I became aware of the community a few years ago. And from the moment I heard, I knew there was a story to be told. Nevertheless, with things to do, places to go, and with an editor who was far from encouraging, I never got around to it. I also knew that if my editor wasn’t interested, I could well have difficulties getting it published elsewhere. And yet, despite that, niggling in the back of my mind, was this story that needed to be investigated. Because, deep down, I knew that it was something worth writing.
Now I’m not sure what changed—whether it was me or something else. There certainly hadn’t been any earth-shattering news coming out of the community that would make them more newsworthy. Indeed, they seemed much the same as before—and the one or two I had met outside the community remained just as friendly. But in the end my curiosity got the better of me. There was something different about them. As a consequence, editor or not, I went down to the community to investigate.
Now, not surprisingly, I found its members very hesitant to talk to me. At least at first. It’s not that they had anything to hide, it’s just that many had had dealings with the press before—and it hadn’t necessarily been a happy experience. And that is something to which I could sympathise. Indeed, I know firsthand what happens to stories in the hands of an editor. Nevertheless, when I offered to publish my findings word for word, unedited—and only after each participant had approved the transcript of their particular interview—I received a much warmer welcome. Indeed, in no time at all, I had a list of people who were willing to talk, and on a range of subjects, that even my editor, I thought, would find newsworthy.
So over the next two weeks I interviewed the residents of the community. And what I discovered was mindboggling, even life changing. Indeed, far more newsworthy than I could possibly have imagined. But true to my word, I presented those interviews (or the bits I thought were relevant and wanted to be published) to the participants, for their approval.
But before I left that very first day, I got a taste of what was to come. I had what I considered to be the first interview. It was with ‘A’, who was a leader in the small community. And this is the crux of how it went:
Question: What is this community?
A. It’s a group of like-minded Christians, who all want to live life in a particular way—based on values described in the pages of the Bible.
Q: Surely there are plenty of Christians who are quite happy to live in the larger community—rather than a small community like this. Why the need to set this community up? What is it about it that is so different?
A: It’s true. There are many Christians who are happy to live in the greater community. But you need to remember that not all ‘Christians’ are the same.
There are people who call themselves Christians—like the fifty percent plus of Australians who call themselves Christians—most of whom demonstrate little knowledge of the faith. There are also members of the various mainstream churches, most of whom practice a Christianity that has been added to over the years—through the adoption of secular culture and tradition.
What we are trying to do, then, is to peel off the layers of non-biblical practices that have been added to the faith. We want to get back to basics. We want to live the faith as is described in the pages of the Bible. And to do so we have removed ourselves—to a limited extent—from the entanglements with the government, western culture, and the community at large. We have withdrawn, reluctantly, so that we can restore and live the faith, as it was intended, before the faith was corrupted by outside influences.
Q. Entanglements with the government, etc.? I’m not sure I know what you mean. I’m also not sure what your problem is with the established church. Perhaps you could explain further.
A. OK. The basic problem is that Christians are supposed to be distinct. And as such their beliefs and practices—and behaviour—are supposed to shine out as a light into the community. That’s what the Bible teaches. The problem is that when you live in a secular community—a community that has little time for God—the community’s beliefs and practices rub off on all its members. (Which is why the Israelites in the Old Testament were told not to have any dealings with the people who were already in the Promised Land.)
As a consequence, it is not possible to live a truly Christian life whilst living in a situation where you are open to contamination from other beliefs. And the established church proves that point. Indeed, over the years it has embraced dealing with governments and communities outside the teachings of the Bible. The end result is that it happily embraces accepting money from outside the church, and it accedes to the demands of governments etc., in its practices (whether weddings, welfare, or whatever).
In other words, the church has become contaminated by the beliefs, practices and demands of governments and the community at large. It has strayed from its biblical principles. And that is why we have needed to set up this community, in the hope of being able to strip off the non-Christian beliefs and practices and getting back to more biblical principles.
Q. I see. But how different are the biblical principles to those practiced by the mainstream church today?
A. They’re very different. And I’m sure that’s what you will conclude too as you complete your interviews.
(To be continued)
Posted 14th June 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis