It was in the end of 2007 that I got the chance to have six prominent members of the Christians face the opinions of those who left or were expelled. The conversation was as follows:
What happened after writing the sociography, meaning in the past seven years?
- Other kinds of issues have arisen. Mostly topics regarding cast of mind. In comparison with this teaching has been forced into the background.
- Humbleness in relationships, the relationship between brothers, love, peace, responsibility for society and our future, carrying each other’s burden, love in the religious community.
What could explain the decrease in the number of the Christians?
- In Hungary it has indeed decreased. Everybody can decide freely.
What is the cause of members leaving?
- They have chosen another path. They reached the point of reconsideration, and they have chosen another path.
- Their initial momentum has faded. They are the ones who changed, our principles have remained the same. Everyone has to fight for perseverance.
- And we who remained in the congregation have to fight for the behavior of people.
In what ways and how much have the ones who left become distant?
- This varies. Of course we also have our own faults.
- We could have loved better.
What does the “oath” really mean? Is it an eternal oath?
- This is an internal thing. We do it ourselves within ourselves.
- I took the oath myself. There is no prescribed format.
- We also call it the decision.
- Although it is an internal thing, we share it with the others.
- I thought about living without marriage when I took my oath.
- The decision, oath can be cited.
Who is obedient? And who is he obedient to?
- To God.
- And also to each other. This must be considered carefully, because it does not mean giving orders to anyone.
I am quoting from one of the expelled brothers: “For a while he is considered a model of obedience (to God), but even at that time he already senses some tension 1) he starts being interested in the broader world, 2) he feels that not everything is honest: the brothers declare themselves equal, still among the equals there are some who are more equal: those who are more obedient, older, those in Vienna who do not consider the Hungarians an independent congregation.”
- Interest in the broader world may mean when a Catholic priest starts doing yoga, or starts believing in reincarnation.
- There was an accusation against us that reading is prohibited here, we control information. We strive to find out who wishes what, who would like to do what.
What is false teaching if there is no written or clearly stated teaching?
- There was no system of dogmas in apostolic times either.
- It is with the help of God that we can state: ”this is a deviation”.
How is it possible to speak of continuity and identity if the founder and other long time members were expelled?
- Gottfried is not our founder. Nobody is a founder among us. Jesus is the founder. The matter of Gottfried is an internal, intimate issue.
- The most important thing is that God loves us and we are not indifferent if we do not see this have an effect in someone.
- This entire thing was not really a problem in teaching, rather in the cast of mind. Gottfried’s congregation-image changed.
It is conspicuous that in Germany hardly any members left or were expelled and the community is growing.
- It appears that they have made more serious decisions.
An ex-bother about rejection: “Visiting home was not prohibited. But they emphasized correct time management to the members. They said something like this: If the people at home cannot help any longer, if the parents do not appear to be open minded, visiting home is unnecessary. Belonging to the community involves some painful decisions. I experienced that many members missed home in their hearts, and some used trickery so they could visit home. Since there was no leadership, in reality there was nobody to talk to and ask for help in this subject”, stated an expelled brother.
- We are all different in this regard as well. We try to deliberate if the person needs help. It happened that we took someone’s relative to the doctor. All these stem from emotional struggles.
Another ex-brother about honesty: “I did not consider the congregation honest It was a good point scored if someone wrestled a lot. Many of the members thought it was too much. Even I contemplated that the girl I was wrestling with was not only a brother but also an attractive woman. If any abuse occurred we discussed it. In many cases it was truly a very good, pure game. The problem was that this was considered a part of spiritual obedience (meaning if a member liked wrestling or not). On some occasions it was conducted instead of spiritual activity, such as the evening discussion.
- There were times when wrestling had greater significance. Its essence is following an example.
- For the majority of members wrestling is a way of making contact.
But here and now the issue is not wrestling, but honesty.
Someone else about making rules: “They should admit that there was really rulemaking in the community. Justness, honesty and love were highly valued in our community, but despite this there were some who strove for dominance and oppressed those who were value carriers. They deemed much more things to be sins than what are actually sinful.”
- In matters of faith the older brothers herd the members with greater responsibility, but the essence is that we are obedient toward each other. If somebody believes that we consider more things sins than we should, it is just a testament of his distorted value system.
- There were some members striving for dominance among those who left. It requires time to formulate within us an opinion regarding another person, not every brother had patience to wait for this, and they thought that we did not react to them.
Someone else about institutionalization: “From a certain aspect it was very much institutionalized, since they aspired to regulate everything. There were invisible leaders, those who were better situated and strove for dominance”
- This regulation is nothing else than the rhythm of our life. Such are the morning prayer, the evening prayer, but there is some flexibility in all this.
What happened to those who presented a high level of talent in something?
