I loved her! It was our first date and she never went out with me again. I have to laugh at that now. It took a few more years and plenty of mistakes but eventually I met the right girl, went back to school, became a doctor, had children, paid my debts and now am able to reach back and help others navigate the same path. Cheers to everyone willing to risk it all and strike out on your own. I and many others are here to help if you just ask.
Afterhof.com vs Afterhof Facebook group
This website is intended to be a resource for anyone who has recently left the Bruderhof or other restrictive religious community. The journey to living in the real world can be long and painful. We hope to ease that transition. On Facebook you will find a public page also called Afterhof that is a bulletin board for anyone to communicate or post about Bruderhof related topics. https://www.facebook.com/groups/996164867093059/?ref=share
Why I didn’t join the Bruderhof
Afterhof FaceBook discussion started on 1/31/18. Copied at end of 2/1/18.
Dave Marchant In the spirit of Afterhof being “a public resource for recent leavers”, I’m posting a letter I wrote to my parents (A&J) on why I as a dedicated follower of Jesus (of around 8 years at the time) did not “feel called” to join the Bruderhof. I’m hoping it might be of some value to those newer leavers who are similarly minded but might be in the process of working through things yet.
It should go without saying that I don’t expect anyone to have the same perspectives or even agree with mine, whether a follower of Jesus or not. I’m fine with any criticism or input starting with mine: I would earned an F in Jane C’s 8th grade English class on this due to all the “nice” I used in the first paragraph – she forbade the use of that word!
I found this letter a few days ago when looking through my disc drive archives for something else. I don’t remember the conversation that led to this, writing the letter, nor any related correspondence afterwards.
—–February 19, 1997
Dear Daddy and Mommy,
It was nice to talk to you last week. I had a nice weekend between then and now. D&D came up to visit me for Saturday. We had a good time. We went rollerblading in Charlotte which has a nice clean, new downtown area without much traffic on the weekends. It was nice catching up with them. The weather has been gorgeous recently – 55-65 degrees and sunny. No complaints on my end!
In our conversation last week, you challenged me to consider living a more radical life in service to God and my brothers and sisters and I gathered you wanted me to consider more seriously the way of life you have chosen in the Bruderhof. Actually, in the last week I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in prayer on this or in quiet contemplation, but I did want to jot down for you the things that pop to mind. I do this so you can know where I’m at, and I think it will be good for me to do this just to kind of formalize and crystallize my thoughts. I’m typing, because if I scribbled at the same speed I’m typing, you wouldn’t be able to read it. Please don’t read too much into the comments I’m making – use them more as a starting point in understanding where my heart and mind are at. In this letter I’m just simply going to list out the thoughts I have which are for and against me living the life you live. Here I go:
1) One of the most important and fulfilling parts of my adult life has been my involvement in different things in which a sense of family developed. Some bible study groups, some less formal groups of friends, even some work environment stuff have turned out that way. I believe everyone seeks and desires intimacy, fellowship, and “koinonia”. The Bruderhof is all about that and probably on a deeper level than most of my experiences to date.
2) Most of the things that I tend to seek for at a deeper level are things that I have come to the realization that I will always be struggling with as long as I live in this human body of mine. Things like seeing things through spiritual eyes, denying myself and my selfishness, having a heart to heart relationship with God and with the brothers I am closest to, etc… I believe one can definitely grow in these areas, but one never “makes it”. I think seeking alongside brothers and sisters of the same heart and mind is something that is very attractive about the Bruderhof.
3) I started praying a couple of weeks ago that I would be more carefully listening to what God is calling me to. I feel like I have become good at quickly blocking God’s voice out when he is calling me to something radical, that I don’t even consciously realize I’m doing it. I see that I have an easy time taking physical risks (acting crazy), but I’m pretty lousy at extending myself emotionally with the risk of getting hurt, and I think the same can be said about my spiritual life as well. In respect to my recent prayer I feel like the timing of your challenge was definitely God-given.
4) I’m getting kind of frustrated in life in the search for a wife. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t spend tons of time on my own effort chasing down my desires in this area. I’ve really tried to allow God to lead me and her together. It seems like about every two years (a slow pace by some people’s standards) I meet someone whom I feel could be a person God is leading me towards. All the “relationships” I’ve been in, have ended up with the woman pulling back or breaking it off and feeling like I’m not the one for her. I just had this conversation with a woman who is one of the neatest people I’ve met and I wonder if it is maybe “more than coincidence” and God is trying to get through to me in some way right at this time. I’ve been struggling a little with the “rejection”. What I think hurts me the most is not that I am not loved, appreciated, and wanted in a reciprocal way, but that it seems that when I try to love someone, the object of my love doesn’t want to accept the love.
I don’t know what all of this has to do with anything, but, like I said, it could be God trying to tell me something. Things that seem like coincidence often aren’t.
5) Talking about circumstance, here’s a few other unsettling things that have taken some of the comfortableness and security out of my life. a) I made a small mistake at work a few weeks back that blew up and caused some major misunderstandings. I doubt any bad things will happen, but I feel at times like my job is not nearly as secure as it has been. b) A friend of mine moved up from Atlanta. A lot of conversations we’ve had, have made me see how I’ve settled for less than I’m capable of spiritually and in my friendships. c) One other thing is the timing of a major event in the church I’m part of – they are considering merging with another church. The timing is interesting because I can see firsthand the decision making approach they are taking. It has caused me to think a lot about the issues of unity and how the Holy Spirit moves to give a consistent message to individuals within the Body especially since this particular situation involves two congregations.
