Showing posts with label David Berg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Berg. Show all posts

17 May 2011

Folie a deux: the insane prophets of the Seventh-day Adventists and The Family International



Chain the Dogma  -  May 14, 2011

Folie a deux: the insane prophets of the Seventh-day Adventists and The Family International 

With their bizarre beliefs and deluded doctrines can The Family International ever become a mainstream success like the Seventh-day Adventist church?

by Perry Bulwer


The following excerpt comes from a blog article detailing some of the bizarre beliefs and behaviours of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, one of the largest mainstream religious organizations in the world. Not really knowing much about that church I was astounded when I first read it, by way of PZ Myers blog, because without the references to that particular group and its insane founder, Ellen G. White, it could easily have been describing David Berg, the insane founder of The Family International evangelical cult. The full article by Ray Garton, Life Among the Sadventists: They’re AlwaysWatching, starts off with an Adventist produced video that church members actually think makes them look good, but only makes them look like a creepy cult. Here is the excerpt that caught my attention:

The Seventh-day Adventist cult’s “prophet” and founder, the alcoholicmasturbation-obsessed habitual plagiarist Ellen G. White, was astonishingly fanatical and legalistic, and let’s face it, folks, crazier than a bag of wet cats. At the age of nine, Ellen was hit in the head with a rock, which resulted in her being comatose for three weeks. Many think this trauma damaged her brain in ways that could have caused her extreme zealotry — I prefer to call it religious lunacy — which involved what she claimed were visions shown her by god, visitations by angels, and even a trip to Jupiter. Others think she was a calculating, greedy, power-hungry fraud. Some think she was a combination of both. Then there are the Sadventists, who believe even today in 2011 — despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary, all of which is poorly explained away by the cult, although the explanations are good enough for the believers — that she was a true prophet of god whose writings were divinely inspired and remain an infallible supplement to the word of god. The cult holds Ellen in the same regard as the biblical prophets (something else they deny vehemently to outsiders but acknowledge within the invisible walls that surround the cult). Over the years, there have been endless revisions and changes made in Ellen’s writings by the Sadventist Powers That Be to cover up some of her more embarrassing statements or obvious errors, which seems odd if her infallible writings are divinely inspired. Nevertheless, nearly a century after her death, Ellen’s writings are still the arbiter of doctrine and scriptural interpretation in the cult.

The entire article is very revealing, exposing many of the spiritually abusive doctrines common to fundamentalist, evangelical Christian groups. Here I simply want to point out some of the similarities between the leaders of two of those groups, one a mainstream sect and the other a fringe cult, and their continuing influence on their followers long after their deaths despite being exposed as lying prophets.

We learn in that excerpt that Ellen White was an alcoholic. So was David Berg. Berg’s drinking habits are well documented in his writings, starting in 1971, although most members were unaware of how serious the problem was until he published a so-called confession that was not a true confession at all, as evidenced by the past tense in its title: My Confession!—I Was an Alcoholic! Much of Berg's capricious and abusive behaviourwild speculationsbizarre beliefs, and supposed prophecies used to control members can be traced directly to the large amounts of alcohol he consumed.

Ray Garton's excerpt next highlights Ellen White's obsession with masturbation as a great evil. It is certainly no revelation that religious leaders of all stripes are obsessed in one way or another with the sex lives of their followers. Sex and death lie at the poisoned heart of religion, after all. The difference between White and Berg, however, was that Berg's obsession was with total sexual freedom, even for and with children, in order to justify his own adulteryincest and pedophilia. As Berg wrote to his followers in 1980:

As far as God’s concerned, there are no more sexual prohibitions hardly of any kind … there’s nothing in the world at all wrong with sex as long as it’s practiced in love, whatever it is, whoever it’s with, no matter who or what age or what relative or what manner! … There are no relationship restrictions or age limitations in His law of love....

Seven years earlier, in 1973, he published a letter called Revolutionary Sex. Until that time, the cult was quite puritanical regarding sex, at least for regular members who were unaware that Berg had been sexually experimenting with leaders of the group for several years, breaking down nearly all sexual taboos. Regular members were not free to date or marry without permission from leaders, let alone engage in sexual activity. Many were not even sure masturbation was approved, but the publication of that letter changed everything. Berg's sexual doctrines became ever more extreme after that, eventually leading to religious prostitution and wide-spread sexual abuse of children.

