Saturday, August 26, 2006

An ex-TTer's account

I thank the person who sent in the following informative and compassionate note describing life in the Twelve Tribes, based on his or her personal experience.

Here's a classic picture of a typical family situation in the Twelve Tribes: A couple and their children joined the Community. They gave everything to the Tribes after liquidating the husband's building contractor business, or other self-employed job. They were very disillusioned with "mainstream churches" and wanted fellowship with real believers out from under the umbrella of paganism and false doctrines. They wanted to live like the first believers in Acts. Once they got situated with a group, let's say one of the several in Massachusetts, they were ready to "give their lives" for their fellow Community members. This translates to: the husband goes to work wherever he is most needed, whether it has anything to do with his actual skills or not. The husbands, especially new recruits, are worked 18 hours a day. The wives are put to work in the kitchen or doing the tons of laundry, etc. If they have small children, the children stay with the mother all day. If the children are of school age, they get sent to training, or home schooled by the mom if that particular community doesn't have designated "teachers" for the children.

Let's say this couple are born again believers, and that is how they came to faith in Yahshua. Well, they are told they need to renounce that because they were deceived. See, the TT believe you are really not born again or "part of the anointing" (their anointing) until you are baptised into their Community. The wife and children rarely get to see the husband, because he is out working from early morning until dinner time (7pm or so). The wife doesn't get to spend too much time with her children, because she is busy helping with the mountains of housework that is required to run a group home. The children are not allowed to play with balls or any type of truck, car or bicycle. Their reading is limited to approved books and they are not allowed to use their imaginations. If they do something wrong, any adult in the Community is allowed to "discipline" them with the stick. By the time the husband gets home, the kids barely get time to spend with him, and they don't get to spend time with him in the morning either because he has to leave so early to work. Family devotions are discouraged because community members, especially new converts need interpretation of the scriptures in order to understand it correctly (according to Yoneq and other elders).

Family autonomy in the TT is a joke. A family owns nothing, because whatever they had they gave up when they joined. Their survival (food, clothing, shelter) becomes dependent on the Community, so they have to subject themselves to the "shepherd" of the household (elder or boss) and cannot make decisions for themselves, because they have no money to carry out any decisions, and anything that does not get approval from the elder is forbidden. If they go against what an elder says, they will be disciplined, which means you can't celebrate the Sabbath with everyone else, and everyone gives you the silent treatment. Furthermore, if they see that you are actually trying to maintain some type of order in the family and do what you think is best anyway, you are likely to be cut-off by the community, which means you have to leave. If they cut you off, they don't give you any money or any way to leave, you just have to walk away with the clothes on your back.

I know many people in the TT and who have left. I think of some of the wonderful families that are there and my heart aches for them, because I know what they go through. For the most part, the folks who are part of the TT are very honest, hardworking, calm and generous people. A lot of them have a hard time stomaching the teachings like the Ham teaching and the child discipline stuff, however they are between a rock and a hard place, and it's not worth it for them to rebel against those teachings because their survival depends on their submission to authority.

If you ever visit one of the Communities they will be super nice to you, feed you, invite you to stay for as long as you want or need, give you gifts, let you stay in the nicest rooms, let you eat for free or half price at their restaurants, give you cookies and bread, and basically give you the royal treatment. They bombard you with love and make you think that it's like this every day. But in reality, it's not. It's just a way that they court new recruits and makes them think, "Hey, these people really are living out the book of Acts chapter 2."

Lots of TT'ers will point out that obviously God (YHWH) has blessed them and what they are doing because look at all the properties and businesses they own and how many new people are joining. This is a twisted version of the prosperity message from mainstream churches. Also, following that line of logic, then the Catholic church, the Moonies and the Church of Scientology are also blessed by God because look at all the properties, businesses and new converts they have!!

