The Family is a high-demand faith group that requires great personal sacrifice on the part of its members. They emphasize Jesus’ teachings against loyalties to one’s family-of-origin. They stress Jesus’ preaching in favor of poverty and a simple life. The group merges traditional Christian beliefs and practices with the belief in universal salvation, contacts with spirits, communal living, and free love among adults within the group.
The roots of The Family can be traced back to the counter-culture movement of the late 1960’s. Many young adults, called flower children, or hippies, left the middle-class life of their families of origin and sought a simpler lifestyle in the form of communal life in southern California. Out of this hippie movement came a loosely connected group of Evangelical Christian organizations collectively known as The Jesus People, which were described as “a diverse collection of pastors, street-preachers, oddballs and intellectuals all trying to communicate the gospel to the counterculture.”
The Children of God were founded by one of these individuals. David Berg began his professional life as an evangelist for the Christian and Missionary Alliance in 1964. He became the leader of a Teen Challenge chapter in Huntington Beach, CA. in 1967. Teen Challenge was a youth ministry of the Assemblies of God denomination. He separated the group from the national Teen Challenge organization in 1968 and renamed it Light Club. Members were called “Lightclubbers.”
Many flower children were encouraged by rock music and free peanut butter sandwiches to spend some time in the coffee house. Some evangelized other hippies; a few on a full time basis. Berg received a “revelation” from God in 1969 that a disastrous earthquake was about to hit California, and cause part of the state to slide into the ocean. He led the group out of Huntington Beach to wander throughout the American southwest for 8 months. During that time, they changed their name to the Children of God. The earthquake never materialized as Berg prophesied.
Also in 1969, David Berg became a polygamist by marrying a second wife, Maria. He based this decision on passages from the Old Testament which permitted multiple wives. He received “revelations” from God identifying himself as the “End Time Prophet” who would play a major role in the Second Coming, the long anticipated return to earth of Jesus Christ.
New members were encouraged to sever all contact with their families of origin, to donate almost their entire possessions to the group, and become full time evangelists. Their parents were justifiably concerned about the status, future and safety of their adult children.
David Berg, now called Moses David, first attempted to disperse the membership among many communes (called colonies) throughout the United States. He later prophesied that a comet would hit the United States and destroy all life. This motivated the group to organize the “Great Escape”, an exodus whereby almost all of the members left the U.S. and settled in various countries in Europe, South America, India and Australia.
Berg made contact with Abrahim, a spirit guide, which he had acquired in a Gypsy camp. Later he revealed “other spiritual contacts with the dead.”
In 1973, Berg introduced “litnessing.” This was a method of Christian witnessing through the distribution of literature in exchange for donations. Berg wrote many “Mo Letters” for this outreach. He eventually produced in excess of 2,500 letters.
In 1976, Berg encouraged the women members of the group to engage in “flirty fishing”. The term was based on Jesus’ injunction “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Women members were urged to go into bars and befriend men. They were expected to seduce potential male converts if necessary to in order to encourage them towards a religious conversion and membership in the organization. The media had a feeding frenzy with this innovative form of evangelism, portraying the COG women as “Hookers for Jesus.” In his 1979 annual report, Berg stated that his “FFers” (Flirty Fishers) had “witnessed to over a quarter of a million souls, loved over 25,000 of them and won about 19,000 to the Lord.”
The COG was reorganized as the Family of Love in 1977 after some “abuses of authority” were revealed among the leadership. The original autocratic organization of Dad (David Berg), apostles, elders, and deacons was replaced by a democratic structure. Each commune (called “home”) became an autonomous unit. Their organizational name was later shortened to The Family. At this time, Berg introduced “sexual sharing”, which is free consensual sexual activity among the membership. “The free expression of sexuality, including fornication, adultery, lesbianism (though not male homosexuality), and incest were not just permitted but encouraged.”
They believe that a person can be saved and spend eternity in heaven if they repent of their sins and accept Christ as Lord and Savior. But they differ from fundamental Christian beliefs in that they believe all people will eventually be saved and attain heaven.
They reject the doctrine of salvation as laid out in the Bible. They do not believe that all unsaved humans will be tortured forever in lake of fire after death.
The Family represents, in their view, “a return to the roots of the true Christian church.” All other Christian faith groups are false.
They condemn “The System”, which includes governments and the rest of society. The System is regarded as evil; society generally is seen as near collapse.
They base their religion on their interpretation of the Bible. A secondary source are the writings of their founder. Two sources state that Berg’s writings are considered to override the Bible in cases of conflict; another says the opposite.
They believe sexual enjoyment, from masturbation to intercourse is considered a gift of God. It is an activity that is to be thoroughly enjoyed as a major focus of one’s life. Both male and female Family members are urged to masturbate while fantasizing about engaging in sexual activity with Jesus. They embrace free, consensual sexuality as a gift of God.
They believe that Jesus had sexual relations with Martha and Mary.
They believe the angel Gabriel engaged in sexual intercourse with Mary at the time of Jesus’ conception.They perceive the Holy Spirit as feminine in nature, and is referred to as a “Dream Queen” or “Holy Queen of Love”.
They believe that people can sometimes be adversely affected by deceased people from the spirit world. Exorcisms are occasionally performed to rid people of evil spirits.
They believe in communication with the spirits of dead people.