Top Ten Questions that People Ask Us
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- Why do you call Jesus Christ Yahshua?
Yahshua is the way we understand the name of Jesus to be pronounced in Hebrew. When the angel in Matthew 1:21 announced to our Master's Hebrew mother the name of her Hebrew son, it was a Hebrew name. Out of respect for the One who sent that angel, we want to use that name.
The exact Hebrew spelling and pronunciation of our Master Yahshua's name is not an article of our faith. In other words, spelling or pronouncing His name this way or that is not what makes a person a true believer. But we have done some research on the subject, and this is what we found: Jesus is the English version of the Greek Ἰησοῦς (pronounced approximately as "yay-soos"). Ἰησοῦς is a transliteration — an attempt to represent the sounds of one language with the alphabet of another language. It is the traditional Greek transliteration for the Hebrew name that is usually rendered Joshua in English.
This Hebrew name has two different forms, but both are transliterated by this word Ἰησοῦς in the Greek (Septuagint) version of the Old Testament. As to how these Hebrew words were originally pronounced, we have little evidence. Hebrew was written without vowels, and those who spoke the language already knew how to sound the words. Most readers of Hebrew today rely on the work of the Masoretes — scribes who introduced a system of dots and dashes above and below Hebrew letters to indicate what vowel sounds to make. But the Masoretes lived during the 6th to 10th century AD, and very likely had a different pronunciation than that used in earlier centuries. We understand that they introduced different vowels into words containing the sacred name of the Creator in order to conceal its pronunciation, to guard against taking His name in vain.
It is clear, however, that the Creator's name is pronounced YAH, as in the familiar expression HALLELUYAH ("praise YAH"). It is also clear that this sacred syllable is contained in our Master's name, because John 17:11 says, "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name - the name you gave me." Therefore, since the name of the Father is contained in the Son's name, it seems that our Master's name was pronounced either as Yahoshua or Yahshua. The shorter form, Yahshua, seems to be closest to the usual English transliteration Joshua.
- Why do all your men wear beards and tie their hair back?
As a people, we seek to be pleasing to our Creator, including the way we wear our hair. In the Bible, many godly men had beards. We don’t want to be conformed to the trends and styles in society, but make it our aim to please our Creator. So our hairstyle is a very simple one. There are no photographs of our Master Yahshua, however, it is unlikely that his hair was long and unbound as in many paintings, since lepers were told to "unbind their hair" as a warning of their uncleanness. We think he wore in a short, bound way, and we want to be like him in every way.
- Why do your women dress the way they do?
Our women wear the clothes they do because of their desire to be modest.
- What does a person have to do if he wants to visit one of your communities?
Anyone who is sincerely interested in our life can visit our communities without making any further commitment. As long as a person respects our ways, he is welcome to stay in one of our homes and share in the normal life there. We expect visitors to participate in our social life and to ask questions about whatever they see. We don't charge anyone to stay with us. On the contrary, we enjoy offering hospitality to any who come through our doors.
- Do you have one leader who lives off the labor of the rest of you?
No, there is no special class of leadership in our midst, or those who live by a different standard from the rest of us. All those in positions of authority have daily responsibilities and share in simple chores (housecleaning, yard care, washing dishes, etc.). Our leaders hold themselves to the command of our Master that rulers in the Community are to be servants of the people, not overlords.
"The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves."
- Why are you called Twelve Tribes?
The fact that we are called the Twelve Tribes has nothing to do with mystical tribalism, as in the beliefs of the Mormons, the Rastafarians, or British Israelism. Rather, we are speaking of people actually dwelling together in unity, living a tribal life in twelve different geographical areas on the earth, so as to be a demonstration of how God has always wanted His people to live. For more information, look at "Why Twelve Tribes?".
- Are you a cult?
If you mean a weird, dangerous, or oppressive religious group, no.
One dictionary definition of a cult is: "a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist . . ." Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary (1996).