I support the boycott of all Twelve Tribes businesses because of the following: 1. They prosper because of slave or coerced labor. 2. They are really an outreach to the world in order to gain new recruits. 3. They portray a false view of what the TT is about and have no qualms about recruiting new members who are deceived by this false view of the day-to-day life of the Community. Because of their sincere belief in the Bible/Holy Scripture TT'ers buy into what they are taught: the only way to be saved is to be part of the body of the Messiah, which according to them, is exclusively the Twelve Tribes. So, to get recruits/converts to the TT however they need to get them (coercion, deception, fear, etc.) is for the recruits/converts own good in the end.

People need to know what it's really like for TT'ers, why it’s called a cult and why we need to prevent them from gaining new members. The efforts of those who have posted this blog are a positive step towards this, especially when done in a respectful, loving manner.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Blue wounds

Reading as much as I have of the Twelve Tribes' literature over the past few weeks has been an interesting experience. But digging through garbage has its hazards and what I’ve just found has made me ill. Proceed through what follows at your own risk.

The “Twelve Tribes Teachings” site (for which there is a link on this page) contains material the group wisely doesn’t put into their recruiting magazines. This is stuff that was never supposed to leave their compounds to be seen by prying eyes like mine, but that has been smuggled out one way or another. Apparently the TT elders use these “teachings” to instruct the underlings from time to time. I have no reason to think that these are not 100% genuine. In fact this one, “Execution of Justice” was the subject of conversation and mentioned by name by ex-TTers on a discussion board. Even without such external evidence of its authenticity, who could possibly make up stuff this weird and sick?

The entire thing is available here.

I’ll reproduce just two short sections of it. Here’s the beginning:

Teaching: Execution of Justice (Letter from Elbert concerning discipline and the seed of Abraham)

David Jones,

The execution of justice is joy for the righteous, but is a terror to the workers of lawlessness. A man who drifts from understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead (Pr 21:15-16). He who spares his rod hates his son. This is a high standard of justice; many will be terrified at the standard in the last days and will desert that standard. They will drift away from what they have heard. But he who loves his son will be “diligent to discipline him.” The ground which drinks the rain which often falls upon it produces vegetation, but if it yields thorns and thistles it is worthless and ends up being burned. "Diligent to discipline” and “disciplines diligently” can be kingdoms apart in their meanings. We may be diligent to discipline, but the discipline that we administer may not be with diligence within the standard we have received. The difference is according to our hearts (Ex 19:5).

Unless your son has blue wounds, by this standard, you know what kind of a standard is in you — it is the spirit that hates your son. If one is overly concerned about his son receiving blue marks you know that he hates his son and hates the word of God. There is a destructive spirit in him and somehow he can’t detect it. It is like a false shepherd who has a ravenous spirit within, yet he covers it with a mask of meekness and mildness. Poverty and shame will come upon him who neglects discipline.

Who is Elbert? None other than the man who thinks he's Elijah, Elbert Eugene Spriggs. (There is no date on this document, but it seems to predate his adoption of the name "Yoneq.") I have no idea who David Jones is/was. I hope there was some sense left in him and that this letter spurred him to take his family out of harm's way & maybe give Presbyterianism a second try.

I find yet more troubling what's to come: Spriggs practicing what he preaches. The authorship of the teaching seems to change after Spriggs signs off with this information about how he's thrashed a little girl named Hephzibah.

Tell Hannah that Hephzibah is like Paul and says: “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the brand marks of Yahshua.” They are blue and she is receiving her discipline. She is growing up to be that last generation, being prepared, even in her nervous system, to be in that hour of supreme demand.

I dare not imagine the state of this poor girl's nervous system, especially after learning what we are told next. An unidentified author fills in the details of what the little girl did to deserve punishment and how Spriggs responded, likening the situation to the story of Abraham and Isaac. Remember, this act is recorded and presented as an example of proper parenting! Several ex-TTers have informed me that Spriggs is not the biological father of this child.

