Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dangerous Fundamentalist Fruitcakes Deserve Respect: PM

Oh that's nice, isn't it - Johnster's not only willingly met with the Exclusive Brethren, according to him they're no real threat, either. He's such a reassuring, paternal figure of rationality and common sense, isn't he?

EB: Hire two private investigators to dig up dirt on the sex lives of NZ PM Helen Clark and her allegedly gay husband.

JH: "They are entitled to put their views to the government."

EB: Four Corners reports that disobedience of internal rules on the part of its members, even unsubstantiated, can lead to excommunication, or being “withdrawn from,” and complete, permanent isolation from loved ones.

JH: "I have to say that strikes me as what you might call an unorthodox Christian ... it strikes me as a little unusual, but that is their right and it should be respected."

EB: Church's leader Daniel Hales: "Go back 50 years when I was a boy: homosexuals went to jail...Judeo-Christian principles that are biblical were taken for granted, weren't they? Sacrosanct." Ex-members: "'I had a knock at the door saying that we’ve excommunicated you and you’re not to sleep with your wife tonight,'" says one former senior Brethren member who fell out with the then leader more than 20 years ago and hasn’t seen his wife or children since. His sons wrote to tell him they don’t want to see him because he’s 'not right and withdrawn from and out of fellowship'".

JH: "They have a different, a more disciplined, perhaps some would say a more narrow interpretation of the Christian religion than others, but I respect their right to have it."

The NZ Nationals and NSW National Party: after initially showing some degree of alliance, both distance themselves from EB. Quote NSW Nationals leader Peter Ryan: "...The publicity surrounding the organisation carries with it the strong suggestion of a series of initiatives that don't sit well with me. There would appear to be an overarching control of family members and young people in a way which seems to me to be excessive." And quote Brash following revelations of EB's actions regarding Clark and husband: "They crossed the line and National wants nothing to do with them. I think it's important we make our distaste for this sort of behaviour crystal clear."

JH: Does not.

EB: "Educates" young minds at its "schools" by, among other strategies, telling them exactly which jobs they must take in life, whom to marry, banning most modern novels, removing pages even from permitted 19th-century works and entire chapters from science books, one science book having had all the chapters on reproduction cut out.

Furthermore, Brethren members do not attend university and are not allowed to have TVs, radios, personal computers or mobile phones. They are also forbidden from voting or socialising with those outside the church.

JH: "I did make the observation that I've met a lot more fanatical people in my life than the Exclusive Brethren."

Really, John. I know you're old but I also know even you're not old enough to have been around to meet the Spanish Inquisition.

Oh, and look - don't feel too fussed that the EB is a major, albeit conveniently undisclosed, donator to the Liberal Party, that EB flyers making misleading statements about the Tasmanian Greens during that State's election were linked to the Tasmanian Liberal Party or that they are vehemently anti-trade union - I'm sure they're just completely random coincidences that would have nothing to do with Howard defending them.

Should somebody pop an ad on Seek: "Leader of Australia wanted (spine essential)"? Coz I sure as hell don't see anybody performing that particular job at the moment.

20 Comments:

At 27/9/06 8:31 pm, Anonymous zhasper said...

A) I grew up as a Brethren - but as part of the more mainstream and much more numerous Open Brethren. Even though I left them years ago... I still get twitchy when I see "us" lumped in with the Exclusives, who even we thought were complete bananas...

B) Your second, third, and fifth quotes from JH: before I rip into you, would you care to expand on what point you're trying to make with these quotes?

 
At 27/9/06 9:03 pm, Anonymous zhasper said...

This has nothign to do with anything I said above, it's just minor pedantry...

"bovel" should be "novel", I think.

Second last paragraph should read "the EB are" not "the EB is". I think. If you want singular, you want "the EB sect" or somesuch, I think. Not entirely certain.

Hrmf, even as a pedant I'm wishy-washy.

 
At 27/9/06 9:35 pm, Blogger "AK" Adam said...

There is a definite risk of sectarianism here. Ultimately, religious toleration is, even in our PC conformist age, one of - if not the - most important principle of a democratic society.

Sure, these people have an extreme, somewhat kooky interpretation of scripture: so what? Nobody forces people to join the brethren and, whilst I am sympathetic to those whose families have been disrupted or split-up over a members' excommunication, there is no doubt that people are able to leave the sect if they so choose.

What this whole affair demonstrates is the unfortunate connections between the Fairfax press, the ABC and the Greens party in Australia. Just after the parliament scuttled the Greens' outrageous, insane attempt to initiate a senate inquiry to persecute this church, these media organisations get busy with utterly hysterical, unwarranted and insensitive media coverage.

To be taken seriously, media organisations should ensure that they are, and appear, independent of partisan political interests.

 
At 27/9/06 10:12 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Thanks for the editorial pick-ups zhasper.

As for the points I was trying to make, essentially there was just one: If the rest of the world seems able to eventually wake up to the evils of this cult (and I did qualify the Exclusive Brethren throughout, wasn't referring to Brethren in general) - as, increasingly, people are doing, as evidenced by the NZ and NSW National Parties, among others - I'm not sure why Howard appears unwilling or unable to.

Adam: I expect you to be biased here, as the EB have so blatantly targeted the Greens, a political party you're hardly sympathetic to. Also: be careful when trying to dismiss this as a left-media-beat-up, since you'll find the Australian, and indeed most of the Murdoch tabloids, have done almost as many expose pieces on this group as Fairfax papers.

