The Children of God
The Inside Story By The Daughter Of The Founder, Moses David Berg
by Deborah (Linda Berg) Davis with Bill Davis, 1984

Chapter 3
The Gospel of Rebellion

The break my dad had been waiting for centered around the activities of a Christian coffee house known as the "Light Club," situated about a hundred yards from the Huntington Beach Pier. Designed to serve as a mission outreach to the youth of the community, the Light Club Mission was directed and supervised by David Wilkerson's organization, Teen Challenge. It had formerly been sponsored by the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship.
    When Dad and his family arrived in Huntington Beach in December 1967, my grandmother encouraged her grandchildren—Aaron, Hosea, Faithy—and their spouses, to offer their assistance at the Light Club. My family, had worked with Teen Challenge off and on for many years, and it was through a Teen Challenge rally held by David Wilkerson in Dallas, Texas, that Faithy dedicated her life to full-time Christian service. Consequently, my brothers and sister felt quite comfortable helping out at the Light Club Mission.
    Grandmother had been feeding the hippies on the Pier, and encouraged the family to get involved in the work with the dropouts. I think she felt it could develop into a new ministry.
    "You've got to do something for the hippies!" she said, "Teen Challenge doesn't know how to help. They're just church people, offering church meetings, and the hippies don't like it. You need to go down there and get involved, bring some life into that mission!"
    They did just that. At first, the Berg team simply helped out witnessing and assisting the Teen Challenge staff. However, they proved so effective, that they were given access to the mission for their use, on weekdays, when it was normally closed. Singing to- gether as a group, they called themselves "Teens for Christ." They had great appeal to the youth. Soon, the Berg family began to pack the place on weeknights. Teens for Christ had discovered the secret to gathering lost and wayward youth: Free peanut butter sandwiches and live music. It wasn't long before Teen Challenge realized that the Berg family had the key—Feed the stomach and the spirit—and gladly turned the mission over to the industrious Teens for Christ.
    By July 1968, the Light Club Mission was being totally supervised by Paul, Jonathan, and Faith Berg. They sang, played their guitars, preached Jesus, endtime prophecy, and the Warning Message, and never mentioned the word 'church'. The radical youth loved it. Teens for Christ had a message that was reaching the dropouts. They began to run the mission full-time, keeping it open seven days a week. Local businesses were petitioned to donate free sandwiches for the lost and wayward youth, and they gladly obliged. A steady stream of hungry hippies soon patronized the Light Club.
    A new era had arrived, and the Teen Challenge folks hadn't bridged the gap. They couldn't get a shadow of a hippie to walk through their doors, but the Berg family had opened the floodgates. The short hair, crew-cut, tie-and-sport-coat approach didn't quite mesh with the pot-smoking, free-living, dirty-blue-jeans youth of the Huntington Beach counterculture. Well, my grandmother had the key, and my dad and his children had the spiritual liberation to grow their hair and beards, "become one with the hippies," and "do something for the Lord."
    The Light Club Mission filled daily with hungry souls—both physically and spiritually—in need of love and direction. It was 36 this condition that made so many in the hippie generation suscep- tible to the cults. The counterculture afforded them a vehicle by which to drop out, but there was nothing to drop into. Everyone needs a place, and simply being a dropout is good only for a while; the counterculture deceived the youth because it soon took on the nature of a sieve: the youth were dropping through its small but very real holes and finding themselves ever so lost.
    It was to this need that my father appealed. There in the Light Club, the gospel was preached by the "dropout" to the dropouts. My Uncle Carl nicknamed my dad the "Original Hippie" many years ago. How right he was. David Berg had found his element: the Original Hippie had found his lost and beleaguered flock of hippies. The shepherd and his sheep united.
    Many of the lost youth encountered by Teens for Christ prayed to receive Jesus as their Savior. Their lives were genuinely changed. They quit their drugs, immorality, and drinking and began to develop a sincere love and reverence for God and the Word of God. Instead of idly passing their hours on the beach, they would come to the Light Club to hear about Jesus, to read their Bibles, and to fellowship with other new young Christians.
    In March 1968 my grandmother died. By that time, a strong fire of hope was burning in the Huntington Beach Light Club. For the youth who had fallen through the sieve of the counterculture and found themselves searching for recognition, place, purpose, and leadership, my dad supplied the perfect answer. But the death of Virginia Brandt Berg marked a turning point for my father. She was the very last restraining force for morality in his life. After she died, he pulled out all the stops.
    David Berg—in a state of rebellion against the "church system," the American government, his family and religious heritage, and most of all, God—had found an audience of rebellious youth. He eagerly preached, and they eagerly received the Gospel According to Berg. It was like the cogs of a machine meshing into perfect synchronization. His bitterness against the church, his rejection of the social establishment and the capitalistic system, his contempt for parental authority—all crystalized into a Gospel of Rebellion. The kids understood him; he spoke their heart; there was no generation gap between the shepherd and his flock. He talked about the very things that were troubling them, things deep in their hearts, conflicts that they could not resolve; hence they concluded, "He's gotta be speaking the truth. That's exactly what's been bothering me!" David Berg and these searching hippies were, according to my dad, just like Jesus and the original Twelve: Dropouts, system rejects, but truth seekers and "true" lovers of God. A "Revolution for Jesus" was born.