The reason Isaac was so willing to let his father sacrifice him was because he had been raised his whole life knowing that he did not belong to himself, but belonged to his father, and he was not living for himself, but living for his father. Hephzibah is coming to understand that she is living for her father and belongs to him. The other day she was having great difficulty being obedient to his command: not to suck her thumb in bed. Elbert asked her to stick out her thumb because he was going to cut it off. He took a huge pair of scissors and came toward her. She was terrified, but (after receiving her discipline) she willingly stuck out her thumb to be cut off rather than let it cause her to stumble in her obedience to her father. Elbert didn’t actually cut it off, but he wants Hephzibah to understand that it is better to have your hand cut off now rather than later. He wants her to be saved. It is absolutely necessary to raise our children to know that they do not belong to themselves, but to their father.

The Horror. And there is a subtext here that goes beyond child-rearing. "Authority" is a fractal and is absolute to TTers: As a child must show complete submission to the authority of parents, so a wife must to her husband, so the initiates must to the TT elders, so must all TTers show to Spriggs. And of course Spriggs, the prophet, answers to God. The message is that each member of the flock, just like the little girl, belong to Spriggs and they had better unquestioningly submit to whatever he demands.

I need to state here that I have no evidence that anything constituting child abuse of the physical or psychological kind described above is going on at the Ithaca Twelve Tribes community. Of course, I hope there is not. But this "teaching" is what they have in place of Dr. Spock's childcare manual, written by their infallible leader. It would be nearly impossible for an outsider to detect were such abuse going on. As Kathy Cunningham, a Vermont state trooper, told a Newsweek reporter back in 1984 after authorities raided the Twelve Tribes community at Island Pond, "They've taken away all our normal ways to detect child abuse. There are no teachers to report scars, no doctors to report anything funny."

Monday, August 14, 2006

The best question

I can’t claim the honor of asking the most revealing question to the Twelve Tribespeople Saturday at their “forum.”

After some prodding by questioners, myself included, we had just heard that it was the Bible story of the curse on Ham's son, Canaan that justifies the separation of the races and the slavery of black people to white people (see below for the TT's masterful exegesis). This story, according to them, is God’s Word and so blacks questioning the authority of whites--as for instance, Martin Luther King, Jr. did when he supported the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott of 1955/56--goes against His Will.

A young fellow with a goatee and a backpack asked: “Where in the Bible does it say that Ham was a black man?”


“It doesn’t,” a TTer conceded, while what seemed to me a look of embarrassment flickered momentarily across his face.

The Twelve Tribespeople and their ilk dupe themselves with the simplistic notion that everything they believe comes directly from the Divine Source of Scripture, unadulterated by spin or interpretation. And yet Ham being a black man isn’t in there. If the Bible alone is the Word of God, then their belief that Ham = African people with dark skin must have come from a non-Divine source: someone’s interpretation of the story. Whose? And why trust this person and their interpretation? They didn’t say.

A debate over whether the Bible is or is not the Word of God will never be won with them, or with any anyone else. But this one insightful question reveals that believers themselves must concede that every Bible verse requires a human mind to interpret it. TTers can’t look to scripture to understand why they believe black people and Jews and others are cursed. The place to look is inside their own hearts and minds and inside those of their leader, “Yoneq,” Mr. Eugene Spriggs.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of the guy with the goatee and the backpack and I didn’t talk with him long enough to learn his full take on the Twelve Tribes, but in conversation with us outside of the forum, he shared with us this wonderful quotation from Christian author Anne Lamott: "You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that He hates all the same people you do."

* * *

P.S. I note that Ham is depicted as a redhead on the Brick Testament !! What if?...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Two interactions

I was only able to put in about 45 minutes at the protest, but I had two significant interactions with the cultists.

1. I was standing watching Aloysius and others participating in the Open Forum when from behind me a voice asked "Is that a Bible in your back pocket?" It was in fact my black Moleskine notebook, and I laughed and turned around and said "No, it's my notebook." I realized who I was talking to as he grew belligerent and said "Why are you laughing? What's so funny about the Bible? You're totally disrespecting my religion." I said that on the contrary, I was laughing at the fact that I'm a highly unlikely person to be carrying around a Bible, and that I amused at the mixup. "I'm laughing at myself, not you" I told him. He sort of sullenly said "Oh, sorry" and then an elder Tribesman called him away.

