Twelve Tribes : The Commonwealth of Israel

Twelve Tribes“If a Christian is a true seeker of God, they are better off reading the word of God at face value than buying into the traditions of mainstream churches. When a believer sincerely cries out to God, God will lead them into [our] community,” said Wade Skinner, an elder of the Twelve Tribes community in Vista. Twelve Tribes was born out of the Jesus movement by Elbert Spriggs in the 1970s. “To me, Spriggs’s teachings have an equal authority to Peter, Paul, or John,” said Skinner, a friend of Spriggs for 15 years. Spriggs visualized the community as a new spiritual nation of God. The Twelve Tribes has grown to 50 communities in nine countries with two communities in San Diego County. 12 TribesThe Twelve Tribes community believes they are the only true disciples of Jesus on earth. “After the book of James was written, Christianity underwent a period of Dark Ages, where there is no evidence there were people living as the Holy Nation. Sincere Christians today are righteous people, but they are no different than atheists,” said Skinner. “If you are the seed of Abraham, you must do the deeds of Abraham. This means Christians will live as the early believers did in Acts 2, who sold their possessions and shared based on the needs of people.” People who join the community give their possessions to Twelve Tribes. “When Christians hear about our community, they are very threatened by our life. All they want is personal salvation. But they are not truly God’s people.”

Full Article: Twelve Tribes : The Commonwealth of Israel

(Also read my post Is the Twelve Tribes a Cult?)

11 Comments
  • David

    November 2, 2005, 10:52 pm

    holy friekadoly! dude..are these people serious when they say they are the only true seeds of Abraham? all i’m sayin’ is if these people passed out coolaid and black nike’s i wouldn’t be suprised. If momma cass comes in with a warm apple pie and a smile on her face saying “just eat it honey, it’ll be over soon” run! i will confess though; i wish there were more of us (including myself) that took as serious the call to radical community and generosity as these folks do their davidian knock-off.

  • Jacob

    January 1, 2006, 1:02 pm

    The Food Co-op and The Hate Group
    Art voice Magazine
    October 20, 2005
    Michael Niman

    It seems wholesome enough, looking at the loaves of fresh locally baked organic whole grain bread lined up at the Lexington Food Co-op Рeach one bearing the homey label of Hamburg’s Common Ground Bakery. An actual visit to the bakery reinforces this bucolic image. There you’ll find a small shop with smiling friendly bakers and the lofting aroma of fresh bread. What’s not readily apparent is that shoppers on four continents are simultaneously walking into Common Ground Bakeries and experiencing the same illusion of a small independent community bake shop. In actuality, however, what they’re walking into is the local franchise of a growing multinational organization. The twelve Tribes, dedicated to spreading a reactionary racist, anti-Semitic, sexist homophobic ideology.

    The press started paying attention to Twelve Tribes around five years ago when their Common Ground bakeries entered into concert/events catering business, showing up at music festivals in Europe and Australia as well as stateside venues such as Buffalo’s Elmwood Festival of the Arts (where they were subsequently banned). Along with their tasty snacks and sandwiches, came leaflets, booklets and a recruiting spiel.

    Racism
    At Britain’s Glastonbury Festival in 2000, they caught the attention of the Guardian after disseminating pamphlets describing Jews as a “cursed” people, and magazines arguing in favor of racial segregation. A year later at Australia’s Woodford Festival, Australia’s Courier Mail cited the group’s reclusive leader, Elbert Eugene Spriggs, as claiming “It is horrible that someone would rise up to abolish slavery Рwhat a wonderful opportunity that blacks could be brought over here [the U.S.] as slaves.” The Boston Herald reports that the group teaches their home schooled children a doctrine of white racial superiority. They go on to cite Spriggs, who argues that submission to whites “is the only provision by which [blacks] will be saved,” and that the civil rights movement brought “disorder to the established social order.” Spriggs defends slavery as the natural order, explaining that “if the slaves were mistreated it was the fault of the slaves.” The antebellum south, he argues, maintained a proper social order Рwhere black slaves “had respect for people. They got along well because they were submissive.”

    The Twelve Tribes follow up Spriggs’ quotes by advocating for racial segregation both in their publications and on their website. In a piece entitled “Multicultural Madness,” for example, they tell the story of a “rich young yuppie” living in an integrated neighborhood. “From one side of his house,” they write, “comes the throbbing bass of his neighbor’s stereo as they gather out back for some reggae.” On the other side, the mud people are “laughing raucously over the grating syncopation of something called rap” [italics in original]. The piece goes on to explain, “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.” People, they explain, have an instinctive desire to live with those of like mind, to congregate in neighborhoods with those of the same race and ethnic origin.” This, they claim, is because we have a “natural loathing of perverse and immoral people.”

