In The Days Of Rain - Book Club Verdict 'a Rivetting Read'

Posted at 14:30pm on 20th May 2018

THRILLER OR HORROR STORY?

If reading In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott didn’t bring tears to your eyes, hearing the testimony of two members of my Book Club would certainly do so!  Brought up in the Exclusive Brethren, they tell a tale of trauma of unimaginable scale: the strict rules, severance from family, sexual aberration and suicides.  All this from a cult which purports to be Christian!

As a Professor of Literature and Creative Writing as well as a novelist of renown, Rebecca Stott writes i'n a compelling fashion.  As one member of my Book Club declared, ‘it felt as if you were reading a thriller – albeit a horror story.  A real page-turner.’

BACKGROUND: HIGHLAND CLEARANCE

The book begins with a bit of history setting the scene.  It seems that following the Highland Clearance in the mid-1800s, when peasants were evicted by Scottish landowners, a rebellion occurred whereby the latter joined non-conformist churches so as not to have to rent a pew from their wealthy landlords.  While one group of Brethren believed they should be out saving souls, others felt that they should withdraw from the world – where it was deemed that Satan ruled and morals were non-existent – in preparation for the Rapture. 

INDOCTRINATION

This ideology became a form of indoctrination, with Rebecca’s father, at the age of ten, being excluded from RE lessons at school because he’d asked the ‘wrong’ question, and Rebecca herself, being beaten black and blue by her father for being ‘naughty’.  Obsessed with thoughts about the Rapture and Armageddon, she fantasised about being ‘left behind’.  ‘Worldly’ books such as Shakespeare’s work were banned.  Meanwhile, Rebecca’s grandmother was shut up in an asylum because she had epilepsy and, with families being told to ‘clean’ their house and ‘circumcise’ themselves from those who were unclean, she was not considered fit.

INTERROGATION & PENANCE

Interrogators were sent into homes to grill members on their morality and evoke a confession of sin.  Punishment was then pronounced in the form of being ‘shut-up’ for days, weeks or months.  This meant that, when at home, they were literally shut away in a room and forbidden access to the sight or sound of family or friends until penance had been paid, with a tray of food being left outside the room at mealtimes.

Suicides abounded.  Two elderly single ladies – sisters who ran an egg farm – were left destitute when they were commanded to withdraw from the Egg Marketing Board because the stamp on the eggshell was considered to be a sign of Satan.  Both walked into a lake and drowned themselves.  Others gassed or hung themselves.

By 1960, if a non-Brethren spouse refused to conform, their Exclusive Brethren partner was required to separate from them, a procedure given the nomenclature ‘withdrawing from’.  Failure to do so meant that they, themselves, would be ‘withdrawn from’.  Members of our Book Club had experienced this, and the pain of being separated from their family is clear to see to this day.

CULTS: A PATTERN OF CHARISMA & COMPLIANCE

Rebecca raises the issue of cults, pointing out that there is a pattern, which she likened to that of the Gestapo.  This equates to a charismatic leader, people cut off from the world, and unthinking obedience whereby members comply, not because they agree with the morality or legality of their instructions, but because the authority of those above them relieves them of responsibility.

GLOBAL WEALTH

The Exclusive’s world leader, Jim Taylor (known as JT Junior) and his son-in-law, Bruce Hales, set about creating a global wealth system, which included the evasion of tax-paying.  With members required to purchase an entire set of ‘ministries’ valued at £60, the equivalent of twelve million pounds might have been raised in a single day.  Members of the Exclusive Brethren were forbidden from joining any corporation, which meant they could no longer go to university or work for any business other than that run by the Brethren.  In 1973, in order to sustain growth in the cult, contraception was banned.

Ironically, the Aberdeen fiasco, in which JT Junior publicly fondled a married woman and ‘sucked’ her mouth before being given another man’s wife in bed, led to other members offering him their wives.  All this because he was considered to be a ‘man of God’.  As a result, in a subsequent meeting, 200 men withdrew.

REVIEW SUMMARY

A compelling read?  Yes!  Well written?  Absolutely!  An eye-opener?  Beyond doubt!  Suffice to say that my Book Club members found the idea of the Exclusive Brethren showing any resemblance to Christianity an aberration of gigantic proportions.  It must, we thought, be an affront to God the Father, to Jesus the Son, to the Holy Spirit and to all who follow him.

 

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