The Family and 'Flirty Fishing'

What do they believe today?

Vince McCann of Spotlight Ministries contacted The Family when he became concerned over whether they had really dealt with the past area of Flirty Fishing. This practice was carried on when they were called the Children of God; they have changed their name but have they changed their belief so that it is in line with the Bible?

Hi,

I thought that the Family had repented of its past and doctrine of flirty fishing, so was shocked to find that it is still presented on your website.

I know it is said there that it was discontinued, but there is no repentance for this practice. You either believe it was wrong or it is right. The impression is given from that page that you still believe it to be right. At the very least, you must still think it was right for the time it was practiced in? Is it still secretly practiced by individual members who want to remain true to Berg’s teachings?

If you could clear this up I would be grateful. Thanks.

Vince

Their email answer is recorded below.

Hi Vince,

Thanks for your note. Concerning your questions about FFing, first of all I’d like to explain that we believe firmly in what we call “the Law of Love”, which is the foundation principal of our Family communities. In fact, we believe that the Law of Love is the Godly principle by which our entire lives, as Christians, should be governed. Jesus summed it up very simply in the famous “Golden Rule,” giving us the key to our relationships with others: “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the Law & the Prophets” (meaning that loving your neighbor as yourself fulfills God’s Laws.–Such love is the “Law & the Prophets” [Mat. 7:12]). Ideally, this loving principle should guide all of our actions with others. This is a belief that millions of Christians hold in common with us.

However, we understand that most Christians do not agree with our belief that this principle of the Law of Love can be carried over & applied to our sexual interaction with others. We have always stressed that this is not a selfish, reckless freedom wherein we are free to disregard the rights or feelings of others or act unkindly, selfishly, lustfully or lawlessly towards them, for “love worketh no ill to his neighbor.”–Rom.13:10. In fact, we believe that Jesus’ Law of Love is actually more strict than the old Laws of Moses because we are now obligated to go beyond the dutiful “thou shalt nots” of Moses, & be loving & kind to others because we want to, because we love them. Many are surprised to find that we are actually quite conservative and that we are not promoting a promiscuous, selfish life-style but rather a caring concern for others. Over the past 30 years that we have been in existence, we have formed close bonds of friendship & unity that have helped us in our service for the Lord. Sex is actually a very minor part of our lives. We are, above all else, missionaries dedicated to the spreading of the good news of salvation in Jesus and that is our daily goal and purpose. The specific question that you raised concerns the practice of what we call “Flirty Fishing”, which is explained in the following excerpts from one of our policy statements:

“Flirty Fishing”

In the latter part of the ’70s and early ’80s, Father David, responding in part to the sexual liberality of that time period, presented the possibility of trying out a more personal and intimate form of witnessing which became known as “Flirty Fishing” or “FFing.” In his Letters at that time, he offered the challenging proposal that since “God is Love” (1 John 4:8), and His Son, Jesus, is the physical manifestation and embodiment of God’s Love for humanity, then we as Christian recipients of that Love are in turn responsible to be living samples to others of God’s great all-encompassing Love. Taking the Apostle Paul’s writings literally, that saved Christians are “dead to the Law [of Moses]” (Romans 7:4), through faith in Jesus, Father David arrived at the rather shocking conclusion that Christians were therefore free through God’s grace to go to great lengths to show the Love of God to others, even as far as meeting their sexual needs.

Although sex and love are not necessarily directly linked, sex was nevertheless seen as an undeniable human need, and one which much of humanity equates with love. Therefore, Father David proposed that the boundaries of expressing God’s Love to others could at times go beyond just showing kindness and doing good deeds. He suggested that for those who were in dire need of physical love and affection, even sex could be used as an evidence to them that we loved them with the Lord’s Love, and were willing to sacrificially meet their sexual needs in order to show them that love.

The motivation, guiding principle and reasoning behind this FFing ministry was that sacrificially going to such great lengths to try to show someone that they were loved could help the recipient to better accept and even understand God’s great Love for them. Through this physical parallel of receiving love from a caring and believing Christian, they could better grasp the concept of receiving love from God Himself. People who had never experienced God’s Love could more easily believe that God loved them when their own personal need for love was met, when they received an expression of God’s Love through the physical love of another human being who was sacrificially meeting their need for Jesus’ sake. The goal was that they could come to believe in and receive God’s Own loving gift of Salvation for them through His Own Son, Jesus, Who gave His life for them. FFing: A Misunderstood Ministry Needless to say, linking the spiritual Love of God with the physical manifestation of that love in the form of sex, in this very intimate form of personal witnessing, was, to put it mildly, not very well received by mainstream Christianity, where sex and God are seldom, if ever, associated. In fact, one might even get the erroneous impression from quite a few religious people that sex is totally of the Devil and not God’s idea or design at all. Although this sexual liberality expressed in the Letters of Father David sent shock waves through the media and many religious institutions around the world, many people, most of whom would never even go near a church, were reached and won to Christ through this very humble, honest, open and intimately human approach to witnessing.

