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