Monday, November 1, 2010

the time machine

I can hardly stop thinking about the Cult of Campbell video in the previous post. I know I banned myself from my own blog but I can't help it. I need to make just a few quick observations....

There *are* a lot of factual errors in the piece. The Campbells are, in fact, New Zealanders who lived in Australia for many years before moving to Tennesee. They did not originate in the US as the video suggests. Nancy and helpers ran their magazine Above Rubies from Brisbane, I believe. And I doubt anti-Islamic beliefs are at the root of the Campbell's push for large families although no doubt it figures in there somewhere. But that line would work well for creating a nice smell of scandal on Australian television. Australian's also like to hear that the US is full of religious nutjobs who are trying to infiltrate our more or less secular society. Note journalist Mike Munroe's tone when he says things like ' the American South' .  Australians would be uncomfortable knowing these particular folk are Aussie exports - hence, I think, the reversal.

The editing is misleading also. For example, the first time we see Nancy preaching, you might think Nancy she is speaking to the same US group as was David just a few seconds earlier. But actually, we know that can't be true. Nancy, although, I believe, an ordained minister in her own right, would probably not be allowed to preach to a mixed-sex group as her husband does. At least footage of Nancy's audience - the Australian all-female seminar that features later - is interspersed with shots of Nancy and her daughter Evangeline and others at a service in Tennessee but we don't actually see Nancy preaching to men.

Some other thoughts....

What one earth possessed Colin and Nancy to allow a dodgy program like Sunday Night to put a camera on their dashboard so that they could play out their 'perfect marriage' charade for TV? Their stilted, peculiar conversation at that point, as well as their preaching style later show that their message has not changed since the 80s. From the pulpit both husband and wife provide great examples of the kind of nonsense that we got here during the Charismatic Renewal which swept Australia at that time. The arm waving, the grandstanding, the silly catch phrases ('Men can do a lot of things....but they can't breastfeed' ) it was like peering into a time machine.

While I don't think the use of spooky background music during Munroe's long voice-over explanation of QF beliefs while on-screen a montage of family life is playing anything like fair, his description of QF doctrine is pretty sound. Here's a transcript:
The Campbell's congregation is part of the growing Quiverfull movement. Followers of Quiverfull believe that children represent arrows in the fight against evil and infidels, that each man must have a quiver full of them. The children of Quiverfull are homeschool (sic) to keep them separate from the evil and corrupt influences of the outside world. Boys and girls have distinct and separate roles too. The girls are brought up to have only domestic duties: cooking, cleaning, having babies and doing arts and crafts like beading. While the boys with their quivers full of arrows are encouraged to hunt and kill wild pigs and other animals.
OK, the pig comment is drawing a long bow (heh, heh) but I didn't notice any other real clangers there.

Munroe goes on:
This 'church' teaches that true happiness can only be achieved if women totally obey their men.
It's at this point that Munroe directs a question at Colin who attempts to answer but is cut off quite rudely by Nancy. One gets the feeling that she doesn't quite trust Colin to get it right when it really matters. Despite Nancy's incredibly offensive statement uttered earlier that some women are being 'educated beyond their intelligence', it seems Nancy is the one who is toting the brains in the Campbell household. It's a strange paradox that often appears in QF families. Higher education - and sometimes even highschool education - for girls is spurned as being a sure and dangerous way to produce women who don't want to reproduce but often it's the wife who is the thinker. Interesting.

I realise there has been some criticism on the internet of NLQ and Vyckie Garrison personally. I don't know Vyckie, of course, as I live way over here in Australia and I realise the doco is biased and intended to cast the Campbells in a negative light. Still I struggle to imagine that anyone watching this video could compare Vyckie, her daughter Angel and the Campbells and come out thinking the Garrisons were the dangerous ones. Indeed, I thought both Vyckie and Angel were polite and reserved in their criticism of QF. And nothing either of them said was a surprise to me, or my kids, knowing as we do, at least how our QF family functioned. The Campbells on the other hand spoke and acted *precisely* as I remember them.

I need to admit here though that including Vyckie's story without taking the trouble to find some nice, relatively normal QFer to balance it is just not fair. But perhaps Munroe's researchers got tired to trying to track one down. Munroe does include a short statement from one of the Australian QFers who attended Nancy's seminar and it wasn't a good look. Perhaps he could have done better...but who can say?

Another comment on Vyckie's segment: Monroe must be counting on Vyckie's ex-husband not seeing this piece or I doubt Channel 7 legals would have allowed him to make such pointed accusations against Mr Garrison - on public television giving his real name and using photos. Thin legal ice I'd have thought.

