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 10
"If The Truth Kills, Let It Kill!"

Scan of a page from Mo Letter No. 666, denouncing Bill Davis and portraying him as Alexander mesmerizing Deborah. The letter played a key part in Bill and Deborah's decision to forsake the cult.
It doesn't matter if it kills Deborah, she'd be better off [dead]. . . one way or the other, God's will be done.
    You tell Rachel I sent her there with a message . . . the truth of God.
    Rachel is the executioner and I sent her to be the hatchet man, and she's either got to save them or kill them, one or the other! I know this business . . . you run the risk of killing the victim.
    You tell her to get busy and kill them! Kill them! The quicker the better! I mean if they can't stand the truth they ought to die and be dead! Let's hope maybe they'll go to Heaven and not to Hell!
    My Lord, if people would only receive what I tell them and obey it and do it! It doesn't matter if it kills people!
    If the truth kills people, then they need to be killed! And if they won't believe and receive and obey the truth, then God damn them! Let them go to Hell as far as I'm concerned! 79
This message directed against me and my husband Bill, by my father on February 21, 1978, marked the beginning of the end: the end of a thirty-one-year relationship of father and daughter, and the end of ten insane years in the Children of God.
    Understanding this message and the details surrounding it, brings to an end our adventure into the world of the bizarre, the unbelievable, what I call the "insanity of sin." It all seems so vague, so remote, like the fleeting memories of a distant nigh mare. Yet it was no dream. It was all very, very real.

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    After my Coronation in London in September 1972, and my demotion six weeks later, I stayed in England for about six months. Dad had virtually excluded me from all leadership activities, so I lived in seclusion in a large Colony outside London. However, my seclusion was short-lived. The pressures of the situation, concern over the welfare of my children, and Dad's promptings forced me back into the mainstream of activities.
My brother Aaron had disappeared somewhere in France, and Dad ordered Jethro and me to the Continent to find him. Aaron had been losing touch with reality for some time. Circumstances brought his condition to a point of extreme aggravation when British Immigrations refused to allow his reentry into England. He had been on a short trip to Scandinavia, and upon his return, was turned away because of his association with the COG, and the fact that he was a Berg. We had been receiving bad publicity at the time.
    Aaron wanted to return to London to see Dad and resolve their differences. That he couldn't see Dad devastated him. He was forced to live in Paris, where he began to disappear for days at a time, taking long train rides to unknown destinations. He would return from these trips in a daze, as if he didn't know where he had been.
    My father—though he will not admit it to himself—is keenly responsible for the death of his son. Aaron could not understand why he was experiencing many doubts, why he was suffering frustration and spiritual torment. He told my mother shortly before his final disappearance, that his doubts about Dad were driving him crazy. He felt like a terrible sinner because he kept questioning his father's revelations concerning his role as the Endtime Prophet. Aaron had memorized vast portions of the Bible, and his knowledge of Scripture kept conflicting with the things his father did and said. Aaron's own involvement in sin compounded the weight of guilt and frustration. His self-condemnation weighed so heavily upon him, that he could endure it no longer. Because of his intense love and his deep loyalty to his father, Aaron's mind was being torn in two.
Aaron wanted to love and follow his father; but inwardly his conscience was telling him 'No'. The psychological and spiritual torment pushed him beyond the limits of rational thinking. His only alternative: end it all. He found it impossible to turn against his father, yet he could not rid himself of the negative thoughts.
    The situation was compounded by my dad's attitude. Dad knew instinctively that Aaron was having serious doubts, and this was an affront to the Prophet. Dad put great pressure on Aaron to yield to his authority and, unsuccessful in that, finally rejected him. And Aaron knew his father didn't want him around. I believe that when Immigrations barred him from the country, Aaron considered it an act of Providence.
    Some members of my family do not like to hear Aaron's death called a suicide. I respect their right to hold that opinion. I was not there with Aaron on that mountain in Switzerland. To my knowledge, no one was. So I cannot say with absolute certainty that Aaron took his own life. But I lived through the same hell he did; I know firsthand the struggle that can push a person to the brink of self-destruction.
    Aaron's body was found at the base of a large cliff by two mountain climbers. According to the police report, he had been dead about two weeks before his body was discovered. Dad wrote a Mo Letter glorifying Aaron's death, a letter he called "Aaron on the Mountain". It explained to all the disciples that the "Lord took Aaron while he was mountain climbing." Dad tried to make it sound like the story of Enoch: Aaron was so "spiritual" that God finally just took him home. What a lie!
