|compiled by WC
from various sources
|Feb 18 2002
compiled from various sources and reformatted for exFamily.org by W.C.
The Children of God, a.k.a. The Family, 1968 - current day
Counter Culture and Drop-outs
California, the state dubbed the Land of Fruits and nuts and the mother of
exotic cults, has borne many unorthodox and liberal ideas and
practices. In the late 60s, a time when counter culture was sending tremors
throughout traditional American society, thousands of teens and young adults
'dropped out' of their normal everyday lives and disappeared into cults. Many
of these drop-outs were discovering that drugs were not the solution to their
problems. They were seeking God.
In those boom days for cults - groups such as the Hare Krishna were a common
sight in the hearts of major cities. Young Americans loudly invoked a pagan
god, swirling colorfully in their dhotis and saris, wearing marks of the Lord
Krishna etched on their skin, made from mud from the shores of holy rivers of
India. The sounds of their drums and finger cymbals, accompanied by the
exuberant chant of ancient mantras, echoed off the walls of modern
skyscrapers and chilled or thrilled the souls of the bustling citizens in the
There were also other sights and sounds - dirty, long-haired hippies were
also raising their voices on the streets.
Over the din of the Krishna one could sometimes hear a bearded hippie crying,
"If you don't got Jesus, you don't got nothin', man!"
The Jesus Revolution
Many of the youth had also turned to Jesus. Upon dropping out and disappearing, some of them resurfaced as
'Jesus Freaks', proselytizing en masse on street corners, on the beaches and
in the parks. These 'Street Christians', and 'Revolutionaries' as they were
called, pushed tracts, instead of drugs. They were high on Jesus - the 'Jesus
Revolution' was growing by leaps and bounds.
In 1968, a brand-new cult was born. David Berg, a former Christian and
Missionary Alliance minister, was operating an independent Christian
ministry. In Huntington Beach, he ran a coffee house where he preached to the
hippies. His teenaged kids worked with him, 'winning the souls' of many who
frequented the beach. Berg helped them turn off of drugs and onto Jesus.
From this small beginning, the group spread throughout the U.S., Europe, and
eventually grew into a worldwide movement, incorporating beliefs and
practices that have deviated far from its original tenets.
Berg's End-time Army
Berg's sect was called the Children of God. New converts were called
'disciples'. They were expected to submit to God's new elite 'end-time'
Christian army, and to work full-time in preaching the gospel.
Berg preached that 'disciples' should 'forsake all' to serve God. Converts
were told to give up everything - to leave family, friends, loved ones and
all worldly connections behind, to become full-time missionaries. Bible
verses such as Luke 14:26, 33 were used to prove that this was not only
scriptural, but in fact required of all true followers of Jesus.
Such philosophies struck a responsive chord in the hearts of the already
altruistic and rebellious youth - 'forsaking all' was radical and new. But it
meant more than just leaving a former life behind. 'Forsaking all' also
entailed surrendering all 'worldly' assets and possessions to the group, to
'share' them with their newfound community. Verses Acts 2:44, 45 from the
bible were used to implement this. 'Disciples' were told they were going back
to the true original Christianity practiced by the 'Early Church'. It is alleged that on a number of occasions, new converts were even asked to collect their inheritance before it was
due, just like the prodigal son in the Bible. But it was not a shameful act since Berg had prophesied
that the world would end in the 70s, and before then, God's work needed funding.
Selah Practices and PR facades
Biblical names were promptly assigned to each new convert. They were not
allowed to know each other's 'system name'. This was explained as a
precautionary measure to protect themselves from anti-Christ forces which
were persecuting the group. If members did not know each other's real names, they
could honestly answer accusers in ignorance. This was particularly useful if
someone was looking for a lost loved-one. The practice was called being
'Selah.' Later, when specific predictions of the return of Christ did not
manifest, the selah practice was explained as a continued necessity, to help
disciples get ready for the coming persecution by anti-Christ forces, a time
when true Christians would have to live underground.
On realizing that angry parents and detractors were looking for the group's controversial leader, Berg himself dropped out and went into hiding. He kept his own whereabouts a secret from his
own followers, explaining it as a necessary move, to focus on writing the MO letters.
