This is a review of one of Dave McKay's more recent articles posted on the Jesus Christians website, which attempts to justify his point of view regarding changes which he has engineered to the structure and practise of the group formerly known as the Jesus Christians. Dave's skills as a journalist are in full play here as he puts his own "spin" on group history. Dave has tried to give the impression that he has let go of control of the community as it was in 2010, and that there are now a number of "autonomous" groups who have "graduated" from his school. As someone who lived and worked with the community for more than 30 years, I will attempt to debunk this spin in order to present a more honest picture of what has become of the community which Dave publicly announced had "disbanded" in 2010, after excommunicating some of its most senior members including myself.
His words appear in red and my commentary in black.
Graduates (from the Jesus Christians website)
Thursday, 09 August 2012 05:34
For most of the past two years I have used the word "graduates" to refer to members of the Jesus Christian community who dispersed in November of 2010.
In 2010 Dave McKay called an urgent meeting of the Jesus Christians worldwide in order to "discuss" some matters deemed urgent by him.
He stated he wanted the community to publicly "disappear" as though they did not exist and to shun all former friends and contacts by refusing to answer their emails and to politely but walk away from them if encountered on the streets. Relatives were not to be contacted unless they initiated contact and then only communicate for a bare minimum in order to not alarm them.
Some members raised objections to this new plan. But Dave made it very clear he was going to tolerate no dissenters. Anyone who showed signs of disagreement who would not submit to his plan, was immediately and without warning excommunicated from the discussion. And that happened to me. It is no surprise that the older and more mature Christians involved in the discussion were the ones were willing to express views contrary to Dave's on the matter. It was a great shock to a number of us to find ourselves excommunicated for merely voicing our concerns or disagreeing!
I believe the real truth of the matter was that Dave had launched a very authoritarian push to remove anyone, particularly mature Christians, who might disagree with him. I believe his real motive was to take the community underground so that he could "educate" them with as little disagreement as possible. Anyone who disagreed with this new policy was shunned. This behavior by Dave to act against anyone who disagrees with him has become worse since 1998 when his own son and other members left the community and subsequently he had an enforced order of excommunication put on them so that only he was permitted to communicate with them. We were told at the time that the exmembers were divisive and Dave had accused them of intending to steal group funds (this was a deliberate false accusation).
Trusting in his judgement at the time, and not being present to witness the event, we gave Dave the benefit of the doubt. Nevertheless the division and loss of 49% of group members was highly disturbing, and group morale was shaken badly. The control technique of excommunication, (shunning) dissenters as practised by many authoritarian religious groups had been put into effect. It was to set in train a dangerous precedent. And 12 years later the same method was implemented again suddenly and without warning!
After Roland, Sue, Dann and I were excommunicated an email was circulated to many contacts which was written by Dave claiming that the Jesus Christians had now disbanded! We KNEW what the plan was because we were involved in the initial discussion to implement this course of action. As well as that, Alan, who was in the group at the time this was happening, has more email evidence with discussion from Dave about this plan. This was simply a public deception to throw off internet enemies of Dave while taking the group into hiding.
A chance encounter I had with Dave on a suburban street in Sydney some months later had Dave again claiming (to my face) the group had "disbanded". I realised that Dave was fully prepared to lie to my face in order to perpetuate his cover up. I was so disgusted, and I told him that I did not believe his lies.
When he realised that we had knowledge and evidence of his plans and that he could be caught out lying by claiming that the group had disbanded, he removed any evidence from his website that he had ever used the word "disbanded" and changed his words to claiming the group had "graduated" so that he could cover up for the fact that the group still existed in some form or another.
But this is simply a small example of how Dave can use words deceptively to put a spin on whatever he wants to say. Dave later claimed in an email to ourselves that he had never used the word “disbanded” “from the start”. When we challenged this lie and provided evidence this was not true, he ended our communication.
However, I recently had cause to meditate a little further upon several implications of this word, both in relation to ourselves and in relation to graduation from an institution of higher learning within the secular world.
Here Dave tries to paint a picture of himself as the wise and benign principal of an educational institution. The reality of life in the Jesus Christians was not so pleasant. In the early days Dave was far more idealistic and there was a great deal of group consensus. As time went on Dave became more like a somewhat benevolent Army Sergeant in the way he treated people. So all the great theory that you might find on the Jesus Christians website about how to run a Christian community in a caring and democratic way, and how to avoid abuse of power over others as expounded by Dave is contradicted by Dave's actual practice in reality.
The impression he wants to give the public is that he is no longer in charge. For a long time, members were taught to HIDE the true reality of Dave being an authoritarian leader, or the leader at all. We were told pretend that he was NOT running everything from behind the scenes. The reality is that the number of people leaving over time citing harsh or unloving treatment at the hands of Dave could not hide the fact that all was not well. And these people are critical of Dave's behavior and methods as a leader. That being said no-one is FORCED against their will to do anything. But as it is in many authoritarian churches, in the end you either submit to the the pastors instructions or leave.