    What makes Aaron's death all the more tragic, is that he was in a real sense a spiritual catalyst from the early days of the movement. From the time of "Teens for Christ" onward, music played a vital role in our ministry; it was often the point of first contact with potential converts. Aaron—Paul—was our leading lyricist-arranger-composer. Many of his songs became stock in trade for the Jesus People, and have nurtured Christians who have no idea of the music's origins. What a legacy!
    The circumstances under which we learned of Aaron's mysterious death were themselves unusual.
    Jethro and I had searched Paris and Geneva for several weeks and never found any indication of Aaron's whereabouts. We left his photo with the police, and filed numerous missing person reports. Being unsuccessful, we were instructed by Dad to continue south to Italy to help prepare for the wedding of Rachel to a wealthy Italian. Emanuel Canevaro, Duke of Zoagli, had taken an interest in the Family, and specifically in Rachel. Dad was willing to give up one of his own wives for the sake of such an important union. It was not every day that an Italian duke married into the Children of God!
    So in March 1973, I went to Italy.
    Marrying a duke was no small affair. Emanuel and Rachel were married on the steps of a public plaza in Rome on Easter Sunday, April 22.
    On the wedding day, my mother, who had come to Italy for the ceremony, received a phone call from the Swiss police. It was a notification that a body had been discovered matching the description and photo on our missing person report. Mother told no one, but went silently to the wedding as if nothing had ever happened. Later she explained, "I didn't want to spoil the wedding."
    Dad had actually played a trick on Jethro and me. He fully intended that we move permanently to Italy, and had lured us there with his request that we go for just a few weeks to "help out with the wedding." I spent ten months in Italy altogether, living with Rachel and Emanuel on one of the duke's large fattorias outside Florence.
    In December I returned to Bromley, England, to have Christmas with Dad. When I arrived, I was in for a big shock. I knew my father was changing and doing things that bothered me—many of which I could not understand or relate to—but despite these changes, I still related to him as my father, as the man I knew in 130 my childhood. But the change I saw in my father in December 1973 was incredible. He was no longer "Dad." He was 100 percent "Moses David." He was Maria's puppet.
    It was my desire to have a happy Christmas, so I had set myself to buying presents, fixing a Christmas tree, and so on. But when I arrived at Dad's house, I found that access to the Prophet was now screened through Maria. We were no longer permitted to see him whenever we so desired. We had to clear it with Maria. I had come all the way from Italy to celebrate Christmas with my father, only to discover that he was "too busy" with more important matters, that he was engaged in a secret mission! Dad and Maria were mysteriously going out every night, and no one knew exactly what was going on. Later we found out he was pioneering his new method of "evangelism" with Maria—involving a man named Arthur. Christmas Day came and Dad was gone. New Year's Eve came and Dad was gone. Dad was gone . . . lost in the world of Flirty Fishing.
    Finally, I managed to corner Dad so that I could discuss my purpose and future in the Family. My time in Italy had been a nightmare, so Dad gave me permission to work in Paris. Going to Paris permanently separated me from Jethro.
    I arrived in Paris in January 1974, stunned over the drastic change in my dad, and wondering what would now become of my life. It seemed that things were far beyond my control, and even further beyond my understanding. For all practical purposes, I was divorced, even though Dad did not allow divorce, just indefinite separations. I wondered how my children would respond to this new situation, and what would be the end result of Dad's change in personality. He was steadily growing more distant from his immediate family.

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    Paris became a place of dramatic change in my life. I had reached another breaking point. Again I faced a crucial decision: Retrace the footsteps of the past and face the truth, or cover it all up and go on. I was a master at masquerading, at hiding my true feelings, at putting up the front required of the Prophet's eldest daughter. I chose to go on—but with a twist. This time I would slowly and systematically starve myself to death. I guess I was an early victim of what was then an uncommon and little-understood disease, anorexia nervosa.
    My efforts were nearly successful. At the end of six months, I weighed eighty-five pounds, had an infectious blood disease, was hemorrhaging internally, and on the verge of aborting a three-month-old baby.
    During this time, I had been living with Bill Davis; and it was, in fact, his child I was carrying. He was known in the Family as "Isaiah." He was in charge of the COG's French Publications De- partment and was one of the key leaders in France.
