Friday, March 06, 2009

Why we boycott Maté Factor

By permission of the author, here is an unedited version of an article by John Sullivan that originally appeared in the January 2007 Ithaca Community News.

In Ithaca many people consider the consequences of how and where they spend their money. My wife and I have friends who can tell you why they refuse to buy products from several manufacturers as well as from a local big-box retailer or two.

So in the summer of 2006 when we learned about the history, beliefs and practices of the Twelve Tribes religious group that owns and operates the Maté Factor on the Commons, we were surprised that fellow Ithacans had yet to organize any kind of public awareness effort. Knowing little about the Twelve Tribes, we’d eaten there several times and had enjoyed the experience. The proprietors, who in appearance resemble a cross between flower children and the Amish, seemed harmless enough. The food was good, the décor interesting and the ambience inviting.

I’d like to explain why we with other Ithacans have since begun an organized boycott of Maté Factor and why we invite you to join us in this effort.

First some background on the Twelve Tribes. In the early 1970's a former carnival barker named Eugene Spriggs founded the group now called Twelve Tribes in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Spriggs began teaching his own brand of fundamentalist, millennialist Christianity in which followers give up all personal possessions and prepare for the biblical apocalypse in emulation of the first Christians described in the Book of Acts. After wearing out their welcome in Bible Belt Tennessee, they relocated to the small town of Island Pond, Vermont. In the past two decades they have established 24 communities in the U.S., six in upstate New York (including Ithaca), as well as in France, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, and the United Kingdom. According to the Boston Globe, the group has nearly doubled in size in the past five years (to between 3000 and 4000) and has prospered financially from opportune real estate investments. They give themselves Hebrew names, practice Israeli folk dances, and have adopted the name “Twelve Tribes” to reflect their belief that they are God’s newly chosen people. They preach that only they offer salvation and that baptism within other faith communities is worthless. According to defectors, Spriggs still maintains complete control of all communities. He and his wife reportedly shuttle between estates near Twelve Tribes communities in the U.S., France and Brazil and live in considerably better conditions than do their flock.

Our objections to Spriggs and the Twelve Tribes are not directly concerned with their religious claims or belief in an approaching apocalypse. Instead, we object to their promotion of racist, misogynistic and homophobic doctrines that have a long history of hurting people: doctrines that are in fact at the root of the greatest modern crimes against humanity. Additionally, we object to their exploitation of young adults and——to us the most disturbing——their advocacy of child mistreatment.

Spriggs, known as “Yoneq” inside the group, teaches that slavery of people of African descent and the social order of the Jim Crow South were ordained by God, a result of the biblical curse of Canaan. According to Spriggs, “Martin Luther King could not offer true freedom to [African-Americans] when he was a slave of the curse himself” and “Martin Luther King was filled with every evil spirit there is to say [blacks don’t] have to serve [whites]…All manner of evil filled that man.” Race mixing and multicultural society are anathema to Spriggs. Literature the Twelve Tribes disseminates for the public and potential recruits only slightly softens Spriggs’ teachings with more veiled references to race. For instance, in their publication “Multicultural Madness” you will read:
“Let's face it. It is just not reasonable to expect people to live contentedly alongside of others who are culturally and racially different. This is unnatural, and sometimes forces people to go against what they instinctively know in their conscience.”

From another entitled "Alien Ant":
“Multiculturalism increases murder, crime and prejudice. It goes against the way man is. It places impossible demands on people to love others who are culturally and racially different. This is unnatural, like trying to love sodomites.”

Spriggs has written that (real) Jews suffer under their own curse for crucifying Jesus and that homosexuals “deserve the death penalty.” He is adamant that women unquestioningly submit to the authority of their husbands. But central in Spriggs’ teachings concern their children. On them all their hopes depend since in a generation or two they must produce 144,000 pure and virginal boys to be the bride of the Messiah as described in the Book of Revelation. Any deviation from devout focus on this goal endangers everyone’s salvation. And so he admonishes his followers to begin beating disobedient children with switches from before they can walk. According to Spriggs, a beating is not sufficient until “blue wounds” appear in the child’s flesh. Punishable offenses include engaging in make-believe.

