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Strato 8th June 2013 01:10 AM

Ya Had To Be There...not...
Hi, my understanding friends,

Indulge me, it's probably like I need closure, or to make confession, some kinda catharsis, supplicating for absolution from normal, wised-up atheist humans who are such a minority.

It is with mortification, I confess I was amongst this circus for about three years...

[video redacted]

The leader, [name redacted] started this thing which snowballed into three hundred-odd alternative types committed to, 'burning out for' Jesus, as an outreach from Frank Houston's Assemblies Of God (AOG) in Darlinghurst, then Waterloo, Sydney, now Brian Houston's 'Hillsong Family Church' which he has taken to the world, a megachurch. It's about the music and the mania, and the belonging...

We had our meetings at the Burringbar hall, then at Brunswick Heads (God's own country, folks, God, I do still miss that part of the world, Mt Warning, the Pinnacle, back of Kyogle etc., northern-coast NSW). The Truevine praise leader, Jamie (last name withheld, for litigious, libel reasons, bring it on, read Hunter S. Thompson) was totally up himself, and I heard is still a pastor to this very day. He never let me in the band, which to listen to was bloody woeful, like my very idea of personally customized eternal torment in Hell. I freshly sublimated this suppression of me and my musicality, as a burnt offering to the Lord. Baptism in fire. After I got 'saved' (you belong, now), Jamie had said to me, sitting in the back of his full car, on the way to Nimbin to witness to the hippies, "so you play guitar? The Lord's said you have to lay it down at his feet for six months, and if He (Jamie) wants you to use it for his Glory, he'll call you to it, and give it back!" Psychological case study. I've never thought anyone could be threatened by me, or jealous. Watching Jamie getting off on the glory himself, every hour-long-plus praise session, up on the stage with all those horny, celibate sisters down below going, "Jamie...ohh, no...Jesus!!!...," I praised away, as you do...

Every day for a year I printed long thematic theological studies compiled by [name redacted], our Christ-like Dear Leader (the pseudo-hip nutcase in these videos), whilst listening to 'teaching tapes,' being copied into box-sets from the 'Christian Gospel Cassette Lending Library' by another Trueviner, Phil, in the same room of the Mustard Seed Restaurant, where [name redacted] also had his room/office though he never came out. He was wastingly skinny with long hair, brushed, an uncropped beard, like a clone of Jesus with his holistic hugs, "God bless you!" He said he had been a Buddhist, before he found Jesus. That same detachment. I don't know, impermanence, be here now, let it be. The building was ever on the brink of sliding into the swamp, at the bottom of the Burringbar range, a sweeping bend, where one strong Christian brother was killed, walking down the highway from the Mustard Seed. John Briffa. Engaged.

I heard about 70 of these 90 minute cassettes, as I printed away, for free. So I know, man. I'd heard [name redacted ran off with a new member's partner, [name redacted] had had, as was mandatory in Truevine, separated, as they weren't married, though they had two kids. I saw this young father walking way down the beach, he eventually passed me crying, a man with a beard, just crying. I couldn't help, back then. [name redacted], I heard, took her, his adulating second-generation Indian beloved away to America and so as happens with cults, many Trueviners then came badly adrift. Drugs etc. I'd already boldly split (with [name redacted]' blessing) to Lismore to study music at the CAE (now Armidale Uni Lismore campus). That was very difficult for me as I had been this crazy intensive Christian for three years in Truevine. But I did well as I am musical.

One Trueviner trusting in the Lord flushed his insulin down the dunny and so, died. Another lad in the house I shared in Lismore attached to the Lismore Christian Life Centre (AOG), ditched his lithium trusting Jesus and went into complete shutdown, as he was severely bipolar, a great guitarist, dynamic on electric. Tragic to witness. I couldn't help. Many of them are still Christians. Talk about cognitive dissonance...

At the moment, I'm reading George Orwell, 'Down And Out In Paris And London,' he has me laughing out loud, which I never do. Orwell was the conscience of the 20th century.

Bolero 8th June 2013 10:37 AM

Very interesting Strato. I do often wonder what these megachurch-type things look like from the inside.

Sent from my fone.

loubert 8th June 2013 11:42 AM

Re: Ya Had To Be There...not...
very intersting read, Strato. thanks for that. :thumbsup:

I have heard there are rather large similarities between these megachurches and some of those "self empowering" (think unleash the power/Tony Robbins) events, but that is probably more inclined for a separate thread.

Strato 8th June 2013 02:49 PM

Re: Ya Had To Be There...not...
Psychology would provide the explanation of why this style of Christianity is so attractive. Prominent in the Hillsong success formula is 'praise,' hyped up audience responsive positivity. It's a show. Praise follows its formula, starting with clapping and dancing, the Pentecostal two-step. White Christians can't seem to clap on the back-beat. Then it segues into 'worship,' with ambient pentatonics from the musos, on the big stage, under the lights, who have to avoid flashy playing, while the leader/pastor, works the audience into 'communion with the Spirit.'

Speaking and singing in tongues, glossolalia, now and 'words of knowledge,' from those with the hide to pronounce their (I guess, often rehearsed) line of jive, as from God. People are exhorted, eyes closed, mainly, to consecrate all to Jesus, mind, back complaints, you name it. Then you have to sit through an hour-long 'message,' interspersed with bleats of 'amen!' Then the call to come forward for the conversion rite, or healing, getting 'slain in the Spirit.' In an indigenous congretation I attended up in Northern NSW, they didn't have 'catchers.' They went over backwards, bang on the wooden floor.

