Challenges faced by Hutterian Brethren

Written by: Hutterites on Monday, June 4th, 2012

This post is not about King Ranch Colony or our non Hutterite friends. Its about the real challenges that we the Hutterian Brethren are facing today.

Before continuing, I would like to present a qualifier. An interpretation of a people by a person from outside of the group has certain dangers, even if the outsider is sympathetic, as some outsiders most assuredly are. However, I know of the dangers of outside interpretations from reading Hutterite history and sociology. Some interpreters are sympathetic but their reports are still quite skewed. Others are less than sympathetic, and obviously highly biased. Interpretations of those from within the group may be sympathetic or negatively biased, but they carry the weight of experience that an outsider cannot bring to the discussion.

The Hutterian Brethren’s vision is to live a meaningful community life as Christ did with his disciples, attempting to live out our lives being forgiving and tolerant towards our fellow man, which is something that we live towards, but which is not always achievable. I’d like to say that we too are human and an imperfect people who from time to time make mistakes and we certainly don’t claim to be utopians.

To understand the Hutterite culture, it is helpful to understand the foundations of the system. Above all, Hutterites try to be true to their understanding of the Gospel. Hutterites are New Testament people and their ideal is to live by the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount. An examination of one of their earliest proverbs will help in this understanding. “Die Gemeinschaft wär nicht schwer, wenn Eigennutz nicht wär.” (Community and fellowship would not be hard, if self-seeking were not there.) The early Hutterites regarded personal private property as the greatest enemy of faithful discipleship. Discipleship meant following Christ in the church, with your brothers and sisters. The purpose of life of individuals was to serve each other and the “Gemeinde”. This would bring glory to God and be a witness to the world. All of life was to be brought under the rule of Christ. By serving each other, Hutterites, and other Christians, served God. The question here is this: are we this light on the hill which does good deeds so that Gods name will be glorified?

Yes, good or bad, I am born and bred Hutterite, with some of my ancestors having arrived here in 1874. Between the age of fifteen and twenty five I read the Bible through from cover to cover and was left with many questions. My Father was my mentor and I think two things were instilled in me by him: a love for God’s word and an understanding that every verse has both a practical application and a spiritual lesson. My Father’s conservative approach towards life reminds me of my childhood and is comforting.

The Church needs to be led by the Holy Spirit, needs to consider many factors, but first and foremost must be God’s Word, then the convictions of its members, the lessons of history, traditions and practices of godly forefathers, and present dangers and trends. But the individual must yield to the brotherhood or there can be no New Testament (Christian) Church.

The big challenge is to maintain faith, order and discipline. If these disappear, ruin is inevitable. A church that loses its members is a sign of a dying church. The foundation of Hutterianism is wholly religious. The practice of having all things in common is a success so long as faithful life in the Brotherhood flourishes and Christian Love prevails and manifests itself in a spirit of humble service. When true Christianity is permitted to wane and depart, the community life becomes an unbearable burden and fails utterly. Love is important at all times—especially in times of need. There is in Hutterite theology the potential to challenge the human family to address one of the issues that has caused enormous grief and warfare among the sons of Adam. The battle between good and evil forces is ongoing: which side will win? The forces that tear down or the forces that build up. How the story will end is left for each succeeding generation to determine.

My issues is not with the individuals but with the weak Church. I can simply not understand how when something is written as clear as day in scripture, that an eight years old can understand it, how they teach the exact opposite. People will do as people do and each will stand alone on judgement day, but what hope do they have in a dying church. As leaders we should be inspired to teach our children what’s morally right, of our faith in Christ, great traditions and heritage, so that they will not be a burden to family, society or to God.

Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Without knowing our faith we don’t understand our purpose, and without purpose there is no future. The future of the Hutterite people depends on their ability to use all that God has given them (including technology) in harmony with their pure church vision and on their commitment to being God’s faithful people in a wicked world.

