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The Bruderhof: Very Nice, Very Odd


anachronistic
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I saw that we had a AMA with a former Bruderhof person about 10 years ago but we have never had a thread devoted to them. I don’t know if people will be interested in them, but I just found out about them an am fascinated....and confused.

The Bruderhof are a 100 year old group of communities, all over the world, where they all live together in peaceful, Christian communism. They remind me a bit of a kibbutz except with a lot of Christianity. They share everything, eat communally for most meals, and any money they earn goes straight into the organization. I would call them Christian fundamentalists for sure, but I don’t know if they are a cult, probably not since people seem to be able to leave it freely. The men and women have defined gender roles, the women seem to work full time jobs plus take care of their kids and homes at night, and they are strictly against gay marriage and are big on how being gay is a choice and gay people should choose celibacy rather than being in a loving relationship. Ew.

What makes them different from many groups is that they are incredibly financially successful through actual industry and not donations, and make the Community Playthings line of children’s furniture and equipment, which anyone who has ever been in a preschool or daycare has seen, and they also own Rifton, that huge adaptive equipment company. They also interact with the outside world a lot, welcome visitors, do charity and community outreach and overall are very involved in the world. (They remind me a bit of the Seven Sisters, especially in how they dress.) I can’t imagine not even owning my own clothes or toys or not being able to choose how I spend my days, they just get assigned to jobs where something needs doing. They can also be sent across the country or the world without a choice depending on what’s needed where.

They are very internet savvy and have several websites like these

https://www.bruderhof.com/

and some very happy web blogs of Bruderhof people answering questions, showing off their lives, etc, (which I can’t link to because I can’t figure out how to put it behind a spoiler.)

 Some former members hated it, however, and their criticism is valid

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-51310036

https://afterhof.com/why-i-didnt-join-the-bruderhof/

 

anyway. They are mentioned numerous times in Fundie Encounters so, anyone met one? Anyone visit a community? Anyone former or current Bruderhof here? What do you think of them?

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Thanks for starting this. I’ve heard a little about them over the years and I’m curious to see where this thread goes.

Edited by Giraffe
Adding a word. Words help. Time for coffee.
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Now I'm curious about how they go about the courtship/dating process for finding mates; rules for teenagers and such. 

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For some reason, I had Youtube suggestions for this vlog a while ago. I watched several of her videos but didn't find them interesting enough to watch more. 

 

 

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I have heard of them .  They are a fairly modern adaptation of the Hutterian Brethren , yet not all Hutterites accept them as being a valid expression of their faith tradition .  Also there has been controversies over allegations that they are a high control religious cult .  

{  https://www.perefound.com/em-s_sp.html ,  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/dec/16/i-was-abandoned-by-my-cult-experience  }  

Spoiler

 

  

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I remember seeing a news segment and then reading up on them a bit a number of years ago when this happened in Australia:

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/inquiry-into-doctor-who-buried-mother-on-christian-groups-land-20130223-2ey3g.html

They're clearly not anti-medical science if there are licensed MDs among their followers but it was an odd story.

In two of the places I lived growing up, we had Plymouth Brethren congregations locally, and the Bruderhof seem less insular than the Brethren but similar in that they have wide reaching business interests. I tend to think most groups with both fundamentalist belief systems and who live in some isolation from mainstream society are at a higher risk of the people in charge taking advantage of their power and getting away with certain abuses though so I'm always suspicious.

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I delivered chemical fertilizer to a Hutterite farm, once they got over the shock of a woman in shorts and cowboy boots driving a 26 wheeler we got along fine.  The men were so funny sneaking looks without looking.

But the kids were adorable and brought me apples.  The farm had a huge lake but when I asked the kids if they had fun swimming in the water they told me they weren’t allowed!  WTF .... it was summer and very warm, but everyone was covered and buttoned up.    So yeah, nice place, great people and a bunch of asshole rules.  So sad and abusive.

 

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I mostly knew about Bruderhof because of Community Playthings.  I knew about the Hutterites from an article in National Geographic.  

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Youtube also recomended me that channel. It knows what we like haha

The girl who does the channel is very good at selling the cult, and that is exactly what she is doint, trying to get people interested in joining the cult.

At first it seemed such a happy life to me too, a real utopia. But the more videos i watched the more i realiced it was a dangerous cult. For starters every person who wants to join needs to give all their money and posesions to their leaders, huge red flag from the start. She also mentions how the leaders decide where you are needed the most, so you cant decide your own job. In her case she studied in university and is a good artist but since she is needed cleaning thats what she does. They work full time, both men and women, while some people are asigned to take care of everyone elses children (they are quiverfull, so they have a lot) when they are not in school, so the parents whose task is not to take care of children barely see their own kids. Also i noticed that when she was pregnant she avoided mentioning it, she said she would need to take a time off youtube and came back when she gave birth. I found it weird, and aparently it is because women are not allowed to talk about their own pregnancies, because in this cult they have the mysoginistic notion that women just talk about their pregnancies for atention.

