Faith Jones was born into the Children of God cult led by Moses David (aka David Berg), her grandfather. From his location in hiding, he provided his revelations through “Mo Letters,” regular communiques that instructed his 10,000 followers on daily living and spiritual teaching. His fundamental philosophy was that God is love, and that the world would be ending soon so that followers needed to bring as many people as possible to Jesus before the End Times. Formal schooling was unnecessary; members need only learn what they needed to know to run a household.
On its face, “God Is Love,” is hardly objectionable but David went further, equating love with sex. Leaders of the group “shared” partners, children became sexually active very early, and sexual contact between adults and children was permitted, even encouraged. “Flirty Fishing” was used to hook men who might be able to provide financial or other resources.
Faith and her family, living in Macau, were true disciples, yet she resented that any man from the group could demand affection. If she rejected the advances, she would be labeled “unyielding” and subject to punishment.
Curiosity led her to books—many of which she had to keep hidden because they weren’t approved—and a love of learning pushed her to advocate for a home school high school curriculum, something unheard of in the community. Her desire for independence and realization that she was completely at the mercy of the group’s leadership catalyzed her to leave the Children of God for the United States and college. Her experiences in classes, on campus, and in relationships showed her the hypocrisy and abuses inflicted by the cult.
Jones writes from the perspective of the age she is at the time of the narrative which gives the story a sense of honesty and immediacy, and to me made it even more heartbreaking. Her particular coming of age story is poignant and interesting—an American with American parents who didn’t see the U.S. until she was almost a teenager. It’s also a revealing look inside the Children of God cult that illustrates how cult leaders gain and keep power. Finally, it’s an inspiring account of how Jones reclaimed her sense of self, a model for other women who feel voiceless.
I also watched two documentaries about Children of God which help illustrate the book:
- “Children of God” (1994) currently available on Netflix which recounts one British family’s escape story. Includes many (shocking) archival video clips, some I think were referenced by Jones.
- “People Investigates: Cults” (Children of God, Season 1, Episode 2, 2019) focuses on two survivors as well as the fate of Davidito, Moses David’s chosen heir.