Out of nowhere in 2004, an obscure religious sect burst onto the political stage in Australia. Almost unheard of until then, the Exclusive Brethren was suddenly spending up big in election advertising in support of conservative political parties. But its members were shy to the point of paranoia about who they were — preferring, as they said, to ‘fly under the radar’. Brethren members assiduously lobbied politicians, but did not vote. And they were very close to the-then prime minister John Howard.
What exactly was their interest in politics? Why did their activism suddenly blossom almost simultaneously across the world, from Canada and the United States to Sweden and Australia? And how did a small, fringe group, whose values are utterly detached from those of most Australians infiltrate the highest office in the land?
Michael Bachelard uncovered the facts about this secretive sect for more than two years while working as an investigative reporter at The Age. The result of his inquiries is the most comprehensive book ever written about the Exclusive Brethren. It details their origins in the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century, their fractious history, their extraordinary use of scripture to control members and dissidents, and their lucrative business and financial arrangements. It’s a fascinating story of influence and power exercised across several continents. But it’s a very human story, too — of damaged lives, of broken families, and of hurt and anger that stretches back decades.
‘A serious, sensitively written account of a controversial and little understood sect. Skilfully combining history, investigative reporting and impassioned advocacy, Behind the Exclusive Brethren is a great read.’
Lyndon Megarrity, Australian Book Review
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‘Bachelard, by diligent interviewing, is a sound witness of some of the damage, and has made a better effort than some other critics to discuss it with the other side.’
Jack Waterford, Canberra Times
‘The Brethren resist scrutiny, and the release of Bachelard's magnum opus of investigative journalism will challenge their hierarchy, perhaps to the extent that they will understand why their energetic engagement with the body politic attracts scrutiny consistent with the value society places on transparency.’
John Gunson, Eureka Street
‘This is investigative reporting as it is supposed to be done and, for that reason alone, it is worth adding this book to your Christmas shopping list. Behind the Exclusive Brethren deserves to be widely read and talked about.’
Sandra Hogan, Media & Culture
‘If you thought you knew it all, then think again! Michael Bachelard's account of the Exclusive Brethren will leave you dumbfounded. Every Australian must read this book.’
Dimitri Gonis, Readings Monthly Newsletter
‘One of the most sober and well-argued exposés I have ever read … Michael Bachelard reveals the Brethren's God as Mammon, their behaviour as that of schoolyard bullies, and their Christianity all about self-love.’
Lucy Sussex, Sunday Age
‘This is a very fair assessment of the modus operandi of an influential Christian sect.’
Sydney Morning Herald
‘Shocking and compelling. Michael Bachelard has written an eye-opening account of power and cruelty in a tiny Christian sect that enjoys a privileged existence in Australia.’