1) I find myself always rebelling against people living life with their brains turned off. This usually takes the form of people conforming for the sake of conforming. Spiritual and mental laziness. I don’t like it when I get into one of those ruts of living on “auto-pilot”. This seems to happen at the Bruderhof a bunch, but I guess that is only natural. The thing that bothers or intimidates me the most is that since the Bruderhof is so small, I wouldn’t be able to run and hide and just deal with my “auto-pilot” rut. Instead this issue would always be in front of me and I’d have to deal with it in the open. I guess in a sense this is attractive to me in the sense of the unity in seeking God and his righteousness together, but it challenges the stew out of my independence. I guess this is more of a me issue than a Bruderhof issue.
2) The flip side of number 2 above is that there are things I seek for that would not change no matter where I was. For example, Gods’ curse on Adam and on all males that came into the world after him, is that they would seek satisfaction through their work and what they do – their accomplishments. This is a frustration which I believe is universal. You might disagree, but I think joining the Bruderhof would not get rid of the boredom with life I often feel when thinking about how I spend much of my life. It’s so easy for the things I do in life to dominate over the fact that God loves me despite my weakness and failings; that I’m perfect in His eyes, and the peace of heart that comes from knowing that. We’ve talked about this before and you’ve made statements to the fact that, for instance, working in the shop is serving ones brothers and is therefore fulfilling. I think that plays along the same lines that many of my friends draw – that of distinguishing between their “secular” lives and their “spiritual” lives. I believe that in the work I do, my job from a heavenly perspective, is to do my best and to allow myself, by His power and working, to be a light in what I do, what I say, and in how I act and react. Being immersed in the darkness of the “world” and allowing God to work through me as a light for Him is fulfilling, but I lose sight of that so often and that curse of Adam pops right back up.
3) A lot of times, I equate failure with leaving the world I live in and its worries for a much simpler life (the Bruderhof or the “mission field”, for example). In my head I know this is silly, but it’s really how I feel.
4) I don’t like the narrow scope of the extra-biblical materials and influences the Bruderhof uses in its inner life. It almost seems to me that there is some sort of holiness associated with the writings of the Blumharts, Arnolds, etc. In a class I am taking right now in the Presbyterian Church I have been going to, we have been studying the “Westminster Confession of Faith”. I have the same reaction to the place John Calvin and Martin Luther have in the Presbyterian tradition. Why can’t we rely on God and His Holy Spirit to be our Counselor in the “here and now” of our seekings and strivings today? Along with a God who is alive and well, why not figure it out for ourselves today rather than putting stuff that happened 10, 100, or 1000 years ago on a pedestal? My thinking is that although these writings are good in and of themselves, my problem is that they tend to have the effect of giving us definition of who we are so we can have an “identity” that sets us apart from others who may not have the depth that we strive for or are going in a slightly different direction. This is denominationalism and it comes about because we are not simply content to have our identity and security come from our position as adopted sons of God.
4) I don’t get into the superficial things that give groups their identity. For example, in the Bruderhof, clothing is a big one. You might say that this is such a superficial topic and ask me why am I worrying about it. I agree that this is superficial, but it is a negative for me, so I pose the same question back.
5) Is the way of life at the Bruderhof really that radical? When talking to a friend this last week about the conversation you had with me, she asked me that. I was kind of stumped. We’ve talked a little about this, but we have not got a chance to finish that conversation yet. I plan to, and that might be good for me. She asked if a life of radical Godliness while much more immersed in the world than you are isn’t actually more radical.
Here’s one thing we’ve talked a little about: Something I get to do which Bruderhof people don’t get to do nearly as much is rubbing shoulders on a day to day basis with non-Christians. I think it is very radical to live a Christian life, denouncing the patterns of this world, while living, playing, and working in the world. People I work with, for instance, get to see me for who I really am on a daily basis – my strengths, but also my weakness and failings. For the way I react and respond to their sin and my sin, I need to rely totally on God if I am to be a “light” for Him. If my only involvement with the “world” was through programs and other short, infrequent interactions it would be easy for me to put on a good face (maybe even hypocritical) to do something “for” God. I would much rather He do something for me and through me.
6) The Bruderhof is very into their own agenda on their own timeframe. I spoke to I&L about their desire and requests for you to be the Grandparents their family needs – they don’t have family on her side. It’s so easy to be busy with even the good, Christian things in life, that one can block out the needs staring one right in the face. I think about Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan – a story about whom ones true neighbor is – equally, who ones true family is. The Mercy of God loves the unlovable especially in times they don’t deserve it. There’s a saying that goes something like, “You can catch more flies with honey than with Raid®”
I don’t know much about KIT, or whatever that disgruntled ex-Bruderhof group of people is called. I have neither contacted anyone involved in it nor have I been contacted by anyone in it. I would bet that this issue is a central one fueling their discontent.
7) I’m not into the “group think” thing. Maybe I don’t understand “unity”, but it seems like during my visits, people have such a narrow interest and perspective in exactly the same issues. This dynamic happens everywhere I’ve been – companies, churches, the 6 o’clock news, etc. and not just at the Bruderhof. It’s easy to be fed only a little piece of the whole story and feel informed enough make one’s own decisions. People get unnecessarily hurt so often by this kind of thing happening.
When I think I know the whole scoop on things, I don’t feel like I need to deeply listen to the needs of others. To keep this dynamic (which is so natural) from occurring, takes a lot of effort. I find that the only way I can have the strength to really deeply understand where people are coming from is for me to first understand God’s mercy and grace in my life. I need to desire for God’s mercy and love to flow through my life and into the lives of other people.
