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Welcome Don Lattin, this time for a talk and book signing to mark the publication of "Jesus Freaks". Tonight's author has spent his career looking at and writing about Mainstream And Alternative Religious Movements. Over the course of three decades this three time Pulitzer Prize nominee has written about everything from the rise of the Christian right in the United States to the emergence of radical Islamists around the world. Now with "Jesus Freaks", The True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge, Don Lattin has written a cautionary tale which looks at the family international. A Christian cult whose spiritual and sexual excesses let them down the dark of righteous path which ended in tragedy. Please welcome Thursday nights nightline guest Don Lattin. Thank you. Thanks very much, its its very fitting that you have all come down to Haight Street. Just a few blocks from Haight-Ashbury to hear the story of :Jesus Freaks". I cant think of a better place really to give this this talk because this story really begins during the summer of love in San Francisco and also down in LA in the summer of 1967 and what's started out with all that piece in love and ended like three decades later with the Murder and Madness that write about in this in this book, it was like they say a long strange trip especially from people involved in this this group, the family and the children of god. This this group was started in the late 1960's, this is a religious group by a guy name David Moses Berg, and he was a sort of a failed Christian Evangelist for years, I call him the Christian Evangelist and sex predator, which is a a kind of a good way to sum up his ministry, he was also a native of Oakland, California so there is a local connection here. He was on a he started out as kind of pocalyptic preacher you know, the end is near repent the worlds corrupt even the churches are corrupt I got the true way you know, standard stuff, and he went around the country with a traveling ministry mostly his children who would say that that who does was the Berg family singers for a while and he was the flop, I mean I mean he just was a totally a failed evangelist and what happened is in the in the 1968-'69 he was just as kind of in the right place in the right time, he realize that there is there where all these kind of counter cultured types Malcontents, ex-drugees who were looking for meaning in life and he he started preaching to hippies down on the beach in Southern California and his movement just really took off. But he really did start in a way in San Francisco with the summer of love. I have to I have to admit that I was couple of months ago because month ago there was a anniversary concert for the 40th anniversary of the summer of love in Goldengate Park and I was one of the younger patent aging overweight Hippies up there and so I wanted to start out with a little bit of a reading from the chapter three of the book which takes place at the corner of the Haight-Ashbury street in 1967. Not going to read a lot just a just a bit. God was speaking to Kent Philpot through his car radio actually it was the voice of Scott Mackenzie singing his new song San Francisco, "Be sure to wear flowers in your hair", but the almighty was speaking for the music and had a clear message for this young Baptist preacher. God call to the Hippies he said rap there and then. Can you just cross the Goldengate bridge and it was heading north out of the city on highway 101. Some came on as a his car was approaching the seminary avenue off round in Central Marine County. Kent was in his second year of studies at Goldengate Baptist Theological Seminary, in Marine, he was selling shoes at JC Pennies and serving as a part time Pastor at a tiny church way out in Byron about farming community of East 50 miles east of San Francisco. There were no Hippies in Byron, it wasn't happening in Byron but it was happening in the Haight and that's where god wanted to Philpot to go. Now I am singing is the next part for you. All across the nation There is a strange vibration People in motion Thank you very much. Now Philpot wasn't sure where the Haight was but the next day he headed into the city to find out. He was raised in Southern California, joined the military and converted to Christianity to the work of the Baptist Preacher at Travis Air Force Base North East to San Francisco, now at age 25 Kent was on his own mission from god. San Francisco Mackenzie's sentimental odd piece in love was a instant world wide hit, when it was released in the spring of 1967. Now everyone knew about the strange vibrations, I mean anything from the intersection from Haight-Ashbury Street, then I talk about he summer of love all of you know about that most skip a few paragraphs here. On his first day in the Haight Philpot thought it was wise to see what was happening if anything has an evangelical church close to ground zero so we found his way to Hamilton Square Baptist Church and was looking in the window when a young man tapped him on the shoulder. "Would you like to meet someone who really know god?" the man asked. Kent took the bet and began a lifelong friendship with David Hoyt also gone up in Southern California but had a much rougher time at with is new found friend he bounced around foster homes and juvenile halls around at the Long Park Federal Penitentiary on a drug conviction. In prison Hoyt passed the time reading about Buddhism, Hinduism and other eastern philosophies. Hoyt moved to San Francisco following his parole in September 1966, by the spring of 1967 be become a disciple Swami Prabhupada the founder of the International Society of Christian Consciousness also known as the Hare Krishna, this is whom David Hoyt to meet, this was the god that he was talking about Krishna, that didn't stop the Baptist Preacher and the Krishna devotee from the developing a close friendship. They got together off and Kent was well learn bible and David holding his copy at the Bhagavad-Gita. He tried to convert me to Hinduism so far recall while I taught him scripture. When Hoyt moved into the Hare Krishna temple in San Francisco he himself want to continue their bible study in the basement of the temple and drawing a few other students fell about speaking, when the swami heard