on 26 January 2014
This is a remarkable factual and well-written book about small religious group - the Taylorite faction of the Exclusive Brethren - whose recent history has only been available via the tabloids, with all the distortions and lack of understanding that usually implies. The author is a journalist but has taken the trouble to talk to enough members and ex-members to understand enough so that his judgements don't grate, and has also given them the benefit of the doubt where that is possible.
Bachelard writes mainly from the Australian context, but since the "Man of God" who heads the exclusive brethren sect now known as the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church has been Australian since 1987 and is thoroughly in control of the organisation, this is where the action now starts. The recent fuss in Britain about the charitable status of an exclusive school is an echo of an educational initiative and financial concern that started in Australia some twenty years back.
The book starts with a potted history of the exclusives, which doesn't exist anywhere else, at least since 1970. It paints a picture of typical life today in the brethren followed by a description of "The System" - financial mainly - introduced by the current chief, Bruce Hales and his father; looks in depth at a couple of the scandals in Australia, followed by its latest initiatives, in politics and education.
I was given confidence by his sure touch on the things I knew in the past as well as his even handed treatment of the present, not making assumptions about parts that couldn't be found out from this highly secretive organisation. I empathized with a statement in the preface: "Since leaving the Brethren, some say they have found God for the first time, some have lost Him forever, but all of them still struggle with the psychological scars left by their Brethren upbringing." Yea!