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

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Educated meets The Vow in this story of liberation and self-empowerment—an inspiring and crazier-than-fiction memoir of growing up in and breaking free from the Children of God, an oppressive, extremist religious cult. Faith Jones was raised to be part an elite army preparing for the End Times. Growing up on an isolated farm in Macau, she prayed for hours every day and read Educated meets The Vow in this story of liberation and self-empowerment—an inspiring and crazier-than-fiction memoir of growing up in and breaking free from the Children of God, an oppressive, extremist religious cult. Faith Jones was raised to be part an elite army preparing for the End Times. Growing up on an isolated farm in Macau, she prayed for hours every day and read letters of prophecy written by her grandfather, the founder of the Children of God. Tens of thousands of members strong, the cult followers looked to Faith’s grandfather as their guiding light. As such, Faith was celebrated as special and then punished doubly to remind her that she was not. Over decades, the Children of God grew into an international organization that became notorious for its alarming sex practices and allegations of abuse and exploitation. But with indomitable grit, Faith survived, creating a world of her own—pilfering books and teaching herself high school curriculum. Finally, at age twenty-three, thirsting for knowledge and freedom, she broke away, leaving behind everything she knew to forge her own path in America. A complicated family story mixed with a hauntingly intimate coming-of-age narrative, Faith Jones’ extraordinary memoir reflects our societal norms of oppression and abuse while providing a unique lens to explore spiritual manipulation and our rights in our bodies. Honest, eye-opening, uplifting, and intensely affecting, Sex Cult Nun brings to life a hidden world that’s hypnotically alien yet unexpectedly relatable. 


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Educated meets The Vow in this story of liberation and self-empowerment—an inspiring and crazier-than-fiction memoir of growing up in and breaking free from the Children of God, an oppressive, extremist religious cult. Faith Jones was raised to be part an elite army preparing for the End Times. Growing up on an isolated farm in Macau, she prayed for hours every day and read Educated meets The Vow in this story of liberation and self-empowerment—an inspiring and crazier-than-fiction memoir of growing up in and breaking free from the Children of God, an oppressive, extremist religious cult. Faith Jones was raised to be part an elite army preparing for the End Times. Growing up on an isolated farm in Macau, she prayed for hours every day and read letters of prophecy written by her grandfather, the founder of the Children of God. Tens of thousands of members strong, the cult followers looked to Faith’s grandfather as their guiding light. As such, Faith was celebrated as special and then punished doubly to remind her that she was not. Over decades, the Children of God grew into an international organization that became notorious for its alarming sex practices and allegations of abuse and exploitation. But with indomitable grit, Faith survived, creating a world of her own—pilfering books and teaching herself high school curriculum. Finally, at age twenty-three, thirsting for knowledge and freedom, she broke away, leaving behind everything she knew to forge her own path in America. A complicated family story mixed with a hauntingly intimate coming-of-age narrative, Faith Jones’ extraordinary memoir reflects our societal norms of oppression and abuse while providing a unique lens to explore spiritual manipulation and our rights in our bodies. Honest, eye-opening, uplifting, and intensely affecting, Sex Cult Nun brings to life a hidden world that’s hypnotically alien yet unexpectedly relatable. 