Children in the Twelve Tribes are home-schooled to only a rudimentary level and are prohibited from acquiring a high school diploma or G.E.D. (After all, what use have breeding stock for an education?) They are put to work at an early age in the group’s cottage industries. We have no information on how children are treated in the Ithaca community other than what the parents tell us. Normally, no one mandated by New York state law to report signs of abuse—doctors, teachers, social workers—ever see the children. However, none of the local Twelve Tribes adults with whom I have spoken have disowned Spriggs’ teachings on child discipline (or those on any other subjects). On the occasions I went to the restaurant, I regularly saw children working behind the counter. New York State fined two Greene County Twelve Tribes businesses for child labor law violations in 2001.

The group largely recruits directionless (but fertile) twenty-somethings, often at rock concerts. They take, and under no conditions return, all the financial resources of those who have any. Accounts from people who have left Twelve Tribes describe a culture based on psychological manipulation, suspension of individuality, and total dependency on “elders,” all of whom are male.

Somehow, because their doctrines and practices come wrapped in religious convictions, they have been immune from the kind of criticism that would otherwise be marshaled against them. We suspect most people eating at Maté Factor on any given day would say that they find nostalgia for slavery and patriarchy, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and child beating rather revolting. We think most would choose to spend their money elsewhere if they were aware that Twelve Tribes exploits people and promotes these things. I see people eating in Maté Factor who are probably among those concerned by sweatshop labor in Bangladesh and who protest human rights abuses in Tibet. We could all benefit by being more aware of what is going on in our own backyard.

Our group, Ithacans Opposed to the Twelve Tribes Cult (IOTTC), came together initially to counter a Twelve Tribes recruiting rally on the Ithaca Commons on August 12, 2006. At that surreal event were treated to a black Twelve Tribesperson (yes, there are a few) explain how the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott of 1955-56 was a misguided effort, among other things. We handed out a pamphlet containing the words of Eugene Spriggs to over 300 passers-by that day and, I think, successfully frustrated their efforts.

The members of the Twelve Tribes who have settled in Ithaca and work at the Maté Factor should not be insulted or harassed. Many are themselves victimized and may have not fully understood all of the Spriggs’ teachings when they joined. As one ex-Twelve Tribesperson wrote us “a lot of them have a hard time stomaching the teachings like the Ham teaching [on race] and the child discipline stuff, however they are between a rock and a hard place, and it's not worth it for them to rebel against those teachings because their survival depends on their submission to authority.” We should feel compassion for these people and offer them assistance to leave TT. Any that choose to do so will need our help since they own nothing but the shirt on their back. However, by eating at the Maté Factor your dollars empower the Twelve Tribes organization to maintain their hold on these adults and their children, and to recruit others.

Some confuse the right to free speech and belief to which we are all entitled with a supposed right to not be criticized. This no one has. When an ideology promotes homophobia, misogyny, racism and mistreatment of children we have an absolute obligation to speak up. Yes, the Twelve Tribes are for now a small group with fringe beliefs. Every one of us has a real interest in keeping things that way. Please help us boycott Maté Factor.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New blog dishes TT truth

A Twelve Tribes Truth movement is afoot. "VOR," the author of the last two articles below, has just started his own blog with lots of interesting and well researched things to say about the leader of the cult, Yoneq (Eugene Spriggs), and his cruel little empire built on free labor.

The Twelve Tribes have an interesting take on Commandment #9,the one about lying. Yoneq teaches that "not telling the truth to someone who doesn't deserve the truth isn't lying." Check out this nifty logic at VOR's new blog.

VOR created his site for the same reason we created this one: we all deserve to know the truth about TT, whether we're considering investing a lifetime with them, or just our lunch money.

On his site he has posted some very interesting videos on TT. One I've posted here. Check out his site for the others.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

No warning label

"V.O.R" has graced us with another incisive commentary on TT's methods that is a must-read for anyone toying with joining up or even just spending their cash at Maté Factor here in Ithaca. V.O.R. keeps us sticklers for accuracy happy by providing copious footnotes and quotations from Spriggs. Rock on, V!

Do you want some hips and thighs with that burger?

Fast food restaurants don’t advertise the number of calories, fat or cholesterol in their food. They don’t tell you if you “Have it your way” you may gain ten pounds and not fit in your bathing suit come summer. Instead, they attempt to sell you on an experience and they take advantage of your hunger and desires to draw you into their establishment.

Another and possibly better example are the endless ads for Credit Cards that give you 0% interest for some period of time and tell you that you deserve to buy anything your heart desires and when you charge up a high balance start to charge you 20-30% interest. Then you are trapped because you gave into the advertisement, and now you are in debt and the debt is growing because of the compounding interest. Sure you did this of your own free will, but if consumers were given the whole truth up front, do you think as many would fall into the trap?