After Berg's death in 1994, the current leaders of the cult, Karen Zerby, aka Maria Fontaine, and Steven Kelly, aka Peter Amsterdam, carried on his sexual extremism by introducing a new doctrine they called Loving Jesus, which among other things, encourages members, including children, to imagine having sex with Jesus while masturbating or during sexual intercourse. Zerby, like Berg, does not believe adult sexual molestation of children is wrong, stating that “... a little fondling & sweet affection is not wrong in the eyes of God, & if they have experienced the same in the past they weren’t 'abused'”. She also wrote: “This is the very thing the system would like to use against us—sex with minors which they always term child abuse although in our loving Family there would be very little possibility of genuine abuse…”. In order for men to practice the Loving Jesus doctrine they are required to imagine themselves as 'females in the spirit' because male homosexuality is one of the few sexual practices the group considers sinful. Incredibly, Berg taught that even rape is not as bad as homosexuality.

Berg’s writings on that subject demonstrate a dangerous misunderstanding of the nature of rape, which is not about sex, but about power and control. Berg exhorted his female followers to willingly submit to rapists, to surrender to the sexual needs of their attacker in order to be a witness of God’s love. In a series of comics depicting end-time events, entitled Heaven’s Girl, he even instructed the artistic team to include a gang-rape scenario of a young Family teen who willingly obliges her 10 rapists while preaching to them.

Zerby’s own beliefs about rape are documented by a defector from her inner circle who exposed an internal publication entitled Texas Mama Jewels—No. 1 (For Summit Use Only!). That publication is a summary of confidential notes Zerby wrote for Family leaders at a leadership summit meeting held in Texas in late 1991. In that document, Zerby comments on the rape of a Family teen that had occurred some months earlier. In an appalling display of insensitivity toward the young victim of a traumatizing sexual crime, she writes:

I suppose it’s quite a big deal for any of our Teens to be raped, it must have been quite traumatic for her. However, for us adults who have Ffed [Flirty Fishing, i.e. religious prostitution] & been with men who have gotten rather insistent & what you might call “forceful,” I don’t think we should have considered that such a big deal, especially having had Dad's Letter on “Rape” (ML#528) & understanding that the Lord may even allow these things to happen as a chance to witness His Love to others.… Being held at gunpoint must have been very frightening, but since she is married & is already used to lovemaking & versed in sexual practices, the actual rape shouldn’t have been so traumatic.… I hope that the adults didn’t blow it up into more than they should have. I think in fact, that they should have made it very low key in their conversation with her & with anyone else who happened to find out about it. After all, we used to make love all the time with people we didn’t know anything about & who were “beasts” & were out for nothing but sex. But we were able to turn that around & use that “lust of the flesh” to offer them some love of the Spirit. So I think if I were having to counsel K. & comfort her and reassure her, that would be my approach. It sounds a little like a Heaven’s Girl situation, & I hope she took it as such.

As crazy and cruel as it sounds, Karen Zerby, the spiritual leader of a Christian evangelical sect, says she would have downplayed the traumatic experience of a violent rape at gun point and told the teen victim to just get over it. (conservative US courts are just as cruel) And she says she would have based her counselling on a comic book created straight out of Berg's perverted imagination for the purpose of manipulating and controlling the sex lives of his followers and indoctrinating their children.

If you clicked on any of the links in Ray Garton's excerpt above that relate to Ellen White's craziness and lunacy you cannot help but wonder how people today could still believe in and follow such an insane prophet who just made stuff up from her imagination. Obviously, after what you have just read, the same can be said about The Family International. While some speculate that White's religious insanity was caused by physical childhood trauma to her head, there is strong evidence that Berg's religious insanity (at least the sexual aspect) was caused or exacerbated by the psychological childhood trauma of his mother threatening in front of other family members to cut off his penis for masturbating. (Ellen White would have been proud!) That evidence comes from a thorough psychological analysis of Berg based on his extensive writings, Lustful Prophet: A Psychosexual Historical Study of the Children of God's Leader, David Berg, by renowned cult expert Dr. Stephen Kent of the University of Alberta. In my opinion Kent has the most insight and is the most credible academic on the subject of this particular cult, in part because he is one of the few who gives credence to the experience of former members of cults.