2. I was watching my wife talk to a cultist and his daughter when I lost a very important and very tiny piece of my eyewear. The guy noticed me looking and immediately helped out, without saying anything at all creepy. Finally I gave up but he kept looking, saying "I have faith." I laughed.

Merrymakers Caravan leaves Ithaca

Not sure the Twelve Tribes folks had the kind of recruiting day they expected on the Ithaca Commons yesterday (Saturday, Aug 12). By the end of the afternoon, I saw more concern than merriment on their faces. We came with a card table and a one-sheet pamphlet with quotes from their leader Eugene Spriggs that illustrate his views on African-Americans, Jews, gays, and child discipline. Our first hundred copies were gone quickly, then a second hundred, and then a third hundred (only five left over). On the other hand, the stacks and stacks of their publications placed around the Commons pavilion seemed to go untouched.

It’s good to know that when racists come to town to spout their beliefs and win new followers, some Ithacans will take the time to challenge them, even on a beautiful Saturday when other activities are calling. Thanks to everyone who pitched in and for the words of encouragement we received from so many.

I’ll have more to say about the experience of spending hours on the Commons with the Tribesmen and Tribeswomen soon.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Why Blacks deserve to be slaves, explained...

When confronted by critics charging racism, TT'ers usually counter that the statements of Spriggs and other leaders are taken "out of context." If only we saw the statement "in context," they say, the loving intent of the teaching would be made clear. So in the interest of fairness to these chowderheads, here is an unexpurgated article from the April 1997 "Intertribal News" that lovingly explains why people of African descent (Cham) need to give up the uppitiness and serve their rightful master, Shem (white folks). It's all right there in the Bible. You see, Ol Noah passed out naked after a bit too much wine and his son Cham didn't cover up his pop's exposed "loins" when he had the chance and so from then on all black people are cursed to be slaves. But there are a few things to consider when you compare this interpretation of the story (the one used by 17th - 19th century apologists for slavery) and the actual story in Genesis 9:18-29. Most importantly for our purposes, where does it say that Ham (Cham), Shem and Japheth correspond to African, Asian and European? How could skin tones or other features be much different between Ham and his brothers, who are presumably full siblings? Did that come later? I have to admit that for me this Bible story raises many interesting questions, but none of them have to do with race or skin color (which is not mentioned). Why does Ham get the blame for this incident and why is his inadvertant glance curse-worthy? Why does Canaan get the curse? Why was Noah naked? Did he take his clothes off before getting drunk, or after, or were his clothes stolen by someone while he was unconscious? Is this proper behavior for the sire of all post-diluvian mankind and what do we make of Yahweh's s silence on drunkeness and apparent consent to the curse? And finally, where is Noah's wife when all of this is going on? (I am quite sure my wife would prevent such an incident from ever taking place in our household.) Of course, these aren't questions to put uniquely to the Twelve Tribes, but I wonder, can a curious Twelve Tribes child ask their parents or Yoneq (Spriggs) these questions?

I apologize for the length of the article below, but I couldn't bear to leave out a word.


