The Tragic Legacy of the Children of God

New book called "Jesus Freaks" examines violent revenge against Children of God.

ByABC News
October 30, 2007, 5:28 PM

Nov. 1, 2007— -- On Jan. 7, 2005, 29-year-old Ricky Rodriguez recorded his final thoughts as he prepared to embark on a violent rampage of revenge.

"Some of the things I'm going to try to do are rather shocking, and maybe not right in a lot of people's books," he said on a chilling videotape. "I'm just loading my mags here. Hope you guys don't mind if I do that while I talk."

Raised to be a prophet and a savior, Ricky was about to become an executioner, and a grim lesson in religious fanaticism.

"There is this need that I have," he said on the tape. "This need. It's not a want. And I wish it wasn't. But it is. It's a need for revenge. It's a need for justice. Because I can't go on like this."

His attempt to exact justice led to two violent deaths, including his own.

Rodriguez was once in line to be the next holy prince in the infamous Christian sect Children of God, now known as the Family International.

San-Francisco-based reporter Don Lattin has been reporting on the sect since the early 1970s, and Rodriguez's chilling video pushed him to spend the last two years investigating the motives behind Rodriguez's violent legacy. The result is his just-released book "Jesus Freaks."

Lattin says he was intrigued by the video of Rodriguez, "the drama of loading the bullets and sharpening his knife. He loved action movies so, you think, he almost saw this as a movie. I just had to get to the bottom of this. What was really behind this?"

"What could turn a kid, who was raised to be prophet in this group that claimed to be Christian, claimed to have love and compassion for mankind What could turn him into a kind of raging monster?" said Lattin.

In the late 1960s David Berg -- the self-proclaimed prophet and Children of God founder -- began preaching a bizarre brew of sex and scripture. In writings and preaching, Berg advocated free love among his disciples, including adult-child sex.

"Berg was actually a genius because he would test drive these bizarre theologies, bizarre teachings, within his own inner circle," said Lattin. "So very early on, still in the late '60s, he would start having these sharing parties where he would go around naked with a bottle of the wine saying all things are pure and they'd have these orgies but no one knew that outside of the inner circle."

"These guys don't just drop out of the sky," Lattin said of Berg's appeal. "So why are people following this guy if he's a monster and a drunk and a maniac? [Because] Berg came directly out of the Christian evangelical tradition."

Borowik: We don't look on it as nowhere to be found. She's very present in her writings.

Schadler: Do you know where she is?

Borowik: Do I know where no. Not necessarily, no.

Schadler: You don't? The Pope is a spiritual lead. We know where he is. Karen is a spiritual leader. And we don't know where she is. And her son just committed suicide.

Borowik: I'm aware of that.

Jay: So why don't we know where she is?

Borowik: That's her policy. That's all I can tell you.

Borowik also sent a written statement in response to Lattin's book. It reads, in part,

"Lattin's effort to analyze the life and motives of Ricky Rodriguez and the murder/suicide he committed in 2005 was undoubtedly a challenging task Although Lattin's book does contain some sound research and factual information, it is laced with inaccuracies, misconceptions and erroneous conclusions lacking a factual base -- not to mention, sketchy research. Information provided by a handful of apostates with a clearly delineated agenda to demonize the Family is deemed credible, whereas information proceeding from current Family members is deemed questionable, at best" (CLICK HERE to read the full statement).

With the group's leader still in hiding, the story of the children of the Children of God remains unfinished. Each child will have to write his or her own ending.