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra X is going to Mexico

    What is at the base of all religion? Control and status. In most religions it is the men who have the status and control and the women who are 'the helpmeet', 'submissive to' or is scarcely considered human and, as in Afghanistan, denied all the human rights every man takes for granted. (view spoiler)[Whether or not the US should have been in Afghanistan is a moot point, but withdrawing like that was always going to mean the very worst for women in every way. Thank you Biden. What you did was ev What is at the base of all religion? Control and status. In most religions it is the men who have the status and control and the women who are 'the helpmeet', 'submissive to' or is scarcely considered human and, as in Afghanistan, denied all the human rights every man takes for granted. (view spoiler)[Whether or not the US should have been in Afghanistan is a moot point, but withdrawing like that was always going to mean the very worst for women in every way. Thank you Biden. What you did was evil, I'm not going to mince my words. He is the worst president in living memory for women. The Afghani women are my concern just as much as my next door neighbours are. They are just further away. You may disagree. (hide spoiler)] . In this cult, women are household slaves, breeders and fuck dollies aka 'flirty fishers' aka prostitutes. This 'religion' differs only in that the women are expected to be prostitutes for all the men they meet, to get money from them (since no one actually works) and bring them home to be preached to. Holy prostitution. 'Flirty fishing' they call it. Being pimped out is what I call it. The founder said that first a man's appetite for sex must be satisfied then he will be open to spirituality. Or some such nonsense. They don't do outside work in this cult, they all live off the earnings they get from the women being whored out. Certain religions and cults appeal to people who seem to be able to suspend disbelief of what they are being told just as quickly as the rest of us do reading a fantasy novel. They might seem to be masculine, even controlling types but really they are happy to be submissive and do what they are told by a more powerful man. As a reward most of these cults and religions give them a woman, or sometimes women, that will cook, clean and fuck them and never complain nor even answer back. 'Keep sweet' say the FLDS, 'if you want your husband to pull you through the veil' and then they get to become the wives of gods who rule their own planets. That's just the men. The women all, without exception, suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. If they didn't they would see that no one put them on earth to be so controlled they can't even dress as they please and must spend their lives catering to a man's every need and if they can't meet all of those needs, be happy when he brings home another wife, and maybe another, and another and another one home. They've been brainwashed from birth some of them. others get drawn in with singing and joy and communal spirit and then when it all turns controlling, they have children or no money or a husband they love, but one way or another, they find they can't get out. Faith Jones got out. I'm glad she did. She has a story to tell, but unfortunately she's not a natural writer. It was not a book I could really get into so dnf'd. The title is just a hook, a sort of 'flirty fishing' of book marketing. Nuns take vows of chastity, and there is nothing chaste, innocent, or even fully clothed in this book! 2 stars, which is generous.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    There are many things contained within these pages that will bother most adults who read this story. Faith Jones was born into a cult. Her grandfather was the leader, revered as a god, and his word, that he claimed was the word of god, held sway throughout the cult. Called the Children of God, these people were led to believe in the end of times, and secluded their children from the world because of sin. However, what went on in this organization defied the rules of how one should treat and rear c There are many things contained within these pages that will bother most adults who read this story. Faith Jones was born into a cult. Her grandfather was the leader, revered as a god, and his word, that he claimed was the word of god, held sway throughout the cult. Called the Children of God, these people were led to believe in the end of times, and secluded their children from the world because of sin. However, what went on in this organization defied the rules of how one should treat and rear children. Faith and her family spent the early years of her life going from one place to another. The children would go out pan handling while trying to spread the word of god. Thousands of followers world wide followed the very words of Faith's grandfather even to the point of sexualizing the children, abusing them in god's name for infractions, and exploiting them. The tales and stories of what occurred caused followers to move greatly, although Faith did spend a portion of her life in Macau. The children, Faith included, did not attend school as it was though children only needed a sixth grade education. Of course unapproved books were forbidden and yet Faith hoped for more learning. She ultimately educated herself and after much thought, finally separated herself from the Children of God. What she and others endured was harrowing and yet they knew no better. Encouraged to explore their sexual nature, they became pawns in a group that abused and raped them. It's hard to wrap ones arms around this concept, and yet this was a "religion" that attracted the likes of the Phoenix family (River, Joaquin, and sisters Rain, Liberty, and Summer as well as Rose McGowen)) Harrowing but uplifting that a child who grew up with this albatross of a family, in a cult, was able to succeed graduating from college and becoming a motivational speaker and author.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Note: Don't be taken in by the title. This book has nothing to do with nuns, be they Catholic, Buddhist, Taoist, or otherwise. The title is simply being used to catch the eye and sell books. As someone who is by nature a skeptic, I am fascinated by those who join cults. Not fascinated in an awe-filled, admiring way, but in a horrified, what-the-fuck-are-you-thinking way.  I like to read about cults in order to try to understand the mindset of people who willingly give control of their lives to som Note: Don't be taken in by the title. This book has nothing to do with nuns, be they Catholic, Buddhist, Taoist, or otherwise. The title is simply being used to catch the eye and sell books. As someone who is by nature a skeptic, I am fascinated by those who join cults. Not fascinated in an awe-filled, admiring way, but in a horrified, what-the-fuck-are-you-thinking way.  I like to read about cults in order to try to understand the mindset of people who willingly give control of their lives to some charismatic, wacky individual. Money, freedom, children, their own bodies. All of it. Voluntarily and eagerly handed over to the control of someone else. I don't think I'll ever understand, and maybe that's a good thing. I'm also interested in learning about those who grew up in cults and later escaped. The church I was brought up in (fundamentalist baptist) was cult-like in many ways.  I identify with those who were able to free themselves of their indoctrination, who learned to think for themselves and reject the lunacies heaped upon them all their lives. Those who were able to work through the absolute terror of first questioning and then renouncing all the bullshit. Faith Jones is one such person. She was raised in the Children of God cult, most known for its focus on sex, including adult sex with children.... mandated by "God" as sharing love. Faith's grandfather was the founder of this cult and I learned a lot more about it from this book than books I've read by others who escaped.  However, it is So. Damn. Dry. At times it's like reading a clinical report. It's not very well written, though it is horrifying. What children in this cult endure is just sick and heart-breaking.  I really felt for the child Faith was, and the young person who desired freedom and an education. Unfortunately, in the latter part, the book took on a bragging tone that I found irritating. I don't know if she was trying to overcome her insecurities, or if she continues to have the superior sense of self that is instilled in people in extreme religions/cults. The We're-Better-Than-The-Rest-Of-The-World mentality. Special, blessed by their sky daddy, etc. And then the last couple of chapters read like a self-help book and I loathe those kinds of books. Even though I identified with Faith in overcoming indoctrination and allowing herself the freedom to think for herself, it was just too over-the-top, preachy, Look-What-I-Did-And-Maybe-You-Can-Too.  It was self-glorifying to the point that I had to skim the last part. I was also put off when the author moved to America for college and just assumed her relatives would support her, people she barely knew or hadn't even met before. Growing up, none of the adults in the cult worked but instead begged for money (well, "busked"), relying on donations to support them. I guess Faith thought she'd have people throwing donations at her now too. She went to visit Grandma (who she actually had met and lived with for a short time as a teen). Grandma now had Parkinson's and was in an assisted-living facility, thus unable to support Faith financially: "enthusiasm is about the only thing she can offer. There’s obviously no place for me there." Grandma can't give her money or otherwise support her so she's of no use to her??? That's really disgusting. I was also repulsed by her rejection of the theory of evolution. She had no science education growing up, but when she goes to college, she thinks she knows more than her professors about how scientists don't really know. She writes, "Why can’t teachers just say, 'We don’t really know. This is our best working model so far, but we can see some holes, some places where the observable evidence doesn’t quite fit; so, we are keeping our minds open to discover more'?" I think Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough (who was also raised in the Children of God cult) is much better written, though it doesn't have the amount of detail this book has.  2.5 stars rounded down.  (A P.S. to any non-friend reader who thinks the book is 5 star worthy and wants to jump all over me for my opinion - save your breath. Write your own review rather than point out all the ways you think I'm wrong. Or mean. Or whatever. Less than adulating reviews of these kinds of books seem to provoke certain types of people into attacking those who fail to have googly stars in their eyes. Go join a cult and keep your feelings off my review.)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Lawson

