Cults provide in equal measure terror and curiosity. Among the most well-known is The Family International, once known as The Children of God. It counts among its member’s many famous faces.
What Is ‘The Family’?
The Family was founded by David Berg in 1968. The California cult started as a hippie haven that was pretty typical for the time. Berg was a preacher who developed a following before inventing his own “religion.” The Children of God continued to expand all while Berg ran a child sex ring.
Incest and sexual assault continue to haunt the cult to this day. Berg’s daughter, Deborah, claimed he molested both her and her sister Faith. He also encouraged children to sleep with one another and encouraged adults to have sex with toddlers as well. Deborah later accused her father of “religious prostitution,” all while the cult grew to over 10,000 members.
The pedophilic dogma dissipated after Berg’s death in 1994, but the scandals were only beginning to go public. Horror story after horror story has come out from former members. Even still, The Family International still exists today.
Very Famous Names
It should come as no surprise that a group of this size, especially one based around Los Angeles, would have some pretty famous faces among its flock. Fleetwood Mack founder Jeremy Spencer quit the band before it got big to join the cult. The Family’s been in the news a lot recently because sitting Nebraska representative Jeff Fortenberry lied to the FBI about the group.
Other names were raised within the walls of the cult and later left it. Scream star Rose McGowan told People about her escape. Her sect in Italy went from being “really idyllic” to dangerous, so her father left for the United States. “it was not an easy assimilation” McGowan said, “my brothers and sisters, we thought everyone was boring.”
A Hollywood dynasty came up in The Family. The Phoenix family, including brothers River and Joaquin, were members of the group throughout most of the 1970s. The family left when Berg began advocating incest. In a 1991 interview, River said “they’re disgusting… they’re ruining people’s lives.” River tragically died of a drug overdose at the age of 23, leaving an indelible legacy behind.
Joaquin Phoenix would go on to star in The Master, a film essentially about why people are attracted to these organizations in the first place. Many felt the film was rooted in Scientology, but it appears that Joaquin had his own family history to draw on.