Is the Bruderhof a cult? Oxford professor says no
Posted by: princecurt ()
Date: July 10, 2017 10:21PM

According to Bryan Wilson, the Bruderhof is not a cult, but rather "positive and life-affirming,and it maintains non-violence as a basic principle." I am not sure what others think, but this is a very interesting paper from a man who spent his life studying cults and NRMs.

Here is the text:

"The Bruderhof
by Bryan R. Wilson, Reader Emeritus in Sociology at the University of Oxford Among the minority religions with which I have become acquainted in the course of my studies is the body known as the Bruderhof. I have read much of the available social science literature on this movement and on the history of the wider Hutterite fraternity. On two occasions, I have visited the Bruderhof community at Nonington in Kent, and am acquainted with some of their leading members. As will be apparent, my approach to the Bruderhof and to all other minority religions is objective and ethically neutral. I am not and never have been a member of the Bruderhof.

The Bruderhof can claim to inherit the authentic spirit of the radical Reformation, and shares with others in the Hutterite tradition (the name derives from Jacob Hutter (d.1536)) the commitment to a simple communitarian way of life in which basic Christian virtues and values are cherished and nurtured. The members of the Bruderhof espouse a Protestant ethic with an emphasis on the shared possession of the necessities of life. They are committed to non-violence and the endeavour to promote peace and goodwill among all mankind.

Their communal life certainly differs from the life-style of most citizens, but it is generally recognized by scholars to be a way of life informed by wholesome ideals and conscientious concerns.The general evidence concerning such communities is that they are of long-term benefit to the societies in which they are established. As self-regulating bodies they are virtually crime-free, and such are the standard held up to their young people that they are unlikely to be involved in vandalism or any other form of anti-social behaviour. A Bruderhof community requires no police surveillance,and might have the direct or indirect effect of reducing the policing costs of the wider society. Similarly, the strong family values which pervade the community encourage its members to look after one another, and this is of considerable importance to the elderly, who are so well cared for in the community that even in extremis they are unlikely to become a charge on local or state government finances.

The Bruderhof community succeeds in maintaining control and mutual support because its members have permanently in mind the teachings to which they are committed and the need to be seen to live up to their professed standards.Members keep themselves generally to themselves but, when occasion demand,they show themselves to be good neighbours by participating in local schemes for social improvement, recently exemplified by devoting labour to maintain a tidy environment and by providing swings for a children’s playground. Whilst members undertake much of their own maintenance work, it is also true that the existence of the Bruderhof from time to time, present employment opportunities for non-members resident in the neighbourhood.

There is no reason to suppose that the Bruderhof would ever pose a threat to those living and working in its locality.In recent years, the widespread diffusion throughout western societies of new religious teachings, and the proliferation of the organizations that have come into being to purvey those teachings, or variants of them, has led journalists and some public figures to make comments concerning minority religions which have been ill-informed and distressing to some members of the public. Chief among the miss-directed assertions has been the tendency to speak of new religious movements as if they differed very little, if at all, one from another. The tendency has been to lump them altogether and indiscriminately to attribute to all of them characteristics which are, in fact, valid for only one or two.

In point of fact, minority religions represent a wide variety of beliefs and practices. The tragic history of five small movements: the People’s Temple in Guyana; the Branch Davidians at Waco; the Solar Temple, in Switzerland, France and Canada; the Aum Shinrikyo in Japan; and the believers in Heaven’s Gate in San Diego, captured the attention of the Press in the last quarter of the twentieth century, and induced an indiscriminate fear of minority religious movements among some members of the general public. It should be pointed out, however,that these are five isolated instances among an estimated 2,000 religious bodies operating in western countries. Public fears have thus led to unfounded rumours and ill-informed allegations against many sincere, innocent, and altogether blameless believers, belonging to religious fellowships uncontaminated by the self-destructive theories of so-called “salvation” canvassed, in one form or another, by these five movements or so-called “cults”.