    A fascinating but disturbing memoir about the life of a woman raised in the Children of God cult. Not always easy to read but very compelling.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Miya

    TW TW TW TRIGGER WARNING. Seriously. This broke my heart and pissed me off. I can't even. The courage it takes to tell your story...so others can stand up and feel less alone. It is so hard to read. For anyone who is an abuse survivor please be in a good place when before reading this because it can be extremely triggering. On the other hand I can see it being healing to others. Either way it is an unbelievable story that deserves to be heard. TW TW TW TRIGGER WARNING. Seriously. This broke my heart and pissed me off. I can't even. The courage it takes to tell your story...so others can stand up and feel less alone. It is so hard to read. For anyone who is an abuse survivor please be in a good place when before reading this because it can be extremely triggering. On the other hand I can see it being healing to others. Either way it is an unbelievable story that deserves to be heard.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Please note: The descriptions of sexual abuse of children, teens, and adults are explicit and may not be for everyone. Also horrifying is the parental neglect that occurred. My fascination with the Children of God cult (later known as The Family International) started in the late 1970s when a co-worker quit and visited a year later saying she joined the Children of God group and was just glowing, saying how much she loved it. I have always wondered how caught up she got in this totally immersive Please note: The descriptions of sexual abuse of children, teens, and adults are explicit and may not be for everyone. Also horrifying is the parental neglect that occurred. My fascination with the Children of God cult (later known as The Family International) started in the late 1970s when a co-worker quit and visited a year later saying she joined the Children of God group and was just glowing, saying how much she loved it. I have always wondered how caught up she got in this totally immersive cult. So even though I had read other books about this group, I was eager to read Faith Jones' account since she was the granddaughter of the founder David Berg and would have inside knowledge of the practices. Faith starts with a short history of her family's involvement with evangelistic religion that started in the early 1900s and continued to the late 1960s when her grandfather (David Berg) started his own version of preaching and subsequently gathered followers into his "family." After that, Faith starts with the story of her family fleeing the city of Macau, settling in a remote beach area where Faith and her family lived under the rules of the Children of God leader, which included hours of learning scripture and practicing devotionals, witnessing (proselytizing to whoever would listen), and chores. Also practiced by the women was "flirty fishing," which was enticing "System" men into having sex for money, provisions, or to join the group eventually. More horrifying were the sex practices involving children and teens as sanctioned by David Berg. Faith eventually cuts ties with the group (but not without suffering through various sexual traumas) and works towards becoming a successful lawyer. My only issue is that the word "nun" in the title is a misnomer and I'm unsure why it was included since the term was never mentioned in the book unless it is to describe the "nun-like" devotion to God and Christ. The publisher's comparison to Educated is apt and it is also similar to Ruth Wariner's The Sound of Gravel. However, neither of these authors went through the extensive sexual abuse Faith Jones suffered. Thanks to the publisher, HarperCollins, for the advance reading copy. This is due to be published in November 2021.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    While I can understand the author’s need to tell her story and the publisher’s need to share it, the title is absurdly misleading. In not even the most generous definition of NUN is the word fitting here. Nuns take vows, usually as adults or older teens, of chastity and prayer, in both eastern and western religious traditions. Faith Jones was born into a Christian cult that glorified the rape of children. The word “nun” does not once appear in the book, to the best of my recollection, as it shou While I can understand the author’s need to tell her story and the publisher’s need to share it, the title is absurdly misleading. In not even the most generous definition of NUN is the word fitting here. Nuns take vows, usually as adults or older teens, of chastity and prayer, in both eastern and western religious traditions. Faith Jones was born into a Christian cult that glorified the rape of children. The word “nun” does not once appear in the book, to the best of my recollection, as it shouldn’t. It’s not in any way descriptive of the author’s experience. So why include it in the title? I’ve always had a fascination with nuns, I admit, even as a Jewish child and now as a Soto Zen Buddhist. The publishers are acting irresponsibly and with intentional greed with this misnomer. They know the title will sell books despite the deception. They are trying to appeal to readers of EDUCATED, I understand that, but they are sinking low to accomplish that goal. I’ll be curious to hear if the author discusses this during her publicity rounds.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This is the second book I've read by someone who grew up in Children of God aka The Family, forced into questionable practices because of decisions their parents made. Faith Jones' grandfather is actually the founder, Mo, of this one. CW for sexual abuse, religious brainwashing, psychological harm, etc. For such a vibrant title, the book is a bit dry. Most of it is just sad, knowing how many years Faith and her family suppressed their own desires to try to follow all the crazy rules. If you've nev This is the second book I've read by someone who grew up in Children of God aka The Family, forced into questionable practices because of decisions their parents made. Faith Jones' grandfather is actually the founder, Mo, of this one. CW for sexual abuse, religious brainwashing, psychological harm, etc. For such a vibrant title, the book is a bit dry. Most of it is just sad, knowing how many years Faith and her family suppressed their own desires to try to follow all the crazy rules. If you've never had an inside view, there's nothing like a child who suffered through it for a chilling perspective. Another interesting component is a childhood lived almost entirely outside the United States. Her journey into law follows an interesting logic and I'm glad she found a way to learn past how The Family wanted to limit her.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rennie

