Friday, August 31, 2007

Twelve Tribes: A Cult of ‘Demonic Seducing Spirits’

He was looking to serve God with like-minded people.

He thought communal living could be spiritually lifting, a way of life rare enough to spark his interest in his quest to serve God.

And members of the Twelve Tribes, with their smiles and façades of happy living, convinced him to give it a try.

But for Robert Roberg, there was nothing heavenly about his experience with the cult 29 years ago.

Roberg, 63, is a married man with five children. He first met members of the Twelve Tribes in Island Pond, Vt. He was with his wife and then-baby daughter, spending time with his wife’s family before heading to Washington, DC, to work with a Christian mission group.

“We came down into Island Pond to buy groceries or something, and somebody stopped us in a grocery parking lot and said ‘You’d probably be interested in these Christians that meet in a ski lodge in Island Pond,’” he said.

Roberg and his wife decided to check the place out. For the next six Sundays, they visited members of the Tribe.

“They were just the nicest, sweetest, most-loving people we’d ever met,” he said.

But that quickly changed when Eugene Spriggs, the leader, appeared at the lodge. Roberg said they called Spriggs “The Prophet.”

“When he arrived, there was this huge, cold, dark shadow that fell upon the whole group,” Roberg said. “He was fierce, and harsh. There was nothing gentle or kind about him. I thought he was this really mean guy. He berated the people about their children, that they weren’t disciplining their children enough. I was totally turned off by him.”

The Robergs left for D.C., but continued to send letters to the people they met in the Twelve Tribes. While with the mission group, Roberg said they were asked to pay for the training. The Robergs didn’t have cash to spend, or at least they didn’t save any to give to the mission group.

“So, were in Washington, D.C., practically broke. But somehow we knew we wanted to serve God,” he said.

They decided to return to their native state of California. En route, they stopped in Chattanooga, Tenn., and found a restaurant called the Yellow Deli. The Twelve Tribes operate this establishment. Members invited them to stay at a big house they owned. The Robergs agreed and for six weeks they stayed with the Twelve Tribes in Chattanooga.

Every morning at 6:00, they’d pray. But it wasn’t your normal prayer.

“They were praying for nails, shingles and hammers,” he said. “It was weird. They were praying for all these weird things. They were running all of these little businesses. They put me on a crew to go build a wall in one of these restaurants.”

Roberg worked from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., every day. He compared the work to slave labor. “They worked me like that day and night, and it was just like free labor for them.”

Early on during the Robergs’ stay, his wife expressed concern about the happenings in the nursery house, where all the children stayed.

“All the people in the nursery carried these switches from trees,” he said. “They were extremely, extremely severe about any child who looked crooked. You didn’t just switch them once, you switch them until, they call it ‘breaking the spirit’. She saw some babies just being switched and switched and switched. She started saying ‘We’ve got to get out of here; this is not healthy.”

But Roberg wanted to know more about the Twelve Tribes. He convinced her to stay.

The bizarre environment continued, when Roberg spent his first Friday with this Tribe. Every Friday night was “Agape Fest,” when members would drink bottles of wine and feast. It was love time.

“They would sort of make up for lost time and get kind of rowdy, dance a little bit. Some of them, I thought, got a little too much agape in them,” he said.

One Tribe member commented to him that “we are the only true church on Earth.”

“I said ‘Come on, there are churches all over the earth and Christians are everywhere,’” Roberg said.

“He said ‘No, we are the only Christians.’”

At that point, it all became clear to Roberg: “This is a cult. Every cult says ‘we are the only ones.’ After six weeks, we decided we were going to move on.”

Since the Robergs left the Tribe, he has had several run ins with other groups. Some members even arrived on his door step to convince him to be a member.

“I can’t fault them on their teaching of the gospel of Jesus as they understand it, but there were some cultish things that turned me off. The strict discipline of the children was very disturbing,” Roberg said.

Every cult is spirit controlled, Roberg said.

“There is some kind of demonic seducing spirit that takes control of these people and they seem happy and nice,” he continued. “I think it it’s a seducing spirit that is leading them astray, a demonic spirit. When you think you’re the only group of Christians on Earth, and the only right ones, it’s a subtle pride thing, it’s arrogance. Pride is the sin of Satan. So the minute you start thinking you have all the answers, and you are the only ones, you are really taking away from the humility we all live. God only accepts the humble into his kingdom. A scripture says we will one day rule over angels. God would never take a proud human being and put him over his angels. He would only take humble people. I am sure in the Twelve Tribes, there are humble people. But the leadership is leading them astray.”

