Sydney Morning Herald: Beyond Belief

From XFamily - Children of God

Beyond Belief

Sydney Morning Herald/1999-12-13

Jane Freeman

The Love Prophet and the Children of God

SBS, 8.30pm

THE story of David Berg and the Children of God sect is both fascinating and grim. Fascinating because it is the story of a cult which spread across the world and continues to thrive even after Berg's death. Grim because, as Berg got older and weirder, the cult deteriorated into bizarre sexual practices, including child abuse.

All of it - down to the sad stripping videos that cult members used to send Berg - is shown in this comprehensive documentary.

Berg spent the first half of his life as a failed preacher, but finally headed to California where he encountered the hippie movement. Like the Partridge family in the TV show, his born-again followers hit the road in their buses and finally settled in Texas where Berg's predictions of the end of the world failed to materialise a couple of times. So he dumped his wife, married his 19-year-old secretary and began preaching the gospel of free love.

Meanwhile, the parents of the cult's teen members began to band together to get their kids out. Berg, now a self-declared prophet who believed his every whim came from God, fled overseas and continued to run the cult via newsletters.

Berg decided it was a great idea for women members to seduce possible converts, a practice he dubbed "flirty fishing" or "FFing", and the cult deteriorated further into a morass of flirty fishing, child abuse and stripping videos (notably, men were not sent out to FF).

Incredibly, current day members, including leader "King Peter", defend FFing, saying converts will thank them in heaven. And the cult continues to exist, alongside a sanitised version of their mad, bad old prophet.

This film tells Berg's story, using amazing footage and interviews with nearly everyone involved, from "King Peter" to his first wife and daughter. Appalling, awful, intriguing stuff.