Let's get a few things quite straight.
The Exclusive Brethren /Plymouth Brethren Christian Church are a spiteful, at times hateful, vindictive, deluded, ignorant and very cruel bunch of people. A big statement - but quite true in every instance. And they do what they do in the name of religion. In the name of Christianity. Which makes their stance and mindset all the more bewildering for those who have suffered from their cruelty. But to date, no one in any position of power has managed to deliver a blow to their quite evil and self- serving dominion and domination of so many subjugated souls.
Their rank and file are fundamentally crippled by any ability to think for themselves. They must toe the line of their self elected master (read leader or elect- vessel here) or suffer the same rejection as those they have banished from their midst. They live in fear of expulsion and the gates of hell, which they believe is a destination, waiting for them unless they conform to this rigid code of religion.
Religion in fact is perhaps the wrong word. Conform to the 'system' they generate themselves, which they try and match to a line of scripture- often completely wrongly - to support their 'position'. Funnily enough these are two words that are used with some regularity in the PBCC. System and Position. They call their entire church 'The Position'. With 40,000 odd souls all assuming it. The don't like anything threatening the 'position' . These very words I am writing here, would be described as 'an attack on the position'. Basically they don't like a word said against them.
Pointing out lines of the bible as complete fact or truth is a very dangerous thing. The same thing goes for the Koran. We see people plucking lines from the Koran these days which results in others getting their heads chopped off. Some of them hate all non-Muslims with an ardency that would see every one of them killed without a second thought. And the bible in fact contradicts itself also, with its throw away lines. I mean - compare lines like 'an eye for an eye' with Moses' commandment - 'Thou shalt not kill". See what I mean. One says do it - the other says don't. So you need to add something called common sense. And moderate interpretation.
The trouble with the Brethren as they call themselves, is that they are perpetually deluded. They are on a constant vigil for evil which abounds at every turn, the devil himself waiting in disguise to penetrate them at any opportunity. From without and within. They can be presented with facts, but they don't want to know. They form an often hasty and misinformedopinion and it is therefore right. Except of course that it is very often wrong. But they will fight you tooth and nail if you don't go along with their take on it.
Trouble is, one of their leaders got particular, reading things into what the bible said in an idle moment. And the worst thing he did was to completely forcibly separate the Brethren from the world itself. Which flies in the face of the very basis of Christianity. They see themselves as an entirely separate group of human beings, only dovetailing into the world when they need money from worldly customers or governments. They see all non- Brethren as potentially evil beings and do not 'mix' with them. They call it 'separation.' And it is perhaps their core principle these days.
Of all their edicts, and there have been thousands of them, separation is the one that has caused the most angst among them. And great gnashing of teeth. And many, many wrecked and heartbroken families. It all happened in 1959 and many did not recover from it. If you had relatives outside the 'Church', and many did, you were forbidden from ever seeing or communicating with them again. Do it and they threw you out with the loss of everything you held dear. Thousands left at that time - unable to conform with this cruel demand.
To understand the Brethren - you must first understand the hierarchical system. All churches have leaders - be they pulpit-thumping modern evangelists intent on making a buck,or Archbishops with a 400 year heritage or a humble missionary head intent on spreading the word of God and providing a sanctuary of care. The Brethren have a self-elected Man of God or Elect vessel, which is a bit of a misnomer in that no one actually formally elected them. There have been several Brits in the role - the church being started in the UK in the early 1800's as a breakaway group from the Anglican Church and while it could legitimately call itself a church back then, it became a cult in 1959 with the separation statute.
The Brethren number only 40,000 odd people, made up of small assemblies spread throughout a fair chunk of this earth. In some countries there are just a handful of them. In others they abound at every turn, like New Zealand and Australia. The United States have pockets of them from coast to coast. And Canada too. There is a handful in France and Italy, Sweden, Germany and Holland. The UK fairly bristles with them although their numbers were decimated in the early 1970's by something called 'Aberdeen'. Here, the Man of God himself was found in a compromising situation and those that saw it and disseminated the information were labelled as evil.Then they said it actually was all part of a plan to root them out. And root them out they did in their thousands in the UK.
In each assembly, they have a pecking order. Just like the Jews and the Catholics. They are not all equal. There are those that are called 'prominent' brothers who sit down the front and do all the talking. Then there are those who have not been able to absorb their doctrine as profoundly as the ones down the front. So they dread talking if we are being honest here. Simply they don't have the confidence or knowledge to consistently say the right thing. So they sit well back near the womenfolk and shut up most of the time. And it is not just a knowledge of the bible that will do it for you as it does not get much of a look in these days. It is a knowledge of what the current leader is saying and your promotion of it. Compliance with the leader is paramount. The Man of God is supreme and he gathers his supporters and sycophants around him in an ever tightening and confidential inner circle.