This is how it is with falling prey to a dangerous coercive control group (or cult). They entice you with a false outward appearance (1). They are selling an experience. This is why they will say, “Come visit us” or “Stay with us” versus talking to you about their beliefs and practices. Sure they will offer a superficial belief statement such as “We believe God is waiting for a people with one heart and one way who live together and love each other and have everything in common. Come visit us and you will see”. So what makes them different from any communal group that says the same thing? They won’t tell you up front. You won’t know until you visit them, and stay with them a while.

And that is when they start the process of what is known as cognitive dissonance by those who study Coercive and Controlling Groups such as the TT. This is where a person is purposely manipulated starting with controlling their environment. This is why they want you to “come.” While you are “there” they start playing with your emotions and controlling the information you can access that may provide an alternate perspective. There is a reason the TT brings a bus to deadhead concerts, it is a “mini-utopia” a place where prospective recruits can “experience” a taste of how they live. But even if you do decide to live with them for a couple weeks or a month, they don’t share their inner doctrines with you. They also don’t lock you in a room and keep you prisoner. You are free to go at anytime. This will cause you to believe that all the stories of “bondage” and “mind-control” are false. Their goal is to get followers who are willing to give up everything and make a commitment to submit to their authority. They really don’t want forced prisoners who want to break away any chance they get.

How can they convince you to want to submit to their authority and give up your free will? They start by telling you that everything you have learned and heard outside is from the “evil one” and you need to “clear your mind.” Simultaneously, they “love-bomb” you and give you a taste of utopia to get you in the right state of mind so you can “receive” their message. You start to think, “How can such sincere loving people be wrong?” They seem so happy and satisfied and all their needs are met. But unfortunately, you are only given the veneer of the real truth. In reality, most of the followers are dog-tired and struggle to stay faithful. They are worked 80-90 hours a week and don’t really have the time to live this utopian life and love-on their kids the way they say they do. In fact many of the accusations and condemnations they make of the outside “world” and “Christianity” specifically, are true of them. (see the comparison of fruit in the Parable of the Twig article). So it is not until you come to a point where you are willing to “die to yourself” and “give everything” to follow “Yahshuah” do you start to get a glimpse of the truth. And like the poor credit card holder, it is only after you have quit your job or dropped out of college, left your family and sometimes that means husbands/wives and children, told them they are all going to hell unless they follow you, turned over your vehicle and bank accounts and have no means of providing for yourself that you are given access to the “pearls” or inner teachings. Of course this is after you are baptized where you are required to denounce your former beliefs (Christianity or other religion/philosophies) and make a vow to “never leave” the body.

This is when you hear that Yoneq is the “anointed” and has a direct line to God and his teachings and words are equivalent to God speaking (2) and therefore are to be followed without question. You learn that he is the Elijah that has come back to earth to call people out of the world (3). That Christianity, (which is their main target for recruitment) was an apostate church that has not had the Holy Spirit (Ruach Ha Kodesh) for over 1900 years (4). That you are not allowed to think or “reason” for yourself about anything outside of the teachings and direction of Yoneq and his band of elders (5). And unless you beat your children until their wounds are blue, you are not being a loving father or mother in fact you hate your children. (6) And if you are a good little follower and submit all your loyalty to Yoneq’s teaching, you will one day be a God of your own Universe or Galaxy (7). And these are just a sample of the bizarre teachings that you will be expected to believe and submit to without question.

And what if you choose not to submit? And what if you want to ask a question? Then you are free to leave. In fact you are encouraged to leave and sometimes just plain asked to get out. The only problem is, you have already alienated your family and friends, you have no money and you own no vehicle and even the clothes on your back are not yours they belong to the community. If they are feeling generous, they will give you $200 to “get by”, but ultimately you are “cut-off”. (8)

So I ask you, if the Twelve Tribes put a poster up in front of the Maté Factor stating these beliefs, do you think people would want to give them their money? How about bring their kids and stay for a couple weeks? So what would constitute honest full disclosure/advertising and recruiting for the Twelve Tribes?

