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- Distinct from the unrelated Twelve Tribes branch of Rastafari
Twelve Tribes is a restorationist Christian sect considered by some to be a cult, which originated out of a Jesus Movement group in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1972. They moved from Tennessee to Vermont and have since grown and spread. Group founder Elbert Eugene Spriggs is known by the name Yoneq to followers. The group is known for living communally in their own intentional communities, requiring members to give up their possessions and hold all things in common according to Acts 2:44. They are also known for their delis and coffee shops often under the Yellow Deli and Common Ground names, furniture and construction businesses, and Blue Blinds Bakery. They are also known for proselytising at rock concerts. There are reportedly between 3000 to 4000 members as of 2016.
Theologically, they believe that all of the Christian church is apostate except for their own communities. They reject the use of the names God and Jesus in favor of calling God the father "Abba" and the son "Yahshua". They believe the Bible mandates strict child discipline including corporal punishment, practice homeschooling, follow Saturday (Sabbath) worship rather than Sunday, observe the Old Testament feasts, practice organic farming, and make most of their own clothes. Their lifestyle has been described as a cross between the Amish or Hutterites and a hippie commune; their hippie appearance makes for a good fit at concerts where they have proselytised, including Phish and the Grateful Dead concerts. Other targets of their proselytising have included Occupy Wall Street gatherings, and Appalachian Trail hikers. The key, according to this group, is Acts 2:44 which they assert is the solution to the world's economic and ecological problems.
Cult accusations have dogged the Twelve Tribes from the late 1970s to the present. Following Acts 2:44 to them means dropping out of society and joining one of their communes to labor on their farms or work for one of their businesses. Their proselytising style is rather low-key, more of the love bombing sort and giving out literature explaining their beliefs, rather than hitting people up front with their fire and brimstone theology (they save that for later). Much of their literature is tailored toward fans of the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, and such, and their delis and natural foods stores have a "groovy", somewhat upscale feel that give little appearance at first glance of being operated by an authoritarian religious cult. Converts were the subject of several "deprogrammings" during the late 1970s by infamous cult "deprogrammer" Ted Patrick at the behest of alarmed family members, and the state of Vermont once raided their Vermont community in 1984 over child custody and child abuse accusations. Their groups today can be found in several U.S. states and in Europe, South America, Canada, and Australia. They continue to be accused of child abuse, particularly over their practice of disciplining with "the rod" and child labor, of anti-Semitism and racism for statements in their literature supporting racial segregation and slavery, and that Jews are accursed for murdering Christ and of their leader Elbert Eugene Spriggs living high on the hog while ordinary followers toil in communes.
- Twelve Tribes: The Church Preached Child Abuse & Slavery: According to ex-members of Twelve Tribes who spoke to The Daily Beast, children are regularly beaten and leaders preached "slavery is necessary." Now, an escapee has taken over the Facebook page of the Plymouth bakery run by the commune so he can broadcast its ills by Luke O'Neil (07.16.16 9:01 PM ET) The Daily Beast.
- Friendly Cult Looking For Recruits at Occupy Wall Street, The Village Voice
- No, not that kind, but real A.T. thru-hikers, via the free hostel they operate in Rutland, Vermont and advertising "work for stay" arrangements at other communes in the vicinity of the Trail, e.g. Hillsboro, Virginia
- Quotes from the teachings of Elbert Eugene Spriggs
- 1984 Vermont sect raid had similar judicial conclusion as Texas case, Associated Press
- Spare the rod and spoil the …, Sydney Morning Herald
- Twelve Tribes report from the New England Institute of Religious Research
- State Takes Close Look at Cult Kids in Factories, The New York Post
- Apologetics Index article
- Racist sect digs in at rock festivals, The Guardian
- Cult leader travels the world in style, Boston Herald