Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 29–43

Misattribution and social control in the children of god

  • Stephen A. Kent
Article

Abstract

This article argues that deviant religions use supposedly godly justifications for their punishment systems by establishing theologies in which members misattribute divine authority to leaders whom they relate to emotionally as to demanding parents. These misattributing theologies “sanctify” the harsh suffering that members often experience. Illustrations of the theoretical points come from texts published by the Children of God in its early period (the 1970s), supplemented by accounts given by two women who have left the group.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. 1.
    See Cartwright, R.H. and Kent, S.A., “Social Control in Alternative Religions: A Familial Perspective,”Sociological Analysis 53, 1992, pp. 345–361; Jacobs, J.L.,Divine Disenchantment. Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1989.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Van Zandt, David E.Living in the Children of God. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1991, p. 166.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Kent, S.A. “Lustful Prophet: A Psychosexual Historical Study of the Children of God's Leader, David Berg.” Paper delivered at theCanadian Society for the Study of Religion, Victoria, British Columbia, 1990; Richardson, J.T. and Davis, R. “Experimental Fundamentalism: Revisions of Orthodoxy in the Jesus Movement,”Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 51,3, 1983; van Zandt,op. cit. Living in the Children of God, p. 6.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Kent,op. cit. S.A. “Lustful Prophet: A Psychosexual Historical Study of the Children of God's Leader, David Berg.” Paper delivered at theCanadian Society for the Study of Religion, Victoria, British Columbia, 1990. Van Zandt,op. cit. Living in the Children of God, pp. 170–171.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See Van Zandtop. cit., p. 172.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Spilka, B.; Shaver, P.; and Kirkpatrick, L.A., “A General Attribution Theory for the Psychology of Religion,”J. for the Scientific Study of Religion, 24, 1, 1985, p. 6.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ibid., p. 6.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See Galanter, M.;Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion. New York Oxford University Press, 1989, pp. 60–63; Galanter, M.; Rabkin, R.; Rabkin, J.; and Deutsch, A.; “The ‘Moonies’: A Psychological Study of Conversion and Membership in a Contemporary Religious Sect,”American J. of Psychiatry 136,2, 1979, p. 169; Proudfoot, W. and Shaver, P., “Attribution Theory and the Psychology of Religion.”J. for the Scientific Study of Religion, 14,4, 1975, pp. 317–330; and Spilka, Shaver, and Kirkpatrick,op. cit. “A General Attribution Theory for the Psychology of Religion,”J. for the Scientific Study of Religion, 24, 1, 1985, p. 6.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Proudfoot and Shaver,-op. cit.“, p. 318.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Spilka, Shaver, and Kirkpatrick,-op. cit.“, p. 2.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Proudfoot and Shaver,-op. cit.“, p. 319.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ibid., p. 323.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ibid., p. 321.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ibid., p. 324.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ibid., p. 327.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ibid., p. 327.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See Galanter,Cults: Faith, Healing, and Conversion,-op. cit., p. 61; Kent, S. and Mytrash, K., “Social Control in the Children of God: Rewards, Punishments, and Deviant Attributions,” Paper Presented at the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association, Victoria, British Columbia, 1990; which develops ideas found in Stark, R. and Bainbridge, W.,A Theory of Religion, New York: Peter Lang, 1987.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Modified from Kent and Mytrash,op. cit.“Social Control in the Children of God: Rewards, Punishments, and Deviant Attributions,” Paper Presented at the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association, Victoria, British Columbia, 1990; p. 9.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Berg, D. [Moses David or Mo], (compiled by Samson Warner), “Revolutionary New Life,” June, 1974; reprinted in Berg, D. [Moses David or Mo],The Basic Mo Letters, Geneva: Children of God, 1976, p. 1.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Ibid, Berg, D. [Moses David or Mo], (compiled by Samson Warner), “Revolutionary New Life,” June, 1974; reprinted in Berg, D. [Moses David or Mo],The Basic Mo Letters, Geneva: Children of God, 1976, p. 2.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Berg, D. [Moses Davis or Mo], “Flesh or Spirit?”Mo Letter No. 45, 1971; reprinted in Berg,The Basic Mo Letters, op. cit, Geneva: Children of God, 1976, p. 5.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Berg, D. [Moses David or Mo], “Dad's Wee Word of Introduction;” in Berg,The Mo Letters Volume I: A-150. Geneva, The Children of God, 1976, p. 10.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    See Kent, S.A., “Interview With David and Marylou Hiebert,” July 28, 1989, p. 1.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    See Van Zandt,Living in the Children of God,-op. cit., pp. 5, 27.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Spilka, Shaver, and Kirkpatrick,-op. cit.“, p. 5.