“Welcome, please spend as much money as you can with us because we need to ensure our Prophet has enough money to expand our real estate holdings and fly around the world starting other communities where people like me can nearly starve and raise our children and beat them until they are black and blue. You are welcome to move in with us as long as you denounce all other religious loyalties and promise you will never leave, and be willing to submit unquestionably to our elders and supreme leader who is in fact the only conduit to God. Please leave your brain outside as you are no longer allowed to think for yourself because our elders will think for you. But please bring your money, real estate, stocks and bonds and everything else with you so we can liquidate these and give the proceeds to our Apostle to spend as he sees fit. And we want you to have it your way so if your wife or husband does not want to join you/us, that’s ok. Abandon them because our Prophet Elijah says they are going to burn in the Lake of Fire anyway. Oh, and we have a no-money back guarantee. If you do choose to leave us, or we decide with little or no notice to kick you out, you will not get your money or any of your belongings back and you will drop dead because God will kill you. Have a nice day”



(1) TT (Yoneq/Spriggs) Teachings concerning being “perfect” for outsiders and withholding the truth or outright lying in order to “make a stand”:
“The only thing we have to be perfect in now is confessing our sins and speaking to people on the outside. Or your conscience will haunt you night and day.” September 2 1990 Apostolic Workers Meeting Minutes.

“There is a difference between bearing false witness and concealing a matter (not telling the truth) that others have forfeited their right to know because of their hostile and evil attitude toward God.” November 29 1988 Phase 2 Teaching – Yoneq page 1
“Sometimes we make a stand with the truth by not revealing the truth or by our answers that are or are not true.” Nov 29 1988 Phase 2 Teaching – Yoneq page 1

(2) Teachings that demonstrate Yoneq/Spriggs speaks for God. In the quote below, understand the only one who the TT considers to have “delegated authority” from God is Yoneq/Spriggs so what he in fact is saying is to obey himself without argument as you would obey God.

All who know God and know authority will obey his word, will obey Him, will obey His delegated authority without argument. Acts 3:23 - If we do not obey every word he speaks to us we will be cut off. November 18, 1990 Reasoning – Page 4

(3) Quotes concerning Yoneq/Spriggs being in fact the Elijah and having God’s authority.

Note, the following quote is regarding a woman who died of cancer who was a long time member of the TT. They could not explain her untimely death without finding some fault in her life or un-confessed sin. She was accused of speaking ill of Yoneq once years before and therefore rejecting God’s authority and not “receiving” Elijah.
“No way if Mary disrespected God's authority could faith come to heal her - Numbers 12 No way her children could be saved Malachi 4:5 If (you) don't receive Elijah (you) don't receive (the) anointing (your) children will be accursed - no hope.” September 2, 1990 Apostolic Workers Meeting – Page 5
Here is another quote concerning Elijah being in the midst of the TT. They are referring to Yoneq and the spirit that he has brought to the TT.
“Keli told us we can know the spirit of Elijah is in our midst because of
how we are continually brought back to the necessity of turning our heart to our
children.” August 6, 1996 Apostolic Workers Meeting – Page 3

(4) Quotes concerning there being no true church for the last 1900 years:
“Everything has been in abeyance for at least 1900 years — put off for a future
generation to fulfill. Abeyance — put off, it’s no longer in existence. 1 Pet 2:9 is no longer in existence. There is no people of God; there is no holy nation; there is no twelve-tribed nation; there has been no one keeping the way of YHWH for 1900 years — it has been in abeyance.” April 9, 1995 The Fall of the First Church – Page 3
“Therefore the evil one been a ruler for 1900 years. They crucified the very Son of God — YHWH in the flesh. They killed Him! It proves who is in control of the world — Satan rules the whole world.” April 9, 1995 The Fall of the First Church – Page

(5) TT Teaching concerning peoples right to “reason” or think for themselves vs submitting to authority
“Many people are enslaved by a spirit of reason. They will only come when they are called and go where they are sent when it seems right to them. They always want to know a reason. If they are under this bondage of reasoning, sooner or later slanderous words will come out of their mouth against authority and there will be no possibility of escape from death.” November 18, 1990 Reasoning
(6) TT Teachings concerning beating children until they bleed:
“Underdiscipline accomplishes nothing. It is better not to discipline our children at
all — “The blueness of the wound drives away all evil.”” October 1980 Child Training -Notes from Teachers Meeting - Page 5