about me I have to I have some explaining of what I was doing, he agreed to let me continue if I came to their workship the Keraton and stay for a hour and a half of chanting, they go on and on, dancing and chanting until they work themselves into a frenzy. It was like being out on Hippy hill on Acid, listening to the Grateful Dead but it was work ship service and then after the Keraton David and I would go in the basement and study the bible. Jesus would prevail over Krishna but it took a dream and a fire to seal about his conversion. I sleep one night in the temple basement David dreamt he was missing out on the rapture, that all the true Christians rounding and rising up to heaven well his feet stay fairly on the ground then he woke up to find his personal alter blaze. I thought I was just left the candle burning Philpot mused but David attributed it to god. So the book goes on to talk about how Philpot and David Kent and David run into David Berg and the children of god when they start that in Southern California. Kent Philpot saw something troubling about this group. Could it be satan we don't know we will find out but but Hoyt much to hear this name later on brought a whole bunch of his followers by the early Jesus moment people in LA and Atlanta and whole across the country into Berg's movement and really was responsible for it taking off about a year later. Since we're talking about anniversaries let me just talk a little bit about another one is coming up which is much darker one and that's the 30th anniversary of peoples temple, and peoples temple had a lot to do with why I became a religion writer, I started at the San Francisco examiner in 1977 and just covering various things and get some stories on cults and then November 18th that you will probably remember 1978 more than 900 followers of the reverend Jim Jones either kill themselves or murdered at a jungle compound that's in South America and a friend of mine Greg Robinson was a photographer with the examiner at the time and he gone down the [0:09:16] ____ we arrive to investigate this group, and you know, it was a the hell of the story at time you know, plus there was a Mascone Milk thing in the next week and but I get some of the follow up stories on people temple and that is really what kind of got me fascinating with with religious the religious moments or cults depending where they are coming from, me to understand what what would make a mother like squirt poison down her babies throat and then kill herself all the name of god I mean how can that how can that kind of thing happen. Now I mention Jim Jones, its important to remember that Jim Jones and David Berg did not just drop out of the sky. Jones was an ordained minister in the Disciples of Christ which is the main line protestant denomination, and he started respected churches in Indiana, in Ukia, in San Francisco political progressive churches that we are seeing kind of of like we look at the glide now. Racially integrated, political progressive David David Brandt Berg the founder of the Family International originally called Teens for Christ had deep roots in the Holiness and Pentecostal churches, he was the son and grand son of a well known evangelical - well known evangelical preachers and he was routine minister in the Christian Missionary Alliance. Now I am not saying that that the family is another Jonestown but I think we have to look at recent trends in American Evangelical Movement to understand what what what was behind this murder suicide nearly nearly three decades later. May I consider for example the left the - have any of to you have you ever Left Behind books there these these they are basically novels of apocalyptic fiction about the end of the world. They have sold 63 million copies since the first one came out in 1995, I see some one Harper one drooling back there when I said 63 million copies but and so so am I if I can get one out of the thousand people for just out of those 63 million people to buy my book and I'd have a best seller. Long before left behind David Berg was had his own apocalyptic story one and like like left behind both will be demonize the the outsider's and use fear and to inspire and control now as gods anytime profit David Berg drew heavenly on the book of Revelations which is the same story of course that inspired left behind. But what about what is this about this group. Well between 1971 and 2001 some 13,000 babies where born to members of the Children of God / Family International 13,000 that almost sounds impossible when you took with math I mean there were thousands of they were like ten thousand people recent involved in this group, and women have lots of children so it was not hard to get 13,000 people born over 30 years this book is about what happened mostly to one of them a 29 year old second generation member who was raised to be the prince and future profit of the movement. Now I am not bull-shitting when I say this is really one of the most incredible stories like ever come across and one of the most troubling and what I was trying to understand in this book is what drove someone like Ricky Davidito Rodriguez and someone who is raised in a movement that that was exclusively inspired by Christian love and compassion to basically god post and go off on this murderous revenge including a plan to kill his own mother, a leader of the group. Now before Ricky cracked up and went postal the family because most thing down is under a colorful cult that practiced free love and sent women out to seduce potential converts in some thing called flirty fishing which was which was after Jesus said go go the forth and the fishers of men they call the flirty fishing and they sent these women out as basically as sacred prostitutes to to get people to join to, to convert them to Christianity and of course David Berg's brand of Christianity. Now a lot has been written in mainstream media including stories by yours truly here, about the sexual abuse that also happened among children and teenagers in this group, and Ricky was one of those who suffered from that abuse. But the story is really not that simple its really about what more than sex, because what when we talked about second generation people who grew up in this group specially ones in in the years I am talking about here in the 70s