Authors: Miriam Williams
Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #Women
Heaven’s Harlots by Miriam Williams
Published by Eagle Brook An Imprint of William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1350 Avenue of the Americas New York, N.Y. 10019
Copyright 1998 by Miriam Williams All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Publisher. Inquiries should be addressed to Permissions Department, William Morrow and Company, Inc 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10019.
Printed in the United States of America 800K DESIGN BY 8ERNARD KLEIN
To the women of the cult and to the men who loved them and lost them. May we all find inner peace.
With the exception of Jeremy Spencer, Moses David, and myself, all the legal names and Bible names of Children of God members in this book have been changed in the interest of confidentiality.
I would like to thank: My five children, who helped me through the sometimes painful process of writing this book, simply by being themselves, especially my oldest son, with whom I share my fears and joys, and my oldest daughter, who was often a fill-in mommy, helping the others with homework and meals.
My mother, who has always been the prayer warrior of the family and a caring grandmother.
My best friends, who are all former members of this cult and contributed valuable insight: Sharon, Pope, Tracy, and Billy. May we continue to walk our separate journeys together.
My sisters, who helped me out.
My ex-husbands, who have been supportive during the writing of this book.
My friends who helped me with suggestions, strength, and understanding: Jef, Dollie, Ann, Jean, Anne, Malati, Sterling, Simon, Cindy, and the abhyasis.
My many contacts among former members who remain faithful in the support network.
The scholarship donors who helped me make it through school: the local chapters of the National Honor Society, Golden Key, American University Women, and Beck/Kiwanis.
And my editor, Joann Davis, who asked me all the questions I would never think to write about, since I am just beginning to see in the light, and her lovely colleague Michelle Shinseki.
Introduction 1. “God Is A Pimp” 2. A Curiouser and Curiouser World 3. Through the Looking Glass 4. Sharing “One Wife” 5. “God’s Whores” 6. Flirty Fishing in the Kingdom 7. Casting the Net 8. Sacred Prostitution 9. Crossroads 10. Living in the LookingGlass Mirror 11. Like a Rolling Stone 12. Breaking the Shell 13. The Swan Symbol of Paramatman (Supreme Self) Epilogue
Why would a mother of five healthy, well-adjusted children write a book about her former life as a sacred prostitute? The question torments me.
At age forty-four, I am now on the verge of receiving a master’s degree in sociology that will allow me to work and pull my family out of relative poverty. I have no reason to expose myself to the publicity this unusual autobiography could generate. Worse still, I could be undermining the stability that my children now enjoy.
My own life, as you will see, has never been stable. This book relates the story of a girl from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who fell through the cracks into what became one of the most bizarre sex cults of our time, the Children of God, which at its peak had eighteen thousand members.
Numerous documentaries have been made about this controversial cult by the major networks in America, and it has been the subject of various sociological and psychological studies. Celebrities such as Fleetwood Mac’s original slide guitarist, Jeremy Spencer, made headlines when he left the popular musical group to join the cult. And River Phoenix, the disillusioned young movie star who died from drug abuse, spent years of his childhood in the Children of God.
The leader of the Children of God, Moses David, has been described by cult expert Dr. Steve Dent as a “lustful prophet,” who used the group to unleash his repressed sexuality. Kent writes that the most abused and sexually manipulated people in all the cults he studied were the women of the Children of God, who were instructed to demonstrate God’s love by giving sex first to the men in the group and then to the “lost” of the world. According to Moses David,“God was a pimp,” and we were the “loving whores of God.” I married twice in the cult and bore five children. Eventually, the ugly weed of child abuse was creeping through the camp. Fearful it might touch my own children, I snapped out of my delusional state and we left the cult for good. But acknowledging previous pain, and accepting responsibility for my actions, proved to be a long and difficult journey back to sanity. I reentered American culture as a fortyyear-old single mother who spoke three languages and had been in over twenty countries, but who had never had a checking account, credit line, car, or home of my own. I started work as a waitress at a truck stop to help support my family as I went back to college.
After graduating in June of 1996, I kept a promise I made to myself four years earlier that when I finished college I would write my story.
Working without an agent, I photocopied two pages out of a huge directory of publishers and sent off five query letters to editors I chose at random from this haphazardly selected list.
A few weeks later, as I was shopping for groceries, I picked a paperback book off the shelf. Although I had never heard of the book or the author before, I was interested because the cover said it was a true story. The next morning, while sitting on my porch finishing the book, I received a call from one of the editors I had contacted.
“Your letter struck me,” said the woman on the phone,“and I usually don’t read unsolicited material. Exactly what kind of book do you want to write?” I wasn’t exactly sure, but I found an answer immediately.
“Well, I was thinking of writing an honest and personal book, something like the one I’m reading right now.”
“oh, what book is that?” the woman asked.
“The Eagle and the Rose, by Rosemary Altea,” I replied, checking the cover to make sure of the name again.
“I edited that book” came the quick response.
My heart jumped into my throat. Coincidences like this one, the equivalent of a one-in-a-million chance, don’t just happen. I checked the acknowledgments page. There was her name in the book I had randomly picked up the day before.
Had it not been for that incident of serendipity, I would have not had the courage to continue this far.
But now all my angst and confusion have been transferred from my heart and mind to a computer disk. The unexplainable driving force is gone.
I fluctuate between hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
But I decide to keep believing in a higher purpose than I know today.