Roberg said he admires the Tribe’s openness--a door is always open for new recruits. He believes the cult has been able to grow because members don’t deny anyone from entering their world. So many people leave, but so many enter. Hippy festivals, often where troubled people can be found in packs, are big a draw for their membership drives.

Although his experience was more than a quarter century ago, Roberg said he doesn’t think the group has changed. Newspaper clippings of the child abuse and the unusual doctrines tells him they may have gotten worse, possibly even stronger.

“They are taking in desperate people from all over the streets who need a place to go,” he said. “They can keep renewing themselves even though maybe none of the original people are still there. It keeps the machinery going.”

Monday, August 27, 2007

Smile, there's a new pamphlet!

I have never been a member of the Twelve Tribes. I have no plans to investigate them by going in "undercover." I will not have dinner with them. (I won't put them through the trouble of having to wash my dishes separately in bleach.)

Because I don't know any active members personally and because I rely for the most part on second-hand information for what I write, they and some of their friends say it is "garbage" (see comments to article below).

They should be happy to know that I didn't write the latest IOTTC pamphlet. Ten ex-TTers did. Most spent years in the group. They provide the would-be initiate with their personal experience of what what TT life is really like.

If you know where TT is recruiting, please print out a few copies and hand them out. If you know someone who is flirting with the group, give him/her a copy.

One more reason to smile: looks like TT canceled their plans for a "Merrymakers Caravan" tour this year. :-)

NOTE: If you have difficulty with the link above, use the "Download our pamphlets" link at the upper right.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

TT: Wikipedia whitewashers!

When associates of Diebold, Wal-Mart, Monsanto, the Mormons, the Church of Scientology and the Republican Party see something embarrassing on their Wikipedia page, they don't worry much about the truth content of the information, or about Wikipedia's Neutral Point of View policy, they just remove the irksome entry and often put text more favorable to them in its place.

Time to add another to the list of whitewashers. Can you guess who?

All links and most in-text references to sources critical of TT beliefs and practices were removed from the Twelve Tribes Wikipedia page back in May (I restored the link to this page). The nice thing about Wikipedia is that history of all edits are preserved. Here are some egregious edits made by someone identified only by their IP address ( which traces to the Cox broadband service in Atlanta. Here are others which add text that only a TTer or a true apologist for them could write. Other edits were made by someone logged in as "Davidderush," the well known TT internet pit bull.

An ex-TTer friend of IOTTC learning of this commented: "What happened to 'Count it all joy when others speak ill of you...'?"

Funny how those most dependent upon the free speech protections embedded in our laws rush to censor other points of view when given the chance.

UPDATE 9/05/07: Well, they've been caught red handed again.

First the good news: since I wrote this article, many of the original external links to the Twelve Tribes Wikipedia article have been restored. Among these was the link to the "twelvetribesteachings" site that archives a collection of hundreds of "teachings" of Spriggs as well as the TT's Intertribal News. Trouble is, these documents were not meant for outsiders' eyes and are a public relations liability for the Tribes. Here is to be found Spriggs' unvarnished eschatology and views on child discipline, blacks, gays and the role of women. No one takes credit for making available this mountain of material, although one might guess that this is the work of an ex-TTer. Interestingly, the mystery compiler/publisher says nothing negative about TT, letting the reader draw their own conclusions from the documents themselves. The TT will never officially claim these as authentic, but when I showed selections of a few to several TTers, none expressed any suspicion that they were less than genuine. It would be a monumental feat to forge, or even alter, all these hundreds of documents. The writing style for most of them is the same and it's clear to me these have a single author. Many are on points of doctrine and aren't particularly scandalous or noteworthy, while others will stand the hair on your head.

Someone (anonymously, leaving only an IP address) once again removed the link to this site and offered a pathetic rationale for doing so on the discussion page. The editor Seldom4 smartly traced the IP address to Parchment Press, a TT-owned business in Coxsakie, NY, chided this perpetrator, and restored the link to TwelveTribesTeachings site as before.

When will the Twelve Tribes organization learn the Twelve Tribes Wikipedia page doesn't belong to them?

Monday, August 06, 2007

So you want to be in pictures?

One reason we started this blog was because so little information about the Twelve Tribes was available to the public that wasn't put out by the Twelve Tribes themselves.

That might be changing.

Ithacan independent filmmaker Suanne Elisabeth Gumienny, who produced the celebrated documentary "Vaga-mama: Homeless by Choice" that ran on the local Pegasys cable channel, is hitting the road with her trusty german shepard to learn more about TT.

For the record, she is not in any way associated with IOTTC and from what I know of her is probably as close to a neutral observer as one could get.

