Marie Palmer recounts her escape from the 'Children of God' cult and the long journey of healing she went through afterwards in her book 'The Gift of Will.' Can we see that one of the keys to our own liberation from the past is forgiveness? Marie Palmer did not choose to be part of the ‘Children of God’ cult that was founded in California in 1968 by a former Christian pastor named David Brant Berg. She was born into it. And as such, her entire worldview was founded on the inexorable indoctrination and brainwashing that was used. In itself this is even more tragic than the plight of those hippies like her father that had joined the movement as adults, and who believed, ironically, that they had found a path of greater liberation and truth. Marie was brought up as a child in an environment that on the one hand promoted an unhealthy lack of boundaries, but in other ways was dangerously restrictive.
The toxic and twisted principles that emerged from the mind of founder David Berg were laced with enough pseudo-validation from Christian scripture to convince many lost and downtrodden souls that they were actually on the right path to God and salvation–in fact the ONLY true path, for many of its devotees. What has emerged over time, marked by the testimony of ex-members like actress Rose McGowan and the tragic murder-suicide of Ricky Rodriguez, whom Berg dubbed ‘Davidito’ and was grooming as the heir-apparent to his throne, is that the psychological and emotional disorientation and trauma brought upon children born into this cult was so extreme that it was difficult or impossible for many of them to survive in the world, let alone establish a normal life. Marie Palmer has written a book entitled ‘The Gift of Will,’ which explores the impact of the brainwashing of the ‘Children of God’ cult on her personally, her escape from the cult, and the long and difficult journey she has been on to overcome the trauma and confusion she had been beset with. It was after reading this book that I felt it would be worthwhile for CE to go down to Oregon to talk to Marie in person so that we could provide a full 4-part interview of her story for our members on CETV. You can watch it when you sign up for a free 7-day trial HERE. Marie was able to escape from the cult as a teen, out of an intense and very real fear of getting pregnant, and an inner rebelliousness that she didn’t really understand or get a handle on until much later. Having now been out of the cult for decades, Marie has been able to see in retrospect how the emergence and rapid popularity of the cult was likely a product of the times founded on some positive intentions, at least initially: “Maybe it started as a sincere desire to help the lost hippie generation. Maybe it was his obsession with the Bible and his evangelical background that gave him a platform from which to easily build upon. Maybe it was timing. He believed he could create a new type of hippie culture that still held itself true to the ideals of freedom and free love but in the context of following the representation of Jesus in the Bible. He wanted the security of knowing his ideas were based on something real and true. Free love for the sake of free love was fun but flighty. Free love in the name of Jesus Christ–there was everlasting power in that.” “I can see how that era created opportunity for its youth to find peace and solace in the form of spirituality. I can see how being considered an outcast could be enticing, especially one that had purpose, was following the creator.
They could be dropouts and still feel a sense of comradery, family, have a place to call home. Mo provided a way for these lonely youth to be crazy, wild and revolutionary, to burn their old ideas along with their bras, to be free from drugs and street life but hold true to their inner rebel against what they called “the system” and he created this utopia in the name of Jesus.”–The Gift of Will, pp 56–57 However, it seems clear that the basic principles that the ‘Children of God’ cult was founded on morphed over time to accommodate greater control and the sexual predispositions of founder David Berg and his inner circle. One particularly effective vehicle for indoctrination was the famed ‘Mo letters,’ (‘Mo’ being short for Berg’s moniker ‘Moses David’) which often used vivid cartoon graphics portraying sexuality to draw one’s attention and drive the message home.
The way in which sexuality was portrayed certainly had a lot of appeal to adult members of the hippie movement who were convinced that their freedom in relation to sexuality was bringing them closer to God and to their community. In the early years, the technique of ‘Flirty Fishing,’ where women would go out and recruit men into the organization through openly inviting them to have sex, was highly successful, bringing hundreds of thousands of men into them movement.