“Unless your son has blue wounds, by this standard, you know what kind of a
standard is in you — it is the spirit that hates your son. If one is overly concerned about
his son receiving blue marks you know that he hates his son and hates the word of God.”
No date – Execution of Justice – Page 1
(7) TT Quotes concerning being “cut-off” due to not submitting to authority or the teachings of Yoneq. A member can be “”cut-off” within the community and not allowed to participate in social activity or be asked to leave.
“What do we have that' s greater than our attachment (staying connected) to our Master, Yahshua, and His people? Do we think that we can put aside our life for awhile and leave the Community and go out and do other things and then come back?” May 19 1994 The Seriousness of Being Cut-Off from Messiah – Page 5

“In the nations if you join the army and go to battle and desert the battle you could be imprisoned or even killed. (A deserter is worthy of death - if he falls into the hands of the enemy he will betray you.) It's a serious thing to be in a battle and desert your troop. You have to see that we're in a war here. This is our Father's army and you can't so easily come back. We made a pledge at baptism not to leave.” May 19 1994 The Seriousness of Being Cut-Off from Messiah – Page 3

(8) TT (Yoneq/Spriggs) Quotes concerning followers becoming gods of their own galaxy:

"We are going to be holy people. Holy, set apart by the Holy Spirit to accomplish His will. The day will come when each one of you has a galaxy to rule over."
[source: "The Three Eternal Destinies #74 - Three Categories of Man 5" November 19, 1996. Morning Minchah, Reuben. Teaching identifier: 961119A]
"Rev 1:6; 5:10 — He has made us to be kings and priests — that’s who we are! We will rule over galaxies. When people of the nations see us, it will be just like seeing the Father (Jn 14:9). We will bear His name, His character, His image, His authority."
[source: "Salvation is a Free Gift (But Who Does He Give It To?)" December 1997. Coxsackie, NY. Teaching identifier: 9712T08]

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Some nasty fruit

People come to their dislike of the Twelve Tribes cult from a number of different perspectives. Some are appalled by the racism, misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia that lace their literature. Some are disgusted by their practices of thrashing their children with switches and depriving them of a high school-equivalent education. Others who consider themselves Christians object to how the group uses the preexisting affinity with Christian scripture of many potential recruits to get them in the door. For them, the TT's belief that they are the only true disciples of Yahshua/Jesus since the First Century and that Spriggs (Yoneq) is Elijah the prophet is not just weird and dangerous, it's a heresy. What follows was submitted to IOTTC by "V.O.R." The author has had long-term personal experience with the cult. The article contains some information that is difficult to fact-check, but many points made are corroborated by other sources. Opinions expressed in this essay represent the personal views of the author, and are not necessarily those of IOTTC. -Al

The Twelve Tribes leader and self proclaimed apostle and prophet (who also considers himself the return of the Biblical Elijah) goes by the name "Yoneq". His birth name was Elbert Eugene Spriggs. Spriggs has gone on record as defining his new name as meaning "a Twig". The word "Yoneqet" is used in this manner in Ezekial 17 speaking of an eagle that breaks off the top most "twig" of a cedar. Anyone familiar with the history of the Twelve Tribes knows that Spriggs broke away from a Christian based church due to differences of opinion and ultimately started his own "church" which at first accepted other Christians and Christianity as a whole. Later, he condemned Christianity as an Apostate church and his teachings state there has not been a valid Spirit filled church for over 1900 years. The Twelve Tribes like to use parables in their "Free Papers", so I wrote this parable just for Yoneq

The Parable of the Twig

There was a tree that grew alone in a field and was cared for by a very loving farmer. The tree had both strong and weak branches. The weak branches bore bad fruit. The strong branches bore good fruit. One day a twig started to grow on one of the strong branches. It was a humble twig that enjoyed being a part of a strong branch that grew good fruit. It flourished on the branch and started to grow beautiful healthy leaves. Then it started to flower and later the beginnings of one of the most beautiful fruits started to grow from the twig. At first the twig was happy to be contributing to the production of the branch and the tree overall. The tree produced healthy delicious fruit that made the farmer very happy.

However, overtime, the twig started comparing its fruit to those grown by the weaker branches on the tree. At first it felt sad that the other branches could not grow healthy fruit and wished that it could help them grow stronger. The farmer chose to prune some of these branches. And the twig started to think, “The farmer loves my fruit. He is happy with me and the branch that I belong to.” Then the twig started to compare it’s fruit to the fruit of other strong branches and it started to become judgmental of those branches for not having the “best” fruit. The twig started to question why the tree even bothered to grow weak branches at all? The twig started to become more and more proud and was becoming unhappy to be a part of the tree.