8) Commitment scares me. Lifetime vows are pretty intimidating to me. I have made a lifetime commitment to God and I’m doing pretty well at remaining true to that. Even though I sin often and can’t seem to lick my “pet sins”, my love for God doesn’t seem to go away even though I feel like it should. Humanly thinking, I’ve done well – I’ve been a Christian for 8 years compared to only 4 years at any job I’ve worked at, 4 years in college, and 4 years was my longest stint in any given church. Spiritually, it’s obvious why I’ve kept on keeping on in my faith – God promised it. He gave me His Spirit, His Counselor to be in my heart. If it wasn’t for that, I’m sure I would be long gone. I struggle with how I could make a commitment to a specific group of people and how God would empower me to remain true to that for life.
Well, I hope you understand a little better where I stand on things. I’m glad at this point that I typed this in a computer. I had to go back and clarify a few things, emphasize a few things I said, and de-emphasize a few things. It feels a little cold and impersonal just kind of listing a bunch of pros and cons out, but I trust that you know the intent of my heart – the respect and love I have for you and the desire I have to do what’s right and pleasing to God. I’m thankful you were so forthright in our conversation last week. I definitely sensed that I’d been on your heart in a special way recently – that makes me feel special. Like all these other “coincidences”, I’m sure God is in there working for the good of His children whom he loves. Although I’m a little scared and a little confused, my heart is to seek God. I’ve adopted for my life’s “mission statement” something I heard someone say: “I want to be able to see where God is at work and join in with Him there”.
I look forward to your response to these ramblings either by letter, email (email@example.com), in person, or by phone.
All my love and greetings to you both and all the family….. Your son,
Comment Dave you covered so much in this letter to your parents. Did you hear back from them? What did they think of your letter? Did they write back call or visit you? What do you think of your letter today? Would you write much the same to them today? Thank you for letting us read this – that takes courage.
Dave Marchant Thanks . Like I said, I do not recall specifics on the correspondence surrounding this. It certainly did not diminish our relationship though. Surprisingly they planned to come to my wedding a couple years after this letter, and then (unsurprisingly) backed out when I disclosed that my bride was a divorcee’. A couple years after that we had a very nice (albeit sad) visit at the funeral of my Granny Edna.
Visits tapered off due to our growing family (I had been on the 18 month plan), but I had a wonderful visit with them in Sannerz for a few days on his 80th birthday (same day as mine) 5 years ago. We spent almost 3 days of uninterrupted time together and talked (mainly in E&E’s bedroom) about all sorts of stuff. We also visited the stork in Steinau (and the Brothers Grimm house), you might be interested to know. It was a wonderful last visit with my Dad as he died about 3 years later.
Dave Marchant Regarding your questions “What do you think of your letter today? Would you write much the same to them today?”. I still have very similar thoughts about almost all of it. And, it proves that being long-winded is not a recent development in my life.
The one thing in the “AGAINST” section I would certainly add today is something about the underlying fear of separation that pervades the psyche of all who have lived for any length of time on the hof. They must have asked something about KIT, based on my mention of that. Now, having had more exposure to other leavers who have left in a whole variety of circumstances, I have learned a thing or 3 – to put it mildly. We talked about this at length on my visit to them “in the room where it happened”.
One thing in the “FOR” section I would now weave in somehow (I’m at a loss exactly how), is a decent amount of conversation I’ve had with Christian friends recently surrounding “The Benedict Option”. I’ve been able to hear a seemingly heightened interest in an alternate approach to Christian life, and I have been able to add my firsthand perspective on communal living.
Comment Dave Marchant if I may say so: there is a good reason why the Catholic Church has established religious orders for men and women. The adherent, by personal choice, vows to remain celibate; to not procreate. This choice, supposedly freely made, has no direct bearing on children/dependents. And, more importantly, the CC provides a means for rescinding vows.
The Bhof does not. Much of the Bhof current on-line efforts are geared to attract young people; people not yet committed to the “normal way of life”. And that includes students at their Mount Academy.
Comment Thanks for that, Dave. Much rings true for me. My Mom taught you well. I remember your folks and particularly liked your Dad; friendly and outgoing. I remember meeting him at a flea market in East Greenbush, NY in the late ’70s-early ’80s. I think he had a least one kid with him. I had the impression that your family may have been having “a time away” but don’t know if that was the case.
Dave Marchant Yeah – he had a real heart for young men in general, especially those working through life issues. We moved to Deer Spring in 75 (?) and the family moved away for ~3 years in 1983 just as my senior year in high school was beginning.
I feel privileged to have had your mom as a teacher, but I gotta confess that it sticks in my craw to this day that your mom gave me a C on a poem I wrote where the instructions (which I tried my best to follow) were to express what was inside us in poetry. haha
Comment Mom could be tough. I had her as a teacher too.
Comment I have not yet seen the whole thing, but let me suggest off the bat that you put this in the file section of Afterhof, where it can be easily retrieved. You might want to consider waiting a bit so that Afterhof participants can react. Then include their comments in the file. Just a thought. I will be doing this shortly (permission granted) with Gretka’s recent post and drawings. Wot say?
Dave Marchant and/or https://afterhof.com/
Not sure of the use of this forum to develop that resource but I would be fine with it being placed there.
Comment Dave Marchant I have already discussed this with Paul Newton and he was pleased to let me do it. (see the files). The main reason is that a file is easily accessed by someone stumbling onto this group. I think the file section should be kept for “important stuff”.
Comment This is so rich it would actually be a good addition to the .com site. So much you discuss is relevant to New leavers. I agree to waiting till there have been some more comments and the selecting any pertinent comments and then I can load it on the site. I don’t know about others but I tend to be less likely to click on a file than scroll down a regular post. Opening a file is too much of a commitment for leavers!! Lol.