Then there are the ones who hate the prominent ones, often simply because they are prominent and live for the day,internalising their contempt, when they can see them shown up or discredited. Which they often are. The Brethren love a fall from grace more than any other human being. It only takes a misguided word to bring someone down. Of course full blown adultery or mixing with 'Worldlies' or some other non- conformity will get you the boot in a heartbeat. But many, many former prominent brothers were thrown out because other prominent brothers saw them as a threat to their own prominence. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase - "It's a jungle in there!" It is.
Sure there are expulsions from their midst that are entirely justified. Where real evil has taken place. They now know about the evils of child molesters for example. Where in the 1950's and 60's they glossed over such things and ignored the children. Today their gilded cage has been rattled by several cases where the Brethren perpetrators of these horrendous crimes have been jailed for their sin. But they steadfastly resist doing anything decent for their victims by way of counselling or compensation. In the 1960's they regarded the children abused by their paedophiles as having contributed to their own misadventure according to one who knows. So they have a long way to go before they are forced to follow a more appropriate response, like the Catholics are now forced to do.
Many people are thrown out because they are simply perceived as being non- compliant. They call this wilfulness. And they don't like it. They don't like people who are 'individuals'. They like conformity.
Sadly, their leader of the 1970's era was a humble farmer although he was worth millions - so perhaps humble is not the right word. He was rolling in it. And for some strange reason he harboured a hatred of people with University degrees,probably because he did not have the parental support orinclination to undertake a college education himself. Many grass roots people see educated people, as being a threat to their own survival. So when he took over the reins of the PBCC, he outlawed it! No more further education. If you have degrees- 'piss on them.' were his exact words.
Had he had a little foresight, dare I say divine input, he could have seen the result. Today we see it. For more than two generations, not one of them has attended a university. So their remaining doctors, and dentists, and lawyers and teachers and scientists are now all either very old or very dead. And they have to rely on 'Worldly' people for professional services. They don't like that much. But an edict is an edict.
The Brethren actually must work for each other. I mean by that, that you are not allowed to have a 'Worldly' job. They have no public servants. They cannot be lawyers or doctors any more. Which is a pity. Once they had some brilliant ones. The trouble with working for them is that unless your dad owns the business, you are probably going nowhere in life. Beholden to them on all levels. They like that. I think it's called submission. They like submission.
They say their wives are 'subject'. Which means they do as they are told and lay low. The only thing they let them do in the context of the church is give out a hymn number for everyone to sing. Hardly rocket science. So if you happen to be a brilliantly clever woman, which some of them would begiven the normal opportunities, you have nowhere to exercise your ambition. Your job is to get married, have lots of babies and be subject. They actually wear a 'token' or full blown scarf on their heads to signify that submission. They say it is because they are in the sight of God of course like a Latin Catholic's mantilla.
Funny that such rules don't apply to the men. Although they too stand out because they must wear white shirts and long pants. You'll never see one in a T-Shirt and shorts. Something in the Old Testament that said "God takes no pleasure from seeing the legs of a man." He must take pleasure from the legs of a woman however, because they are not allowed to wear trousers or jeans. Do it and you will end up out with the adulterers and paedophiles. It's that simple.
So the majority of them live in fear of expulsion. If they are expelled from the church they lose the lot. Their wives or husbands, their children, their jobs and their extended family. The shock of that has sent many to commit suicide. Sadly it's a fact! So their cruelty is compounded by this God-like, life-changing decision making. They have fought dozens of men through the courts who have tried to reconnect with their children following their own ejection and in today's world, few courts will not allow reasonable access for a father to see his children. But the Brethren go one better. They simply move the kids away or brainwash them into thinking that their parent is evil. It's a bit hard to see a kid who doesn't want to see you. I know of many men who have not seen their children since they were very small and they have since grown and had families of their own. So 'cruel' and very 'vindictive' rings true again.
To understand the Brethren fully is a massive undertaking in both history and an understanding of their hundreds of edicts that have the consequence of wrecked lives for thousands of people over the past 50 years in particular.
But their world is changing. Funnily enough it was the World Wide Web and the internet that has done it. And this too has left a trail of wreckage that has destroyed lives. If you said you wanted a computer for your business in the 1990's, that's all you had to do to get thrown out from their midst again with the mandatory loss of everything you held dear to you. Those that tinkered with computers and mobile phones were excommunicated on the spot without their families.
