What Do the Exclusive Brethren Have to Teach Us about Scientology?

Exclusive_Brethren_Church_in_Leeton2003 | The Exclusive Brethren | Everyman (BBC2 TV)

View Online | Download as .mp4

This documentary film is an examination of an extreme Christian sect which separated from The Plymouth Brethren . When it was made, these people were known as “The Exclusive Brethren“.

Their core belief is that worldly things are of the devil and that, to be redeemed, they have to withdraw from the world and adhere to very strict rules (and discipline).

The  windows in the building in the image above have been bricked up. It is an Exclusive Brethren Church, and they do not have windows, in order to exclude a view of the sinful world outside.

The Brethren are examined here because their practice of ‘dis-fellowship’ or ‘exclusion’ closely parallels the Scientology practice of ‘disconnection’.

Disconnection is one of most controversial of Scientology practices. If a Scientologist defies the Church, other members (including family) are ordered to send them a formal letter stating that they will not communicate with them in any way until they relent, and complete the penance required to be restored to good standing. In practice, this is rarely a genuine option.

This policy has separated husbands and wives, and estranged parents from their own children. The threat of disconnection is a powerful disincentive to internal dissent.

View the documentary in a video window after the break

While their beliefs are totally different, Scientologists who watch this documentary may be shocked by the similarities between the actual behaviour of the Brethren and the Church of Scientology.

Members of both groups:

  • See themselves as morally superior (L Ron Hubbard characterised Scientologists as Homo Novis – New Man)
  • Are encouraged to socialise only with other members. They often work for businesses run by believers, so they stand to lose not only contact with their families if they fall out of favour with the Church, but also their living
  • Efforts are made to ‘recover’ lapsed brethren and lapsed Scientologists via a long, punitive and manipulative process (the case of a ‘lapsed’ young woman who has to be ‘re-educated’ in isolation before she can be re-admitted to the group is covered here)
  • Ordinary members are subject to strict discipline by an elite group within the Church (the Elders of the Brethren and Ethics Officers in the Church of Scientology)

L Ron Hubbard did not invent ‘disconnection’. Practices like this seem to emerge naturally whenever a high-control  group withdraws from the wider social world.

Hubbard embraced them, and dressed them up in new clothes. This is also true of many other Scientology policies and practices.

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