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.