When Dev met the Rev – an amazing insight from a former Christian

Recommending: An Open Letter to Catherine Deveny  by Jane Douglas

During the past year I’ve had the great privilege of coming to know and love (in a strictly NON-Biblical sense) the amazing Jane Douglas. Jane is a writer, an editor, an artist, a photographer, an ex-wife, a mother of seven (yes, seven!), a student and a gay rights campaigner. She is, quite simply, an amazing, intelligent, articulate, feisty, switched on woman.

The story of Jane’s life is both bizarre and gruelling. It will be some time before Jane is ready to tell her whole story, but, oh, I do look forward to that day!

When I first heard just a little of Jane’s history I can vividly remember saying, “Fuck me dead, Jane!”

I also recall that she wrote back to me saying,  “Do you know how nice it is to have friends who say ‘fuck me dead’?”

You see, for 20 years, Jane was involved in the Quiverfull sect. It’s cultish but members attend mainstream churches so Jane’s religious life was not spent in some weirdo Waco-like compound. She has wide experience of the kinds of churches that everyday Aussie Christians attend.

As Jane explained to me, in Quiverfull, rather than the ‘church‘ being the cult, each family is its own little cult. Adhering to the kind of marriage Archbishop Jensen advocated on Q&A this week, in a Quiverfull marriage, the husband is the head of the household and the wife is submissive (hence the seven kids!)

Watching Q&A on Monday night ignited some pretty unpleasant memories for Jane and, after reading my blog post,  she felt compelled to write to Catherine Deveny.  Jane CC’d me in on her email to Dev and, because her letter was so powerful both Catherine and I encouraged her to share it publicly – providing she was comfortable in doing so.  In fact, as soon as I read it, I rang Jane and said, “You HAVE to publish this!”

And so, last night Jane published “An Open Letter to Catherine Deveny”  on her blog, Putting Her Oar In.

I note that someone who has already read Jane’s post has just tweeted: “WOW! – in the fullest appreciation & amazement that “WOW!” was invented for”

That was pretty much my own reaction.

Why? Because apart from being an excellent writer, Jane’s past experience gives her a unique perspective on the dynamics between Jensen and Deveny on Monday night. While some of us thought Jensen’s demeanor was oddly ‘creepy’ it was hard to put a finger on just what was going on between them that made (some) of us so uncomfortable. Dev has written about feeling that he was pure evil. (I must admit to having the same visceral reaction to Cardinal Pell!)

I’ll say no more, but simply recommend that you read Jane’s take on what might have been going on on Monday night. It’s certainly something that most of us would have been oblivious to but Jane makes a compelling case ….

Please read and enjoy the work of a brilliant, new, emerging writer – my friend, Jane Douglas.

 An Open Letter to Catherine Deveny 

Chrys Stevenson

12 thoughts on “When Dev met the Rev – an amazing insight from a former Christian

  1. Colin Mackay

    Having kept an eye on this over the last week, having read Deveny’s, Douglas’s and your take on the matter I think an important aspect is being overlooked.

    Gaslighting, is absolutely a tried and true method for silencing someone, ensuring their position remains unheard, raising doubt and dissonance in the individual. The important aspect being overlooked is that of intended perception management.

    As I understand it, it occurs a at a subconscious level. In future, people who don’t know Deveny, should they meet her, will already subconsciously have a suspicion as to her character. From that suspicion, conformation bias will kick in, as they look for evidence to confirm their suspicions. The impact is twofold, while they seek confirmation through various tests they will not be concentrating on the words spoken so miss any point being made, and secondly, conformation bias, being what it is, will seek information supporting the original position.

    It should come as no surprise that anyone who meets Deveny for the first time, and saw the Q&A, is likely to have a perception that she is “…an ugly, extremist, stupid, unintelligent, idiotic, thoughtless, self-righteous, self-centred, self-absorbed, nasty, confused, frustrated, bitter, twisted, humourless, un-funny, unreasonable, unrespectable, disrespectful, sarcastic, mocking, catty, hateful, boorish, blustering, bullying BITCH.”.

    What’s more, they will spend the entire conversation trying, subconsciously, to confirm that she is “…an ugly, extremist, stupid, unintelligent, idiotic, thoughtless, self-righteous, self-centred, self-absorbed, nasty, confused, frustrated, bitter, twisted, humourless, un-funny, unreasonable, unrespectable, disrespectful, sarcastic, mocking, catty, hateful, boorish, blustering, bullying BITCH.”

    That’s perception management, a very clever tool!

  2. Colin Mackay

    #addendum The point being if you can influence (control) someone’s or a group’s perception (feeling) of someone else, the effect is two fold; you manage to both isolate the person and deprive them of a voice. An effective and pervasive tactic of the xian right which goes largely unnoticed.

  3. Colin Mackay

    Sorry Chrys, but a couple of further points. When authoritarians, from within the xian right or anywhere else for that matter talk of ‘influence’ or ‘influencing’ it is about triggering this response not in relation to ‘worldviews’, but as a means of targeting specific individuals, a means of silencing dissent. Moreover, it doesn’t need to take place on a world stage, it is just as effective when applied in small groups, individual conversations, the work place, the school yard,…or the local PTA. If you can achieve that influence you gain control. That’s how the religious right have gained such influence’ in Australian and world politics, by targeting individuals and managing the perceptions of others.

    I think I’ll go and think about something else now. lol

  4. Elisabeh

    Thanks for this. I have not seen the Q&A in question so you’ve stirred my curiosity. I must go back and see. And Jane’s letter is superb.

  5. Matt

    Interesting – Colin’s amusing because he thinks his comments only apply to one side of this debate.

  6. Elisabeth

    Just now back from watching the debate. Catherine Deveny is wonderful. Why all the fuss about her performance? To me she calls it as she sees it, and adds the element of humour that made the whole event bearable.

  7. crj4

    Jane’s letter brought back memories of life with my ex and a revelation about the gender/power issues that were going on. We were not religious and it was very subtle but definitely “gaslighting”. I remember telling a counsellor that his behaviour was making me feel as though I was going mad. The counsellor was recommended by a colleague who said that although he was church based he was supportive of women. His response to me was that what I said was ridiculous and that I should “feed my husband’s ego”. I didn’t go back to him and didn’t look back!

  8. Veronique

    Thank you so much for this – I am recognising elements (no pun intended) of the gaslighting methodology in my own relationship. This understanding will be of immense value to me and my responses to this sort of manipulation. Big kisses – I needed all this today:-).


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