Flirty fishing or fishy reporting?

A reader passed along two stories appearing on the Fox News website. One, about a Liberian immigrant family shunning their 8-year-old daughter because she was raped by four other children, managed to completely avoid any discussion of religion. (Liberians tend to be Christian, animist or Muslim.) Another, about an alleged murderer put religion front and center in the headline and lede:

Christian Drifter May Have Killed Two Couples in Separate Beach Murders, Police Say Two couples fatally shot more than 30 years apart while camping in different countries may have been victims of the same man: a drifter who authorities say was part of a Christian commune and disapproved of relationships between unmarried couples.

So, what is this Christian commune where they teach that sex outside of marriage is punishable by death? Well, believe it or not, the Christian group in question (which is on, to be sure, the extreme fringes of Christian tradition) not only doesn't believe in killing people who have sex outside of marriage . . . they actually encourage sex outside of marriage.

That's right, this Christian drifter was a member of Children of God:

Burgess eventually made it out to the U.S. West Coast, where he lived in a religious commune run by the Children of God and called himself Job, in reference to the biblical figure, Creally said. He reportedly was kicked out of the commune's boarding house after his rifle made other residents uncomfortable.

Creally said a woman on the beach told authorities that she had seen Burgess cleaning a .22 caliber rifle and said Burgess had told her he disapproved of Durrant and Karlsson's relationship because they were unmarried. It was not clear what kind of contact, if any, Burgess had with the couple before the killings.

He was gone by the time investigators arrived at the murder scene, but a police dog discovered his belongings, including an identification card and passages from the Bible he had written out, ripped up and discarded nearby, Creally said. His fingerprint was also at the scene.

So I'm not entirely sure why this man is identified as a Christian considering this his views aren't even in line with Children of God (aka the Family of Love, the Family, and now the Family International), frequently referred to as a cult by people who don't use that word lightly. Here are some of those views, via Wikipedia:

In 1974, it began a method of evangelism called Flirty Fishing, using sex to show God's love and win converts. It was also a means of raising financial support as many of the women worked as prostitutes. Flirty fishing has been compared to religious prostitution. The practice was discontinued in 1987.


They believe that God created human sexuality, that it is a natural, emotional, and physical need, and that heterosexual relations between consenting adults is a pure and natural wonder of God's creation, and permissible according to Scripture. Teenagers from the age of 16 are allowed to have sex with other members under age 21. Since 1986, sex between minors and adults is forbidden. Adult members may have sex with any other adult member of the opposite sex, and are encouraged to do so, regardless of marital status, as a way to foster unity and combat loneliness of those "in need".

Needless to say, not one bit of this is included in the story about a member of this church killing people because they were in relationships outside of marriage. But more than that, why is he identified as a Christian in the headline? It can't be because of his past association with the Family can it? Particularly since he clearly doesn't accept the Family's teaching's on sex outside of marriage. Or is it because he tears up verses of the Bible that he transcribes?

As the reader who sent this in opined:

Ripping up passages from the Bible? We do that at church all the time.

If this drifter's Christianity played a role in the killings he's alleged to have committed, this story does the opposite of make a case for it. Even the end of the story has some confusing religious angles. The father of one of the murder victims is a pastor -- we're not told what religion or denomination.

For some great additional reading on this religious group, check out Roy Rivenburg's excellent piece from a few years ago in the Los Angeles Times and this heartbreaking story from Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times.

Please respect our Commenting Policy