and 80s, they are the most like spiritual abuse was really worse than sexual abuse. These kids were actually raised, conceived, raised, born as like spiritual commodities from I mean from birth to whole reason was to spread the message of David Berg and they were like little machines spreading this his his version of Gospel. Now I am like with my previous book I chose the title for this book which is Jesus Freaks True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge, now I came up with that title I knew it would ruffle a few feathers in Evangelical Christian flock and last week they guardian began its preview this ratings by noting my quotes "my scathing" title it goes on to say well "Jesus Freaks" is not going to gain Lattin many friends in the Christian community, it will booster his impressive record of chronically in religious moments in the United States. Well I appreciate the compliment, but I am really not trying to make enemies in the Christian community. I mean first of all which Christian community are we talking about, and second I mean some people are in Conservative Evangelical Community in Fundamentalist of Evangelical Churches have have told me that they want to see stories like this they they are all all for exposing misguiding prophets like David Berg who who exploit people to for their own for their own reasons. They see this as a cautionary tale and I would like to read one more quote from the book which is by David Hoyt the guy the hara krishna guy who converted and brought in all these people into the movement and then later left when he saw what going on but he brought 100s of people in who stayed in, and here is Hoik speaking. "The lesson for me is to be very very careful, not to give your loyalty to any new teaching, new prophet, special revelation. My loyalty is to God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and to no pastor, teacher or evangelist. Now, I don't care how bigger following they have, no pastor or leader or man is infallible - is infallible and you have to keep your eye focused on what is pure and eternal. Don't listen to the voice of prophets and prophecies. I have got that warning burned on my soul". So if you read the first few chapters of this book, I think you will agree that I do make the case that you can rightly call the FEM international an evangelical Christian sect. Let me put it this way, Christianity has as much to do with David Berg as Islam has to do with Osama Bin Laden and maybe we should take the advice of of Ricky in this book and call David Berg a Christian terrorist. You don't hear that word very much it's much easier to talk about Islamic terrorist than Christian terrorists. At the same time we have to be careful not to paint Berg as this demon. You know because obviously there is something appealing about his message, why would thousands of people come to him? You know it's just it's just too easy to turn him into Satan and one of the things I have noticed covering groups like this over the years is that these these leaders of these charismatic groups, they are like - are masters of projection. I mean they project both wisdom and paranoia when they turn paranoid they - you know or insight and psychosis, they really do project these things out on to the group and the group bitterly takes up those qualities. That's kind of how I explain what happens and - and I am not really a believer in so-called brain washing or mind control. That's again that's too simple. Most people join these group and live on their own. If they were brainwashed, how don't they just walk away when they get tired about the bull shit? So so you know there is there is much more to understand than that. In a lot ways Berg's critique of the piety and hypocrisy of mainline Christianity was right on. I mean and that's what attracted people especially his his point that you know the churches have demonized the body and the body is evil, spirit is good, sex is bad you know fear of the body, sexual repression, I mean that's what he was talking about and he he experienced that growing up himself which he has lot he really explain what happened with him. He was rebelling against his mother who was a famous evangelist Virginia Brandt Berg and so you look at Berg's writings on on sex and Christianity and he is actually writing about, it is very simple of what people are saying like some of the progressive gay theologians or feminist theologians are saying now. I mean he really was kind of right on in his critique of Christianity, of course he just went away over board because of this own personal partly Christian demons that were that were bothering him. Now Berg claimed to have theological ground in everything he did, Jesus said - as he would point out, Jesus said love is the greatest commandment and Berg took that too to extreme. One of the things he was known for doing, someone told me this he was at these parties people have these sharing parties. Is it before he started spreading the free love teachings to the whole movement but he - he was a kind of test drive these things among his inner circle and see if they see if they worked with that group and then they get spread outer and outer to farther and farther out the edge and they had letters that would go to certain group and then the public and so he was very careful how they introduced all these ideas. But he would walk around in these parties. He was a religious drunk basically. With a bottle of wine and he take off his cloths and start saying you know "to the pure all things are pure" and that's that was a line from the bible. But he doesn't finish the quote in the Bible which is "but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure." Anyway I hope you will get something out of this book, I mean I was so captivated by this story that I quit my job - that was one of the reason, I quit my job as a religious writer at the San Francisco Chronicle - right Gordon has his weekly pay check for a couple for 20 years. So you know I really wanted to get the story read, I wanted to understand it and just let me close by saying the main reason you have to buy my book is I quit my day job. I mean come on I mean god help me I quit my day job so anyway thanks a lot for coming out and I am sure all have many penetrating questions or many comments or letters or anything.