The Children of God emerged out of the hippie movement of the 1960s, and through the 1980s they came to blend Christianity with sexual freedom, communal living, and a rejection of materialism and “the system.” The Children, or “the Family” as they are now called, modified their behavior in the 1990s in the wake of several child sexual abuse charges (all dismissed) and the need for direction among the rising generation of Family members. They continue to live communally, proselytize full-time (none hold traditional jobs) and engage in sexual “sharing.” As a byproduct of their evangelism, they have produced a number of accomplished musicians. They receive guidance for their daily lives through periodic revelations passed to them by the Family’s current leader, Maria (the founder’s widow), and her associates. Despite their variance from traditional Christian beliefs and practices, their recent attempts to conform to some degree with cultural norms in whatever country they work has tempered criticism, and they continue as the most successful communal movement of an almost forgotten hippie world.
J. Gordon Melton is the director in Santa Barbara, California, of the Institute for the Study of American Religion. He is the author of the influential Encyclopedia of American Religions and some twenty other works, co-author of the award-winning Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices, and a frequent contributor to scholarly books and journals on the subject of new religions. His previous book in this series, Scientology, was praised in the Journal of Church and State as a “crisp, cogent study” by one of the “foremost experts on new and unconventional religions,” noting that “few books pack as much information into so little space” or in such an “insightful, objective, and scholarly” way.