A unique first-hand account of a life spent in the Children of God, a/k/a The Family, a millenarian doomsday sex cult under the sway of a charismatic leader, David Berg
In 1972, Perry Bulwer, a naive 16-year-old growing up in Port Alberni, a mill town on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, dropped out of high school to run away with the Children of God, one of a number of millennial Christian cults that sprang up in the 1960s and 1970s. Soon, Perry was preaching the cult's doomsday message on the streets of some of the largest cities in the world.
Bulwer takes the reader on an extraordinary trip through the world of biblical literalism, fundamentalist endtime fantasies, paranormal spirituality, evangelical extremism, ritual abuse, and liberally interpreted Biblical teachings that were used to justify licentious sexual doctrines, evangelical prostitution, and child sexual abuse.
Along the way, we learn about the inner workings of the CoG, a/k/a The Family, and the machinations of David Berg, a self-declared endtime prophet who claimed to be personally mentioned in the Bible, and that God spoke through him. Berg predicted the imminent destruction of America, the appearance of the Antichrist in 1985, and the Second Coming of Jesus in 1993. Berg died in 1994, before various law enforcement agencies around the world caught up with him.
Perry Bulwer escaped The Family in 1991, managing to escape the cult's tight control while living in Asia. Returning to Canada, he tried to pick up his life where he had left it off two decades earlier. Through education Bulwer lost his religion, turning from religious extremist to secular humanist lawyer, fighting for the rights of sex workers and drug users living on the streets of Vancouver. Haunted by his own past, Bulwer became an advocate for thousands of second-generation survivors of the cult's child abuse and psychological trauma scattered around the world.
About the author
Born in Port Alberni, BC, in 1955, Perry Bulwer joined the Children of God after dropping out of high school at age 16, and spent the next two decades living in CoG communes in Canada, the United States, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Macau, Hong Kong, and, undercover, in Beijing. In 1991, aged 36, he was able to escape the cult --- with no money or possessions, and little in the way of education or skills. He spent the next decade catching up on his studies, and in 2002, graduated from the University of British Columbia with a law degree.
After a 2004 diagnosis of PTSD and fibromyalgia, Bulwer retired from the practice of law (though he remains registered with the Law Society of BC). Back home in Port Alberni, Perry Bulwer advocates for second-generation cult survivors, continuing to shed light on the Children of God, a/k/a The Family.
Perry Bulwer has given us a real treasure, especially given that so few cult memoirs are written from a male perspective. He takes us on a wild and conflicted journey as a member of the Children of God, starting at age 16, living here, there, and everywhere – from Canada to Japan, China, the Philippines, and more. Readers will gain a vivid picture of life in a cult with worldwide spread, led by a pedophiliac narcissist. Definitely a book you will want to read!
Janja Lalich, PhD, Author of Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships
Misguided provides a detailed, heart-felt look inside the most notorious Christian sect to emerge from the spiritual counterculture of the 1970s. Perry Bulwer's memoir serves as damning indictment of the damage done when twisted prophesy meets blind faith.
Don Lattin, the former religion writer at the San Francisco Chronicle and author of Jesus Freaks -- A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge.
Perry Bulwer has written a deeply personal and richly informative study that shows how a shy but smart (and rather religious) working class kid gets drawn into an emotionally and physically abusive cult, which was constructed around the often angry but always self-serving fantasies of a delusional but inspirational leader.
He weaves stories about his own psycho-emotional development within the cultural context of generational disillusionment about traditional politics and religion, both of which the cult leader prophesized would extinguish in an apocalyptic return of Jesus in 1993. That prophetic failure, plus Perry’s eyewitness account of severe physical and mental abuse of the leader’s granddaughter, contributed to his decision to leave, but twenty years of his own experiences of coercion, manipulation, and control haunt him long after he has renounced and debunked the cult’s doctrines.
His struggles reveal that a toxic cult still can live in a person long after that person no longer lives in a malign cult. This highly readable account, however, is an impressive achievement that reveals a toxicity that Perry hopes all other spiritual seekers can avoid.
Stephen A. Kent (PhD), Emeritus Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta