A Friend’s Report about Beate’s Joining the Group
(Names and dates have been changed; in Saxony, in the early 1990s)
March 7: Beate, as she used to be
I’ve known Beate since approximately the third grade. We went to catechism classes together, and later to the choir. But I only really got to know her in the tenth grade, when we attended an advanced class together. We were both interested in the Bible and went to church together; we spoke about it often, and I must say that Beate had many unanswered questions, e.g., “What distinguishes a Christian?” and “What is the meaning of my life?” Still, she did not let herself be quickly convinced by others.
I don’t know exactly, but I think that Beate didn’t have any proper longterm friends; she was considered by many people to be ambitious, almost too ambitious, in school. But many people also liked her, e.g., friends from the youth group.
Beate, as she told me once herself, often had depression which, however, could change abruptly into a good mood from one minute to another. She was often very sad, but soon happy again. I think that the sad moments were more likely doubts and considerations about the Bible, about God, and about herself than other concerns. She told me herself that she “was still searching.”
Beate was a very friendly, sensitive, and emotional person. She often asked others how things were going, and she offered to help. She also participated in many activities in the church; only recently I was in church with her, when Russian soldiers were invited. Russian children had been brought along, too. And she brought up the idea of taking several Russian girls along into our school. Then we did that, too …
She also asked me once, why she was still in the eleventh grade in high school. All of these theoretical things would not be of any use to her in practical life.
Beate was always very friendly, and she would even hug people now and then, if she was in the mood for that.
January/February: Beate prior to vacation days
Beate cries often, has lost weight, but is otherwise friendly. Girls from her class told me that she seems melancholy in school. But she still shows interest in school, speaks normally with her friends, and comes to our youth group.
March 3: Beate after the vacation days
Beate addresses me: “What you think it means to be a Christian?” I don’t notice anything abnormal yet, because she often asked me such things. But that is only during a brief break; we meet again later. Now I notice that she speaks in a monotone, softly and somehow fanatically. She doesn’t allow herself to be led away from her opinion; she tolerates no other opinion. She is, to be sure, still friendly, but the warmth is missing. She says to me that she has met “proper Christians” and invites me to go along. (I agree.) I ask her something about the group. She tells me that the group meets in a van, and then drives to Radeburg [a nearby town]. They meet every day, because “what kind of a congregation would that be, if it met only once a week?” I learn that she has approached others, too, but hasn’t invited anyone else. We meet in the afternoon, and I say that I may not simply remain away from home until eleven o’clock (it lasts that long), and also don’t know the people. I won’t attend the meeting, but I’ll talk her on the way there. Simply so that we can talk together. The differences from our previous conversations are: she is not happy (naturally, she was also serious previously, but not like on this day), she doesn’t allow that my opinion could be valid, every other sentence is from the Bible.
She reads some passages from the Bible aloud to me and is meditative.
As we part, she is friendly, and even smiles while departing.
I had phoned her mother ahead of time. She was extremely desperate and asked me not to break off contact with Beate. She said, too, that she had already been among those people. She thought it was a cult, but one shouldn’t say that to Beate.
(Naturally I had been thinking about the conversation from Tuesday. My observations about her appearance are confirmed today.)
Beate stops by. Only at the last second does she collect herself, and hesitantly says, “Good morning.”
She looks bad; she’d become very slim, had an erratic gait and a sad or melancholy expression on her face, and (as I noticed later) very large pupils. The girls from school tell me, that she gave no answers in class; didn’t answer anybody else; and only spoke to various people to talk with them about the Bible. One can hardly say “with them” – she doesn’t let anybody else speak; she speaks softly but intensely to a person, without warmth; her voice is different than it was before.
Many to whom she has spoken are shocked and appalled – by her appearance and her behavior. I don’t know “how she selects” – but she avoids some acquaintances whom she previously knew, and she still speaks with others.
March 5 and 6
Just about everybody is asking me “what’s up” with Beate. But there is no real conversing with Beate. I learn, however, that she’s showing some interest in class, and she is also talking to people whom she previously avoided. Naturally, it’s all about the one topic. She tries to convince people that there is only one way to be saved, and that is by following Jesus Christ. One must decide for God – and avoid everything else, like hobbies, family, etc., “With such things, one only wastes time that one could devote to God …”
Beate was again more “cold” and deflecting, and girls from the school tell me that in German class she had a discussion with the teacher about the topic “Love your neighbor as yourself – an ideal foundation for human coexistence.” Mr. Kleiber (the teacher) saw “love your neighbor” as humanism. Beate saw it as a command from God, and she didn’t want to allow any other opinion to be valid.