So who is to say what is false, unorthodox, or extremist? When a person uses the word cult he usually means some group he fears or dislikes. While we are, from time to time, called a cult, we are not false, unorthodox, or extremist. We do nothing other than what the words of the Bible have always called for as a reasonable response to God's love in sending His Son.
When some say cult they mean a closed religious society dominated by its leader(s) with an oppressive set of rules, with an anti-social agenda. As for us, the doors of our homes and hearts are open all the time. We are human beings experiencing the full range of joys and sorrows that real people always have. Our common life goes far beyond what one leader or a group of leaders might contain or control. It is the product of many sincere people working and believing together.
- Do you watch TV?
No, we do not normally have TV sets in our homes, nor do we think it is healthy for our children to watch them. We see human relationships as the central focus of our lives; we are learning on a daily basis to be friends and pay attention to each other's real needs. TV would be a distraction and would be detrimental to learning, loving, and being "normal."
- How many are in your group?
Worldwide we probably number somewhere between two and three thousand men, women and children. But we do not keep count or take a census. We can tell, however, that we are growing, and we welcome new members.
- What keeps you all together?
We stay together because of the power of our Master Yahshua's sacrifice. His death in our place makes it possible for each of us to be forgiven and to forgive others. And so the things that usually alienate people from one another don't have to divide us. Because our Master saved us from a life of alienation, loneliness, and sin, we love Him and want to do His will. We express our devotion to Him by submitting to each other. That mutual respect and affection makes unity possible. Our desire is to follow Him, be like Him, and give all that we have to bringing about His purpose. This is our common goal, and love compels us to make sure our fellow disciples have the encouragement they need to make it.
Wonder what we think about God or the Bible? First, please see our What We Believe page, then look here for more information.
- Is Yahshua the same as Jesus Christ?
Yes. We understand Yahshua to be the original Hebrew name of the Messiah. Jesus is an inaccurate English version of an inaccurate Greek version of that Hebrew name. We see that just as His name has been changed over the centuries, so also many vital aspects of His teaching have been obscured by centuries of man's traditions. For us the restoration of His original name goes along with the recovery of the whole truth about His life and message.
- Do you follow the Bible, or some other writings?
We regard the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments together, as God's Word, and we do not believe He will speak to us now contrary to how He spoke then. The teachers in the Community base their instruction on the Bible, and not on theological commentaries, psychology texts, or self-help guides.
- Do you say that you are the only ones?
We are absolutely convinced that our beliefs are the truth, our practices are the way, and our culture is the life that the Creator wants to fill the earth. Of course, we do not endorse beliefs and practices that are contrary to ours.
In former times, every group, especially every religion, openly professed such confidence in their convictions. In this era of multiculturalism, however, it is generally accepted that everyone has equal access to God and to the truth regardless of what they believe or practice. And so it seems arrogant for any group to say, "We have the truth." But we do not believe that the path to God is a bunch of mutually contradictory beliefs and lifestyles. We believe that God is One and that He has one standard for His people, which is recorded in the Bible.
As disciples, we are devoted to learning what this standard is and putting it into practice. We believe all of God's people will desire to do this, also. They will be gathered as one people and will seek to obey that one standard. While we do expect to grow in our understanding of what that standard is, we do not expect that there will be more than one standard or more than one people of God.
- How does a person join your group?
Joining the Community is not merely a matter of changing your address. And there is certainly a lot more to it than just accepting a set of religious ideas, or even getting your name on a membership roll. First of all, you need to hear the message we proclaim about our Master. It would also be good for you to visit one of our Communities and see the life that results from that message.
If what we say and what you see causes you to realize your need for our Master to save you, if you are ready to trust Him with your life, then you would publicly declare your intentions. When we recognize faith in you, we will take you to the water and baptize you for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit. That is how you join our group. The Holy Spirit makes you a member of Messiah's Body on earth. You will then have a new life - not just a mystical "new life in Christ" that is substantially the same as your old life, but an actual new life - with new friends, an new job, a new hairstyle, a new address, and most importantly, a new Master, who will direct every aspect of your life.
- Why do you say there are righteous people who don't believe in Christ? Doesn't the Bible say, "There is none righteous, no, not one"?
