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Research Notes

by Ron Rhodes and William M. Alnor

columns from the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 3: Number 2, 1990.

The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.


The international cult known as the Children of God (COG), the Family of Love, or Heaven's Magic, has become famous for its radical rejection of conventional social values while maintaining a "Christian" facade. Founded by "Moses" David Berg in the late 1960s as a deviant segment of the "Jesus People" movement, the group eventually plunged into paranoid secrecy and nearly every known form of sexual excess. Despite receiving heavy publicity in years past, outside observers know little about the cult's present inner workings.

Dalva Lynch was a member of the Children of God for 15 years and left the cult in July 1988. She was once a top leader in the Brazilian COG and worked for three years as a translator for World Services, the group's elite administrative branch. Now she is trying to recover the three children the cult took from her in 1985.

In an unpublished manuscript, A Elite Celestial (The Heavenly Elite), Dalva offers a rare glimpse into the cult's shadowy underworld and reveals Brazil's unusual status in the movement's structure.

Special Freedoms

According to Dalva, though the AIDS epidemic caused the cult to cut back on some of its extreme sexual practices elsewhere in the world, in Brazil things continued unabated. She cites as an example "the famous 'GAFMs' (Greater Area Family Meetings), which were nothing more than gigantic bacchanals, with three days of wine, group sex, erotic dances, strip-teases, and every sort of debauchery, in which all members of all the greater area [COG] homes participated. These orgies were prohibited in all other countries of the world as of around 1980, but in Brazil the practice was only recently abolished."

As is true in other countries, the COG in Brazil protects itself by winning the support of key military and civilian officials through sexual favors. But the practice of "flirty fishing" (proselytization through prostitution), though once widespread, has been severely cut back.

Nerve Center for Latin America

Rio de Janeiro is the center for the cult's lucrative audio and video cassette recording and duplicating operation in Brazil. In industrial Sao Paulo, COG members go "provisioning" among businesses to acquire donated goods to supply the material needs of members in outlying regions. But it is Belo Horizonte -- capital of the state of Minas Gerais -- that Dalva claims is the cult's operational center for all of Latin America. There the elite "World Services" teams, hand-picked by one of Moses David's personal advisors, translate restricted-access "DO" (Disciples Only) literature from English into Spanish and Portuguese. The material is then printed, packaged, and shipped to each of the cult's homes in South America.

The exact location of the enormous mansions from which the highly-sensitive World Services homes operate is not known to average members or even to the lower leaders, since their discovery could lead to the group's expulsion from almost every country in Latin America. At these mansions the cult maintains computerized lists of all the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of every member of every home. The World Services homes also contain copies of all the group's literature, plus detailed files on its many supporters and friends (and foes, few as they may be).

Smuggling and other clandestine shipments are a key part of the homes' operations. Computer, printing, and photographic equipment are brought into the country by special couriers or external members with diplomatic privileges. Reproduction masters for some of the cult's more controversial literature (e.g., those portraying child sexual activities) often enter Brazil via microfilm.

Refuge -- and Expulsion

According to Dalva, COG members from other countries are sent to Brazil when their activities are threatened or banned. With the closing of COG's work in almost all the Asian countries several years ago, most of the cult's members there were sent to Brazil. This could have led to a dangerous level of overcrowding, since the group already had some 900 followers in Brazil. The solution chosen by COG leadership was to throw out all the members considered "problem cases" -- namely, those without special financial means who had legal, family, or personal problems. And, as this category fit the majority of the poorer Brazilians in the cult (who also had families with many young children), these unfortunate members suddenly found themselves homeless, jobless, and penniless. In each of these cases, the mother was also pregnant at the time. No mercy was shown to any who were cast away, Dalva says.

"Mo" in Brazil?

Perhaps the biggest mystery in the COG movement is that which surrounds the whereabouts of its fugitive leader. In an interview published in the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper last September, Deborah Davis, Moses David's oldest daughter, was quoted as expressing her belief that "Mo" could well be hiding out in a location in Brazil known to only a tiny handful of top members. Dalva agrees.

Paul Carden, CRI's International Coordinator, interviewed Dalva Lynch for over two hours in Sao Paulo on March 9. An edited version of this interview, with additional updated information on the Children of God, was published in the Fall, 1990 issue of the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL, and is available in file form as CRJ0075A.TXT)


Rajneesh Dies of Heart Failure.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who changed his name to Osho in late 1989, died of heart failure Friday, January 19, in the southern India city of Poona. He was 58.

