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.


Jude Apologia said...

From a variety of sources (accounts here, the rather dubious stuff that can be found on the web in general, and discussions with Twelve Tribes members) it seems clear that they're pretty well equipped to persuade people who already have been indoctrinated into biblical beliefs.

What I don't know... and would very much like to know... is what kind of success rate the Twelve Tribes have when it comes to recruiting people who have always been brights, so don't have the ready-made hooks of "Of course there's a God, of course the bible's right" for the TT to latch onto.

Anyone have any stories or thoughts about this?

And another question: If someone is in Cult A, and then they join Cult B, is it appropriate to say the person has been brainwashed, when their initial situation was already brainwashed? If they then go back to Cult A, have they been de-conditioned, or would that only apply if they no longer were in a cult at all? Have they just been brainwashed again? Or do these terms even apply when someone's shifting between cults, instead of between reality and cult?

jb said...

Jude, I get what you're trying to do, what with Cult A and Cult B, but I don't know of anyone who truly considers Christianity a cult. I'm sure you believe something is true (perhaps that there is no God), and there are lots of people who might believe this same thing as you...are you then in a cult?
I don't think common beliefs alone account for cult status.
Just a side note, it's interesting that your name is Jude, which comes from "Let Him be praised."

Joo'd'apologia said...

The particular examples I had in mind were Moonies and Branch Davidians, and I'd still like to hear what people think about the two questions I asked.

But, as far as a tangent onto "What -is- a cult?" or "Are all Christians cultists?"... I think it's not as interesting, since it really depends which definition of cult you're using. I'm looking at a list of definitions right now, and I get the following... I'll condense the list and just put C if the definitions applies to general Christians, T if it applies to Twelve Tribes, and A if it applies to my apologetic self.

Def 1: CT
Def 2: CAT
Def 3: CT
Def 4: (C)AT (Only smaller Christian groups)
Def 5: CT
Def 6: CT
Def 7: None (pseudomedicinal term)
Def 8: C
Def 9: (C)T (Only C after 1700CE)
Def 10: CAT
Def 11: CT

So, by some definitions, I'd be in a cult, and by most definitions (but not all, in either case) the term applies to TT and Christians alike.

For some definitions, you're entirely correct that common beliefs don't account for cult status (not even close), but for some definitions you're very nearly wrong wrong, since common beliefs and practices can account for cult status.

As for the name: Blame what I was listening to. It's not meant to have any particular implications, and if it bothers anyone, I'd be happy to change it. It's just a way to connect my posts together, rather than a bunch of anonymous post that may or may not be written by the same person.

Then again, if anyone feels like praising me, I'll be glad to accept it if I actually deserve it.