Children of God Cult Records Higher Numbers
By Joseph Hopkins
After claiming last year that divine judgment in the form of a nuclear holocaust was about to descend upon Europe and America, David "Moses" Berg, the 63-year-old founder and leader of the Children of God/Family of Love cult, urged followers to move to the Southern Hemisphere and to the Far East.
However, 1981 statistics released by the Children of God (COG) disclose that cult members are not heeding the warning. According to those statistics, at the end of last year nearly half of COG's 9, 788 members were living in the Northern Hemisphere, 17 percent in the United States.
That membership figure, which includes 4,277 children, is an all-time high. The cult lost more than 2,000 members in 1978, partly because Berg fired 300 leaders. Defection, venereal disease, and bad publicity also contributed to the decline. But the cult has made a comeback in recent years. The report of last May also announced a distribution of more than 400 million pieces of literature, and 34, 957 persons won through "flirty fishing" (prostitution evangelism), all since 1971.
The COG cult is characterized by the supplanting of biblical revelation with cult teaching, sexual and financial exploitation of members, fear of outsider , and preoccupations with death.
Berg communicates to cult members through letters, called "MO" letters, which he extols as "God's word for today" not to be confused with the Bible, "God's word for yesterday."
In a 1979 MO letter, Berg, once a Protestant minister, wrote that the Trinity consists of Father, Mother, and Son. In a 1978 letter, Berg encouraged cult members to have sex with potential converts in an effort to "win souls for Jesus." Each member was requested to keep a "flirty fish" diary in which to record details of their experiences.
Recent COG publications contain photographs of young children engaged in sexual play with adults. Sexual experimentation from infancy onward is advocated by Berg and practiced within his extended "family" of disciples.
Meanwhile, efforts of former cult members to expose the cult's beliefs and practices, continue. Kathy Hansen, deprogrammed four years ago, now publishes a newsletter targeted for present and former members and their families. Also, Berg's elder daughter, Linda, who resides in California with her second husband, has succeeded in enrolling a number of former members (including her mother Jane) in Bill Gothard seminars. She credits Gothard with facilitating her return to evangelical Christianity. Jane Berg formerly Mother Eve in the cult) has moved to Knoxville where she and other ex-Children of God members are operating a Christian ministry at the World's Fair.