Slow... insidious... imperceptible... deadly!!! If one were to describe leprosy, the above words would be necessary as part of the description. Most cases of leprosy come as a surprise. The causative agent stays in the body for up to three years before the signs and symptoms start to appear. This means that for three years the victim walks around thinking that he is perfectly normal, yet within him is the sentence to a horrible, devastating form of death. Before modern technology and the loss of common sense, lepers were rejected from society... outcasts... untouchables... unapproachables... unacceptable. People wanted to protect their society from contamination by contact. They knew that lepers were “unclean,” whether they had that terminology in their society or not. A leper was perhaps the loneliest person in the world... longing for another life... wishing he could be different... hoping that it would, by some miracle, just go away. Only in the last few moments of his ravaged life does the hard reality strike him... there is no healing. Like a leper, Cham spends his whole life being superficially “ac- cepted,” when, in reality, he is neither accepted, nor acceptable. He feels always held at a distance, never able to come close, or be approved of. As a people, Cham’s whole being aches for that approval. He tries every false, empty way to gain it. Cham desires the approval of Shem, and of God. He can psychologi- cally convince himself of God’s approval through the influence of the numerous churches so prevalent among Chamites, but the reality of Shem’s rejection... rather Shem’s insistence that Cham remain in his “place,” reminds Cham that God is not pleased with his striving, his arrogance, and his rebellion. Cham, instead of humbling himself, be- comes even more arrogant and rebellious (except for those truly sensitive ones who receive their lot, and are grateful to a merciful God, as far as they can understand things). What makes Cham unacceptable, full of strife, longing to be accepted? The answer lies in history. Everyone knows the story of Noah and his three sons, how they built the ark in the midst of a time of turmoil and corruption that had reached it’s peak... so much so that the day of toleration was to end as soon as Noah and his family entered the ark. Noah’s sons were men well advanced in age upon entering the ark. It took them and Noah more than 100 years to build it. They were not naive little boys. They were aware of the kinds of corruption that filled the earth to the point that God had to destroy all humanity, except for a remnant. There was, therefore, no excuse for Cham’s later behavior. Being the only human beings to survive the flood, Noah and his sons, and their families had the incredible opportunity to repopulate the earth with a righteous people, all turning their hearts to the God of Noah. They were given the same command as Adam was given before he fell... to be fruitful and multiply, filling the earth with those who would honor God with all their hearts, as Noah did. That’s why Cham’s sin was so serious. Embarking on this journey into a new age had no deep significance to Cham. He saw, and understood how the corruption in people had destroyed all humanity just a few days before, yet he didn’t allow it to affect his own heart. He had allowed the decadence and immorality he had seen around him while growing up to find a comfortable place in his heart. He carried the memory as a cherished object of his reflections. He carried it from the age of destruction into the new age. A defilement as deadly as radiation, ready to be released upon a yet unborn humanity. The defilement was subtle and seemingly insignificant. Cham went to his brothers, after having seen his father lying nude in his tent, to defile them with his description of what he saw... his own corrupt and defiled heart gushing out like detestable rottenness. That’s how Shem and Yapheth received Cham’s words and spirit. They saw the dishonor and disrespect. They remembered the flood and why it happened. Together Shem and Yapheth delivered two-thirds of mankind in their loins from being cursed. They sensed the magnitude of such defilement. Backing into the tent, they preserved their father’s dignity, and their own race... and covered him. By that one act Cham plunged his descendants into a morass of behavior, attitudes, and mind-set that have plagued and imprisoned the whole race down to this day. Noah’s curse upon Cham’s son Canaan was real and valid. All heaven supported and assured it’s effectiveness. Noah was God’s only spokesman... the curse must go into effect. Canaan and his descendants were cursed to be slaves to the descen- dants of Shem and Yapheth who saw the value of preserving what is good and righteous. Shem and Yapheth honored their father above all else except God. How can serving be a curse? It is a curse when one’s tendency and desire is not to serve. Cham was lazy and perverted. Noah, his father, knew him well, and he was aware of the fact that Cham would put his fallenness into... pass on his iniquities to his son Canaan. Noah knew the son would be just like the father and worse. Therefore serving, being in a low place... the very thing Cham’s seed hated and avoided... this was to be upon the seed of Cham until it went into their genes and chromosomes, causing the race to be known for their servitude and hospitality. Through the centuries of history this curse was never realized until Shem took his ships and brought Cham