And then curiously, the Man of God himself realised that you simply cannot run a business without these things today. So he made it alright to do so. As long as you bought your computer with its modified software from him. He made millions from the deal. But did he bring back those that had pre-empted his decision, particularly now that it was OK to have these things? No. They are cast into the outer darkness and remain so for 'moving ahead of the Lord.' It's a fickle world in there.
The main thing that distinguishes this group though is the enormity of their human rights abuses. They destroy families. They destroy lives. They pretend to be a Church although you cannot just walk into theirs like any other church. Try taking communion with the Brethren. You won't get past the padlocked metal gates. Evil is without and they like to keep it that way.
They get around this seemingly un-Christian attitude recently, by allowing people to come into their car parks and have a sandwich or hot dog on special 'get-to-see-us days', which are an attempt at sanitising their cruel regime. In truth they want you to get the impression that they too are 'normal' but they are not and never will be without a huge change in the very way they function and see the world. And that would involve changing the very rules by which they live.
Their unashamed hypocrisy is highlighted by their own website where you see happy families flying kites and frolicking on beaches (fully clad of course), which they used to throw people out for not so long ago. And wreck their families. Beaches and tourism were banned. Even today, tourism is banned along with a long list of things that might threaten their sovereignty and complete control over their adherents.
Sadly, because there are only 40,000 of them and the lives they wreck only account for 10 - 20,000 thousand souls, getting any responsible body or individual to take issue with them is proving to be a most difficult thing to do. For politicians, there are no votes in it. For Human Rights organisations, there are much bigger fish to fry. So for their victims, there is little hope of any change to their current situation, except to keep telling people their story with the hope that it will galvanise someone in a position of authority to do something positive about it.
To date, no one in such a position has managed to deliver a significant blow to them. Many thought the Charities Commissioners in countries around the world might take issue with their inhumanity, when their practices were being considered against their demands for tax relief. But they did not. The Brethren are very good at PR these days. Hence the BBQ's I mentioned. But it is all smoke and mirrors. How can you say you are 'normal' when you are one of the cruellest and most totally deluded bodies of people on this earth.
And so they continue to get away with their cruelty to people. And if you are one of those people you live with the knowledge that you have relatives out there you have never met or even heard of. Many young people have left for little more sometimes, that utter disillusionment. And they then go through life never seeing their parents or siblings again with a sadness in their core that never heaps. They are disinherited and no assistance is given to them ever again. They refute this but they lie.
There are thousands of parents out there, mainly men although there have been women as well, who have children they have not seen in decades having been told their parent is 'evil' because they were thrown out of the Brethren. They have grandchildren they will never ever see or know. Most try and rebuild their lives but it's hard to live with something like that.
The question is, how can a group like this, exist in a world that knows so much better? How can these human rights crimes be committed in Westernised countries without anyone turning a hair. Sure there are bigger issues to fix, greater wars to wage and examples of extreme cruelty to address. There always will be if history is to be acknowledged. But there are also quite evil organisations like the PBCC or Exclusive Brethren who have been ruining people's lives for decades without the fear of any retribution at all. The question is also when will somebody who can hold people to account for such things - actually do something about it?
Today you actually have something to have a go at them about. For example, they set up their own Government supported schools for their own children so that they are not contaminated by the world. No 'worldly' kids are allowed to attend their schools. In Australia these schools get more funding than traditional private schools. And yet these schools will never turn out a child that will go to a university if that child remains in the church. They will never learn about things like evolution or sex education so they understand the responsibilities and dangers of the topic. Now will they ever be allowed to be involved in sporting activities after they leave school. Let alone consider a career in such things.
They pay no rates on their hundreds of churches (they call them halls) and yet they ban the public from attending their services. They go as far as to lock the gates on the huge metal fences which surround each of these buildings once they have all gone inside. No church in the free world does that. You cannot take communion with them. If push comes to shove and you have been cleared by a committee of elders, they might let you into a gospel preaching - but nothing else. But if you do finally get in with an enormous amount of perseverance, your every move will be watched and you must sit right at the back of the room.
As they are a seriously cashed up organisation (much of their instruction and direction is about making money) they will throw millions at any court case that takes action against them. They use teams of the best lawyers and they crush any opponent that threatens them. Even if they don't win , they will send you broke fighting them.
Perhaps that's it. They love crushing people. Their adversaries. Their own if the don't like what they say or do. And especially, people who have left them. The 'Opposers'. And even Governments if they can get away with it. They make donations and lobby political parties they like so that they are kind to them (despite not being allowed to vote.)
So it seems they are untouchable. Until someone, somewhere takes a deeper look into the cruel and greedy world that is the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. And maybe does something about it. There are a thousand or more people who would love to tell their sad story to the right person.