If you have a TT-related story to tell, whatever your perspective, she'd like to get in touch with you. Here is her note:
I have lived in Ithaca for 8 years and have frequented
the Twelve Tribe's Mate Factor many times since they
opened. Due to the controversy that surrounds them
and the curiosity that many have, I have decided to
make them a subject for a research project that I'm
doing for the next year or so.

I intend to visit every TT community in our nation and
interview ex-members along the way for a documentary
movie that will be released to film festivals and
independent cinemas around the country.

I invite anyone to participate, ex-members of the
twelve tribes, family members of people who are
presently in the TT community, or anyone who has had a
"run-in" with the group. Participation does not mean
that you will be in the movie, some may choose not to
be filmed, but your insight is important to me and
information that you may have will help me with the

If Interested,
Contact me at ambergeeproductions (at) yahoo (dot) com

Monday, July 30, 2007

Who is like unto the beast?

It's now August, and parents of youngsters here in Ithaca are stocking up at the back-to-school sales and hoping that this is the year that little Jack or Jill exhibits the kind of academic performance that will win them a full scholarship to Cornell. (What is tuition at CU now? Forty grand a year?)

The concerns of Twelve Tribes parents are a bit different. They are hoping that through their repeated administrations of discipline with varnished balloon sticks and as a result of doing away with distractions from duty such as games, toys, bicycles, and use of the imagination, junior will be worthy of martyrdom to the Beast of the Apocalypse, pictured here. (Keep in mind, this is but one artist's interpretation...the real thing may differ considerably in appearance!)

I cracked open the Book of Revelation recently, hoping for some clarification about just what the TTers think is going to go down in generation or two. However, looking into this last book of the canonical New Testament for clarity on the "end times" is a bit like looking for a Republican in the Ithaca Festival Parade.

There is a harlot "seated on many waters" holding a golden cup of her abominations and "impurities of her fornications" (eww) and an epic battle between archangel Michael and a heavenly host against a dragon. Beasts come and beasts go. Some beasts speak like dragons and make people believe in other beasts. (I confess I lost track of the beasts.)

In Revelations 12 there is a woman "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" who gives birth to a "male child" who is to "rule all nations with a rod of iron." There is "a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads" who with his tail "drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth." This dragon threatens to devour the woman's child. The male child is "caught up unto God, and to his throne," the woman flees into the wilderness, where she stays "one thousand two hundred and threescore days."

The Tribers, as I understand it, identify with this woman and see themselves as the "Bride of Messiah." The Male Child is not one well behaved kid, but 144,000 of them from Rev. 14 that are "not defiled with women; for they are virgins." The TTers raison d'être is to produce these virginal martrys. As far as I can tell upon my cursory reading of John's rapturous vision, these are the saints of Rev. 13 who are overcome by a beast that "is like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion." I think this is the mutt pictured above, but I invite the correction of any Biblical scholar out there.

So in a generation or two the TTers are going to produce 144,000 male children who will trade in their parents' balloon sticks for rods of iron. What happens to the girls? (I guess it's best if girls are out of the picture entirely, to prevent even a single of the boys from being "defiled" with them.) Could it be that in the final generation, the TTers will only produce boys? If so, then what better barometer of end time proximity than the sex ratio of their children? (Luckily for us, the ratio seems close to 50/50 at present.)

Now I don't claim to know the meaning of the shambolic yarn that is the Book of Revelation, nor to have understood in every detail or to have perfectly expressed what the Prophet Eugene has in mind for flock of sheep. However I think I understand well enough to reply to John of Patmos when he asks "who is like unto the beast"?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

An Absolute Tyranny

I hold this truth to be self-evident: that a free citizen of the United States who willingly becomes a slave to doctrines dictated by a self-styled prophet should have sought professional psychological help instead.

Our Founders threw off the oppression of monarchy and state religion only to have some among us forge their own manacles. Adults are free to make the choice to join Twelve Tribes. It's for their children that I reserve most of my pity. I hope all of them get their independence day.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Church or Cult?

This joke was told to me by a Baptist:

"Why do you have to take two Baptists with you when you go fishing?

Because if you just take one, he'll drink all your beer."

The subject of what distinguishes a church from a cult came up in the comments section. I ran across a proposed litmus test online that's worth considering:
If, on appropriate occasions, the members tell, enjoy, trade, and/or devise transgressively funny jokes about their denomination, it’s a church.

If such jokes reliably meet with stifling social disapproval, it’s a cult.