Very early on, the group adopted a policy of not disclosing what their true
beliefs were, deeming them too 'strong meat' for 'babes' and cause for attracting
unnecessary attention and trouble. They did not appreciate any scrutiny from
outsiders, nor believe in transparency. Thus, the practice of PR fronting was
developed and members became adept at showing outsiders a facade, while
leading very different lives and adhering to radically different beliefs on
An Internal Society
The group defined its own social structure and created its own internal
regulations. It put together couples, and held their own wedding ceremonies
called 'betrothals'. Or, leaders could break up relationships at will after 'hearing from God' that it was His will.
Members lived in 'colonies' run by 'shepherds' and 'provisioned'
(begged) for food and needs. Later, literature was sold as a means of
Medical care was replaced by prayer for healing, and bad health was
attributed to lack of faith or a punishment of God. Children were told they were
adults by the age of 12. Corporal punishment on
children was not unusual.
It was within such an isolated and controlled environment, devoid of critical
thinking and scrutiny, with members having nothing to loose, having burned
all their bridges to live such a secretive alternative lifestyle, that Berg
was able to introduce yet stranger and even more radical doctrines.
Law of Love
Berg further endorsed radical and na´ve altruism, and taught that the only law was love, and that God looked only at
the motivation behind our deeds - nothing was wrong or unlawful as long as it was 'done in love'.
Polygamy and swinging was one welcome result of that doctrine. Adultery and fornication was
practically abolished as a sin.
Even cruelty and acts of domestic violence were sometimes commited in
the name of love.
Using that basic 'law of love' principal as a platform, he launched his flirty-fishing or
'FFing', campaign, where mostly female members were taught to be whores for
Jesus in order to win converts and favors. Birth control was forbidden, and
children born as a result of this 'ministry' were called 'Jesus Babies'.
Second Generation Children
Thousands of children were born into the group, many of them 'Jesus Babies' with no links to their biological parental heritage. The latest demographic info indicates that children form at least more than two thirds of the Family.
Children were as a rule brought up
under strict conditions and were often herded around and used as child labor. Mo letters taught members to use children as PR fronts - to calm suspicions and open
doors. They were drilled in what to say in public, in
keeping with the 'selah' practice. Many recently departed 'SGAs (Second Generation Adults) have testified how they lived in fear, with the constant awareness that they had a
public face to show, and that any wrong moves they made could endanger their
It is documented that some children were moved about and assigned foster parents
within the group. Sources indicate that in many such cases, the children had no means of contacting their
Explicit videos of dancing female members, including children, were made for
Berg, and circulated throughout the group. In such a sexually charged
environment, children were sometimes sexually abused.
Detention centers called Victor Camps, some with
armed guards, were used to house and re-educate wayward teens.
education (home-schooling) past the 6th grade was deemed unnecessary by Berg.
The group renamed itself The Family, to appear more fundamental and
family-oriented in the eyes of the public. As a strategy for fending off bad
publicity, the leadership decided the group had to have some 'good works' to show for
all its claims, and proceeded to set up a network of front organizations. Most are registered as charity organizations and non-profit
entities, and disavow any connections with the Family.
Through its charity organizations The Family oversees a number of humanitarian aid projects
around the world - some of which might indeed be genuine, and some which (recently departed members and primary sources allege) under closer scrutiny might reveal that they fall in the category of 'taking already donated blankets from the Red Cross and redistributing them while doing a photo-op', or 'absorbing homeless children with no options but survival into their own group'. Nevertheless it has won the support of some governments and local
authorities, and continues to play the PR game of buffered statistics well.
The FCF (Family Care Foundation) is a charitable foundation based in San Diego and started by top Family leadership. Family
leadership Queen Maria (Zerby) and King Peter (Kelly) endorse and support the activities of FCF. Family members were instructed to tithe directly to the FCF. The current president of FCF Grant Montgomery served as prime minister,
the number four officer in the Family, for several years. It is currently operated by Family members and non-members. The FCF currently supports the activities of many Family Homes which are registered as FCF projects.
Two other major operations by the Family are Aurora Productions and Activated Ministries.
Slippery Escape Artists
Disenchanted ex-members who try to claim compensation or pursue legal action
against the group often find themselves with no recourse, having no legal
names of specific offenders, and no knowledge of their whereabouts. Using
these PR and 'selah' methods, the group has been able to evade authorities
and avoid lawsuits.
Until the well publicized court case of 1994 in the UK, members tended to uproot easily in the face of bad publicity, law suits or
criminal investigations - Berg taught them to live out of 'fleebags' with a few basic
belongings and emergency funds, and to be ready to follow pre-planned escape routes and
become incognito at a moment's notice. Sources indicate that establishments such as 'homes' and
'ministries' are still known to disappear overnight.
