Dec 13, 2021

CultNEWS101 Articles: 12/13/2021 (Children of God, NXIVM, Panama, New Light of God, Legal)

Children of God, NXIVM, Panama, New Light of God, Legal

"It's no secret that many of us find cult narratives fascinating. They're full of interesting characters, dramatic arcs and, often, salacious, shocking details.

But the paramount questions we seem to want answered are: How did you get in? and How did you get out?

There's no shortage of books answering these questions when it comes to the infamous Children of God — or The Family International, as it is now called.

The latest, Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult, is written by Faith Jones, a successful lawyer. She's a granddaughter of David Berg, the founder of The Family, and was raised in the cult from infancy — among many siblings born to her father and his two wives — until managing to leave it for good in her early 20s.

Jones was one the group's second-generation members — or SGMs, in cult lingo — now old enough to have achieved enough distance from her traumatic upbringing to begin talking about it publicly. Others have done the same in past few years — Flor Edwards with Apocalypse Child: A Life in End Times; the upcoming Rebel: The extraordinary story of a childhood in the 'Children of God' cult by Faith Morgan; Cult Following: My escape and return to the Children of God by Bexy Cameron (not yet available in the U.S.); and Lauren Hough's Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing, which, as I wrote in my review, is about a lot more than the cult experience itself.

That so many books about a single cult exist seems to demonstrate just how widespread and large it was, as well as the appetite readers have for new information about The Family.

Jones opens her book with a history of the cult and its phases, giving unfamiliar readers a helpful overview. The majority of the memoir recounts her childhood and teenage years, starting with her nuclear family moving to Hac Sa, a village in a remote part of the island territory of Macau, off the south coast of China. There, her siblings, her father, and her two mothers slowly won over the locals by cleaning up the streets and putting pressure on their contacts in Macau to begin providing electricity and plumbing to the area, which had not been receiving many basic municipal services." 

Slate: How To's John Wilson Reveals Why He Almost Didn't Tell His Sex Cult Story
" ... A lot has changed since How to With John Wilson's first season ended. While the six-episode season aired on HBO only a year ago, in fall 2020, the docu-comedy series—about the big and small moments in Wilson's life, collaged together with infinite amounts of hilarious B-roll—didn't reckon explicitly with what was happening in the real world. For us viewers, it continues to be impossible not to. We've seen thousands of deaths, vaccine rollouts, booster shots, and disturbing political uprisings unfold in the finale's wake, among countless other moments.

But its unforgettable season finale, in which Wilson sets out to make the perfect risotto and ends up somewhere completely different, stumbled right into the beginnings of the COVID outbreak in New York City. Camera in hand, Wilson goes to the supermarket—which is chock full of people anxiously stocking up as the news warns that heading outdoors is increasingly unsafe. It's a horrifying moment that drummed up striking memories in November of 2020, watching Wilson stand behind his fellow anxious March shoppers, unaware of the future to come. It involves a dark secret from his past.

The second picks up, meanwhile, with the pandemic in full swing. But the magic of How to With John Wilson is that its documentary conceit goes inward, not outward; it was purely by accident that the season finale ended up a portrait of the beginnings of lockdown. In Season 2, the desire to tell intimate stories about parking spaces, interior design, and going out with friends, all of which quickly spiral out of control, still trumps any attempt to reflect the world and its greater tragedies. It is at once surprising and, even more so, comforting.

I chatted with Wilson ahead of the second season premiere, which airs Nov. 26 on HBO, about how he pieces those interests together with the hours of footage he shoots every day; how the generally non-comedic author Susan Orlean ended up in the writing room; and how the heck he ended up at an event sponsored by the pernicious NXIVM cult, among many other things."

"A court imposed Panama's maximum sentence of 50 years in prison Friday on seven members of a cult who killed a woman and six children in a religious rite in a remote part of the Central American nation.

The court in Bocas del Toro province sentenced two other members of the New Light of God cult to 47 years in prison each.

The cult had operated for about three years in the Ngabe Bugle hamlet of El Terron on Panama's Caribbean coast, but villagers said it had changed after one member had a vision telling the lay preachers they had been "annointed" to exterminate unbelievers.

On Jan. 13, 2020, the group summoned a number of villagers to its improvised church in a long wooden shed.

One of the 14 people rescued from the church the next day, Dina Blanco, said she had gone with her 9-year-old daughter, who had epilepsy, her 15-year-old son and her father.

When they arrived, they were told not to open their eyes, and to grab each others' hands and pray.

"I felt something hit my head, and then I don't know what happened to me," she told The Associated Press last year. "I dropped to my knees."

Authorities said cult members used Bibles, cudgels and machetes to hit the congregants, some of whom were forced to strip, and walk across glowing embers."

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Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.

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