For a few years, now, I seem to have been firefighting postings on Jesus Army Watch, not because it is my job or indeed my forum, but because I feel that it has a role to play, which is undermined by some frankly lunatic posting. Interestingly, it is not the only forum, though. John Everett's group attracts a different, more sober type.
This morning I realised that perhaps instead of trying, largely unsuccessfully, to defend the bona fides of JAW by urging greater honesty among JAW posters, I should think about what sorts of people post on the site. And I realised that maybe what we have here, in microcosm, is what we have with the JA.
People who join John Everett's group were, like me, "members" of the church and community, whereas people who post on JAW, seem to be attracted to it because it allows them complete anonymity and free rein in whatever abusive postings they wish to write...and they are or were mainly "camp followers", fringe members who were already quite damaged people before the JA met them.
In fairness to the JA, when they say that someone "was never truly one of us" it is almost certainly fair comment these days, when the church has liberalised so very dramatically. In my time the same phrase was a way of discrediting someone who might even have been a celibate elder (I believe it was once said of John Everett in a red-top, for instance).
Perhaps all churches SHOULD target the sorts of people who have the potential to be dangerous enemies if they become disaffected. In its efforts to appear less controlling (or perhaps even its desire to control less), the JA has amassed a large number of mentally ill, drug abused, unstable associates at its fringes, who when they leave and start posting in anger, have the potential to damage the JA and who are not apparently constrained by the same norms of fairness and honesty as people with less turbulent backgrounds.
The irony is, though, that they discredit the JA-Watch site more with their absurdly exaggerated claims and their paranoid rantings, which are easily dismissed by the JA and which any sensible reader will recognise for what they are anyway.
Far less extreme posting from people who really were fully committed members of the fellowship carries much greater power and is considerably more credible, which is why I do hope that John keeps his group going. Perhaps it is time to accept that JAW is no longer worth saving, ditch it and support The JA Blues.