Monday, February 20, 2006

Bruderhof Update

Ever since the Daily Dig went silent I have received almost daily hits among my referrers from searches inquiring about the Bruderhof. Although I don't have any first-hand experience with this group I am very aware of their long tradition as a quasi-separatist communal group with roots in Germany. Any resourceful researcher can discover more about the group than I can provide here, but a website has been set up posting many comments and testimonies from people whose lives were touched by the now silent Daily Dig.

Bring Back Bruderhof makes for interesting reading. Scattered among the many encomiums are a few remarks reflecting what can be called the "darker side" of the Bruderhof. Like all such groups, there is a cohesive center of gravity durable enough to resist dilution by outside forces. Without being judgemental I recognize that this group represents a lifestyle not suitable for everyone. Who can deny the pain and regret reflected in some of the comments left by former members who testify to psychological scars left from Bruderhof life? Among the comments at one of my other posts on the subject is a pained testimony from a former member.

The administrators of this more recent website display enough integrity to allow negative comments to stand among the others. This signals to me a level of tolerance that is virtually non-existent in today's world of extreme hype. I cannot imagine a quiet but critical comment or two going unmolested in most comment threads I come across. Either the host or one of what passes for a "community" of like-minded voices among the "audience" will quickly jump to "fisk" the offender. Such is the contrast between those who cling to the notion that normative behavior should prevail for all, and minority members, like children, should be seen and not heard. Oddly enough, it is left to obscure groups like the Bruderhof to practice the tolerance that the world around them merely preaches.

My interest in communal living runs deep. I don't know exactly why this is so. My two family roots, maternal and paternal, are very different. My mother's family was so scattered out that I only recall their being together once or twice in my life, then only for a funeral or two. My father's family, on the other hand, was and is so clannish that most of them never went more than a couple hours' drive from where they were born. And they all would collect at the drop of a hat, in a multi-generational cluster including inlaws and friends, to eat a feast of Biblical proportions, mostly products brought pot-luck from their respective farms and kitchens.

Possibly because I grew up knowing experiencing both kinds of "family" -- local and conceptual -- I appreciate that both add to one's development. In the same way that a clan does not look past the horizon, a globally scattered family finds clanish behavior suffocating. In any case I have a deep admiration and appreciation for what are referred to as "separatist" groups. Just last night I watched a TV program (Globe Trecker?) which made passing mention to a large number of Mennonite groups that live in Belize and Guatamala, maintaining their old ways in a cultural polyglot that includes Maya Indians, Latinos and other non-separatist Anglos. I will always treasure my short visit to Koinonia Farm in 1965 where I was able to meet Clarence Jordan and his family. It was from this group and Jordan's connection with Millard Fuller that Habitat for Humanity was started.

There is much to be said about communal living but the subject is too obscure to be of interest to most readers. Prior to marrying and rearing a family I lived in a small group that referred to itself as an urban commune, but that was mainly for economic reasons. Nevertheless we all learned some of the basics that are required for group living -- individual privacy, shared responsibilities for expenses and housekeeping, straightforward honesty when dealing with one another, and mutual respect that sometimes transcends selfishness.

1 comment:

Jerry said...
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