When I meet Beate for the first time [today], she isn’t as deflecting as yesterday. She approaches me and starts a conversation. We end up discussing that the only way is via Jesus Christ (so Beate says). I say to her: “I agree with you, but Jesus projected love and warmth; he also went to ‘bad’ people.” I mention the example of the tax collector, whom Jesus visits. The tax collector then promises Jesus that he will pay back his unjustly obtained money several times over. Beate finds it in the Bible, and then she thinks about it. In the next break, she comes back and says: “I must apologize to you, because I talked about something, and acted according to something, which I don’t entirely understand.” (She’s speaking about her avoidance of others.) She is more friendly than before, but despite this doesn’t seem “normal.” Her dilated pupils are conspicuous to me. In the afternoon, I visit her; she seems friendly, and I relay greetings from an older woman whom we previously often visited together, but to whom she no longer goes. She smiles!!! I say to her: “Beate, even if our opinions are different, and even if we perhaps go down different paths, I like you anyway, and hope that you won’t avoid me.” She smiles again (!!!!) and invites me in. We talk. More important to me than the conversation is her behavior. She smiles (not forced, but rather lovingly) while talking, appears relaxed, and seems happy for the first time in a long time, or in other words, “good.” She does talk insistently and certainly, but isn’t unfriendly to me. When I see her this way, I think that she must really feel well there, and I don’t believe that she will ever be different. As she is now, she does seem fanatical, but not sick! (Spiritually as well as physically). I ask her about her relationship with her parents (I keep to generalizations), who won’t go this way with her. I express [the idea that] one should not be absent [from one’s parents], because one would be violating the command to “love and honor one’s parents.” Beate says, in fact, that she must separate herself (she separates [from them] out of love, so that the parents will be shaken up and recognize the right path), but if the parents need help, then she’ll help, naturally. [She says that] she continues to honor her parents.
For a long time now, I have written nothing about Beate – I must admit that I avoid conversation with her, because I am afraid of it. I know that I will have feelings of guilt again, perhaps I am the one who errs – that’s the way I think when I’m with her. She explains and reasons so well, that I don’t find any starting point at which to disagree with her, because she can refute everything. Beate is very nice to me. One time, we were going to meet (she initiated). She asked me, whether we didn’t want to speak with each other one more time. She asked me where we might meet, at her place or mine. I suggest meeting at her place. In the afternoon she phones me and says that she wants to pick me up. It seemed odd to me, but I agreed. But she didn’t appear at the agreed time, so I phoned her. She apologized, [saying that] she’d had a visit, and would be leaving immediately. I said that I’d leave, too, so that we could meet halfway. Hesitantly, she agreed.
I saw her coming from afar; she was still paging around in the Bible as she crossed the street. She smiled when she saw me, greeted [me], and set out with determination in a direction, but not one which would lead to her home, where we were supposed to be going. I didn’t want to ask her about it, because I had noticed how much she didn’t like talking about “trivia,” and because I initially thought that we could go walking for a bit. She began the conversation. We spoke about the youth group, which according to her opinion is not really a [congregation]. We spoke about help which is really no help if one only physically helps someone and keeps “the best” from him, namely, the message of Jesus Christ. And we spoke about doubts regarding God, which are great sins in her opinion, and which a Christian is not allowed to ever have. I answer her, [saying] that every Christian is, after all, merely a human being and has flaws. Doubts are part of that; everyone doubts, and it is good when one can overcome doubts. But she said that if one lives quite exactly according to the Bible, it is possible to make no mistakes. I said that God had, after all, created us with our mistakes, otherwise, we wouldn’t be human beings at all …
We turn to her avoidance of non-Christians, among whom all people – except those in the cult – are counted. She says that it’s written in the Bible that one must separate from them. I ask to her, whether a Christian isn’t obliged to be tolerant, and to see all humans as God’s creations. After some back and forth, she says: “No, a Christian must be intolerant.”
In the meantime I’ve learned from her, in passing, that we’re going to her group. I say: “I thought we were going to your place?” She answers: “But you always wanted to come along. Why not today?! I don’t want to force you, though!” I tell her that I’m not coming along, because I can’t argue against her, let alone against twenty other people who are well-read in the Bible.
She looks at me astounded, that I am considering the matter from this side. We depart from each other and she says: “Consider it again and think about it!”
And I go home crying.
I don’t approach Beate any more. She is now more deflecting again. I am afraid of her, but at the same time I would like to help her.
(The name of the author is known to the webmaster of this site.)
A fellow student describes
the experiences with Beate as follows (1992):
When we saw our fellow student Beate again about twelve weeks ago, after the winter vacation days, we noticed very serious changes in her. We were struck by her psychological instability (frequent crying and total mental absence) and her continuous reading in the Bible. We knew that Beate is a Christian, but we observed this continual reading with amazement.
Because we knew Beate to be a very open, happy, and active person, we noticed this change all the more clearly. Beate had become thin, seemed tired and exhausted, and if she said something, she spoke with a soft, monotonous voice. Her entire external appearance, especially her empty gaze looking off into the distance, showed us that Beate seemed to live mentally in a very different world. Because she made the impression of being so distraught in those first days, we naturally asked her what was happening with her, and if we could help in any way. The answer was: “You can’t help me.” She blocked attempts to start conversations about casual matters. If Beate spoke with us, she spoke at us, and it was always restricted to the topic of God and our relationship to Him.
Since we’d gotten to know her, Beate seemed to us to be a very ambitious girl, who’s also very self-critical. If she started something, then she carried it out to completion with dedication and an iron will. Aside from that, what we valued about her was that she stepped in for other people, e.g., in school she organized the food and milk money and took care of the tickets for school concerts, which she also still does today!
In conversations with her, a clear intolerance towards those who think differently was expressed. We were shocked and perplexed.
Meetings with people from her group were conspicuous during lunch breaks [at our school].
Regarding the current situation, the following can be said: Beate regularly reads the Bible at every break, and often starts conversations with others about her topic of God. She takes school very seriously, always completes all homework, works with others in class, and is yet a bit scattered and lacks concentration, which is certainly a result of her perpetual fatigue.