The Age: Eccentric Habits Mark Group's Re-emergence

From XFamily - Children of God

Eccentric Habits Mark Group's Re-emergence

The Age/1992-05-16

By Michael Magazanik

The Children of God sect began in California in the late 1960s under the leadership of David Berg. Also known as Moses, Mo and Chairman Mo, Berg apparently had been a Pentecostal leader in Arizona.

The sect rapidly gained a reputation for fervent recruiting, allegedly involving kidnapping and brainwashing, bizarre beliefs, and unusual sexual behavior, including using young female cult members to seduce non-members into the ambit of the group.

In the early 1970s, the New York Attorney-General's Department investigated the group and reported "virtual enslavement" of its converts, and the use of torture including sleep deprivation and confinement. `Time' described the predominantly young group members as "the stormtroopers of the Jesus revolution".

Moses Berg spread his teaching through "Mo letters", ramblings intended to replace the Bible as the main source of instruction for sect members.

Where (or whether) Berg is living is unknown - he and his family were once rumored to be living in an English fortress - but the "Mo letters" are still issued to his flock.

By the early 1970s, the sect was active in Australia and as many as 70 other countries. At its peak, it may have had 1000 adherents in Australia. But in the mid-1980s, in response to a statement by Berg that the group was too inward-looking, the communities in Australia broke up and many members moved overseas.

They began drifting back to Australia several years ago and claimed to have renounced past practices. They have dropped the name Children of God, prefering to use Family of Love. The Reverend David Milliken, who has studied the group, said yesterday: "It's very difficult now to distinguish them from other eccentric or unusual groups. I don't see any of the dangerous and ominous aspects that were present in the early years." Dr Milliken said there were about 20 sect families in Australia today. "They have become domesticated. They have some eccentric habits. They refuse to own anything, they will not accept the dole, they move around constantly and they have very large families."