The whereabouts of its leaders are a
secret even to high-ranking members.
Doctrines are hard to pin down due to their inconsistency over the years. They can change at any time according to
the whims and prophetic utterances of its leaders.
In the face of bad publicity, diversionary announcements are made
about their stance on critical issues. As their own writings will indicate, the group has made public statements from time to time which do not necessarily reflect their true beliefs.
The group has gone through extensive revisionism over the years and attempted
to destroy publications to cover its past. New sanitized versions of literature have appeared, and many new publications with written
directives which may be incriminating are classified 'RAB' or read
Some Major Historical Facts
- The group began in 1968 in Huntington Beach, California. David Berg was its
- David Berg is considered God's end time prophet according to Berg's own
conclusion. They draw from the Bible to try to prove that the Old Testament speaks of David Berg as the end time prophet. It's interesting to
note that David Koresh (of Waco) also said he was the David mentioned in Old
Testament prophecy, and also claimed to be David, God's end-time prophet!
- In 1971, the group began to leave the United States. David Berg taught
that God was going to judge the United States, and instructed the Children of
God to flee. By the mid 1970s they had spread to every continent.
- In 1973, David Berg began to de-emphasize witnessing (proselytizing) from
the Bible, and insisted that his disciples push his 'Mo Letters' on the
public. His followers considered him the end-time prophet, and his rambling
Mo Letters were 'New Wine' - considered the very words of God. The term Mo
Letter comes from David Berg's pseudonym, Moses David.
- In 1976, David Berg ordered female members to become 'fishers of men.'
This practice became known as FFing, or Flirty Fishing. Basically, FFing was
when female (seldom male) disciples would 'lure in a fish' through flirting
or sex. Flirting and sex were considered ways of showing the love of God to
the lost and lonely. Women were told to sacrifice themselves as 'bait' for
the fish. Men were told that they should lay down their lives AND their wives
for the sake of the gospel. Not surprisingly, Flirty Fishing quickly became
outright prostitution, and was used as a way to raise money for the cult.
- Due to extremely negative publicity, and possibly because of the
Jonestown massacre on the People's Temple cult in 1978, David Berg instructed
his followers to tell the public that they had disbanded. They began to go by
various pseudonyms such as The Family of Love, and became more secretive in
an attempt to shake off their past. In the early 80s the cult's name was
shortened to The Family. "The Family of Love'' was characterized by global
bar-hopping and partying. The group decided that they would appear to be more
fundamental and family oriented in the eyes of the public if the group became
simply 'The Family', moving right along with the times, while keeping their
basic tenets intact.
- On David Berg's failing health, Karen Zerby, known as Mama Maria (who was
David Berg's personal secretary and mistress) began to take more control of
the Family in the 80s.
- In the mid 80s due to public pressure and high profiled court
investigations, the Family began to proclaim that it did not endorse
- By the late 80s FFing was supposedly terminated because of the AIDS
crisis. The Family attempted to 'rid' itself of its most controversial sexual
practices, in the hopes of appearing mainstream. However, the doctrine of
'One Wife' is still actively practiced. 'One Wife' teaches that all adult
members are married. Since Jesus is portrayed as a Bridegroom in the bible
with the Church as His One Bride, all female members of the Family are taught
that they are also 'One Bride' of all its male members. Sexual sharing is
still widespread among the adult members of the Family and is not considered
adultery. The Family considers it polygamy which they try to justify from the
Bible, although what the Family practices resembles swinging more than
- On November 25, 1994, the Family publicly announced that David Berg had
died "a few days ago." No exact time or place of death was given. Karen Zerby
(Mama Maria) is now considered the end-time prophet.
- In February 1995 the Family announced the adoption of a governing
'charter of responsibilities and rights.' This charter was adopted to
solidify the Family's beliefs and practices based upon the writings of David
Berg and Karen Zerby. The secondary responsibility of a Family member is to
believe that David Berg and Karen Zerby are God's end time prophets.
- In 1995 Karen Zerby revealed the 'New Wine' of Loving Jesus. This
doctrine teaches that Jesus desires to literally have sex with us (both males
and females). Members are encouraged to imagine that Jesus is 'f---ing' them
while they masturbate. Males are told this is not a homosexual act, since
they are spiritually female and not male.
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