    The group, however, still purported not to be racist, arguing that segregation is part of God’s natural order, in essence blasphemously passing the racist ball to God. They’re not racist, you see, they just worship a racist god. Whenever communities question Twelve Tribes businesses about racism, the group parades John Stringer, an African American, to personally counter the charges. Stringer, who they shuffle from city to city and pimp on their website, argues that “our race is becoming increasingly known for its self-destructive behavior.” According to Stringer, blacks are responsible for their history of subjection. “The only way to save our race,” he explains, “is that we would submit to reason and responsibility, just as all the other minorities who are thriving.” This simplistic and ahistorical rationale fits right in with the enlightened racism often espoused in liberal circles, while obfuscating persistent institutional racism and supporting racist stereotypes. This is obvious to people who actually listen to Stringer, instead of just looking at him. In actuality, Stringer needed to submit to more than “reason” and “responsibility.” The Boston Herald again cites Twelve Tribes leader Elbert Spriggs, who explains that blacks “must submit to [the twelve tribes] with the attitude to be a servant.”

    Anti-Semitism
    Twelve Tribes members, sort of like wiggers, dismiss charges of racism, explaining that they can’t possibly be racist since they sing black spiritual songs in their homes. Likewise, the group claims that charges of anti-Semitism are also false, because they sing Israeli folk songs, give themselves Hebrew names, and have a purported Jewish person traveling the country saying so. Their Jew, Shalom Israel, as it turns out, isn’t Jewish.

    All Jews, they argue, are born “cursed.” According to the group, Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus and hence “called down the guilt of his murder on themselves and their children.” They argue away the fact that today’s Christianity and Islam both descend from the Judaism of Christ’s time, explaining that the curse of the Jews is cancelled by renouncing one’s Jewishness. “For Jews who follow our master, however,” they write, “these curses are removed.” This, they argue, is why they aren’t anti-Semitic- because they will help any Jew who is willing to renounce their culture, history and beliefs. If the Jew ceases to be a Jew, they are welcome among the Twelve Tribes. Likewise, African-Americans willing to blame themselves for their own historic oppression are also welcome among the Twelve Tribes.

    Misogyny
    While individual blacks and Jews can earn the right to work wage-free in a Common Ground bakeries by renouncing their people and struggles, women have no such option. They will always be women, who, according to the Twelve Tribes, were created solely “to be a friend and a helper for man.” Sort of like a dog. They explain that women have two basic purposes: “to be a wife and a mother.” As a mother, a woman is supposed to raise her children as directed “according to her husband’s heart.” Any additional alternative life goals, or failure to “submit” to a husbands “loving” demands, goes against “God’s proper order.”

    They lament that, ‚ÄúSadly enough today though, many women strive to be something ‚Äòbetter.‚Äô ‚Äú ‚ÄùWoman, ‚Äú they explain, ‚Äúis not meant to rule over man.‚Äù Hence, according to the group‚Äôs website, ‚Äúthey strive to be what they are not. They want careers, or money, or whatever they think will give them identity and fulfillment…‚Äù A true woman, however, they argue, ‚Äúdoesn‚Äôt need to become ‚Äògreater‚Äô than she was created to be.‚Äù Interestingly enough, one of the things it seems the Twelve Tribes believe that women were created to do, is bake bread for long hours without receiving a paycheck. This natural order seems to have bestowed upon the Twelve Tribes a competitive advantage over other organic whole grain bakeries who still have to dole out Caesar‚Äôs image to their heathen workforces.

    Child Abuse
    The Twelve Tribes has come under repeated fire for child labor violations in many of their factories and businesses. In one celebrated case, their Common Sense Natural Soap and Body Care division lost a lucrative contract manufacturing Estee Lauder’s Origins line after Estee Lauder found children working in their factory. The Twelve Tribes call the charges “false,” unfounded and slanderous,” claiming the 14 year old boys were simply helping their fathers at work. In similar incidents, the New York Department of Labor busted the group for using child labor in a Paleville candle factory and the Sundance mail order catalog cancelled a contract with the group’s Common Sense Furniture division after the Coxsackie, New York furniture factory became the subject of a child labor controversy.