(A few days after I wrote that last sentence I learned that on May 7th of this year Dr. Kent gave a presentation at a Polish conference on sectarianism entitled “The History of Credibility Attacks Against Former Cult Members”. I hope he publishes something along those lines as there is very little published research on the issue and many academic apologists consider current cult members to be more credible on the subject of their particular group than former members. In fact, I know from personal experience the opposite is true and have had my own credibility attacked by some of those apologists for exposing their hypocrisy and dishonesty.) [UPDATE: August 13, 2011 - I have discovered a transcript of Dr. Kent's presentation at http://griess.st1.at/gsk/fecris/warsaw/Kent%20EN.pdf ]

White and Berg's religious delusions did not stop at sexual matters. White claimed to have had a vision of visiting Jupiter and seeing inhabitants who were free from sin. Berg, on the other hand, not only claimed he had been to heaven 'in the spirit', but that heaven is inside the Moon! In a series of letters to his followers he claimed that the heavenly city described in the final chapters of the book of Revelation was a giant “space city” that was both on its way to our Moon from outer space, and was already inside it. Never mind that the dimensions of the city given in Revelation mean that it is physically impossible for it to fit inside the Moon, the current leader of The Family International, Karen Zerby, still believes it is true, based on an account in a Russian Christian newspaper:

You don't have to believe that NASA scientists got a glimpse of the Heavenly City [by photographing it with the Hubble Space Telescope], nor that it's located in the moon, if you don't want to--it's not one of our fundamental beliefs—but I believe it, because the Lord said it, and I have faith in that!

After stating that, Zerby continues on in that publication to claim that she received a prophecy from Jesus confirming the newspaper article and that heaven is indeed in the moon. It isn't clear whether she personally gave that prophecy or someone in her inner circle did, but that really doesn't matter much because whoever did was simply making it all up. The real liar here is Zerby and whoever gave that prophecy, not Satan or scientists. Here's a few excerpts from that fake prophecy:

14. (Jesus speaking:) Have I not said that I would set signs and wonders in the sky? Therefore marvel not that I do this thing to encourage the faith of those who would believe. For My sheep hear My voice and they follow, and they see My signs and they see My wonders and they believe.

15. So I give glimpses of the great and golden City that you call Space, as it descends! Marvel not that I give unto these a sign, that those who see may believe and be encouraged that a better world is on its way.

16. But be not deceived, for Satan seeks to slip in. Satan walks about and attempts to slip a lie in here and slip a lie in there, as he freely runs to and fro, back and forth, weaving in his poisonous threads of false science. Watch, therefore, and pray, that you be not deceived. For within the tapestry Satan weaves threads of poisonous lies. I allow this that men may choose.

17. Take heed, therefore, that you discern the signs of the times, for Satan also seeks to put signs and wonders in the sky. He does this through the vehicle of science falsely so-called, as he conjures up false facts and pads the statistics with billions or zillions of light years away, which do not exist. The Evil One seeks to explain away My Truth; he seeks to tamper with the Truth, to alter it, and distort My pictures. Know that My City does not lie at the end of the universe--this is the tampering of Satan. My City is near! My City descends, and your redemption draws nigh!

29. And question not the descent of My Golden City, for did I not reveal unto David that My great City is on its way? Time and tide do not exist in the world of the spirit, but only in the realm of man. I open the believing eyes, and blind the seeing eyes according to My purpose. For this reason I do conceal My City in the moon, that it may be preserved and protected until that day when every eye will be opened and every eye will see. And yet I project this picture of My Golden City in all its purity as it journeys through the Heavenlies. For those who would believe, I do allow this glimpse of My City in space, for I am not bound by the tides of time. My City exists, it's real. It's not far off!(End of prophecy.)

This is clearly a case of folie à deux, or a shared psychotic disorder, which according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) is:

  • a delusion that develops in an individual in the context of a close relationship with another person or persons, who have an already established delusion; 
  • the delusion is similar in content to that of the person who already has an established delusion; 
  • and the disturbance is not better accounted for by another psychotic disorder (eg, schizophrenia) or a mood disorder with psychotic features and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (eg, drug abuse, medication) or a general medical condition. 

The delusions did not stop with Berg and Zerby, however. The Family International members who have remained devoted to them illustrate perfectly how Berg and Zerby's folie à deux developed into folie à famille (madness of all family members) and folie à plusieurs (madness of many).