In comparison with the righteousness of the Eternal God, there is no one who measures up. However, God makes a distinction between those people who daily live to do what is right according to their consciences and those who give their consciences little or no heed. He calls the first group righteous and has a place prepared for them in eternity (Matthew 25:34-40). Those who refuse to do what they know to be right are what He calls wicked and they too have a place prepared for them in eternity (Matthew 25:41-46).
People the Bible calls righteous because of their deeds include Abel (1 John 3:12), Noah (Genesis 6:9; 7:1), Lot (1 Peter 2:7-8), Job (Job 1:1,8), and Cornelius (Acts 10:22,34,35). None of these men were of the "seed of Abraham," or made the sin offerings required by the Law of Moses, or had entered the New Covenant by the blood of Messiah.
- How is a person saved?
Romans 10:13 says, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." So, if you call on His name you will be saved. But, of course, no one would call on Him unless they had put their trust in Him, as the next sentence in Romans 10:14 says, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?" And Romans 10:14 says further, "And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" There is no scriptural basis for anyone to get saved by reading a tract, or even the Bible. A real, live, flesh-and-blood person must proclaim the message, for as Romans 10:17 says, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message..." But Romans 10:15 makes it clear that not just any person is adequate for the job, for it says, "And how can they preach unless they are sent?" And God will not send those who are concerned about the opinion of men, but only those who will speak His unadulterated message, as our Master made clear in John 7:18, "He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him." That unadulterated message consists of the word of Messiah, Himself, as Romans 10:17 says, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." This is the road to salvation, pure and simple: a man, sent by God, not interested in his own glory, proclaims the very words of Messiah, explaining what He requires of those who wish to follow Him. The hearer accepts the message, puts his entire trust in the One whose words were preached to him, and calls upon Him for salvation.
- Are you saved by grace through faith, or do you have to do something to be saved?
No one is saved by his own efforts, but we do not see how someone can have faith in the Son of God and not do what He said. Faith in Yahshua means trusting in His power to save us. If we surrender to Him and call on His name in the waters of baptism, He gives us the power to obey Him - to forsake houses, lands, family ties, and even our own personal welfare. That is why the Scriptures speak of "obeying" the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8, Acts 5:32 and Hebrews 5:9). He calls us to rid ourselves of things that would hinder us from loving the way He loved. Any "salvation" that doesn't produce the "works" of simple obedience and loving others is exposed as a fraud by the Apostle James when He says, "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:26)
- If you are forgiven and saved by grace, why do you have to live in community?
Although eternal life is a free gift, our loving Creator only gives it to those who are willing to do His will and live entirely for Him (Hebrews 5:9; Acts 5:32; 2 Corinthians 5:15). This is the meaning of repentance, not just to quit stealing and fornicating, or even to stop smoking and drinking, but to no longer live for oneself in any way. This complete surrender of self-life leaves a person needy and vulnerable, absolutely incompatible with the self-centered society of this present evil age. Community creates a place where love's demands are endless, where the message of the cross becomes practical, making possible selfless people willing to love those around them. The needy vulnerable ones find over and over again the reality of God's love coming to them through their brothers and sisters, all the while they are giving out the same. It is only in true community that we are able to become just like our Master and Teacher, Yahshua.
- Do you say that a person has to give up everything to have eternal life?
Yes, we do, because that is what our Master said, and we are not ashamed of His words (Mark 8:38). Someone asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17). After finding out that the man had a high moral standard, Yahshua answered, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me" (Mark 10:21). When a disciple remarked (Mark 10:28), "Behold, we have left everything and followed You," our Master replied, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30).
So, you see, eternal life results from a gospel that people actually leave possessions and relationships for. Obeying such a message leaves a person with no doubt that he is repenting from his selfish, sinful existence, because he gives up his own life and everything he has. Giving up all is the normal outcome of obeying the gospel, for it brings you out of the kingdom of darkness where everyone lives for self (like the Prince of Darkness does) and into the Kingdom of God where you live no longer for yourself, "but for Him who died and rose again on your behalf" (2 Corinthians 5:15). Only a person who loves living under the evil one's rule (1 John 5:19) would refuse our Master's gracious offer of eternal life, as Yahshua Himself said: "He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal" (John 12:25).
