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?


Anonymous said...

Yick. Seems they'll accept any money that a new member brings in from 'The World', whatever the source, but when it comes to debts from 'The World', they pick and choose... they pretend that blatant theft and abandonment of responsibility don't burden their consciences when the other people being hurt can be lumped under the heading of "Some Big Company."

If they don't accept debts from paying for college, they shouldn't be accepting money that's to pay for college, either.

Anonymous said...

well this is another post that really highlights the intent of this site - hatred. one thing is clear by your words about your sister is clear - she was not loved by you and still is not loved by you. what else is clear is that the bloggers of this site dont really know love either , rather only ignorance and hatred and the spreading there of...

Aloysius Horn said...

Well, your comment that the author really doesn't love his sister shows you to be a malodorous malmsey-nosed lout, Mr. TT brainwasher.

(Insult courtesy of the Shakespearean Insult Generator.)

Jude Apologia said...

I'll start with sticks, and move on to carrots, because I perversely like to put my worst foot forward.

> Silence can be taken as a guilty conscience sir.

Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

Remember, silence can be taken as a guilty conscience.

Come on, get real. Silence can be taken as a lot of things, and generally most of them are wrong. It can be a sign of confusion, of ignorance, of feeling incapable of explaining a complicated concept, of a guilty conscience, of respect for things someone else doesn't want to hear, of smug superiority, of a blockage in the throat... just leave it at "My only response was silence" and skip trying to lead the jury. Either people already have their own prejudices, in which case they'll follow those rather than your suggestion, or they'll realize your suggestion is just one of many possibilities and kindly pretend you didn't say anything. Either way, it's a waste of writing.

> Twelve Tribes, an obvious Cult by definition.

There are so many definitions of 'cult' out there, any religious group and many nonreligious ones are obvious Cults by definition. It'd be nice to know which one is being used, thereby reducing it to a factual claim rather than merely calling names. Speaking of which...

> their web of deception.
> the guy’s ridiculous name
> the bizarre tenant
> one of these hairy, ugly goofballs
> some freak in Tennessee
> clan of merry pranksters
> Half the freaks in their cult

I think the March 21, 7:42 commenter can be forgiven for mistaking the intent of the site as hatred, given what's reproduced as a featured item. You gotta admit, if you said this kind of stuff about a [insert minority here], whether it was true or not, the anti-bigotry police would be all over you in a heartbeat.

I'm not saying this excuses the Twelve Tribes from being institutionally racist (which is funny only because they are too strongly racist to realize they're actually being racist). But neither does their failing excuse similar behavior in others. Really. I'd expect better of an average Ithacan.

Speaking of things the March 21 person said... I believe there was an accusation of lack of love, and lack of understanding of love. I'm guessing this was in response to:

> My sister was born into a dysfunctional family, but loving nonetheless.
> Her father abandoned her when she was very young
> She never felt connected to anyone in her family.
> I could go visit her ... but I refuse.
> our family, albeit dysfunctional, but the love existed. It was there.

Sorry to be blunt, but whatever idea you've got of love that includes abandoning very young children, leaving people unable to connect to anyone in the whole family, having people refuse to even visit each other, and generally being, as you seem to indicate, incapable of functioning as a family... well, that's a pretty shitty kind of love. You paint a picture of a sister who had no reason to say "I am loved", but claim there was love there. Perhaps there was, but it seems like it was hiding in a long forgotten corner of the attic, atrophying from disuse.

Regardless of if the Twelve Tribes have a good claim on love or not, unless you were grossly misrepresenting yourself, it seems pretty clear that your family doesn't have a good claim on being loving in any meaningful kind of way. I can certainly imagine "affectionate for blood relations in a misguided manner" based on what you've said, but that doesn't seem like something worth calling 'love'. Unless I'm getting my languages confused again.... love is supposed to be something good, isn't it?

Ok, I'll stop picking on you now. You asked a question that's worth thinking about:

> “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?”

First off, they do present themselves in other venues, so the second question isn't exactly relevant, but if it were changed to "Why not other venues MORE?" Well, that's a good question, and I believe it has a simple answer. It doesn't work. It's not where they have a good track record of finding recruits.

Right. On to the first question. Why do they look for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of a teeming shore, the homeless, and the tempest-tost (apologize to Emma Lazarus)? Why would anyone look for Joe Rockbottom, who's been in bad shape for a while now, perhaps long enough to realize he's in a pretty messed up situation? Well, step 1 is to realize you have a problem you're powerless to control. You've hit rock bottom and can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Step 2 is realize that there is an authority that can help you. Step 3 is to give yourself up to that authority... it works for Alcoholics Anonymous, it works for other 12-step programs. Don't knock a system that works.

Why look for people who are so bad off that they are prepared to take Step 1? Just turn the question around, and ask instead "Why look for people who aren't in such bad shape that they're ready to take Step 1?" Far as I can tell, there's no reason. The Twelve Tribes are very into 'conquering the fatal flaw', and so there's no point for them to go looking for folks that A: aren't afflicted with this fatal flaw or B: aren't affected enough to want to fix it or C: aren't affected enough to be unable to fix it themselves.

'Course, the TT probably don't think people in category A exist, but given that they're an assemblage of people who wouldn't be assembled if they didn't have (and recognize) this flaw of theirs, it's natural to assume that everyone else must have it as well. Just as wrongheaded and erroneous as belief in 'Original Sin', but very natural and expected nonetheless.

So, short answer in summary: Young people troubled enough to be under the influence of all kinds of drugs and alcohol are one of the groups most likely to realize that they've got troubles which may be too big for them to handle without help.

That, of course, brings up the question of why there continue to be so many deeply troubled young people enjoying such a fine state of being fouled up, but that's probably a topic for another venue.

I will, however, ask: Malmsey-nosed?

Anonymous said...

Jude, I waited awhile to respond to you because upon first reading your post, I was angry that you allowed yourself to completely miss the point of my piece so that you could question my intelligence and pick apart what I had to say.

I won't question your intelligence, I can tell you have a brain and I appreciate that. Please keep in mind that I have a very personal experience with this and that it is difficult to keep myself from getting angry, mad or upset when discussing it. I truly feel like I have lost my sister. She's not the same little girl who used to fall asleep on my back. She's an adult now and made a decision, but I wonder if she made the decision on her own. The 12 Tribes are trained, only the best, will bring you in. We know that's the operation. And my contact with her has eroded because it's hard to hear her talk in the vein of the 12 Tribes Cult. I carry a letter she wrote me more than a year ago, and I am sorry, but it's scary to me. It wasn't personal, as was my original letter to her. It seemed like the letter was drafted by the Cult, read by the Cult and then sent off with her signature.

I used the standard dictionary definition in CUlt for the 12 tribes. They fit it.

Allow me to more clearly explain my point in a few sentences.

I love my sister. My family loves my sister. She was always loved. Don't question the love we gave her, you have no right, based on how I originally wrote the above piece. I hope you understand that.

Her "father" isn't a part of our family. That was the dysfunction. I wish I made that more clear. But my sister had a mom, two older brothers and an older sister, along with aunts, uncles and grandmothers. She was very much loved.

My sister had dreams. Now she is living in a commune with a Cult of people who worship some incredibly bizarre faux paux interpration of the Bible.

The 12 Tribes claims to live in a non material world. Yet they made attempts to take my sister's money from a very bad crash, that was once supposed to be used for her college education and to fix any problems she may have with results of the accident.

The 12 tribes owns two buildings, recently bought, worth more than $1 million in downtown Ithaca. They also own a building where they house the Cult. The run a coffee shop for profit. A guy in TN created this Cult in the 70s, feeling alienated from traditional religion. Much money goes to him. He's not a great guy.

The 12 tribes promote a life that is closed. No music, no reading, no thoughts outside the faux paux based religion. Marry within.

All of these things should be of great concern to every person outside the Cult. Living in a closed world is not healthy.

You judged my family. You judged me. And that's fine. But what you failed to do was get over what you saw as an opportunity to show off and strut your "stuff" but to see what was really being said by "I lost my sister."

Like I said, I want to be as calm as possible about this, but you hit a nerve. And someone with prose such as yourself should have been able to see what my point was. Did I judge them? Yep. Did I spew some anger? Sure did.

But how did you entice great debate in your reply to me? WHy reply to me? Why not reply to the 12 Tribes?

I already know the 12 Tribes read this. They have talked to my sister about this.

But unless they sent you to criticize me and my family, they are absent from this debate. And, sorry Jude, but to me, that's a very important sign. Even to my face, they couldn't explain their unusual tactics, their way of life. And that's fine, no need to defend the way they live.

I just want my damn sister back. And I am very close to taking any legal option I have of doing that, and that includes visiting her often and countering the Cult's brainwashing techniques.

Mandy said...

I was a very close friend of the person in question for years before she joined Twelve Tribes. I can assure you, without question, that she was never without love. She had a family that loved her and a million friends, including myself, that would have taken a bullet for her. I would have taken a cannonball to the face for that girl. We did what we could to try and show her that we loved and supported her but it apparently wasn't enough. We aren't God, and we couldn't fill the void she had.

I went along with a few other friends to visit her at the Mate Factor a few years ago. 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. It broke my heart. Not to mention that one of her fellow cult members sat right next to her the entire time and wouldn't leave her alone with us, or let her get a word in edgewise, for that matter. My mother, who had known and loved her too, gave me a letter and some pictures to give to her. She was allowed to look at the pictures but she very conspicuously left the letter untouched for what I can only assume would be an examination of it later by the jerk next to her.