Aristotle observed that "only the human animal laughs." While some primatologists believe that other great apes laugh after their own fashion, only humans are capable of producing and appreciating wit, irony, sarcasm and a good joke. Humor is essential to our humanity. Perhaps the highest form of humor, one which most depends on a developed intellect, is of the sort in which we laugh at ourselves and the absurdities in our own culture. I think it is at least in part the lack of any sense of humor projected from the Twelve Tribes, either in person or in their literature, that heightens outsiders' perception of them as cult-like.

Is it the case that TT drains this most human of characteristics--humor--out of its recruits? Here's what Mandy said in a comment to the article "How I lost my sister":
I still get depressed when I think of how vacant her eyes looked. The girl I knew and loved desperately was full of life and funny as hell and a generally wonderful person to be around. After joining TT, there was not a shred of that person left. She was vacant and quiet and seemed to have difficulty comprehending the conversation. She was distant and disinterested in anything we had to tell her.
Among those Twelve Tribes "MerryMakers" we were treated to on the Commons last summer I noted lots of smiles and some laughter of the "ho-ho-ho, I'm so full of God's love" variety, but nothing I would call humor as they went about in their scripted way making merry as if actors at a Renaissance festival or Colonial Williamsburg. The vacuous smiles of the adults were absent from the children, who, preternaturally serious, haven't yet learned the art of the put-on smile. According to an ex-TTer, "foolishness, joke telling, laughing or making faces often results in 'discipline' for these young children." My smile would be vacuous, too, were I working long hours with no pay for Ol' Eugene and raising children to be "martyred against the Beast." In all the literature of theirs I've slogged through, including their own newsletters, I have found a number of things "funny" but nothing intentionally "ha-ha funny". To the TTers reading this, here's your opportunity to clear up this misconception, if it is one, and send us your funniest self-deprecatory jokes and invite us to laugh along with you.

Here are some jokes I liked from These are jokes for Catholics by Catholics that we all can find funny. Like my Baptist friend, some Catholics can laugh at themselves. Someone who can do that is secure in who they are.
A drunken man staggers in to a Catholic church and sits down in a confession box and says nothing.

The bewildered priest coughs to attract his attention, but still the man says nothing.

The priest then knocks on the wall three times in a final attempt to get the man to speak.

Finally, the drunk replies: "No use knockin' mate, there's no paper in this one either."

* * *
What was Jesus?

My black friend had 3 arguments that Jesus was Black:
1. He called everyone "brother."
2. He liked Gospel.
3. He couldn't get a fair trial.

My Jewish friend had 3 arguments that Jesus was Jewish:
1. He went into His Father's business.
2. He lived at home until he was 30.
3. He was sure His Mother was a virgin and His mother was sure He was God.

My Italian friend gave his 3 arguments that Jesus was Italian:
1. He talked with his hands.
2. He had wine with every meal.
3. He used olive oil.

My California friends had 3 arguments that Jesus was a Californian:
1. He never cut his hair.
2. He walked around barefoot all the time.
3. He started a new religion.

My Irish friend then gave his 3 arguments that Jesus was Irish:
1. He never got married.
2. He was always telling stories.
3. He loved green pastures.

But my lady friend had most compelling evidence that Jesus was a woman:
1. He fed a crowd at a moment's notice when there was no food.
2. He kept trying to get a message across to a bunch of men who just didn't get it.
3. And even when he was dead, he had to get up because there was more work to do.
You might argue that only those in established "mainstream" denominations are really at liberty to poke fun at themselves. But I note that even the group identified in recent polls as the most distrusted minority in America--atheists--are capable of looking at themselves in a humorous light. On the AtheistAlliance web page, you'll find this joke, among others:
"Did you hear about the dyslexic, agnostic insomniac who stays up all night wondering if there really is a Dog?"
(Granted, by defintion atheists don't constitute a church or denomination! )

Whatever our differences of creed, humor highlights our common humanity and of brings us together. If you can make a joke about yourself and your belief system and invite others to laugh with you, you've gone a long way towards breaking down barriers. (Of course, some of us may have no interest in doing that.)

Is it a big deal if the culture of the Twelve Tribes does stifle humor? Frankly, it's of less concern to me than their exploitation of young adults, their mistreatment of children and their promulgation of racist, sexist and homophobic ideology. But I think that it should serve as a warning sign to anyone considering whether these folks are really on the one, true path as they claim to be. Have those who have lost their sense of humor been enhanced or damaged as human beings? To me, the answer is clear enough.

So TTers, I invite you prove to us that I've been completely unfair in this article and send in those TT jokes! I'll recant my characterization of you if you can show me the evidence.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Almost assimilated...