- What do you mean by saying there are Three Eternal Destinies?
Every human being will spend eternity in one of three places. Most Christians have been told about a heavenly reward for those who believed in the Savior, and an eternal punishment for everyone else. But few have noticed the many Biblical passages that speak of an eternal reward for those who do what is right. Very simply, there is a place where the good people will be rewarded, a place where the bad people will suffer their punishment, and a place where disciples will help the Creator govern and care for the good people.
All human beings fall into one of three categories: they are either wicked, righteous, or holy. A place has been prepared where each category will spend eternity. These places are their eternal destinies.
Not all those in the first category are alike. Some wicked people wallow in moral degradation, and are known as the filthy. Other wicked people seem to have high standards, yet they manipulate and exploit their fellow man for their own benefit. These are called the unjust. All the wicked have this in common, though: they willfully disobey their consciences and harm other people in pursuit of their own selfish desires. When they are raised from the dead and judged for how they lived their lives, their place in eternity will be in a vast ocean of fire and burning sulfur - a second, unending death.
Those in the second category, known as the righteous, choose to listen to their consciences. They usually do what they know is right, and when they fail, they are full of remorse and struggle to make up for their errors. These righteous people will also be raised from the dead and judged according to their deeds. They will be awarded a second, unending life. They will populate earth, and then the universe, with nation upon nation of undying human beings.
The third category is made up of people who were not satisfied with their lives, whether they were on the path of the wicked or the path of the righteous. When these people heard how they could start all over in a new life, devoted to their Creator as disciples of Messiah Yahshua, they thought it was good news. They forsook their old lives and became part of a special people - the holy - reserved and dedicated only to doing the will of their Creator. The death of Messiah Yahshua paid for their sins, and their eternal destiny was settled without having to wait to be judged for all their deeds. They will spend eternity as part of the Holy City, ruling over all the nations of the universe.
How we relate to the authorities in the places we live.
- Does your group have a religious exemption from paying taxes?
No, we pay property taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes just like everybody else. It is against our religious beliefs to evade taxes. The Bible commands us to pay taxes (Romans 13:6-7). Besides, since we use some of the facilities and services that are supported by taxes, we think we ought to pay a share of them. We don't deserve a free ride just because we have religious convictions.
- Do you believe in separation of church and state?
Absolutely. It is not the business of our religion to control the civil government, and it is not the business of the civil government to control our religion. Whenever religion and politics have mixed in history, those with minority beliefs were deprived of their liberty, their property, and even their lives. We do not, however, believe in the separation of conscience and state. This is why we pray that those in authority would rule in accord with "natural law" (their own knowledge of good and evil).
- Do you obey the laws of the land?
The Word of God commands us to obey earthly authorities because He established them to punish evil and praise those who do good. Of course we obey such authorities. See Romans 13:1-7.
- Do you participate in local civic events?
Yes, whenever we have something to contribute, we do. This participation has included laboring on local building projects, volunteer work with the fire department and rescue squads, providing first aid services and instruction, attendance at local government meetings, etc.
- Do you vote?
It is not our practice to vote or to seek public office. Although we respect the people in democratic nations who are compelled by their conscience to cast their vote on certain issues, our Master Yahshua made it very clear that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). As members of His "royal priesthood and holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9) we are called instead to pray for those in positions of authority as it says in 1 Timothy 2:1-2. Since our hope is not in this world or the governments of this world, we avoid getting entangled in politics (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
- Do you believe it is wrong to fight for your country?
No, it is not wrong for citizens to defend their homeland against foreign invasion. But since we in the Community are disciples of Yahshua, we have been called to demonstrate the life of the age to come. In that age, "they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war"(Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3). For this reason, we do not study or practice war now.