    Bill joined the Children of God on January 1, 1972, in Dallas, Texas. He was a young, idealistic youth—a product of the rebellious and restless counterculture of the late sixties and early seventies. Reared in a moderately wealthy suburb of Columbus, Ohio, Bill was brought up to be a Roman Catholic; but he rejected all notions of church and God when he began to study philosophy intensively at Ohio University. Running the gauntlet of drugs, political protest, existentialism, and depression, Bill experienced a spiritual conversion late in his junior year of college. Ironically, it was a witnessing team of the Children of God who had traveled from Cincinnati to the university in Athens, Ohio, who "led him to the Lord." He was a good student in college, despite his rebellion, and he graduated with honors. However, his discontent led him into an encounter with the COG in Dallas. Believing he had found the Truth, he threw himself—mind, body, and soul—into the cause.
    When I met Bill in Paris, I latched onto his youthfulness and zeal the way a drowning man grabs a life preserver. Bill and I began living together in January 1974. Yet even though I found great comfort in Bill's presence, I remained determined to continue my methodical starvation. Bill was oblivious to my state of health, and was totally unaware of what I was doing. But by July, my condition had so deteriorated, that during a gala performance of our Parisian Show Group, "Les Enfants de Dieu," in Southern France, Bill felt it necessary to drive me to Geneva to seek medical assistance.
    I was too weak to walk when we arrived in Geneva, so Bill took me to the doctor of a friend of ours. He took one look at me and said, "Has she been in a concentration camp?"
    The doctor refused to prescribe medical treatment unless I admitted myself to a hospital. I refused. The same friend who had recommended the doctor owned a large hotel and put me in one of the rooms and said, "Please stay here until you are well." My hemorrhaging continued until I began to lapse in and out of consciousness. Bill was at a loss as to what should be done. One morning he was suddenly gripped with a fear that I was on the verge of death. Without telling anyone (which was not the thing to do where the daughter of Moses David was concerned), he wrapped me in a blanket and drove me to the hospital.
    In the hospital I was placed in Intensive Care. All night long, according to reports, my life hung in the balance. My body simply did not have the life force to sustain the baby I had been carrying for four-and-a-half months. Between the condition of the blood disease, the baby's drain on my system, my acute loss of blood, and my body's state of malnutrition—something had to give. Apparently my body knew that if the baby wasn't aborted, I would die.
    I began to fear for the baby's life and realized the folly of my self-starvation. My mental state was completely confused; having drifted in and out of consciousness for nearly forty-eight hours, I had no real sense of my condition. Doctors, needles, nurses, and medical objects kept appearing and disappearing along with my consciousness. I started to cry, pleading with God not to take the baby. I was delirious all night. I remember that the nurses were very kind; they kept trying to calm me down."Don't worry, everything will be fine. Everything will be all right."
    Early in the morning God took the baby. It would have been Bill's firstborn. Again, things had not worked out the way I had planned. Instead of my life ending, an innocent child died. Now I had to live with this trauma instead of being rid of all my problems. In my confusion I sobbed, "I didn't mean to do it. I didn't want it to happen like this." The nurses didn't really understand my situation.
    My condition stabilized after the miscarriage and several blood transfusions. I was removed from Intensive Care, but stayed in the hospital for more than two weeks. It was another month before I was able to get around without a wheelchair.
    At the doctor's suggestion, my father ordered me into temporary retirement; so in September 1974, I moved to Cannes on the French Riviera. Bill and I lived in seclusion, with instructions that I was to write booklets on childcare and education for the Family. We stayed in Cannes for about five months, and then moved to Zoagli, Italy, to live in one of Duke Emanuel's villas.
    Zoagli is a very small, picturesque village near Chiavari on the Mediterranean coast. Our villa overlooked the Gulf of Tigullio—perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever lived in. The peaceful surroundings, exquisite Italian food, and rest from the mainstream of COG activities had a wonderful healing effect on me. I think the healthiest factor was that I was living away from Dad and the rest of the Royal Family. Any contact with my immediate family would only bring unspeakable tension and pressure. The Royal Family lived in a world of competition and envy, and their disease infected anyone who was nearby. I knew of several disciples who later told me they would do all they could to leave town when they found out two or more members of the Royal Family would be there together.
    In Zoagli, Bill and I worked intensely on writing "Deborah Letters" for the Family. We produced a lot of material for Dad to publish. The disciples never knew it, but Bill wrote all the Deborah Letters.
    I was beginning to enjoy life once again as I lived alone with Bill in that beautiful villa. I was telling myself, "Perhaps the days of peace have finally come. Perhaps the days of hell are passed."
