"Adverse Effects of Communal Living"

A Strategy used to Control Members and Instill Elitism

By Darlene Dufton Griffith

"The shepherd makes the gate high so that the sheep cannot escape." - Stewart Traill

How many of you remember this quote? It was used to control every aspect of members' lives. Communal living was integral to such control and without it the survival of the FF/Cobu would have been compromised. The success of the FF/Cobu was contingent upon people being willing to relinquish their freedom to live independently, what Stewart labeled as "being into house and home." Hence, why living in fellowship was viewed as necessary in order to be committed to FF/Cobu directives. Those, who for various reasons, were unwilling to live in the fellowship were regarded as resisting Jesus' will. In contrast, those who moved in were seen as "going to the work" and building up the fellowship. It was for this reason that members would attempt to convince people to move in shortly after they said the Sinner's Prayer.

This brings me to the subject of boundaries, something that has been addressed by ex-members on occasion. Soon after a person moved into the fellowship, they became increasingly aware that every aspect of their lives would be under scrutiny - under the watchful eye of the brethren. Hobbies, personal interests, attending college, visiting family members, these things and more were viewed with suspicion. Anything that was in conflict with FF/Cobu directives and goals was considered compromising on one's relationship with Jesus. It was this sort of 110% commitment that boosted morale and contributed to a narcissistic group mentality. No other Christians came close to the FF/Cobu standard of being "sold out for Jesus." In our arrogance and presumption, we thought our group would flourish and communal fellowships would be established throughout the towns and cities of the United States, perhaps even to other countries as well, burgeoning into a virtual universal entity. We all know this scenario never happened. The reasons as to the whys and wherefores have been bantered about at Cobu Stories with unsurprising regularity so I won't bother covering that ground.

However, I do think it is advantageous for those who subscribe to some sort of glory days to consider the very paradigm that was crucial to the rise of the Forever Family/Church of Bible Understanding. I submit that living in fellowship was the necessary component to the formation and continuation of the group. It would be interesting to ponder the outcome of the fellowship had this model not been put in place. It wouldn't be a stretch of the imagination to say that members would have had the freedom to make more choices concerning employment, education, ownership of property, raising a family, enjoying a hobby, and a host of other pursuits. So, we had an advantage (or disadvantage, depending at how one looks at it) when it came to numerical growth over most other Christians, those whom we disparagingly labeled "Church Christians." The same could be said for the church businesses that became successful later on in the Cobu, due to the fact that members received no paychecks, thus ensuring a success over competitors. There was no equal playing field when one compares the FF/Cobu to other churches in this regard. Yet, the question arises, was the FF/Cobu model of communal living one to be imitated? Another factor to consider is that of history. No where in the history of the Christian church, whether in its inception or throughout the first and second millenniums, in fact all the way up until the Jesus' Movement, was communal living the norm, except in monasteries which was not the life style of the average Christian. Instead, Christians left their families, married, and had children of their own. What was once popular among certain para-church groups during the Jesus Movement has gone by the wayside in the last few decades, except for those groups that are deemed cults.

This brings me to another matter that I think is connected to the glory days mentality. Many former members who still hold to such a view have been unable to find a home among Christians outside of the FF/Cobu. Why is that? Often, I believe it is because they still view other Christians with the same suspicion that they had while living in the fellowship. Hence, according to their estimation, there are few if any Christians that can be found that are as committed to the truth as we were in the FF/Cobu. The truth we embraced was laced with arrogance, big on knowing the spiritual condition of all those C. C.'s {let the reader understand } and small on understanding the love and mercy of God. It was a truth that was immature and abrasive, lacking in the fruits of the Spirit. I would suggest, therefore, that the standard by which other Christians were judged, the standard we learned in the FF/Cobu was/is flawed. It is a judgment that requires all other Christians to be held accountable to the FF/Cobu standard, a standard fraught with unfair assumptions. Moving on from the past must entail moving on from the elitist views that permeated our thinking. It requires laying aside previous biases that were based upon false assumptions. Such moving on brings with it a release from the inward struggle of continually looking for the church that resembles our experience in the FF/Cobu, a true freedom from the cult mentality that enslaved us.