Comment When u choose to leave the hof etc ,you realize hmm what can I do to enrich my life? Spiritual and emotionally? I knew your dad he gave me driving lessons. In recent years, looking back ,just great ful I am not up there anymore. I did not like to live in fear and under pressure. Yup there is a God he’s not a mean nasty idea etc ,but by no means do I like to think about any biblical theories, ifwe all act like big kids and respect each other ,yup that sums it up for me!!
Comment In fact I know of alot of ex hof people that don’t hang out with other members, they just njoy how they fit into society. I did fully njoy my childhood, though around 95 ,that’s when I had had it up there, the rest is history.
Comment “In our conversation last week, you challenged me to consider living a more radical life in service to God and my brothers and sisters and I gathered you wanted me to consider more seriously the way of life you have chosen in the Bruderhof.”
From my understanding, everyone who who has left the Bruderhof having once been an adult member there has come to the conclusion that they cannot both live in the Bruderhof and follow their conscience and fulfill their personal relationship with Jesus faithfully.
The Bruderhof sets up the inherent paradox that faces any member there at some point that they have to choose between their conscience and unanimity.
The novice vows explicitly say – you have to promise to speak up if you see something wrong. I think anyone who has been a novice there and left also came to the same point where they had to choose between speaking up when they saw something wrong, and staying by staying quiet.
It’s nice to see this raised here, as I think it tears people up.
For myself I can say, as far as ‘the resource for other leavers’ goes, this incredibly difficult choice many of the people on this group made, is greatly admired, appreciated, and is a meaningful personal resource.
It isn’t easy to be faced with a devastating choice of being faithful to everything you believe and having to choose to remain quiet and hope your personal suffering eventually pays off, or to leave.
It’s a good a time as any to say thank you to those who have been true to their personal convictions.
Dave Marchant “The Bruderhof sets up the inherent paradox that faces any member there at some point that they have to choose between their conscience and unanimity.”
And that my friend, is the paradox of a Christian life lived as God intends…at least the downside of it, and there is a bigger upside I choose to believe.
The central paradox of Christianity is Christ himself who was/is all 100% God AND all 100% human. That simply cannot be as those 2 existences are mutually exclusive….but it is true nonetheless. It’s the cornerstone of what is considered orthodox Christianity.
And, the paradox you point out includes the possibly more complex 3-way paradox of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being distinct and yet also unified – so much so that they are one. In Jesus’ final prayer, he calls us into that relationship with them, AND into the same unanimity with other believers! He calls us into that paradoxical existence!
Since humans are human, we are bound to fail in following that call almost continually. And yet God promises success when we keep ourselves in a right position/relationship with him. It is utter foolishness for followers of Jesus to try this, and worse foolishness not to. It is simply utter foolishness for everyone else. The Bruderhof experiment is foolish sociologically speaking.
To this day I struggle with justifying what seems like collateral damage from Christians trying to remain faithful to this call. I express this fear in multiple ways in my letter.
Comment “Christian life lived as God intends”. I have a problem with this phrase, if I may be honest.
Who decides what God intends? For me- a once baptized Christian who can, in good faith, no longer claim the name- I have come to see that we each are outfitted to make moral and so-called “Godly” choices. Therefore, it is fundamentally important that we respect each other’s moral compass. There may be things which seems wrong to me that are not wrong to someone else…in that particular circumstance.
“The Bruderhof experiment is foolish sociologically speaking.” I believe it is “foolish” from a “faith-based” Christian approach as well. Faith can never be authentic if it is forced. “Enforced Unity” quickly degrades into Uniformity. It is entirely possible to share a Common Purpose without an enforced unity.Oh, the joy, when one does sense a unified purpose. But it should never be assumed.
Dave Marchant It appears you are taking what I am trying to express more literally/specifically/legalistically than what I tried to express. The big idea of my perspective is that God’s intent is that his followers live with one foot in the human world and one in the spiritual….while I suppose both feet are also in the human world and both feet are in the spiritual world. That is the both/and paradoxical reality God calls us into.
I’m sure that has made this all clearer than mud than my initial post on this.
Comment Dave Marchant Yeah, I tend to cling to the literal meaning of each word. It is a product of my not hearing, I suppose. I totally respect where you are at because, as I said, we each are gifted with our own moral compass. Acknowledgment of this fundamental gift is, I feel, the beginning of Wisdom.
I will admit that I bring my own experiences filter your words, so to speak. It is the unavoidable *human component* we bring to round-table discussions…sigh.
I feel privileged to be a part of this conversation. Thanks for sharing your letter. 🙂 Alles Gute
Comment Your observation of this paradox is the crux of the matter. I recognized this before even being or choosing to become a member. It was not for me and have alluded to contradiction in my writings. Please don’t always tell me how to “SUCK EGGS”,
Comment I’m not even sure I told you once, never mind always. In fact, as I think about it, I don’t even know how myself. How do you SUCK EGGS ?
Comment That is the point!
Comment Ok I’m uncomfortable right now. I’m pretty sure when you look around and don’t know why everyone is laughing, its because you are the joke. It’s not looking good for me right now.
I don’t see an egg, there’s some chance I suck, there’s a really good chance I suck at sucking eggs. and I’m confused. This isn’t helping: http://regimentalrogue.com/papers/egg.htm
Comment I was not good at making or confirming your point, it’s just that I hated always being told conform to Bruderhof norms. Also, I was never a member or much of a believer. Will leave it at that.
Comment Ok Just so long I’m not the egg, I’m cool.
Comment I’m cool with that!