    Incredible book and such an incredible person. This isn’t always easy reading, sometimes it’s so brutal I was cringing, but she writes so brilliantly and eloquently about her experiences and how they shaped and then reshaped her that it’s well worth it. It’s beautifully written too. And no, she’s not a literal nun, but yes, the word nun does appear in the book - quite early on, actually - and she clearly explains (and shows, in my opinion) why that applies to her time and experience in the Family Incredible book and such an incredible person. This isn’t always easy reading, sometimes it’s so brutal I was cringing, but she writes so brilliantly and eloquently about her experiences and how they shaped and then reshaped her that it’s well worth it. It’s beautifully written too. And no, she’s not a literal nun, but yes, the word nun does appear in the book - quite early on, actually - and she clearly explains (and shows, in my opinion) why that applies to her time and experience in the Family, considering how she was expected to live and what she had to sacrifice under which terms, while at the same time, being in a sex cult. I found it a pretty apt title and label for such a shocking juxtaposition, actually. You just have to consider more of the common parlance of how “nun” is used - for example it’s used quite often to describe certain life phases or conditions, like when someone isn’t dating or having sex, etc., and as shorthand for ideas around deprivation and sacrifice. And of course her experience is even more than that - she even says something at one point about feeling as if she was married in some way to her belief system, I think it was, and the way it was phrased was reminiscent of the nuns as brides of Christ bit. So as long as you’re not wildly offended at the use of the word nun in the title and the publisher deviously using it because surely it’ll make this book fly off the shelves since anything nun-related makes for the hottest bestsellers (🙄) there’s so much to appreciate here. I’m sure it’ll draw inevitable comparisons to Educated although I didn’t particularly like that one and I really loved this. It’s the best breakdown I’ve read of how the Children of God operated too. Insanity all around. It makes her accomplishments all the more impressive.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte (Books and Bouquets)

    a memoir from the life of the granddaughter of the founder of Children of God, should be eyeopening

  11. 4 out of 5

    Renata

    This book's copy compares it to Educated which I think is very valid because, like Educated, I feel like this is a book where the sheer story is very compelling and the author's struggle is admirable, while the quality of the writing is like, fine. If you're into cult shit I'd recommend it, but it's not like, for example The Glass Castle where the story was bonkers AND the writing was gorgeous. This book's copy compares it to Educated which I think is very valid because, like Educated, I feel like this is a book where the sheer story is very compelling and the author's struggle is admirable, while the quality of the writing is like, fine. If you're into cult shit I'd recommend it, but it's not like, for example The Glass Castle where the story was bonkers AND the writing was gorgeous.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Holy fuck - this book is one of the hardest books I've ever read. As someone who tries to support myself and other survivors, I've learned a whole new level of grace to approach disclosures with after reading Jones' story. This woman is a SURVIVOR, and she has crafted the inconceivable level of abuse she went through into a tough but digestible memoir. She proves that it's never to late to heal and fight for yourself. Holy fuck - this book is one of the hardest books I've ever read. As someone who tries to support myself and other survivors, I've learned a whole new level of grace to approach disclosures with after reading Jones' story. This woman is a SURVIVOR, and she has crafted the inconceivable level of abuse she went through into a tough but digestible memoir. She proves that it's never to late to heal and fight for yourself.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tory

    Parts of this were difficult and disturbing to read, but the story is worth it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Malia

    I really think this needed a lot more work to be a truly readable book. I felt like I was reading sworn legal testimony, like it was so careful to present things chronologically and without a lot of editorializing or emotion. But the editorializing and the emotion are what I want to help make sense of this bananas story, not account after account of horrific sexual abuse. It gets there a little bit by the end but it was too little, too late for me. I am glad that the author has come out on the o I really think this needed a lot more work to be a truly readable book. I felt like I was reading sworn legal testimony, like it was so careful to present things chronologically and without a lot of editorializing or emotion. But the editorializing and the emotion are what I want to help make sense of this bananas story, not account after account of horrific sexual abuse. It gets there a little bit by the end but it was too little, too late for me. I am glad that the author has come out on the other side of this horror show, however! ***Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest review.***

  15. 5 out of 5

    julia ☆ [owls reads]

    This book contains graphic descriptions of childhood sexual abuse and rape. It also discusses adult/minor relationships and body shaming in addition to a lot of gaslighting. I'm not going to give this a star rating since I feel incredibly weird about that prospect in regard to this book. Faith Jones is very brave to come forward and tell the story of her life, the abuse the went through, and her determination to find her place in the world in narrative form as a way to encourage others to seek he This book contains graphic descriptions of childhood sexual abuse and rape. It also discusses adult/minor relationships and body shaming in addition to a lot of gaslighting. I'm not going to give this a star rating since I feel incredibly weird about that prospect in regard to this book. Faith Jones is very brave to come forward and tell the story of her life, the abuse the went through, and her determination to find her place in the world in narrative form as a way to encourage others to seek help and know they are not alone. If you're in any way familiar with the Children of God cult, some of what Faith described here will not come as a surprise. The writing took a little while to get used to, at first, but reading about someone's experience growing up in the Family was very interesting. There was a lot of honest from her and I really appreciated her sharing her reflections on her own beliefs and how twisted they were and why. I will say the epilogue was... very off-putting, personally, with the way she related bodily autonomy and personal boundaries to US property laws as a way to advocate against child abuse and sexual abuse. It made very little sense to me and it seemed like it ignored some serious questions, and previous history!, that concept raises when someone equals bodies to property.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    The author has obviously experienced so much and is laying herself bare on the page so five stars for that. However it reads like a book that was written by a person who had a lot of people tell her “you need to write a book!” Maybe living her life and being a successful corporate attorney and doing a few Ted talks would have been fine. Personal commentary: Her parents should be in prison. One of the memories she shared is so disturbing and disgusting it will stay with me for a long time.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Grace W

