Last week on our local CBC I watched interviews with former Children of God members and remembered when they came to Carleton Place. Some 40 years after David Berg, a charismatic evangelical preacher, garnered thousands of hippie followers in Southern California with his messages about sharing bodies, food, children and homes, the movement is struggling to reinvent itself. The 1960s church has battled allegations of past child sexual abuse, complaints from disaffected and aging members and dissatisfaction with an outdated theology.
The Family now has about 15,000 members gathered in small communal centers in 90 nations — none in Utah. There is a core group of followers, including some second- and third-generation members, but fewer than 20 percent of the original participants remain, and many of the those are in poor health with no medical insurance or retirement plans.
Actor Joaquin Phienix’s parents joined the controversial religious group Children of God in the early 1970s and traveled throughout South America– but left when they became disenchanted with the group.
The Family made a decision to begin constructing a more public profile in 2009. “It plans to enhance its Internet presence and adapt its message to the cultures in which it lives. It also wants to open the membership to persons who are not full-time missionaries and do not want to necessarily commit their entire day to Family activities. This may include allowing members to live outside homes and not participate in communal living.
In 1970 they showed up en masse at the Carleton Place High School. They were asked to leave many times and the police were quickly called. Before they left, they managed to hand out a number of pamphlets about the end of the world as we know it along with a request for financial support. The sect had received a lot of unsavoury publicity in Toronto– so Carleton Place was having none of it and they were run off the High School grounds. The fact remains that if I am still typing this essay today the world did not end but —The Children of God never came back to Carleton Place.
Inside the Children of God cult: ‘Some girls had to marry their dads’
Bexy Cameron was born into a sect that was notorious for exploitation and sexual abuse. Now she’s written a memoir about what it was like to grow up in a movement founded by a predator – and to go back as an adult to try to understand what made her parents stay. By Hilary Rose
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