Cults are horrible, however few have been fairly as monstrous because the Kids of God, whose founder David Berg not solely espoused the same old drivel about an impending apocalypse and his personal standing as God’s prophet, but in addition preached a doctrine of pedophilic sex abuse. Within the audio recordings and cartoon-decorated literature (generally known as “Mo Letters”) that he despatched to his communes world wide, Berg promoted the assumption that intercourse was love, that love was God, and thus that youngsters ought to have carnal relations with one another and adults. The end result was an surroundings of horrific rape and exploitation whose particulars are nothing in need of stomach-churning.
Discovery+’s five-part docuseries Kids of the Cult (August 21) pulls again the curtain on this nefarious group (presently generally known as The Household Worldwide), which was based in 1968 California by Berg, a former Christian missionary whose evangelical-pastor mother instilled in him a disgrace about intercourse that he’d later insurgent towards, twistedly, by way of his free-love-with-kids creed. Within the few photographs and movies that exist of him, Berg—along with his massive white beard and lunatic eyes—comes throughout as a veritable caricature of a deranged cult chief. To his acolytes, nevertheless, he was “father” and “grandpa,” and his common Mo Letters and audio tapes have been diligently and hungrily consumed by the devoted, on condition that they disbursed directions in regards to the newest and biggest pointers on which devotees ought to base their each waking second.
Kids of the Cult affords a platform for the tales of many Kids of God victims, with three—Hope, Verity and Celeste—taking middle stage all through. Their narratives are the stuff of nightmares, since in contrast to their mother and father, who willingly purchased into Berg’s New Age-y bullshit, they have been born into the cult, and have been thus from the beginning lower off from most data of, or interplay with, the bigger world. Theirs was an remoted existence during which outsiders have been considered as enemies intent on opposing God, and doomed to perish through the inevitable rapture. As they recount, their upbringing concerned being bombarded with warnings about straying from the trail by having contact with secular society—a incontrovertible fact that was hammered residence by cult-produced music movies like “Kathy Don’t Go to the Supermarket” (which must be seen to believed), and was underscored by the 1993 drug-overdose death of former Children of God member River Phoenix, whose destiny was handled as a cautionary story for these excited about leaving.
Via the recollections of Hope, Verity and Celeste (in addition to different survivors, albeit not Rose McGowan or Joaquin Phoenix, who were also born into the Children of God), Kids of the Cult particulars the programs of management and propaganda employed by Berg. Chief amongst his strategies was a observe generally known as “Flirty Fishing,” during which younger feminine cult members have been ordered to entice males to affix a commune by having intercourse with them—thereby making them de facto cult prostitutes. All ladies have been anticipated to partake in such enterprise, and to conform to “household sharing” schedules that laid out who was alleged to sleep with who on a given evening. This naturally created fairly a little bit of pressure in sure communes; as former member Sandy remembers, it led to the worst 12 months of her life, when she was simply 19 and her husband was pressured to observe her have intercourse with others. But it was half and parcel of a Berg ethos that condemned individuality and demanded conformity (to the group, and himself) at each flip.
Hope, Verity and Celeste’s commentary is brutally candid, revealing the quite a few horrors they suffered by the hands of their elder tormentors, be it Hope’s stepfather David Lincoln (who raped her from a younger age) or Celeste’s father Simon (who made her one of many stars of his Music with Which means propaganda media equipment). Such accounts are unbelievably robust to take, as are the cult movies and literature offered by Kids of the Cult. From unnerving films of children singing about, and marching in, “the Lord’s Military” at a detention camp—the place rebellious teenagers have been taught to toe the cult line or endure corporal punishment—to excerpts from a comic book generally known as “The Story of Heaven’s Woman” that included a chapter titled “She Can Gang-Bang’m” (which celebrated its heroine’s sexual capacity to win the hearts of latest followers), the fabric on show is surprising sufficient to often elicit gasps.
“Hope, Verity and Celeste’s commentary is brutally candid, revealing the quite a few horrors they suffered by the hands of their elder tormentors…”
Nothing in Kids of the Cult’s first three episodes (which have been all that was offered to press) is extra nauseating than passages from a ebook disseminated by Berg in regards to the lifelong sexual coaching of his adopted son Ricky “Davidito” Rodriguez, which served as a guide for learn how to perform pedophilic intercourse abuse starting at infancy. Bolstered by ample archival audio, video and printed proof, the sequence paints a damningly complete portrait of a cult infatuated with sharing baby pornography and finishing up the rape of minors. Authorities knew in regards to the Kids of God’s despicable conduct as early as 1971, when Berg was compelled to go on the run from the FBI and Interpol, who sought him on baby abuse and kidnapping costs. But bringing his extra heinous conduct to gentle proved, within the ensuing many years, tough to attain, as evidenced by Sandy’s early-Nineteen Nineties ordeal making an attempt to show the cult’s secretive deviance, which made headlines however hit a authorized roadblock when cult members refused to stray from Berg’s misleading speaking factors.
In discussions in regards to the terminology concocted by Berg to foster an insular tradition; in movies of a younger Celeste dancing provocatively, and explicitly, for the digicam (a part of a repugnant VHS sequence that Berg commissioned for his personal personal use, though he additionally handed it round to numerous communes); and in anecdotes in regards to the orgiastic surroundings during which younger members have been raised, Kids of the Cult censures this ugly outfit from a number of, equally outraged angles. Whereas its kind is considerably standard-issue, it’s a lucid and heartbreaking overview of cult constructions and procedures, scary private ordeals, and brave fights for justice—the final of which is implied from the outset, by way of pictures of Hope strolling angrily, and defiantly, right into a Scotland police station.