Comment Dave, sharing a similar faith journey to yours, I especially appreciate some of your points above: 5, 6, and 7. Also, in regards to #8, looks like you’re doing pretty well with your commitment to your wife, right? In truth, there’s NOTHING BIBLICAL about the Bruderhof’s requirement of a lifetime commitment to their particular brand of “Christianity”. When we are baptized as Christians, we are baptized into CHRIST and into HIS Body, which is the WHOLE fellowship of believers in HIM. The older I get, the more I appreciate how that consists of people from all kinds of denominations and non-denominations, and I can’t say any one theological perspective has THE CORNER on Christianity. He sees the heart of each one and knows His sheep who are called by His name, those who recognize His voice in whichever sanctuary or outdoors or bedroom they may be hearing it. I love the way CS Lewis depicts this in “The Last Battle” of the Chronicles of Narnia. Have you ever read this as an adult? I’d be glad to elaborate if you don’t know to what I’m referring.
Dave Marchant The “religiosity factor” in the tone of the letter was already through the roof, and siting scripture to make a case never went over big with bhof folk in my experience. So, my conversation with them was usually pretty light on that stuff.
I did an extensive study on vows in the New Testament probably 1-2 years prior and came to the conclusion that at best vows were neutral/inadvisable; and at worst, very telling of a heart that was missing the mark in understanding who God really is and whom we really are. I’m pretty sure I must have intentionally steered clear of opening up a can of scriptural whoop-ass on this topic.
Comment Okay news alert!! I am agreeing with X on something!!!! The Bruderhof lifetime vows are completely bullshit. Necessary for their existence? Maybe. Based in scripture. Naaaa.
Comment I became a novice when I was a Junior in HS. When I left I was considered an unfaithful member and that my soul was in danger if I didn’t return to the”Church”.
Comment Really? So they were really what I think of as Roman Catholic in their interpretation even then. I don’t think of my soul as static. I can feed it or I can starve it.
Comment Great letter Dave! I wonder how you view it now with the lens of time?
Dave Marchant I answered this for X above. First reply after the initial post if you haven’t seen it yet.
Your brother was my 8th grade teacher – probably several subjects, but science is what I remember as it was most interesting to me, and he was great at teaching that (we only had ~2 hours of science one afternoon per week and used some Mennonite text book – had a few pages cut out if I remember correctly)
Comment Yep – just seen it thanks. My brother always loved science. Or anything mechanical really. From my earliest memory he was making and flying model aircraft, making things from meccano, Hot air balloon models etc.. etc… As he is 7 years older than me, I grew up modelling myself on his interest in science. Only thing science wise that I taught him was Astronomy and telescope observing. I am glad you had a good memory of him. It saddens me that we don’t really have much in common anymore. Oh well.
Comment Another thing, just by way of comment, I really love your bit about building a whole case on one little piece of information. All hof families were made to give an ultimatum to their “out” family members regarding KIT. They didn’t really know what KIT was, necessarily, but took the word of those who told them it was bad, just like now they think that Facebook is bad. The truth, KIT wasn’t some evil organization out to destroy the Bruderhof, but just a group of finally-after-decades-out-networked ex-hofers venting their hurt, anger, and also positive memories of life in and out of the Bruderhof (just like this group here).
Comment Jesus was an idea that was used against me as a child, by people who wanted to manipulate me. Obey us because Jesus wants you to kind of thing. Years later in India I discovered a book ‘Jesus was in India’. Apparently he spent 13 years training with monks which is where he gets his philosophy. That’s when it made sense. He is basically teaching Buddhist/Taoist philosophy. About as far away from what most christians believe as you can get. Eastern philosophy showed me that judging is a waste of energy and takes the focus off yourself and love is the highest frequency vibration that can overcome any other energy. That’s an explanation of Jesus that actually makes sense.
Dave Marchant Is this it? I might need to pick up a copy – sound interesting. https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Lived-India-Before-Crucifixion/dp/0143028294
Jesus Lived in India: His Unknown Life Before and After the Crucifixion
Comment Yes it is. Probably the most misrepresented guy ever, if he even existed. This is probably the most convincing evidence he was real
Comment He’s probably spinning in his grave right now seeing all this misrepresentation
Dave Marchant Order placed. I could never stand History in school and still am not a big fan, but the academic approach to establishing historicity has Jesus more likely than figures like Alexander the Great that nobody contests.
Possibly an interesting tidbit: my path crossed for a couple years in a small church with a guy called Bill Craig where he lived in Atlanta – left there about 10 months before I wrote this letter. Knew him socially, not super close but had some interesting conversations on this topic. In academia he is known as William Lane Craig.
Comment ^^😂 haha
Comment Dave Marchant haven’t had time for organised religion but I know where I stand. Taoists believe that if we look inside ourselves we find all the answers because god is inside us as much as in the universe. Makes sense to me.
Comment Dave Marchant Jesus to me is a mute point. He left behind no writings and none of the bible books are contemporaneous. Personally though I do like the legends around Mary Magdalene and if it’s true or not doesn’t matter. I still believe in love. If Jesus agrees that’s great.
Dave Marchant Fair enough. I probably should not have even started down this rabbit hole as trying to do anything to convince anyone of what to believe is not my point of being here. I suppose part of my motivation to my response here was to set me up to name drop – go ahead, psychoanalyze away!