    Read the trigger warnings on this book please

  18. 5 out of 5

    Etain Ryan

    The title of this book really annoys me. It seems a pretty salacious choice by the publisher given the subject. This is the story of an amazing human and survivor who was born into a cult and grew up in a world revolving around it and it's teachings. She and her family also happened to be related to the cult leader David Moses. It is pretty harrowing read as this cult encouraged underage sex and coercive sex. It can be difficult to keep reading in parts but it is part of Faith Jones' story and w The title of this book really annoys me. It seems a pretty salacious choice by the publisher given the subject. This is the story of an amazing human and survivor who was born into a cult and grew up in a world revolving around it and it's teachings. She and her family also happened to be related to the cult leader David Moses. It is pretty harrowing read as this cult encouraged underage sex and coercive sex. It can be difficult to keep reading in parts but it is part of Faith Jones' story and we need to experience it all to do justice to it. As someone fascinated by cults and fanatical religions this book was an important reminder that there are human lives involved in these stories. It's easy to get lost in the conspiracies and questions about the actions of the followers and the charismatic leaders but we also have to think about the people who are vulnerable enough to get involved with these groups. And the ones like Faith who are born into this way of life without knowing any alternative. I thought it was so well written and she did amazing job of capturing her childhood voice at the beginning of the book. It was told in an engaging simple manner which felt like a friend telling their story to you. All the characters are vivid and so are the many locations Faith finds herself in. The last part of the book brings in her legal knowledge and she openly muses her thoughts about how law can be applied to cults This was an unexpected highlight of my reading year and a gem of biography. Hats off to this amazing woman on so many levels. She should be incredibly proud of what she has gone on to achieve.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christine (Queen of Books)

    Better than Educated. I wasn't quite sure what I was signing up for when I began Sex Cult Nun. The first chapter is a history of the Children of God and the author's family. While I appreciated that background, it made a lot more sense to me when I read that chapter after having read the rest of the book. (At the outset, I had a hard time distinguishing people in that chapter and was confused by who did what. I think a better reading experience -- at least for me -- would have been to read at lea Better than Educated. I wasn't quite sure what I was signing up for when I began Sex Cult Nun. The first chapter is a history of the Children of God and the author's family. While I appreciated that background, it made a lot more sense to me when I read that chapter after having read the rest of the book. (At the outset, I had a hard time distinguishing people in that chapter and was confused by who did what. I think a better reading experience -- at least for me -- would have been to read at least the first few chapters of the memoir, then the history chapter.) The rest of the book is Faith's story, within the context of the Family (i.e. the Children of God). Described by the publisher as a "story of liberation and self-empowerment," the author ultimately finds these things... but endures a lot of trauma along the way. Be warned that there are descriptions of child abuse, including sexual abuse, as well as rationalizations for women to have sex with men they don't want to have sex with (it's coerced and expected, and there's punishment for those who don't cede their bodily autonomy. This is eventually disputed by the author, but not in every instance -- please take care in reading). I found this book hard to put down; I was rooting for Faith throughout. At the same time, I know it won't be for every reader. I think it may be for you if you liked books such as Educated, the Glass Castle, and the Sound of Gravel; coming of age narratives; and learning about cults. Content warnings: child abuse, child sexual abuse, rape, prostitution, exploitation, poverty Thank you to William Morrow for a free copy of this title for review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Aimee Dars

    Faith Jones was born into the Children of God cult led by Moses David (aka David Berg), her grandfather. From his location in hiding, he provided his revelations through “Mo Letters,” regular communiques that instructed his 10,000 followers on daily living and spiritual teaching. His fundamental philosophy was that God is love, and that the world would be ending soon so that followers needed to bring as many people as possible to Jesus before the End Times. Formal schooling was unnecessary; memb Faith Jones was born into the Children of God cult led by Moses David (aka David Berg), her grandfather. From his location in hiding, he provided his revelations through “Mo Letters,” regular communiques that instructed his 10,000 followers on daily living and spiritual teaching. His fundamental philosophy was that God is love, and that the world would be ending soon so that followers needed to bring as many people as possible to Jesus before the End Times. Formal schooling was unnecessary; members need only learn what they needed to know to run a household. On its face, “God Is Love,” is hardly objectionable but David went further, equating love with sex. Leaders of the group “shared” partners, children became sexually active very early, and sexual contact between adults and children was permitted, even encouraged. “Flirty Fishing” was used to hook men who might be able to provide financial or other resources. Faith and her family, living in Macau, were true disciples, yet she resented that any man from the group could demand affection. If she rejected the advances, she would be labeled “unyielding” and subject to punishment. Curiosity led her to books—many of which she had to keep hidden because they weren’t approved—and a love of learning pushed her to advocate for a home school high school curriculum, something unheard of in the community. Her desire for independence and realization that she was completely at the mercy of the group’s leadership catalyzed her to leave the Children of God for the United States and college. Her experiences in classes, on campus, and in relationships showed her the hypocrisy and abuses inflicted by the cult. Jones writes from the perspective of the age she is at the time of the narrative which gives the story a sense of honesty and immediacy, and to me made it even more heartbreaking. Her particular coming of age story is poignant and interesting—an American with American parents who didn’t see the U.S. until she was almost a teenager. It’s also a revealing look inside the Children of God cult that illustrates how cult leaders gain and keep power. Finally, it’s an inspiring account of how Jones reclaimed her sense of self, a model for other women who feel voiceless. Thank you to [partner] @bibliolifestyle and @williammorrowbooks for including me on the book tour and for a gifted copy of the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    maddie (thenmaddieread)

