Sex, Slander, and Salvation

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Sex, Slander, and Salvation (Investigating The Family/Children of God)
Front cover portraying members with sandwich board signs predicting the End
Author James R. Lewis, J. Gordon Melton (editors)
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Center for Academic Publication
Publication date
ISBN 0-9639501-2-6

Sex, Slander, and Salvation (Investigating The Family/Children of God) was a 1994 book edited by J. Gordon Melton and James R. Lewis, on the Family International.[1][2] Sex, Slander, and Salvation consists of 17 chapters made up of essays and research papers revolving around the Family International religious movement. The introduction was written by James R. Lewis.

Critical reception[edit]

Robert Balch, critiquing the book in a 1996 issue of Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, wrote that the book suffered from a "methodological flaw running throughout the book."[1] According to Balch sources of information were limited exclusively to committed members and Family literature failing to triangulate it with ex-member testimony.[1] Balch also expressed concern about the scholars being subjected to impression management by the Family thus skewing their research data.[1] Balch concluded that it was a book worth having for the information on the Family but also for the "serious questions it raises about bias in the way new religions are studied."[1]

Richard Singelenberg discussed the book in a review he wrote for the Journal of Contemporary Religion; he wrote favorably on it but identified two flaws he found in the book. [3] One of these was the repeated characterization of law enforcement actions as "Gestapo Methods",[3] including one time where it said the "Nazi jackboots are alive and well."[3] Singelenberg also expressed concern at the paying of "scanty attention to the movement's doctrines on Judaism" and that there was no excuse for "excluding a thorough and detached analysis" of the movement's alleged anti-semitic beliefs.[3] Despite these flaws Singelenberg concluded the book was a "reliable portrait of a movement in constant flux." Singelenberg lamented the fact that Sex, Slander, and Salvation was published just before David Berg's death and the Love Charter's reorganization of the Family International.[3] Singelenberg emphasized the two events would be sure to have "profound effects" on the Family.[3]

James D. Chancellor, a Christian researcher who undertook his own study of The Family, wrote in Toward Reflexive Ethnography: Participating, Observing, Narrating (2001) that "a number of insightful articles" in Sex, Slander and Salvation were among "the most useful sources" he had consulted at the beginning of his own research.[4]

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi in the 2001 book Misunderstanding Cults characterized the work as "made-to-order PR efforts (with a few scholarly papers which got in by honest mistakes on the part of both authors and editors)" and just one of the "extreme examples of the literature of apologetics that has dominated NRM research for years."[5]

Media Homes[edit]

Stephen A. Kent and Theresa Krebs would later allege the use of "media homes" during the course of the researchers' studies for Sex, Slander and Salvation. "Media homes" were described by Kent and Krebs as follows: "Hand-picked individuals living in these well-funded facilities went through rehearsals about how to portray themselves and the group to media, scholars, and others who might scrutinize them." Kent and Krebs also noted question-and-answer pamphlets produced by the group to prevent members from "revealing sensitive information about the group."[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e Balch, Robert (March 1996). "Sex, Slander, and Salvation (Investigating The Family/Children of God) [Book Review]". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. 35: 72. doi:10.2307/1386398. JSTOR 1386398. 
  2. ^ "ABOUT "THE FAMILY" Persecution Recent developments Is it a cult?". Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance Website. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Retrieved 2010-11-03. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Singelenberg, Richard; Keenan, William; O'Sullivan, Michael; Saliba, John; Hoehler-Fatton, Cynthia; Matsunaga, Louella; Wilson, B. R.; Percy, Martyn; et al. (May 1996). "Sex, Slander, and Salvation (Investigating The Family/Children of God) [Book Review]" (PDF). Journal of Contemporary Religion. 11 (2): 240–241. doi:10.1080/13537909608580771. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  4. ^ David G. Bromley; Lewis F. Carter (1 September 2001). Toward reflexive ethnography: participating, observing, narrating. Emerald Group Publishing. pp. 41–. ISBN 978-0-7623-0791-3. Retrieved 5 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin (2001). "1". In Benjamin David Zablocki, Thomas Robbins. 'Misunderstanding cults: searching for objectivity in a controversial field. O Truant Muse': Collaborationism and Research Integrity. University of Toronto Press. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-0-8020-8188-9. 
  6. ^ Kent, Stephen A.; Theresa Krebs (October 1998). "Academic Compromise in the Social Scientific Study of Alternative Religions". Nova Religio. 2 (1): 44–54. doi:10.1525/nr.1998.2.1.44.