Tuesday, August 22

Religiously twisted

Mark Lewis finds a frightening tale of brainwashing and evil

Look, I’m as twisted as the next guy. I can think of nothing sweeter than starting a cult and fleecing my chump followers for all they’ve got. If they’re wealthy Hollywood chumps then all the better. Beard-sporting Polygamy is not for me, but give me the all the cash from your next – I don’t know – Mission Impossible movie and I’ll be off with Nicole Kidman in my spaceship faster than you can forget Look Who’s Talking. I mean, let’s face it, if a billion of this planet’s six billion people are wrong, then a certain 2006-year-old miracle worker is the finest cult leader of all time.

Even so, no matter how many times I watch the Monty Python Classic, I’m pretty sure Brian never advocates child abuse…

This is the starting point from where the comedy of cartoon cultism and real twisted religious exploitation depart.

Christianity has been implicated in horrendous betrayals: The widespread protection of paedophile priests leaves an indelible scar on the conscience of the Catholic church. But in Cutting Edge: Cult Killer (Monday, Channel 4, 9pm) we witness the most egregious abuse of Christianity possible.

The documentary opens with the suicide video diary of a terrifyingly matter-of-fact 30-year-old man. ‘I hope I don’t fuck up and blow my fucking nose off or something,’ he jokes while cradling a gun. Later, he will calmy take us through an assortment of tools he would use to torture an elderly lady: A hunting knife. A soldering iron. A drill.

The woman was a confidante of the man’s hated mother who knew, he believed, where he could find her. Two days after the video recording, he and the woman would both be dead.

His name is Rick. He has been raised as the heir to The Family. It is a cult founded by charismatic gospel preacher, David Berg (pictured), the terrifying limits of whose ‘free love’ philosophy we are given a clue to early on. ‘Fuck,’ he says. ‘You all know what that means don’t you? Except the kids. And our kids are so smart even they know what it means.’

Rick was the ‘smartest’ of all. He was used as a tool to promote a 'new paradigm' of childhood sexuality. At five, he and his sister were encouraged to have sex with each other and the ageing Berg. The children were the stars of a book written by his mother, employing the chilling comic strip art still so beloved of right wing evangelists, only with sexually explicit images of children, rather than natural disasters smiting unbelievers. By 12 he was having sex with his own mother, Karen Zerby (one of Berg’s Hookers for Jesus and the current leader of the cult), and was the poster boy of what had become an institutionalised paedophile ring of hundreds.

Worst of all, it was all done in the name of Jesus.

By contrast, the men accused of wanting to attack planes bound for the US, in the name of Allah, seem almost tame. A typically sober account of the state of Muslim assimilation in Britain on Newsnight (every night, 10.30pm, BBC2) wasn’t nearly as sobering as the thought of all the terrible things done in the name of religion.

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