Our Master said to Peter when he took up the sword to defend Him, "Stop, no more of this!" (Luke 22:51). He also told Pilate at His trial, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm"(John 18:36). We take these passages as a clear indication that we as disciples are not to fight in the wars of this world or use the weapons of this world.
You may wonder what is it like to be a woman or child in the Twelve Tribes?
- What is the role of women in the Twelve Tribes?
Some are academic teachers. Others teach art or music or apprenticeship courses for our youth. We are writers, bakers, café workers, creators of curriculum, bookkeepers, clothing designers and seamstresses, artist/sign makers, and shopkeepers. Some of us write poetry and set it to music, others choreograph dances. Many of us run household kitchens that are the equivalent of sizeable restaurants, organizing the serving of home-cooked meals at least three times daily, not to mention hospitality for guests and special gatherings and meetings at a moment's notice. Many of us do several things along with being wives and mothers. It is according to the need and what each person is able to do. Finally, all of us are priests, sharing in the work of publicly praying and speaking our Father's word morning and evening, which for us is the highest calling anyone in the Community can aspire to. In reality there is practically nothing that we "can't do", but we choose not to do certain things.
- Do you spank your children?
Yes, we do. We love our children and consider them precious and wonderful. Because we love them we do spank them. We teach them to listen to what their parents say and to obey their parents and teachers. When they are disobedient or intentionally hurtful to others we spank them with a small reed-like rod, which only inflicts pain and not damage. Desiring to be good parents, we do not hit our children in anger, nor with our hand or fist. And we know that discipline is ineffective unless our child is ready to receive instruction.
We know that some people consider this aspect of our life controversial, but we have seen from experience that discipline keeps a child from becoming mean-spirited and disrespectful of authority. Furthermore, we place much weight on what the Scriptures say about this. See Proverbs 13:24, 22:6, 19:18, 6:20, 29:17, 23:13-15, 29:15, Ephesians 6:4, Hebrews 12:11.
- Are your child-rearing practices abusive?
Not at all. We teach that parents are to promptly spank their children whenever they disobey. If a parent is faithful to do this, the child sees that discipline is consistent and fair and based on an objective standard. As a result, the child is secure and learns respect. The parent also does not become frustrated or angry with the child. It is only when a parent is frustrated that abuse is likely to occur. A psychologist who studied these practices in connection with a custody case in 1994 found that they are "based on developmentally sound principles of discipline."
For more information, you can read Dr. Knapp's psychological report from the 1994 Rutland, VT case Lavin v. Lavin.
- Are men and women equal in the Twelve Tribes?
Equal, yes. Identical, no. "Man," created in the image of God, is composed of two parts: male and female, as it says in Genesis 1:27. Each has a separate function, like the heart and the head. Both are equally necessary, but they are not interchangable.
- Do you use child labor?
If "child labor" means putting children to work in oppressive conditions, as a labor force to secure our income, the answer is explicitly "no." We do include our children (side by side with their parents) in some of our work activities: caring for farm animals, learning carpentry skills, learning how to work on cars, planting and harvesting, learning to work with their hands. We teach our children proper values, such as diligence, thrift, and hard work.
- Are minors allowed to join your group?
Sometimes parents do allow their children to join us before they turn 18. If parents do not allow this, we tell interested youth that they must wait until they are of legal age.
- How are older people cared for within the Community?
Because we live a tribal life (as one large family), older people are always needed. They do not retire, they do not go on welfare, and they do not get stuck in nursing homes. We care for each other within our households.
- What role do animals have in the life of the Twelve Tribes?
In our communities, animals live under the rule of human beings, as God intended. On our farms we may keep barn cats to deal with rodents, or workhorses to serve us. There we also have chickens, cows, and goats, because we want to eat organic eggs, drink fresh milk, raise our own beef, and make our own yogurt and cheese. Taking the life of an animal for food is a very serious activity, and not something we do lightly, knowing that we will answer to the Creator for how we treat his Creation. We involve our children in every facet of caring for our animals so they can learn to treat all living creatures with respect and kindness.