Hi. I found your website and I wanted to thank you for your efforts. I met the Twelve Tribes about eight years ago at a music festival. I was at this festival as a part of the clean up crew, and they were also there as crew, so we ate meals together and had access to the more private part of the festival. I was there as a volunteer, so I'm assuming that they too volunteered, but they were the sole medical crew at the festival. They had cookies and maté for any one who was interested, and they had that very impressive triple decker bus, which they welcomed all to check out. This festival was celebrating Jerry Garcia's birthday (posthumous), so you can imagine what we--the crowd--were like. I've read others' posts claiming that they do seek the lost, and it is true. They were at this festival, and many others like it, looking to prey on the weak, the drugged,the lonely. I was at this time only 18 years old, and I had just graduated high school. I was a Christian, but I was also very interested in the hippie lifestyle. I didn't personally do drugs at this time, so I felt really out of place at this festival. When I met them and was invited on to their bus to read their literature, I thought I found what I was looking for: Christian hippies. I loved the idea of communal living, as well as the idea of an easier way to be a Christian: I wanted to surround myself in a culture of love for God and man, where there would be no pressure to do drugs, have sex, or make decisions. When I read their literature I asked them if they were Christians; they said not in the way that I mean. They didn't believe that people outside of the twelve tribes could really know Christ (or Yashua). I don't know why this didn't ring a louder warning bell. They invited me to go with them to New Hampshire. They explained to me how they would be traveling to Pittsburgh--my hometown at the time--later in the week, and they'd take me home in a few days. So, I accepted. My friends had met these very very nice people, and they believed that they would bring me home later in the week, so they did not protest my going. While I was traveling with to New England with the Twelve Tribes, they were very friendly and conversational the entire trip. The one man (I really don't remember very many of their Hebrew names) told me how much I reminded him of his niece who was living in one of the communities. Instead of taking me to New Hampshire (where I'd be with the couple who were later to be traveling to Pittsburgh), they decided that I had to meet this niece so I'd be going to Bellow Falls, Vermont. When I got there, I did sort of look like this niece, and her name before the name-change was my name. I didn't have many clothes with me, and none that were acceptable to them, so they gave me clothes to wear. Very modest--homemade dresses and pantaloons. They also wanted me to remove my hemp jewelry, but I don't think I did. As I was a Christian, already struggling to be righteous before my God, they had a lot of ammunition to use on me. I already knew that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. I already knew that I wanted to please Jesus and to live for Him. They told me that the only way to serve God was to be baptized and become a member of the twelve tribes. They used Scripture references that I was already familiar with, and twisted them. They told me that if I was a lamb, then Yashua--the Great shepherd of the sheep--would keep me there. They used the Bible to prove their points, and I believe that is why I was so susceptible to their words. I had no real foundation for my faith besides a youth group at home. I didn't go to church, I didn't read the Bible. I had very few Christian friends, and we were all un-churched. I didn't really know anything about the Bible, so it was very easy to think that these people weren't saying anything contradictory from the Bible. My faith had never really been challenged and I never really had to test it for being true. I never had to make sure it was my own, and not my youth group leader's. I knew that Jesus was God, that believing in Him was the only way I could go to heaven, and I knew that I was supposed to now live for Him, but I didn't know how. The cult gave me the very easy how.

While there, I was talked to constantly. I was talked to about my choice to start college in a few weeks at a Christian College. They told me that I don't need to go to college, I could become a teacher right there, and that Christian colleges don't even teach the truth. I was talked to about a boyfriend back home who was pressuring me to have sex--and how the "evil one" wanted me to be apart from the twelve tribes so that this boyfriend was sure to propose to me as soon as I returned, and I'd probably get a car, or lots of money. (They were saying these things so that if I did return home and positive things started happening, I'd know the devil was at work!) I think they talked to me almost 24 hours a day. I know I did get to sleep some, and I didn't have to do much exhausting labor, but I was definitely being worn down by conversation. The weirdest part was, I was mostly talked to by men. I still don't know why. I don't know if it was because they were the spiritual leaders, or because they could tell I was more interested in theology than baking, but I had very few conversations with the women while they worked. I remember one man who had come and gone from the cult several times, and he felt dread each time he left, because he knew it's the true church. The man I talked with the most was an elder in this community, and he was a really great guy. And he had a great family, and I do feel truly sad that they are so deceived. The thing is, he was very intelligent. I don't understand why he couldn't see that the way they interpreted the Bible is not how the original writers intended it to be interpreted. They would honestly just make things up. In fact, they began each day with a service called "Minhah" (not sure of spelling) that meant "sacrifice" (time--not bodies or animals). And they'd close the day with these services, too. At these services, people could just call out interpretations to Scripture. It was very un-biblical, believing that God's meaning would just switch and sway at the whim of these men, whom they called "prophets."