When Monroe asks Nancy and Colin about their relationship with Angel, Nancy once more shows she's a little more savvy than her man. She jumps in to keep him on message - and perhaps on safer legal ground - when asked about their prior knowledge of Angel's self-harming. I have to say I became really angry at this point. It seems horribly unfair to state that the Garrisons seem to have 'gone of the tracks' and to fail to appreciate that the Garrison's feel themselves that their acceptance of QF doctrine was a critical factor in their misery. I've seen again and again how these people wash their hands of those of us who are no longer quite the right sort to associate with. And when they do it with such a condescending, mirthless smile it's just disturbing.

Colin's in-transit 'Australia has it's gods' speech is lifted right out of 80s charismania too. I can't help but wonder if he's been challenged in his thinking since then or whether he only listens to his own sermons. It's all just so simplistic and silly. It's as out of touch as the poor young QF mum's speech about how 'this world would seek to destroy' the value of being a wife and mother. Only those who don't usually have to communicate with people outside the secret circle wouldn't realise their speech is odd.

Nancy's 'womb-man' speech is crazy stuff even without the creepy, eyeless grimacing, and obviously she hasn't an etymological leg to stand on. (Here's a link to wiki's view on the roots of the word anyway.) It reminds me of a sermon I heard as a new Christian from Clark Taylor, subsequently disgraced head of Christian Outreach Centre, Brisbane which, at that time, was the largest church in Australia. Explaining how us girls came to be known collectively as 'woman' he related that when God brought Eve to Adam for the first time, Adam took one look and responded, 'Whoo! Man!' Clark was joking of course, but that serves as an excellent example of the exegetical depth of most of the sermons on offer from charismatic pulpits at the time.

Nancy needs to brush up on her science, too. As any eighth-grader would know, male and female are not species distinctions. The word is gender, or more correctly, sex. But what Nancy lacks in content and expertise she makes up for in vehemence. As one forum poster so succinctly commented about Nancy's performance,
What doesn't show up on the video version is the almost magnetic hypnotic sense of straight POWER that Nancy radiates....She is an incredibly INTENSE woman, almost dripping with power, there is so much of it all over her.
This is what I remember about Nancy's sermons, too. She almost compels you to set aside any quibbles you have with her odd mannerisms, ignore sinful doubts about her doctrine and just absoooooorb her words into your sooooooouuuuuul. I realise it might be hard to believe watching her in the context of this video, but trust me, when you are in the movement, she carries a lot of authority. Even if, like me, you tended to giggle about her at dinner parties and had given up trying to measure up to her standards long ago.

Vyckie makes some important statements near the end of the video:
I believe it's a cult. I believe every family becomes it's own little mini cult. You've got the husband as the cult leader and everyone centres and focusses their life around them. There's the control of communication, there's the isolation, there's the fear - the us versus them mentality. It's all there.
Yup. Sounds like a cult to me. The fact that adult adherents are active participants in their own brainwashing doesn't make QF less controlling or dangerous. Neither does the fact that we adore the children we produced and wouldn' send even one of them back. Not everything about QF is bad. But, in my view, it qualifies as a cult none the less.

Overall, watching this video made me realise how lucky my kids and I are to have got out. I admit I almost cried when we got to the part where Vyckie describes how different her life is post-QF.
[My life is] awesome. It's really awesome to see how my kids are just blossoming. They don't have prescribed rules that they have to fit into. They can choose for themselves, discover for themselves: what kind of person am I? what are my interests? what are my options? The whole world is open to them.
Yeah. The *whole* world - including their own minds. As the video ended I reached over and squeezed my daughter's hand and said, 'Thank God we're free'.

And I do.

Post script

5 pm, 1 November, 2010: Channel 7 has pulled the video off their website. That was *quick*! I wonder whether they have had a letter from someone's lawyer. I'm sorry I didn't get to show it to all my kids - just one daughter. It's disappointing but not surprising.

Post post script

9.30 pm, 1 November, 2010: Oooh, oooh. It's back. Get it quick and see it.


  1. This is the reason I hope you don't run away and leave your blog. You are insightful and truthful about what the "movement" did to your family and how charlatan's like Nancy and Colin make ordinary families feel like they have done something majorly wrong.

    I thank God that I was raised in a liberal Lutheran church which was ahead of it's time. We had open doors to gay people when it wasn't in fashion. We welcomed all because that is what the Lord instructs us to do. To come to the table and receive his body and blood as brothers and sisters, we are all the same.

    Again, thanks for your insight.

    Since it's Monday on your side of the world, have a great one. It's nearly time to head to the land of nod here in Southern CA.

  2. I really like your realness, and totally get the vibe of wanting to reject the trappings and unsincerity of 'church' while still wanting Jesus. I'd really like to know your story.