Today I want to talk about the cult that River Phoenix, Joachim Phoenix, and Rose McGowan all were a part of in their youth. Children of God, sounds harmless right? Unfortunately, the activities inside the cult became gruesome over the course of years, becoming one of the most disturbing cults to ever exist.
In 1968, Children of God was created. It was originally organized as a religious group, by Virginia Berg, mother of David. She preached to the hippie youth about Christ. After her death, David expanded the scope and belief of the group. The members were limited to their access outside the group and were asked to give up their money and worldly possessions. According to the group’s website, the Children of God were more than a religion, but a way of life.
Explaining the tenet that was established of giving up all worldly possessions for the group, the Children of God stated they were living as Jesus’ disciples lived, with no money, or a place to lay their heads, but they would be happy because of Jesus’ love.
In 1969, David married a second wife, as he claimed that polygamy was sanctioned in the Old Testament. He also told his followers that he was appointed by God as the “End Time Prophet.” He also had the “old world” idea of Christianity. In his mind this meant a lot of sex. David believed and his followers believed that God loves sex because it is love, and Satan hates sex because it is beautiful.
Now that he was gifted by God, David began making extreme demands of his followers. The new members were required to donate everything they owned to the group and then sever all contact with their families. They were encouraged to quit their jobs and become evangelists for Christ.
David controlled every part of their lives. Rules ranged from how many sheets of toilet paper they were able to use, to what their job in the cult would be. The cult was split into 12 groups (inspired by the 12 tribes of Israel) and each had a different role. Some members were even given new names.
In the Children of God, everyone was a member of one large family, traditional families were not allowed. The cult was so broken down the parents did not have control over raising their own children.
In a short amount of time there were over 120 Children of God communities across the world. In 1978 the Children of God was abolished.
Or at least the name was.
The cult continued under various reincarnations. It took on the name The Family of Love for a few years before shorting it simply to the Family in the 1980s.
But it gets worse from here. Almost from the beginning David had encouraged his female members to practice something he called, “Flirty Fishing”. Taking the gospel of Matthew 4:19 “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” to heart, David instructed the women to go to bars, pick up men, seduce them and have them convert and join the group. David was for all purposes a religious pimp.
Karen Zerby joined the group when there were only about 125 members. The group had conservative views on sex at the time, but shortly after joining, Karen was under the complete control of David. He controlled her diet, appearance, and soon they began an affair. This was when David, who was already married, took Karen as his second wife and the “sharing” began.
Now it gets even more disturbing.
David had mandated to the group that spiritual abuse was abhorrent, but it was understood that sexual acts between members was never a concern. Especially the age of the participants.
One thing to know is that David Berg had been raised in an abusive home. David himself was often shamed when he explored himself sexually and he felt that his incestuous relationship with his family was the way he could abuse the people of all ages in his cult. Incest was accepted because it was best to learn from your family.
David was an advocate for sex with minor-age children. The reason being that he wanted them to embrace sexuality and to be a sexual being as an infant and growing up. The cult was encouraged to have sex with children but only over the age of 12, however there were reports and allegations that younger children were participating, even as young as two or three years old.
Several complaints were charged again David Berg for sexual abuse of young girls, even his own daughters and granddaughters. Another complaint stat that the children would be beaten if they denied being submissive. According to a former member, you were taught that having sex was a service to God and not having sex meant you were selfish.
Another member stated that it was sometimes revolting, but if you were asked, and you refused, you were going to be labeled as selfish, unloving, uncaring, and you didn’t really belong.
David Berg passed away in 1994 and Karen Zerby took over. The cult membership dwindled from over 10,000 people to now less than 2,000. The group is mostly an online community. Cult members can again live in their own homes and work for a living.
Karen Zerby was last seen in Mexico in 2010. Her current whereabouts are unknown.