Children of God
|Drink the Kool-Aid|
|But you WANT to stay!|
|Cults of personality|
The Children of God was a cult founded in 1968 and led by David Brandt Berg (February 18, 1919–October 1994): aka "Moses David", "Mo", "King David", "Father David", "Chairman Mo", "David Fontaine", "Dad", and "Grandpa"). Along with the Moonies and Synanon they were one of the main groups which prompted rising concern over cults in the early 1970s, which continues to this day.
They were particularly infamous for teaching members to use flirty fishing to attract converts. This activity involves sex as a recruiting tool, and free love practices within their communal living arrangements even extending to adult-child sexual contact. Women in the movement were encouraged to engage in prostitution both to attract new members and to obtain money. Their main target for recruiting was within the hippie movement where their tactics included flirty fishing, and "litnessing" (mass distribution of tracts, i.e. littering to the rest of us). The term love bombing, associated with cult recruitment, originated within the Children of God and was used by both the Children of God and the Moonies.
The Children of God were prolific publishers of evangelical tracts, which they called "Mo Letters", but few were based directly on the Bible. Most of them were interpretations of Scripture by their leader, some form of "trance channeling" with angels, or simply the old man's rants, sometimes peppered with anti-Semitism and even Holocaust denial. One odd feature was that nearly all illustrations of "Moses David" (mostly those in comic strip format) were done depicting him as an anthropomorphic lion. Photos of him had a drawing with leonine features pasted over his face in most photographs. According to a wiki run by former members of the cult, this was Berg's way of staying in seclusion and secrecy from his followers. A flash animation on a website run by former members of the cult reveal that many of the illustrations on the tracts were plagiarized from the works of such fantasy artists as Boris Vallejo and Rowena Morrill.
There were also reports of the Children of God busing new converts to an undisclosed location where they would be cut off from family and former friends. Apart from their teachings on sexuality and slavish devotion to the leadership of David Berg, their theology was consistent with fundamentalist Christianity. They did snag a couple of high-profile converts in two early Fleetwood Mac members. Actor Joaquin Phoenix was raised in the cult, which his family had joined before his birth. When they left, his parents changed the family name to Phoenix from Bottom as a symbol of their rebirth. The group officially "disbanded" in 1978 and were replaced by another Berg-led cult called The Family, known as The Family International since 2004 and, after Berg's death in 1994, is led by Berg's widow Karen Elva Zerby.
- Don Lattin, Mixed Memories of 'The Family'/Love: Current sect members think so. sfgate.com, 27 February 2005.
- Daily Wikiweirdness: Flirty Fishing. Archived from Wired, 5 January 2007.
- prostitution recommendations
- "David Is": A children's tract on the XFamily wiki
- 13 minute flash presentation of illustrations from CoG tracts with comparisons of works of other artists
- XFamily - Karen Elva Zerby