I often get questions from colleagues, neighbours and acquaintances of people suspected to be part of Fundamentalist groups such as The Truth, who are wondering how to identify the group, and how to interact respectfully with the religion and its followers. Some are also new girlfriends/boyfriends of a follower and seeking information on how to have conversations with their new partner about their beliefs.
These are generalisations and may (do) vary from area-to-area and community and family. May differ across nations – for example these are based on Australian norms.
My next blog will post tips for interacting with someone who has recent left the group.
Key take always:
1. Appearance and behaviour flags to look out for;
2. They may have underdeveloped language to explain their beliefs/lifestyle;
3. They may not talk openly about their beliefs and lifestyle;
Women’s Appearance: Often ridged appearance standards for women. For example, modest clothing, lack of jewellery, no cutting of hair so hair may be long. No makeup. Women wear closed toe shoes and stockings, and would not show too much of their flesh.
Men’s appearance is not policed as stringently, and they can often blend it more easily. Usually clean cut, short hair. Clean shaven, slacks, and shirts. Traditionally very conservative.
Children: Girls not wearing trousers, including for sporting activities at school as considered immodest.
Relationship and general behaviours:
Typically worship in homes, may have regular meetings in a school hall or community centre which they may invite outsiders to attend.
Relationships: May be secretive about broken relationships – such as siblings, aunts or uncles who have ‘left’ their community. Homosexual relationships condemned. Sanctity of marriage regarded very highly. Broken marriages rare, and when do occur are kept secret.
It is uncommon to be encouraged to have friendships and relationships outside of the group.
Children: will not attending parties, sleepovers, excursions. Will not participate in raffles or competitions. Discouraged from attending religious education at school. May leave school at youngest legal age. Children usually attend mainstream schools, howeve are encouraged to keep themselves at a distance from others – not fraternising or befriending other children, who are considered ‘worldly’.
General behaviours: will not have entered clubs, bars or hotels. Would not be seen buying alcohol, or tobacco products. Women will not be seen wearing trousers in public, and rarely would do so at home. Can appear very naive in conversation, as have not experienced much of what the general population has – for example seen on TV.
Will not own a TV or Radio. Sometimes will have a TV hidden in a cupboard, which is not discussed with people in their own community. Children often forget this when chatting with friends. Do not listen to pop music, only music they will be familiar with is hymns from their own services.
Women are discouraged from working outside the home, however some do work in typically feminine industries, on the understanding they will keep themselves ‘distant’ from worldly people. In industries such as nursing, teaching, cleaning.
May not easily discuss the key tenants of their belief system. It is common for followers not to understand religion beyond a literal interpretation of the King Jame Bible. They are not taught to show curiosity about their beliefs or their leaders, in fact they are discouraged from asking questions. This often means they can not articulate the system they follow or believe it beyond stating that its ‘the true way’.
No immodest language – such as saying words such as ‘shut up’ or using ‘god’ as a slang word.
Claim to be a-political, and not engage in political discourse. However, will vote as required by law and are typically very conservative. Typically, will not engage in warfare and are pacifists.
Common area’s they are found:
I personally have been outside of this group for 20 years and can not speak for every region/area which there are active members in Australia. The groups I know of are below and only in VIC NSW in Australia. Often they live in general closeness to each other and their wider extended families, to facilitate working together and attending services at family homes.
North Western: Mildura, Swan Hill, Balranald (NSW/VIC border), Bendigo
Melbourne Metro: Burwood, Templestowe, Dandenong, Bulleen, Box Hill, Sunbury, Eltham, Mount Waverley,
South Eastern Victoria: Drouin, Sale,
Central, Northern Victoria: Shepparton, Albury/Wodonga
South Western Victoria: Geelong, Colac, Hamilton, Ballarat
Central and Far West: Mudgee, Dubbo, Bathurst, Orange, Cowra, Forbes, Coonabarabran, West Wyalong, Hillston, Balranald (also VIC border region)
Urban: Manly, Northern Beaches, Newcastle, Wollongong
Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour
South Coast: Batemans Bay, Milton