I thought about the JA when Bush was giving his infamous Axis of Evil speech. Anyone with half a brain could see that it was a puerile little speech intended for a simple minded audience. When he said something like, "Either you are for us or you are for the terrorists" I thought of Noel, because Noel has an equally simplistic view of the world.
When I went back to Bugbrooke and went to talk to Mick Temperate last year it was quite clear that he thought that my desire to draw a line under the past meant that I wanted to recant my opposition to them. There is no room within their perception of the world for me to seek to be -if not friends, certainly no longer at war with them.
I do not regret blowing the whistle on the JA. It is possible for me to want a ceasefire and yet to think that what I did back then was right. I feel that what Mick went on to say more than vindicated my position.
If the JA have changed for the better - if their webmaster, for instance feels it was inconceivable that they once taught that leavers would be damned, and if they do really have an openness to other Christians, where previously they dismissed all of them as worldly, nominal, backslidden compromisers, surely that is evidence that reflection on the past (following exclusion from the Evangelical Alliance etc) did the community good?
The JA have always, when some allusion has been made to their cultic image in the past, admitted in general terms that mistakes were made. But they are never willing or even able to identify any mistakes specifically. I remember we said it when I was there. It is just a way of brushing aside the past without actually accepting responsibility for it. And that is the trouble: they do not want to be accountable for mistakes (if they can even countenance them ever having really been made), but they do want the past forgotten. They are remodelling themselves.
Where in the past they wanted nothing to do with any Christians outside ZION, now they want to emphasise their evangelicalism and their being rooted in traditional Christianity (citing the Nicene creed etc in Wikipedia, for instance).
It will be interesting to see over time whether Multiply is a genuine sharing of brotherhood with other Christians (whether it serves other church's interests as well as the JA's), or whether it is still just a self-serving relationship, drawing affiliated churches into a the JFC (as it did with my friend David's house church). Or, more cynically, existing for no reason other than to give the impression of respectability and to justify their membership of the EA, which they spin out whenever accused of being a cult (para 3 of Criticism).