In the popular press, the word “sect” and, even more especially (at least in English), the word “cult” have now been extensively used to categorize reputedly“dangerous” religious movements. These words lack stable definitions but have taken on pejorative and derogatory connotations, which in the popular mind suggest that cults in particular are organizations that use methods of deceptions,fraud, mind-control, exploitation of converts, among other malefactions, and that converts are likely to have their lives endangered. Typically, the cult is presented as being under the control of one or a very few powerful leaders; to have drawn its teachings from eclectic, arcane, and often occultist sources, and usually sources other than the indigenous religious tradition (i.e. in the West,Christianity).If these characteristics are accepted as the popular understanding of what is meant by the term “cult”, then it must be said that the Bruderhof in no way approximates “cult” status. Its goals and values are positive and life-affirming,and it maintains non-violence as a basic principle.

The first Hutterite communities come into being well over five hundred years ago, and since that time these religious believers have attained and recurrently enhanced a reputation for diligence in work, integrity in personal relationships, peaceable living, and good neighbourliness. The two English Bruderhof communities maintain these traditions and give them manifold expression"

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Re: Is the Bruderhof a cult? Oxford professor says no
Posted by: princecurt ()
Date: July 10, 2017 11:44PM

Thinking further about how you assess to see if a group is a cult, is it OK to use reports of visits to the group in question?

Here is a visit report that is broadly positive, but from someone who didn't stay for long: Life among the Bruderhof

Here is one where the people visited for a couple days: Learning from the Bruderhof: an Intentional Community

And most compelling, here is a video of someone who visited for a least a couple weeks: Visiting the Bruderhof - Youtube Video

So of the info on the internet, it seems like ex-members will say it is a cult, based on their personal experience, whereas visitors will have a positive experience.

Now, I know that a religious group could just be putting on a front for a visitor, but surely that would get tiresome after even a couple days, and certainly a couple weeks.

So I am unsure about this one. I guess any intentional community can be seen as cultish just because they are different from society.

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Re: Is the Bruderhof a cult? Oxford professor says no
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: July 10, 2017 11:52PM

See []

This is the archive subsection within the Cult Education Institute about the Bruderhof group.

Also see []

Critical information about the Bruderhof group.

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Re: Is the Bruderhof a cult? Oxford professor says no
Posted by: princecurt ()
Date: July 10, 2017 11:54PM

OK, thanks. I will read those with interest.

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Re: Is the Bruderhof a cult? Oxford professor says no
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: July 11, 2017 12:03AM

Cult Formation

The Harvard Mental Health Letter/February 1981

By Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.

Two main concerns should inform our moral and psychological perspective on cults: the dangers of ideological totalism, or what I would also call fundamentalism; and the need to protect civil liberties.

There is now a worldwide epidemic of totalism and fundamentalism in forms that are political, religious or both. Fundamentalism is a particular danger in this age of nuclear weapons, because it often includes a theology of Armageddon--a final battle between good and evil. I have studied Chinese thought reform in the 1950s as well as related practices in McCarthyite American politics and in certain training and educational programs. I have also examined these issues in work with Vietnam veterans, who often movingly rejected war related totalism; and more recently in a study of the psychology of Nazi doctors.

Certain psychological themes which recur in these various historical contexts also arise in the study of cults. Cults can be identified by three characteristics:

1. a charismatic leader who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power;

2. a process I call coercive persuasion or thought reform;

3. economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.

Milieu Control

The first method characteristically used by ideological totalism is milieu control: the control of all communication within a given environment. In such an environment individual autonomy becomes a threat to the group. There is an attempt to manage an individual's inner communication. Milieu control is maintained and expressed by intense group process, continuous psychological pressure, and isolation by geographical distance, unavailability of transportation, or even physical restraint. Often the group creates an increasingly intense sequence of events such as seminars, lectures and encounters which makes leaving play for real extremely difficult, both physically and psychologically. Intense milieu control can contribute to a dramatic change of identity which I call doubling: the formation of a second self which lives side by side with the former one, often for a considerable time. When the milieu control is lifted, elements of the earlier self may be reasserted.

