Children of God – Children of Sorrow

The Children of God, now known as The Family International was one of the vilest of  all cults and certainly the worst of the Christian cults.  Often times called the sex cult, it was also, with reason, called the Church of Pedophilia. The Founder, David Berg, also known as “Moses David” or “Dad” and later “Grandpa”, combined hard core fundamentalist Christianity, with liberal sexual ethics along with his own, sick, sexual fantasies. 

David Berg

David Berg

As Berg’s followers grew, Berg dubbed them the “Children of God” in 1968. The name was changed to “Family of Love” in 1978 and later to its present “Family International,” often called “The Family” or TF. It has adherents in many countries, often living in communes that were originally called “colonies” but are now called “homes.”

Berg taught that Christians must follow the Bible but asserted he was the Christian prophet for this era. His writings, called “Mo Letters,” informed his followers of new divine revelations. When he died in 1994, his widow, Karen Zerby, succeeded him as leader and remains so to this day.

Karen Zerby

Karen Zerby

In classic counter-culture language, Berg declared himself against “the System” which he believed hypocritically distorted God’s Word into a sexually repressive message. In Mo Letters, he denounced “System” teachings against masturbation, writing, “Enjoy yourself and sex and what God has given you to enjoy, without fear or condemnation! For ‘perfect love casts out all fear,’ for ‘fear hath torment,’ particularly sexual fears [which] can be physical torture!” He did not want his followers to suffer as he did “the horrors of such sexual frustrations and condemnations.”

Berg encouraged female followers to abandon bras and even publicly expose their breasts. His 1970 poem “Mountin’ Maid!” declared, “I am for the mini-blouse/Or the see-through at my house . . . Let those mountains be more visible/And their clothing more divisible.”

In 1974, Berg introduced a controversial conversion method called “Flirty Fishing” or “FFing.” Writer Stephen A. Kent observed that Berg advocated, “COG members practice recruitment and resource acquisition through sexual activities.” Berg urged females to become “hookers for Jesus.”

One of Berg’s many ‘Flirty Fishing’ publications.  James T. Richardson reports, “‘Flirty fishing’ involved witnessing to outsiders in such a way that it might even involve sex between female members” and potential converts. Richardson notes, “The women had to be willing (as did their husbands [if married]) for them to ‘go all the way’ if it was deemed necessary in order to ‘reach someone for Christ.’” The practice outraged traditional Christians who believed the Bible forbids non-marital sex. Some people left the organization because of FFing. Babies born as a result of sexual proselytizing were called “Jesus Babies” in the organization. Missions in Europe sometimes opened discotheques as a creative way to proselytize. A disco in Italy was raided in 1979 and some members were charged with prostitution.

Some of Berg’s most alarming teachings appeared to condone pedophilia and incest. Mo Letters from the 1970s discuss a babysitter who masturbated and fellated Berg when he was only three years old. Berg asserted her actions did not do him “any harm.” In 1973, he wrote, “Incest, or certain forms of sex with certain specified close relatives was not made illegal until the Mosaic Law 2600 years after Creation.” He also wrote, “Marriages of brothers and sisters, mothers and sons and even fathers and daughters were very common in ancient times and were not even considered incestuous, much less illegal.”

Karen Zerby gave birth to a “Jesus Baby” in 1975. The product of FFing and stepson of David Berg was named David Moses Zerby. Later, his name was legally changed to Richard Peter Smith and still later to Richard Rodriguez. As a child, he was nicknamed “Davidito.” Berg and Zerby believed Rick was a “divine prince,” destined to take over the ministry. Raised without hypocritical “System” sexual inhibitions, he would grow into a mighty religious leader.

Ricky Rodriguez

Ricky Rodriguez

Another of Berg’s many ‘Flirty Fishing’ publications. In 1982, the Family International published a book entitled The Story of Davidito. It purports to be the story of his early childhood as told by one of his nannies. That nanny, Sara, writes that she hopes the rearing of Davidito will begin a “Childcare Revolution” and exclaims, “Thank You Jesus! A new example was set before us.” She writes that she and other nannies fellated Davidito to “clean” his penis. He was also allowed to watch adults having sex. Sara writes that readers learning about “Davidito’s sexy experiences” should “prayerfully” learn from them and “follow the Lord’s leadings.” The book is heavily illustrated with photographs, some of which show the boy and an adult woman cuddling, both naked. In a Mo Letter, Berg proclaimed, “You can throw a lot of that old stuff out! We’re writing a whole new childcare series called The Davidito Series. . . . Davidito was to become an example to the world and inspire lots of childcare material! Thank God!”