In fact, you sound disturbingly similar here to Eric Abetz - and I have more faith that you're better than the bitterly homophobic Bible-bashing thug he is.

 
At 27/9/06 11:34 pm, Blogger Jeremy said...

"Sure, these people have an extreme, somewhat kooky interpretation of scripture: so what? Nobody forces people to join the brethren and, whilst I am sympathetic to those whose families have been disrupted or split-up over a members' excommunication, there is no doubt that people are able to leave the sect if they so choose."

Bullshit. They're a cult. People ARE forced to join the brethren - children. Children who are indoctrinated in just as creepy a way as any sinister cult has in history. Want to leave the cult? YOU WILL NEVER SEE YOUR FAMILY AGAIN. Free association? Bullshit, I say, bullshit.

These people are bullies, pure and simple.

That their beliefs sit so well with those in the Liberal party, well, just highlight how illiberal that party has become.

 
At 28/9/06 8:41 am, Anonymous zhasper said...

Thanks for the clarification Sam :)

I agree wholeheartedly with your general point - even closely (religiously) related groups think the EBs are absolute nutters.

I do think your second, third, and fifth quotes do run close to religious intolerance; yes, there practices aren't exactly mainstream, but (to take just one example) excommunication for arbitrary reasons isn't exactly something invented by the EB, and they're not the only sect to have (in some segments of the sect) decided that certain kinds of technology are evil.

You seem (although this isn't your stated intent) to be advocating for some kind of interference from the state in their religious affairs, and that's not something I can condone. Force them to be open and honest about their political wheelings and dealings, yes. Force them to expose their children to what they believe would ensure eternal damnation, no.

I do agree with MrLefty that the issue of the children is, at best, problematic, as they have no choice in their upbringing; once they turn 18 though, it's not exactly hard for them to get out of the church - as some of your quotes show, it's almost easier to get out than it is to stay in!

So, in summary, I agree with your point, that JH doesn't seem to understand what dangerous fruitcakes they are. I agree that they should be more honest about their political interferences. I just don't think this article expresses those things well - some of the quotes seem to be poorly chosen and suggest that you're aiming at other things...

 
At 28/9/06 9:01 am, Blogger Sam said...

I can only publish quotes that I find in reputable sources, zhasper. And it can be stratetically difficult these days for me to write particularly comprehensive blog pieces that explain in great detail my stance(s), what with my boss now working at the non-partitioned table next to me.

And no, I'm not talking about state interference with the EB's practices per se - I'm wishing the leader of my country would distance himself from an extremist cult rather than dog-whistle do it, as he's doing. I also think that the true extent of alliance between the EB and certain far-right Liberal extremists - Abetz, Barnett, Cadman, etc - should be fully exposed, as should the apparently quite obvious point that there is great parity between some Liberal election campaigning and that of the EBs.

I guess I just don't want my country's political party to be so snugly in bed with a pack of feral fundamentalists. If that means I'm "intolerant", well I've always liked to think of myself as intolerant of intolerance.

 
At 28/9/06 11:18 am, Anonymous Zhasper said...

So write your pieces from home.. I'm fairly sure I heard you have a net connection now :p

I think I get what you're trying to achieve (and approve of and agree with it). I wish I could give some more constructive criticism than just saying that I don't think you're hitting your target. Give me some more time to think about it and I might be able to do something more..

 
At 28/9/06 7:05 pm, Anonymous bazza said...

The EB say they are anti IT, how come they have a Web Site?

 
At 29/9/06 4:24 pm, Blogger Ron said...

I did read in the MSM recently that the EB are now allowed to have computers but only if they are leased from a certain office supply company.

And who owns that company? None other than the Empty Vessel big boss or whatever else he's called.

 
At 29/9/06 5:14 pm, Anonymous bazza said...

There has to be lots more spicy bits on the EB to share. Problem is, we dont want them to play the martyr!

 
At 29/9/06 7:50 pm, Blogger Ron said...

I just heard on Stateline that EB schools (Meadowbank Educational Trust MET) in NSW receive $6m in state and federal funding.

I don't see why our taxes should support cults like the EB. If they want to be 'Exclusive' then let them be so without taxpayers money.

 
At 30/9/06 7:23 am, Blogger Ron said...

This article in today's Age by Dennis Altman is worth reading as it relates to this post and the comments.

 
At 30/9/06 10:02 am, Blogger "AK" Adam said...

This is quite embarrassing, but I had to look up Eric Abetz (he's not exactly the most high-profile public figure, you know), and now my feelings are really hurt. Do you have any idea how bald that bloke is? The horror!

MrL, I didn't deny that the Exclusive Brethren have some unfortunate policies with respect to exclusion of fallen members, but that quite simply does not warrant the hysterics; neither yours nor the MSM's.

 
At 30/9/06 6:11 pm, Anonymous bazza said...

Adam. Mate, the EB, would like to to see us poufters, hanging from trees by the NECK!

Now thats hysterical! Cos! I would crush their goolies if they tried.

 
At 30/9/06 9:51 pm, Blogger "AK" Adam said...

Bazza, as would I: my neck's too cute to be hung, stretched or otherwise ruined by any sort of nutcase religious organisation.

Nonetheless, even the sister/brother/whatever - hood simply must project an element of sanity. The Greens Party, for example, are not our friends in that respect ...

 
At 1/10/06 11:39 am, Anonymous bazza said...

Adam. Its the Greens who are pushing for equal rights in SA for same sex couples.

The ALP are sitting on their posterior, gazing at their navel.

 
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