‘I grew up like a nun – but with a lot more sex’
Faith Jones grew up in the Children of God cult, founded by her grandfather David Berg (bottom left). From the age of six, she was forced to be in sexual situations with male “uncles” in the group. NY Post photo composite
About 10 years ago, Faith Jones went to the mountains of Sri Lanka for a meditation retreat. “I’m the kind of person who has to be busy all the time,” the Las Vegas-based lawyer told The Post. “I thought, ‘I’m gonna go crazy trying to sit there for eight hours a day meditating!’”
Instead, she felt instantly at home among the Buddhist monks and nuns who spent their days doing chores and chanting scriptures in the middle of nowhere.
“I was like, ‘Why does this seem so familiar to me?’” Jones, 44, recalled. “And then it hit me. I grew up like this! I grew up like a little nun, except there was a lot of sex involved!”She then told herself:
“I’m gonna write a book, and I’m going to call it
‘My Life As a Sex Cult Nun.’”
Jones wasn’t kidding. “Sex Cult Nun,” her new memoir (William Morrow), out now, details her upbringing in the notorious Children of God cult.
Her grandfather founded the group, later called The Family, and it gained infamy for its disturbing sex practices and allegations of abuse — including encouraging sexual relations between adults and children.
Jones grew up believing “The Law of Love,” which pushed women to show Jesus’ love by submitting to sex with men. Jones felt that pressure as early as 6 years old.
She finally escaped The Family when she was 22, getting her college degree and attending Berkeley Law. Yet she said it took her years to fully come to terms with the abuse she endured.
“When I left, I still didn’t think that what I’d been taught was wrong, necessarily,” she said.
“It took a few years of living in regular society [before] I could look back on my life and be like, ‘Oh, that’s what happened.’”
Jones was born in Hong Kong in 1977, the seventh child in a polygamous family in the Children of God.
She grew up with six older half-siblings, two mothers (Mommy Esther, her father’s first wife, and Mommy Ruthie, her biological mother, a former hippie from Long Island) and no schooling — spending hours a day praying, doing household chores and preparing for the End Times.
Jones’ father, Hosea, was the son of Children of God leader David Berg, aka Moses David, an itinerant preacher who eventually started the group in 1968.
Hosea grew up “witnessing” alongside his dad across the United States and was one of the cult’s earliest disciples, even taking Berg’s message abroad when the group started facing legal scrutiny in the US.
That’s where he met Faith’s mom, Ruthie, who joined the group in 1971. Ruthie’s devotion so impressed Berg that he suggested Hosea take her as his second wife.
By the time Faith came along, The Children of God had expanded into Asia, and Hosea and Ruthie had opened a printing press in Hong Kong, where they published Berg’s prophecies, called the “Mo Letters,” to circulate among the cult’s 10,000 members.
(Esther, Berg’s first wife, largely took care of the house and the brood’s expanding number of children.)
Yet Hosea soon fell out of favor when Berg discovered he was printing material for clients outside the group.
Jones never met her grandfather before his death in 1994.“It was a very strange thing, because I felt very abandoned and rejected and didn’t know why,” she said of never meeting Berg.
“But now I’m quite grateful.”In 1981, Jones was 4 when her father, mothers and half-siblings moved to a remote farm in Macau, off the south coast of China, after a Hong Kong newspaper published an exposé on the group.
At first, the family didn’t have a toilet, reliable electricity or a shower.
(They took baths in a barrel.) But eventually, her father spruced up the place, built guest houses, planted a vegetable garden and acquired a bevy of farm animals, turning the dilapidated property into a fully functioning religious commune.
“We were in a religious order, living communally, no possessions, hours spent in prayer and reading, proselytizing,” Jones said.
“But the difference is that most religious orders ban sex; we emphasized it.” Sex pervaded every aspect of their lives.
Cartoon images of naked women adorned their religious literature.
(The Holy Spirit was depicted, Jones writes, as “a buxom, hot, horny goddess wearing only a heart-shaped bikini held on with pearl strings.”) Monthly newsletters included photos of topless women.
One of Jones’ first coloring books had detailed diagrams of sexual organs and a drawing of a “naked, fully aroused man” penetrating a woman wearing a flower crown on her head.
They learned that “our sex is our service to God,” Jones writes.
“Refusing sex is being hard and selfish, unyielded to God’s will. And our absolute obedience is expected.”
When Faith was a girl in the early 1980s, she occasionally went on her mother’s “Flirty Fishing” missions — basically where women were expected to prostitute themselves for Christ, seducing men to the cause or at least extracting favors from them.
Jones said she actually looked forward to these trips. “For me, it was even a bit of fun because we got to go out to nice restaurants and ride in fancy cars,” she said.
She particularly “loved” visiting one of her mother’s long-term “fish,” Ashok. (When Jones was 7, Ruthie had a daughter, Nina, with him.)
“He would do fun things with me like make chapatis and give me that attention I didn’t get from my father,” Jones said of Ashok.
Though sometimes she would have to pretend to sleep while Ashok and her mother had sex in the bed next to her.
