The Twelve Tribes was started in 1973 as one of several communal groups sprung from the so-called Jesus Movement in the 1960s and 1970s. But, while other groups have long since disbanded, the Twelve Tribes has endured for more than 30 years.
Members adhere to a Judeo-Christian belief system, based on both Old and New Testament writings. They believe the God of Abraham is the Creator, and that Yahshua , or Jesus, is God’s son and the Messiah. They say Yahshua died for the sins of mankind and will return to earth when the human race is ready to receive him.
The Twelve Tribes believes it is set apart as the Chosen, just as Biblical Israel was. The members’ task is to devote themselves to God and spread God’s message throughout the world.
The people on earth, they believe, will have three eternal destinies based on the way each has lived his or her life. The “righteous,” who live good, unselfish, and caring lives, will win eternal life for their goodness even if their lives were not solely devoted to God’s service. The “holy,” which Twelve Tribes members say they are, are those who devote their lives solely to God. They will not only win eternal life, they will also rule, with Yahshua, over the righteous forever. The third group, “the unjust and filthy” who have sacrificed others for their own gain, will spend eternity in the Biblical Lake of Fire.
Twelve Tribes members surrender all property to the group when they join. They also give up personal freedom and instead work for the common good. Any money earned by members goes toward the general fund. They work six days a week and rest on Saturday, which is the Sabbath.
Members do not use alcohol or recreational drugs, and live on an organic diet.
Twelve Tribes children are closely shielded from influences of the outside world. They are home-schooled because members believe education is part of parenting. At 6 years old, children are either taught by their parents or in small classroom settings by other community members.
Twelve Tribes members dress simply and modestly. Women wear full shirts, long skirts, or pantaloons. Men dress in shirts and pants. Members make their own clothes or buy them in thrift shops.
While the group has been accused of not seeking proper medical help for its members, its community coordinator in Plymouth, Kevin Gadsby, said that is untrue. “One of our children here has leukemia and is being treated at Children’s Hospital” in Boston, he said.
Critics of the group often raise the issue of spanking, saying members believe in physical discipline.
“We love our children,” said Gadsby, conceding that children do get spanked. “We raise them in a godly way so that they grow up to be respectful. We don’t spank them out of frustration or out of anger. It upsets me in my soul that others think we hurt our children.”
As for others, he said, “We in no way force anybody to believe. We just put it out there. We heard the message and responded, and we hope there are others.”
For more on the Twelve Tribes, visit their website at www.twelvetribes.com.