There is little room to argue that the discipline is overly harsh or unnecessarily controlling or even a false accusation. After all you are told by Dave it is all for your own good and you should take criticism humbly. So in the end members are intimidated into submission, and become afraid to complain lest they be seen as a troublemaker or suffer the same fate as those before them who were kicked out by Dave.
Some have assumed that graduating necessarily involves challenging the beliefs of the institution (in our case the Jesus Christian community) that one had previously been attending. That is rarely the case in terms of educational institutions in general, and so I think it should rarely be the case with regard to Jesus Christians.
Some people leave school traumatised by their experiences of bullying, scapegoating, or excessive work and study regimes. In educational institutions there are safeguards to try to prevent abuses of power or authority. Staff can be made accountable for their actions. In a close knit religious group there is often no-one who can make the leader with sociopathic tendencies accountable, which is the real danger and why MORE abuses can happen in small groups.
In the area of Psychiatry, Sigmund Freud was hailed as a pioneer in the field. Many disciples of Freud carried on his theories from his school. However when one of his students, Carl Jung, started contradicting some of the erroneous practises and assumptions of the great man, Freud was highly offended. The idea that students like Jung should leave and arrive at different conclusions was anathema because it revealed the fallibility of Freud to his followers. How dare someone have a different opinion to their professor or question his dogmatic assumptions!
Of course, someone might graduate from one university and go off to start their own. They could, perhaps, be seen as operating (after that) in competition with their Alma mater, though that too would not be readily assumed. Others may get into areas of research or experimentation which are radically different to what they learned while studying under other instructors. There have been instances where such a new approach has been at first scorned by the institutional establishment. But, over time, that too tends to fade, as the old sees the new as an extension of its own desire to learn new things.
Sadly this "scorning" is exactly how Dave treats anyone that disagrees with him. He publicly scorns them, warns his followers to stay away from them, and views them as in competition with himself. This is hardly a Christian attitude but Dave's attitudes about leadership are not really like Christ's despite his professing to follow Jesus' example. As for saying that over time the differences between the old and the new will fade is also Dave expressing a vain hope that Dave can sweep his sins under carpet without any repentance on his part for his bad attitudes. No we cannot let him off the hook so lightly.
The fact that Dave is comparing his community with an educational institution makes it clear that he sees himself as the teacher and everyone else as mere “students”. In reality, people spend only a fraction of their lives in educational facilities, and the whole purpose of getting an education is so that they can move on and become independent in their own field of expertise. But Dave has kept people for 30 years in this “teacher/student” relationship without accepting that his role of a “teacher” needs to quickly give way to a more equal and respectful relationship with those he teaches.
So it is with the former Jesus Christians, that most graduates have carried on without any thought of expressing opposition to what they learned while part of the JC community.
This statement is a way of telling so called "graduates" that they should not even "think" about expressing opposition or questioning anything that Dave taught them. Should someone simply accept everything and CLONE yourself in imitation of a teacher? One thing that Universities often try to teach their students is CRITICAL thinking. If someone supposedly "graduates" from Dave's school without learning how to exercise judgement and question ideas and assumptions taught to them, then they are simply likely to come out as moral failures, inferior clones, and sycophants.
Of course, even when a graduate does challenge the status quo, it doesn't stop them from being graduates. And the same would be true of graduates who forget some of the lessons they learned (or perhaps were supposed to have learned) while in the former institution. Not all graduates are straight A students, and not all will remember everything that they learned. But they are still graduates. And this is the way I see so many people who are continuing on now with what they learned from ourselves.
How patronising! Notice that Dave does not even consider or mention that others might be able to teach him anything? Or that anyone could have learnt anything from God or others, rather than “from ourselves” (which means Dave and Cherry). You can see clearly Dave’s attitude here that he has been the teacher all these years and everyone else has been the followers, or the students.
When I attempted to use the word "graduate" to describe myself Dave heaped scorn on me to make it clear that only true graduates are those who CONFORM to his teaching and example in every way. Ridicule of course is simply a control technique used by authoritarians to remind everyone who is superior and who is inferior in their eyes.
The main thing is that graduates in general take with them some things which will enable them to carry on with certain teachings on their own or in company with others who have not been through the same school. Graduation becomes just one more step in an overall learning experience.
If only I could believe Dave is sincerely saying this. But laced as it is with so many other lies and deceptions it is not possible to believe he actually means what he says. Its just spin, just like when Barack Obama tells us he represents "Change you can believe in".
I'm saying all this to emphasise the relatively smooth transition that has taken place between the life and practice of the Jesus Christian community, and what continues now in the lives of those individual members. All the evidence is that former Jesus Christians are spreading around the world in a way that they never did when we were all so closely linked that there was little difference in what we said or thought.
