JESUS FREAKS by Don Lattin


A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge
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Exposé of the Family International cult, aka Children of God, Teens for Christ or Family of Love.

Centering his story on a 2005 murder-suicide which punctuated the cult’s dysfunction and catapulted it to the prime-time spotlight, religion journalist Lattin provides a chilling look into this secretive society. Essentially a perverted (in more ways than one) expression of the “Jesus freak” movement of the late 1960s, the Family—founded by David “Moses” Berg, whose mother was a radio evangelist and itinerant preacher—eventually grew to several thousand members across the globe. Controlled by Berg and his inner circle, the Family held complete power over its members. The most damning aspect of the cult’s theology was its view of sex, which fostered sexual relations between adults and children, as well as “flirty fishing,” which encouraged female members to exploit their sexuality to gain converts or material needs for the Family. Due to shady business dealings, accusations of pedophilia and the complaints of angry parents of young people who had joined the cult, the inner core was forced to move from one country to another, escaping authorities along the way. Lattin tells the story of Ricky “Davidito” Rodriguez, an early child of that circle who was molested throughout his childhood and suffered severe emotional abuse through the cult, from which he broke away in his 20s. Unable to cope with his past, he murdered his former nanny and then took his own life—one of 25 suicides attributed to the Family. His story typifies the experiences of many children born to the Family, though Lattin points out that some members of the group have not been tainted by such activities. Some sections of the book—especially those involving the reprehensible treatment of children—are difficult to read, but the author does a service by making clear the horrible consequences that can result from the influence of one madman.

Riveting exploration of one example of religion gone terribly wrong.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-06-111804-3
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: HarperOne
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2007


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