Small Boo came back from work yesterday, slightly uneasy. It's not unusual in Thailand to have people rolling up at offices selling tacky things at vastly inflated prices for supposedly charitable causes, and she'd had a bunch of teenagers arrive, claiming to be from a Christian group working with children. Christianity, especially Catholicism, is very visible in Bangkok, although the actual number of people purporting to be Christian is tiny. I taught for a few weeks in a Catholic school, and I'm pretty sure the only Catholics on site were about six resident monks - and I'm pretty sure about half of those only took the gig for the opportunity to ponce about in cool white robes.
Anyway, she gave them a few baht, but was still a bit concerned about exactly who they were. "I thought they might have been anti-abortion loonies or something," she said. "But I think they were OK. They said they were from a group called 'The Family.'"
Some deep recess of my slowly sludging memory sparked into life, and I hit Google. Turns out The Family International is the rebranded identity of The Children Of God, founded by David Berg, the kindly patriarch depicted on the left. They were one of the many jolly cults that popped up on the American west coast in the late 60s, but they were distinguished by two things. They purported to be based in Christianity, rather than the variants of Buddhism or Hinduism that underpinned most of the groups; and they pioneered a delightful evangelical technique, known as "flirty fishing". This essentially involved getting the best-looking cult members to walk down the street, chat up lonely-looking 20-somethings, shag them silly, and thus reinforce the idea that the Children Of God was a great place to be. Eventually the whole set up became a seething nest of orgies, incest and endemic herpes. River Phoenix and his siblings were children of Children. Older readers may recall that another noteable convert was dwarfish slide guitar prodigy Jeremy Spencer who, while on tour with Fleetwood Mac in California in the early 70s, went out one morning to buy a paper, and never returned.
So, the organisation that once offered hot, nubile raunch in exchange for your soul, now flogs dishcloths and other tat. And you wonder why baby-boomers all look so fucking smug.