It is obvious from their publications that Berg's insanity rubbed off on Zerby. So much so that a few years after Berg's death in 1994 she went beyond Berg's claim of merely having visited heaven to claim that she talked with Jesus in heaven before she was even born on earth. Berg had been grooming Zerby since at least 1978 to take over The Family when he died, and he had handpicked Kelly to help her with that task. Members were conditioned through Berg’s letters to accept that plan as divinely inspired, so there was no succession struggle. In fact, Zerby was already running things during the last few years of Berg’s life, and upon his death members merely acquiesced to her and Kelly's leadership. Many prophecies, purportedly from Jesus and Berg, published after Berg’s death, conveniently portray Zerby as the end-time prophetess, Queen of the End, and Kelly as her king. In a 1998 letter titled “Heavenly Birthdays,” both of them are portrayed as pre-existing in Heaven and engaged in conversation with Jesus before he sent them on their earthly end-time mission. The dialogue is very precise, and Maria, already full of hubris from years of glorification by Berg, is supposedly told by Jesus that her earthly birth will be the turning point in world history.

But that's not all. Other published prophecies by Berg claimed that not only would Jesus return in Zerby's lifetime but that she was one of the two end time witnesses referred to in Revelation 11. The other witness, according to Berg, was supposed to be Zerby's son, Ricky Rodriquez, known in the group as Davidito. However, when he committed murder and suicide in a revenge plot against his mother in 2005 it was obvious that particular prophecy was false. Initially, Berg predicted Jesus would return in 1993, but several years before that date it became obvious it too was a false prophecy since certain events as described in the Bible would have had to occur first. But the group, like all apocalyptic groups do when their predictions fail, explained that failure away and continued to preach the imminent rapture.

They continued to preach the rapture was near even after Ricky's death until finally in 2010 Zerby and Kelly changed their minds again, saying that new prophecies revealed that Jesus was going to delay his return for up to 50 more years. (I guess Jesus forgot to tell Harold Camping) Conveniently for them, the new date is far enough in the future that those shepherds in wolves clothing will have become worm meat along with their perverted prophet, so they will not have to face more criticisms for deceiving and exploiting their followers. In the mean time they will continue to hide, as they always have, from any legal or moral accountability for all the horrendous abuse, broken lives and broken families they are responsible for, living far more comfortably than any of their followers ever did with the money they fleeced from their spiritually abused sheep for the past forty years.

All this religious insanity and false prophesying doesn't seem to phase the faithful one bit. Ray Garton says of Ellen White that the Adventists still hold her in the same regard as the biblical prophets and that her writings are considered a divinely infallible supplement to the Bible. David Berg's followers wear the same religious blinders. Berg conditioned his followers early on to believe that certain Old Testament scriptures referring to David were specifically about him and his end-time ministry. This is the intersection where the Seventh-day Adventists, a sect off-shoot, Branch Davidians, and The Family International collide.

In the 1930s an Adventist reform movement developed known as the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists, which was based on a belief that the scriptures foretold a new Kingdom of David would be restored in Israel just before Christ's second coming. In turn, a 1955 schism in that movement resulted in the break-away sect, Branch Davidians, made infamous by David Koresh who believed he was the end-time David. David Berg, on the other hand, claimed to have received several prophecies during that same period of the 1950s indicating that he was the end-time prophet. (There is a joke in there somewhere about insane asylum inmates each claiming to be Napoleon.)

Berg believed that certain Old Testament scriptures such as those in chapter 34 of the book of Ezekial and elsewhere refer specifically to him. He wrote:

4. BUT I REALLY THINK HE MUST HAVE HAD ME IN MIND IN A LOT OF THESE, [scriptures referring to David in Psalms, Ezekial, etc.] & I think in many of them He was specifically speaking of me, because they couldn't possibly have been applied to old King David & neither could they be applied to Jesus, which is the way the church tries to interpret them all. You know how the churches are & the preachers, they don't like to confess that there's anything they don't know. So this David was a real mystery for thousands of years & they really couldn't explain it so they tried to apply it so that it either meant old King David or it meant Jesus, because they couldn't possibly foresee a future King David in the Last Days. But the Lord Himself spoke it & applied it & in such ways in certain prophecies that it couldn't possibly refer to old King David or Jesus because some of them were made long after old King David died, about a coming David which couldn't possibly have meant him because he was already long gone.