The justification for this, as seen in the Mo Letter illustration below, was that the ends justified the means, and the end was supposedly to bring more people in to experience the ‘Love of God.’ Ultimately, though, power is the name of the game, and David Berg’s personal motivations were far from ‘unselfish, pure sacrificial love.’ As the cult grew, more and more emphasis was put on the need for people to stay in the cult, and that meant using fear and the wrath of God to dissuade people from considering leaving the organization, with quotations cherry-picked from the Bible to garner legitimacy. One method of control was the systematic suppression of worldly knowledge. In fact, a general tenet of the cult was that anything ‘worldly’ was evil. In this clip from our interview, Marie Palmer explains how as a child she really got no formal education, and had no idea about how the outer world worked. She was only ‘schooled’ in the cult’s indoctrination, which preached that children should trust and obey their elders and not ask questions: Watch the full 4-part interview of Marie’s story on CETV by starting a free 7 day trial HERE. As she mentions, young girls in the cult were expected to share themselves with older men who pursued them, as well as providing for those ‘in need’ of intimacy and comfort, under the guise that the whole community was ‘in this together’ and sex should have no boundaries. It wasn’t as though they were violently forced to have sex within the cult, but the psychological pressures, amid efforts to normalize sex between children and adults, led to countless sexual encounters that were undoubtedly traumatic and a source of complete disorientation for the young members: I know that kids experiment with their sexuality when they are young, usually it’s with kids their own age.
There are no words to explain how confusing it is when you are a child that’s expected to experiment sexually with adults.
They are your role models.
They have all the power.
The power to shame you. To discipline you. To give you grace. To provide for you. To give you direction. Every child has the innate desire to please those who rule over them. Disappointing our parents and guardians is a hard thing to face. This makes children ideal victims for abusers.” —The Gift of Will, (p. 65) Perhaps David Berg did not initially set out to create an organization that actively and openly practiced pedophilia. But the reactions of young members such as Davidito stand as a sobering testament to the volatile and damaging impact of such practices. Davidito had a burning rage against the nannies who were both his guardians and his sexual partners, a rage that was immortalized in this confessional video he made just before his murder/suicide that lays bare his deep resentment and hopelessness. If there is any debate remaining as to whether it is healthy for children to have any kind of sexual relationships with adults, which some powerful forces have slowly tried to normalize in society, it is laid to rest with the testimony of brave survivors who were brought up in the ‘Children of God’ cult like Marie Palmer. What is remarkable and also most important about Marie Palmer’s story is that she has found a way to heal herself from her past. Going through a long stretch after escaping from the cult in which she had absolutely no sense of self or understanding about how to deal with the rage, confusion, depression or sorrow that followed her around constantly, she eventually developed a great hunger for knowledge and for learning. What was especially exciting for her was to learn about spirituality and the Divine in ways that were liberating rather than restrictive. In this way, she could come to grips with the flaws in the Berg philosophy and let go of its influence. Further, she learned forgiveness as the only true way to reconcile the past: Many religions, especially patriarchal ones, teach that we are either good or evil. And, they teach us further that if we aren’t submissive to this strand of teaching – the cross, the blood, and outside source bringing redemption – we are fatally flawed, crippled from the cradle to the grave. By understanding and practicing Buddhism, I’ve been able to detach myself from the concept of good versus evil. I’ve been able to study the mechanisms that make my soul tick. I’ve been able to accept that as a human being, I experience light and shadow and it’s all OK. Sometimes the light may blind me. Sometimes the shadow may darken my horizon. Regardless I am comprised of both; we all are. So, for me, there is no redemption by blood.
There is no sense of retaliation or shame projected onto us by any God. Just as there is no need for retaliation for my experiences as a child. I was a victim of the shadows. But, I was graced with the ability to find and choose the light. —The Gift of Will, (p. 142) Marie’s journey reminds all of us that only through forgiveness is there liberation from the past. What she has accomplished is inspiring, because she has so much more to forgive than most of us. And she sees that once we are willing to forgive those who had the most power over us, those who caused us the most suffering, something opens up that can change our overall perception forever. Once I decided to forgive my parents, I could see clearly to forgive just about everyone in the world. I began to see the world through the eyes of compassion, mercy, and Grace. I was also able to forgive myself for not being a better sister to my brother, and all the other naïve and ignorant things I have done to others and myself. I was able to begin the journey of loving myself. To have the upmost compassion for myself and respect for my own identity.” —The Gift of Will, (pp. 155-156) Due to the pressure of mass censorship, we now have our own censorship-free, and ad-free on demand streaming network! It is the world's first and only conscious media network streaming mind-expanding interviews, news broadcasts, and conscious shows. Click here to start a FREE 7-Day Trial and watch 100's of hours of conscious media videos, that you won't see anyw.
Read the full article at the original website