Macau Closer Look: The Gospel according to Mo

From XFamily - Children of God

The Gospel according to Mo

Press » Macau Closer Look » 2008-05-05

David Berg

The group

The Children of God was formed in 1968 by Californian preacher David Berg, later known as Moses David or just Mo. His teachings are paramount in the sect and his spoken and written words regarded as sacred. Berg died in 1994. Berg - whose sect for many years promoted indiscriminate sex among its members, including its children - was a fugitive since September 1993, when Argentine officials asked Interpol to track him down and detain him for inciting child abuse and other crimes. He died in 1994 and was buried in Costa de Caparica, Portugal. When Berg died his longtime partner Karen Zerby, also known as Maria and Queen Maria, took control of the group which is now know as The Family. According to the groups’ website there are now 10,000 full-time and associate adult volunteer members working from 1100 centers or communities, situated in over 100 countries.


Despite several departures from this policy over the years, the sect primarily believes in communal living and that those outside the group are in need of help. People not part of The Family are known as “Systemites” and the outside world is known as “The System”. The group believes it must live in isolation and protect itself and its children from the outside world. Many of its members home-school their children, while others who live in larger communities have established their own small schools. The group has used many names, including The Children of God, The Family, The Family of Love and the Family International. It tried to distance itself from the name Children of God around 1978 due to bad publicity liked to promiscuous sex and child abuse. The group believes wholly in the teachings of Berg and structures its everyday life on the volumes of literature prepared by leaders of the group. During his life Berg wrote more than 3000 booklets known as Mo Letters.


The group sees itself as the chosen people, as the children of God. It believes itself superior to the “System” and those in “the System”, and that the main purpose of its members is to reproduce to ensure the continuation of the cult. It describes itself as a Christian fellowship designed to share God’s word and love. The Children of God has been outlawed in some countries such as the Philippines for extreme practices, including allegations of sexual, physical and psychological abuse of children. It claimed a victory in the 1991 Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption in the Philippines, saying the Lord sent the disaster because the country had rejected the group. Leadership Members are answerable only to sect leadership and must abide by the rules and regulations of the group. Punishment is meted out to the children by sect leaders. The sect does not consider itself answerable to the laws of “the System” but usually abides by them to avoid drawing publicity to itself. Facing problems in the 1980s with teenagers born into the group questioning its teaching and operations, the group set up a host of “re-education” centres, including two in Macau, designed to assist these “wayward” youths to conform. Many youths who spent time in these Teen Detention Centres have spoken publicly of being sexually, physically and mentally abused.

The beginning

The Children of God was started by Berg in the late 1960s and many young hippies flocked to its promise of free love and communal living. But its doctrines became more bizarre in the 1970s, particularly with the practice of “flirty fishing”, trying to bring new members to the sect by sleeping with them, thus allowing them to share the love of Jesus. Many female members worked in brothels and were regarded as spreading God’s word to their clients and were encouraged to give their takings to the group.