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Get With The Program

IN the dim recesses of your mind you may find a snippet about a British youth allegedly kidnapped by a NSW-based religious sect and hidden in an English forest four years ago.

Got it? Well, the leader of the sect is Glendale's Dave McKay, he of the column yesterday about Jesus Christian members making live donations of kidneys to people they don't know.

While Mr McKay denied that the 16-year-old youth had been kidnapped, insisting he had joined the sect willingly, sect members defied a British court order to hand him over because "deprogrammers would brainwash him".

He was found after two weeks, in a tent in a Hampshire forest with two sect members.

The youth is now 19 years old and living, Mr McKay tells me, with an Anglican youth leader in England. Indeed, Mr McKay says the Anglican Church has kidnapped the young man!

This bout with government and media is unusual in that it was not provoked by Dave McKay and his Jesus Christians, and it's not a passage the US-born Mr McKay recalls with pleasure.

Many bouts were provoked and are recalled with pleasure.

There was, for example, in the 1980s, Mr McKay's 15-year-old daughter leading a group of six young people 1600km across the Nullabor without money and food, their purpose to establish that people worry too much about money, that God will provide. They survived because people stopped to give them food, and whether that was God providing or people providing is a moot point.

In the late 1980s there was five days' jail for Jesus Christians who sent off into the atmosphere 500 balloons with a $1 note attached instead of paying a $500 fine. The fine was for gluing 120 $1 notes to the pavement in front of the Reserve Bank in Sydney's Martin Place to read "Greed breeds mean deeds".

Then there was the near riot when a TV station announced that the Jesus Christians would burn 100 $100 notes.

It was 100 $1 notes, but that's not how the rioters heard it.

The fact that the money in these exercises was provided as dole didn't endear the Jesus Christians to the authorities or the greedy public. (They no longer accept the dole.)

There was, too, their free work as Medowie Christian Volunteers, which led to a confrontation with the Department of Social Security's position that Jesus Christians on the dole should have been looking for paid work, not voluntary work.

In 1993 Mr McKay and co came close to being deported from India as they tried to embarrass government into unclogging the stormwater drains that served as the sewers of Madras. They did this by standing for a week waist high in the effluent, standing at a floating and set dinner table.

After a week, when they heard they were about to be deported, Mr McKay and his sect members started clearing the stormwater sewer themselves, using buckets. Soon, he tells me, many people started helping, and they were able to clear and cover a big section of the drain.

Incredibly, Mr McKay tells me, it then built on the covered section a medical clinic, library and volleyball courts.

Why has such a publicised group only 30 members?

No, Mr McKay told me, members are not required to donate a kidney (as 12 have done, and as one did in a US operation yesterday). But they are required to hand over to the sect, or a charity if they prefer, all their wealth "Jesus said, 'forsake everything you have if you want to be one of my followers'."

What happens to the money? It's used for good works he really shouldn't talk about.

Do people leaving the sect, as 30 to 50 have over the years, get their money back? No.

Dave McKay, 59, appears to be a charismatic, almost guru-like figure who spends a big part of his day writing in his sect's communal house at Glendale. You'll know a bit more about him next time you see him in the Letters pages.

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