    The Twelve Tribes claim that it is beneficial for children to help their parents work instead of, they explain, ‚Äúwasting their free time on empty amusements and dissipation, which leads only to bad behavior.‚Äù The group seems obsessed with ‚Äúbad behavior,‚Äù writing off entire ‚Äúcountries like Scandinavia‚Äù [sic] as plagued with the malady. Their response to bad behavior on the part of their children, however they define it, is for the adults to indulge themselves in bad behavior of their own, whipping kids with a reed-tipped device they call ‚Äúthe rod.‚Äù On their own website they explain that ‚ÄúTo discipline your children is tantamount to loving them…it shows the child they are loved and cared about.‚Äù

    Children who have escaped from Twelve Tribes compounds, along with adult ex-members, talk of abuse, not love. Noah Jones, for example, left the group’s flagship compound in Island Pond Vermont at the age of 22. In an interview with Burlington’s ABC TV affiliate (WVNY), Jones claimed “They spanked me from my feet to my neck, all the way. I was black and blue, basically head to toe.” He recalls being beaten with the rod and locked in basements as a child and later, when he got older, he says he was beaten with a two-by-four.

    Jones was ushered to freedom by a sort of underground railroad that, according to WVNY, has ‚Äúhelped dozens of teenagers and children‚Äù to escape Twelve Tribes abuse. One of the ‚Äòconductors,‚Äô speaking to WVNY, explained ‚ÄúThe anger of these kids coming out is amazing. They‚Äôve been hit by so many people that they can‚Äôt even count…‚Äù

    Zeb Wiseman, another escapee, told the Boston Herald that his mother received no medical care when she was sick with cancer. When she subsequently died, they told him his mother’s death was an example of how God punishes sinners. Wiseman claims that he was then shuffled between twelve tribes communities and beaten daily from the time he was five until he was fifteen. Among his sins, according to Wiseman, was listening to “outside music.” He also claims that his schooling stopped when he was 13 and that he began working when he was ten years old. As a rule, Twelve Tribes children do not receive high school diplomas, and they are forbidden to apply for GED degrees or to attend college. This lack of education hinders escapees in their search for work. Essentially, the organization is breeding its own free labor force.

    Acquiescence
    The Guardian quotes a 24 year old Jewish woman attending the Glastonbury Music Festival as being “shocked on two counts.” “First,” she explained, she was shocked “that they [Common Ground] were there at all, and secondly, that no one else seemed to care.” It’s this apathy- this gross willingness to silently acquiesce to the presence of a hate group, that is truly appalling. But it’s also enlightening.

    Then Twelve Tribes is building its empire by feeding on the resources of some of the world’s most progressive communities, specifically because they are also apathetic and self-indulgent enough to support even those organizations who are ideologically opposed to their very presence. Hence, we see the Twelve Tribes prospering, for example, with a restaurant on Ithaca, New York’s signature Commons, despite that city’s history for progressive politics. And we see them opening up on the fringes of alternative and activist communities across New England Рoften finding a distribution network for their products among food co-ops and hip health food stores. Here in Buffalo, the newly expanded Lexington Food Co-op is the Twelve Tribes largest independent bread retailer, with Common Ground bread dominating their shelves.

    The aforementioned concertgoer explained to The Guardian that “People forget there is no such thing as a benign racist, no matter how tasty his vegetarian couscous.” This is the problem. The bread is good. And the Common Ground people seem friendly enough. Peace Studies scholar and anthropologist Robert Knox Dentan writes: “The impoverishment and polarization of US politics means that we expect our enemies to be all-evil, but they’re not.” Dentan goes on to explain that “Heinrich Himmler famously loved dogs and children. There’s a chilling photo of him hugging a little Jewish boy as the kid was waiting for the train to Auschwitz. The Twelve Tribes, Dentan surmises, “would be nice to that little boy too, as long as he converted to their brand of Christianity. They’re not, most of them, mean people.” According to Dentan, “fascism isn’t going to come to the US in the form of goose stepping Storm troopers (SWAT teams aside). It’s certainly going to depend on the help of extreme religious groups like the Tribes.

    The Co-op’s Response to Hate
    The analogy is frightening. Three weeks after I shared with the Lexington Co-op management and board the data which I subsequently used in this article, I received an official response signed by their store manager and a member of their board. It started out reading, “The Co-op takes it very seriously that one of our primary, longstanding local producers is being labeled a “hate group.” On the next line, however, they write “We have never found Common Ground or its members to be anything but friendly to our customers and staff.” No doubt this is true.. But by all accounts Osama bin Laden is also very personable, soft spoken and has gentle eyes.

    Yes, the Common Ground bakers in Hamburg act “friendly and warm.” But their money is supporting a white supremacist empire. Their leader, Eugene Spriggs, is cited in the Boston Herald as lamenting the end of slavery and celebrating the assassination of Martin Luther King. Money spent at the Lexington Co-op on Common Ground breads goes directly to supporting Spriggs’ group’s multinational business and real estate investments Рincluding a new “mega development project” the group is currently putting the finishing touches on in Tampa, Florida. As self-indulgent liberals continue to buy tasty loafs of bread from “nice” bakers, they continue to fund a growing empire that targets vulnerable minorities around the world.