    But in June 1975, I received a disturbing phone call. It was my father announcing that he was coming to live with me. He was returning from his two-month visit with Colonel Moammar Gadahfi, and would arrive at the Genova (Genoa) airport with Maria. Bill and I were instructed to meet them alone at the airport. I couldn't believe my ears. Dad, the Endtime Prophet, was coming to my little hideaway on the Côte d'Azur. Bill was shaken. Very few disciples had the privilege of seeing the Prophet face to face—this was Big Time!
    Dad arrived and passed several uneventful months with us. He kept to himself in the upper portion of the villa and left me very much alone. He treated me like a landlord from whom he was renting. The villa was built like a duplex, so that the upper portion could be used as a separate dwelling. He had Rachel and Emanuel visit him on numerous occasions for leadership meetings. Rachel was moving up in importance in the family and would soon become the No. 1 leader apart from Mo himself..
    Dad finally left in August, on the day after I returned from the hospital from delivering my seventh child—Bill's first—Alexander David.
    Dad's leaving was filled with trauma for me. He had kept the fact that he was leaving a secret from me, for some unknown reason. I met him and Maria coming down the stairs and knew instantly that he was leaving for good. I was carrying the new baby in my arms and walked with Dad and Maria along the walkway leading to the iron fence that encompassed our property. I was extremely upset that he was leaving and that he hadn't talked with me. I was crying and asking him to let me go with him to the train station. His secrecy hurt me deeply. I felt betrayed—but most of all rejected. As with Aaron, Dad was rejecting me, the worst form of punishment possible.
    Maria kept interrupting, saying it wasn't necessary for me to see them off. When we finally reached the iron gate, Dad stepped through and Maria quickly closed it in my face and locked it. I tried to keep it ajar, but with a baby on one arm and my other hand on the gate, I was unable to win the tug of war.
    I looked at Dad, the locked iron gate, and Maria proudly tugging on Dad's arm—and I knew he was gone. Locked into his own world—a world he had created by his own devices. Instinctively, I knew I would never see him again.
    Unknown to me, Dad was on his way back to Tenerife to continue his full-time pursuit of the Flirty Fishing ministry. While in Zoagli, he never made mention of it to me. Before coming to Zoagli, he had spent about one year in the Canaries. He was returning now to shift FFing into high gear.

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    In February 1976, Dad made a deal with Jethro and me. He requested that we go to Latin America to be the leaders of the work on that continent. Jethro had been living in Northern Europe following one of his demotions by Dad, typical of my father's pattern of political Ping-Pong. First a promotion, then a demotion, followed by another promotion. Up, down. Up, down. It was like being on a roller coaster.
    We were now on our way back to the top. Latin America was in a mess, and Dad needed our talents. He could always count on Jethro to get things rolling again. But he wanted a Berg along, because he never really trusted Jethro. Dad was always afraid of one leader by himself getting too powerful. My father is deathly afraid of male leadership, consistently cutting them down and putting women (who are loyal only to him) in their place.
    Jethro and I agreed to call a truce and work together once again. We both felt that, South America being a long way from Dad, perhaps we could find some peace. Moreover, we could bring the children together so they could be near both Mommy and Daddy. So off we went to South America and settled in Lima, Peru—the new H.Q. of the COG south of the border.
    Dad wanted the movement and the public to think that Jethro and I were still married; we kept our private lives hidden, and did not let on to anyone that we had both been living with new spouses for several years.
    Our time as leaders of South American operations lasted two-and-a-half very long years. In that time, COG activities began flourishing, and we were able to pull Latin America out of its tailspin.
    But trouble was brewing once again. Dad was feverishly pushing Flirty Fishing worldwide, and he was receiving reports that the leadership in South America was dragging its heels in this "ministry."
    Dad sent my sister Faithy to Lima to spy on us, and he also planted spies among our personal staff who reported all our activities to him. At the same time, the Mo Letters were getting progressively more bizarre. The only theme of Dad's writings right then was sex, sex, and more sex. It permeated every fiber of his being. Soon, despite our own lethargic attitude, all of South America was Flirty Fishing. Immorality soared to an all-time high as the Mo Letters insisted that everyone "share" God's love. Things were truly getting wild.
    Then Dad began to write publicly in the Mo Letters against Jethro, Isaiah, and me. Isaiah (Bill) had been in charge of publications for Latin America and was editing the Mo Letters for street distribution. Dad accused him of "tampering with the words of the Prophet"—one of the gravest of all crimes. Then we were accused of having withstood Dad by keeping disciples from FFing. My response was to try to regain the Prophet's favor by plunging myself into total obedience to the Mo Letters. To no avail. Dad wasn't the least bit impressed with my outward obedience, and my FFing—or with any of the key political figures I had on my "fishing line." The die had been cast. Heads would soon roll. Dad was going to fire every leader in the Revolution, and Jethro and I were first on the list. He had special plans for Bill.