They also dont have their own money, the community administers it and they have to ask for it everytime that they need it with a justification, they dont own the houses they live, and even the furniture is not theirs. She mentioned that they are reasigned houses often so it is nice that they dont need to pack or anything since they dont own posesions...its like a mix of a monacal life and North Korea.

Then i decided to do a bit of research and found this woman who grew up in the Bruderhof talking about her not so nice experience there, very interesting: 

 

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There were a couple of Bruderhof kids at my college back in 1970. One was in my “Utopias and Utopian Thought” literature class. 

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20 hours ago, Don'tlikekoolaid said:

I delivered chemical fertilizer to a Hutterite farm, once they got over the shock of a woman in shorts and cowboy boots driving a 26 wheeler we got along fine.  The men were so funny sneaking looks without looking.

But the kids were adorable and brought me apples.  The farm had a huge lake but when I asked the kids if they had fun swimming in the water they told me they weren’t allowed!  WTF .... it was summer and very warm, but everyone was covered and buttoned up.    So yeah, nice place, great people and a bunch of asshole rules.  So sad and abusive.

 

 

 

20 hours ago, PennySycamore said:

I mostly knew about Bruderhof because of Community Playthings.  I knew about the Hutterites from an article in National Geographic.  

 First I wanted to point out the distinction between the Bruderhof , and the Hutterites .  

Quote

The Bruderhof Communities and the Hutterites were in fellowship between 1930 and 1955 and between 1974 and 1990. In 1990, theLehrerleut and the Dariusleut withdrew, while the Schmiedeleut maintained their bond to the Bruderhof. After the split among the Schmiedeleut in 1992, the more traditional group also withdrew, while the more progressive branch (led by Jacob Kleinsasser) kept the bond until 1995. Since then, the traditional Hutterites and the Bruderhof have been separate groups.[66]

The reason for the withdrawal of the Hutterites in 1955 was a conflict about the Forest River Hutterite Colony, which joined the Bruderhof by a majority vote. In 1974 there was reconciliation between the two groups.[67] In 1990 two of the three branches of the traditional Hutterites withdrew over concerns in regard to education, worship services and relations with outsiders, such as political activism.

According to Rod Janzen, there are differences between the traditional Hutterites and the Bruderhof Communities on many fields. Besides cultural differences, there are differences in regard to education, leadership, decision making, church discipline, ecumenism, what constitutes the "Word of God" etc. All these differences led to the final break in 1995.

 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruderhof_Communities#Relationship_with_the_Hutterites  I am not really sure that I would consider the Hutterites to be a cult , but based upon what I have read and heard , I would definitely deem the Bruderhof to be one .  

 

18 hours ago, llucie said:

Youtube also recomended me that channel. It knows what we like haha

The girl who does the channel is very good at selling the cult, and that is exactly what she is doint, trying to get people interested in joining the cult.

At first it seemed such a happy life to me too, a real utopia. But the more videos i watched the more i realiced it was a dangerous cult. For starters every person who wants to join needs to give all their money and posesions to their leaders, huge red flag from the start. She also mentions how the leaders decide where you are needed the most, so you cant decide your own job. In her case she studied in university and is a good artist but since she is needed cleaning thats what she does. They work full time, both men and women, while some people are asigned to take care of everyone elses children (they are quiverfull, so they have a lot) when they are not in school, so the parents whose task is not to take care of children barely see their own kids. Also i noticed that when she was pregnant she avoided mentioning it, she said she would need to take a time off youtube and came back when she gave birth. I found it weird, and aparently it is because women are not allowed to talk about their own pregnancies, because in this cult they have the mysoginistic notion that women just talk about their pregnancies for atention.

They also dont have their own money, the community administers it and they have to ask for it everytime that they need it with a justification, they dont own the houses they live, and even the furniture is not theirs. She mentioned that they are reasigned houses often so it is nice that they dont need to pack or anything since they dont own posesions...its like a mix of a monacal life and North Korea.

Then i decided to do a bit of research and found this woman who grew up in the Bruderhof talking about her not so nice experience there, very interesting: 

 

In addition , here is a sequel to this talk , where the speaker describes how exactly she came to leave the Bruderhof .  

Spoiler

 

 

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Thank you, Marmion! I am looking forward to watching those.