Creating a Pawn

A second characteristic of totalistic environments is mystical manipulation or planned spontaneity. This is a systematic process through which the leadership can create in cult members what I call the psychology of the pawn. The process is managed so that it appears to arise spontaneously; to its objects it rarely feels like manipulation. Religious techniques such as fasting, chanting and limited sleep are used. Manipulation may take on a special intense quality in a cult for which a particular chosen' human being is the only source of salvation. The person of the leader may attract members to the cult, but can also be a source of disillusionment. If members of the Unification Church, for example, come to believe that Sun Myung Moon, its founder, is associated with the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, they may lose their faith. Mystical manipulation may also legitimate deception of outsiders, as in the "heavenly deception" of the Unification Church and analogous practices in other cult environments. Anyone who has not seen the light and therefore lives in the realm of evil can be justifiably deceived for a higher purpose. For instance, collectors of funds may be advised to deny their affiliation with a cult that has a dubious public reputation.

Purity and Confession

Two other features of totalism are a demand for purity and a cult of confession. The demand for purity is a call for radical separation of good and evil within the environment and within oneself. Purification is a continuing process, often institutionalized in the cult of confession, which enforces conformity through guilt and shame evoked by mutual criticism and self-criticism in small groups.

Confessions contain varying mixtures of revelation and concealment. As Albert Camus observed, "Authors of confessions write especially to avoid confession, to tell nothing of what they know." Young cult members confessing the sins of their precultic lives may leave out ideas and feelings that they are not aware of or reluctant to discuss, including a continuing identification with their prior existence. Repetitious confession, especially in required meetings, often expresses an arrogance in the name of humility. As Camus wrote: "I practice the profession of penitence to be able to end up as a judge," and, "The more I accuse myself, the more I have a right to judge you."

Three further aspects of ideological totalism are "sacred science," "loading of the language," and the principle of "doctrine over person." Sacred science is important because a claim of being scientific is often needed to gain plausibility and influence in the modern age. The Unification Church is one example of a contemporary tendency to combine dogmatic religious principles with a claim to special scientific knowledge of human behavior and psychology. The term loading the language' refers to literalism and a tendency to deify words or images. A simplified, cliche-ridden language can exert enormous psychological force reducing every issue in a complicated life to a single set of slogans that are said to embody the truth as a totality. The principle of doctrine over person' is invoked when cult members sense a conflict between what they are experiencing and what dogma says they should experience. The internalized message of the totalistic environment is that one must negate that personal experience on behalf of the truth of the dogma. Contradictions become associated with guilt: doubt indicates one's own deficiency or evil.

Perhaps the most significant characteristic of totalistic movements is what I call "dispensing of existence." Those who have not seen the light and embraced the truth are wedded to evil, tainted, and therefore in some sense, usually metaphorical, lack the right to exist. That is one reason why a cult member threatened with being cast into outer darkness may experience a fear of extinction or collapse. Under particularly malignant conditions, the dispensing of existence is taken literally; in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and elsewhere, people were put to death for alleged doctrinal shortcomings. In the People's Temple mass suicide-murder in Guyana, a cult leader presided over the literal dispensing of existence by means of a suicidal mystique he himself had made a central theme in the group's ideology. The totalistic impulse to draw a sharp line between those who have the right to live and those who do not is especially dangerous in the nuclear age.

Historical Context

Totalism should always be considered within a specific historical context. A significant feature of contemporary life is the historical (or psycho historical) dislocation resulting from a loss of the symbolic structures that organize ritual transitions in the life cycle, and a decay of belief systems concerning religion, authority, marriage, family, and death. One function of cults is to provide a group initiation rite for the transition to early adult life, and the formation of an adult identity outside the family. Cult members have good reasons for seeing attempts by the larger culture to make such provisions as hypocritical or confused.