We're often misunderstood or mispresented about some of these topics that require deeper consideration and discussion.
- What is your stand on homosexuality?
We do not approve of homosexual behavior. We do not regard it as a genetic variation, a valid alternative lifestyle, or a mere psychological quirk. We embrace what God says on this subject without regard for political correctness. Homosexual behavior is immoral and can be mortally dangerous.
We regard as authoritative Leviticus 18:22,
"You shall not lie [have sexual relations with] a male as with a woman; it is an abomination."
And we see the same prohibition in 1 Corinthians 6:9,
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards nor revilers, nor swindlers shall inherit the kingdom of God."
- Are you anti-Semitic?
No, we are not. It is amazing that anyone would consider us anti-Semitic, when we honor the Sabbath, follow the dietary guidelines in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and have approximately the same proportion of Jews in our Communities as in the general population. We don't hate Jews, we love Jews. Our Master Yahshua and all his apostles were Jews, along with most of His early followers. And all of us in the Community consider ourselves to be the spiritual offspring of Abraham, whether we are physically descended from him or not. Strangely enough, while some call us anti-Semitic, others call us Judaizers. They say we mix Judaism with the New Testament faith because we believe that our Master Yahshua did not abolish the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17).
- Are you racist?
No. Inside the Community, Yahshua's death for our sins removes all hostility between the races. In Him there is no racial distinction. People of every nationality are able to live and function together, doing what they are best able to do. It should come as no surprise when you see Hispanic or black or Jewish leaders in some of our Communities. As disciples, we are not concerned with who is over whom.
Our "common" life is quite uncommon. You might wonder just how we put our Biblical teachings and beliefs into practice.
- Are you a commune?
We do live together communally, but we do not call ourselves a commune.
- Does everyone have his own job?
We do not have independent sources of income. As followers of Yahshua we are the Commonwealth of Israel, that is, a body of people with one government and a shared economy. We work together as crews and teams and, like the first believers in Jerusalem, remain devoted to fellowship even as we earn income. The income we earn is not our own individual means of support but is voluntarily shared to meet whatever the pressing needs of the local community happen to be. Our goal in working together in the businesses we operate is to seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice. Seeing to it that all have their needs met is a basic part of that justice being expressed.
- Where does all the money go?
Most of our shared earnings go to pay for property taxes, food, electricity, phone, car insurance, clothing, and health care. Since we are a commonwealth of tribes comprising a nation, we also willingly contribute toward the development of new communities that are not yet self-supporting. As a people we choose to live frugally, and none of us, including our leaders, have property or wealth which we do not voluntarily share.
- Do you use drugs?
No. Drug and alcohol use is an attempt to fill the emptiness and soothe the pain caused by a bad conscience. As the proverb says, "Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his trouble no more" (Proverbs 31:6-7). This passage captures very well the darkness some of us have experienced in the past by using drugs and alcohol. Now they have no place in our life because we are forgiven, have the power to forgive others, and lead a rich, full life in the Community.
- What kind of sexual practices do you engage in?
We uphold the standard of a lifelong marriage covenant between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24). Within this marriage relationship we enjoy sexual intimacy. Outside of the marriage covenant, sexual relations are sin, and we do not approve of or practice sin.
- Do you allow members to have access to medical care?
We are very concerned about our health. This is why we place so much emphasis on a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, fresh air, and rest. When we need the services of dentists, doctors, or hospitals, we seek them out.
Medical care is a matter of personal choice based on each person's faith and conviction. While we as a people prefer the simplest and most natural means of healing possible, we do not restrict people's access to medical care, nor do we presume to know just how their healing will come.
- Do you celebrate Christmas?
We often give thanks for the amazing birth of our Master in Judea long ago, pondering its many deep meanings. But, like the believers of the Early Church, we pay no attention to any particular day. The fact that He came as one of us is what fills us with awe and hope, not any particular date on the annual calendar.
The modern Christmas holiday is a collection of religious beliefs and cultural practices that have piled up over the centuries. While some of them might have some validity, the frantic materialism we see so often in our day leaves us cold.
