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As Rebecca Stott’s father lay dying he begged her to help him write the memoir he had been struggling with for years. He wanted to tell the story of their family, who, for generations had all been members of a fundamentalist Christian sect. Yet, each time he reached a certain point, he became tangled in a thicket of painful memories and could not go on.

The sect were a closed community who believed the world is ruled by Satan: non-sect books were banned, women were made to wear headscarves and those who disobeyed the rules were punished.

– In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott – Harper Collins

I started reading on Friday evening. I finished on Sunday evening.

The fundamentalist Christian sect that dominates the pages of this book is the exclusive brethren. I grew up in the open brethren, a less fundamentalist version of the same – sort of – group. There have been so many schisms and divisions in their history that I’ve just danced around it a little bit by saying “sort of.” You see, it’s hard to really define who is crazy and who is not-so-crazy but still weird. There is such a spectrum of strangeness through all of the brethren movement.

Many of the descriptions of church life found in this book are really familiar to me. Some from first-hand experience. Others viewed from a distance.

No television. Music. Sports. No socialising with non-brethren.

Long hair for the women. Long skirts. Short hair for the boys. No facial hair for the men.

Fear of the outside world. Other churches aren’t christians. Obsession with the rapture and the end times.

Men in charge. Women silent, submissive, heads covered.

Scandals covered up. Silenced. Ex-communications. People deemed ‘not suitable for fellowship.’

Conform and submit or be disciplined. Or shunned.

It’s not about Jesus. Or the Bible. It’s about control. Ego. Dominance. Power.

Come ye out and be separate… they will say.

Rebecca Stott wades though her family experience, showing just how much of an effect this brain-washing has on people. The nonsense doesn’t just leave you overnight.

I turn forty this year. I still twitch and squirm when I hear what these people are up to or, when I recall past experiences. It makes me a little nervous even writing this. Friends who occasionally hear a brethren reference in my conversation will laugh. Sometimes I make jokes about it.

Actually, it’s not that funny. Many of the people I’ve known were and are mad. Disturbed. Troubled. Wrong. With bizarre confusing ideas about God and the Bible. But then, it’s not fair to throw all of that in the direction of the exclusive brethren without saying, there are people like this in churches everywhere.

In the Days of Rain was an enthralling walk through the bizarre and troubling underworld of the strictest wing of this sect. I laughed out loud. I ranted. Angry. Sad. Frustrated. Mostly thankful to have moved on. Still with faith.

I think this book will offend any brethren people who may happen to read it. It exposes a dark twisted side to their fundamentalist sect, or at least one grouping within their sect. This is a ‘church’ which often looks respectable from the outside. Many think it’s just another type of christianity, a more conservative old-fashioned version. On the outside, it’s hard to see things as they really are though. I have stopped people in mid-conversation over the years when they say things like; “you get good Bible teaching in the brethren.’

Let me be clear. In my experience. You don’t. You get separation, suspicion, control and just plain weird.

This book may even offend many Christians outside of brethren-ism who might read it. Some of their odd beliefs and practices are also visible in plenty of other church groups around the world.

If you’ve lived through any kind of odd religious group, you should read this. In fact, if you go to any church here in Northern Ireland, you should probably read this book. I expect that you know people who have lived through similar experiences. Rebecca Stott’s memoir will go a long to help you understand why they are the way they are.

It may also make for uncomfortable reading.

It’s good to assess and question why we Christians adopt the practices we do though. To consider how easily we may slip into the madness of sects and cults. But also to be thankful that we should be and can be free from these religious shackles. If this book leads people to ask those uncomfortable questions then that can only be good.