    On February 7, 1978, Moses David received a special revelation from his faithful spirit guide, Abrahim, stating that Bill was an evil magician leading me astray from "the Lord and his work", which is to say—Moses David and the COG. The spirit spoke these words through my dad:
May God damn him and give him what he deserves! He led so many astray. This man hath bewitched her, and he re-interprets MY Letters. He contradicts them and he defies them, and I want to get rid of him! 80 Rachel, who was now the top leader by virtue of earlier prophecies, was given the job of personally delivering the special revelation against Bill. It became Mo Letter 666, and was entitled "Alexander the Evil Magician". Rachel's orders were to fly to Caracas, Venezuela, and read the letter privately to me and then to Bill. She was also instructed to demote Jethro and me from our leadership positions. Bill was to be exiled to one part of the globe and I to another; yet by this time, Bill and I had been together four years, and had two children from the union.
    It was the intent of this revelation that I be permanently separated from Bill. He was the devil; he had led me astray. I was never to see him again. It was imperative that he be gotten rid of. He would be banished to Africa, and I would be consigned to Australia—far removed from established Colonies where my influence might not poison the minds of disciples against the Pure Doctrine.
    Thus, my relationship to the man I loved was to be terminated by order of the Prophet. Once again my father had turned my world upside down. But this time his insanity overreached itself. Ten years of living under the influence of his madness had taken its toll. This would prove to be my final breaking point.
    The atmosphere in the COG at this time was weird and foreboding. Everyone had a sense that a tidal wave was about to break over us. Flirty Fishing was flourishing; sexual freedom was commonplace; carnality ran rampant. The fabric of the order of things was coming apart.
    In this context, Dad fired every leader in the Family, destroying the "chain of command" that had served as our governmental structure for years. The sheep were left to fend for themselves. Within one week, there was no leadership, organization, or semblance of order: only utter chaos and anarchy, both moral and physical. There was a spirit of "me first" among the disciples. People became like sharks, ravaging one another to stay alive.
    The trauma of that time can hardly be expressed in words. Even as Rachel arrived with Mo's special Letter, she too was an emotional wreck. She had spent the last two years on Dad's personal Flirty Fishing team in the Canaries, and was experiencing her own breaking points as a result.
    Through the years, Rachel and I had grown very close. We loved each other; and I trusted her as my most intimate friend—as much as was possible under the circumstances. It was a very cruel thing for my father to have Rachel deliver such a message to an intimate friend; but that was his way of "proving one's loyalty to the Prophet." Knowing how much I loved Bill, Rachel could not go through with it. She just couldn't read the Letter to me. She felt that on top of all else that I had suffered, it might be the last straw. She reported to Mo by telephone that she had not yet delivered the message, saying, "I'm afraid it might kill Deborah . . ." My father exploded. He was furious! "How dare you withhold the words of the Prophet or question my decisions!" For thirty minutes he blasted away: "If the truth kills, let it kill her. . . ." This phone call was transcribed and became Mo Letter 678, "If The Truth Kills, Let It Kill!".
    Shaken by the phone call, Rachel called me the next day, and I was taken to a Colony to hear "Alexander the Evil Magician". Later it was read to Bill. As these scenes were played out, I began to slip into a state of mental shock. They were going to send Bill away! I couldn't believe it! He was my life, my reason for living in an irrational world. I was flooded with new doubt about Dad, the movement, everything—all I could see was Bill. A deathly fear gripped me that indeed they would take him away, and I would never see him again.
    But Bill wanted to stay faithful, stand strong, and keep believing in Mo. After my father had called him the devil, Bill still wanted to stay faithful to him! It was really unbelievable. He was so dedicated, so loyal, so determined to follow Moses David, that nothing would deter him—even when Dad viciously denounced him, and took away his wife and children, and ordered him banished alone to Africa.
    Rachel did not have the heart to send Bill to Africa, but instead arranged that he be sent to Martinique, a small French island in the Caribbean, not far from Venezuela.
    The trip to the airport was the longest ride of my life. I felt as if I were accompanying Bill to his execution. When he was finally put on the plane, my world caved in. I wept until the tears could no longer flow, slipping ever deeper into mental shock; I was dangerously close to catatonia.
