Posted by Perry on July 24, 2010 at 17:01:28
I just posted this on the Academic Board, but then I realized my note at the end may not pass the requirement of a dispassionate tone, so I have reposted it here.
From: Illinois Press Book Blog
On Wednesday, July 28, from 10:00pm until midnight, co-authors Gordon and Gary Shepherd will appear on Milt Rosenberg’s WGN radio program Extension 720 to discuss their new book Talking with the Children of God: Prophecy and Transformation in a Radical Religious Group.
A unique study of the radical religious movement now known as The Family International, the book draws on face-to-face interviews with the group’s leaders and administrative staff. One of the most controversial groups emerging from the Jesus People movement of the 1960s, the Family originally was known as The Children of God. Under leader David Berg, members proclaimed an apocalyptic “Endtime,” shunned secular occupations, lived communally, and adopted unusual sexual practices that led to abuse scandals in the 1970s and 1980s. Following Berg’s death in 1994, the organization began to dramatically alter its evangelization efforts and decision-making processes.
Gordon and Gary Shepherd will be Milt’s guests for the full two hours and will take listener phone calls in the second hour of the program.
Talking with the Children of God: Prophecy and Transformation in a Radical Religious Group
Author: Gordon Shepherd and Gary Shepherd
A highly detailed case study shedding light on new religious movements
Grounded in direct, systematic observation by neutral observers, Talking with the Children of God is a unique study of the radical religious movement now known as The Family International. The book draws on extraordinarily candid interviews with the group's leaders and administrative staff. In revealing new information about the organization's history, beliefs, and use of prophecy, Gordon Shepherd and Gary Shepherd offer a highly detailed case study that is both an antidote to sensationalized coverage of the group and a means for understanding the transformational practices of new religious movements in general.
One of the most controversial groups emerging from the Jesus People movement of the 1960s, the Family originally was known as The Children of God. Under leader David Berg, members proclaimed an apocalyptic "Endtime," shunned secular occupations, lived communally, and adopted unusual sexual practices that led to abuse scandals in the 1970s and 1980s. Following Berg's death in 1994, the organization began to dramatically alter its evangelization efforts and decision-making processes.
Talking with the Children of God builds a picture of a complex organization with ten thousand core members worldwide, including details on the lives, careers, and responsibilities of the second generation and their efforts to defend their faith. The authors summarize the Family's history and beliefs as well as its controversial past. In particular, they analyze the organization's use of prophecy--or channeled revelations from Jesus and other spiritual beings--for making decisions and setting policy, revealing how this essentially democratic process works and how it shapes Family life and culture.
These remarkable insights are the result of sixteen years of surveys and field observations conducted in Family member homes in sixteen countries, plus four days of face-to-face interviews with Family leaders and organizational staff. The volume also includes condensed transcripts of the interviews with analysis by Shepherd and Shepherd.
"In this intriguing and eminently readable account of the inner workings of 'a heretical religion' following the death of its founder, Gordon and Gary Shepherd introduce us to a number of organizational developments, such as the democratization of prophecy, that could astonish not a few students of religion."--Eileen Barker, professor emeritus, London School of Economics
Gordon Shepherd is a professor of sociology at the University of Central Arkansas. Gary Shepherd is a professor of sociology at Oakland University. They are the coauthors of Mormon Passage: A Missionary Chronicle.
Table of Contents:
1. Prophecy and Change: The Children of God Become the Family International
2. The Practice of Prophecy in the Family: A Roundtable Discussion with the GN Team, Part I
3. The Role of Prophecy in the Family: A Roundtable Discussion with the GN Team, Part II
4. Producing Prophecy for the Good News
5. Illustrating and Laying Out Prophecy for the Good News
6. Activating Religious Interest of Nonmembers
7. Defending the Faith in the Cyber Age
8. Managing the World Services Home
9. Managing the International Flock
10. World Services and the Contemporary Family International: Summary and Conclusions
I haven't had a chance to read this book yet, but I would be willing to bet that in this analysis by cult apologists of how prophecy is used in the COG/TFI that they don't discuss the many ways in which prophecy was/is used to deceive, manipulate and control members or to demonize anyone who criticizes them, including their own children. Typical of other academic writings on the cult by apologists such as Melton, Bainbridge, Baker, and Chancellor, this book includes "details on the lives, careers, and responsibilities of the second generation and their efforts to defend their faith", yet there is no mention, at least in the promotional blurbs, of those of the second generation who were abused, vilified, shunned, abandoned, etc., which was often done using so-called prophecy, which is nothing more than just made up bullshit.
It never ceases to disgust me how these apologists, who consider themselves neutral observers, completely ignore the other side of the story, that of survivors who have no motive to lie about their abuse and often downplay it, while completely accepting as valid the information they receive from leaders and members who not only have a strong motive to lie, but are doctrinally required to lie, deceive and obfuscate.
If it turns out that I'm wrong about this, and the book does discuss the many negative ways in which so-called prophecy is abusively used in the cult, then I will eat my words.
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