But then I didn't see any of this. I saw people living their lives righteously. But now I know that our righteousness doesn't save us--it's Christ's. And I saw people who were able to live their lives specifically for God. But now I know that life itself is an act of worship before the Creator. We do not need to be separated from the world in order to live for God.

I was allowed to talk on the phone and I did talk to friends and family. And they all were trying to get me to come home, but the twelve tribes would tell me exactly what my friends or family would say in an attempt to win me for the evil one. I never doubted anyone's sincerity, though, until once when I was on the phone, this one woman, with whom I'd never before spoken, came up to me and whispered, "I love you." I thought that was a little "cult-ish."

Then when it was time to be picked up to be driven to Pittsburgh, I was invited to got to a wedding--in Connecticut or New York, or somewhere. On the way there, we stopped and visited other communities, and at the wedding there were so many people; it was all very overwhelming. The wedding, though, is what convinced me to stay and join the twelve tribes. It was the most fantastic (as in fantasy-like) event I've ever witnessed. They were attempting to act out the book of Revelation, to show how they alone were the bride of Yashua, and that they were raising up the 144,000 sinless men. Each time a child is born into the twelve tribes, he is less sinful than his parents. Then if that child marries another cult-born child, this next generation is even less sinful, until eventually there will be a generation of sinless children equaling 144,000. It is these set apart children who will fight the beast in the last days. A very weird, fantastic, apocalyptic theory. I now know that we are born sinners, and that no child will ever be born without sin. It isn't our connection to the world that makes us sinners, it is our being human. But, if those 144,000 children were born sinless--then they would have no need for salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. They would be pure, and thus able to go to heaven. The Bible never mentions a single person who can go to heaven without Jesus Christ. Why these 144,000? But then, I didn't really know too much about the Bible; I fell for it. It was after the wedding when we returned to Vermont that I called and told my family that I was staying. I can only thank God that my step-mother had the sense to act like this was no big deal, but to say, "You are an adult, you can do what you want, but you need to come home and decide. We'll even send you back if you still want to live there." It reminded me of what another girl who came from another festival and who had been before to the twelve tribes told me: she said I should at least go home, sit on the porch, and decide. I thought there was wisdom in this, plus I didn't think it would matter (by now I was fully brainwashed) and that I'd definitely return, so I went with my step-mom when she flew up to bring me home. Some of the men of the tribes offered to go with me, so that the Evil One couldn't keep me there, and I almost accepted, but I truly thought that I'd have no peace at home and I'd return immediately.

When I got home I was really messed up--for a while. I couldn't stand to listen to the radio or watch TV. I couldn't really talk about what had happened in Vermont, and I couldn't decide what to do. I decided to go to college, like was planned, and maybe go back if I still couldn't get it out of my head--but I did not want to make any decisions about it right then. College started about three weeks later and I did go. At first while I was there I still wasn't sure where I should be. I kept remembering the threatening "promise" that if I was in fact a sheep, God would make sure I find my way back to the twelve tribes. This was a terrible thing to have hanging over my head, because it meant that if I never returned, then I was not in God's care. I really couldn't think about God all that much for a few months. I did not want to be convicted that I needed to return to the twelve tribes, because it was a huge and scary thought. I alone, out of all my friends and family, would be one of the truly saved. Despite their belief in Christ, they would not make it to the most desirable place in heaven (where the twelve tribes alone will go). And if I returned and it was a cult? I really just didn't think about it at all. I just tried to be a normal freshman in college. Then one morning, in November, I woke up knowing that I was saved. I believed in Christ, and I trusted in him alone to be saved. I wasn't sure that the twelve tribes were a cult at this point, or even that they were wrong, but I was sure that believing in Jesus wasn't limited to one single place (ie: Vermont, for me) or one group, but that Jesus could find me anywhere and give me the faith to believe in Him.

I'm not sure when I did accept that it was a cult, and that I must have been brainwashed. I was with them for less than two weeks, and they did a lot of messing with my head in that short time. I do feel really sorry and sad for those who have been with them longer. I hope your website can really help people deal wisely with the twelve tribes. Thanks for your time. - j. b.

The image above? The Borg cube, in 2D.

Please continue to send us your personal experiences with the Twelve Tribes (the cult, not the hardcore band from Dayton, OH, see below) and we'll post them here. Use the email link or post a comment.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

"How I lost my sister"

by her brother
I always wondered who those smiling faces were under the tent near the big red bus. They had talented musicians and they seemed so happy together, dancing and laughing.

I was at a Phish show. On this day, in Maine, I decided to make a visit to the tent. I sat down and listened to the music. All the girls dressed the same. The guys had beards and long hair.