    For four months I lived in a lost, isolated world. The daily activity of caring for the children was the one thing that kept me in touch with reality. Sometimes I would wake up and wonder if I were truly alive, if this was all a dream. I simply lived to get the next letter from Bill. Each one brought me back to a state of half-life. But in spite of it all, I couldn't bring myself to believe the growing perception that we were going to leave Dad and the movement. How could we possibly do that?
    Yet the pressures of despair, loneliness, and an indescribable state of "lostness" continued to build. Bill's firstborn child, David, who was three years old, kept asking me, "Mommy, where's my daddy?
I want my daddy. I want my daddy. . . ." He was little and innocent, free from all the insanity and cruelty of my father and the wickedness of life in the Children of God. His tender mind could not understand why his father had suddenly disappeared, yet the pain of the madness around me was reaching through and torturing his little world. Each time he asked me about his daddy, I would begin to cry in despair. His pitiful pleas for the return of his daddy were like burning irons that pierced my soul, leaving scars I would carry for a lifetime.
    My worst experience came one day while I was shopping. Little David suddenly sat down in an aisle in the middle of the store and began to cry his heart out."I want my daddy! I want my daddy!" He raised questioning eyes, void of understanding, and asked, "Why doesn't my daddy come home?".
    A flood of pain and sorrow had been rising inside me for more than ten years and I knew the dam would soon have to break. My pride was the only thing holding back the flood; pride that had forbidden me to say, "My father is wrong. He walks in darkness. I must forsake him." Pride can bring a person to ruin, and mine brought me to the gates of hell. It brought my three-year-old into a world of misery he could not comprehend. How much longer would I go on?

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    While all this was happening, we made our way to the United States as the first step in getting to Australia. As American citizens, we could not go directly Down Under from South America. So we came to San Francisco to apply for visas through the Australian consulate in that city.
    Our group comprised all my children, their personal teacher and his family, my former husband and his wife and their children, and me—five adults and twelve children.
    Returning to the United States after a seven-year absence brought tremendous culture shock. We had left the country when the counterculture and notions of protest were still present though fading; and we had left under the aegis of Mo's endtime warnings to a doomed nation. How were we to survive, let alone "live," even for a while, in a society we had so bitterly rejected?
    The drastic change of climate was an additional complication. We had left the warm, mild zephyrs of Caracas to encounter the cold and rain of San Francisco in March. We didn't have proper warm clothing, and the children immediately got sick. This complication affected another part of the plans: in keeping with COG custom, we were expected by my father to raise part of our travel fare, through litnessing and the children's public singing.
    Given the hardships of our situation, we considered the implications of traveling so far away. We'd be quite stranded with many children to care for once we arrived in Australia. Nevertheless, we endeavored to raise the money necessary for the fare. But after six weeks we decided not to go. We concluded it would be better to stay in the States for a while and "dry out" before making such a drastic move. And I was not resigned to going to Australia without Bill.
    We traveled through California living from campground to campground. We had purchased an old twenty-eight-foot motor home and a station wagon. Living like nomads, we'd go from town to town, making a living through the children's singing on the streets and collecting donations. We eventually settled in a dusty, dirty campground in Escondido, where we stayed for six months. I lived with my little year and a half old daughter, Davida, in a two-man pup tent. Our physical conditions seemed to match perfectly our mental trauma. It's amazing what God has to allow before a person will wake up to reality.
    My ex-husband, Jethro, had gone through his share of breaking points and was no longer able to take any more of my father's rebukes, chastisements, and purgings. There comes a time when an individual can no longer submit himself to a man who wields totalitarian power, who can instantaneously take away one's job, home, and family.
    Dad had threatened me with excommunication if I contacted Bill—which of course I had been doing. So the question was before me: should I defy my father and ask Bill to come to the States? That would be the final break: No more Dad, no more Moses David, no more Children of God, no more "Family of Love." But the spiritual chains of deception and thirty-two years of living under the influence of my domineering father kept pulling me down, keeping me bound to an irrational loyalty I felt unable to break.
    Jethro finally said to me, "Well, Deborah, it's up to you. It's in your hands now. I'm ready to get out if you are. I don't care any more. If you have Bill come back, you know that means we're excommunicated."
    I had been hanging on, hoping that Dad would change his mind, hoping against hope that things would return to "normal." In the meantime, we received a message from Rachel questioning the "progress you are making on getting to Australia." She stated that Mo had heard a rumor that I had been in contact with Bill, and she reminded me that such an act was strictly forbidden.
