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A Stake In Kidneys


YOU'LL know Dave McKay of Glendale. Often he and I are only one page apart, he on the Letters page and me here, and on the face of it that one page is as good as volumes.

Mr McKay writes mostly anti-Bush and anti-Howard letters, the subjects as often as not the futility of the war against terror and the injustice of our refugee policies, and sometimes I wish he'd write about dermatitis in white mice.

You probably don't know that Mr McKay is the leader of what some newspapers describe as a bizarre internet movement, called the Jesus Christians, and I can assure you that there's much you don't know about Dave McKay.

I'm prompted to tell you about him today by news that the Victorian Health Minister, Bronwyn Pike, has ordered an investigation of the Jesus Christians and its teaching that its members should donate a kidney to someone who needs it.

Mr McKay will probably take issue with my description of his outfit teaching that its members should donate a kidney, he probably preferring teaching that its members should consider donating a kidney, and maybe not even that. He is an articulate and pedantic fellow who can dance around the point of a pin as well as anyone.

Certainly Mr McKay advocates the live donation of a kidney and certainly his members have listened to their leader: of the sect's 30 members (in Australia, the US, the UK and most recently Kenya) 12 have donated a kidney and two or three want to.

I don't think I need to tell you that having a kidney removed is a serious operation.

Yesterday I asked Mr McKay the question that goes directly to his credibility: has he donated a kidney?

Yes, he told me, 18 months ago. He'd been on the waiting list at John Hunter Hospital for more than a year fifth on a waiting list to donate a kidney! and when the Health Department was unable to come to grips with the fact that some people were prepared to make a live kidney donation to someone they didn't know he flew to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to make the donation.

No, he said, he wasn't paid, although his costs were covered. Until his offer Mr McKay didn't know the person who received his kidney, a person who is not, he thinks, a Christian.

Shades, eh, of Kerry Packer's helicopter pilot, Nick Ross, donating one of his kidneys to his ailing boss in 2000, but where Mr Ross says he did it as an act of friendship Mr McKay and his followers do it as an act of Christianity.

"John the Baptist," Mr McKay writes on the Jesus Christians website, "when speaking to the crowds who came to him to be baptised, urged them to give proof of their repentance, and he suggested that one proof would be for those who had two to give to those who had none."

What else do we have two of? We need both eyes, Mr McKay told me.

"The Apostle Paul," again on the website, "when writing to the Romans, urged them to present their bodies as 'living sacrifices', which he added was nothing more than their 'reasonable service' to God and others."

If one in 10,000 people did as he and his Jesus Christians have done, Mr McKay told me, there would be no waiting list for kidneys.

Is this Christianity gone mad? Is it that "love thy neighbour" and "do unto others" and all that stuff was never meant to be taken seriously?

Or is it simply committed Christianity? Are you a Christian with two healthy kidneys?

Mr McKay says he and his Christian community members are simply following the teachings that much of the Western world professes to believe, and I suppose such an argument challenges also the massive wealth of our mainstream churches. To use a line I noticed on the Jesus Christians website (http:// cust.idl.com.au/fold/), it's Christianity versus Churchianity.

There's more you don't know about Dave McKay and his Jesus Christians, and I hope to tell you some of that tomorrow.

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