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    In his condemnation of the present-day society and the parents of the dropouts, David Berg wrote:
So you say the youth of today are rebels—rebellious, defiant, lawbreakers and seeking to destroy society. But really, who are the rebels? We, or you, our parents? . . .
    The kids are rebellious against society because the society is anti-God. Everything the kids are—the way they look, the way they act—in a large degree, it's a rebellion aganist the pattern of society, but it's a return actually to the Lord's pattern.
    How can they [the youth] rebel against God's laws? How can they rebel against His's Word?—They don't know it. But their parents did, and they rebelled just like the Children of Israel. The parents were the rebels. Only the children were allowed in the Promise Land.10
And it was he who would lead them to that Promised Land!
    By declaring that these youths "never knew the Word of God," my dad accomplished two key goals. First, he cloaked the rebellion of the youth with innocence: they didn't know any better. Moreover, their rebellion was actually a righteous rebellion conforming with the "Lord's pattern." By thus exposing their ignorance, he made a place of great importance for himself in their lives. He would lead them from ignorance to the glorious light of true knowledge. He was laying the foundation, either consciously or unconsciously, for his role as God's Prophet.
    Second, by declaring the youths to be innocent of any rebellion—but rather merely partakers of a spontaneous, honest desire to return to the Lord's pattern—while simultaneously declaring the parents to be the true rebels who had indeed rebelled against God, Dad established the spiritual polarity necessary to alienate these kids from their parents, their churches, and the establishment. There were only two camps: my father's righteous camp and the rebel parent camp. Thus, a return to the parent camp would be a move against the Bible, against God, and against Jesus, to whom they had recently dedicated their lives. Concerning this division, Dad wrote:
The parents want them to follow in their footsteps in a selfish dog-eat-dog economy in which they not only murder one another, but they conduct massive slaughters of whole nations. . . .
    The young people are sick and fed up with what really amounts to a pagan, cruel, whore mongering, false Christianity. They're trying to return to the peace loving religions of old, including ancient Christianity, and the parents will have none of it.
    So who are the rebels? If you mean rebels against . . . the looks of the ancients and the economy of the ancients, then the parents are the rebels.
    But if you mean rebels against this recent, modern, plastic, artificial man-made, gadget filled, money crazy, whore mongering, sex mad, religiously hypocritical society of the parents of today, yes, we the youth of today are rebels and revolutionists . . . We want to return to the patterns of Noah and Abraham and Moses and the judges and kings, like David and Solomon, and the prophets of old—indeed, the pattern of Jesus Christ Himself and His disciples and the martyrs of the Church.
    Who are the real rebels of today? . . . We are the true lovers of peace and love and truth and beauty and God and freedom: whereas you, our parents, are the most God defying, commandment breaking, insanely rebellious rebels of all time, who are on the brink of destroying and polluting all of us and our world if we do not rise up against you in the name of God and try to stop you. . . . 11
The youth loved it, and David Berg loved it. Their rebellion had been covered with a robe of royal righteousness: "Truly God has raised him up for such a time as this, just like Moses of old, or David, or Samuel." This was his hour, his destiny. One need not be a psychologist to see the effects of such glorious divine move- ments of God's hand on these newly converted kids, especially hippie dropouts who were groping for self-respect, self-esteem, and justification for their rebellion against society. David strongly appealed to this need as early as December 1968:
What's the matter with these people [speaking of the churches]? Why are they so afraid of us? Let's face it, it's the power of God! They're afraid of God, and you represent God!
    The community is actually afraid of us! Why do they get all uptight when we walk into a church? They're afraid! They're scared! What are they afraid of? . . . It's God, let's face it! You got'm scared, kids! Hallelujah! You got'm scared!" 12