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Berg, D. [Moses David or Mo], (Compiled by Samson Warner), “The Spirit of God,” August 28, 1974; reprinted in Berg,The Basic Mo Letters, op. cit. Geneva: Children of God, 1976, pp. 10–13.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Berg, “The Spirit of God,”op. cit. August 28, 1974; reprinted in Berg,The Basic Mo Letters, op. cit Geneva: Children of God, 1976, p. 12.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    See Kent, “Interview with Hiebert and Hiebert,”op. cit. July 28, 1989, p. 8.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Family of Love, “The Family of Love News,” 2,5 March, 1978, p. 5.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Family of Love, “The Family of Love News,” 1,5, January 1978, p. 7.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Spilka, Shaver, and Kirkpatrick,-op. cit.“.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Ibid., p. 6.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
  34. 34.
    Kent, S.A., “Interview with Karen Meyer,” October, 1987, p. 35.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Ibid.Kent, S.A., “Interview with Karen Meyer,” October, 1987, pp. 37–38 (emphasis added).Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Ibid.Kent, S.A., “Interview with Karen Meyer,” October, 1987, p. 38.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Ibid.Kent, S.A., “Interview with Karen Meyer,” October, 1987, p. 35.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Kent, S.A., “Interview with Lucy Lowe [pseudonym],” February 25, 1989, p. 33.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Ibid.Kent, S.A., “Interview with Lucy Lowe [pseudonym],” February 25, 1989, p. 33–34.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Ibid.Kent, S.A., “Interview with Lucy Lowe [pseudonym],” February 25, 1989, p. 34.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Ibid.Kent, S.A., “Interview with Lucy Lowe [pseudonym],” February 25, 1989, p. 34.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Ibid.Kent, S.A., “Interview with Lucy Lowe [pseudonym],” February 25, 1989, p. 35.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Ibid.Kent, S.A., “Interview with Lucy Lowe [pseudonym],” February 25, 1989, p. 33.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Ibid.Kent, S.A., “Interview with Lucy Lowe [pseudonym],” February 25, 1989, p. 36.Google Scholar
  45. 25.
    Ibid.Kent, S.A., “Interview with Lucy Lowe [pseudonym],” February 25, 1989, p. 38–39.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Lerner, M.J.,The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion, New York, Plenum Press, 1980, p. 125.Google Scholar
  47. 27.
    Berg, D. [Moses David or Mo], “The Men Who Play God,” reprinted in Berg, D.,The Mo Letters Volume IV (The ‘FF’ Volume!). Rome, The Family of Love, 1976, 4154–4157.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Ibid.Berg, D. [Moses David or Mo], “The Men Who Play God,” reprinted in Berg, D.,The Mo Letters Volume IV (The ‘FF’ Volume!). Rome, The Family of Love, 1976, pp. 4156–4157.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    See West, L. J.; and Singer, M. T.; “Cults, Quacks, and Nonprofessional Psychotherapies,”, inComprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry. Edited by H. Kaplan, A. Freedman, and B.J. Sadock; Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Company, 3249.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Parsons, A.S., “The Secular Contribution to Religious Innovation: A Case Study of the Unification Church,”Sociological Analysis, 50,3, Fall 1989, pp. 215–219.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Ibid.,, p. 217.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
  53. 53.
  54. 54.
    Ibid., p. 216.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Ibid., p. 217; see Cartwright and Kent,op. cit. “Social Control in Alternative Religions: A Familial Perspective,”Sociological Analysis 53, 1992, p. 349; Jacobs, J.L.,Divine Disenchantment, op. cit. Divine Disenchantment, Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, pp. 79–81.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Berg, D. [Moses David or Mo], “Ya Gotta Be a Babby,” Tract, 1 page.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Faith [i.e., Faith Berg], “A Shepherd's Confession,” June 1973, p. 6.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Jacobs, J.L. “The Effects of Ritual Healing on Female Victims of Abuse: A Study of Empowerment and Transformation,”Sociological Analysis, 50, 3, Fall. 1989, pp. 265–279.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Jacobs, J.L., “The Economy of Love in Religious Commitment: The Deconversion of Women from Nontraditional Religious Movements,”J. for the Scientific Study of Religion, 23, 1984, p. 158.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Ibid., p. 162; see Jacobs, J. L.,Divine Disenchantment, op. cit., Divine Disenchantment, Bloomington and Indianapolis Indiana University Press, pp. 63–64.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Jacobs, “The Economy of Love in Religious Commitment,” p. 163.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    See, for example, Bromley, D.; Shupe, A., and Ventimiglia, J.C.; “The Role of Anecdotal Atrocities in the Social Construction of Evil,” pp. 139–160 inThe Brainwashing/Deprogramming Controversy. Edited by D. Bromley and J.T. Richardson, Lewiston, New York, Edwin Mellon Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Institutes of Religion and Health 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen A. Kent
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology of the University of AlbertaEdmonton

Personalised recommendations