Positive experiences in the group
The intense group atmosphere is mentioned very frequently. People experienced it as a family-like feeling of security, as a close bond, and sometimes also as a refuge from an environment perceived to be cold. The communal ownership of property, the readiness to help and share, but also the effort to build relationships not only with those who were personally likeable to them – these were mentioned positively. The intense spiritual discussions, which were possible in this group atmosphere, were valued very highly. Likewise, the near lack of hierarchy was perceived as very comfortable. In the blogs, [former members] sometimes complain that they don’t experience this intense community outside the group any more, and that they miss it, even years later. Rarely do they reflect on the fact that this intense fellowship was bought at the price of forgoing marriage/partnership and personal friendships, as well as almost extinguishing relationships with nongroup-members. (Where external communication is minimized, internal communication automatically strengthens.)
The ideal of a simple and committed lifestyle was seen as relatively positive, even if there was skepticism about some of the individual rules. Likewise, they perceived the intense religious life as basically a good thing, only having doubts about individual forms and manifestations [of such a life].
Their opinions are divided about the other topics. The division emerged primarily over the topic “good theory – bad application.” The amount of time a person had been out of the group probably played a role in this matter: the longer someone had been out of the group, the more distanced (and therefore often more critical) is his viewpoint of things.
Some [of the former members] found it appropriate to pay attention to another member’s transgressions and to admonish her or him. They saw it as an expression of concern about the salvation of the other member and as an aid to her or his repentance. Other [people] perceived it more as surveillance and interference.
While some were quite happy that [the group] exerted effort regarding doctrinal purity and excluding false teaching, others saw it primarily as narrowmindedness.
That’s the case, too, regarding the ideal of the “pure community.” While some of the people valued living in a homogeneous community of committed converts, others were bothered by the ensuing group pressure and the practice of expulsion.