Contrary to the spin expressed here the "transition" has NOT been relatively smooth, except with members who totally conformed and submitted to Dave's plan and continue to do so. In practise there have been serious conflicts and harsh expulsions with anyone who doesn't submit to Dave.
Ex members who disagreed with Dave have been deliberately isolated and refused contact with former members still under Dave's influence. These former members are still very much in contact with each other and most importantly with Dave. These members are told to have no discussion with us in order to protect their minds from hearing contrary views. And this is a typical tactic of leaders whose "authority" is so suspect that they have to shield their followers from any other point of view.
As well as that, Dave’s claims that members of the JC’s have been “spreading around the world in a way that they never did when we were all so closely linked”. This is also bullshit. The only change to where people have been working is that Fran and Kim moved to Argentina with some other members, coincidentally at the exact time of the move to go underground. This was something that had been on the drawing board for years before they finally left. So to claim that this move was a result of the move to go underground is not true. There have been teams operating in the UK, Ireland, Kenya, Australia and the States, in the same way teams have regularly operated in these locations for years before the move to go underground. There has been no spreading around the world in a way we never did before other than posting on different forums to the old JC forum.
Someone recently wrote to me to say that just being able to experiment with some teachings which were a bit way out there, helped him to feel that his return to beliefs which are much closer to what we taught in the JCs was the result of his own personal conviction this time and not something that was forced upon him by peer group pressure.
Bear in mind that most of the "peer group pressure" cited here comes from Dave himself while giving the impression that the whole group has imposed conformity on someone. No, it is Dave's own personality that seeks to impose such suffocating conformity on people to the extent that people must leave to be able to explore ideas different to what Dave would ever approve of. And the psychological and emotional pressure that Dave sometimes puts on people becomes a "forced" conformity that backfires in the end.
Back in late 2005, after Roland, Dann and Sue were asked to leave the community in Kenya, the group split into “autonomous” teams. This was an experiment that went for a year or two, before everyone, including Roland and Sue, started working together again unofficially, and then officially regrouped in January 2009 as a single community. So this claim of more freedom for members is something that has happened before. Autonomy, if it is actually being practised at all, is not new. And judging from Alan's testimony and emails we have received that were accidentally forwarded to us from the underground community recently, there is LESS freedom and autonomy now than there was back in 2005!
Overall, Cherry and I are finding a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that what we started is now growing faster than ever before, and, as such, the kingdom of heaven is continuing to grow, even though (and perhaps because) the Jesus Christians as such no longer exist. It would be nice if these graduates could link up with other graduates one day; but it has also been good knowing that a little isolation has paid off in terms of some of our fiercest opponents totally giving up in their efforts to track us down.
Here again is spin claiming claiming the Jesus Christians (a) no longer exist and that (b) the movement is growing faster than ever before and that (c) the graduates are not linked up. False!
In reality there was a deliberate change in the power structure of the group which has been covered up by going into isolation. From internal emails I know that Dave is fully in control of what is going on and issuing instructions to the other teams. These teams are communicating with one another, and they are definitely talking and regularly reporting back to Dave, who in turn gives them instructions.
Its true that there are quite a number of ex-members and internet trolls who are highly critical of Dave in particular. Some of these critics are throwing out all kinds of lies about Dave which are total slander. Some attack the teaching of the group or the teaching of Jesus.
Some like myself are trying to expose Dave's deception and dishonesty for his own unethical behavior. Dave is not being persecuted for following Jesus, he is being held to account for his unethical and un-Christ like hypocrisy. To remain silent is to consent to corruption.
Dave: While we still continue to follow up certain contacts, run the drastically reduced forum, communicate with some graduates as they feel led, and get out books on the streets ourselves, our retirement is more or less complete; we could die tomorrow without worry about what we founded dying out with us. In fact, it is the graduates themselves which testify to the effectiveness of the institution from which they received their grounding.
The institution from which we received our grounding has moved away from Jesus being the true “founder”, the only true rock, as the role model and it has been replaced with Dave and an institution controlled by him. It is clear from the above statement that Dave was is not focussing on getting people to follow Jesus and his invisible kingdom, but rather he is “worried” his “institution” dying out. This is typical of people who want to set up a political institution where they are the recognised leaders and seek to bring some kind of glory or recognition to themselves. Dave's own example as a Christian role model of leadership is flawed and anyone who imitates his behavior, instead of following and imitating Christ’s, would be perpetuating a whole program of secret, dishonest, authoritarian rule.
The community has transitioned away from the early ideals that I agreed with into a far more clandestine and dishonest form of power politics and deception.
Anyone considering joining the movement or anyone associated with it should beware when the ideals professed on the website do not match the practise. Hypocrisy is the worst kind of Religious sin, and can destroy all the good ideals and work that a group previously did.
I appeal to those people who have been told not to talk to me for 4 years because of Dave's dictates, to stop agreeing to lie and deceive on behalf of Dave, speak the truth and don't be afraid to be expelled for doing so. I only regret that I did not speak up sooner when I saw the problems growing.