Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Parents Join to Combat Radical Youth Sect, by Edward B. Fisk and American's Death A Bangkok Puzzle, by Joseph Lelyveld,

Several news articles that go together to announce the likelihood that the devil, if not actually residing in the church, was never kept away from his hiding spot if he promised to be useful.

I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, turning 13 in 1970, and I remember Stephen Gaskin's great migration out from San Francisco in a fleet of rickety school buses to set up The Farm in middle Tennessee. I visited there with friends while still in high school, at the time Stephen was locked up for growing pot, which was pretty much my interest too, but I didn't get very far past the gatehouse. My mother, who was a newspaper reporter, visited with co-workers not long after the group arrived, at a time when they were building their first permanent structure---a bathhouse, which was designed to be communal--or inter-sexual--whatever the term was in those days for boys and girls being naked together doing practical things. I remember my mother's utter shock as the bolt went through her social conditioning, although I could see she was inwardly fascinated.

And now, 40 years later, the good trees are bearing fruit, with Stephen Gaskin's wife Ina May Garten threatening to take home the grand prize in the category of lasting impact for social good, with a deserved fame stemming from her book Spiritual Midwifery, 1977, and her career that resurrected a profession. 

I see that Wikipedia says Stephen, an ex-Marine and college English professor, is credited with having had four wives, none of whose dates of marriage overlapped, if certain other things did during that time of communal sexual experimentation. Now Stephen pledges his troth only to Ina May, promising her a defense with his Troubadour's sword

Such lifelong honesty and grace makes the Mormon way of plural marriage in this generation seem manifestly unworthy as even a secondhand media titillation for dangerously overwrought Christians or self-righteous Jews.

Now don't skip reading the articles. They're educational.

You know, 

The Farm, Plenty International
Spouse(s) Carol Groves, (1957-1959)
Carol Ladas (1961-1964)
Margaret Nofziger (1967-1975)
Ina May Middleton (1976-present)

April 9 1974, New York Times, American's Death A Bangkok Puzzle, by Joseph Lelyveld, Special to The New York Times,

Many Think Her Article on U.S. Sect Was a Factor

BANGKOK, Thailand, April 4 - The controversial American sect called the Children of God has suddenly found itself in the middle of a sensational murder mystery here. The victim was a young American woman named Claudia Ross, who worked as reporter on The Bangkok Post an English-language newspaper.

Her last article, which appeared five days before she was stabbed to death in her bedroom early on March 29, was presented as an expose of the Children of God. She characterized the sect as "a parasitic cult of Bible-pounding automatons" whose "dogma preaches hate."

The article recalled charges of kidnapping and extortion made against the Children of God by parents in the United States and Britain, who said the sect actively sought to cut them off from their offspring. Miss Ross implied that a similar effort would be made by the tiny contingent the sect has sent here-10 Americans and a New Zealander, who set up their center last month in a former noodle shop. A lengthy answer from the Children of God to the "slanderous, Iibelous and erroneous statements" in Miss Ross's article was carried by The Bangkok Post in an edition that was coming off the presses at about the time she was mur­dered.

Police See No Link

Her article had suggested a comparison between the "fa­natic loyalty" of the Children of God and that of the follow­ers of Charles Manson, who were involved in a sensational multiple murder in California in 1969. The Nation, another Eng­lish-language paper here, took up the suggestion and com­pared her murder to that of the actress Sharon Tate, a victim in the Manson case.

Two days passed before the Thai police started to indicate to the local press that the Chil­dren of God were not regarded as suspects. The police are un­derstood to have received a report from Interpol, the international police agency, saying that the sect had never been linked to violent crimes in countries where it has proselytized.

Nonetheless, the Children of God continue to be mentioned in virtually every article and conversation about the murder. There has been no evidence to connect the group to the crime except the victim's article, but that went so far in portraying its activities as sinister and po­tentially criminal that the con­nection is easily made.

In part that is because nothing else about the group has, been printed here; in part it is a reflection of the uncertain political situation in Thailand, where conspiracy theories grow spontaneously. There has even been speculation that the police were dropping the Children of God as suspects be­cause they saw the crime as an opportunity to smear the student movement that overturned the military-dominated Govern­ment last October.

Press accounts, noting that Miss Ross was close to the most outspoken of the student lead­er's, Seksan Prasertkul, report­ed that the police were search­ing for a political motive for her murder. The Children of God them­selves seem oblivious to the speculation swirling around them. When they were visited at the former noodle shop, they were just starting a period of their rigorously scheduled day they call "inspira­tion." This involves the spirited singing of religious songs ren­dered in a rock-music style, including one, which they de­scribed as their theme song, that has as its refrain the line: "You got to be a baby to go to heaven."

Childlike Trust Is Basis

The point of the song, like the sect's aim, seems to be that faith is essentially- an act of childlike trust. After the singing most of the young zealots went upstairs to memorize passages from the Bible and letters they receive from the sect's "chief shep­herd," David Berg, a former American traveling preacher who now calls himself Moses David. But the "elders" -two young men and a woman -stayed behind and willingly answered questions.

The Children of God adopt Biblical names; the chief spokes­man calls himself Gibeah, which he found in the first book of Samuel. Two years ago he was a college student in Los Angeles named George Dunbar.

Miss Ross signed the group's guest book with a false name the one time she visited the noodle shop, Gibeah said, and never identified herself as a reporter. The first reaction of the group to the killing was shock and sorrow, he said. The members also worried that the incident would prove to be a setback to their proselytizing efforts in this predominantly Buddhist country, but, he said, on reflection they realized that "God is going to use it for His glory." According to Gibeah then are 4,000 Children of God dispersed in small "colonies" in 65 countries.

February 21, 1972, New York Times, page 38, Parents Join to Combat Radical Youth Sect, by Edward B. Fisk,

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