Children of God: New Revelations
The following article is a condensation of a well-documented report filed by correspondent Joseph M. Hopkins. Professor Hopkins has written several definitive articles and a book on the controversial Children of God sect. The group emerged from the fringes of the Jesus movement among youth in the late 1960s.
Recent defections from the Children of God (COG) sect reveal that founder-leader David "Moses" ("Mo" for short) Berg apparently is still in charge and is still propagating some bizarre tenets of faith. (A letter purporting to be from Berg surfaced last year. In it, the writer confessed that he had sinned. He then apologized and ordered COG members to disband and return home. COG leaders disavowed the letter, and a later commmunication purporting to be from the authentic Berg indicated that the first letter was a hoax. )
Among the latest defectors are John Moriconi, 23, and his wife Linda. They were the "shepherd" and "shepherdess" of the Richmond. Virginia. COG colony. Moriconi joined COG five years ago. He listed twenty reasons for quitting. Most of them involved Berg's new doctrines and practices, and Moriconi offered recent "Mo letters" by Berg as evidence. The letters contain these revelations:
- COG's name has been changed to "Family of Love." The term "colony" has been abolished in favor of "home."
- COG was to be restructured as of this month. Gone is the hierarchy of prime ministers, ministers, archbishops, bishops, regional shepherds and district shepherds. The "homes" will be led by a "servant" and "handmaiden." who will report directly to "king and queen counselorships." a sort of regional headquarters in Rome (for Europe and Africa), Tokyo (North America and the Pacific), and Lima, Peru (for Latin America). In a letter dated last month. Berg declared: "The King is taking back the reins of government and we're going back to a direct dictatorship!. . . So as of my birthday, February 18, 1978, you're all fired.. ." He ordered elections of local leaders on that date. Said he: "Throw out the tyrants and put in your own choice of leaders |whom| you know love and care for you!"
- No more than half of the members of overseas "homes" can be Americans after April 1.Polygamous relationships with nationals are suggested as one way to cope with the requirement.
- Trial marriages are preferable to "formal legal marriages" to determine if the relationships will work.
- Each home must submit to regional headquarters a monthly "Flirty Fish witnessing report." (Under the recently revealed Flirty Fish policy, COG male and female members alike are admonished to "go to bed . . . if necessary" with potential converts and donors in an effort to "win their souls for Jesus.") The report asks a listing of the number of sexual encounters with "fish" (outsiders), mates, and non-mate members, along with the numberof spiritual decisions that are made.
- Each member is to keep a Flirty Fish (FF) diary, detailing "your best" FF experiences, the type of job and income bracket of the fish, the expenditures in fulfilling the FF policy (clothing, jewelry. perfume, travel, drinks) and the gifts presented by grateful fish, whether money or goods. Each home is to list the "top three FF lovers of the month." with the "total number loved" by each and"number of times." Females arc encouraged to ply their fish with wine, consuming it "prayerfully...and in sober moderation."
- "Gifts" from beneficiaries of COG women applying the FF policy are to be sought. "We can't afford to just continue supporting some kind of religious brothel ministering to men who don't pay their way ..." Berg complains. "Happy hookin! — But make it pay!" he says.
- COG disciples and leaders - including Berg himself and his common-law wife, Maria—have been afflicted by venereal disease. Berg seems to find comfort in his belief that Jesus had sexual relationships with a number of women and that he too must have contracted VD.
- At least 10 per cent of COG's women become pregnant as a result of FF evangelism. Maria is said to have borne a son recently to a fish named Carlos, and the evidently proud Berg endowed the boy with his own first name.
One semi-secret ("disciples only ") letter released by the Mnconis contains Berg's reaction to a cover-story interview article with two ex-COG members that appeared in Christianity Today last February. He calls it a "smear'" by "two of our backsliders," but he seems to have partly enjoyed the attention. He comments: "Your Ol' Lion finally made the front cover! —ha!
In a letter dealing with Islam last fall, Berg exposed how far he has drifted from his doctrinal moorings as a Protestant minister years ago. He says: "I don't even believe in the Trinity You can't find that word in the Bible, so why should I believe it?"
Although defections are on the increase, so is COG membership — if COG statistics are to be believed. Membership in 1977 soared from 6,929 to 8,068. including 3650 live-in adults. 1,451 children, and 2967 part-time members. Only 10.5 per cent of COG members reside in the United States. The number of colonies — now homes — increased from 736 to 842 in seventy-three countries, the COG report asserts.