We do like to make a special effort during this season to open our homes to those left lonely and dissatisfied by the holiday spirit, so we often have a special meal for guests on such traditional holidays.
- Do you hold regular religious services or meetings?
We gather every morning and evening to share our hearts and worship and pray. Our dress is somewhat informal compared to most religious meetings, yet is modest and clean. All have freedom to share what they are hearing in their heart from our Father (1 Peter 4:11). We sing songs and dance Israeli-style folk dances. We pray together at the end of our gatherings and usually have a meal together afterwards. You are welcome to join us at any of these gatherings. Please check with the local Community for the exact time.
- Do your people collect welfare?
No. We do not believe we should take money that the government raises by taxing our neighbors to support us in our voluntary lifestyle. That money is for destitute people who have no means of support and no way to get that means. We believe that Our Father in heaven will see to it that we never lack food and clothing (Matthew 6:25-34).
- Do your members collect social security benefits?
Yes. Social security is different from welfare. It is mandatory group insurance based on premiums paid out of a person's earnings. Although we do not collect welfare, we think those in our midst who spent perhaps many years paying into the Social Security system are entitled to their benefits.
- How are leaders chosen?
Leaders are chosen because they have administrative gifting and the heart of a shepherd, and their personal life meets the qualifications described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. This is done with the full consent of those whom they will be leading.
Ever consider the things children today are learning and the environment they learn in? We did, and the answers to these questions express our convictions on the subject.
- How are your children educated?
In 1979, the parents in our communities came to the conviction that they could no longer send their children to public schools. It was becoming clear to us that our children's training was for a very special purpose, and must take place within the "church" or the community of believers. We have not sent them since, and they never will be enrolled in the public education system. What follows is the stand we took then and continue to take now as we teach our children to love the Lord our God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37).
We train our children in our own homes. We have developed our own curriculum, designed to meet our children's needs. We report our children's educational progress to the state regularly in recognition of their right to know that our children are being educated.
For more information, read our Statement of Education
- Do you send your children on to college?
We do not send our children to college, and we do not think college is a healthy environment, either for learning or social development. We do advocate that our children gain wisdom and skills through community-based apprenticeship and hands-on learning. We encourage their creativity and their ability to communicate well and take initiative. We are training them to be leaders, parents, providers, craftsmen, and teachers. But more importantly, we want them to have good character, to be honest, decent, and loving human beings.
In the media hype and cult hysteria of today, any group that does not adhere to the status quo is likely to be the target of confrontational questions.
- Can people leave if they want to?
Of course. No one is compelled to stay who does not want to stay. In fact, no one is compelled to join or give up his possessions who does not want to. We are a social order of volunteers. If someone loses his willingness to participate, he is free to go. We do not pressure people to stay in a life that they don't love.
- Who is this Gene Spriggs?
Gene Spriggs is one of the founders of our Communities. He is a former high school teacher from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who desired to share his sincere beliefs with others who, like himself, longed for a spiritual life corresponding to the actual gospels. He did not have a plan to create or form an international commonwealth of tribes, nor did he foresee an organization of many clans in many locations all sharing a common spirit, united in a common cause. But as the reality of the Twelve Tribes emerged, he knew in his heart that the God of Heaven wanted "a people for His own possession" (1 Peter 2:9). In the Community we know him as "Yoneq" (the Hebrew word for "sprig", pronounced as "yoh-NAKE").
For more information, you can read about Our Beginnings.
- If your life is so wonderful, why do the TV and newspapers have such bad things to say about you?
Journalists are taught that they must present both sides of every story, regardless of whether they personally believe one side to be a lie. This is said to be "objectivity," but it is actually economics. Readers are drawn to conflict and controversy, for it sells newspapers. False or exaggerated charges are printed because false or exaggerated charges were spoken. And, sadly enough, some people even make a living out of circulating such charges.
- So, why are these bad things spoken if they're not true?
