A few days ago, I got a message from a lawyer in New Zealand who’d read my review of I Fired God by Jocelyn Zichterman. He alerted me to the existence of the Gloriavale Christian Community, otherwise known as the Cooperites, an obscure and isolated Christian group living in Haupiri, on the west coast of New Zealand. The lawyer asked me to write about this group in a means to spread awareness of it.
When I first read the lawyer’s message, I didn’t recognize the name “Gloriavale”. But then this morning, I was reminded of an awesome TED Talk I watched on YouTube a few years ago. I realized the young woman who spoke so eloquently must have been raised in that group. Sure enough, she was.
Lilia Tarawa is an excellent speaker. Thanks to the lawyer’s message, I have ordered her book and will be reading it after I finish the one I’m working on now. I don’t expect my current book will take as long to read as the last one did. It’s considerably lighter material.
It will take me some time to review Lilia Tarawa’s book. In the mean time, I think the above video is an interesting introduction to the realities of life in the Gloriavale Christian Community. It’s hard to imagine this beautiful young woman, so stylishly dressed, strong, passionate and compassionate, being raised in such a community.
Gloriavale Christian Community doesn’t have a long history. It was founded in 1969 by Neville Cooper (hence the group’s nickname “Cooperites”). Cooper, who was also known as “Hopeful Christian”, was born in Australia and invited to New Zealand. Although some people refer to the group members as “Cooperites”, the group members themselves simply refer to themselves as Christians.
I’m looking forward to reading what Lilia Tarawa has to say about her upbringing. I will try to keep an open mind, although I tend to take a dim view of religious groups that employ shunning and other egregious abuses to keep members in line. And, on another note, it really is gratifying to know that people around the world read my reviews and think enough of them to reach out to me and spawn more discussion. Thanks very much to the lawyer who brought this subject to my attention and dropped me a line. Stay tuned for the review!
The featured photo is a screen grab from Lilia Tarawa’s Ted talk video.