The formerly lost, hungry, dirty, groping, and confused hippie had suddenly become "God's representative," and the world was trembling at his presence! It was a gospel of rebellion utterly confused with truth and lie, and the youth fell willingly into line. The sad part is that my dad truly believed he was following God. His hatred and bitterness had destroyed his ability to see the error of his way. He was a confused man, blinded by bitterness, hatred, and the guilt of his own sin. My father was not doing this to glorify God, but merely to salvage his own ego. Rather than face himself in the light of his failure and sin, he chose to support his failure with the following and adoration of rebellious youth.
    A principle tool my father used to develop his worldwide organization of full-time workers was the doctrine of "Forsaking All." It is based on the biblical story of three fishermen: Simon Peter, James, and John. They had been fishing all night but had caught nothing, whereupon Jesus commanded Simon to cast his net just one more time; when he did, he enclosed a great number of fish. This miracle, coupled with the call of Christ to "follow Me," was sufficient evidence for the three men to dedicate their lives to Jesus and His public ministry. Luke 5:11 records, "And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him." In Luke 14:33 Jesus says: "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." The concept of leaving father, mother, job, home, land, and any other social influence was essential for full-time discipleship to Christ, my dad taught. In Huntington Beach it was the challenge we put to all the hippies: "Come! Forsake all and follow Jesus." Most of them had forsaken all anyway—they were well-accustomed to leaving family and home and job. It required only a slight variation in the direction of their lives to get them to do it for Jesus' sake. I think my dad was merely "christianizing" the nationwide desire to drop out. For a minority it was not quite so easy to forsake all, for they were more closely tied to family, job, or school. So the call to 100 percent dedication was one of the experiences in common that gave us such a deep sense of camaraderie and commitment. Each disciple there knew that the other fellow had paid the same initiation fee as he—everyone had forsaken all. We were all common fellows in the same boat, rowing the same direction, paying the same price.
    It was the Endtime, and we had dropped out in order to drop into God's Endtime movement to warn the wicked of their ways, and inform the American nation of its impending destruction. It didn't matter if one quit school and dropped out: the end was coming soon, so who needed an education?
    "Forsake All" became one of the greatest sales tools in making the final appeal."So you say you love Jesus? That you want to obey His commandments? Well, it says right here that 'he that forsaketh not all that he hath cannot by My disciple'! What do you think of that? Are you going to be a lukewarm Christian like all the rest of the church hypocrites? We're following Jesus full-time! We're real disciples, just like the original Twelve! We've forsaken all to follow Jesus! Have you? We love you, brother, so come along with us and win the world for Jesus. Be one of the chosen few! Receive an hundred fold in this life and in the world to come."
    It was a strong message, especially in those times. Long before some other modern cults were getting people to leave their families, my dad was in California persuading kids to leave their homes and follow him. My dad writes concerning the importance of forsaking all:
Once you have chosen God and His way, He refuses to take second place to anything or anybody and will not let you put any other gods before Him; not your old job, nor your old boss, nor even your old family and friends. This is God's first test for every disciple: To see if he loves Him enough to put Him first by forsaking all immediately to follow Him now! 13 The concept of Forsake All became a foundation stone for initiating the practice of Flirty Fishing several years later.
    Anything short of full-time service was deemed a spirtual failure. Who wants to be a failure? We learned the art of the "hard sell" in getting youth to buy the whole package. It wasn't long before the Berg family had collected quite a following. My dad recalls those early days with great excitement:
The Lord knew it was time and it was what the kids needed! We had the message, the method and the music! Things were just booming!
    Then things began to get too hot for us! We got all that publicity, front-page headlines everyday in Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana, and the System began to fight, and we began to have arrests. 14
About twenty-five youths were arrested for picketing and witnessing on the school campuses in the winter of 1968-69. As I look back now, I can see that Dad simply adopted the rebellious activities of the politically radical youth of the day, cloaking it in the name of Christ and the guise of religious protest. It was an age of defiance, and he capitalized on it by redirecting the youthful desire to rebel and protest. He writes:

We picketed churches, jails and schools! We had sit-ins, march-ins, protests and everything the kids loved, everything that was radical! It was just going great! Terrific!—And I loved it! I was masterminding the whole thing from behind the scenes with Jesus.
    Nobody ever saw me hardly, or even knew who I was or I existed!
    We'd walk into these churches 50, 60, 70, 80 strong! It scared them half to death! Some of them called the cops, and finally things got too hot for us! We had our big explosion, our big boom, our big initial start, push, and then the persecution came and we had to get out of town. 15
My father was in his glory during the early days. His chance for power had finally materialized. But even then he showed his true colors as a coward and began running from the law; he has been running scared ever since. He says: They were planning as usual to get the big boy when they found out he was me! They were going to charge me with this, that and the other, contributing to the delinquency of minors and all kinds of stuff.
    That's when we hit the road . . . 16
By April 1969 the Teens for Christ, directed by David Berg, would leave Huntington Beach after causing no small stir among the local community and churches.

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    In the early days at Huntington Beach and during the formative years of the Children of God, we preached salvation in Jesus Christ and the Bible according to David Berg. It is important to note that there were many youths who found the Lord through this ministry, who had genuine life-changing experiences. This cannot be denied. We preached John 3:16 right out of the King James Bible; and consequently, many people prayed an earnest prayer of repentance, asking forgiveness for their sins and confessing faith in Christ as the Son of God for the remission of sin. This is why so many people say to this day, "Oh, but it started out good. Berg just got off the track in later years." Not so. Spiritual rebellion never starts off good. There is a fine line, eternally vital, which must be drawn between the place where the work of man stops and the place the Work of God begins.
    Even though these youths had found Christ as a result of a ministry triggered by my dad and his rebellion, it was through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ that lives were changed. Neither my dad nor the Teens for Christ can take credit for that. Salvation is a work of God, not man. It is a grave error to justify a man or his movement on its apparent success or failure, as so many have done with the COG. It must be judged upon its conformity to the principles and truths of Scripture. The mature, discerning eye could have seen upon closer examination that things were afoul in my dad's group from the start. But the uninitiated, immature youths of that day merely looked at the outward appearance. Unbeknown to them, there was another force at work underlying all the apparent good that was being done.
    What was that other force? It was an evil that would subvert and totally disease the entire work—the same evil that had diseased my father. The foundation on which my dad built his movement was rebellion. Spiritual rebellion is a cancer that starts with one tiny cell, infects the next cell, and begins to spread; given time it will consume the entire body and kill the life force. The COG was diseased from its onset; it was destined to bring itself to spiritual destruction.
    Rebellion feeds on pride. My dad saturated us in feelings of spiritual pride and superiority. This must be done to balance out the guilt and silence the conscience. Spiritual pride will ultimately lead to a self-righteous religion of works. In "Jesus People Or Revolution," my dad writes: We, like Jesus Christ and His disciples, are living our revolution, God's Revolution, His Revolution. . . .
    This is the real, one and only, genuine revolution that'll ever survive, because this is the revolutionary Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ!
    The so-called Jesus People [referring to a youth organization known as the "Jesus People"], this Churchianity, little churchy-kid, System-kid, so-called, "Jesus Outfit" . . . they're not living it—they haven't quit their jobs, they haven't forsaken all, they're not on the streets all day, everyday trying to tell folks about Jesus! They haven't dropped out of the damned Whore, the abominable churchianity system! They haven't dropped out of the damned commercial system, their job and all the rest of it! "They don't have any revolution! They couldn't begin to hold a candle to you!
    You, the Children of God, are God's Revolution for this hour and this day! You're it!
    So, don't let the Jesus People worry you!—Just feel sorry for them! Poor people, still slaves of the System, still slaves of the Devil. They may be saved by Jesus but they're still working for the Devil. . . .
    We are the one and only, absolute and total, real, genuine revolution in the whole world! We are it! We are God's children!17
Thus, the Children of God movement was a mixture of salvation through Jesus Christ and hatred of the established church system, rejection of the government and society, abhorrence and rebellion toward parental values and authority, and a call for total dedication to the real Revolution for Jesus.
    If one can grasp an understanding of the evil inherent in the principle of spiritual rebellion—how it works on the minds and egos of people, especially youth, and what its far-reaching consequences are—then it can be understood how groups such as the Children of God can start out apparently harmless, under the banner of religion and Jesus Christ, doing good and having outward signs of benefit in the lives of drug addicts and lost youth, and eventually grow to be totally corrupt—carrying thousands of seemingly "fine young Christians" into corruption and reprobation. This is the nature of the cultic experience, of rebellion, of sin—even when cloaked in the garments of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the guise of religion. This form of deception is not unique to the COG and other cults; many spheres of our society are in a similar condition.

chapter 4

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