The twig shared its thoughts with the branch that it grew on but the branch would not listen. Therefore the twig started to compare its fruit with the fruit grown by other twigs on the branch. In its view, their fruit did not even compare to what it produced. So finally, the twig decided, “I need to break away from the branch and the tree and flourish on my own. Maybe by not being constrained by the tree I can become my own tree and make the farmer happier.”

When the twig broke away from the tree it fell to the ground. From the ground, the twig was able to see the results of the weaker branches face to face. Over time, all the twig could see was the rotten fruit surrounding it. It could no longer see any good fruit on the tree from its position on the ground. Therefore it determined in its heart the entire tree was “rotten” and unable to grow good fruit. Pride had completely taken root in the twig and it truly believed that the farmer only loved it and its fruit. The tree from which it grew was no longer loved by the farmer. It judged the tree by the dead fruit it saw and there was plenty to judge.

But something slowly started to happen that the twig’s pride prevented it from seeing. Due to being disconnected from the tree, the twig was no longer being fed by the tree. The twig had to produce food for its fruit entirely off of what it had inside it. Slowly the twig’s fruit began to shrivel.. The twig was too proud to admit that it had made a mistake by disconnecting from the branch and the tree. The fruit on the twig increasingly started to look like the fruit it was surrounded by on the ground. The twig was growing old and as a twig with rotting fruit, it did not have the ability to grow additional branches and twigs to grow good fruit. Now it’s fruit is withered and as rotten as anything ever produced by the weak branches on the tree. And still the twig’s pride declares, “I am the only true tree!”.

Yoneq said, “Judge me by my fruit, if I am an apostle or not”

Criticism of Christianity: Fathers and mothers being too busy working to spend time with their Children.

Twelve Tribes Fruit: Fathers too busy working in “Industries” and mothers too busy working in communities to spend time with their children. Young singles and other families raising their children. Families separated within and outside the communities.

Criticism of Christianity: Christians focused on “the love of money.”

Twelve Tribes Fruit: Communities and elders so focused on Industries and making money enough to pay the 10% tithe to the Apostle they don’t have time to Shepard the followers or raise their children properly. These facts are documented in their own teachings and minutes from the Apostolic Meetings.

Criticism of Christianity: Christians having the same divorce rate as non-Christians.

Twelve Tribes Fruit: Community members are encouraged to divorce non-believing spouses. Members who have spouses leave the TT, are encouraged to remarry.

Criticism of Christianity: Critical of Christian Leaders that fall (Baker, Swaggert, etc) and judging all Christianity based on the sins of these few.

Twelve Tribes Fruit: Multiple leaders accused and at least one arrested for molesting children. Jeff Leonard was arrested in Brunswick, Ga for child molestation and extradited to Desoto County, Fl (Arcadia) were he was later convicted and placed in jail. Stories of multiple others accused of child molestation and disciplined but then forgiven by the TT leadership.

Criticism of Christianity: Christian Denominations divided and divisions within churches therefore they are accused of not having the “Holy Spirit” and Christianity as a whole being an apostate church.

Twelve Tribes Fruit: Many of the original TT elders (“the nucleus”) have left the communities because of differences with Yoneq. Those who were credited with having “The Holy Spirit” now accused of never having it because they disagreed with Yoneq.

Criticism of Christianity: Christian churches leading people away from God instead of towards Him. Yoneq repeatedly states Christians and anyone who openly disagrees with him or his teachings should have a millstone tied around their neck and they should be thrown in the sea or sent to the Lake of Fire.

Twelve Tribes Fruit: Yoneq requires new members to denounce their Christianity before baptizing them. Many former members have not only abandoned the TT but also their belief in God altogether due to Yoneq and his controlling practices. Yoneq is personally responsible for leading thousands away from their faith in Christ and God.

Criticism of Christianity: Christian children don’t have their hearts turned towards their father. The Spirit of the Eliyah will turn the hearts of the children towards their father and the hearts of the father towards God.

Twelve Tribes Fruit: It is estimated by many ex-TT members that between 50-70% of male teens leave the TT between the ages of 14-19. Many of these teens have gone on record as “despising” their fathers and mothers for the abuse they had to endure in the TT. These teens are rejected and abandoned by their parents once the leave the TT.

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?