    At that point, I knew the end had come. I had to sever completely my relationship with my father. In His mercy, God had allowed me to be driven to a point of choice: either to continue to follow the insanity of Moses David, or to break free to live a life rid of his evil grasp. On the surface I did not see it that way, but rather as a choosing between my father and Bill. Finally I said to myself, "I'm ready, despite the consequences. I want Bill to come home."
    For the first time in years I began to look up. I had made a willful decision that I was willing to live with. That moment was the genesis of freedom from a lifetime of bondage.
    Throughout my lifetime, my father had controlled and manipulated my every action. Any person or thing that had ever been around me, Dad had somehow managed to control or do away with. Bill was the first thing in my life to which Dad was unable to do either. Though Dad tried very hard, he failed to control Bill or get rid of him. This is the irony that surrounds my exodus from the COG movement: I cannot boast that I left the COG voluntarily. In a backhanded way, God delivered me: my father turned against us and virtually drove us out.

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    At the same time that God was opening my eyes to the truth, He was working on Bill, to bring him to a position where he too would begin thinking with clarity of mind. But Bill was a fiercely proud person, and was determined to follow Moses David to the bitter end. The best thing in the world for Bill was to have been stranded on a tiny island with an abundance of time to think, agonize over the loss of his wife and children, pray, and read his Bible. For four months he clung to his faith in Mo, believing that God would change Dad's mind. Bill could not let go of his belief that Mo was God's Prophet; and since he believed that to be true, logic dictated that all he needed to do was hold on until God revealed the truth to Mo. Bill felt that for some unknown reason, God was testing him through this dilemma.
    As the months rolled by, Bill faithfully continued to win disciples for the kingdom of Moses David. Their little Colony on Martinique regularly received the latest Mo Letters, and eventually the Letters about Bill were published and received in the mail. The Mo Letter declaring Bill to be an "Evil Magician" came, and the Colony read it—but still Bill believed in Moses David.
    Then the Letter "If the 'Truth Kills, Let It Kill" arrived."But how," Bill thought, "could a father want his daughter dead? It's not natural, it's not even human. I can understand him wanting to get rid of me, but why his own daughter?"
    That Letter left Bill deeply shaken, and through his tears, he stumbled out into the night and walked to the top of a deserted hill. Under the strain of it all, he broke and wept bitterly. Looking heavenward, he was suddenly consumed by a marvelous peace, and the profound realization that it was God who loved him, not Moses David. It was Christ who had died for his sins, certainly not Moses David. Yet he had been following the man Moses David, believing in and obeying his teachings as if they were the direct voice of God. In a sudden illumination, he became aware that in his zeal, he had supplanted his faith in God with faith in a man. The madness he was experiencing was not a testing from God, but the product of the deviousness of a man—David Berg. Indeed, God loved him first and always.
    The next day another Mo Letter arrived, "Prayer for the Poor". It proclaimed that all the Israelis deserved to die—men, women, and children—and that God should slaughter them all. That was it. The end had come for Bill. Despite his confused condition, he determined that no one who was a man of God could say such a thing. Something was terribly wrong. He phoned his parents and explained that he was stranded and needed a plane ticket to San Diego, California. His dad simply asked how much and where the money should be sent.
    Thus, through His incredible mercies, in spite of our sins and utter foolishness, God delivered us. The end had finally come. But as one era passes, so a new one begins—with its own new set of difficulties. We were now to begin life as ex-cult members.
    Coming out of a cult is more difficult by far than being in. While in, it is a simple matter of keeping one's head in the sand and staying blind to reality; but in emerging from a life of falsehood and sin, it becomes a painfully excruciating experience to face life as it truly is, accepting that you have been wrong, terribly wrong.
    In coming out, moreover, we had no foundation of truth on which to stand. We had been programmed to hate and condemn the churches, and to stay away from established Christianity. My dad had destroyed faith in the Bible through his perverted interpretations, so I couldn't turn to it for guidance. Each time I tried to read it, I only became more confused because it reminded me of all the twisted doctrines Dad preached. Coming out was hell!
    To come out also meant it was time to earn a living. In the movement, my dad created a lifestyle that taught the disciples to be professional beggars. He programmed his followers to believe that the world owes them a living because they are "serving God" full-time and no one else is. For men leaving the cult, earning a living can be extremely difficult.
    Many men enter a cult in their early twenties or late teens. In normal life, this is the age when one begins the pursuit of a career. In ten years time, he is usually well-founded in a profession, has bought a house, and is on his way to having an established lifestyle and financial security. But a former cult member emerges from the movement in his early thirties with a wife and children, and absolutely no profession or skill that can land him a job with a salary adequate for supporting his family. Not only does he have to start over spiritually, but he is forced to start over socially and financially. It's impossible to support a family on minimum wage. When a man faces this fact, it triggers deeper depression as he realizes he has foolishly wasted ten of the most important years of his life. He realizes that everything in the system is against him.