    tw: graphic descriptions of child sexual assault and child abuse, religious abuse, financial abuse, racism, fatphobia. this book is comped with Educated, and there are absolutely portions that are just as difficult to read as westover's book. but the two differ in writing style -- this is where sex cult nun falls short. i think the main issue with SCN is that it's written in present tense, mostly from the point of view of a child, and that makes it really hard to achieve any nuance. there are man tw: graphic descriptions of child sexual assault and child abuse, religious abuse, financial abuse, racism, fatphobia. this book is comped with Educated, and there are absolutely portions that are just as difficult to read as westover's book. but the two differ in writing style -- this is where sex cult nun falls short. i think the main issue with SCN is that it's written in present tense, mostly from the point of view of a child, and that makes it really hard to achieve any nuance. there are many totally horrifying scenes describing children being sexually assaulted, including jones herself, but because they're written through her eyes at that age, there's no real condemnation or analysis of the abuse and the way it affected her then and now. this extends to other terrible non-sexual scenes, such as ones describing the people they lived with in macau and ones describing fat bodies. the author neither endorses nor decries some really awful stuff and that's tough. a secondary issue with the tense is that the dialogue is really stilted. there's no way jones remembers all these conversations that are described in the book, and her voice even as a child sounds like an adult's. she's reluctant to blame either of her parents for subjecting her to this unimaginable abuse and white knights for them throughout. there's no denying that this is a powerful book -- it's certainly not shying away from presenting the abuses jones suffered as a child in this cult. but it's not thinking critically about their long-term effects, either, and that's its ultimate failing. if you liked this book (or even didn't like it but wanted to), definitely try Educated if you haven't already, or fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Someone did this book a disservice when they picked its title. This is the story of a woman born into a cult and ultimately her leaving and reprogramming herself. She suffers frequent abuse and rape which is all condoned by her family’s religion. I thought she did a good job of providing the context and insight as to why many people would view their own actions as godly and out of love. How there truly were elements of love in her personal family, and how although she was programmed from infancy Someone did this book a disservice when they picked its title. This is the story of a woman born into a cult and ultimately her leaving and reprogramming herself. She suffers frequent abuse and rape which is all condoned by her family’s religion. I thought she did a good job of providing the context and insight as to why many people would view their own actions as godly and out of love. How there truly were elements of love in her personal family, and how although she was programmed from infancy to believe in the religion she fundamentally knew what was right and wrong.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kayla

    Big trigger warning on this book. Many parts were hard to read. But it gave me (even more) to chew on regarding how Christian churches approach teachings about sex and the shame that it creates. The messaging the author grew up with seems vastly different on the surface from traditional Christian churches (don’t have sex / have all the sex) yet the results were the same - deep shame and trauma around sex. Both are rooted in teachings that your body is not your own. Will continue mulling over thi Big trigger warning on this book. Many parts were hard to read. But it gave me (even more) to chew on regarding how Christian churches approach teachings about sex and the shame that it creates. The messaging the author grew up with seems vastly different on the surface from traditional Christian churches (don’t have sex / have all the sex) yet the results were the same - deep shame and trauma around sex. Both are rooted in teachings that your body is not your own. Will continue mulling over this one.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lydia Sigwarth

    Well written and riveting but deeply disturbing. I read cult memoirs as a hobby so I thought I was immune to being shocked by the depravity of cults, but this one was a toughie.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Octavia (ReadsWithDogs)

    Catchy title, but FYI the Nun part is just religion, so don't expect any chastity 🙃. A fully disturbing look into what it was like to grow up in the cult The Family International aka the Children of God. Be warned, there's a ton of sexual abuse and it's heartbreaking to read when the author realizes what happened. I can't believe this cult had over 30,000 members at a point. I just can't stop thinking about this and this author going about her life now... Catchy title, but FYI the Nun part is just religion, so don't expect any chastity 🙃. A fully disturbing look into what it was like to grow up in the cult The Family International aka the Children of God. Be warned, there's a ton of sexual abuse and it's heartbreaking to read when the author realizes what happened. I can't believe this cult had over 30,000 members at a point. I just can't stop thinking about this and this author going about her life now...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Karla

    The author is the granddaughter of the founder of the Children of God religion, later called The Family. This details her childhood and young adult years in Asia as a member of the cult. Her story begins with her family's move to Macao to avoid persecution from communist China. Her family's missionary efforts were discovered and they go into hiding in a rural Chinese village to protect their identity and their connection to her grandfather David Berg. The book starts with the author's strict upb The author is the granddaughter of the founder of the Children of God religion, later called The Family. This details her childhood and young adult years in Asia as a member of the cult. Her story begins with her family's move to Macao to avoid persecution from communist China. Her family's missionary efforts were discovered and they go into hiding in a rural Chinese village to protect their identity and their connection to her grandfather David Berg. The book starts with the author's strict upbringing but as she grows up, moves, and comes into contact with other Family members we start to see how abusive and controlling the religion is. Both a heart-breaking and inspirational story.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael Bellesiles