Former sect members say Berg encouraged adult-child sex. More often than not, they say, the chosen child was Rodriguez, the son of Karen Zerby, who Berg called his queen. Zerby became the leader of the sect when Berg died in 1994.”Jesus Freaks” author Don Lattin says Berg “wanted his child to embrace sexuality, to be a sexual being as an infant and growing up.” Former members say Berg and Zerby wrote about their beliefs in papers distributed to members. In Berg and Zerby’s manifesto, Rodriguez was the main character. Former member Davida Kelley said, “I actually witnessed Karen Zerby having intercourse with her own son, Rick Rodriguez, at age 11.” Kelley says she, too, had been abused by Berg, starting at age 5. “You were only required to have actual intimate intercourse with David Berg once you were, like, the mature age of, like, 12,” she says sarcastically.

It is estimated that during Bergs reign, at least a thousand children were sexually molested.  Although the “church” maintains that none of this goes on at present, Zerby remains in charge of the cult, although in hiding.  It must be said that not only did she condone these rites, she willingly participated in them.  She has never come forward to apologize. Many of the second generation members have committed suicide or gone on to lead self destructive lives.  One of the saddest cases was that of the “crown prince”,  Ricky Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who escaped from “The Family International” in 2001, apparently was so deeply scarred that he was making plans to kill his mother. On January 7, 2005, Ricky made a video tape describing his plans to go after his mother, and others that had abused him as a child.  On January 8, he found his childhood nanny, Angela Smith, and invited her back to his apartment in Tucson. Former member Kelley says “she was one of the many female adults that had intercourse with Rick Rodriguez.” Unable to get the location of his mother from Angela, he stabbed he and then cut her throat.  Later that night, he drove to Blythe, CA, and killed himself with a bullet to the head.  

The pain that he lived with is audible in the video below.  I will leave you with the statement released by his “church”:  “Our prayers are that Ricky’s actions and the pursuant attention from the media won’t whip up a new reaction at the behest of our detractors, which will once again cause harm, trauma and abuse to the innocent.”





Rick Ross

Blythe Police Record

Tucson Police Record

Angela’s Coroner Report

43 thoughts on “Children of God – Children of Sorrow

  1. I went to a counselor who told me to go to a small church for therapy and sit there, just listen to the preacher and say nothing. I told her I would rather go out and start my own cult. These kind of people can do very little to help.
    After decades of clinging to the madness, was able to muster up enough self loathing and self abhorring that I could get into the ashes and mourn. Now, there is the way out , just like Job and the men of Ninevah.

  2. My heart mind body n Soul dwindling at the thought this cult is still going on in rural England Yorkshire where it all began 1969 affiliated with WACO N ISIS they still have children in their care, n nobody seems too care x

  3. I had never heard of this “church” before and would have never believed such vile acts would be published for all the world to see. These acts apparently were. I wonder why people were not prosecuted for the mental damage they did on these poor children? It is no wonder they grew up to have such destructive behavior.

  4. they sick in the head

  5. To think I actually saw one of the guys Ricky intended to kill..” Peter Amsterdam” so they call him..I was born into this cult ,never had a fucking choice.. Fucked up my life forever :(

    • you are not alone … this cult fucked up me, my half-brother, and my “families” life too…

      You find us in Sweden …

      “Faith is not enough … we need strength so our hearts keep going on”


    • …a cigarette and a whiskey later, I’m ready to share my story. I was born in 1981, Lörrach, West Germany. My mother run away with my four years older sister from Stasi (SS) just in time before giving birth to me. She had experiences of rape and other things so she, my mother, was already, damaged long time before she managed to damage her own children too (not an excuse just a notice). After my birth she married my step-father through “Children of God”, a mass-marriage holdem in Switzerland. I don’t know if she has been in the cult already or became a member of it through this mass-marriage (unclear facts forever as it seems). But … my point is after that I was raised with the “book of … “. Those who know understand my following words … “one two three … smack” … crying … “one two three … smack” … I hated Sundays … I rather wanted to be at school because Sundays were “Bible-time”, times where we children had to sit still several hours and listen to Gods prophets and words and messages. If we just made a wrong kind of move during those hours … “smack”! I’ve been beaten with every item you just can imagine .. but the worst part was psychologically … I was afraid of both angels and demons at the same time and I remember that when I was 6 years old and one of their friends in a car accident died, who I really loved and adored at that time, I could hear his voice for at least 3 weeks making me survive all that beating I`ve been through during that time. I must have been crazy at that time because of all that abuse.
      The worst part … sexual abuse memories … I don ‘t know how much of those are truth, I just know I experiences some stuff I shouldn’t at that age. I think my memory protects me from further damage, that is why some parts of my childhood are blurred.
      I was born with “ADHD”, as I found out now as a grown up (my daughter seems to have it too). But my “Borderline – issues” emerged just because I ‘ve been through stuff a child shouldn’t. At the age of hardly 13, I run away from “home”. I spend one year in a close orphanage where I learned to survive and became criminal. Nowadays this is partly history. Partly, cause I still know how to survive in extreme situations but on the other hand I made something of my miserable life .. I studied hard, I worked hard at the same time even if I took drugs but … I turned my life. I ‘ve been totally providing for my self since the age of 16.