5. SOME ALSO COULDN'T POSSIBLY HAVE APPLIED TO JESUS because He was not David in any sense of the word, He was a descendant of David & He was Jesus, & only He was Jesus! So He had an absolutely unique place as the only begotten Son of God, the Saviour, the Messiah & the Son of God, & there is no reason why God should have spoken of Him as being David when there was already a David, the old King David, & there was a coming King David. So I'm now convinced that these prophecies which they have a hard time twisting & fitting to Jesus did not apply to Jesus at all, but actually apply to us today, that's the simplest interpretation of all. We don't have to twist or wrest the Scriptures to make it fit Jesus because they really don't. The Scriptures speak expressly of David in the Latter Days, in the Last Days, in the Latter Day He would raise up this king. (Ho.3:5)

From THE DAVID PROPHECIES!--Of the Bible! by David Berg DFO 1642 9/83

Berg believed there would arise a new King David before Jesus returned and he believed he was that David. Only one problem, he was not a king. What's a cult leader to do? That was not an obstacle for him, however, since he merely declared himself a king like other cult leaders have done. As James Chancellor points out,

Prophet of the End Time was not [Berg’s] only title; he was also King of God’s New Nation. He claimed not only absolute spiritual authority over his disciples, but also political authority and the homage due their rightful king. Old Testament passages referring to King David were appropriated for God’s new King David.

James D. Chancellor, Life in The Family: An Oral History of the Children of God (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000) at 74

 In chapter 1 of her book, The Children of God: The Inside Story from the Daughter of the Founder, Deborah Davis, Berg’s first daughter, describes her elaborate coronation as Queen of The Family in 1972. Click that title to read the full book online. Deborah did not last long in that position. She fell out of favour with her father after she refused his sexual advances. Soon after, Berg began grooming Zerby to be his successor and issuing prophecies invented to establish her as the new Queen. According to the defector I cited above, The Family held a leadership summit meeting in 1996 in Maryland, USA, two years after Berg's death. A pledging ceremony was held in which Steven Kelly, playing the role of King Peter, and a stand-in for Queen Maria (Karen Zerby) sat on thrones dressed up in medieval, royal costumes while every participant came forward, one by one, to make their vows of loyalty. A video of the event was later shown to all Family homes. They do not consider those so-called coronation ceremonies mere fantasy role-playing. Family publications are replete with regal and militaristic language and imagery, and they have referred to themselves, among other things, as the Lord’s army, end-time soldiers, and a new nation. An early Family publication was called The New Nation News. The Family International has always envisioned itself as a spiritual nation, but one that possesses real, divinely ordained powers of conquest and government, which they will wield over all the peoples of the earth as God’s elite during the Millennium. Like I said, folie à plusieurs.

While the Adventists still hold Ellen White in the same regard as the biblical prophets and consider her writings a divinely infallible supplement to the Bible, The Family International takes that one step further. David Berg claimed that his words were not just divine supplements to the Bible but that they were the equivalent to the voice of God. He even told his followers that if they had to choose they should read his writings instead of the Bible:

AND THIS REMINDS ME, THAT YOU, MY DEAR CHILDREN HAVE AN APPOINTMENT WITH ME EVERY DAY, and you'd better not miss it, or you're going to be sorry! To ignore the Word of the Lord through His Prophet is to ignore the Voice of God Himself, and if you're not going to be willing to spend time listening to God's directions, you're not going to get far!

"THE LAWS OF MOSES" by David Berg, February 21, 1972

38. Some of the parts of the Bible are no longer up to date!

42. And I want to frankly tell you: if there’s a choice between your reading the Bible, I want to tell you you had better read what God said today in preference to what he said 2,000 or 4,000 years ago!"

"Old Bottles" by David Berg (ML 242, July 1973)

Berg wrote other letters to reinforce these David delusions, which you can read hereherehere, and here, but beware lest you too get infected by the folie à famille.

p.s.

After I drafted this article one of my favourite bloggers, Greta Christina, published a blog article with her own take on religious lunacy. The sub-title of my article asks if The Family International could ever become a mainstream success like the Adventists. I could have asked the same thing in relation to Mormonism, which is still one of the fastest growing churches around despite their bizarre beliefs. David Berg, by the way, greatly admired Joseph Smith and his fictional Book of Mormon and borrowed ideas from him, but that's a subject for another article. As Greta points out, holding fantastical, irrational beliefs is no barrier to becoming a mainstream success. I used to think The Family International could never survive the child sex abuse scandals and exposure of the bizarre beliefs of their insane prophets. Now I am not so sure. Here's a few excerpts from Greta's article to illustrate the point, but read the whole thing for more insights:

So is it fair to think that Mormonism -- or Jehovah's Witnesses, or Scientology, or any other relatively new religion -- is really any crazier than more mainstream religions? Is it fair to think that it's crazier than the mainstream varieties of Catholicism or Baptism, Hinduism or Buddhism, Judaism or Islam?
....