    When I was in college, a guy named David Berg proclaimed himself Moses David and started a religious group called the Children of God. They referred to themselves as the Family—as do many cults. The CofG captured attention for two unusual twists in religious promotion: Moses David included pornographic illustrations in his pamphlets and used attractive young women to lure men to their meetings. My cohort treated the cult with derision until one of our friends joined up, insisting that he had fou When I was in college, a guy named David Berg proclaimed himself Moses David and started a religious group called the Children of God. They referred to themselves as the Family—as do many cults. The CofG captured attention for two unusual twists in religious promotion: Moses David included pornographic illustrations in his pamphlets and used attractive young women to lure men to their meetings. My cohort treated the cult with derision until one of our friends joined up, insisting that he had found community, fulfillment, and love. On the latter point he emphasized that he could have sex with any woman he wanted (homosexuality was demon possession), as there was no exclusivity in the Family. How did the women feel about that? We were assured that they were into it. Thanks to Faith Jones, a grand-daughter of David Berg, we can read what it was like to grow up in this cult. Sex Cult Nun is a powerful and disturbing memoir, a searing tale of people who believe that they are doing God’s work as they physically and emotionally abuse one another. What makes this book stand out is its unflinching honesty. Jones does not tell, she shows. Not until the final pages does she give her opinion of her childhood; preferring to allow the experience of growing up indoctrinated by a lunatic and misogynist theology/ideology to speak for itself. Most children accept their experience as “normal,” it is everyone else who is seen as living according to demented rules; the same holds for the members of this cult. “Love” is the word they give to control. Even child abuse and sexual encounters between adults and seven-year-old females is seen as an appropriate expression of love. The Family’s own internal questionnaires found that the girls were traumatized by their sexual encounters, yet child molestation and rape persisted. The Family controlled every aspect of its members’ lives. Members gave all the money they earned to the church, with no thought given to the future since Jesus Christ is supposed to return soon. In fact, David Berg predicted that the Great Tribulation would begin in 1986 and that Jesus would return in 1993. As with all cults, the real mystery to outsiders is how people can remain after the predictions do not come to pass. It does not matter if it is the Children of God or Qanon, failed prophesies are just opportunities to prove one’s adherence to the cult. One odd aspect of this belief that they are all about to ascend to heaven is their insistence on having lots of children. Why do that if the rapture is just a few years away? Such questions are not subject to reflection, the word of Moses David is simply accepted as coming straight from God. When young Faith tried to avoid men so that they would stop sticking things into her body, she was chastised for not being loving and yielding. Where were her parents during these horrendous assaults? They were encouraging Faith to yield to the sex. If the CofG ordered them to do so, parents abandoned their children, passed them on to others as sex toys, and even separated and went with someone else. After all, Luke 14: 33 says that “whoever does not forsake all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.” Every transgression of social standards is backed by a biblical quote, though later in life Faith will discover the game of competing biblical quotes; one apparent biblical injunction is matched by another biblical statement to the opposite effect. It is all interpretation, of course, but in the Family, there is only one interpreter, David Berg. It is thus little surprise that the Church of God does not allow education beyond the elementary level—the church can only maintain control if its member remain ignorant. Also like most cults, the CofG maintained its hegemony over its followers by castigating the rest of the world as in the grip of Satan. Jones grew up thinking of the world outside the cult as the System, and church members must not associate with Systemites beyond asking for money or recruiting new members. It is purely by accident that she discovers an alternative vision when she find a great book, The Secret Garden, and starts to imagine a wider world. But in the Family, it is illegal for her to even hold such a book as it is Systemite. Faith actually proves the utility of that rule when she gets a Systemite boyfriend. It is his profound outrage over what she had suffered that “helps me understand just how bad it was.” (352). Jones does not reflect on the nature of cults. Only in the book’s final pages does she posit an alternative ethical system premised on the simple value that we should own our own bodies. Of course, nearly every cult, religious or political, operates on the contrary perspective, that your body belongs to God or the state. Jones is very forgiving, even accepting that her parents are not to blame for her experiences. It is simple to understand how Jones could have been a member of the Children of God, for she was born into it and never had sources of information from outside of its control until she fled as a young woman. The same holds for her father, who was the son of the cult’s founder. But what about those, including her mother, who made the choice to abandon most of the ethical codes of their birth cultures? I would have valued Jones’ opinion on how parents come to decide that encouraging adult men to have sex with their daughters is God’s will? How did they accept the right of the church to separate couples and families? How do you let someone take your child away from you in the name of God? And how about those men who had sex with the children: did the Children of God attract pedophiles, or did they really feel that they were sharing God’s love when they assaulted an uncompliant child? Mostly, I would like to know what Jones thinks of religion. Given her emphasis on owning her body, what does she make of America’s evangelicals insisting that women’s bodies are not their own? Jones lays out the evidence on the conduct of cults and then leaves it to the reader to draw the larger conclusions. This book sparks reflection and conversations, and is a valuable warning of the real danger cults pose to its own members.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jo Ladzinski

    Listened to the audiobook Trigger warnings (all of these are graphic): Child sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, incest, suicidal ideation, murder, isolation, gaslighting, manipulation, abuse, trauma in the name of religion I finished listening to this book days ago and have finally figured out how to talk about it. It’s not an easy story or an easy read. But the author’s note at the beginning outlines what Jones set out to do: tell a coming of an age story from the point of view of a girl who gre Listened to the audiobook Trigger warnings (all of these are graphic): Child sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, incest, suicidal ideation, murder, isolation, gaslighting, manipulation, abuse, trauma in the name of religion I finished listening to this book days ago and have finally figured out how to talk about it. It’s not an easy story or an easy read. But the author’s note at the beginning outlines what Jones set out to do: tell a coming of an age story from the point of view of a girl who grew up in a religious cult. In that, it is successful. Heartbreakingly successful. This is one of the most impressive pieces of narrative nonfiction I have ever read. There’s a prologue which serves as a history of The Children of God, now known as the Family. It was founded by David Berg as an alternative to the hippie lifestyle. It started with its roots in Christianity, but quickly evolved into a justification of incest and child sexual abuse by some of its ranks at the very top. They still operate to this day, with the locations of the current heads completely unknown, despite efforts to bring them to justice. With that context established, Jones begins telling the story of how she grew up. From her family on the run outside of Hong Kong to the establishment of their farm to the various teen groups, no stone gets unturned. And I constantly had to remind myself of Jones’ age during each moment. There is reflection, but it’s told in present tense. The reader sees the story unfold through the eyes and mind as a child with some of the perspective afforded with age and distance. There’s an honesty that shines from chapter to chapter. The perspective is painfully close and raw, so definitely keep in mind the trigger warnings while reading. The journey to adulthood is harrowing. Watching Jones try to assimilate into contemporary American society with her experiences both within her family and the unique perspective that comes from charity works pulls the heart in a few direction. The maturity that accompanies it comes at such a cost, but the grace she affords herself is breathtaking. The book culminates with a beautiful message of reclaiming one’s agency and understanding boundaries shines some light at the end of the tunnel.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

