Posts Tagged ‘religious sect’

“What will the Christmas Monster bring? Geological cataclysms? Political Catastrophe? Economic Chaos? New World Order? Great Confusion? Energy Crisis? Atomic War? End of the World?” So reads the rear of an eight page pamphlet distributed outside the GPO in the run up to the Christmas of 1973 by a group calling themselves the “Children of God.”  The leaflet heralded the arrival of the Comet Kohoutek and the group’s belief in the impending apocalypse.

Comet Kohoutek was discovered on March 7th 1973. Astronomers predicted that it would be the brightest “naked eye comet” since Halleys’ passed in 1910. Dubbed the “Comet of the Century” by the media, much like the recent Comet Ison, predictions fell well short of the mark, and rather than the spectacular show the world was promised, Kohoutek proved to be a bit of a let down, with the Wall Street Journal calling it at the time “a disappointment to sky-watchers, if not a fizzle.”

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Front page of pamphlet handed out by the Children of God at the GPO, 1974. Scanned and uploaded by CHTM!

The Children of God were a fundamentalist Christian sect founded in 1968 in California by David Brandt Berg. “Moses David” as he was known within the group, declared himself to be “God’s Prophet for this time.” The organisation had an estimated 165 “colonies” in late 1973, with a presence from London to Paris, Florence to Liverpool and from their headquarters in Dallas, Texas to Dublin, Cork and Belfast. In order to show devotion to the organisation, followers were expected to live a communal existence in their “colony,” obey communiques from their leader (known as “Mo Letters”) , adopt Biblical names and refuse to accept secular employment. Marriage was promoted amongst members, but couples were far from monogamous, and rumours of child abuse in the organisation were rife.

According to a Des Hickey article in the Sunday Independent, September 16th 1973,  a Children of God colony was active in Dublin and based themselves out of a two storey house in Rialto. There were ten members of the organisation living in the house, including a 22 year old named Zibeon, his American wife Aphia,  20 year old Parable, and his English wife Magdala. Both Zibeon and Parable were Irish, Zibeon having attended Blackrock College, before going to the North for University, though both men spoke with “indeterminate American accents.”

back page 001

Back page of same pamphlet. Scanned and uploaded by CHTM!

The month after the article was written, a bus belonging to the group (which had at one stage been used as the London Headquarters of the organisation), caught fire whilst parked on Nutley Lane in Donnybrook. “Gardaí at the time could not tell if the fire was malicious or not.” (Irish Independent, 17th October, 1973.) Given that the group were looked upon suspiciously by established churches in the country, it’s doubtful arson could be ruled out. Several religious organisations spoke out against the groups “eccentricities and questionable characteristics” (Presbyterian Church notes in the Irish Times, December 6, 1972.). A 1984 meeting in Malahide proclaimed young people were at grave risk from cults operating in Ireland, and included the Children of God (alongside the Mormons and Opus Dei) on their watch list.

Throughout the early half of the Seventies, the organisation grew to approximately one hundred members in Ireland. At one point there were 27 members, both male and female, living in a house in Clontarf. Their main work consisted of distributing/ selling literature and “rehabilitating” drug addicts and alcoholics; “converting” them and asking them to give up their worldly possessions to the organisation. Judging from the fact that the address given on the Kohoutek pamphlet published here was a P.O. Box in Fairview, it’s possible that they were living here by the end of 1973, although the organisation had also based itself in different locations around the city, including Rathmines, Portmarnock and Miltown according to the Sunday Independent, 3rd December 1978. Moses David never paid the Dublin colony a visit but did, according to the same report, issue them with upwards of 500 letters, “with instructions ranging from how to brush their teeth to what music they should listen to.”

Des Hickey, Sunday Independent, September 16th 1973

Des Hickey, Sunday Independent, September 16th 1973

The pamphlet handed out at the GPO largely contained gibberish, proclamations and counter proclamations of impending doom or salvation, warnings that the apocalypse will happen either in forty or eighty days, or as seen below, some time in 1986. Some of the more ‘interesting’ quotes:

“According to our own calculations, 1986 should be about the time of the final takeover of One World Government by a world dictator known as the “Anti-Christ” and the beginning of his reign of terror!”

“For the heat of the comet shall be sevenfold, and men shall gnaw their tongues for pain for the travail that shall come upon them when the Lord shall arise to shake terribly the Earth! Thank You for the words Thou hast given their father! In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

The pamphlet also includes these two pages of useful survival tactics, along with instructions to “pray and stay close to the Lord!” The opening paragraph of these pages ends with the following line:

Are you even ready for the riots, the sabotage, the wrecking of utilities, the blowing up of your bank, the cutting off of your electricity and water, the problems of sewage and garbage disposal and food and gasoline rationing and shortages of all kinds is a state of emergency, and the brutality of martial law under the reign of terror of a military dictatorship of a dying nation that has forgotten God? What will YOU do?

Children of God Survival Tactics

Children of God Survival Tactics, click to zoom. Scanned and uploaded by CHTM!

The main focus for the group seems to have surrounded Comet Kohoutek, and reports about the organisation die out after this event, with the trail for the Children of God going cold around 1978. At the beginning of the eighties, there was apparently a small community in Mountjoy Square, but these fled the country to Argentina in 1981 under fear of another impending apocalypse proclaimed by Moses David.  A couple of newspaper reports appear in 1993, of a Dublin man taking his wife to court for custody of their daughter, whom she had taken without his knowledge to live with the Buenes Aires branch, now known as “The Family.”

This Post wouldn’t have been possible were it not for Harry Warren loaning us the pamphlet. Cheers H!

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