At present, I am engrossed in literature about the problems of society.
As I read stories of bewildered, despairing young adults, I remember my own adolescence and share in their collective pain. Confusion about sexuality and identity prompts many young people to look for solutions through alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, subservience, anorexia, and even suicide. Deeply troubled teens come from all types of families and socioeconomic classes, and upper-middle-class, two-parent homes are affected as much as single-parent homes and households living below the poverty line. We are reminded that our society has to change. I believe that the first step to change is awareness. Each individual must take responsibility for personal actions, but the responsibility often begins with awareness.
This book was written to shed light on one of the escape routes taken by sensitive youth growing up in a troubled society—the path to cult involvement. It is probably one of the most drastic, claims the lives of the most naive idealists, and usually requires the most help along the road to recovery. Unfortunately, there is little knowledgeable help available. While the actions of these people are worthy of contempt, cult members realize that they were motivated by blind idealism.
This is also a story of self-discovery written for those who have lost their self. My journey out of hell came through incremental steps, which were guided by what I can only call fate. Now that I have made it back to reality and can finally lead a normal, fulfilling life, I feel a responsibility, especially to the children born and raised in the cult, to add to awareness of cult involvement. Perhaps one day I can provide practical assistance to ease the transition back to society for others, but for now, I offer hope.
God Is A Pimp
I smiled at the uniformed man operating the hotel elevator. I usually smiled at everybody. It had become a habit. But this time, when he smiled back, I thought to myself,“He must know what I just did.” The elevator opened into one of the most elegant establishments in Monte Carlo, the distinguished Hotel de Paris.
Walking through the plush lobby, I felt a little self-conscious in my worn jeans. I also wondered if the money that Salim had just stuffed in my back pocket could be seen. I crossed the marble floors and went through the revolving door.
This was the first time I had received hard cash for giving God’s love, and I felt sensations of shame, confusion, and anger.
Passing the limousines and Rolls-Royces unloading in front of the hotel, I did not pause in curiosity to identify any famous faces, but instead I walked with my face turned in the other direction. I intentionally avoided eye contact with anyone for fear they might recognize the turmoil in my soul. Walking quickly around the tree-lined island in the middle of the majestically landscaped cul-de-sac, I headed for the Cafe de Paris, a popular, upscale cafe-restaurant. There I could sit down with a cappuccino and try to make sense of what had happened.
The cafe was crowded, and while I hesitated at the entrance, my thoughts reviewed the previous day’s events.
I had met Salim the night before at Le Pirate, a well-known restaurant on the Cote d’Azur. One of the women I was living with, Sharon, had a date with an older German gentleman, and since she had met him only recently she asked me to come along. Normally, we never went alone on dates until at least one other member of our group had met the person we were going out with. Sharon and I were surprised to be taken to Le Pirate, which had a reputation for being patronized by millionaire swingers. We had both put on our nicest clothes, hand-sewn dresses made of a soft muslin material that we had bought at a discount store in Nice. The gentleman was older than I expected, surely past sixty, and I wondered if this bothered Sharon. Our policy was to show God’s love to everyone—rich or poor, handsome or ugly, young or old—but I knew from experience that it was hard to physically practice such an abstract ideal.
Sharon was a talented and dynamic singer, but she was somewhat shy on dates. She had been raised in a very traditional Catholic family and had studied to become an opera singer before she joined our group. She was tall, blond, and constantly on a diet in order to control a voluptuous figure. Her large, expressive eyes often portrayed alarm or amazement, like a little girl who had seen the roaring ocean for the first time.
Sharon had a husband and young child at home, and I felt she would rather be back with them. Our tentative plan was to have an early dinner, give him “the message,” and be home on time for me to go out again. But as soon as we arrived at the celebrated restaurant, I sensed that it would be a long evening.
Le Pirate was located on the striking coast of Roquebrune-CapMartin, with a view made famous by a Monet painting. The waiters were attractive young men dressed in romantic pirate costumes. They had been trained to perform little dramas such as breaking up chairs and throwing the pieces into the fire. It was all part of the Le Pirate experience. Violin players, and the owner himself, came by our table occasionally, entertaining us with Gypsy-style music.
Our German friend was enjoying himself in our company, and the evening dragged on. Only a few other guests were present when we arrived, and soon I noticed that we were alone except for another group at the other end of the room. They were having some sort of party, and as the night wore on, the noise from their table grew louder. Just as our gentleman friend said that he might send a message over to their table, asking them to quiet down, a bottle of champagne arrived with a note for me.
It was from the man at the other table.
Out of courtesy, I walked over to thank him. He was a dark-haired man with deep, piercing eyes that smiled ambiguously, although his expression was quite serious, almost severe.
“Who is the grandfather?” he asked me.
“Oh, just a friend of ours,” I replied, caught a little off-guard by his abruptness.
“Well, come and sit with us. He is too boring to have beautiful girls at his table alone.” I thought to myself,“You’re right.” I was practically falling asleep, and Sharon had already given me anxious looks as if to say,“Let’s wrap this one up.” Before I could answer, the man moved over to make room for me next to him. Glancing at the lady who had been sitting beside him previously, an attractive brunette with red-painted lips and wearing a dress that revealed an ample cleavage, I tried to assess the situation. With an inviting smile, she indicated that I should sit down, and I did so while signaling to Sharon.