to his tents. Then began the training... the discipline. It was clearly as Noah spoke it. Most of Cham’s descendants submitted... many chose to rebel... masking their rebellion with the “noble” cry for freedom from the “op- pressor.” The rebels encountered the solid wall of resistance in the form of harsh discipline, and even death. Those who chose to submit found loving masters who cared for their needs... masters who wept when they were sick or dying... who entrusted their own flesh and blood to be nursed and nurtured on the breasts of Cham. Shem, the eldest son of Noah... lovingly carrying out the discipline of our Father for the good of his baby brother Cham who was the youngest son of Noah. Cham found his place. He found acceptance and approval while in submission. He was given responsibility, and his giftings came out in marvellous ways, especially in the culinary arts, and in serving. To this day no one can cook and serve like Cham when he is submissive. There was peace, and there was order. Shem, who lived by the covenant God made with man after Adam fell, understood in his spirit this discipline of servitude was good for the race of Cham and for humanity. But those of Shem who rejected the instinctive knowledge of God, and the instinctive understanding of God’s ways, strove against God’s purpose for Cham’s healing. Men rose up among Cham... “leaders.” Men crying out for “justice” in the name of God, while working against the very machinery God had instituted. Shem became affected by the outcry, and began supporting Cham, while in his heart not wanting to be near him. Shem was not making laws to make things easier for Cham because he loved him... he made those laws because of political pressure from both Cham and fallen Shem who have no place for the knowledge of God in their hearts. Cham knew he was not accepted. The black liberation movement, accompanied by much pomp and circumstance, proclaimed “Freedom.” Shem was successfully made to feel guilty for carrying out the purpose of God which was meant for the healing of a race.. The contamination entered every phase of American and European life. Civil Rights became Human Rights... Gay Rights... Women’s Lib...Cham now had no loving master. There was no place in this modern society where his perverted bent, inherited from his progenitor, could be dealt with, and he could be brought into order, fulfilling the instinctive purpose God put into him. He strives now to be like Shem. In this unstable territory he is suspicious, sullen, angry, bitter. Whether he becomes president of a large corporation, economically successful, or even president of the United States... the ever-present droning goes on in his spirit... Cham is neither accepted, nor acceptable. ...Every member of the race of Cham who has ever lived in the midst of Shem knows the deep loneliness, insecurity, and the fears of not being accepted... being told that you are not acceptable. It matters not how strongly Cham denies it, or uses his success as a means of denial... he feels the alienation. God’s purpose and plan in the cursing of Cham was to bring about, through that discipline, a people who would serve willingly, thus making them worthy of the nations. Many will be great in the nations, because they chose to submit to their masters... the instruments of God’s choice. Now, through Yahshua, there is the lifting of the curse that has plagued Cham through the centuries. Only in Him can Cham be made acceptable, and be accepted. Only in that place where Yahshua’s life is a living demonstration can Cham find those who will receive him as a human being worthy of the dignity that is inherent in those created in God’s image. In that place Cham can begin to learn to be who he was created to be... serving right along side of Shem and Yapheth who always served from the beginning. Brothers finally serving brothers on an equal basis, as priests of God... truly submitting to one another. Those warm, loving hands, kind voice, compassionate eyes are living reality where God has gathered those who were once “lepers” from every nation and people. -Shalom from Yochanan Abraham in Sus"
P.S. now a shocker: I learned after posting this from several ex-TTers that "Yochanan Abraham" is himself a man of African descent (a "Chammite" in TT-speak). On August 12th on the Commons, some of us saw and heard what seemed a real black man explain how the civil rights movement of the 1950s & 60s was wrong-headed and against God's plan. If you're an African American with severe self-esteem issues, you're wanted, welcome, and oh-so-very useful in the Twelve Tribes!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Are the Twelve Tribes a "hate group"?

While hate is probably not the primary motivation for people joining Twelve Tribes and there is no evidence that they seek to do violence to anyone outside the group, their leader Eugene Spriggs teaches that God approved of the slavery of African Americans, that Martin Luther King, Jr. was “evil,” that Jews are born "cursed," that the “three races of Man” should be separated and that homosexuals as individuals "are detestable, not just their sin" and “deserve death.” The Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes a hate group as one that has “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” Of course they will tell you that their beliefs aren't motivated by hate, but out of obedience to the Word of God. That line's a bit played out in 2006, don't you think? Hate group? Check.