I have just finished reading a fair chunk of Bruce Hales very recent ministry and I have to say, apart for the mind numbing repetition of messages -most of which warns of the danger of not adhering to their strange belief in separatism, the rest consists of the glorification of the current leader’s father and the usual sycophantic mumblings of those wishing to ingratiate themselves with him.
The Exclusive Brethren are a strange bunch. They decide – 54 years ago- that they – and they alone should go against the example of Jesus Christ – and closet themselves off from the perceived evil of all around them and become a sect. Not a church. Despite the example of Christ who was IN the world and shared his message WITH the world and met what the Brethren would tell you are the dregs of society – they decided to pull away from any non Brethren as these people were evil, unclean and a source of contamination.
Sadly for the Brethren, many had relatives who were not Brethren and the pain of enforcing this strangely anti-Christian rule is a memory that will stay with me till I die. My own mother sobbed herself to sleep for years at the loss of her greatly loved family. Themselves good Christian folk -but according to the new Brethren edict – evil.
So the Brethren tried to maintain the impression that they were still a legitimate church by going out once a week to a local commercial centre and mumbling their dogma at a telegraph pole. Street preaching – far from being a rousing and powerful message for the masses – is in fact more often than not -three blokes mumbling something at passing cars, a street bench and a dog before shuffling off back to their closet.
I wonder if someone anywhere in the world can show me one person who has been ‘saved’ by an Exclusive Brethren street preaching. Just one! Trust me- no such person exists. So a complete waste of time. A folly. But it serves the purpose of embarrassing their young and making them feel like they are doing something that Christ might have done.
Imagine how much good the Brethren would do if they moved freely in the world -like Jesus- being good citizens and helping their neighbours and others like the rest of the world. I wonder if Mister Bruce ever mows his elderly neighbour’s lawns for them like I do. Everywhere I have ever lived over the past 40 years has seen me – like most normal people- do things for others including ‘adopting’ an elderly couple who need assistance with everyday things from time to time. It’s a normal part of life. Unless you are in the Brethren.
They however, shun the world and the people in it and did so up until the British Charities Commission called into question their role and actions as a church.
The Brethren’s dilemma was to work out how they could appear to be good worldly citizens -without actually having anything overtly to do with it. How could they not engage with these evil, unclean, worldly individuals – and do something that might be deemed as potentially good for the community?
So a pie or a sandwich- held forth in a latex-gloved hand -in a tent -in a carpark was settled upon as the best way to achieve this ‘contact’ without contamination. You can pack up when you’re finished, lock the gates again and go back to your closet – relatively undefiled. Almost uncontaminated. What a farce!
The thing that really puzzles me is how the Brethren love doing business with the world – hungry to sell you their products and services – and wish you well at Christmas -while underneath they seethe with disgust at your position in life. In the world. A world to which, they don’t belong. Unless they are doing business with you. I mean if you are really honest to your ideal and core charter – then maintain complete separation. Not just bits of it. Your doctrine is ridiculously flawed.
Bruce Hales is at pains to point out constantly the evil of our ‘position’ – lost for eternity because we live in this world. Even those that were thrown from their midst wrongly by their devious and hypocritical elders -are lost for this life and the next one according to him.
The truth is that we pick ourselves up – most of us – and get on with living a decent life as God intended, doing far more good than the Brethren. Bruce Hales has relatives who immersed themselves in the world far more grotesquely than most of us ever did. But they are exonerated – because as I’ve said before- they are Hales. His doctrine and principles resemble a Swiss cheese for the holes and inconsistencies.
All of which calls into question the legitimacy of this strange misguided sect of people who sit there while Bruce Hales barks at them. “Who’s that! What’s your first name! “How old are you! Have you got anything to say!”
Today I could not attend a church like that. Way too confronting – way too domineering – way too un-Christian. No spiritual leader has the right to speak like he does to his congregation at times. His arrogance -which he inherited- is quite gobsmacking on reflection – but that is something the Exclusive Brethren have in spades. You only have to encounter them in a supermarket queue. Rude, sad, strange people. With a trolley full of grog.
The only hope the Exclusive Brethren ever have of being accorded the status of a legitimate church and not a cruel and misguided sect which they most assuredly are – is if they ditch this strange edict of ‘not being of this world’ -and realizing that they are in the same world as everyone else- they are human beings like everyone else and they should be model citizens -like most people are in this world. All working for a common good.
When any so called church crosses the line from spiritual and religious doctrine dissemination into the full detail of people’s lives including their businesses, their dress, their time, their general appearance, (their haircuts!) and demands mandatory attendance at their church on a frequency that eclipses reasonable practice and destroys normal family balance – you have a dashboard glowing with warning lights.
And to listen to Hales’ at times misinformed drivel and somewhat dodgy (albeit improving to be honest) grasp of doctrine, worthy of a leader -would cause my internal computer to quietly malfunction and shut down. One week would see me in. And if he barked at me – “have you got anything to say!” -I would have to quietly say “Nope Mister Hales- I think you have said it all.” At which point I would be thrown out again.
It mystifies me that for an organisation, which loathes the world and everything in it so much -they sure spend a lot of time throwing people INTO it. It’s no wonder that so many of us see the light and choose to stay here. It’s far safer for a start. And a lot more harmonious. And so much better for your general well being.
If I had to sum them up in word – I’d probably just say they are Nuts! Completely barking. Which is a pity as some of them used to be very nice people once.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- if Jesus himself was a member of the Exclusive Brethren today – they would throw him out. Apart from his sideburns which Mister Hales loathes the sight of, there was that matter where he was seen speaking to a prostitute. Not to mention -eating with people. Which begs the question- who is the Brethren’s real God?
But we all know the answer to that one don’t we.
Barking mad and bloody dangerous.