    This was a harrowing read. Faith Jones is a delightfully plucky, curious, and strong willed human being, in spite of so much conditioning to the contrary. And these qualities made it especially horrifying to watch her family (The Family) psychologically and sexually abuse her throughout her childhood. I was so worried and devastated on behalf of this bright, creative, empathic child. I'm honesty surprised she made it out of her circumstances alive (let alone ultimately whole and well adjusted – This was a harrowing read. Faith Jones is a delightfully plucky, curious, and strong willed human being, in spite of so much conditioning to the contrary. And these qualities made it especially horrifying to watch her family (The Family) psychologically and sexually abuse her throughout her childhood. I was so worried and devastated on behalf of this bright, creative, empathic child. I'm honesty surprised she made it out of her circumstances alive (let alone ultimately whole and well adjusted – through much work on her part). I thought a lot about the children that didn't - the ones too spiritually broken down, the ones impregnated as children, and the ones that had no lifeline of any kind outside of The Family. At the same time I really appreciated that a lot of Jones’ life story is fairly mundane and covers plenty of relatable growing up experiences – loving animals, battling with siblings, feeling the sting of your first heartbreak, wanting to fit in with the cool kids. There are moments that you almost forget how deeply dysfunctional the whole setup is, and this is by design. When Jones’ brings the focus back to the explicit abuse, it comes as a shock even though, as a reader, you know this entire situation is lethally toxic. The reason I knocked off one star is the extremely bizarre and unsettling epilogue in which Jones’ goes into her personal theory of bodily autonomy – the subject of her TED Talk. I made the mistake of trying to watch this video and I found it so disturbing I had to turn it off. Her performance on stage is glassy eyed and her off kilter chant, “I own me!” felt way too guru. I appreciate that she has found a way of conceptualizing her personal empowerment that works for her, but linking our ability to consent to US property laws opens up a whole new and disturbing can of worms. Exchanging religion for capitalism doesn’t work for me as a theoretical framework, and I felt concerned that Jones’ has made her trauma into her brand. Looking at her website full of smiling woman with arms linked underneath lines like “Start living your best life today – free and happy!” I felt creeped out. I know my opinion of Faith Jones’ branding should not influence my opinion of her memoir, but the impact was undeniable. Her editor really should have convinced her to drop that last chapter.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lizanne

    The title is misleading in its playful-sounding contradictions as there are no nuns and the cult is abusive. Moving past that misnomer, this is a sincere, detailed view of life in the Children of God cult (later called The Family) from the perspective of a woman whose grandfather founded the group. Faith Jones is the oldest child of her father’s second set of children; he’s married to two women at once, as was his father, the cult’s founder. She spends a chunk of her childhood in her family (two The title is misleading in its playful-sounding contradictions as there are no nuns and the cult is abusive. Moving past that misnomer, this is a sincere, detailed view of life in the Children of God cult (later called The Family) from the perspective of a woman whose grandfather founded the group. Faith Jones is the oldest child of her father’s second set of children; he’s married to two women at once, as was his father, the cult’s founder. She spends a chunk of her childhood in her family (two wives, a husband, six plus kids, various visiting members of COG) in Macau where life is hot, provisions are minimal, and childhood means manual labor, witnessing to and performing for strangers to earn enough to eat, and an early intro to sex. Faith’s mother is a proponent of Flirty Fishing—sleeping w men to get donations or to recruit them to the Family. Her father firmly believes that children should not question his authority and he expects a mature approach to work from his kids starting about the age of three. His first wife Esther has devoted her life to the church’s teachings. Their reading materials and movies must be cult-sanctioned. Mostly, they read the founder’s newsletters where biblical verses are taken out of context to support the cult. Children are taught at home and need no more than a 6th grade education. Everyone is expected to share what they have and to make a living only in ways that glorify the Family. The church also believes in breaking the spirit of anyone who does not yield to church rules. Faith is smart enough to raise questions and this means a lot of time is spent—esp in her teen years after her family is split up—being sent to teen homes to be punished and rehabilitated. She knows from an early age that she does not want to be paired w an adult man (an”uncle”) to provide gratification and her resistance is the first sign that she is not a good fit for the cult. Although Faith has a famous grandfather, her branch of the family has no prestige or privilege. Faith enjoys the rural life, caring for animals. She makes friends w other children in the Family. Systemites or non-Family members are out of the question but she occasionally befriends them as well. As a teen, Faith is sent to Family homes in Japan, Kazakstan, and Russia. This is after a short stint with non-Family relatives in the US where she attends a Christian school and realizes she’s academically talented. Having an American family that does not follow the cult gives her a glimpse of other possibilities. She gravitates back to the familiar, though, and returns to the church when she can. The end of the book is written in a more direct, elevated style as Faith shows the choices she made in her 20s and 30s. I was interested in a more personal revelation of her current life; she wanted to explain the way cults maintain power. Disturbing in many places. Good read, though.

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