- Our goal is not to maximize our talents. They must be brought into harmony with love, with the community. These cases must always be examined individually.
- We cannot foster every one of our talents. For example, defending one’s homeland may be more important than playing the piano.
- I was a chess player, and when I became a Christian I decided that there were more interesting figures.
- One of our young brothers was studying to be a doctor, which would involve being on-call constantly, thus he decided to become a dentist, which involves no such commitment. Of course, harmonization in this manner is not always successful.
Two rather serious criticisms: “I felt that being together every day did not have sufficient content. We ourselves did not experience what we described to others during missionary work, I mainly mean love and honesty. I even voiced this feeling, but it had little result”, „I felt that we were always rushing somewhere and we did not have time for important things. Cohabitation and adaptation were far from perfect. The real question was if this community was truly about love. And also if we were supposed to do what we were doing.”
- Those who say this are at variance with themselves. They did not share their problems.
- Their personal goals diverged from the community’s.
- It is important to understand where these critically motivated suggestions stem from.
- A person who does not know himself well enough cannot carry the sin of another. This has to be fought for.
- It may have happened that this person was a member of one of our smaller communities where love had soured.
You will certainly recognize who I heard this from: „I saw the bad signs, but I was hoping that those things could be corrected. These included competing with each other, dishonesty, performance centric attitude, arrogance, gossips, and that we were excessively proclaiming our own lifestyle, not that of Christ”. I wrote this down in a letter and I sent it to the members in emails, to every city, in several languages.”
- We have our faults, anyone can accuse us of that, but fighting jointly for sanctification is also possible. We have learned much in this regard recently.
Since in most expulsion stories marriage played a role in some way, could you reflect on this observation: “It would be honest if we stated that it is not advisable to get married today, but you can marry if you wish. We did not want to leave, we were expelled. Our marriage became the single cause of our expulsion. It is important that they never considered us a couple, rather as a person who was a bad influence on the other person (on his wife). The community was afraid that the complications of family life would disintegrate the congregation. There was no uniform opinion. An older brother was searching for a solution.”
- There are some who take an eternal oath. If they violate that they expel themselves.
- We did not expel anyone just because they wanted to get married. But it did happen that one of the parties took an eternal oath.
And what about a person who does not?
- We do not expel him, but we believe that God is not inviting him to marriage.
Would it be better to clearly declare celibacy?
- It does not need to be declared because it becomes obvious for everyone.
- Marriage does not constitute the core of Christian teaching.
The question was raised by many if you really live like the first Christians? And also if it is possible at all to live that way in today’s world “It is questionable if we can really understand from the Book of Acts how they lived, but we believed it, and for example property community was very appealing to us. I was glad that I found a community that realized the deficiencies of the age we live in. I trusted the wisdom of older brothers. I believed that we were living like the first Christians, even though those 50-100 pages did not exactly describe how they actually lived. It was also not clarified what the guidance of the Holy Ghost is, who he guides: the individuals or the community.”
- Our cast of mind is not only about the first Christians, the brothers of the Middle Ages can also be cited. But we do not copy. The Church is flexible as well as static. We live among people, but we do not live like them.
I could also be the one to say this, but I quote: “I rather see insufficiencies in liberal arts, psychology, philosophy, social science when I study the teachings and life practices. For example, I think of community sociology. They had explicit prejudices against psychology as well. More serious theological knowledge would also be useful, because I felt, I feel that we were afraid of theology, because we associated theology with institutional churches. We sometimes supplemented theological knowledge in a layman’s, amateur manner.
- I teach psychological subjects. These sciences show certain things about people, but love stands above them.
- Even though psychology and sociology are valuable, they cannot explain the spiritual existence of humans.
Would you be willing to have a discussion with the members who were expelled or left?
- We separated from them. Contact has been interrupted. We tried what Jesus suggested “One on one first,...” We tried to speak to them. There was a rejection. They want to express their separation. They are not on the right path. We have to treat them like Jesus treated pagans and tax collectors.
Not rather like with the Samaritan woman?
- The things you have asked us were not new to us.
- We have to discuss these, but here internally, with each other. We must expect change from within. We must fight. Hope is in that.
The word “to fight” (“we are fighting”, the “fight”) has been the most frequent and most emphasized expression you voiced this evening.
The responses of the “prominent members who stayed” on the one hand remind of their declared teaching, on the other hand largely verify the diagnosis of those who left or were expelled. The shocking extent of asymmetry in their opinions of each other is conspicuous: deflection from the part of the prominent members, while from the part of those who left or were expelled the consideration of “multiple aspects”. Another conspicuous asymmetry is between the self-confident defense of “those within the domain” with a perfectionist mentality, and the refined, analytic, explanation seeking attitude of the expelled.