The Age: Jesus Freaks

From XFamily - Children of God

Jesus Freaks

Press » The Age » 2008-01-12

By Dianne Dempsey


Jesus Freaks

Don Lattin

HarperCollins, $39.99

DON LATTIN, AN AMERICAN journalist who specialises in extreme religions, was compelled to write Jesus Freaks when he learnt of a particularly violent crime. In January 2005, Ricky "Davidito" Rodriguez stabbed his former nanny and then shot himself.

Twenty-nine-year-old Rodriguez was brought up in a cult called The Children of God now known as The Family International. As a young boy, along with many other children, Rodriguez was sexually and emotionally abused by members of the cult, including the nanny he murdered.

Rodriguez was the spiritual son of the cult's leader, David Berg, who died in 1994. Berg became a cult leader in the late '60s and '70s. His take was that sex was a beautiful gift from God to be shared between young and old; he sold his message in an era of sexual liberation and evangelical revivalism.

His movement spread to many countries including Australia. Lattin says that in 1994 Rodriguez came to Sydney as part of a world-wide campaign trying to counter negative media attention the cult had attracted - other children were testifying to years of sexual abuse. Rodriguez's meltdown didn't come for another 10 years.

Lattin's account builds momentum as he relentlessly pursues the cult with meticulous research and damning facts. This important book is a powerful antidote to the evil that occurs when religion is misused.