‘I was raised in a religious cult’: New book Joy and Sorrow details life in the Exclusive Brethren

Mosman Daily, AustraliaAugust 27, 2015

By Kate Crawford

For the first 25 years of her life, Joy Nason lived in constant fear of “God’s wrath” — to the point where death was a better option than confessing her sins.

The Neutral Bay woman has opened up about her childhood as a member of the Exclusive Brethren church in her book Joy and Sorrow.

The book goes into depth about growing up in a family that belonged to an evil cult and how she is “surviving and thriving” after escaping.

She was born in Bristol, England and her family migrated to Australia in 1953. She said while her parents were kind, the Brethren’s grip on the family only tightened.

The family lived at Croydon Park in a regular house but were required to attend daily meetings of the Brethren.

Edicts included no television, no toys, no pets, no contact with outsiders and an intimidating culture of confessing sins.

Nason did manage to get a job in an office, but she wasn’t allowed to socialise and ate her lunch alone.

“The worst part was the fear — the fear of being a sinner and being punished by God,’’ she said.

As a young woman, she once snuck out to go to the movies. “You weren’t allowed to go to the movies,’’ she said. “I was terrified for months I would be found out.”

Nason escaped when she was 25, but said it took her years to throw off the nightmares and shackles of fear that God would strike her dead.

Part of the reason she left to seek sanctuary with a former Exclusive Brethren member was her fear of not being a fit and proper person for the church.

She writes in the book that she had ``become a brainwashed soul, living in dread of God’s wrath’’.

“Time after time I would shake so much sitting next to my mother in the meetings, I was sure she would notice,’’ said Nason.

“I was terrified that my sins might warrant a confession and figured I’d rather die than let this happen.’’.

However, Nason says her only real “sin” at the time was a desire to experience the outside world.

Nason was well aware that by leaving the Brethren she would be cut off from her family (except for three of her seven siblings who had left the Brethren) and may never see her parents again.

When her mother died, it was made very clear to Nason that she could not attend the funeral.

Earlier her father had been excommunicated from the cult for questioning their ideas and separated from his wife.

“It broke his heart,’’ says Nason.

While she craved a normal life, Nason said some of her life had been less conventional, including three marriages. She did carve out a career as a senior TAFE teacher and administrator after obtaining a university degree — another pursuit banned by the Brethren.

Nason said turning 70 was a milestone of great pride and no small defiance of the Brethren’s prediction that life ends at three score years and ten.

Nason says the Exclusive Brethren was renamed the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church in 2014 and now has about 40,000 followers living mainly in the UK, USA, New Zealand and Australia.

She was inspired to write it by Neutral Bay author Peter FitzSimons, who urged would-be writers to tell their stories.

Joy and Sorrow is available online as an ebook and in print from booktopia.com.au and Pages & Pages in Mosman.

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