The Family
Founded in 1968 as Teens for Christ, the group now known
as The Family adopted the name Children of God (COG), the
name by which it became well-known, the following year. COG
grew up around David Berg, a former minister in the Christian
and Missionary Alliance. With several of his teenage children
he began evangelistic work in Huntington Beach, California. In
1969 several of the group received revelations concerning possible
earthquakes, and the entire group left to wander across
the United States. During this exodus, Berg became known as
Moses David and the group as the Children of God.
The group adopted fundamental Christian belief with an
emphasis on the endtime, and Berg was accepted as the prophet
of the endtime. They attained some initial fame after conducting
a series of demonstrations warning people of the evils
of American society. They dressed in sackcloths and covered
their faces with ashes. Opposition to the youth participation in
the group began to grow from parents who called COG a cult,
and from their actions against the group the term ‘‘cult’’ began
to take on the negative connotations it has today.
The COG soon parted from the other Jesus People groups
that had arisen contemporaneously along the West Coast of the
United States. The Jesus People objected to the role assigned
Berg, and to the fact that he claimed contact with several spirits.
As early as 1970, for example, he let it be known that he had
come into contact with someone he termed a ‘‘spirit helper,’’
named Abrahim, who described himself as a Bulgarian Christian
gypsy who had been killed by the Turks. Subsequently,
usually in dreams, he spoke with spirit beings, usually understood
to be angel messengers. Also, Berg offered prophecies of
the future that were used to guide the group.
By the mid-1970s, COG had largely left the United States,
the few who remained having taken a very low profile. In 1976
they instituted their most controversial practice, ‘‘flirty fishing,’’
the use of sexual allure to attract potential converts. Some
of the people the group was trying to convert would be offered
sexual favors as a symbol of the love of the person trying to win
them to God. Several years later, sharing, the free sexual contact
of adult members of the group became widely practiced.
The sexual freedoms and practices of COG were sharply
curtailed in 1983 (by which time the group had assumed its
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. The Family
present name) and several years later, it became known that
during this period of sexual freedom some adult-minor sex had
occurred in the group. In 1987, very strict guidelines concerning
sexual behavior were introduced with severe penalties for
infractions. The Family continues to practice the law of love,
which, as they interpret it, permits some freedom of sexual contact
between adult members, but have adopted strong regulations
against any involvement of minors in sexual activities.
After hearing about several alleged incidents of sexual child
abuse, different governments moved against The Family in
separate actions during the early 1990s. While giving The Family
much bad publicity, in the end, the investigations produced
no evidence of any ongoing abuse in The Family homes and no
subsequent actions were taken against the group or any of its
The Family lives communally. David Berg died in 1994, and
the group is now headed by his widow, Maria. Homes are found
in a number of countries with significant numbers in South
America and continental Europe. There are approximately
5,000 adult members working in 60 countries and out of 1,000
centers or communities. Website
The Family. March 8, 2000.
Lewis, James R., and J. Gordon Melton. Sex, Slander, and
Salvation. Goleta, Calif. Center for Academic Publication,
Pritchett, W. Douglas. The Children of God, Family of Love An
Annotated Bibliography. New York Garland Publications, 1985.

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