I understand that some Hutterites, or many, as the case may be, will not be strict in observing God’s word, we are but human and we live and die in the blink of an eye. But the church and its teachings remain and so long as that is unchanging and steadfast, each generation has a chance to repent and return to the Word, but when the church falls and becomes worldly, what chance does the next generation have? You can’t return to what does not exist.

So my concern would be the defense of the teachings of the church, to contend for the faith once delivered, to ensure that people do not corrupt the church with false teachings and cause the church to fall and become a synagogue of satan. How people live their lives is their concern. God in His wisdom has given us freedom of choice and I certainly do not have permission from God to remove their freedom or to enforce God’s word. This task has been assigned to the church as a body and not to any individual like the pope or such like. But I believe the word of God instructs us to stand firm on His Word and not to compromise it with false teachings. I try to point out error in false teachings to the best of my limited knowledge and if people feel that I am trying to force them into doing something against their will, they should know, it is not I but the word of God.

So yes based on my upbringing and my life experiences, I think I have a very good understanding of Hutterites and the Christian Hutterite way of life, which may not be perfect, but it certainly is the way I and many other faithful have chosen to live. I am not sure what is the best way to communicate that living on a colony provides for our most basic needs, to belong and contribute to something larger than ourselves.

I know for some this may not sound very appealing, but really we are all the same just living out the challenge in different ways. We labor, worship, relax, chat and have fun wanting to live in peace with our loved ones, as well as our neighbors. I would like for my comments to reflect the similarities of the human existence that unites us. We are all God’s children looking for ways to support each other through life’s journey. When we behave this way we feel more connected to our Creator and that is truly the only way to experience any degree of freedom. Isn’t that what you would want for your children?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Showing 44 comments

Lydia said:reply
On: 4th Jun, 2012 at 16:05

Nicely put, thankyou!

Rachel said:reply
On: 6th Jun, 2012 at 00:02

Enjoyed reading your post. Just curious is your colony all of your kind or do you allow outsiders to join ? And if so what is the process ?? Thanks

Bobbi said:reply
On: 6th Jun, 2012 at 03:59

What a beautiful post, especially…… “We are all God’s children looking for ways to support each other through life’s journey. When we behave this way we feel more connected to our Creator and that is truly the only way to experience any degree of freedom. Isn’t that what you would want for your children?”
As a Catholic I have some idea of “skewed interpretations” by other Christians and as a Youth Minister, I relate to the desire you share to keep your community strong.
Basically I just want to thank you for your blog and thank you for your beautiful faith in the Lord!

Simon M Wurz said:reply
On: 7th Jun, 2012 at 05:04

Greatly enthused by inspiring & thought provoking post. Brings to mind the hymn;
Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone
Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known.
I pray that our Heavenly Father grant all who labour for His
glory the strength & perseverance, the patience & Solomonic
wisdom to continue to educate & enlighten all Christians, non-
Hutterite & Hutterite alike with the true power of God’s word.

Tom said:reply
On: 7th Jun, 2012 at 23:25

As someone who lives outside of your community and “in the world” I am glad to see you believe in the important things. (God’s Word and the salvation of Jesus). And I can understand why you think ‘outsiders’ may have wrong interpretatons of the Bible. Frankly, we all have some misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Bible. That’s why we have so many denominations, sects, etc. But do not be so quick to judge. There are many “Lots” among us. We are, “in the world but not of the world”. We are blood bought and Spirit filled and we interceed and do spiritual warfare daily.
Jesus told us to, “Go into Samaria and the outer most parts of the world”. He did not tell us to “keep and bury our coin” He did not tell us to ‘fear’ the world as you do, but
to go out in the power and authority of His name proclaiming the gospel. Are you aware how close we are to the second coming of the Lord? And If you are, you choose to sit on that information and keep it to yourselves?

Nick said:reply
On: 8th Jun, 2012 at 13:58

I was saved and baptized a Baptist (the old term from history is Anabaptist) from the same faith as Hutterite, except the commune is different. We live in the world, not of it. However, as you say there is the constant problem of becoming worldly and being ignorant of Bible teaching. We need to read the Bible every day and need to have it explained to us by qualified, tried and true Bible teachers or ministers. This I find is available in Books, Radio and TV and on Internet, but need to become aware of the truth of Christ so you aren’t led astray into false works teachings versus by the blessed simplicity by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. By grace alone, through faith alone, not of works lest any should boast. In God we trust through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Kf said:reply
On: 11th Jun, 2012 at 03:31

Well said Tom.