Comment Dave Marchant you are entitled to your beliefs. Whether Jesus. Alexander the Great or Margaret Thatcher for that matter were real, might be interesting but has little to do with any of our lives. I find the term of following Jesus is like a tool to brainwash people. This isn’t a dig at you. My neighbor can paint themselves green with blue dots and worship a 9 headed goddess. I believe in freedom as long as you don’t hurt others. As I said I find the European legendary surrounding Magdalena fascinating. All these legends are analogies for the human condition. Taoist legend has people who achieve immortality and float into the clouds. One of the goddesses did this by having sex with thousands of men and sucking their essence. These stories have been handed down because they tell an important story. They are about the human condition. The character of Jesus was important because western culture was built on violence and aggression. He taught what they knew in the east, with their crazy gods and stories, that love will win the war. That’s something I learnt for myself. You are entitled to share your beliefs and stories just as I am. I just hope for the healing of humanity and expansion of human consciousness
Comment According to the tradition, Thomas evangelized in India. The Gospel of Thomas has a distinct Easter influence. Just saying.
Comment The Taoists idea is not unlike that of first Century “Christian” Gnostics, who argued that we each are fully equipped by our creator to do what is Right. I concur.
Comment He’s not IN His grave to spin, see? He knows all the BS going on in His name!
Comment Jesus is the best documented historical figure of his millenium. Many non-Christian sources of His general era reference His existence, in addition to thousands of well-verified Christian documents from that era.
Comment The Indians certainly seem to have documented him. Shame none of this is in the bible, none of which was written by him or contemporaneously to him. Or even by the authors claiming to write it. And was put together 400 years after he died by a Roman emperor. Oh and none written by a woman because we are inferior and as Paul says should cover our heads to show our inferiority. Not surprisingly I went for a religion that considers women spiritually superior (which we are for many reasons I won’t go into here) and does not require blind faith or belief only in it. People in the east take their legends as lessons. That’s a good way to look at this. No one in India would worry if you said there wasn’t really a god with an elephant head, because it’s not about that. Even you use the name Jesus but it was never Jesus it was Issa. Jesus is a made up name.
Comment There is no god and X is her prophet.
Comment I think the point is we are all gods and goddesses in our own right. We have been disenfranchised from our personal power far too long. We need to stop projecting it onto other entities and take it for ourselves.
Comment I was just making a riff off the old joke about Dirac. Everyone always makes fun of these conversations but they do help people clarify their thinking even though they don’t change people’s minds. Still there is a very strong trend of fewer people believing in any god or having any religion. I suspect very few people have ever believed in god, but never really spoke out for obvious reasons
Comment Perhaps one could say there are many gods and goddesses and you can be one too if you choose the path of enlightenment.
Comment The Roman record, and it was kept in considerable detail, indeed does mention the crucifixion of one named Jesus of Nazareth. Just saying
Comment Well in that case I guess I can’t say that I’m a god and goddess.
Comment Jesus is not a hebrew name. The hebrew name would have been Issa. The Muslims have a lot recorded about Issa, he is considered to be one of the main prophets. My question though is, why is so much of the Koran written by Mohammed (technically speaking he dictated it to his wife who wrote it down, so the Koran was written by a woman) but there are no writings of Issa/Jesus (Jesus being a latinisation of the name Issa). Also the bible books were not actually written by the people whose name is given to them. Nobody really knows who wrote these books and they were written in posterity to the time. For example, it will be describing an event and then say “and a tree was planted there and it still grows there to this day”. I know how much a rumour can change just in a day, let alone over several generations. By 2018 it’s got to such a ridiculous state. Million of people have been killed over this story, and why? Because people are so pedantic about if it’s true or not. If you said to a hindu, you know that the elephant head god Ganesh isn’t realy, they would smile at you and say ‘It’s a story’. These are all stories. It doesn’t invalidate them. But what I heard about Jesus as a child was pretty sickening. In fact the name has been used to oppress and take the lives of tens of millions of people, so whether he was real of not, he definately had an impact. Saying this, I’m not anti-Jesus anymore than I am anti-Shiva or anti-Kali. These stories are hugely important parts of our cultures. The story of a man bringing the peaceful beliefs of the east into the most patriarchal and violent cultures known to humanity is truly an interesting tale. How this managed to horrifically backfire is certainly indicting of human nature. To me it’s about the ego. Although I do Taoist meditation practice, I do it because I feel the benefits, not because I actually believe in characters like the Queen Mother of the West, and even if I believed in her, she is as despicable as any other biblical character trying to sacrifice his so on an alter or whatnot to show loyalty to his god.
Comment You would make a great goddess
Comment I’m blushing
Comment Jesus!!!! I mean Issa
Comment Some of your historical understanding of the writing of the Bible is inaccurate, but don’t have time to belabor that. Most of the NT was documentedly written within decades of the events indicated, but the canonization of the NT books to be included in scripture happened as you say in the 4th C AD.
Comment Issa is the Muslim name. Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus.
Comment Holy cow. Loved the letter and all the comments. Particularly intrigued by the analysis of the hof from the perspective of a Christian as so many throw the baby out with the bath water as I did.
Dave Marchant Thanks for the comments – nice, encouraging and even a little flattering. Not to nitpick semantics, but I think it is important to clarify one thing especially that you are the moderator here and owner/curator of the .com version of AH: I see this less of an “analysis of the hof from the perspective of a Christian” and more of an analysis of my thoughts and attitudes and priorities and values….as they relate to the hof.
Sure there are a few rather stinging critiques of some hof dynamics (AGAINST # 1, 2, 4, 4, 6, 7), but most are issues I acknowledge are common to mankind. Jesus came primarily to fix up broken things to how they were intended/designed by him – to reconcile first man to God and then man to man (women too of course). And, he has counted us worthy to take part in this ministry of reconciliation. From my perspective, this letter is more of a stinging critique of me and my fear of closeness, commitment, vulnerability, etc. Whether it is a result of the Bruderhof culture, my family’s British uptightness, or my personal standoffish arrogance; I bristle and get prickly when approached for a hug and for an emotional “hug”.
