2016-06-30
The Other Side of Joy: Religious Melancholy Among the Bruderhof
by Julius H. Rubin
Oxford University Press, 264 pages

In "The Other Side of Joy," Rubin, author of "Religious Melancholy and Protestant Experience in America," turns his attention to "religious melancholy" among the Bruderhof, a Pietistic sect of German origin. Many Bruderhof, he argues, chafe under the watchful eye of the community; they can't handle the rigorous spiritual requirements of fasting and confession, and develop all manner of psychological problems, from garden-variety depression to eating disorders. Rubin's treatment of "religious melancholy" quickly degenerates into stereotype--unable to shake the presumptions of today's theraputic culture, he views every aspect of Bruderhof life with suspicion. Rubin is especially condescending when dealing with chastity, suggesting that the Bruderhof's belief that "Any expression of sexuality before marriage was sin" is outmoded and leaves young Bruderhof psychologically scarred. (If only the Bruderhof would get with it and realize that individual fulfillment and happiness are more important than community standards and the service of God, then everything would be okay!) If you want to learn about the Bruderhof, skip Rubin, and go straight to the source: Eberhard Arnold's "Why We Live in Community" is a much more satisfying read than "The Other Side of Joy."



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