Daughter of Family's Founder Renounces His Teachings
San Francisco Chronicle/2001-02-14
By Don Lattin
Deborah Berg, the oldest of four children born to David and Jane Berg, always thought of her father as "Dad." But in the early 1970s, Dad revealed himself to be "Moses David, God's Endtime Prophet." Moses, it turned out, had a new vision of his daughter's destiny - a revelation that came "directly from heaven." Berg announced the news in a letter to members of his burgeoning Christian sect, the Children of God.
On Sept. 16, 1972, "in accordance with prayer and prophetic vision," Deborah, 25, was crowned the "Queen of God's New Nation." It was quite a promotion for Deborah Berg. For most of the 1950s and '60s, she and her family had traveled the country, preaching at small Pentecostal churches and performing as the struggling "Berg Family Singers."
Their ministry languished for years, but took off in the late 1960s, when Berg let his hair and beard grow wild, and embraced California's hippie subculture. Within a few years, the Children of God, also known as The Family, would generate headlines around the world with its notorious blend of Christian evangelism, revolutionary spirit and sexual freedom. By the late 1970s, Deborah Berg would renounce her father and return to her mainstream evangelical roots. In 1984, she wrote a tell-all book, "The Children of God - The Inside Story."
"David Berg - in a state of rebellion against the 'church system,' the American government, his family and religious heritage, and most of all, God - had found an audience of rebellious youth," she wrote. "He eagerly preached and they eagerly received the Gospel According to Berg." According to Claire Borowik, a spokeswoman for The Family in Washington, D. C., the only Berg child still active in the sect is Hosea Berg, who is doing missionary work in Asia.
In 1972, the body of Aaron Berg, Hosea and Deborah's younger brother, was found at the bottom of a cliff in Switzerland. Deborah believes he committed suicide. Berg's youngest child, Faith, also has left the fold. Today, The Family is led by Maria Berg. Previously known as Karen Zerby, she was an early convert to the Children of God who became sexually involved with David Berg in 1969.
David Berg soon took Maria as a second wife. According to Deborah, her mother initially accepted her husband's polygamy, but eventually left him and the Children of God. "Sin had so twisted my dad's mind, heart and conscience," Deborah Berg writes in her book. "His own wife was the first to feel the tormenting fire of his burning lusts."
After Berg's death in 1994, Maria became the chief prophetess for The Family. Maria Berg was not available for an interview. According to Borowik, "she is much too busy with our worldwide ministry and the administration of The Family."