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Read an Exclusive Excerpt from Faith Jones’s Book ‘Sex Cult Nun’

five young children in red outfits perform for a large crowd

A two-year-old Jones and her siblings perform for the Vietnamese refugee camp in Macau.

Courtesy of Faith Jones

In 1968, the Children of God, later known as The Family, was founded by David Berg in California. Now known for allegations of child abuse and exploitation by former members, the cult spanned the world. Faith Jones, Bergs granddaughter, was raised in the cult and relocated to a commune farm in Macau with family members after the group’s actions caught the attention of law enforcement. Journalist Lynne Watson closely followed the group throughout the ‘80s. After leaving the cult as a young woman, Jones attended Georgetown University and is now an attorney. Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult explores the spiritual manipulation and abuse that she was taught to accept as normal during her childhood. Read an exclusive excerpt below.

It’s already been a couple of years since Lynne Watson published her article that sent us to the Farm, and while things have been quiet, it seems we are never safe.

Gathering all of us in our enclosed patio living room, Mommy Esther solemnly tells us, “You kids are not to go anywhere on the Farm without an adult with you. Nowhere! Not even to walk the short pathways between our houses. We’ve had a very serious threat.”

We hold our breath, our eyes wide. She explains that she’s received a letter from her relatives in Kansas. Her parents are upset by the accusations of abuse they are seeing in the media and have offered a reward to anyone who will kidnap us kids and bring us to America.

Shocked gasps escape our mouths.

a man stands on a beach with two women and a baby

Jones’s father in Hong Kong with his two wives; an infant Jones is held by her mother.

Courtesy of Faith Jones

Reports of prostitution and child abuse have sparked police raids, arrests, and harassment of the Homes of Family members, with authorities locking up and blacklisting members, even trying to take children away from their parents.

The Family News we receive each month with stories of Family members being kidnapped and imprisoned only confirm our fears. Ted Patrick, an American cult deprogrammer also known as Black Lightning, has masterminded numerous kidnappings for parents who hire him to “rescue” their sons or daughters. But those happened in the US and Europe—far away from our little village. We often have desperate prayer sessions for the deliverance of Family members around the world who are being persecuted.

I know an adult could easily overpower me, but my eyes narrow as I stare at the dirty roof tiles. I won’t go quietly, I say to myself.

I’ve never heard anything about Mommy Esther’s parents. I don’t even know their names. But Mommy Esther’s high and shallow voice and jerky movements tell me to be afraid. We’re finally no longer in danger of getting thrown out of the village or kicked out of the country, but now we have to worry about being kidnapped!

“Don’t worry,” our father says, “God will protect us, but until we tell you otherwise, no one goes anywhere without a buddy and big stick.” He holds up a heavy wooden tree branch that’s taller than me and two inches thick. “I’m putting these near the doors. Any time you go outside, you take one with you. If you see someone you don’t know, run. If someone grabs you, scream and bite and kick, and do whatever you can to get away. Do you understand?”

Now I am scared. I’ve never heard them talk like this before. But it doesn’t make sense.

How silly, of course we are not being abused. Abuse was starving kids, burning them with cigarettes, punching them in the face until they broke their nose or had to go to the hospital, like Systemite parents did. It’s those silly Systemites trying to ban corporeal punishment in places like the UK, saying it’s child abuse, who are the problem. “I got spanked plenty and see how I turned out,” the adults always say. Grandpa says Dr. Spock is inspired by Satan to teach parents not to spank their kids, so they can raise spoiled criminals and drug addicts.

a man washes several children in a barrel

Jones and others being bathed by Jones’s father in a barrel he found at the beach.

Courtesy of Faith Jones

And our sexual freedom is not abuse; the Systemites just don’t know the difference, because they don’t accept God’s Word.

Of course, everyone agrees. How ridiculous! We would never abuse our children. That’s just the Devil’s excuse to persecute us.

For the next two months, we are on high alert. On the Farm and moving between village houses, we kids are accompanied by adults armed with a huge stick. If there is no adult available to walk us to the other house for school or naptime, Patrick and I peek out the front door at the twenty meters separating the Main House from the Cottage. I check carefully for strangers lurking behind the short stone wall surrounding the Cottage yard before clenching the heavy stick in one hand and Patrick’s sweaty hand in the other. “One, two, three,” we count under our breath. “Run!”

a man reads to a crowd of children

Jones’s father leads her and other children in devotions in their Macau home.

Courtesy of Faith Jones

We cover the short distance in record time, while trying to keep our rubber flip-flops from slipping off, fear and adrenaline making my whole body tingle. We collapse, heart pounding and light-headed, behind the second closed door. “Safe!” Our quiet neighborhood is a war zone that exists in our fear. In bed, I rehearse in my head how I might kick and scream and bite any deprogrammer who might leap out and try to kidnap me. I know an adult could easily overpower me, but my eyes narrow as I stare at the dirty roof tiles. I won’t go quietly, I say to myself.

Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult

Eventually, when no kidnappers show up, the hysteria dies down. It feels good to walk slowly again, pausing to sniff my favorite rosebush. If I’m honest, I’m just a teensy bit disappointed that no real kidnappers showed up to test our defenses. I guess the grandparents decided it would be too much hassle and went back to ignoring us. The scare reinforces that Systemites, even, or especially, relatives, cannot be trusted. They don’t understand. They are outsiders.

While Grandpa encourages Family members to write home and maintain a good relationship with their relatives to keep them from becoming enemies, our real family can only be the Family. I know my mother sends her parents monthly newsletters, telling testimonies about our mission work and asking for donations, but I don’t hear if they write back.

Safe now to roam about, Patrick and I race to our favorite tree, the spring sun beating down. I swing my way up, curling my bare toes around the branches, and Patrick scrambles behind me. Even when he stops to catch his breath, I keep going, straight to the top. The highest branches bend and sway under my weight, and when there’s nothing left to climb, I pretend I’m a bird, looking out over the tops of trees, far above everyone else.

The adults can’t reach me here. Not even my brothers can climb this high, because the branches are not strong enough to hold their heavier weight.

All the tiny people on the ground don’t matter. There’s nothing ugly, nothing painful. I reach my hand up as if I could touch God.

From the book Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult by Faith Jones. Copyright © 2021 by Faith Jones. Published on Nov. 30, 2021 by William Morrow. Reprinted by permission.

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