Get ready to die, cult followers told
British document prompts concern
The Globe and Mail/1994-02-01
A religious cult has told its 500 British followers that they must be ready to die soon for their faith.
A secret internal document by the Children of God organization tells its members they are being so badly persecuted that "there is no way out but up." Followers are told their deaths would be "promotion" and would make them "martyrs."
The document has triggered concern among groups who monitor the activities of religious cults in Britain.
"In the aftermath of Waco," said Ian Haworth of the Cult Information Centre, "I find this chilling and I am very, very concerned for people in that group, especially children growing up in that environment."
The cult contends that the document has no sinister overtones but is simply a colourful exposition of the group's doctrine.
The Children of God is principally a U.S. organization but has a series of British communes, called The Family, based in London; in Ayrshire, Scotland; and at Dunton Bassett, near Leicester.
It was founded in the early 1970s by an evangelical pastor, David Berg. His doctrine advocates promiscuity among group members, and the organization has been dogged by allegations, hotly denied, that its free-love policies mean children are involved in unlawful sexual relations.
Group documents, including one called Teen Sex, have in the past referred to the ability of children to engage in sexual contact but members insist that this has never been put into practice.
The leaked internal document, called Good News, is one of a series regularly sent to commune heads, ostensibly by Mr. Berg.
At one point, it tells members: "We'll only be delivered when the Lord comes."
It adds, however: "Sorry, there's no way out but up. Just like all the other martyrs, we'll have to pay the price of standing up for the Truth. We'll probably be some of the first of this generation."
Rachel Scott, a spokeswoman for The Family in Leicester, confirmed that the document was genuine but said that "in no way would I interpret that as meaning we are going to kill ourselves."
She said the sect's doctrine is strongly opposed to suicide and violence.