In providing substitute symbols for young people, cults are both radical and reactionary. They are radical because they suggest rude questions about middle-class family life and American political and religious values in general. They are reactionary because they revive premodern structures of authority and sometimes establish fascist patterns of internal organization. Furthermore, in their assault on autonomy and self-definition some cults reject a liberating historical process that has evolved with great struggle and pain in the West since the Renaissance. (Cults must be considered individually in making such judgments. Historical dislocation is one source of what I call the "protean style." This involves a continuous psychological experimentation with the self, a capacity for endorsing contradictory ideas at the same time, and a tendency to change one's ideas, companions and way of life with relative ease. Cults embody a contrary restricted style,' a flight from experimentation and the confusion of a protean world. These contraries are related: groups and individuals can embrace a protean and a restricted style in turn. For instance, the so-called hippie ethos of the 1960s and 1970s has been replaced by the present so-called Yuppie preoccupation with safe jobs and comfortable incomes. For some people, experimentation with a cult is part of the protean search.

The imagery of extinction derived from the con temporary threat of nuclear war influences patterns of totalism and fundamentalism throughout the world. Nuclear war threatens human continuity itself and impairs the symbols of immortality. Cults seize upon this threat to provide immortalizing principles of their own. The cult environment supplies a continuous opportunity for the experience of transcendence -- a mode of symbolic immortality generally suppressed in advanced industrial society.

Role of Psychology

Cults raise serious psychological concerns, and there is a place for psychologists and psychiatrists in understanding and treating cult members. But our powers as mental health professionals are limited, so we should exercise restraint. When helping a young person confused about a cult situation, it is important to maintain a personal therapeutic contract so that one is not working for the cult or for the parents. Totalism begets totalism. What is called deprogramming includes a continuum from intense dialogue on the one hand to physical coercion and kidnaping, with thought-reform-like techniques, on the other. My own position, which I have repeatedly conveyed to parents and others who consult me, is to oppose coercion at either end of the cult process. Cults are primarily a social and cultural rather than a psychiatric or legal problem. But psychological professionals can make important contributions to the public education crucial for dealing with the problem. With greater knowledge about them, people are less susceptible to deception, and for that reason some cults have been finding it more difficult to recruit members.

Yet painful moral dilemmas remain. When laws are violated through fraud or specific harm to recruits, legal intervention is clearly indicated. But what about situations in which behavior is virtually automatized, language reduced to rote and cliche, yet the cult member expresses a certain satisfaction or even happiness? We must continue to seek ways to encourage a social commitment to individual autonomy and avoid coercion and violence.


Robert Jay Lifton, M.D. is Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His most recent book, written with Erik Markuson, is The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi Holocaust and Nuclear Threat (New York, Basic Books, 1990)

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Re: Is the Bruderhof a cult? Oxford professor says no
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: July 11, 2017 12:09AM

Warning Signs

By Rick Ross, Expert Consultant and Intervention Specialist

Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.

Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.

No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.

No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.

Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.

There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.

Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.

There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.

Followers feel they can never be "good enough".

The group/leader is always right.

The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.

Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.

Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".

Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.

Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.

Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.

A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.

Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.

Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

Ten signs of a safe group/leader.

A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.

A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses.

Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.

A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.

A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.

A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.

A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.

A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.

A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.

A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.

A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.

Don't be naïve, develop a good BS Detector.

You can protect yourself from unsafe groups and leaders by developing a good BS detector. Check things out, know the facts and examine the evidence. A safe group will be patient with your decision making process. If a group or leader grows angry and anxious just because you want to make an informed and careful decision before joining; beware.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/11/2017 12:12AM by rrmoderator.

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Re: Is the Bruderhof a cult? Oxford professor says no
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: July 11, 2017 12:15AM

Here are some helpful videos online about how to analyze groups and recognize the behavior of destructive authoritarian groups, often called "cults."

See []

Also see []

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