I doubt I will visit her again. Not because I don't care. I think of her all the time and I still miss her like hell. But the person she is today is someone I don't know, and I can't handle seeing her like that, knowing how she used to be. I'll admit I'm angry with her. I'm angry that all the love her family, her other friends, and I gave her wasn't good enough. I'm angry that she let herself be taken in by such obvious bullshit.

I don't see how anyone can have anything negative to say about her brother's post. If you haven't lost someone in such a fashion you have no idea what it's like. And there is nothing wrong with us being angry. We're entitled to it. She was gullible and vulnerable, they saw it, and they exploited it. There is nothing holy or charitable about that. Their tactics are malicious. I want my friend back. She is not in a better place and she is not genuinely happy. That is impossible under the circumstances. She is brainwashed, plain and simple. There is no way to reasonably defend the actions of this cult and I am glad this site exists to show the truth about it.

Jude Apologia said...

There's all sorts of points, and I'll try to address them in a useful order, but it may be tricky because there are some things that I see as tied to many others in a way that doesn't lend itself well to a linear presentation. If I fail to address some point you wished I would have addressed, call me on it and I'll try not to miss it next time.

First up, "countering the Cult's brainwashing". If she is indeed the subject of a systematic effort aimed at instilling certain attitudes and beliefs against her will (i.e. brainwashing), then you might have some success by bringing to her attention the actual, demonstrable flaws, shortcomings, and contradictions in those attitudes and beliefs. Not just explain what's wrong with them, though. If you don't come up with some kind of tangible, observable evidence that they're broken, I suspect that by this point the attitude and belief that "Reason and Logic are tools to lead people away from the truth" is sufficiently ingrained in her that your explanations will just convince her the TT perspective is correct, instead of incorrect.

Remember that they expect people to oppose them... that if they're not being opposed, they're not doing the right thing... that The World is a place turned on its head that calls good 'evil' and evil 'good', so an outsider saying "Spanking is bad" translates, to them, as "Spanking is good".

If, on the other hand, the attitudes and beliefs she's subscribed to have been adopted in accord with her will, instead of against (i.e. not brainwashing), then I seriously doubt that pointing out where they're wrong will be enough. It's simple: When someone wants something to be true, it's a lot easier to ignore even the strongest evidence otherwise. In that case, I'd say you should try to find out what your sister wants to be true, figure out if there's any possible way that it can be true outside of the TT (regardless of if it's actually true inside) and if it is possible, find a way to actively demonstrate that to her. Again, not just explain it's possible (that's reasoning, which you are expected to use to lead people away from the truth) but be able to say "Look, see? Here's the thing you want, right here in the real world."

I applaud that you're very close to considering visiting your sister often and trying to counter the beliefs she's adopted (whether they're brainwashing or not), but I do hope that you do put in the time to figure out which beliefs are the most important to counter, why she's adopted them (especially if it wasn't against her will), and what kind of countering will actually be effective. I hate to see people waste potentially productive energy and drive by throwing themselves against a brick wall, and I think that if you aren't pretty thorough about doing your homework on this, a brick wall would be far more yielding by comparison.

And that, by the way, is why I reply to you, and not to the 12 Tribes. They 'know' that they've got The Truth, and that anything which seems to shed a doubt on that 'fact' is just the expected opposition that The (evil) World was prophesied to throw up against them. Talking to eachother, they often have a great capacity to put down their pride and admit they're wrong, but talking to outsiders, their regular lessons in humility tend to go right out the window. They're The Body, they know The Truth, and they're not about to let facts (tools to distract people from the truth!) or reality (just The World, not the more pure Kingdom of God!) make them question that. I reply to you because, perhaps, you might actually hear something.

You have criticisms of them. There's no point in me trying to pass your words on to them, because they're not the kind of words they can listen to or understand, at least not at the stage they're at right now. They, I'm sure, would have some mildly worded and deeply painful criticisms of you, which I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be able to listen to or understand either, at least not coming from a cult full of crazy freaks who had stolen your sister. Perhaps you could, but if you were the kind of person who could listen to advice from people you have every reason to despise you're probably some kind of weird space alien, because that's not a human response at all.

I, however, am not sent by them (nor am I sent by any supernatural beings, as far as I know), and yet I level at you one of the criticisms that they might, albeit in more overtly caustic terms (for those that don't feel like scrolling back, I basically said that his sister wasn't loved, but I didn't put it that gently.) If you 'know' I'm wrong, then I apologize for wasting your time and hitting a nerve unnecessarily. You might as well stop reading now, because what I say will be no more meaningful than contradicting evidence is meaningful to Twelve Tribes inductees. If, however, you just think I'm wrong, without knowing... if you're suspicious there might actually be something in what I'm saying, since it's coming from someone who (I hope) clearly has some serious bones to pick with the TT and has, as you say, a brain... well, I'll first say this:

I am not unaware that you've lost your sister.