“We were told we had no property rights to our body — that it belonged to God,” she continued. “And that allowed for all these abuses to happen.”
Children were not exempt from such abuses. When she was 3, Jones appeared in the video “Asian Angels Vol. 1,” in which scantily clad women and girls from The Family’s Asian missions portrayed sexy dancing goddesses from Moses David’s dreams.
When she was about 6, her “Uncle Jeff” — the children referred to all adults in the cult as “uncle” or “aunt” — showed her how to pleasure him with her hands.
At 10, despite shifting policies between adults and children due to increased media attention, two older “uncles” French kissed her.
She tried to avoid them and other men on the farm, she was asked, “Why can’t you be more loving?”
(Her older brothers, by the time they were 10, had already had sex:“Boys were asked which ‘auntie’ they wanted to have sexy time with, and then they went into different rooms and did what the boy wanted — full sex or just cuddling,” she writes.)
By the early 1990s, when Jones was 10, The Family tried to rein in the child sex, but Jones suffered other hardships.
Her father was shipped to Japan with no explanation when she was 11. That same year, an “Auntie Sara” arrived at the farm to implement a rotating sex “sharing” schedule for its adolescents, where they were expected to go to bed with that evening’s partner for an hour.
(Jones said she didn’t actually have sex, but did feel pressure to do “something sexual” during these sanctioned sessions.)
She, her mother and her mother’s two younger children — Nina and Jondy — were then sent to a compound in Thailand, where Jones spent her whole first month on silence restriction, forbidden from communicating with anyone until she learned “to be yielded and submissive.”
“That was the most difficult time for me,” Jones said. “It attacked my whole sense of individuality — the humiliation of that.”
Later her mother took them to the United States, where Jones spent some time with her grandmother in Atlanta and her grandfather and his wife in Indiana.
In Georgia, Jones went to a real school for a few months. She loved it.“I discovered I have this insatiable desire to learn, to explore, to understand,” Jones recalled.
“Before that, what I learned in The Family was incredibly limited basically to the Mo Letters, and I was so bored.
It was just the same stuff rehashed over and over, trying to give it an exciting gloss.”Still, Jones remained a true believer, and when her father showed up in Atlanta, the family headed back to Macau and later China.
Jones convinced her mother to send for a CLE homeschooling course from the Mennonites, and she taught herself math, English, social studies and science.
She was 16 when she lost her virginity to a boy outside The Family, and was shipped to Japan for sneaking out with a few other girls in the farm to hang out with locals from the town.
At 18, she went to Kazakhstan, where the elders chastised her for not “sharing her love” with another man in the commune.
As she went to him, she kept telling herself, “This is for God.”
“It took me a long time to realize that being coerced into having sex with somebody based on being told that God will punish you, or out of fear of humiliation, is the same as rape,” Jones said.
She bounced around Asia, submitting herself to The Family’s whims (and unwanted sex), until at 22, in 1999, she decided to leave and pursue a college education.
“I didn’t see a future for myself that was at all attractive,” she said about her decision to leave the group. “I was just really unhappy. [But] even at the time, I was like, maybe I’ll come back.”
Jones’ parents supported her decision, and her dad got her a job working at a new hotel in Macau to fund her move to the States.
Eventually she moved in with her mother’s sister in California, attending community college and bartending before getting a scholarship to Georgetown in 2002 and graduating from law school in 2008.
(She worked as a corporate attorney for Skadden Arps in Los Angeles and Hong Kong, before starting her own firm and consulting business in 2018.)
When she first got out of the group, she said she found herself getting pressured into sex she didn’t want because, she explained, “I didn’t think I could refuse.”
Her first serious college boyfriend encouraged her to talk about her experiences in the cult — and helped her see that what she experienced wasn’t just uncomfortable, but wrong.
Today, she said she has a loving boyfriend and “I’m very comfortable with my sexuality.
That is definitely a part of [my] healing.”Her parents and siblings have since left the group as well. Her mom and dad (now divorced) have apologized for the trauma that they put her through.
(Her parents never sexually abused her themselves.)
“I did, of course, experience anger [at them],” Jones said. “I was like, ‘How could you let these things happen?’”
She was particularly puzzled by her mother, who didn’t grow up in The Family and, unlike Hosea, “came from a world where this [behavior] wasn’t necessarily normal.
”But she said that part of her process of healing has included talking about these abuses with her parents.
“I also understood where they were coming from, because I had lived that,” she added. “I understand how people can be genuinely and deeply deceived.
It doesn’t change that the action is wrong or a violation, but it does change how I perceive it.”In addition to her own firm, Jones coaches other women on how to reclaim their ownership of their own bodies, inspired by her TEDx talk, “I Own Me.”
She said she wrote “Sex Cult Nun” to give hope to those from similar backgrounds and the tools to stand up for themselves.
“I hope we can make a cultural shift around some of these areas of abuse and manipulation — women’s rights and children’s rights,” she said.
“I shine a light on it from my personal experiences in this cult, but these topics are relevant to everybody.”
Raquel Laneri / nypost.com