BIN RAIDERS

Chapter 24.    Behind the Scenes

In another part of Sydney, Ganley Toogood was involved in a tense discussion with his wife, Valerie.

They had recorded the Current Affair report, and then watched it together after their usual Wednesday night prayer group had gone home.

Ganley had been singularly successful in keeping the whole bin raiders affair quiet in his church, considering the trouble it had caused in Barbara and Roger's marriage. There were whispers about Roger running off with some weird hippy cult, but most of the members hardly needed to be cautioned by Ganley to stay out of it. No one wanted to be seen as prying into Barbara's marital problems, and it was generally believed that Roger had experienced some kind of a breakdown, for which Barbara deserved the utmost privacy, as well as sympathy.

Although Ganley had maintained personal contact with John Groenig after the Wednesday night meeting, Groenig never did address the entire congregation. Ganley made arrangements for $50 to be given to Groenig for his appearance at the mid-week service, and that was the end of it as far as official contact with the Baptist Pentecostal Church was concerned.

The bin raiders were small enough, and their message was unpopular enough that there was little need to attack them publicly. More could be done quietly… behind the scenes, through such bodies as the banks, and through government departments. It seemed that Groenig had contacts everywhere.

The real purpose of Groenig's appearance at the Wednesday night meeting had been simply to warn Roger Seeker away from the bin raiders. When that failed, Ganley and Groenig had turned to more private courses of action.

Another factor which helped Ganley to keep the matter quiet at the church was that it took only a cursory knowledge of the bin raiders philosophy to make members of his congregation see that it was threatening to them personally. No one wanted to defend someone who was likely to tell them to change their lifestyle. The women who had been present on the night when Roger had challenged Ganley to list the various commands of Jesus had nothing but sympathy for Ganley under the circumstances.

"The cheek of the man!" Marge Phipps had said later. "Pastor Toogood should have put him in his place straight away." Marge didn't need any further justification for her position than that. Roger was in a tiny minority in his quest for truth. What most church attenders wanted was an escape from truth, or at least from the uncomfortable ones that Jesus and the bin raiders were trying to get them to consider.

But an unspoken conspiracy to cover the truth does not guarantee unity in other areas, and Ganley was facing some unpleasant disturbances in his own marriage as a result of his dealings with Roger and with Barbara as a consequence.

"Roger, Roger, Roger! That's all I hear these days!" complained Valerie, when they had finished watching the Current Affair replay on their VCR.

"I only said that I hope Roger saw the report. Is that so wrong?" replied Ganley sheepishly. "Look, he's living with them. If they're as bad as you make out, he must know it even better than you do by now. He doesn't need to see it on the telly."

"But they hide a lot of it, even from their own members. John said so."

"I'm sick of hearing John's name mentioned too. You believe everything he says, like he could never be wrong. Haven't the two of you hurt them enough? What is it that you hope to achieve by all of this?"

"The truth, Val. I just want to get people to see the truth, so that even if Roger doesn't come back, we can at least stop others from making the same mistake."

"And what is the truth, Ganley? Is the truth all those lies and innuendoes that John was giving to the media? Or is the truth that the two of you just want to hurt somebody to make up for some lack in your own character?"

Ganley looked shocked. He knew that Val wasn't happy with all the time that he had been putting into this matter, but that was often the case when he was deeply involved in some church problem. Attacking his integrity was taking it too far. Ganley felt a rush of panic.

"Val, what are you saying? Are they getting to you too?"

Valerie spoke with genuine concern: "No, Gan, they're not. I dislike them as much as you do. But I don't understand your obsession with them. Can't we just leave well enough alone? John Groenig has taken over your entire life these past two weeks. You haven't had time for church business, much less for me."

"You don't understand." And then Ganley realised that she couldn't have understood, because he hadn't taken the time to tell her. "I'm sorry," he said. "I should have been sharing more with you. Val, I think God is leading me into a new ministry. I think he's leading me to become more involved in dealing with cults, and with teaching others how to deal with them.

"You don't know how exciting it has been for me these past two weeks. I used to think that it was good enough to hold the occasional Bible study on false teachings; but we can do so much more through the media, and through the government, just by working behind the scenes, like we have been with these bin raiders."

"We have a good life," pleaded Valerie. "The church takes good care of us. We have plenty offriends. I don't want to become the wife of a professional muck-raker."

"It's not muck raking, Val. It's setting people free, from groups that mess up their minds. There's a big need for this kind of ministry in the churches today. John said that he and I could work together. He's not well received by some pentecostals, because he exposed a few extreme pentecostal groups in the past. But I could help him to break into the charismatic circles. I may even be able to get him over his own hang-ups about pentecostals."

Valerie was not impressed, but Ganley seemed oblivious to that.

"Besides, we don't have that good a life anyway, Val. Look at us. We've got a nice house, but it doesn't belong to us. We're never more than a vote or two away from being booted out… and then what? We would have to start all over again, with a new church and a new parsonage if that happened.

"John gets support from a whole string of different churches, and he doesn't need to worry about keeping a church board on-side either. If one church turns against him, he always has plenty of others. We could get our own home, and settle down in one location. Believe me, Val, this is going to be a definite move up. You'll see."

"You're not hearing me, Gan," Val replied sternly. "I don't want that kind of life. I'm happy being a pastor's wife. I like being part of a local church. Whether you agree or not, to me, exposing cults is a depressing, negative, muck-raking way of life. I don't want it." Ganley could see that Val was going to take a lot of convincing. Perhaps she needed to spend time with John. John's enthusiasm for his work had rubbed off on Ganley. On the other hand, maybe there were just some people who were drawn more to that kind of vision than others. Even when it came to Bible studies, Val never had much to contribute. She got her thrills from serving up tea and biscuits afterwards.

Neither of them were aware, of course, of what had transpired that same night as a result of John and Ganley's supposed success with the media. But even that was destined to split them farther apart; as Ganley would see Nanna's death as judgment from God on the evil cult, while Valerie would just be bothered by the nastiness of having to think about it at all.

Their marriage was headed for trouble, and in the end, Ganley would come to see even that tragic consequence as having been caused by the bin raiders. He was unable to recognise that the appeal of cult-busting was just that it would provide him with a convenient scapegoat (or a list of scapegoats) to blame for all of his own problems and all of the problems of the world.

For a while his church had given him support in blaming various other denominations and social influences besides himself for the problems that surrounded him. But with the escalation of financial problems between himself and his church board, he needed a new emotional and spiritual support base. Fighting cults meant that he could find acceptance in other denominations besides the Baptist Pentecostals.

Ganley convinced himself that he would become more repsectable, and not less, by becoming a cult buster. His happening upon Greg and Diane in the bin behind Buy-Rite just two weeks earlier had, in his opinion, been almost providential in leading him to the answer to his problems.

Of course, for a mature person, it was easy to see that cult busting did not truly answer anything. It was little more than a diversion, and a very nasty one at that. But it is difficult for a religious person to point the finger at a cult buster when so much of the appeal of denominationalism is the same. Religion, with all of its ritual and jargon does not solve problems so much as it helps people to escape from them into a world of perceived superiority based on some meaningless point of doctrine.

Ganley had, in his own way, "won" the battle against Diane, Nanna, Greg, Roger, and all of the bin raiders. But a closer look would reveal that he was, indeed, a very "lost" soul himself, trapped in a world of bitterness and hate, self-righteousness and hypocrisy. Such is the world of religion in general, and cult busting in particular.


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