Keep in mind too that I am/was not in a great position to offer an analysis of the hof. I left at 17 before ever really having exposure to the adult spiritual life (based on your recent survey, a strong majority of leavers depart at that point in life). I visited a couple times for 4-6 week stints during college, but I was deep in my agnostic phase trying to determine if naturalism held water. Heck, I never even attended a Gemeindestunde prayer meeting. On the plus side, over all the years since I left, I did maintain a respectful and open relationship and dialog with my folks and everyone else I interacted with.
Yes, I wrote this letter when I was 30 and had more maturity (I hope) than my 17 year old’s observations. And for years at that point I had voraciously read and discussed the Bible and related stuff and invested myself appreciably in a lot of humanitarian service efforts. Yet, those things helped me discover God and discover me….and not much more of a complete perspective on the true adult life of the hof.
Dang, that got long….
Dave Marchant Both X and Y asked basically the same question “I wonder how you view it now with the lens of time?” That’s a really good question, and I gave a sort of off-the-cuff answer in the first reply. The question has sort of stuck with me all day as, while I think I answered accurately, I don’t think I gave an answer that truly reflected my feelings since finding this letter after almost 21 years.
I don’t think my Christian perspectives and critiques have really changed, but much of the letter revolved around relationships with people and with God. If you can’t tell by my writing style, I certainly live more in my head than in my heart. What has changed then immensely since then is getting married and having/raising kids (oldest is leaving for college this fall). As such, I think/hope I have grown/evolved in this area.
I don’t know how to best describe it, but all the dynamics I mention both in the FOR and AGAINST, I now feel/experience in a magnified way. Deeper, fuller, richer. But at the same time, for better or for worse, I don’t think I “care” as much anymore – maybe due to some combination of fulfillment, weariness, being pussywhipped, maturity, early-onset rigor mortis of the brain, or now being primarily a father/husband rather than a son.
Comment I think we all mellow as we age. It’s natural for all of us middle-aged folks.
Comment I have indeed mel-lowed..I hope 🙂
Comment Dave your writing resonates with me, expressing many of my positions in relations with Bhof as well as to outsiders. Expressions I would never be able to formulate sufficiently to put them on paper. Thank you.
Growing up Gay on the Hof
Posted for a friend:
Anyone who grew up on the hof will probably know the things they tell you about what gay people are – pedophiles, prostitutes, family destroyers, and they all get AIDS. I heard it all. I was told that it was easier to understand a murderer than a homosexual.
The servants often preached about being genuine (just like Hans im Gluck!) but when their main issue is anti-LGBT rights (excuse me, “family values”), it makes being yourself impossible for queer people.
I hated myself for a long time and was incredibly homophobic for a good part of high school partly because I didn’t want to be gay at first and partly as a cover. It was my dad who figured out what was “wrong” with me in my junior year of high school. When he asked me if I was “struggling with homosexual thoughts” I said yes. I didn’t think it through at all. All I knew was that I needed to change something about my life because I was spiraling into darker and darker places in my mind.
I stayed in the community for a year and a half more, pretending to want to “fight the desires” and meeting regularly with the servants to convince them that I was trying to become straight. That didn’t help at all with the depression, in fact it made it worse. I ended up asking to get a job outside the community and disengaging from communal life until I turned 18. Instead, I got to leave and start my life out here.
So far living in the big bad world has been a great experience. Therapy has helped me peel back the layers of repressive thought that hindered my happiness both on the hof and in the years since I left. There have been ups, there have been downs. I have dated some wonderful men and my life has flourished in many other ways as well. I have kept making changes here and there and bit by bit I have come to better understand myself, my position in the world, my ambitions, as well as what it takes to be happy.
Despite sounding like a poster-boy for some gay rights organization I’ll end by saying it gets better.
Posted for a friend:
LGBTQ , speaking those letters will always leave a very bitter taste in my mouth yet I’m a part of that community. I am bi-sexual, THERE, I’ve said it. I’ve been bullied, judged, and harassed over this to the point it makes me scared and sick to even admit the truth. Growing up this way in the community wasn’t easy because you felt you were different from all the other kids around you but you didn’t know why and you didn’t know what to do about it. You weren’t taught about sexuality in a healthy way and even what most people considered “normal sex” was made secretive and dirty by my parents and by the elders. “Gay” meant that you were happy and that was it. . . but then why all these different strong feelings and urges? Am I mentally ill because I’m feeling this way? How can I ask questions when I’m not given the vocabulary to voice my true feelings? Why are people looking at me like I’m strange, weird, an alien in their world of lies. Why do you preach that Jesus came to lift up the down-trodden yet you are the very ones who are treading on me and making my life a living hell. You are NOT Christians! I’m fragile, beautiful. loving, caring, sensitive, yet you treat me like a plague.Tears flow freely as I write this post for the pain still lingers.
Growing up queer
Posted for a friend:
My journey of self discovery as a queer person has been slow and arduous, hobbled by the shame and guilt drilled into all of us who grew up on the Hof. Bodies, sexual interest, exploring one’s self, I remember all of those things being taboo. Either completely ignored, or villainized. It took me years of mentally and physically punishing myself for having urges, or daring to act on them, before I could outrun all of that guilt, all of that shame. And I only experienced it for a relative few years of my life. But now that I’ve left all of that behind me, now that my brain has developed, now that I’ve left any semblance of organized religion in my past, I’ve been able, over the past 5 years, to figure out who I actually am. And wonderfully, I’ve learned that who I am is who I’m made to be, and that I’m worth loving.
