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Leader Hits Out At Cult Portrayal

AS the leader of a worldwide cult, David McKay has a lot of work to do.

And he has no fleet of luxury cars, no secret armoury of weapons and no involvement in ritual animal slayings.

In fact, the 55-year-old looks decidedly everyday dressed in a tracksuit and runners in his modest Mayfield flat.

Yet over the past two weeks Mr McKay has been at the centre of a controversy concerning a runaway teenager on the other side of the world.

The British media have used words such as `sinister,' `notorious' and `secretive' to describe Mr McKay's religious group, the Jesus Christians.

It has also been alleged that the Newcastle-based sect is involved in kidnapping and brainwashing.

Mr McKay shakes his head in disbelief at the portrayal of Jesus Christians as a dangerous cult.

`Where is the evidence that we are evil? What have we done?' he said.

He bristles at the word `cult' and said it has been used to cast negativity on the group.

`I class myself as a community leader. We are a Christian community,' he said.

The sect has about 18 members worldwide, including seven in Australia.

Five members travel almost continually around Australia distributing the group's religious literature on the streets.

Mr McKay spends most of his time in Newcastle with wife, Cherry, writing and keeping in contact with sect members in India and England.

Central to the group's philosophy is that members forsake all personal possessions and live communally.

The group condemns Christian churches for worshipping a false Christ and teaching people to be more loyal to money than God.

The group survives on donations and sales of its literature.

Mr McKay was raised in a Christian community in California. He emigrated to Australia in 1967 and worked as a Methodist preacher.

The British media have focused on his past as a member of the notorious Children of God sect that preached free sex and was allegedly involved in child abuse.

Mr McKay says he was only directly associated with the group for three months in 1975 and left because of its liberal attitude towards sex.

He says Jesus Christians are `ultra-conservative about sexuality', although they share many of their beliefs with the Children of God.

In its interpretation of the Bible's Book of Revelation, the sect believes Russia will destroy the United States in a war and establish a world empire by taking control of the United Nations.

Mr McKay says the world's banking system will be transformed before the Apocalypse, and people will do all their buying and selling through a microchip implant on the back of their hands.

The Jesus Christians, formed in 1981, began handing out religious pamphlets in Melbourne.

The group soon gained media attention across Australia with a series of stunts designed to promote their beliefs.

Mr McKay, who has a background in public relations and journalism, says: `We try to make people think and that often involves shocking people.'

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