After about 15 minutes, one of the guys approached me.
"Hi, how are you doing?"

"Good," I replied. "What exactly is going on in here?"

He walked away for a few minutes and returned with a woman. They gave me some reading material and told me to take a look and it would provide me with some idea of this gathering. I glanced at it. It seemed bizarre; very religious. Is this some kind of hippie commune?

I left the tent, feeling slightly uneasy. I was free to walk away and I did.

Little did I know I would come face to face with these folks after my young sister, who was 18 at the time, fell into their web of deception.

My sister was born into a dysfunctional family, but loving nonetheless. Her father abandoned her when she was very young, leaving my mother to care for her and her slightly older brother. She never felt connected to anyone in her family and the absence of her father affected her deeply.

Lost and wandering the earth, she searched for wisdom. And somehow she came across the Twelve Tribes. She must have been impressed. All these happy people, living together, laughing and making a living as one. It’s exactly what she thought she was missing in life. She had no idea she was only going through what almost all teenagers go through in dysfunctional families. It didn’t take long before she joined the Twelve Tribes, an obvious Cult by definition. I thought that the stature of Mother Mary given to her by her deadbeat dad became the symbol of her path to the Twelve Tribes.

She left the house and moved in with these folks in Ithaca, NY. And I’ve seen her once since she made this decision. Sure, I could go visit her at the commune, but I refuse.

The last time I saw my sister was Christmas 2004. She came with two members of the Cult. It was uncomfortable. I always wondered: “Why do these people only show up at concerts where they may find troubled young people, under the influence of all kinds of drugs and alcohol? Why don’t they present themselves in other venues?”

I found my opportunity to ask, not only that question, but a host of others that included the charges made against this cult, their beliefs and how they operate in general.
I don’t remember the guy’s ridiculous name. I remember clearly his answers: He had none.

The Twelve Tribe representative couldn’t tell me exactly why they seem to only go to shows such as the one at which I first interacted with them. He defended the way of life: No music, books or friends outside the cult and cult literature. He defended the bizarre tenant of marrying within the tribe (which means my sister could end up marrying one of these hairy, ugly goofballs). He defended the fact that much, if not all, of their earnings from making the cult members perform free work goes to some freak in Tennessee who created this cult because he felt alienated from traditional church. But the most startling of all was his inability to answer why these people seemed to always surface at these shows full of troubled folks, tripping on LSD or mushrooms, zoned out of their minds. Just tell me why? Are you seeking people who will make sound decisions? Or are you seeking lost souls, with delicate egos and minds, whom you could attract to your clan of merry pranksters?

“Could it be because they are more vulnerable for the start of your brainwashing techniques?” I asked.

Silence. In fact, all he could do was look at me and smile. Silence can be taken as a guilty conscience sir.

My voice rose. My sister got upset. I was angry. This was Christmas. And my sister had to get permission to come to our family get together. My sister had to bring these folks in my mother’s home---my mother is less inclined to worry about her situation because she sees my sister as being happy and healthy---and have them greet my family members. I wanted them to leave.

The Twelve Tribes stole my sister. My sister now talks like them. She says kids need to be obedient, as one might say about a bad dog. She has sent me their closed-minded literature, filled with Christian dominion talking points. It took her months to reply to me letter, after I am sure, it was read by the entire cult. She works at their café, for free. The money she received from a horrible accident settlement is now in their eye sight. They want the money. She wants to give it to them. It doesn’t matter this Cult just purchased two buildings in Ithaca totaling $1 million. They see that they’ve conquered my little sister. And all she had had now belongs to them. That money was supposed to be for college. She wanted to be a nurse. Now she won’t go to college. College is evil, she says. She won’t learn much at all. Half the freaks in their cult can’t even spell. They may preach a life without material things, but their actions with my little sister prove otherwise. They’ve stolen her from our family, albeit dysfunctional, but the love existed. It was there. In my sister’s quest for wisdom, she fell into a brainwashing trap.

So, Twelve Tribes, feel proud that you’ve stolen another lost soul. But none of you will reach the pristine afterlife one gains from wisdom and inner peace. The Twelve Tribes are tainted with controversy and it’s less based on the newspaper clippings of allegations of racism, child abuse and barbarian lifestyle. It’s all based, to me, on your ideology.

I want my sister back.

This sad story shows how the Ithaca group can survive even without making great profits at Maté Factor: they appropriate the college funds of recruits. No need for college anymore now that you know that your true purpose in life is to produce the children who will produce the children that will be "martyred against Beast."