Like I said earlier, when I say "crazy" here, I don't mean "mentally ill." I mean... well, what, exactly?

If by "crazy" we mean "out of step with cultural norms"... then yes, Mormonism really is crazier.
 ....

But if what you mean by "crazy" is "out of touch with reality"?

Then it's all equally crazy.
 ...

But all religions are out of touch with reality. All religions are implausible, based on cognitive biases, and unsupported by any good evidence whatsoever. All of them ultimately rely on faith -- i.e., an irrational attachment to a pre-existing idea regardless of any evidence that contradicts it -- as the core foundation of their belief. All of them contort, ignore, or deny reality in order to maintain their attachment to their faith.

And by that definition, all religions are equally crazy.

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6 May 2011

Judge who convicted man for child sex blames his childhood in The Family International for skewed view on sexuality



Herald Sun   -  Australia    May 6, 2011

Man's child sex addiction blamed on religious cult upbringing

Tony Keim  |  From:The Courier-Mail




A FORMER member of religious sect that condoned pubescent child sex counted eight schoolgirls among his more than 100 sexual conquests who he met via an adult internet chat room, a court has been told.

The Brisbane District Court was told Nathaniel Francis Enright, 30, tried to procure a child as young has 12 for sex and actually molested or had sex with seven other girls - aged 14 and 15 - that he met “on-line” between November 2008 and February 2009.

The court was told Enright was raised as a member of the "strict religious group'' The Family International - known also as the "Children of God'' - and as a result had a "skewed view'' on who he could have sexual contact with.

Barrister Angus Edwards, for Enright, said his client, who left the sect at the age of 16, was raised in an environment which condoned sexual contact between children once they had reached puberty.

Enright, a former airline employee, was today jailed for five years and placed on two year's probation after pleading guilty to 51 criminal charges - including five of taking away a child for immoral purposes and three of having sex with them.

However, the sentence imposed will see Enright, who has already spent 15-months in pre-sentence custody, released on February 6 next year.

Enright, who was at the time aged between 28 and 29, also pleaded guilty to more than 30 counts of indecent treatment or exposing a child under 16 to indecent material or act, and eight of using the web to procure or groom underage children for sex.

Prosecutor David Meredith said Enright, who was at the time based in New Zealand, met all of his victims via internet chat rooms.

He said Enright would engage in explicit sexual dialogue with the children and encourage them to meet for physical encounters.

"The combination of (Enright's) offences is quite extraordinary,'' Mr Meredith said.

"(Enright was) quite persistent and there is an extraordinary number of contacts ... (with underage) girls willing to meet up with him.''

Mr Edwards said Enright met the girls via a chat room designed for people aged 18 and over - suggesting the children would have to have logged in as being adults themselves.

"(Enright claims) there were more than 100 women he met up with and had sexual (encounters),'' he said.

Mr Edwards tendered a psychological report which asserted Enright was not a pedophile, but that he simply had a compulsive addiction to sex as the result of his religious up-bringing.

The court was told even during his time in prison Enright's sexual proclivities compelled him to pleasure himself on a daily basis.

Judge Nick Samios, in sentencing Enright, said: "You procured some of these young girls to engage in (actual) sexual contact.''

"You appear to have a skewed view of who you could have sexual contact with because of your (religious) up-bringing ... (and you are) addicted to sex.''

Judge Samios said that addiction to sex resulted in Enright taking "opportunistic and indiscriminate'' steps to secure sexual partners.


This article was found at:



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11 Apr 2011

Beware of any religious organization with Family in its name

Chain the Dogma    April 11, 2011

Beware of any religious organization with Family in its name

by Perry Bulwer




That title may seem overly dramatic, but 'family' really is a loaded word today and not everyone promoting so-called family values is actually family-friendly or safe for children. This warning came too late for the St. Regis hotel in Vancouver that I recently discovered had donated rooms to a missionary family on their way to China. The hotel features them on their blog and Facebook page, without any apparent awareness that they are part of an extreme evangelical Christian cult that is responsible for tearing apart thousands of families, including my own, over the last four decades.

More on that particular family in a bit, but perhaps you are wondering if they are connected to one of the Family-named religious groups the Southern Poverty Law Center recently published an intelligence report on: 18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda. The Center will be listing several of those groups as hate groups, including four with Family in their name: American Family Association, Family Research Council, Family Research Institute and Illinois Family Institute. A fifth group, Abiding Truth Ministries, has a website called Defend the Family, which promotes hate and bigotry. Online you will often find references to Defend the Family International, which is always a reference to that group, but commonly confused with The Family International, also known as the Children of God founded by David Berg. Likewise, The Family, the political cult in Washington is often confused with Berg's cult. I once saw a U.S. senator's website that was commenting on The Family political cult, but linked to The Family International's website.

Speaking of politics, a federal election is happening here in Canada right now and voters are being courted by the inevitable appeals and promises to families common to many electoral campaigns. Appealing to families makes political sense since almost everyone is or was part of a family, but not all politicians mean the same thing when they talk about families, which come in many forms. That fact seems to be lost in this election. Not only are the three main parties promoting family-friendly agendas, they have each used the same photo of a multicultural, middle-class family in their campaigns. Obviously, it is wise to be sceptical about such appeals and political promises in the midst of elections. Political promises are rarely kept, not all voters fit that demographic, and not all politicians mean the same thing when they talk about families.

In the U.S., President Obama recently concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and the government would no longer defend that law in court. In response to that a  New York Times editorial stated: “Republicans like to cast themselves as the protectors of 'family values.' But ... [d]enying same-sex couples and their families the ... spousal benefits and protections granted other married couples is not a family-friendly policy. It is discrimination, plain and simple.” Someone should tell that to Stephen Harper, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada who is trying to win a majority government in this election.

Although same sex marriage became legal in Canada in 2005, Stephen Harper attempted to reopen a parliamentary debate on the issue after he was elected Prime Minister in 2006. That never happened, as he was leading a minority government until this latest election was called so did not have the clout to pull it off, but it showed that he obviously did not agree with the Supreme Court that same sex couples were families too, with the same equal rights as other families. I doubt he has changed his mind on that as he is a member of the fundamentalist, evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance.

The Family International, a.k.a. the Children of God, was founded by David Berg who previous to that was briefly a pastor in the Christian and Missionary Alliance (strange bed-fellows, a pedophile cult leader and the Prime Minister of Canada). Partly because of negative publicity in the 1980s related to wide-spread child abuse, Berg, who died in 1994, changed the group's name to the more friendly sounding Family of Love, and then to The Family International. Berg's early followers were mostly single young adults and teens who were convinced by his dogmatic biblical literalism to leave their families to serve God in his 'Revolution for Jesus'. In those early days, Berg preached vehemently against the traditional family, using scripture to reinforce the idea that:

... God’s in the business of breaking up little selfish private worldly families to make of their yielded broken pieces a larger unit—one Family! He’s in the business of destroying the relationships of many wives in order to make them One Wife—God’s Wife—The Bride of Christ. God is not averse to breaking up selfish little families for His glory, to make of the pieces a much larger unselfish unit—the Whole Family—the entire Bride—the One Wife instead of many wives!

“One Wife” is one of The Family’s foundational doctrines, one of the most fundamental tenets of their theology. It is based on an internal document written by Berg to his followers, which remains required priority reading for new members and formed the basis for even more bizarre and controversial sexual doctrines. Far from institutionalizing the nuclear family, as one ignorant apologist falsely wrote about the group, The Family’s leadership has never hesitated to separate husbands and wives or manipulate the parent-child relationship. If The Family International places any importance at all in the nuclear family, it is only within the following context, described by Wendell W. Watters, M.D.:

The family plays powerful roles in human society. In addition to its nurturing and protective functions, the family is the primary agency for carrying out the socialization process by which social norms and values become incorporated into the character structure of the growing child. Indeed, so powerful is the family in human society that many revolutionary political movements have, in their initial stages, attempted to destroy its power to maintain the status quo, by appealing directly to children over the heads of their parents.
Jesus said: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). In another gospel, Jesus is quoted as saying: "For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-­in-law" (Matt. 10:35). The Hitler youth movement was a major component of Nazi policy, while the early years of the Communist government in the former Soviet Union were marked by an attempt to appeal directly to the young. The present-day religious cults are noted for creating rifts between parents and their adolescent children. However, once a movement achieves its revolutionary goals, as in the case of Christianity and communism, it reverses this position and attempts once more to use the family as an ally in maintaining and extending its power.
Wendell Watters, M.D., Deadly Doctrine: Health, Illness and Christian God-Talk (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1992), 47-49.



