The equal, more equal and most equal brothers

              “We reject congregational hierarchy, since it is in clear contradiction with the Word of God and brotherly love. We are convinced that the unity of Christians according to God cannot be the result of a human dictatorial system, rather it may exclusively originate from obedience to the Holy Scripture. We are in unity, because placing ourselves in the background we want to follow what God revealed in the Bible, in a way that is recognizable to everyone”, says the homepage of the Christians. Realizing all these in practice is not easy at all. In brotherly organizations without an Abbot, a dictatorship of brothers may form, who are older and considered more diligent than the average, reminiscent of the ancient Christian “elders”, or merely a dictatorship of the majority passing judgement over a critical minority. To my question if in the 21st century a brotherly community completely without institutions, rules and leaders is not self-deceit, the ex-brothers who were the victims of the brotherhood that was far from perfect responded as follows: “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” (Norbert), „The brotherly community could have been feasible, if we had respected each other more” (Antal), „This could only be successful if an appropriate mix of less experienced and older brothers was formed” (Albert), „A community without fear is only feasible if everybody practices love, and if nobody strives to be more loving than the others” (Tibor).

              There were many who sensed that there were no clear definitions, agreements and rules. For example regarding who is an “obedient brother”, who is an “older brother”[1], who is the “leader of teaching”, what is “spiritual obedience”, when is someone “human” and when “spiritual”, and basically who can make decisions, when and about what. “We believed the possibility of brotherhood and we aspired to achieve it. We had no appointed or elected leader. After about a year, since I was considered obedient, I was called several times to meetings where only older and more experienced brothers attended. 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 fifty to one hundred pages did not exactly describe how they actually lived. In my opinion the ideal of brotherhood turned into radicalism and rule making. I think that spirituality can be passed on, the question is what form it should take. 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”, remembers Albert.

              Those who left or were expelled deemed that “their fight for saintly status” was frequently distorted or at least it occurred by improper methods. Oftentimes they fought against the sinner instead of the sin. They placed too much emphasis on carnal, sexual sins. “We discussed it often, we questioned each other about intimate details, then we passed the details around between each other. Embarrassment and intimidation were frequent, so there were many who did not voice their real opinions, doubts, desires and deeds. Sins of the soul - such as self-importance, envy, jealousy - were not condemned nearly as strongly as they should have been. Important positions could be acquired by such sins. We were open for temptation in many thing: desire for glory, competing with each other, opportunism, fear, dependency, hypocrisy, power hunger, hardened habits, changing personalities, compensational attitude”, wrote Aranka. 

              The religious life of the congregation was mainly in the spirit of collectivism[2], thus the confession of sins also occurred in front of a large group: “We practiced the discussion of personal problems, doubts, mistakes even when the proper basis of trust for this did not exist. A certain custom and treatment pattern was prevalent, such as the inquiry about details. At these times we hardly respected the privacy of others. And this made honesty more difficult” (Aranka).

              Finally, those who left or were expelled experienced the restriction of individual freedom almost without an exception. “If someone wanted to visit his parents, or if someone wished to go to school, we discouraged him, and if he could not tolerate the pressure any longer he submitted. We forcefully moved numerous people to other cities, we removed them from their original environment. Thus, the developing relationships based on love were interrupted. Many felt that they lived under observation and control. Only a certain clique knew about many things. Some older brothers had privileges: we did not expect from them the same openness, willingness to confess their sins”, Aranka remembers. The frequent usage of the attributives “obedient” and “disobedient”, “human” and “spiritual”, “active” and “passive” signaled the distinguishing between the equals and the more equals.

              Today many of them regret that they were just drifting with the flow, that they allowed themselves to be oppressed with “respectful attention”, or as an Estonian brother stated it: “More space should have been allowed for the guidance of God in the lives of individual Christians, to counterbalance the congregation’s control”.


[1]             “It was not truly defined who were the older brothers, still the prestige of some was clear. Some really wished to be considered older brothers, because they wanted to be someone, and they eventually became that” (Aranka).

[2]             “The brothers said that the congregation was led by God, all the brothers collectively, not individually” (Béla).