I think I came to this place by very deliberately and very thoroughly pruning away what I grew up believing, one poisonous branch at a time. First went the belief that sexuality is something to fear. Then went the conviction that only married people should share their bodies. Then off came the gnarly, prickly branch that said that anything other than man and woman was abhorrent. I spent several years exploring my gender identity and expression, and finally managed to unwind the binary vine that was choking me to death. Ultimately, I established for myself that my body reflects my mind, but I freed myself in that process to grow and develop and evolve, which is what people do all through their lives.
Here I am, now, nearly 20 years gone from the Bruderhof, and finally able to love and accept myself for who I am: a queer woman, capable of loving people of any and all gender identities and expressions, choosing to share my life with a wonderful woman, leaving ourselves open to loving others as well. Here I am, able to demonstrate to my child that there is no “normal,” there is no “right way” to be a person, there is no “good” way to love. I don’t believe in God or gods. I don’t believe in souls. I don’t believe in any myths or mysticism. But love, in every expression, is sacred to me. Love is holy to me. Sharing your life, your heart, your hopes and fears and flaws and failures, cherishing those of others, that is love, and that is more powerful and meaningful to me than any sermon or scripture. So I’ve crawled out of a place of shame and self-loathing, and discovered that I can love myself, and out of that, I can love others infinitely.
It is painful, it is a huge challenge, it is exhausting to escape what was inflicted on us as children. It takes years, or decades, or a lifetime to leave those burdens behind, and to replace them with the things that you want to carry. But it is possible, and it is so worth the struggle.
Difficult topic. No culture or religion that I am aware of is immune to the horrible situation where children are sexually molested by older children or adults. There is a lot to say about this so I refer you to this very complete reference. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_sexual_abuse
What we know from the Catholic priest pedophilia disaster is that in strict religious environments where sex is not discussed there is higher risk of unreported abuse. In many religious communities sex is considered highly sinful, a high power disparity exists where leaders are not to be questioned, and people have learned not to stick there necks out. When people are punished for criticizing leaders there is less willingness for parents to stand up for their children. Also in some of these settings there is a tendency to sidestep laws such as mandatory reporting of suspected abuse to state authorities.
There are many people who have alleged sexual abuse on the Bruderhof. It is rare for such a person to take the huge personal, emotional, family and financial risk of taking legal action. Recently the hof has adopted a policy to try to reduce future abuse but it is unclear whether this is for legal protection or out of true dedication to stamping out abuse. We can only hope it will be successful.
Scenarios that have been alleged in the past include a servant misusing their power to sexually molest boys, medical personal misusing physical exams for their own sexual arousal, adolescent teens molesting younger children, parents sexually molesting their children.
Often children are not aware that abuse has occurred. They often believe that any sexual interaction was their choice. Often the abuse is so disturbing that memories are suppressed.
The important thing for you to know is that if you were ever touched sexually or inappropriately by an older child or adult, this is wrong and it wasn’t your fault.
People who have been abused should report this to their state’s child protection services. They should arrange to see a therapist on a regular basis. They should seek out others who have similar experiences so that they have social support around these isssues. All this is hard to do and often none of this happens, but they are good goals.
If you need help with any issue you can reach out to us and we will try to connect you with support and advice. Aftehof@gmail.com
Finding a guide
It is important that you find people to talk with early on. Your entire life has been packed with people and things to do and all of a sudden your built-in 1000 friends are gone.
“I have a lot of family outside the Hof. People who don’t may have no one to actually turn to. Obviously this website is a help and I also found non-family, non-former-Bruders to help as well.”
If you don’t have a good family member on the outside to turn to, consider asking for a mentor. “Talking to an ex-Hofer and comparing your story is not only therapeutic but also helps organise your own thoughts. You start actually seeing how ludicrous the whole thing is and move on slowly. Also when kids start figuring out college,etc they will have someone to advise them. And no one is better at doing this drill than those who did it before.”
Reach out any time to firstname.lastname@example.org
“The hardest thing for me to deal with was the emotional part of being alone and having so little to do with my time that was constructive. I was really lonely and although I quickly developed a routine of going to the gym and hanging out with coworkers or walking by the river, I honestly had no idea how I would possibly move on from that. I cried every night for a month. I got really good advice from outside family to basically cut out all the sentimental bull shit and move on. The sooner you can move on the better and stop thinking about it”
That’s from a very recent leaver. Old timers will say that decades later you will likely still be dealing with it and that at some point processing it with other people who have left the hof is very useful. You can’t just bury a problem like this. Like Jack’s magic beans it can lead to a whole heap of trouble! (maybe that is what that story was about!) But in the short run, make yourself get up and do something useful. Look forward, not backwards for the most part.
If you think it would be useful to have a mentor/friend who has been through this just write to us and ask. email@example.com
Talking with your parents
Unlike most people who move away from home, you are going to have to adjust to a very different relationship with your parents.
One recent leaver said “I spoke with mine a lot because I could but very easily argued with them. When I left, I was not super honest in saying that I was never going back. My parents didn’t even want me to think about that. Make sure leavers realize that however they feel at the time, they may eventually want a good relationship with their parents and the easiest way to maintain that is to not talk about anything consequential. You don’t have to tell them everything anymore. Also, you will never justify your choices or change your parents minds so don’t even try. Resist the temptation to ping off angry emails to anyone back on the Hof.”
That’s good advice. Most other leavers have soon figured out that the best thing to communicate with your parents about is non controversial stuff like the flowers and birds outside your window. They will not be able to handle many of the things you do and the choices you make so spare them the details.
And whatever you do, don’t expect anyone there to apologize or even recognize anything they did wrong leading up to your leaving. That kind of humility doesn’t seem to be in their toolkit.
Begin to build a new support group outside the hof made up of new friends or other leavers who know exactly what you are going through in a way no one else possibly can.