Don said:reply
On: 11th Jun, 2012 at 15:16

That early proverb resonated with me:

“Community and fellowship would not be hard, if self-seeking were not there.”

    Sonja Kassouf said:reply
    On: 20th Jun, 2012 at 12:39

    How is the gospel shared if you live mostly separated lives? Do people join your communities? and what is the procedure for this and how are they prepared?

Chris said:reply
On: 12th Jun, 2012 at 17:06

First, I do want to say that it is awesome that you take your faith so far, and that you worship the lord with all you heart.. But it seems the way of your people try and run from the threats of modern day corruption, instead of believing that the values and teachings of your faith are strong enough to prevail through the trials and tribulations that the Devil has put before us. I am a Christian, but I do not see why I would turn a blind eye to the world as it is today.. I might not be perfect, and do sin, but that is why Jesus gave his life, so that we un-pure can be given the privileged to meet the lord and live with him..

So, in short, do you guys not believe the strengths of your faith can persevere through modern tribulations?..

Leza said:reply
On: 12th Jun, 2012 at 22:16

I am outraged by the way the Hutterite Elders treat people in their colony… shunning? That’s NOT what Jesus taught! The elders are the ones who should be educated evidently… Jesus said to love each other, forgive each other, help each other…. shunning? I hope the ones doing the shunning are not shunned in return when they die. God forgives you as you forgive, you better think about your ways!!!!!

    Kathy said:reply
    On: 20th Jun, 2012 at 07:56

    I could not agree more! Shunning, awful!

arianna said:reply
On: 12th Jun, 2012 at 23:07

Hello!

I have enjoyed reading the blogs written by you and the others. It had been very insightful and thought provoking. That being said and mistake me if I am wrong, but does the bible not say that you should show Christ to the world….and that they should see Christ through you? Is that a practice within the church? I am by no means judging, i was just wondering if outreach and public preaching was a practice? Also, I read another comment about what if an outsider wants to join the church…and I, too, am curious. Is there such a thing as being able to join, live, and practice the doctrine. Is it possible to convert to the religion and what does one have to do? I hope to hear from you or someone! Have a blessed day!

Karen said:reply
On: 12th Jun, 2012 at 23:11

I am learning more about your religion both on National Geographic television and by reading your website. I too am a Christian (raised in the Lutheran faith) and am a retired high school teacher. While I applaud your devotion to the Bible and to each other, I do not understand why you are so against education for your young people. I would think that in order for the colony to survive, some of the members need to keep up with the changes in technology, mechanization, etc. If there is one thing I have learned in 62 years, it is that sometimes our young people have some excellent ideas and it would do us good to listen to them. Just because they are young does not mean the ideas are from the devil. I find it harder to give total control of everyone’s minds to a few of the older men in the colony who consider themselves messengers of God.

Wade Pullman said:reply
On: 13th Jun, 2012 at 01:29

What I am liking most about your way of life, is your community. Your friends are family, your family are your friends. I hope you appreciate these family ties. For me, my children are leaving, the days become lonely. I sit at church alone or with others that I only see on Sundays. For you, your lives are filled with belonging. You work together, sing together, pray together. You gather daily to hear the word. At meals, the men dine with the other men in brotherhood, while the women do likewise. As each day closes, you are together, man and wife with children. I see these things as I would an inspiring painting authored by a loving merciful God. I truly hope you can hold fast to that which is so good in your society.

Tom S. said:reply
On: 19th Jun, 2012 at 12:51

This may be some what off toplc, but I’ll ask anyway as it would present a challenge to the Hutterite community. The question is: Have the Hut terites experienced inherited medical disorders at a higher rate than “average” as have been experienced by other closed communities as the Amish and certain Jewish groups?

