Children of God - The Family
formerly: the Children of God
Formerly known as the "Children of God" (COG). Other names used include "Heaven's Magic," "Martinelli," "World Services," and "Fellowship of Independent Christian Churches." (Click here for a full list)
Founded by David Berg, many of whom's "Mo Letters" included graphic description and portrayal of sexual activities. Berg was a false prophet. His prophecies included that California would be destroyed by an earthquake and that the USA would be destroyed by the comet Kohoutek by January 1974.
Berg described God as a "sexy, naked god in a wild orgy of the Spirit" and "A Pimp".
In the Seventies, the COG was known for a recruitment practice called "flirty fishing" - using sex to attract new recruits. Intense scrutiny from outsiders, including government investigations, as well as the scourge of sexually transmitted diseases led the movement to abandon the practice. However, it still has a liberal attitude toward sexual relations that is not shared by orthodox Christians.
A former high-ranking members states, ''The Family has produced a professional looking Statement of Beliefs and has gone to pains to make it sound as orthodox as possible, carefully wording the text to hide their real teachings from Christians. In reality, they promote an unbelievable pantheon of pseudo-Christian heresies.'' Family members believe that (1) the Holy Spirit is a sexy, near-naked woman (God the Father's wife), (2) Christ is a creation of God, (3) Christ was conceived through sex between the angel Gabriel and Mary, (4) Christ freely fornicated with his female disciples and may have possibly even contracted venereal diseases, and (5) Christ has orgies in heaven. Family members may freely fornicate and commit adultery as long as they ''do it in love''; they have extolled ''Flirty Fishing''(using sex to gain new members) as the best method of witnessing. Necromancy (contacting the dead) is also practiced.
Source: Charts of Cults, Sects, & Religious Movements, H. Wayne House. Page 122.
Currently, the controversial aspect of The Family's attitude to sex is 'sharing' - the practice of having a sexual relationship with another member (other than one's spouse) of the home in which one resides. Again, there are rules governing this practice. All spouses must agree; 'sharing' can only be practised within one home, and not between different homes or with outsiders; one cannot 'share' with more than one member in any one month. It also needs the permission of the 'Home Mother' and is only done after 'much discussion and prayer'. (I am not endorsing these policies, I should emphasize, only describing what they are.)
There are now (Nov. 2001) indications that sharing also takes place between different Family homes.
The group is said to predict the end of the world in 2006.
Defended by Cult Apologists
AWARE, led by James R. Lewis, has become a contractor for operations that can no longer claim any semblance or resemblance to research. One symptomatic product of the post-Waco NRM consensus is the Lewis volume titled From The Ashes: Making Sense of Waco (1994a). It seems like a typical apologetic pamphlet, a collection of 47 statements, authored by 46 individuals and 3 groups. Of the 46 individuals, 34 are holders of a PhD degree, and 19 are recognized NRM scholars. One cannot claim that this collection of opinion-pieces is unrepresentative of the NRM research network; quite the contrary. Most of the top scholars are here. The most significant fact is the participation by so many recognized scholars in this propaganda effort. In addition to From The Ashes we now have Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective (Lewis and Melton 1994a), and Sex, Slander, and Salvation: Investigating the Children of God / The Family (Lewis and Melton 1994b). The last two are clearly made-to-order PR efforts (with a few scholarly papers which got in by honest mistakes on the part of both authors and editors). The Family and Church Universal and Triumphant were interested in academic character witnesses, and many NRM scholars were happy to oblige. Balch and Langdon (1996) provide an inside view of how AWARE operates by offering a report on the fieldwork, if such a term can be used, which led to the AWARE 1994 volume on CUT (Lewis and Melton 1994a). What is described is a travesty of research. It is much worse than anybody could imagine, a real sellout by recognized NRM scholars. Among the contributors to the Family volume we find Susan J. Palmer, James T. Richardson, David G. Bromley, Charlotte Hardman, Massimo Introvigne, Stuart A. Wright, and John A. Saliba. The whole NRM research network is involved, the names we have known over the past thirty years, individuals with well-deserved reputations lend their support to this propaganda effort. There must be some very good reasons (or explanations, at least) for this behavior. The PR documents produced for groups such as Church Universal and Triumphant or The Family are but extreme examples of the literature of apologetics which has dominated NRM research for many years.
Another aspect of these cases is that the reporting of financial arrangements is less than truthful. The fact that CUT financed the whole research expedition to Wyoming is not directly reported. We least that CUT provided only room and board, while AWARE covered all other costs (Lewis, 1994). The fact that The Family volume was financed by the group itself is never reported anywhere, although it is clear to the reader that the whole project was initiated by Family leaders (Lewis 1994c). The Family volume has been recognized for what it is: a propaganda effort, pure and simple, paid for by the group (Balch 1996).
Source: Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Collaborationism and Research Integrity, Part 1, Chapter 1 of Misunderstanding Cults (University of Toronto Press, 2001), p. 48,49
Inside The 'Heavenly Elite': The Children Of God Today by Dalva Lynch, with Paul Carden. Dalva Lynch, a former top leader in the Brazilian operation of the Children of God, provides an unparalleled glimpse into this notorious cult's current activities, teachings, and international intrigue. Published in 1990.
Moses Berg: A False Prophet Article from Dialog Center International
My Experience with Children of God/The Family Testimony on the FACTNet site
Watchman Expositor Profile Produced by Watchman Fellowship
Cults, New Religious Movements, and Your Family by Rich Abanes. Chapter eight deals with The Family.
Heaven's Harlot Subtitled: "My Fifteen Years As a Sacred Prostitute in the Children of God Cult"by Miriam Williams, who spent 15 yers in the Children of God (recently interviewed on CBS TV's "Public Eye")
» Children of God/The Family news tracker and news archive. Collected by Religion News Blog.
» Database of archived news items
(Includes items added between Oct. 25, 1999 and Jan. 31, 2002. See about this database)
(May 28, 1999) Sect children case settled
(May 11, 1999) Ex-member of Children of God details childhood abuse
(Apr. 1, 1999) Seizure of sect children ruled unlawful
Countdown to Armageddon Subtitled "The Future Foretold," this site is operated by The Family.
CounterCOG Newsletters and documentation on the teachings and practices of The Family. The site is operated by ex-member Samuel Ajemian.
ExCOG Network Ex-members site. Includes a web-based bulletin board and chat room.
ExFamily.org Extensive site
The Family Official web site.
MovingOn TITLE Website for ex-members.
The Survivors A ministry to victims of abuse. Web site operated by ex-members of the Children of God/Family. (Site is in English and French).