      Ex-members, like my mother and my step-father, think that they have managed to leave the cult forever but in their mind they still think the same without knowing it. That is why I choose to let my twins growing up without their grandparents from mother side.

      As a single mom (every second week the kids are at my place and every second week the kids are at their fathers place) I have learned to face my deepest fears … I ‘m alone, now and forever and there is no God that is gonna help me, no angels or demons… I ‘m alone and it is just me that is gonna make life worth living … no “other helping hand”. It is me that build a way for a better future. As a human, no matter how many people are around you, when it matters … its up to your self to make a difference.

      I ‘m a “victim” of the cult, I find myself often in the dark BUT I rather stand and die than live my life crawling..beaten…fearing..

      Btw, my older sister is not around us any more… she died when I was 12.

      So now …

      I shared a little bit of my history, my childhood stamped by the cult … is there anyone who had similar experiences?


      • Thank you so much for having the courage to tell your story here.

      • Anika, So sorry for all you went through. It seems like you have escaped that life for yourself and your daughter.. That is why the Real God is smiling down on you because you made a sacrifice with your life for your daughter

    • Its fucked up my life but I don’t care bwt myself, I’m used to it I just want it too stop. I can’t carry on knowing 1 they still got my kids n grandkids, I’ve been exploiting them as publicly as I dare since going to “Owtlaws 1993” but they keep finding me, 37 towns in 7 years,
      They don’t realise but I’m ontop of them, they fink am at home in London, but I’m not, I’ve gone bk to my ansesters after 33 yrs, I’m a few miles west of them, know lets see, all will be revealed shortly I hope x

  6. this makes me frel sick reading it… i just feel for the poor children who lived such tortured lives

  7. Does anyone know thier location/locations?

  8. Pingback: How to Identify a Christian Cult - Page 4 - Christian Forums

  9. and River Phoenix.

  10. this is horrible.

  11. Pingback: Idiotic Stuff Jesus Said 3: Whoever Is Not With Me Is Against Me | rejectingjesus

  12. Children of God by David Berg .. argh .. why would ppl believe in cult leaders? The kids, aargh shit – if you have never had your own “will”, it’d be hard to leave.

    – Riia, a Systemite


  14. and i also tried to say but left no room…. ” GOD help you all who believe in this sick, manic depressed mind who has given this sick, corrupt, immoral knowledge to so many young innocent , ignorant people. GOD LOVE YOU…


  16. I am so happy that you got out with your mind and spirit intact.  Did your sister fare as well?  Thank you for your comment and taking the time to read my post




    • Fortunately, he was unable to succeed with my sister because she was 10 and not as naive as a six year old and screamed for help, otherwise we may have never known. She’s a tough girl, but she too has given her life to Christ and prayerfully continuing in her healing. Jesus is truly the answer for every evil, not just for the victims, but the perpetrators also.
      I pray that people do not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, when they hear of people misusing the name of Christ. I pray they will seek him for themselves. Many people buy knives and use them to harm, but those of us with understanding still buy the knives and use them for the purpose intended. So is God used if you do not understand him through Jesus.

      You cannot overcome evil with evil, but you overcome evil with good, by love and compassion.

      • Bless you and your sister.

