OUR MEMBERS RESPOND TO QUESTIONS FROM NRK BRENNPUNKT


For over a year BCC has been in a dialogue with documentary filmmakers at NRK, and recently received a list of questions from the program’s creators. Here are the responses from our members.


By: Johanne Reiersrud 

On Friday, Information Manager Berit Hustad Nilsen sent the questions, which concern experiences in the faith community, to all adult members. She explains why.

When it became known that NRK Brennpunkt was working on a documentary about BCC, the program’s creators were given an option early in the process to conduct an anonymous BCC membership survey. Members could answer NRK’s questions about what it is like to be a member in BCC.

NRK Brennpunkt first said yes, but then later rejected this offer. Their story is instead based on a few selected sources, who will be the only ‘spokespersons’ for the entire BCC faith community.

“We perceive this rejection from NRK Brennpunkt as an evasive measure so it can keep its angle on the history of BCC as an unhealthy religious community. I doubt this angle will be recognizable, neither for our members nor those who are acquainted with us,” says Berit Hustad Nilsen.

She feels a great responsibility when representing the over 8,800 Norwegian members on national TV. She points out that during this process NRK has made grave allegations against BCC, its local church branches and members which can and have been refuted.

Despite the fact BCC and its local churches have presented good documentation in response to these allegations, the Brennpunkt journalists have failed to withdraw their claims. Unfortunately, NRK Brennpunkt is also in direct contact with parties who have paid huge sums of money to conduct influence operations, and it has been known since 2019 that BCC is a target of such an operation.

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The program’s air date is still unconfirmed, but BCC has received a list of questions from NRK with serious allegations. Hustad Nilsen wants to share these questions publicly, along with members’ answers.

Do you understand that sharing the questions this way can be perceived as BCC being intolerant of criticism?

“We can tolerate criticism; we know that we are not perfect in BCC. And when we have done something wrong, we will of course correct it. This is how it is for all organizations. But it is unbelievable that Norway’s government-owned channel claims they can make a program based on documentation from criminal sources, mixed with a choice selection of personal stories,” says Hustad Nilsen.

She points out the story of a religious community must be based on facts, and where it concerns the experience of being part of such a community, it is the members themselves who know it best.

Context

BCC is aware that the survey is conducted in connection with NRK Brennpunkt’s focus on BCC, which can affect the results. The results can be interpreted as frustration over Brennpunkt’s approach to our community. This survey is therefore not a replacement for the annual member survey.

Facts:

  • Anonymous survey
  • Sent to all Norwegian members over the age of 18
  • Completed October 2-5th, 2020
  • Platform: Questback
  • Response rate: 56%
  • Language: Norwegain

The following responses are translated from the original Norwegian survey, therefore linguistic differences can occur.

Results:

Age distribution

Gender distribution

 

Claim from NRK Brennpunkt:

Our sources tell of morals and ethics preached in BCC which are in sum experienced as “one must deny his own will” and the goal is to get rid of “our own sinful nature”. Not least, sources say that BCC has strong focus on “youthful lusts” and that it is sinful to “feel desire”.

What do you think about this being highlighted as a negative feature of BCC?

 

4. I experience that the morals and ethics preached in BCC are a negative feature of BCC.

Completely disagree (blue bar)

Partly disagree (green bar)

Neutral (grey bar)

Partly agree (orange bar)

Completely agree (red bar)

Claim from NRK Brennpunkt:

Another negative feature that sources point out is BCC’s view of people who are not members of BCC. It’s experienced that BCC has an inside-outside perspective, that all others who are not members of BCC are lost, there is no hope for them, and the only way to salvation is if one shares the faith and theology of BCC.

Is this correct?

 

6. I experience BCC’s views on people who are not members of the church as lost and without hope.

7. I experience BCC’s view that the only way to salvation is if you share the faith and theology of BCC.

Claim from NRK Brennpunkt:

We have spoken to several sources – both current and past members of BCC – who express a lack of freedom of speech and experiences of negative social control* in the faith community. Here are some examples of quotes from sources:

“There is no free speech in Smith’s Friends. Social control is huge”

“They say you can leave BCC whenever you want. But for us who have grown up there, it is almost impossible.”

“90% of member have their families in BCC and are afraid to ask critical questions.”

“It is terrible that you lose your entire network if you leave.”

What is your reaction to these people’s experiences?

*Negative social control includes various forms of supervision, pressure, threats, and coercion that are exercised to ensure that individuals live in accordance with the norms of the family or group. This control is characterized by the fact that it is systematic and can be in violation of individual rights in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Norwegian law.

 

9. I experience a lack of free speech in BCC.

10. I experience negative social control in BCC.

 

Claim from NRK Brennpunkt:

BCC is also criticized for being one-sided, that growing up in the church subjects you to brainwashing, and that there is no room to question BCC’s beliefs and theology. Sources point out that there is no room at all to criticize Kåre J. Smith because he is the spiritual leader and infallible. One of our sources in BCC says the following:

“No one dares say anything against Kåre Smith. That is the elephant in the room.”

What do you think about this?

 

12. I experience that those who grow up in the church are exposed to brainwashing.

13. I feel that there is no room to question BCC’s beliefs and theology.

14. I feel that there is no room to criticize Kåre J. Smith, because he is the spiritual leader and infallible.

 

 

Claim from NRK Brennpunkt:

BCC is also criticized for mistreating people who have left the church. Not least if former members criticize BCC publicly.

Here are some examples of what sources we have spoken with say:

“It is crossing the line to share my story with Brennpunkt. It is the biggest betrayal one can do against BCC.”

“One of the leaders said: If someone speaks to the media or writes critically on Facebook, they bring shame on their family for several generations.”

How do you react to these statements?

 

16. I think the two quotes above are correct from my viewpoint, and the attitude towards those who have left the church.

17. BCC mistreats its former members.

 

Claim from NRK Brennpunkt:

Sources we have spoken du say that they experience great financial pressure to give money and to work voluntarily for BCC, and that it is preached that “one is blessed” when one gives. It is therefore experienced as difficult when the result is not a blessing, but that you are struggling financially precisely because you have given so much money and work time to BCC. We have talked to sources who tell of volunteering night after night when they come home from work, and people who have ended up in difficult financial situations because of this.

What would you say to these people?

 

19. I experience strong financial pressure to donate money and volunteer for BCC.

20. I am struggling financially because I have given so much money and volunteered for BCC.

21. I am in a difficult financial situation because I have participated in volunteer work night after night when I come home from work.

 

 

Article was updated on 15.10.2020.

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