    John said:reply
    On: 25th Jul, 2012 at 19:59

    I looked it up they actually are more immune to disease than anyone else, but genetic disorder is common

Diane said:reply
On: 20th Jun, 2012 at 00:00

Although it may not be accurate, the National Geographic show has been a breath of fresh air. It shows the Godly life is much more beautiful than today’s fast and reckless life. This may be some young person’s only look at how productive life can be.

Barbara J Monda said:reply
On: 26th Jun, 2012 at 01:27

Do Hutterites accept gay and lesbian children? If a child reveals they believe they are homosexual what happens? Can they engage in meaningful loving relationships like their parents or siblings?

Charles Nohava said:reply
On: 28th Jun, 2012 at 01:47

Since you are a religiously based group, why are there so many over weight and obese members? Wrong eating and over eating are like alcoholism
and are sins. Thanks.

    April said:reply
    On: 6th Jul, 2012 at 02:13

    Obesity is not a sin ….. gluttony is. Judging is also a sin. One person can eat just as much as another and work just as hard, yet their body will not react the same way when it comes to weight.

Denise Crandall said:reply
On: 30th Jun, 2012 at 21:40

I only caught the promos for what I can only assume upcoming Nationa Geographic
“reality” series about a specific Hutterite community….and my immediate reaction was one of disbelief and distaste.Not at the Hutterite community shown, but at National Geographic’s obviously skewed, warped and just extremely obvious outright out of context and extremely biased representation of this community and the Hutterite faith/lifestyle. I too am from a faith/community that came from Anabaptist roots, even older than the Hutterites, and I know first hand what ignorance, intentional and unintentional can do. Shame on you National Geographic! Shame on you! Sensationalizing, extreme omissions, extreme editing, completely out of context, gave you what you wanted, a reality show. Is it worth the cost? Is it worth the cost of your once awesome reputation and credibility as an organization that was honest, even an American icon? Again, shame on you National Geographics!

Lisa said:reply
On: 4th Jul, 2012 at 15:23

I am interested in learning more about your community and way of life, as I’ve always thought that a “communal” way of life could be a ideal way of living. Having read some of the background on Hutterites and now watched a couple of episodes of the National Geographic show depicting one of the Hutterite colonies, I can understand how the Hutterite community would take issue with how the group as a whole is being depicted. I could easily tell that some of the situations on the episodes were being staged, as I think most reality TV is now, and though that is the part of reality TV I don’t enjoy (the staged part I mean), at least the average television viewer does recognize that fact and won’t penalize the entire Hutterite community for what is shown to us. Now that I feel I know a little bit more of what you stand for, I have great respect for how thoughtfully you live your lives and your colonies as a whole. I belong to a 12-step program whose doctrine is also derived from the Sermon on the Mount and feel that if it could sincerely live my life by those steps to best of my ability each day I have the ability to be the best human being I can possibly be.

I truly hope that the National Geographic program will shed as much positive light as possible on your people and way of life. I see it as a good lesson for us all!

Kelly said:reply
On: 5th Jul, 2012 at 23:00

Hello – thank you for such a well-written explanation of your beliefs and ideas. I don’t understand the rampant intolerance by so many people. If people choose to live in the lifestyle and community in which they and ancestors of their families were raised, why does it matter to us outsiders? Why does anyone have the right to feel “sorry” for a Hutterite? It’s a life they chose and to feel sorry for them is to be saying that something is wrong with their lifestyle. I am always in awe of close-knit groups who dedicate their lives to living their interpretation of Christ’s Word. While I’m an English woman from Ohio, I think your way of life is honorable, respectable and determined. I can see that it is a lot of hard work to completely rely on yourselves and I do not for one moment think it is wrong or giving up when I see one of your youngsters choosing to continue to traditions to go off to college and live in the world. Not all education is from books and not all modern conveniences are that convenient.

