Moses David Berg claims to be the “original founder” of the Jesus revolution. He is a former Christian and Missionary Alliance minister who in 1968 began a ministry to hippies in Huntington Beach, California. It has grown into a globe-encircling network of 800 “colonies” (communes) in seventy countries. There are reportedly 5,000 full-time disciples, two-thirds of them male; fewer than 15 per cent are in the United States. Since his “retirement” in 1970, Berg, now fifty-seven, has maintained a low profile in Europe, but he carries on his role of latter-day prophet (Moses) and King of Israel (David) by writing a profusion of “MO” letters—more than 500 in five years. These he mails to his colonies to be printed and distributed on street corners in exchange for donations.

Throughout their tempestuous history, the Children of God have become notorious for using profane and vulgar language excessively, for demonstrating their hatred against “the system” (disrupting church services used to be standard procedure), and for requiring converts to “forsake all” (parents, education, jobs, churches) and to turn over all their possessions to the organization. Hundreds of young people have disappeared into the COG, and the controversial Ted Patrick, charging that the COG used brainwashing methods, proceeded to kidnap (he prefers “rescue”) and “deprogram” disciples at the behest of distraught and desperate parents.

In recent years the COG has undergone radical changes in both theology and methodology. The MO letters have become increasingly sex-oriented. Berg, who is said to have several concubines, insists that his letters are “God’s Word for today” and have supplanted the biblical Scriptures (God’s Word for yesterday). Yet the letters endorse ...

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