When people live closely together as in a marriage or family, sometimes they do not treat each other as they should. Our Master apparently knew such things would happen among his disciples, because He commanded them to repeatedly forgive one another. It is a fact of human relationships, however, that those who do not choose to forgive usually do not choose to remain with those they bear grudges against. It is also true that those who do not forgive find it hard to resist speaking ill of the unforgiven ones. For this reason exaggerated accounts of some of our failures to love and care have come to the attention of the press.
If something you have read has raised genuine questions about our safety, health, or sanity, you are welcome to personally write or visit us and express your concerns. We will be happy to hear you out and respond.
- Do you believe the end of the world is at hand?
While we do believe that this world is coming to an end, this belief does not lead us to isolate ourselves, to stockpile weapons, or to consider suicide. Instead, it leads us to demonstrate the life that will fill the earth in the next age: a wholesome, peaceful, tribal life.
- Do you stockpile weapons?
No, we don't even have hunting rifles or archery sets. Our Master said in Matthew 26:52, "All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." We have no need to defend ourselves.
- Do you break up families?
No. Selfishness breaks up families. That is why so many of the marriages in this country end in divorce. We call people to deny self and follow Yahshua as it says in Luke 9:23. Families who obey His commands do not break up. But if one family member desires to be devoted to Yahshua while the other wants to live for himself, then selfishness will break up that family. That is why our Master said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:34-38).
- Aren't you teaching "another Gospel" calling people to be saved by works?
We are saying that no one can be saved apart from obeying the Son of God, as it says in John 3:36, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
- Do you share wives along with everything else?
No, we uphold the standard of a lifelong marriage covenant between one man and one woman. Outside of the marriage covenant, sexual relations are sin, and we do not approve of sin.
- Do you practice mind control?
No, we practice self-control. We do not approve of manipulation. And besides, it would be senseless to manipulate people into believing something they don't want to believe, because they would just quit believing it sooner or later. Instead, we share our convictions in a straightforward manner. If sharing our faith causes others to have faith, then they will be controlled by the same love for our Master that we are controlled by (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
- Do you put things in your drinks to alter people's mental state?
No. We do drink herbal teas such as hibiscus, yerba maté, and peppermint. Although such herbs may be considered stimulants, we avoid mind-altering substances like alcoholic beverages.
- Doesn't your leader teach members to lie to courts, police, or other public officials?
No, we do not teach or encourage anyone to lie. This charge is a serious distortion of our teachings and practices.
- If a person wants to join you, does he have to give all his things to the group?
If a person wants to join us in the Commonwealth of Israel, then he wants to voluntarily share all that he has. Our Master told a story once about a man who found a very valuable pearl. He said that for joy the man sold all that he had and bought that pearl. It is just so for everyone who believes in Yahshua. They are thrilled to find a life worth living and do not hesitate to freely give all that they have and all that they are to meet any pressing need. If a person feels only obligation or pressure about their money or property, they shouldn't give it. Such giving is not from faith. We believe that whatever is done apart from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
- If someone leaves your group, can he get his things back, or be reimbursed?
Not usually. We do not encourage light or impulsive commitments. If people convince us that they have the faith to forsake all they possess, like the first believers in Jerusalem, then their property will be put to use for the benefit of the community. We believe such giving will bring no regret.
If later on someone realizes that he was not serious about his commitment, he is free to leave with whatever property he still has or we can locate for him. But if what was freely given has been either used up or spent, then it is gone. To the best of our means, we will help such a person leave. But as far as his days, months, or years of contribution to our life, there is no getting them back. What he gave in good faith, we used in good faith. It is similar to a person leaving a church after years of attendance and contributions. Such a person wouldn't even think of asking to have their freely given tithes and offerings returned.
- Do you believe that God speaks to everyone or just through one leader?
God speaks to every human being through the conscience about issues of right and wrong. Beyond this there is a grave danger in any leader (or any individual) thinking he hears from God on his own. Our Master said, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst" (Matthew 18:20). We have confidence that our opinions are from God if we find confirmation in what our brothers say. So you could say that God often speaks to each of us in an audible voice - the voice of one of our friends who love us.