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Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara are reportedly expecting their first baby together. The unconventional pair may be Hollywood royalty, but each has drastically different backgrounds. While Mara’s family business runs in the NFL, Phoenix and his family belonged to the Children of God — a cult with a sordid history. Phoenix’s family left the organization behind but will any of the teachings affect the way he parents?

Joaquin Phoenix’s family belonged to ‘The Children of God’

Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara
Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara | Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

During Joaquin Phoenix‘s early childhood, he, his parents, and his siblings — Summer, Liberty, Rain, and the late River — belonged to the Children of God. The religious cult began as Teens for Christ and focused on younger runaways and “hippies.”

From there, it grew into Children of God with nearly 15,000 members at the height of its “success.” The church’s foundation relied on participants living in communes. They typically didn’t work and remained isolated from the real world.

The religion itself married Christianity with the 1960s “free love” beliefs. Members prepared for “the end,” and didn’t make long-term plans, according to former participants via The Guardian. Former Christian missionary, David Berg’s alleged abuse toward young girls — including his daughters and granddaughters — is also noted.

“It definitely wasn’t a safe place to grow up, especially if you were a girl,” one former member said. “Close friends of mine growing up were abused and raped.”

Phoenix and family left after sexual abuse allegations hit the ‘church’

The “church” has been renamed to The Family International. Phoenix’s parents had the job of “spreading the gospel” in Venezuela and Trinidad. They left the organization once they learned of Berg’s alleged questionable behaviors.

The former preacher/pastor was accused of grooming children with sexual acts. The Phoenix’s wanted a place they could practice free love, peace, and belonging. They distanced themselves, moving to Winter Park, Florida with nothing to their name, after learning this disturbing news.

Some of those allegations include Berg’s practice called “flirty fishing,” in which “female followers to have sex with men in order to bring them into the cult,” Esquire previously reported.

Phoenix’s family went through a difficult adjustment, admitting they were lonely after leaving. Berg died in 1994 while under investigation. His wife took over amid more problematic scandals. However, after Berg’s son killed himself and another member of the organization, things changed.

By 2004 — long after the Phoenix’s left — the church became Family International, with a different set of guidelines and, according to their website, close to 10,000 members.

Phoenix is expecting his first child with Mara

The Oscar-winning Joker actor and his longtime love, Mara, are notoriously private with only a few appearances together on the red carpets. Thanks to super sleuth fans, Mara was spotted out and about in Los Angeles wearing baby clothes and apparent baby bump.

The pair met while working on the Spike Jonze movie, Her, but didn’ strike up a relationship until they met on another set, Mary Magdalene, in which Phoenix played Jesus and Mara and Mary Magdalene.

The two moved in together and have been engaged since July 2019. However, Phoenix told Vanity Fair he believed Mara “despised” him. Naturally, that sparked a curiosity in the actor.

“She’s the only girl I ever looked up on the internet,” Phoenix said. “We were just friends, email friends. I’d never done that. Never looked up a girl online.”

Phoenix nor Mara have confirmed the pregnancy just yet.

Here’s what Pheonix says about the cult now


Joaquin Phoenix: What He Refused to Do When He Played Jesus

Despite the controversial beginnings Phoenix and his family had, his parents moved away from it before embedding too deep. As a reported expectant father himself, Phoenix has a few thoughts about his parents’ roles in becoming involved with the cult.

“When people bring up Children of God, there’s always something vaguely accusatory about it,” he previously said via Entertainment Tonight. “It’s guilt by association. I think it was really innocent on my parents’ part. They really believed, but I don’t think most people see it that way. I’ve always thought that was strange and unfair.”

He continued: “I think my parents thought they’d found a community that shared their ideals. Cults rarely advertise themselves as such. It’s usually someone saying, ‘We’re like-minded people. This is a community,’ but I think the moment my parents realized there was something more to it, they got out.”

Considering Phoenix’s perspective now, it’s clear he sees that his parents did what they thought was best — and left the moment it no longer served them well. The actor likely doesn’t associate himself with that part of his life as he seems to have moved past it. For now, we’re wishing he and Mara all the best on their journey into parenthood.