    Kelly said:reply
    On: 5th Jul, 2012 at 23:06

    (correction from my above post) I meant to say, I do not think it is wrong for a young adult to choose NOT to go off to college but to continue on with the colony and learning the skills needed to keep it running smoothly. Not all education comes from books and the children in the colonies are learning very valuable life skills. Not one of them would ever have a problem finding work in the world – unlike so many English kids graduation from college with useless degrees, mounds of debt and no life-skills. Everyone has their own journey in life and as long as people are willing to continue to learn, that’s all that matters. A degree behind your name will do you no good if you can’t even grow a tomato to feed yourself.

April said:reply
On: 6th Jul, 2012 at 02:05

I visited a Hutterite Colony in Montana around 1980 with my five young children. We stayed a couple of days and had a wonderful experience. The minister was Peter J. Hofer. Are you familiar with the colony he was in?

Ronald Hayes said:reply
On: 6th Jul, 2012 at 05:39

I know how the Colonies feel, Being raised Southern Baptist, I have embraced beliefs the early church had. Not so much what I was taught by my childhood beliefs but the Lord has shown me certain Thruths that have been lost to us, that the early church & the Apostles knew in their Walk in Christ. About the Sabbath being changed from the 7th day to the 1st day of the week and other things concering the Rature of the Church and Holidays that should not be observed but of Holy Days that should.

cynthia johnson said:reply
On: 11th Jul, 2012 at 08:18

i agree with your article. we are all gods creatures and should strive to live by scriptures. i am not hutterite but your way of life and community is very interesting and i understand your concern with keeping to the scriptures. i admire your faith and determination. may god bless you all and i hope you continue to thrive and be successful in all you do.

Chelsea said:reply
On: 15th Jul, 2012 at 01:20

I have been in contact with a couple members of Hutterite colonies and from my experience thus far I can say they are a lovely bunch of people and that it is possible to become one. I am interested in the joining process as well and I got some information if you would like it. I’m hoping to go on a tour of a colony some time this year and I’d love to get in contact with you to compare we’ve learned. My email is (chelsea_scott25@hotmail.com).

    Chelsea said:reply
    On: 15th Jul, 2012 at 01:22

    The last comment was a reply to Rachel’s comment near the top, but if anyone else would like to contact me feel free to.

THOMAS COUCH said:reply
On: 20th Jul, 2012 at 04:58

WE REALLY DO LOVE THE SHOW. WE LIVE AND HAVE TRADITIONS JUST THE SAME IN MANY WAYS. BUT IT WAS SHOCKING TO HEAR THE HUTTERITES CURSING AND BAD LANG. I WAS IMPRESSED TO HEAR THAT THEY BELEIVE IN PENTECOST AND SO DO WE. BUT WE BELIEVE IN LIVING A CLEAN LIFE…AND THE DRINKING TOO. DRINKING AND CURSING IS WRONG ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE. IT WAS A BIT SHOCKING . WE BELEIVE TO HAVE THE POWER OF THE HOLYGHOST YOU MUST LIVE CLEAN..INSIDE AND OUT. AND THE MOUTH SHOULD SPEAK CLEAN HOLY WORDS. THERE ARE ABOUT 4 TO 5 THOUSAND OF PPL THAT BELEIVE LIKE WE DO WHICH IS SIMILAR TO THE HUTTERITES. BUT OUR PPL DONT DRINK, CURSE, AND OUR WOMENS HAIR IS TO BE LONG AND NOT COVERED. THE BIBLE SAYS A WOMANS LONG HAIR IS HER GLORY. ALLTHOUGH SOME OF US DONT HAVE COMPUTERS OR EVEN T.V.S. I ENJOY WATCHING THE SHOW. HUGE FAN OF CARVER! AND BERTHA. AND CLAUDIA. WATCH YOURSELF GIRL….KEEP TO TRADITIONS. I KNOW WHAT IT IS PERSONALY LIKE TO LEAVE AND COME BACK AND I WISH WHEN I WAS YOUNGER I WOULD HAD STAYED WITH MY CHURCH AND NOT WANDERED IN THE WORLD. IN THE END WE WILL ALL HAVE TO STAND IN JUDGEMENT AND HE WILL JUDGE THIS WORLD AND ITS KIND. WITH LOVE. THOMAS. F.B. IS CHRISTINA N THOMAS COUCH

    John said:reply
    On: 25th Jul, 2012 at 19:47

    Actually drinking being a sin is a made up rule of thumb.

