God Willing

God Willing is a powerful exploration of a 35-year-old American religious sect known as “The Church” or “The Brotherhood.” It also outlines the struggles of families whose children turn away from them to become “Brothers” and “Sisters” in the group, renouncing their past lives and the world – often, without ever turning back.

Founded in 1971 by shadowy messianic figure Jim Roberts, the group has survived for decades as a separatist society that preaches a strict path to salvation, proselytizes for new members, adheres to strict ascetic values, subsists on discarded food and refuse, and shuttles its members from town to town, often on the run from concerned parents and family members who try to see or communicate with their children.

This documentary offers an inside look at the group, offering searing testimonials from both family members and former members of The Church.  The film details the appeal of Roberts’ message to the sincere spiritual needs of young people, and the struggle that some of them face with fellow members and themselves when they find little more comfort in the fold than they had in their previous lives. 

It also grippingly presents the anguish of parents and other loved ones who grapple with the urge to pursue and rescue their children, and the psychological, emotional and tactical impediments that so often get in the way of reconciliation. 

Extensive surveillance footage of Brothers and Sisters and rare, candid on-camera encounters further enhance this examination of families torn asunder, belief systems at war, and the perilous balance of futility and hope.
– Source: God Willing: Synopsis

GOD WILLING will air April 2nd at 11AM / 4PM / 9PM / 2AM / 5AM ET and again April 3rd at 7PM & 5AM ET on these PBS affiliates.

God Willing — Official Site
More about the Roberts Group
Cult FAQ

Former Cult Member Learning True Sense Of Self

THEN: In 1998, The Register-Guard’s Jeff Wright wrote about Anna Flowers of Eugene having joined a cult and her mother, Diane, flying to Philadelphia in an attempt to find and free her.

Two years later, he followed up the story with one about Anna leaving the group known as The Brothers and Sisters. She married a young man she met on a Greyhound bus. And looked forward to spending her first Christmas home in four years.
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NOW: Anna, 28, has two children and a goal to become a nurse. But her marriage is over.

Her husband, she says, turned out to be the same kind of controller the leaders of The Brothers and Sisters were, even though he’d never been part of the group. So she’s going it alone as a single mother with children Asher, 5, and Liberty, 4.

Cult FAQ

CultFAQ.org: Frequently Asked Questions About Cults, Sects, and Related Issues

Includes definitions of terms (e.g. cult, sect, anticult, countercult, new religious movement, cult apologist, etcetera)

Plus research resources: articles, books, websites, etc.

Listing of recommended cult experts, plus guidelines to help select a counselor/cult expert
– CultFAQ is provided by Apologetics Index

“I’ve learned my own strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “You come out of a group like that and you have no idea who you are because you’ve been so controlled and micromanaged. So everything you do – say, having a drink with a friend – you think is wrong. Go to a movie – wrong.”

She’s gaining more confidence. She earned a 4.0 GPA in her first year in Lane Community College’s nursing program.

“I’m not afraid of who I am.”

Her relationship with her mother, difficult after she first returned, is getting better. “I was 17 when I left and 21 when I got back,” she says, “but I never had a gradual progression.”

Flowers has a heightened concern for others who might be susceptible to cults. “I saw a `brother’ two days ago. They’re here, probably for the (Oregon) Country Fair. When you travel with these folks for four years, you easily recognize them.”

They’ll start talking about spiritual matters, and move toward strong-arming you into leaving your family and your possessions, she says. “They’re extremists.”

If wary of organized religion, she still believes in God. “God has pulled me through where I’ve failed,” she says.

“Where Are They Now?” is a Monday column that updates readers on local newsmakers from the past.