    In their letter, the Co-op management goes on to explain that they will look into the allegations presented here, writing, “Our plan is to research the available information in greater detail and within context. We will share this information and consult with spiritual and moral leaders from the community, member-owners, Common Ground themselves, and other co-ops. We will then make a decision on how to proceed.”

    Companies such as Estee Lauder and LL Bean, which are not particularly progressive, figured this out long ago and stopped carrying Twelve Tribes products. There is no context in which such hate speech is acceptable. And it shouldn’t take consultation with a “spiritual” or “moral leader” to figure this out.

  • David PikeAka Exyathed and Nabashalam

    March 28, 2006, 4:28 am

    Why, when I look at David Alexanders picture here, do I imagine a swaztika tattooed on his forehead? hmmmm

    LOOK AT THOSE EYES! Dont they remind you of Charlies????

  • JASON FITZPATRICK

    June 17, 2007, 5:30 am

    I do not know much about this group. Many times in a group of people a few cause the whole to look bad. They appear to be attempting a renewal of Acts 2 and 4. Possibly the accusations of “beatings” are true but to say that a group this large could be blatantly beating the hell out of all their children and survive is not logical. To an individual who does not believe in the Bible or in discipline by the “rod” this is foreign and evil to the mind. Groups like these have been historically attacked and persecuted many times on just grounds but many times simply because they do not fit into societies mold. To say that our society today has no downfalls is the blind leading the blind. Look around, we are in a bind and yet we maintain course. The avearge democracy has lasted 200 years. This system like all others will not last forever! Even Jacob (who wrote the article here) could be found guilty of not loving his neighbor as himself, is not that abuse? All have sinned and come short. Jason

  • Jaime

    September 19, 2007, 5:57 am

    I myself visit the community in chattanooga quite often, and i must say that they are not in any way racist or homophobic or sexist. there are several african americans living in the community. they do not condemn anyone and are completely open-minded when it comes to discussing other peoples’ convictions and theology.

  • Vicki Stringer

    November 16, 2007, 9:51 pm

    Beware Jamie ids all a front

  • Shalom

    December 24, 2007, 1:54 am

    All a front… Why? How could someone or a group keep something up like that for so long? I don’t think I’ve ever met any of the members but from what I read on their site they seem tired of all the ‘junk’ and have left it behind to live a better life – thus wanting to share it with others.

    Not sure about all the negative stuff as you really can’t go on rumors – he said , she said, I read this, I saw this, You really have to live with them and experience it for yourself to judge rightly.

    Anyhow, happened onto this article now I’ll be leaving.

    Shalom,

  • vincent

    February 11, 2008, 5:44 am

    as it is i was welcomed to the commonwealth of isreal by the word of god , not by man or by church or group , yet there seem to be of such people who say i am right ! they are not , im from this tribe or that tribe , yet none want to be the in the body of christ ? or more so the tower of god who jesus is the head of the tower , a true man of god will not raise is hand or his anger against any other person , not even pluck off a leaf off a tree little alone speak against , if one reads the word of god surly knows , for no matter how much people have changed the words being a true man of god they will understand no matter how much the truth is covered a person who really loves god will understand ,
    jesus didnt do the work of god to destroy .

  • Mike

    April 26, 2008, 7:42 am

    sounds like nonsense to me. “the proof is in the pudding” . everyone that lives in the tribes are happy. that is why they contiue to grow. and the disgruntled people leave. no one is forced to remain, they only want people who are going to be there, and give all they got to see there culture increase.
    there are always going to be people that are rifraft in any group. and somehow what they have to say is what everyone listens to. kind of like the liberal media, and everyone feeds on that . a wise man once said, ” A LIE CAN GET HALFWAY AROUND THE WORLD BEFORE THE TRUTH HAS A CHANCE TO GET ITS BOOTS ON.” so hopefully the truth will be coming around here shortly with its BIG boots on!
    thanks for taking the time!
    Mike

  • Angela

    March 11, 2009, 9:41 pm

    Ive been to the community several times to visit and there is nothing crazy or cultish about them. They are honest, hardworking people who have a sincere dedication to what they believe. AND, they are right in everything they teach! Plaster a billboard of hatred on someone else, you will probably have to call on the “cult freaks” before you know it

  • D. Goodmanson

    March 12, 2009, 10:22 am

    These comments have run on for 4 years now and at this time I’m going to close them down. There are also 80+ comments and discussions at Is the Twelve Tribes a Cult post I did.

    In contrast to what I saw at the Twelve Tribes and discovered through my interviews I’d recommend the book Total Church if you are interested in how a community forms around the gospel to be the church. That book in particular has had a lasting impact.