Rajneesh established his first commune in Poona in 1974. In 1981, he came to the United States where he was scheduled to undergo back surgery -- but the operation was never performed. Later that year, he purchased the Big Muddy Ranch in Oregon, and -- with the infusion of millions of donated dollars and the free labor of many devoted disciples -- the ranch soon became a flourishing commune. It was called "Rajneeshpuram," and became home to 4,000 Rajneeshees. Rajneesh, often called "the rich man's guru," kept 93 personal Rolls Royces at the commune.

Rajneesh was eventually deported from the U.S. (in 1985) after pleading guilty to two counts of immigration fraud. Barred from resettling in Europe, South America, Asia, and the Caribbean, Rajneesh moved back to Poona in 1986 with a smaller group of disciples.

Rajneesh's health has been steadily declining in recent years, and sect followers expressed relief that his death ended his suffering. A January 21 article in the (Salem, Oregon) Statesman Journal reports that thousands of Rajneesh's followers "flocked to his commune Saturday a day after his death to celebrate what they consider the release of Rajneesh's spirit." A statement released by the commune said he died because "living in the body had become a hell." According to the article, "commune spokesman Swami Chaitanya Kirti said at least 15,000 followers visited the center Saturday and chanted mantras, meditated and danced."

Kirti also conveyed Rajneesh's last message to his followers: "Never speak of me in the past tense. My presence here will be greater without the presence of my tortured body," according to the Statesman Journal.

The January 26 issue of The Oregonian reports that as Rajneesh "lay dying in his commune in India, he named one of his lawyers as a medium to receive his messages from the afterlife, says the guru's doctor [Dr. Amrito]." Dr. Amrito also announced that "Rajneesh refused to appoint a successor but did deputize what he called an 'Inner Circle' of about 20 disciples to 'reach unanimous decisions about the continuous functioning and expansion of the commune and Osho's work.'"

Millions Have Visited Medjugorje in Hopes of Seeing the Virgin Mary.

On June 24, 1981, six village children and two young women claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared to them on a hillside near the remote Yugoslav village of Medjugorje. Since this time, millions of pilgrims have visited the hillside, and many claim to have witnessed supernatural phenomena there. Some have alleged that the sun spins and dances in the sky on occasion. Others have said that mysterious lights appear at night that engulf a stone cross atop the mountain. Some say that images of Jesus and Mary are periodically visible in the clouds.

According to the March 12, 1990 U. S. News & World Report, leaders of the Catholic church have been reluctant to embrace the alleged appearances of Mary. "Despite the 11 million pilgrims who have visited Medjugorje since 1981, and despite international fame rivaling that of apparitions in Lourdes, France; Fatima, Portugal; and Guadalupe, Mexico, church leaders have been slow to embrace the miracles of Medjugorje. General opinion at the Vatican is that the church has far less to gain by promoting what may be an authentic apparition of Mary than it has to lose if it backs a fake."

Though the Vatican keeps no official record of such incidents, it has acknowledged that in recent years there has been a "surprising increase" in claims of "pseudo-mysticism, presumed apparitions, visions and messages" associated with Mary, the article said. French theologian Rene Laurentin, recognized among Catholics as an expert in Marian phenomena, says there have been more than 200 such incidents since 1930. U. S. News reports that in the past 160 years, "the Catholic Church has authenticated 14 apparitions as 'worthy of pious belief' -- which means Catholics are free to believe or disbelieve as they wish. Still, for every certified apparition, say church authorities, there are scores that go unverified."

CRI researcher Ken Samples, who specializes in Roman Catholicism, is presently evaluating the Medjugorje phenomenon. He presents a summary of his findings in the Winter and Spring 1991 issues of the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL and are available in file form under the original CRI file names CRJ0078A.TXT and CRJ0079A.TXT.

Harvest House Withdraws Satan's Underground.

The February 19, 1990 issue of Christianity Today (CT) reports that Satan's Underground, Lauren Stratford's controversial story of satanic worship and ritual abuse, has been withdrawn from publication by Harvest House Publishers. Since its release in 1988, more than 130,000 copies of the book have been sold. In it, Stratford describes a horrid past of sexual abuse, pornography, prostitution, and eventually Satanism. She also alleges that two children she bore were killed in "snuff" films, and a third sacrificed in her presence in a satanic ritual.