Denise said:reply
On: 20th Jul, 2012 at 21:19

BEAUTIFUL !!!!!!!!!

Barbara Robinson said:reply
On: 21st Jul, 2012 at 21:30

I really enjoy watching the Hutterites,the only thing that was horrrific ‘was when they shot a cow come on that was barberic’ ,Barbara Robinson

VICKIE TATRO said:reply
On: 22nd Jul, 2012 at 18:44

CAN AN OUTSIDER BECOME A HUTTERITE?

John said:reply
On: 25th Jul, 2012 at 19:44

Does your religion beleive in bringing the english world to Christ and your way of life and making new colonys, or just keep it in family?

Caroline Canine said:reply
On: 26th Jul, 2012 at 17:05

I like the T.V. show very much. Is it possible to visit one of the U. S. colonies? I live in Indiana and the King Colony or one closer would be a pleasure to visit. My husband and I are seniors and we would love to talk to some of you.
Thanks much,
Caroline Canine

kim said:reply
On: 27th Jul, 2012 at 18:55

Well said! AMEN!!!!

Bill Canonico said:reply
On: 1st Aug, 2012 at 03:13

My wife and I were part of a Christian communal ministry called Shiloh, during the ’70’s. At one point, one of our members visited one of your communities to get ideas for how we could do improve our organization. He was very impressed with all he saw and heard. I’m glad to know you are continuing to serve God in the way you always have, and glad to know that what we’ve seen on TV isn’t a completely accurate representation of the way Hutterites live. God bless you…

Anne Carpenter said:reply
On: 21st Sep, 2012 at 15:11

I am working on a PhD in Economics at the University of California Irvine. I recently watched a documentary on your community, and was immediately interested in your community structure. I was wondering if it would be possible for me to spend some time with your community conducting research? Please let me know, you can reach me at alcarpen@uci.edu. Thank you for your time.

Anne Carpenter said:reply
On: 21st Sep, 2012 at 15:22

After looking at your news section, I wanted to clarify that the documentary I saw was not the National Geographic series. It was a documentary that was made in the 1980’s. I am actually a serious researcher interested in the community structure. Thank you.

Bonnie said:reply
On: 13th May, 2014 at 18:02

I have a deep interest in learning more about your organization. I have led tours all over the USA, and have very dear friends among the Amish in Pennsylvania. We stop there and visit whenever in the area – and they are like my second family. I think there may be a group of your people near Spokane, and wondered if anyone would speak to a group of women about your traditions and heritage. I would appreciate hearing back from anyone who might help. Thank you so much.

M Woodcox said:reply
On: 26th May, 2014 at 08:16

I know that a certain part of the population will always be biased. However, just so you know while I myself have never been to a Hutterite colony I have only ever heard wonderfully good things aboutt them from those who have. Mostly that they are incredibly helpful caring ppl that would give the shirt off their back to anyone who asks them for help and have wonderful eggs!!
I hope to be able to visit one some day myself!
In Alberta.

Richard Ferguson said:reply
On: 8th Nov, 2014 at 11:58

Hello Friends in Christ
As I was reading your blog ,I am inspired by your practice of Christian love and promotion of the common good,. I live and work with Amish and Mennonite friends .while I Agree with their dedication to family, I always ponder the following. If we desire the life and love of Christ in our lives, why will we not keep all of His Commandments? I am concerned for all mankind that are deceived by their denial of the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath is not Jewish .The Sabbath is from the foundation of the world.As a finally to His creation works God instituted the Sabbath as a day of rest. Man has claimed to have changed the Sabbath worship to Sunday in honor of the Ressurrection [actually a day of pagan sun worship] The issue is not about a day but about authority, God’s or man’s, Please study this for yourself