Any of our TT apologist friends care to rise to the challenge of the question asked by the author? Why do you recruit at Phish shows and the like if not to prey upon the vulnerable?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Twelve Tribes: Disambiguation

Wondering why there's been so little in the way of new articles up on here as of late? Are our efforts to advocate a boycott of Maté Factor and educate Ithacans and others about Twelve Tribes flagging?


We continue to distribute our pamphlets at various locations in downtown Ithaca and get the word out through local media. Look for an article soon in The Ithacan, Ithaca College's student newspaper about Maté Factor, Twelve Tribes and the IOTTC.

Frankly, we are running out of things to say about Twelve Tribes without getting repetitive. We've covered what we find abhorrent and worrisome among the group's beliefs and practices pretty well in the articles below. The back and forth in the comments sections that follow each article are worth reading, as well. If you've arrived at this site for the first time, please take some time to read the older posts. Hopefully they'll get you to think twice about spending money at Maté Factor and underwriting Eugene Spriggs' cruel little empire built on free labor.

What then for this site? Ideally I would love to see this space begin to feature first-hand accounts from people who have experience in one way or another with Twelve Tribes. These are far more powerful than anything I, or any outsider, can write.

If you have such a personal experience with TT that you'd like to share, please get in touch. Use the email link under "Contact IOTTC" at the upper right of this page, or add a comment to one of the articles.

You also may be wondering what the graphic above is about. It's the cover art from "The Rebirth of Tragedy" by Twelve Tribes, a heavy metal/hardcore band from Dayton, Ohio. I posted it because it's more interesting to look at than just a lot of text and also because it's time to make something clear. For the record, we are not advocating a boycott of the hardcore band that goes by the name of Twelve Tribes and, in fact, would love to hear them play a show in Ithaca. (Maybe the Commons Pavilion, in front of Maté Factor this summer?) I'm listening to a track of theirs as I type this, and they rock pretty hard.

Getting back to what I'd like to see more of on this blog, here's how one person summed up his/her experience with Twelve Tribes (the cult) in a note we received this week.

I lived in the Tribes and was a respected member. I can't recommend the life to anyone. I left because I feared my child would soon be beaten frequently by other adults. Most constitutional freedoms do not exist inside the communities. It's sad, but most members are rather innocent well-meaning people who have been deeply deceived by wacko Bible verse twisting. The life really twisted my mind. It's taken a long time to recover most of the way. Yes, I may be better for the wear and tear, but I almost really lost my mind there.

Reading this reminds me that we need to be ready to help people who are facing the daunting prospect of walking away from TT with no more than the clothes on their back. I encourage this person to write us back and tell us more about how children and adults are treated inside TT communities.

If, like the author of the above, you can enlighten us regarding conditions inside TT for recruits and for children, please write us. We'll also continue to publish any obscenity-free rebuttals to anything posted here in the comments sections.

Peace out.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Resolve in 2007 to eat responsibly!

What are your New Year Resolutions? Eating responsibly (in more ways than one) is one of mine. Something else appropriate to do in the first couple weeks of January is to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King by reflecting upon the privileges of personal liberty given to us by law--our civil rights--that some of us had to fight long and hard to obtain.

I reflect not only on the gains our society has made since Dr. King’s time (and how far we have yet to go), but also upon the fragility of those gains. It's naive to think that once protected by law, civil rights are forever guaranteed and need no defense. Habeas corpus might already be a casualty of George W. Bush's “War on Terror.” Who is to say that other rights of ours--or rights for certain groups--couldn’t eventually suffer a similar fate in the war on Enlightenment values currently waged from numerous quarters? Commitment to Dr. King’s vision of equal rights for all Americans needs to be renewed each generation. These rights need to be extended to those yet left out (the gay, lesbian and transgendered community here comes to mind) and defended from those nostalgic for white supremacy, patriarchy and theocracy who would turn back the clock.

It will surprise some to learn that there is a group here in Ithaca who promote the idea that our society would be a better place had the civil rights movement--and indeed the 13th & 14th Amendments to the Constitution--never happened. They are an odd bunch who thrash their children for playing make-believe games while they never cease playing make-believe First Century Jews for Jesus. They are called the Twelve Tribes and they run the Maté Factor restaurant on the Commons.

If you find the Twelve Tribes' ideology as unsavory as we do, we urge you to overlook the savoriness of the chai, salads and wraps they serve at Maté Factor and get your grub elsewhere. Point others to the information on this website so that they can make an informed decision about where to spend their money.

And Happy New Year!

P.S. If you haven't already seen it, check out John Sullivan's guest commentary column in the January 2nd Ithaca Community News titled "Why We're Boycotting Maté Factor on the Commons"

"The time is always right to do what is right."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.