Religion and Politics
When the Daily Mail published a story on the Children of God at first, I assumed this was going to be a sensationalist piece of reporting. The words “bizarre” and “cult” in the headline gave that away before my eyes even had a chance to read the first line. The article is about the musical career and new CD of Nat, Koa, and Tally who are the children of Jeremy Spencer. Spencer was a guitar player for Fleetwood Mac. In 1971, Jeremy never returned to the tour bus. He had been “brainwashed” and had joined the Children of God. At this point, I thought who wouldn’t want to read a story about someone famous who was brainwashed into joining some strange hippy religious cult? But at the same time, who am I to judge the decisions he made? This article reminded me how the media plays a huge role in the reporting on New Religious Movements. The media is the promoting force for the ideological status quo.
In the 1970s and 1980s, reporting on the Children of God focused mainly on their esoteric history towards sexual relations. In this article the author can’t help but mention it. However, this turns out to be one of the shining moments in the story. When asked if the images of sexual promiscuity were imprinted on their young fragile innocent minds, Koa replies “I think it is always exaggerated.” Thank you Koa! Of course, it was exaggerated. Crazy cult stories sell, but crazy sex cult stories sell even more. The positive aspect of this article is that it sheds light on the real experience of growing up with the Children of God.
Discussing the CD, Koa mentions one line of lyrics in a song is “I don’t believe in God.” This caused a problem with their father, Jeremy, who played guitar on a track for the CD. He didn’t want to support something that went against his beliefs. His children say they would never ask their father to leave the group because “the communes aren’t plugged into the real world. There is a certain appeal to that even if it’s not for us.” This is the redeeming moment of the article. His children accept their father’s choice.
If Nat, Koa, and Tally can accept their father’s belief in the Children of God, even though it had a huge impact on their childhood and who they are today, why can’t we, as a society, accept it? When will the sensationalist reporting on New Religious Movements end? This article is a step in the right direction.
End Note: The Children of God is now known as The Family International. This is not a judgement on what it would have been like to grow up with the Family, but merely a commentary on how these groups are reflected in the media.