Hey all, I’m back. Do you know how hard it has been to keep my fingers off the keys this year? A long hiatus over summer lead directly into a four month migraine, which lead directly into the biggest metaphorical headache of my life as I finally agreed to speak up on what many of you have probably guessed if you’ve been readers of this blog or followers of the podcast for a while now — I’ve got a bit of a wild story and the setting for this bonkers, stranger-than-fiction, what-the-actual-heck story is none other than my fathers church and the network it sits in.
I’m not going to offer extra commentary in media. So done with that. But I will say it takes a lot to come to the point where you actually speak up. I’ve been saying no to media for years , having left Dad’s church almost seven years ago (and “left” isn’t quite the right descriptive word. But listeners, ya’ll know the nuance there).
The reason I’ve said no is because, in my jewellery box, on a piece of scrap paper was a promise made to myself. I wouldn’t talk unless I was in the right mental, emotional and physical space to do so safely (Yes, psychological safety is a thing, yo!). I needed to come from a place of strength because I wasn’t going to do tabloid or short form. It needed to be thorough which meant I’d have to sit with traumas long sent to the recesses of my mind, and face the traumas of other people who existed in my orbit while I was still on the inside. That meant holding the horrendous double-edged sword of vicarious guilt and vicarious trauma. It meant facing my complicitness while also acknowledging my profound helplessness. As someone who self-identifies as a grounded, badass smart-cookie with a huge touch of what I call Mother HEnergy (geddit?), that was going to be a tough cop. Vulnerability? Ew.
Also on the scrap-paper promise was this: It needed to be an investigative journalist with a good reputation who was willing to put in the miles to understand the complex intersectionality of the ISAAC network, dominionism, the NAR and neo-charismatic evangelicalism which embraces “extra-Biblical revelation” and so easily gives rise to cults of personality and high control situations…or just, you know, cults. And it had to be for a reason other than settling a family score. I’m not interested in that. I’ve chosen my path. My family and I cannot walk together now, or perhaps ever, despite my complex but present love for them. That is a wound that always smarts but one I live with because I know I’ve made the right choice and I know my children and I are surrounded by love.
But the plight of other — victims past, present and future — and the issue of what dominionist or NAR churches do with power was of immense concern to me. To know that the leopard had not changed it’s spots and was now in reach of power that had the potential to inflict damage on a wider range of people – that caused a special kind of nausea that I couldn’t shake. I’m all for religious freedom. But that should never ever be the freedom to abuse, nor should it be freedom from scrutiny, nor should it be ignorance as to what certain practices such as conversion practices or denial of equality or reproductive rights does to the people affected by these issues.
Nick McKenzie turned up on the scene after my four month migraine began. I didn’t know who he was (best in the business in Australia it turns out!) so it took him a while to convince me that the story was safe in his hands, and my agreement rested on the condition that it centred other victims, too. He and the team from The Age and 60 Minutes Australia did a great job, though there is no way it could capture the nature of the beast entirely.
I’m acutely aware of the other stories that couldn’t be told this time. But my heart holds your stories still. I’ve always seen myself as your storykeeper. But that burden is lighter now that Nick and the team have legitimised the gnawing suspicions that what so many of us had been through was way beyond the scope of normal Christian life.
In a strange way, I finally feel released from the cage of silence I’ve lived in since my abuses within church-related settings began at the tender age of 11. I am aware of the gaslighting that goes on when people interested in keeping their grip on privilege and power try madly to patch the cracks in the dam. But I’m ignoring that. The cracks in the dam are there now. Finally, the hidden things can come to the light. Finally, we can all walk free whether we choose to speak up or not.
This was never about me — or even about my sister, whose rise into politics was the lightening rod that sent statewide media scurrying towards long-held suspicions about Dads church. It was about other survivors – others who know they can speak now, that they aren’t alone now, and that what happened to them wasn’t okay.
It is done now. And, for those playing here and overseas – here are the links. Read them. Your girl is tired!
The 60 Minutes Episode – Praying For Power: Caring church or crazy cult
The Age #4 – Ultra-Conservative Candidate won’t sit in the party room if elected (this is still unfolding as new leadership takes the helm. So she might).
Other Coverage (Who’d have thunk this little blog could be so juicy! But you’re welcome…I guess)
The ABC #2 – Religious Roadmap to Liberal Party Control Revealed as Internal Ructions Over Religious Groups Increase. (Side note: It was immediately clear upon reading it that City Builders did not author the document in question. But the article refers to them so the link is here.)
Rationale Mag – Raised in her fathers church
And for those who are thinking “What Even is Dominionism, the NAR or the Neo-Charismatic Movement), I got you covered. This section is for the nerds. My people.