If you look at my search history, you’ll find “lists of cool weird streaming documentaries.” It’s difficult and awesome at the same time because there is such a bottomless well of possibilities. When there is so much, how do you find anything? I know the algorithm decides what I’ll like (and he/she is often spot on) but I still like to pretend I have some choice in the matter.
Of course, choice and free will online is sort of relative, too. When I type into that ubiquitous bar, Google decides what I’ll see and when I’ll see it. But manipulation isn’t why I’m writing today. My search was for the “best streaming cult documentaries,” and after finding that I didn’t have the services for my first 2 choices, (I had seen many on the list), I ended up with something called Children Of God.
Children Of God was (AND, I would find out in the last 5 minutes, STILL IS!!!!!) a sect of Christianity that revolves around a recluse named David Berg. It’s called the Family now, probably to escape mountains of bad press. Like so many cults, what may have began as faith and community turned into a garden-variety patriarchal altar of sexual abuse. There isn’t really anything new here, there is plenty of history of the worship of sexuality going back as far as you want to go. Anytime there is something beautiful (and the divine gift of sexuality is certainly that), there will be the temptation to twist it into pretzels of violence and pain. Maybe it wasn’t intended to be that way, but it’s easy to see where this Children of God/Family road leads. Women are essentially slaves to the men rationalizing the structures as faithful obedience.
Even though it’s not new, it’s always striking how subtle the slide is into this warped ideology that no one would’ve agreed to when they signed on. It’s like most things. There’s a story in the Bible about David & Bathsheba and he gets into trouble after a long series of bad decisions. If he had been asked to go from 0 to 100, he would’ve aggressively refused. But 1 to 2 and then 10 to 11, then 99 to 100, those steps are small, sometimes quite insignificant and very easy to take.
I think that’s why judgment is such a dangerous position. It’s possible the only difference between us and them or you and me is time, and if we were spoon fed in tiny increments, we’d end up exactly there. Dark, thick lines we draw between us and them can be quite blurry, in the right circumstances, in the right light.
And most of these members of a cult ended up wrapped up in this mess is because they were longing for some kind of human connection. They were lonely & isolated and found a community that accepted & loved them. And that is what they found… mostly. The leaders didn’t love them, they loved power and status and gratification, (in this particular cult, none of the men loved them either, they just loved their bodies and what they could get from them), but usually the other followers found kindness, understanding, camaraderie, and friendship in a world that has too little of those.
That’s why it’s so sad that they were taken advantage of, lied to, told sex was love and domination was leadership. Gifts from the Divine were dragged through the mud, getting everyone dirty and leaving only shame.
And the Children of God/Family continues. The spokesman who agreed to be interviewed denied all of the allegations and accounts, including the video evidence. David Berg is, at the time of the film, still alive. And the scars from the abuse are still very fresh.