The CT article cites a Cornerstone magazine article in which Bob and Gretchen Passantino (with Cornerstone editor Jon Trott) present convincing evidence that contradicts the claims of Lauren Stratford. After a thorough investigation, they say they could find virtually no evidence to corroborate Stratford's claim of three pregnancies, and cite numerous contradictions involving people and dates as well.

Following the release of the Cornerstone article -- which compelled Harvest House to withdraw the book from publication -- Stratford acknowledged during an interview on Detroit radio station WWCM that "she had lied about incidents in her life and that she continues to reconstruct memories." She claims such confusion is typical of victims of abuse. But "that does not discredit the book," the CT article quotes her as saying.

Channel Kevin Ryerson to Embark on Major Seminar Tour.

Kevin Ryerson, trance channel (medium) who attained notoriety as a result of Shirley MacLaine's TV miniseries Out on a Limb (in which he played himself), is embarking on a "major" seminar tour around the country, according to a recent interview in Body, Mind, & Spirit magazine. He says that the seminars are "a natural extension of my work as expressed in my [new] book Spirit Communication: The Soul's Path."

In this book, published by Bantam, Ryerson compares channeling to a radio broadcast. If two stations are competing for the same frequency on the radio, he tells us, by slightly adjusting the dial we can tune down one channel and the other will come in more clearly. "Kevin Ryerson," he says, is the channel that gets tuned down; this allows the other frequency (spirit entities) to come through. Ryerson provides readers with guidelines on how to "adjust the tuning" so that they -- like he -- can become channels.

Ryerson says his seminars are specifically designed to guide people through exercises that can help them experience what he has outlined in the book. Channeling, he contends, can be used to help meet the needs of the human family.

Controversial L. Ron Hubbard Biography Knee-deep in Legal Mire.

According to the March 5, 1990 U. S. News & World Report, the Supreme Court recently let stand a "lower court's copyright-infringement ruling against an author for quoting 1,100 previously unpublished words of the late L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, in an unflattering biography" entitled Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard. This illustrates a growing trend in our society, according to the article: heirs of dead authors have been increasingly successful in recent years in blocking unauthorized use of unpublished material like letters and diaries.

(CRI has several informative articles and cassette tapes available on Scientology. Please see the CRI Resource Catalog or write for details.)

TBN Settles Dispute Over Alleged Moonie-Sponsored Show

A very public dispute between the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and David Balsiger's Biblical Scoreboard organization over Trinity's continual airing of the "Washington Report" has resulted in an out-of-court settlement.

At press time, part of the settlement was that Trinity will help produce an hour-long special detailing how, according to sources on both sides of the dispute, Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church is funding supposed evangelical ministries.

The dispute started with the August-October 1989 issue of Balsiger's Scoreboard Alert, in which Balsiger affirmed that the weekly "Washington Report", hosted by Robert Grant and Ruth Schofield, was a "Moon TV Show." Balsiger was relying on the American Freedom Coalition's (AFC) July 1989 Journal that bragged that the AFC was helping to fund the TBN program.

Over the past several years it has become well-known that the AFC has received millions of dollars of funding directly from the Unification Church. Grant, a Baptist minister, has not only confirmed the Moon connection but adds that he wishes the AFC would receive more funding from Moon's church. But Grant maintains that despite the funding, his organization is independent of the Unification Church. (For background, see the Summer 1988 CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL.)

Following publication of Balsiger's charge, TBN founder Paul Crouch wrote Balsiger a threatening letter and, with his wife, Jan, launched a public attack against him on the September 28, 1989 "Praise the Lord Show." Crouch declared that the AFC was not funded by the Unification Church and that the "Washington Report" has "nothing to do with the Moonies or the Moon Church or anything about that." Crouch added that Balsiger was "another heresy hunter" and charged him with issuing a "malicious, erroneous, false report."

Jan Crouch added: "You know what's kind of scary to me in this whole thing? You expect that from the world...but you don't expect it from Christian brothers."

But Balsiger had done his homework on the Moon-AFC connection, and he threatened a suit against TBN which would have also alleged that the Crouches had impugned his character. At press time, both sides had agreed to put the dispute behind them and to co-produce a TBN special, slated to be aired sometime in the spring. The special will delve into how the Unification Church is trying to win friends in the Christian community to further its agenda. Both sides were set to apologize for mishandling certain aspects of the incident.

End of document, CRN0020A.TXT (original CRI file name),
"International" and "Research Notes"
release A, April 30, 1994
R. Poll, CRI

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.

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