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Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge Paperback – Bargain Price, September 2, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061118060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061118067
  • ASIN: B002YNS18O
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,598,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In January 2005, Ricky Rodriguez stabbed a woman to death and then fled the scene of the crime, finally shooting himself in the California desert. Rodriguez was a high-profile ex-member of the Children of God, also called the Family, a controversial hippie cult of the 1970s that had spiraled into aberrant sexual behaviors and other disconcerting practices. Rodriguez was seeking revenge for the sexual abuse that his murder victim and others had committed against him when he was a child (the cult had gone so far as to record its crimes in a bizarre book that glibly described—and provided photographic evidence of—sexual relations between adults and children). Lattin, who covered the religion beat for the San Francisco Chronicle, offers an arresting if uneven account of the Family. He begins by arguing that the cult is best understood in the context of American evangelicalism, and does some strong investigation into the founder's ancestry to prove this point. But he does not sustain these threads throughout the book, which becomes a typical true crime tale. Some aspects of the Family, like flirty fishing (sacred prostitution), are carefully researched, while others (like a journalistic account of how the cult funded itself so well on a global scale) are underreported. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Lattin's true-crime story concerns a cult left over from the 1970s boom in disturbing mass religious movements: the Children of God, whose founder, David Brandt Berg (1919–94), called Moses by devotees, preached an aggressive Christianity that sanctioned consensual heterosexual intercourse between adults, regardless of marital status. Before 1986, however, adult-child heterosexual relations were also approved, and therein lay the motive of Ricky "Davidito" Rodriguez. Raised in the cult, he was the son of second-in-command Karen Zerby and was intended to succeed Berg (hence his nickname). But those plans went awry as Rodriguez came to resent the sex thrust upon him when a child. The favored child turned against his elders most dramatically. In 2005 he murdered those responsible for his abuse and then himself. Lattin's focus becomes a little shaky as his presentation veers between straight reportage and the metaphysics of the cult's messianic thing, but he remains eminently readable. A treasure trove for those curious about aberrant cultic enterprises. Tribby, Mike --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Don Lattin is one of the nation's leading journalists covering alternative and mainstream religious movements and figures in America. His work has appeared in dozens of U.S. magazines and newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, where he covered the religion beat for nearly two decades. Lattin has also worked as a consultant and commentator for Dateline, Primetime, Good Morning America, Nightline, Anderson Cooper 360, and PBS's Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. He is the author of Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge, and Following Our Bliss: How the Spiritual Ideals of the Sixties Shape Our Lives Today, and is the coauthor of Shopping for Faith: American Religion in the New Millennium.

Customer Reviews

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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Josh Bruni on May 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
My name is Josh Bruni and while I haven't yet read the book, I have heard about it and would like to make a few comments about COG/the family.
I was born and raised in "the family". I left when I was 20 in the year 2000. My mother and 6 brothers and sisters still live in "the family" in various parts of the world. I'll never rejoin and I don't recomend anyone else join. What a lot of people who've never been a member don't realize is, when you have been born into "the family" you don't know what "normal" is. When you leave, it takes a while, several years in my case, to realize how weird and twisted some of the things you've been taught actually are. Any book that exposes the inner goings on of that group, I strongly recomend. See also the book "Not without my sister" by ex-members of the same group.

Josh Bruni
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Frank Scoblete author of Confessions of a Wayward Catholic on November 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Strap yourself in for a ride into true sickness. The "Children of God," known today as "The Family" is a cult that started in the 1970s and descended into true sexual madness by following the "God-inspired" personal prophecies of a drunken, sex maniac who called himself Moses David.

Yes, sex between adults, sex with children, sex between children, sex with your own children too. In one section you discover that the murderer had been having sex since he was a few months old (his nannies played with him) and then at 18 months was engaging in sex with a five month old!

This cult wanders from place to place around the world to this day. Adherents have numerous kids and numerous grandchildren but no one knows whose kids are really theirs or whose are those from when these individuals' wives were prostitutes luring men to join the cult by sharing God's love through sexual relations.

To say this is the story of sickness is to underplay how truly vile this "religion" is.

This is eye-opening reading.

Frank Scoblete: author of Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Elaine VINE VOICE on June 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book provides a background and context for the murder-suicide of Ricky Rodriguez, the involuntary prophet-apparent of The Family, an international religious cult. Also known as The Children of God, the group began in the late sixties under direction of David Berg, a self-appointed prophet, polygamist, pedophile, and narcissist. It continues today, led by Karen (sp?) Zerby, Ricky Rodriguez's mother. The book is a very well-rounded account of the cult's beginnings, compared with other so-called new religions, written by a journalist who covered religion for major newspapers for many years. It's a quick, informative read. I also recommend Not Without My Sisters, a memoir by three girls who grew up moving in the cult around the world.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dan Bogaty on October 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
Don Lattin's JESUS FREAKS is the well written, well researched, and well documented account of a fringe Christian cult called The Children of God. The church, which began in the 60s and was designed to appeal to street hippies and to lost souls who were searching for meaning in their lives, was of the apocalyptic persuasion. The world would end in a specified period of time - 7 years, 38.5 months, whatever seemed right at the time - and the members of The Children of God, founded and led by one David Berg, would attain their rightful place in heaven. The rest of you? Not so fast there, Marty.

It appears that The Children of God, like many other cults, was begun with good intentions, but eventually Berg established himself first as the group's connection to God and then as God himself. And, as God, anything that Berg decreed was not only okay, it was positively sanctified. And what Berg, the alcoholic son of itinerant fundamentalist preachers, mainly decreed was sex - often mandated - between adults, their marital status notwithstanding; between adults and children; and between children. Incest? No problem. That was encouraged as well. Berg also had young women in his congregation engage in what Berg called "flirty fishing" which was basically prostitution designed to deliver money and converts to The Children of God. As Lattin writes, "Berg was to become God's pimp."

JESUS FREAKS, Lattin's history/expose of the cult, revolves around the story of Ricky Rodriguez, a child born into the cult who, though not biologically related to David Berg was raised by Berg and Ricky's mother as his own son and who was designated the boy king who would assume leadership when Berg passed on to that great orgy in the sky.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Jesus Freaks / 978-0-06-111804-3

Sometimes you're walking through the "True Crime" section of the bookstore, and a book leaps out at you, and you realize that it's the true account of that one Law & Order episode you caught that one time that totally wasn't based on a true story or anything, except of course they all are. And because you thought the episode (Season 15, Episode 19, "Sects") was interesting (in a horrifying kind of way), you take the book home and you read it, and you find a gripping tale of horror and sadness. That's what this book is.

I knew I would like "Jesus Freaks" right off the bat, when I saw that the author had thoughtfully included a 'cheat sheet' of important personas as the first page. Having just spent this winter reading through the labyrinthine family trees of the Warren Jeffs' FLDS cult, I appreciated immediately that the author of "Jesus Freaks" recognized how difficult it can be to keep straight all the names when plumbing decades of cult behavior. What I hadn't expected, however, was that the writing and characterization here would be so clear and memorable, that I would rarely have to refer to my cheat sheet.

Although this book deals with some truly horrible human behavior, Lattin does a wonderful job of keeping the material accessible. He has a very careful way of zooming into the terrible history of this cult, but then zooming back out to cover some other, less distasteful history in order to let the reader get their bearings back.
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