    This is a time when family support can be very beneficial. If parents can understand how difficult it is to readjust, and the despair and discouragement a man or woman faces, they can give them the encouragement and the helping hand that is vitally needed. It will be a tough time for all concerned.
    But God is ever faithful, and in His infinite mercy, He pulled us through our situation. I believe the worst thing we experienced was spiritual confusion: not knowing what was right or wrong. The effects of the cult stick with you, like hands dipped in dye; the doctrines become a part of your personality, tainting your mind and character. It is at this point that we encounter once again the power and reality of sin. The devastating effects of the cults are clearly seen to be the consequences of sin. You can be out of a cult physically, but still be very much "in" the cult, for the cult is part of you. To find total freedom from a cult, you must find victory over sin. You must come face to face with sin, see it in your own life, identify it, and then seek divine forgiveness. Otherwise you remain a prisoner, ensnared by guilt, fragmented, and forever alienated.

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    Our real deliverance came three years after we left the Children of God. For those three years we wandered on the edges of reality, drifting about in a fog of spiritual darkness. Those were dark years, void of peace and clarity of mind. My oldest child, Joyanne, was experiencing as much trauma as we were, and the effects of her life in the cult began to emerge. I had no one to turn to for help, so in desperation, I asked the help of a doctor and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. Richard Price, casual acquaintances I had met through the school our children were attending.
    The Prices seemed so stable and successful. I hoped they might have some answers on what to do with Joyanne, as they had a son exactly her age—seventeen. We did not tell them who we were, or what we had come out of, just that we were having probems with Joyanne. Several days later, they put 150 dollars in my hand and sent us—Bill, Joyanne, and me—off to a Christian seminar in Long Beach. We had no idea what it was all about, but they assured us it would be perfect for Joyanne. The fact is, it was precisely what Bill and I desperately needed. We will be eternally grateful to the Prices for the sequence of events triggered by their act of concern and generosity.
    We walked into a huge auditorium along with twelve thousand other people. As we sat down, a man in a dark blue suit walked modestly on stage and began talking in a quiet voice. He spoke so softly we couldn't even hear him until the crowd stopped shuffling about. Behind him was a towering fifty-foot screen; and as he talked, he placed transparencies on an overhead projector. He began speaking on subjects such as self-acceptance, purpose in life, self-image, peace and harmony at home, moral impurity, responsibility, gaining a clear conscience, moral freedom, incorporating past failures into your life's message, and allowing Jesus Christ to be the center of your life.
    For six days we sat in stunned silence. The format of the seminar was very much like a college lecture, but the material went deeper than the intellectual level—it held solutions to the problems of our tormented souls. We felt as if someone had designed the seminar specifically for us. The painful questions and gnawing doubts that had plagued us since the day we had left the cult three years earlier, were all being answered one by one.
    The most critical day came on Friday when the concept of moral impurity was discussed, and the Twelve Steps to Reprobation were presented. At one point, Bill turned to me, his eyes wide with astonishment, and said, "My God, that's us! That's the Children of God. That's the story of your father's life in a twelve-point outline."
    The seminar is called the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, and the man who delivered the lectures is Bill Gothard. Through the biblical principles taught in the six-day seminar, we gained a complete and lasting deliverance from the effects of the cult and the bondage of sin. The Bible was given back to us as the inspired Word of God—something we could trust in, the Light of Truth by which to guide our lives once again.
    Victory did not come overnight; this was only the beginning of a long process that involved putting the principles we learned into practice in our daily living. But April 1981 marked a new beginning for us. We were set on the road of truth, and the Cross of Christ was once again ours to follow. We emerged from the seminar changed people. It was there that Christ met me and showed me the pathway of truth.
    When truth is compromised, error and destruction and misery will consistently emerge in one's life. When I chose to follow my father, I began compromising the truth. As I have re-examined my life, it has become apparent that one compromise led to another, like the chain reaction of falling dominoes. Freedom involves going back to the beginning—to the sin of rebellion and the desire to be the boss of one's own life, to the disposition of self realization: I am my own god. Freedom lies in making Christ the boss of one's life—going back to the original compromise and repenting, making it right with God. That point of compromse is different for each person; but I can guarantee that for someone who has been in a cult, compromising the truth usually begins long before he actually gets involved with the cult.
chapter 11

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