It's formulaic. Many homo sapiens it seems, love to be conned. Copycat behaviour, monkey see, monkey do. You can bet there is a lot of 'counseling' going on, with the 'elders,' and their busy official 'counselors,' who did a year course at some Christian 'college.' It's like getting a degree off the back of a cornflakes box. Things of course aren't as rosy as it's presented to be, within the 'faith' farce. Hillsong, it's snowballing. Operations in America look like malls with escalators to huge auditoriums, meetings going 24/7. They tithe. I never went to Hillsong, Sydney. The Second-Coming is a big theme.

Truevine, late 70's and into the 80's was a 'community,' winding up with over 300 mainly young ex-alternative type 'disciples' scattered between New Brighton, Brunswick Heads and Murwillumbah, and a little into the hinterland. Some scandalous hanky-panky went on. Singles were separated into discipleship houses, with an appointed leader. New Age and vegetarianism and free-love was heresy. I think the Jesus-Freak movement rode on the back of the hippie phenomenon, historically.

These have been long posts. Cheers.

abc123 3rd January 2017 05:25 PM

Re: Ya Had To Be There...not...
Hi Strato, my family was actually involved in the true vine church and actually a part of the exact story you are talking about (it is a small world, you mention them in your story). the outcome led me to be a militant atheist as some of the things that went on behind the scene at true vine were horrific. as a new member here i cannot contact you but if you could please contact me ASAP i would really appreciate it as i have some questions for you and perhaps some surpising information.

DanDare 13th January 2017 06:40 PM

Re: Ya Had To Be There...not...
abc123, as a first post that is a bit billigerant and intrusive.

How about ask the questions here and tell us all the surprising news rather than ask Strato to create an open private channel to you?

Child of the Vine 22nd October 2017 09:55 AM

Re: Ya Had To Be There...not...
I was a child of the vine and my memories of those years in the True Vine church and school community are few and far between. My family and friends from that time still talk of it in glowing praise with the occasional whisper of “less than ideal” goings on. I would love to hear more about what really happened... it would help me to understand my past and possibly even help me with the mental health issues I have today. I understand the difficulties that surround this kind of thing being discussed in a public forum, especially since Some the incidents could attract attention re.incrimination, libel etc I am desperate for information from the perspective of those that have no residual reason for painting a rosy picture of the church and it’s colourful history. Please help me, in any way you can, by shedding some light on these years from your perspective!

The Irreverent Mr Black 24th October 2017 06:43 PM

Re: Ya Had To Be There...not...
Welcome, COTV!

Ex-AOG pastoral student here. I suspect we have a bit in common, and I'll eventually have a book out.

Strato 24th October 2017 08:41 PM

Re: Ya Had To Be There...not...

The Irreverent Mr Black said (Post 600378)
Welcome, COTV!

Ex-AOG pastoral student here. I suspect we have a bit in common, and I'll eventually have a book out.

Looking forward to that read Mr. Black.

Strato 24th October 2017 09:55 PM

Re: Ya Had To Be There...not...
Hi Child of the Vine.

I can understand your desire for information on the True Vine Community cult and I empathise with you concerning its effect on your formative years and your subsequent mental life.

True Vine was about 'discipleship.' Submission to God's anointed elders and leaders, the praise leader, was the directive, total commitment, 'death to self.' Everything you thought, pursued as an interest, such as music had to be 'laid down,' surrendered to Jesus. Such represented the 'old life, was 'of the flesh,' and all strings to the 'unsaved,' 'carnal' unregenerate life had to be ruthlessly severed. Everything one thought and did had to be to the 'glory of God.'

There was a huge library of Christian teaching cassettes. I printed theological and scriptural studies for 'home groups' by the hundreds. They were composed by our dear leader, probably from Jesse Penn-Lewis booklets on theological Christian life themes.

Of course religion is all about teachings and authority structures. The teachings are always formulaic. There are the tidy categories. This is simplistic. Life, reality, nature are not like that although there are of course the laws of physics.

Of course one is not to question. Critical thinking is verboten. To pursue that, 'independent thinking' is to 'exalt the mind of the flesh above the mind of Christ.' And so the intellect is stifled. There is the typical cult language, memes framing, constraining, conforming one's thinking, thought-life.

If a couple in a de facto relationship joined True Vine Christian Community, they were to separate and live in singles' 'discipleship houses' located in that geographical region between Brunswick Heads and Murwillumbah, meeting on Sundays for praise and exhortation. These houses had an appointed leader. Those separated had to regard one another as of no personal, emotional significance, as just another brother or sister 'in the Lord.' If you were keen on someone you had to submit that to the elders for approval or disapproval. Their word was the Word of the Lord.

Child discipline and smacking was strongly emphasised. Children were born in sin, had a 'rebellious spirit,' the plaything of Satan and their spirit must be "broken."' This could involve creating conflict for the little one, frustration, denial of affection, harsh discipline to cause him or her to scream where they would be smacked then, when the kid is completely crushed, it would be given a cuddle, affection with an explanation for why the naughtiness must be cast out. There were demon casting out deliverance sessions.

I can well imagine the elders and praise leader are still your born again Christians, believing they carry special anointing. Profoundly uneducated.

Thanks for reading this Child of the Vine. With respect, I might suggest thinking up another username. Because I hope you will remain an AFA Forums contributor. I have put True Vine well behind me. I was ever aware of my ignorance and that has been something of my redemption. I have been reading popular science and books of scholarship these last 30 years since I took Social Sciences at uni. My involvement with the AFA Forums has been incalculably enriching to me. So many excellent individuals here, articulate, original, intellectually courageous. Do stick around.

I won't name names concerning erstwhile b'True Viners' as we were threatened with libel, although we can legally discuss cults, now can't we?


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