Walt Whitman said :
“If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred.”
The American Dictionary says ‘sacred’ is something:
” Entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity or divine things. “
I have all sorts of friends,
with all sorts of different ideas about what is,
and what is not sacred….
and having spent a good many years studying comparative religions with a passion,
I certainly understand how wrapped up someone–
can get in a particular belief system.
The old saying ” Strength Equals Commitment ” is one that is a very common working model for groups of all kinds, from Evangelical Christians to ISKCON (Hare Krishnas).
And there have been cults since there’s been people ,
from the Canaanite cult of Adad,
…. through to the 1800s’ and the Koreshans,
up to present day Snake Handlers.
What has always worried me, however, are those groups who pursue their dogmatic goals with manipulation, anger, or violence —
they seem so convinced of the infallibility of their own point of view, that they disregard human dignity, or project hate and loathing toward those who aren’t willing to share it.
And of course, there’s always those who just in it for the money.
(see my post ‘ God, Girls and Gold ‘)
Of particular interest to me, as a collector of printed matter and a student of ideologies, are the posters, pamphlets, and hand-outs of small sects — sometimes called ‘cults’.
A fascinating variety of these materials are out there —
….. and the inside perspective you can gain from them is unique.
So, I thought it might make an interesting series to look at some of these publications–
— and the groups that produced them.
I will attempt to keep the discussion limited to the content of the material, and a brief background of the groups in question, and try to avoid, as difficult as it will be at times, criticism of their dogma, practices, or beliefs.
I think there is much to be learned from this approach,
–despite the varied and many crimes and misdemeanors we will encounter with some of these sects —
And, remembering a famous man from Nazareth is quoted as saying :
“He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”
Here’s a particularly interesting set of images,
from a ‘members only’ newsletter produced by the “Children of God”–
(not to be confused with the New Forest Shakers, or Convulsionists, in the 1870’s)
There were many more like these, some much more explicit,
…. but you’ll get a pretty good idea what they’re saying from these.
The principle involved here in these images was referred to by the group as ‘Flirty Fishing’.
Today it would be considered a form of ‘love bombing’-
— a tactic some cults use to ensnare and involve unsuspecting people into their movement, by surrounding them with ‘unconditional’ love and affection, while indoctrinating them into the belief system of the group.
In the case of Flirty Fishing, the leadership of the group encouraged the female members to socially engage– and sexually seduce, prospective members, mostly males.
As one can probably imagine, this type of membership drive yielded quite rapid and prolific results for the cult,
( boys will be boys, ya know )
…. and their numbers expanded exponentially in the years (1974-1987) when this was practiced.
One of their publications claimed that Flirty Fishing was so successful, that one in 12 people approached in this way converted.
These Children of God
were part of a radical sect that started in 1960’s Huntington Beach,
…. from an original group of 25 or 30 of a self described:
” …. collection of pastors, street-preachers, oddballs and intellectuals all trying to communicate the gospel to the counterculture.”
And grew to include more than 60,000 members worldwide at the apex of it’s popularity.
They came to call themselves the “Family”,
and they claimed to practice a form of “revolutionary” grass-roots Christianity referred to as the “System”—
–in which the members lived together in communes, did a great deal of street proselytizing, and followed a spiritual leader, a former Baptist pastor turned polygamist, who called himself “Moses, The Last Prophet”.
David Berg, otherwise known as ‘Moses David’, re-interpreted the Old and New Testament according to his own perspective , and ‘filled in the gaps’ in those scriptures with his “Divine” revelations.
I remember meeting one of their ‘F.F.’ missionaries on Ft. Lauderdale beach in the late 1970’s, and she was absolutely charming, disarmingly persuasive, and completely committed to her cause.
I think I still have a letter and card she sent me in my attic somewhere.
That was another aspect of their “Flirty Fishing” —
Once they had your phone number or address, they would bombard you with ‘love’ letters, cards, and phone calls inviting you out for some ‘fun’.
You could see how a lot of lonely people would get caught up in it.
They also kept track of how much writing, calling, and actual seducing each missionary was doing —
You can check out a copy of their statistics, reported in their 1988 newsletter, at the bottom of the post,
—– and keep in mind, each number represents a thousand.
Notable past members include actress Rose McGowan, actor River Phoenix, singer Susan Justice, and guitarist Jeremy Spencer.
After founder Berg’s death, this method of recruiting, along with certain other very controversial- often illegal- practices were discontinued,
…… and the group still exists today, mostly in Europe, as “Family International”.