      • If god existed, he should have stopped these disgusting acts from happening. There are three options here: 1) God could see what was going on and didn’t bother to stop innocent people from being victimised IN HIS NAME (therefore he is not benevolent) 2) He could see, but couldn’t do anything about it (therefore he is not omnipotent) or 3) God doesn’t exist. Survey says, number 3 is correct. What cults have taught me is that people are dumb enough to believe anything, and that a Roman Catholic Church (plenty of paedophiles there) is no more credible than a Mormon Temple (history of extreme racism, polygamy) or this awful “Children of God” crap.
        Humankind would be much better off without any of these silly supernatural stories and the awful or stupid people who believe in them. You exchanged one group of lies for another.

        • @Frisseur You, like so many others, misunderstand or do not know about the promise of free will and the enormity in it. As much as it may pain Him, and as many of us are screwed up, twisted sick fucks…He promised mankind the freedom to choose their beliefs and the freedom of our own actions. He does not want to be our puppet master, that has never been the plan, and wants us to freely decide to be good or bad all on our own. Unfortunately, and to the great confusion of many, that means many of His children get hurt from choices others make. However, that does not mean it goes on completely excused, we all will be faced with those choices we made sooner or later. It’s a difficult concept for men to understand because we want instant gratification; punishment we can see right here and now in our own time to feel as though it happens at all.

          You may believe or disbelieve whatever you wish…but don’t spread derogatory propaganda from misunderstanding and anger.

          Not to say cults like this don’t exist and are indeed twisted sick fucks breaking the law and hurting people beyond measure and need to be disbanded and imprisoned until they rot….religion or no. Its astounding the law has allowed them to go as far as they have. Remember, though, that it’s the people themselves who are perverts and rapists and would be so no matter their affiliation. It just so happens this particular group uses religion. Just don’t bunch them up with everyone else who has a faith…that is just as discriminatory, bigoted, and hurtful as racism.

          • God played a mean trick. He gave us free will and then gave us the rules.

        • The whole hierarchy of the Children of God cult needs to be hunted down and imprisoned.

          • I know there is no God. Only humans with vile intentions, I was one of those children the woman I call mother is a brainwashed idiot and I was called a liar a punished by the “leadership” severely for trying to defend myself and/or my sisters. The stories I could tell you…. I’m really fucked up in my head and nothing can fix me or make things right. There are years of my life that are blank because my mind couldn’t begin to process any of it.

  17. These people committing these acts in the name of God, are the most vile and disgusting people imaginable. Why has no one stopped them? I feel so bad for all those children involved with this pedophile club. I can only hope and pray that these people pay for this and the children rise above what their parents are making them suffer through.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Many of the children are grown and leading normal lives. Some will be messed up forever. I agree, something must be done. I do what I can to educate.

  18. I just watched a Dr. Phil show about this cult over the past hour. He had second generation members who told many of the horrors that occurs in this cult. Most of the guests are trying to emotionally and mentally recover from what they had to endure. I am the mother of 2 daughters(10 and 16) and I cannot even fathom the thought of how and what these people think. I feel horrified for all of the children in this cult. They are CHILDREN with no choice because the adults in their life force them to do these sick things. This is NOT ok! I am a 2nd grade school teacher and I LOVE LOVE LOVE children and would do anything I can to protect them from harm. I am a calm, gentle, and caring person by nature but this makes me so angry and disgusted that I don't even know what to do with these feelings. I wish I could just scoop up all of the children and give them a fighting chance to live a happy life.   

  19. From another result of a whole childhood of incest rape, I feel that child rape is the worst underappreciated (no one pays attention, listens, believes us, looks into it, gets punished for it, ect) crimes in the world. CPS and police investigated and found physical evidence that it was true. He never even was charged or registered as a sex offender. He went on with his life, I still was forced being around him at every family gathering, I was cornered and sat at a family meeting, forced to face him, and asked why I hated him so much…then straight up called a liar. My own family. My family called me a dirty slut for telling on him and getting ‘people involved’.

    I can never have my own children thanks to him.


    No one cares about children being raped…they talk about it and show their little slideshows at high school pep rallies and shit…but the world doesn’t really care.

    • Your story breaks my heart.  Thank you for posting it here.

    • You are a courageous hero for standing up and knowing what is right, never forget that, it was never your fault and you were right! I had a very similar experience growing up and I wish someone had told me those words when I was younger. My deepest respect and heart goes out to you.

  20. I was on EBAY this morning and I found the "Flirty Fishing" volume of Mo Letters listed.  It said that this volume was recalled when they stopped the practice.  Here's the link:


  21. The Phoenix Brothers were raised in that cult, as was IIRC, Courtney Love.


    Good article!

  22. Horrifying. Good grief. What they did to him….

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