As an outreach ministry, FFing was an extremely sacrificial method to employ in order to try to show a lonely and needy soul that God loved them. In no way was it ever intended to be perceived or practiced as a “fun and games” means of obtaining selfish pleasure or personal gratification. In fact, Father David stressed many times that it was the ultimate sacrifice in reaching out to others, next to actual martyrdom, to be willing to go to such extremes in order to show someone a tangible sample (not just a sermon) of God’s Love and concern for them. Two Scriptures which express the motivation behind FFing were frequently quoted by Father David, John 15:13 and 1 John 3:16, which say, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” and “Hereby perceive we the Love of God, because He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

It was, in fact, only a relatively small percentage of our membership who chose to make FFing their major ministry. However, the concept of a Christian religious group employing such means to win souls to Christ was so controversial that sensationalized media accounts of the “hookers for Jesus” were soon blown out of all proportion, and our enemies had a field day in scandalously portraying the Family of Love as a sinister, sex-crazed, money- motivated cult of “kooks and weirdos.” Unfortunately, such fanciful imaginations and accusations still seem to linger on today, despite the fact that all FFing was officially and unequivocally banned throughout our membership in 1987. Prior to this, we had already begun to curtail many of the sexual freedoms which had been practiced in some communities. For example, in March 1983, sexual relationships between members residing in different communities within our fellowship were stopped. In December 1984, sexual relationships were banned with new members (those in the Family under six months). This later was made an excommunicable offense.

With the spectre of the AIDS threat rising (which we were determined to keep out of our communities), and with a renewed emphasis on the importance of instilling in new converts a broader knowledge of and deeper appreciation for the Bible, it came as no surprise to most of our members when FFing was officially banned as an outreach method in September 1987. All FFing abruptly stopped.

Other Ministries

It is also important to call to the reader’s attention the fact that, although FFing was certainly our most controversial form of witnessing and ministering the Gospel, and the one that drew the most attention from the media and our critics, it was only one of many methods of outreach that our membership employed during that time. As previously mentioned, in actual practice, relatively few members adopted FFing as their major ministry. The majority of Homes and members had young families they needed to raise, and therefore continued to concentrate on conventional witnessing approaches, primarily the distribution of Gospel literature, one-to-one witnessing, or one of several other witnessing and outreach methods.

Those with growing families began witnessing door-to-door in order to minister the Gospel to families like themselves. Some communities began to concentrate on mail ministries to spiritually “feed” the many people they had met over the years in public witnessing. At this time, a new ministry also began, a devotional course of Bible studies designed to help new converts become more familiar with the Word of God.

Some members explored mass media approaches to witnessing, both on radio and television. One radio ministry, called the “Music with Meaning” show (“MWM” for short), was distributed free of charge to radio stations all over the world and enjoyed enormous success, eliciting a very favorable response from the public, especially in some hitherto closed countries, such as China. In the Philippines, a children’s television series of puppet characters called “The Luvetts” won the National Catholic Children’s Award. Communities of musicians began to develop cassette tapes and recordings of inspirational music for public distribution. Artists and writers created colorful posters with easy-to-understand Gospel messages. Video production and distribution opened up whole new method of reaching and ministering to people. Literature creation and distribution became a full-time ministry in itself, involving a great deal of work to translate, print and distribute materials in many different languages and countries. As well, many members and communities were leaving the Western developed nations and opening new outreaches in India and the surrounding countries, Southeast Asia and the Orient. Some members, particularly those in richer countries, chose to work at secular jobs that allowed them to continue to be a witness and at the same time help support those who were missionaries in poorer developing countries. These were called “support” ministries. Although FFing was practiced for a time, relative to the total membership of the group, it involved very few full-time “FFers.” The majority of members and communities continued with their many other outreach ministries as they always had done, and in fact, continue to do.
(end of excerpts)

Hope that helps answer your question.

Sincerely,
Linda for The Family

Categories: Apologetics

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