The more I learn about them the more I think that yes, they must be a cult, because who but a cult would get full grown adults to believe that having no choices is fun? I just can’t imagine a life without choices! No choice about what to do, who to be with, where to live, even what to wear or eat. Nuns and monks *choose* their vocations as adults, and somewhat similar groups like the Amish differ from one another in how they dress, what they do, how they decorate, etc.

I’ve absolutely loved furnishing my first home-where-I-live-alone this year and not to be incredibly materialistic, but yeah, material stuff is enjoyable. Like crows and shiny objects, humans have a natural tendency to want stuff. I love looking at my baby quilt hung in the wall, at the shelves I picked myself from ikea, the framed finger painting one of my favorite kids made hanging in the kitchen. The Bruderhof look so sterile, the Maxwells have better decorating taste and more individual personalities. 
 

But looking at their history, their original leaders in Germany either survived the First World War there or came of age as the Nazis took over. So it makes sense that they’re messed up, it’s just a shame they had to drag so many thousands with them.

And they make Rifton! Darn it! I really like their products! I like the child craft stuff too. 

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2 hours ago, anachronistic said:

I’ve absolutely loved furnishing my first home-where-I-live-alone this year and not to be incredibly materialistic, but yeah, material stuff is enjoyable.

THIS!!! This is the first time I've started from scratch on my own. I love the simplicity of what I have, but I love my stuff! I'm not into that total communal thing...I mean, I live with but not with my son and his family...I have my own space, my own stuff. My apartment is glorious...and will be better when I get the rest of my stuff out of storage. 

Not feeling the control thing...even single I don't want someone having that much control over me. 

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I watched a few vids on youtube a few years ago on the Bruderhof, weird yet fascinating at the same time. A bit like modern Amish I thought

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I agree that "stuff" isn't  bad thing and can bring so much peace & happiness & contentment. 

When I got divorced 10 years ago, I had to buy everything - furniture, dishes - just about every necessary item to live. Since I had to get so much, everything I got was as cheap as possible. 

Just this summer, I bought all new furniture. Decent stuff. Not top of the line - I ain't rich - but actual furniture that will last & is comfortable. It's been coming in bits & pieces because apparently COVID means it takes 4 months & more to get furniture. I just finally got my sofa last week. It is, in short, glorious. I love it. It's comfortable. It makes my living room look like "home". It's solid. I've got everything now except one chair & ottoman and every time I walk into my apartment, I get a little flicker of joy. It looks so nice. So much like a chosen home. it's comfortable & homey & cozy. And, it's mine. I worked & saved & planned for it. That's an accomplishment - to set a goal and work for it. And, I think that's a lot of what it comes down to for me & people like the Bruderhof, 

No goal setting. And without goals, no sense of accomplishment or joy in doing something,. It just seems like a complete waste of life. 

 

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What I find really concerning and telling is the fact that the women’s clothing looks outdated while the men don’t necessarily stand out with their clothes. What men have to wear (jeans, t-shirts, etc.) isn’t overly stylish either, but they can blend into “mainstream” society. Women, of course, cannot. That just shows me how misogynistic this group really is. Also, I suspect that control is an issue, with women being controlled much more than men. 
At least with the Amish, for instance, both men and women adhere to a style that highlights their religious conviction and it’s not just the women and girls who look different that the majority. (Now, I have a lot of issues with the Amish and don’t glorify them, but I appreciate their approach regarding clothes. It somehow seems more honest than the Bruderhof way of dressing.) 

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Another thought I had (even before reading the Dillard thread): even if you subscribe to a communal, minimalist lifestyle and want to live without possessions, there need to be exceptions.

What about sex toys, for example? I’m willing to share a lot, but my vibrators are my own, thank you very much. 

Also, people from the Bruderhof have to ask for money and give specific reasons before being granted an allowance. So what could they do?  Luke they openly state they need money for sex toys (as long as it’s for some godly fun with their spouse)? Or do they need to make up a fake reason? This is so sad... I mean, we’re talking about legal adults who work day in and day out. Man, I’d never join such a cult. 

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5 hours ago, FluffySnowball said:

What I find really concerning and telling is the fact that the women’s clothing looks outdated while the men don’t necessarily stand out with their clothes. What men have to wear (jeans, t-shirts, etc.) isn’t overly stylish either, but they can blend into “mainstream” society. Women, of course, cannot. That just shows me how misogynistic this group really is. Also, I suspect that control is an issue, with women being controlled much more than men. 
At least with the Amish, for instance, both men and women adhere to a style that highlights their religious conviction and it’s not just the women and girls who look different that the majority. (Now, I have a lot of issues with the Amish and don’t glorify them, but I appreciate their approach regarding clothes. It somehow seems more honest than the Bruderhof way of dressing.) 

This is true of Anabaptists , such as the Mennonites , and plain people in general .  For example , here are some pictures of some Conservative Mennonite men 

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cmc-history-documents-copy.jpg

  

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112x8.jpg

 

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20140908__09ST_hearts4him~1.jpg:ok:

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Spoiler

young-man-and-Bob-Goodnough.jpg

, and here are some Mennonite women .  

Spoiler

main-qimg-3df9905f1771cbee43b9501c1aed26

 

Spoiler

nyc-three-mennonite-women-wearing-their-

 According to this Mennonite YouTuber , the reason is because women's fashion has changed more so than men's .  

Spoiler

 

@7:20  

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6 hours ago, fundiefan said:

I agree that "stuff" isn't  bad thing and can bring so much peace & happiness & contentment. 

When I got divorced 10 years ago, I had to buy everything - furniture, dishes - just about every necessary item to live. Since I had to get so much, everything I got was as cheap as possible. 

Just this summer, I bought all new furniture. Decent stuff. Not top of the line - I ain't rich - but actual furniture that will last & is comfortable. It's been coming in bits & pieces because apparently COVID means it takes 4 months & more to get furniture. I just finally got my sofa last week. It is, in short, glorious. I love it. It's comfortable. It makes my living room look like "home". It's solid. I've got everything now except one chair & ottoman and every time I walk into my apartment, I get a little flicker of joy. It looks so nice. So much like a chosen home. it's comfortable & homey & cozy. And, it's mine. I worked & saved & planned for it. That's an accomplishment - to set a goal and work for it. And, I think that's a lot of what it comes down to for me & people like the Bruderhof, 

No goal setting. And without goals, no sense of accomplishment or joy in doing something,. It just seems like a complete waste of life. 

 

 

 

1 hour ago, FluffySnowball said:

Another thought I had (even before reading the Dillard thread): even if you subscribe to a communal, minimalist lifestyle and want to live without possessions, there need to be exceptions.

What about sex toys, for example? I’m willing to share a lot, but my vibrators are my own, thank you very much. 

Also, people from the Bruderhof have to ask for money and give specific reasons before being granted an allowance. So what could they do?  Luke they openly state they need money for sex toys (as long as it’s for some godly fun with their spouse)? Or do they need to make up a fake reason? This is so sad... I mean, we’re talking about legal adults who work day in and day out. Man, I’d never join such a cult. 

 Even the Communists assert that they don't wish to abolish personal property .   

Spoiler

 

  

Spoiler

 

 

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What surprises me is how many positive comments she gets on the youtube channel. Sure i can see how some of the things they do may be appealing like being pacifist and anti military (they have that in common with the amish) or helping the community...but she has been pretty clear that she has no freedom at all, she can not even choose the clothes she wears or what food she eats, like is mind blowing that some people are being fooled that this is anything else but a cult.

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Ooh yay a bruderhof thread! I watched the bbc documentary this summer and I’ve watched a TON of Laura’s videos. I also loved the Hutterite show on natgeo a few years ago. 
 

The bruderhof don’t quite ping my “cult” alarm because they do seem to allow people to come and go without being shunned. It’s possible I’m not as alarmed because of my own lived experience but they’re not as outwardly harmful to me. I would be interested in examining more of their actual theology rather than just their practices. 

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1 hour ago, llucie said:

What surprises me is how many positive comments she gets on the youtube channel. Sure i can see how some of the things they do may be appealing like being pacifist and anti military (they have that in common with the amish) or helping the community...but she has been pretty clear that she has no freedom at all, she can not even choose the clothes she wears or what food she eats, like is mind blowing that some people are being fooled that this is anything else but a cult.

It’s probably because she seems so genuinely happy in her cult. If people seem happy, outsiders are less likely to focus on  any negatives In The cult and often don’t look any deeper. They kind of gloss over any hints of negative things in their mind. When a cult looks angry and unhappy, like the Anderson cult, people are less likely to overlook the nasty parts and actually call it a cult. Since cult has such a negative connotation.

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I’ve been pretty open in the past that I’ve dealt with Bruderhof through my work, and I’ve come to know some of the families quite closely. We even had a glass of wine together at a mutual friend’s wedding recently.

I do believe they border on being a cult, but I also believe on the continuum of cults they’re not too serious.

4 hours ago, purple_summer said:

The bruderhof don’t quite ping my “cult” alarm because they do seem to allow people to come and go without being shunned.

They definitely shun. 

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