I realize that you've lost her in a very real, deep, and painful way.

I suspect you may have lost her in a deeper way than you're consciously aware of.

I realize you're not the only person who has someone (or ones) they care about tucked away in the TT with limited, awkward, and/or untrustworthy communication, if any.

I'm intimately aware of how nightmarish it is to even think that a relative MIGHT go off, join these folks, and be inundated 24/7 with dogma about how "this is the only way to get the kind of life you want" and prevented from seeing examples to the contrary... which, I admit, cannot possibly be as bad as having it happen.

In short, I don't think I've completely missed the point that you "just want your damn sister back." If you still think I have, though, say so and I'll try to flush my current assumptions and conclusions and try to re-build them. Even an Oracle for Hire calls the wrong shots from time to time, and I'm not too proud to admit there's a couple times in my life I've been wrong.

Regarding your sister, though... gazing into my crystal ball (it's hooked up to a possible-futures time machine), the prospects don't look that good. I see some futures where you manage to extract her from the Twelve Tribes, but in all the ones I can see clearly, she's pretty miserable. And still, it seems, lost to you, even if she's around. I also see a couple futures where you decide that having your sister lost to you is sufficiently unbearable that you join the TT, and you end up happy (in that not-quite-right way) overworked, underslept, and creepily zealous. Also, your beard looks funny, especially if I've guessed your gender incorrectly. She's no longer lost, but that comes at a rather hefty price for you.

From where I'm sitting, with the reception I'm getting on this thing, the likely futures don't look so hot any way you cut it. Unfortunately for me, I prefer happy endings. I'd like to tune into channel "The sister's not lost, either to you or to reality", and that's why I'm hitting nerves.

I realize, of course, that you love your sister. It's completely and unquestionably true. The fact is, though, that it's also very likely true that you don't love your sister. You probably can't tell, but I pronounced 'love' slightly differently from how I pronounced 'love'... that is, I was using a different word in the first sentence than in the second. There are plenty of people in the TT that left behind people who loved (first word) them, but I don't think there are any who left behind people who loved (second word) them; they either didn't join, or they and everyone who loved(2nd) them joined as well.

She's your sister. Of course you love(1st) her, of course your family has always loved(1st) her, and as has been proven time and again, love(1st) doesn't hold families together, nor does it suffice to make relationships last, even though it can do a bang-up job for a while, so her being in the TT doesn't put the least bit of tarnish on your family's love(1st) for her. Now that I've banged on your nerve a bit, I'm perfectly willing to admit all of that is true.

In return, I'll ask you to take some guesses at what love(2nd) is. Don't just call it love, because (as I think I've painfully demonstrated at your expense, my apologies) it's love, not love, and so calling love love (instead of love) would be confusing. Or, rather, it's love(2nd), not love(1st), and so calling love(2nd) love(1st) (instead of love(2nd)) would be confusing. As starting points, keep in mind 1> someone who's loved(2nd) either wouldn't join the TT, or end up joining with everyone who loved(2nd) them, 2> love(2nd) is present in some (not all!) relationships that have lasted over 50 years through viciously trying times, but wasn't every (at any point) present in any relationships that ended up on the rocks, 3> Families that both love(1st) and love(2nd) are distinguished by being the polar opposite of 'dysfunctional'.

In case you're curious, my motivation is this: I want to see a happy ending become more likely in my crystal ball, and my handy dandy supercomputer strongly suggests that your chances of getting your sister out of the TT and un-lost will be a lot better if you're equipped with love(2nd) in your vocabulary, on your mental radar, and can train your ear to distinguish between love(2nd) and love(1st) even when people aren't kind enough to provide the parenthetical numberings.


nabashalam said...

Let it be known that the TT will operate their cafes at a loss if need be. The main purpose for their cafes is "evangelism" aka recruitment.

Being they dont have the overhead of a payroll, their chances of breaking even or even making revenue is way above any other start-up restauranteers...

William said...

I want to say I am truly sorry for your sister. We just sucessfully won a court battle where my Son was taken by his Mother and jumped from TT location to another over a year. To describe the level of pain and destruction is not possible. Her Parents and I came together in the end to enable this to happen. When we found my Son he had marks all over his body (got the pictures) from their idea of disipline.

Once again I am sorry to hear about your sister.

William said...

I want to say I am truly sorry for your sister. We just sucessfully won a court battle where my Son was taken by his Mother and jumped from TT location to another over a year. To describe the level of pain and destruction is not possible. Her Parents and I came together in the end to enable this to happen. When we found my Son he had marks all over his body (got the pictures) from their idea of disipline.

Once again I am sorry to hear about your sister.