That is exactly the pattern that Berg and his Christian evangelical cult followed. The only difference is that his 'Revolution for Jesus', which was supposed to herald the second coming of Jesus in 1993, with Berg and his Children of God as the vanguard, never materialized. Failed predictions do not stop evangelicals, however. After changing their name to The Family International, they now try to have it both ways. They continue to encourage teens and young adults to leave and even hate their families just like Jesus said, while at the same time promoting in their public relations websites and materials a false image of a child-friendly, family-focused missionary movement.

The blog for the St. Regis Hotel in Vancouver provides an example of that false image. The hotel management proudly proclaims it donated two nights stay for a missionary family with eight children on their way to China. The blog post describes their mission project: “EPIC (Empowering Parents in China) is a grassroots effort to provide Chinese parents with supplemental programs to help develop a more child-focused teaching methods...”. The post then tells us that: “Their mission is tied into the umbrella group The Family International...”. The blog post includes a photo of the family and to the uninformed they look so sweet and harmless, until you scratch the surface and begin looking a little deeper, which the hotel management failed to do. That is why my title warns not to trust religious groups with Family in their name.

Deceiving businesses has always been one of the main sources of support since the inception of The Family International as the Children of God. Even as Jesus Freaks in the early days, while most members were proselytizing on the streets, some specialized in soliciting directly from businesses. They would dress in business attire and use slick promotional materials and deceptive presentations, almost always featuring photos of children, to con companies into giving goods or money. They have had decades to perfect this fraud. Those donations are always used for the group's benefit, contrary to their usual claims that they are helping others. And even in cases where they do pass on some of the goods to others, they usually skim off the best for themselves first, which has been their practice all over the world. They then use the fact a company has donated to them as proof of their legitimacy for other companies they are targeting, or to win approval or favour from local authorities in their community.



I am certain that is what happened at the St. Regis Hotel. The manager was duped, with the help of smiling children, into helping them instead of being suspicious about a family that would take eight young children to China in the middle of the school year and with no apparent means of support other than begging. He apparently simply took their word that they were part of a legitimate group without doing any kind of background check, or if he did he didn't get past the first few online search results, which are the group's own websites. If he had looked just a little deeper he could have easily found all kinds of information warning about the terrible abuses of children The Family International is infamous for.

He also would have a difficult time finding any information at all about EPIC, the so-called grassroots project to provide child-focused teaching methods. First of all, the fact they call it a grassroots project ought to have aroused suspicion. If it has grassroots it probably has no transparency or accountability to anyone. Calling themselves a grassroots project is just another example of the obfuscation this group uses to deceive people about who they really are. It must have been enough for the manager to hear that they were tied to a large missionary group, but if he had looked into that group first he would have learned that The Family International, far from using child-focused teaching methods, denied true intellectual freedom to an entire generation of children who were forbidden to attend school or university. They were home-schooled by untrained teachers with an inadequate curriculum that was intended to indoctrinate rather than educate. But the manager did not do that background check and now his hotel is being used to promote, both on its blog andFacebook page, the activities of a notoriously abusive group founded by an alcoholic pedophile responsible for tearing apart thousands of families.



By the way, I posted two comments to the blog and emailed the manager twice, once with links to information about the group, and again without links to avoid any spam filter. Not only were my comments not published, but a comment most likely from another group member supporting that family was published. So far, the manager seems unconcerned that he is providing public relations cover for a child abusing organization. Perhaps more comments from the public on the hotel's blog and Facebook page will help convince him to stop promoting child abuse.


UPDATE: April 18, 2011

After I published this article the manager of St. Regis Hotel, Jeremy Roncoroni, finally contacted me by email to explain that the reason he did not approve the comments I submitted to the hotel's blog was because he did not want that blog to be a forum for discussion of the issues I raised. However, he did approve a positive comment about the group after he censored mine, and his email contained no indication that he would take further action. He merely excused himself by saying that "the family in question came to us through a personal request" as if that explained and excused everything. As I told him in reply, he seemed to be missing the point of my comments, which was to inform the hotel's management that they were providing support and positive public relations for a deceptive religious group with a long history of well documented child abuse. I did not think it was necessary for me to spell it out for him and ask him to remove the post from his blog, but because he had ignored the information I had sent him (he either did not understand or did not care) I did have to specifically ask him. After he received my reply, in which I provided personal details of my own abuse in and recovery from The Family International, he responded less than an hour later, simply stating, "the blog has been removed, thank you". He gave no indication he would do the same for the posting that appears on the hotel's Facebook page.


This article was found at:

http://chainthedogma.blogspot.com/2011/04/beware-of-any-religious-organization.html


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