I wrote in a previous entry that despite my comfortable sleeping arrangements with my hosts, I experienced the biggest culture shock in Winnipeg.
Some of my friends asked if I was staying with a cult, and I actually gave this some consideration.
The word “cult” is oftentimes associated with a negative connotation, despite its multiple definitions. One meaning that stands out to me is: a religious group that follows practices perceived as unorthodox/extremist.
If one’s sense of “orthodox” in today’s society is living in a big city, rampant consumerism, pop culture, technology, etc. (all of which surround me), then perhaps, yes: the Twelve Tribes could be considered a cult.
But I say this from a relative standpoint rather than a negative one, given my environment in Southern California and the standard of “normal” around me.
I think “unorthodox” and “extremist” are subjective terms. For example, if one is accustomed to switching on the television after coming home from work everyday, then coming home to a Twelve Tribe community where no such technology is present could be perceived as extreme.
The entire time I was there, not once did anyone in the community even slightly attempt to impose their beliefs on me. They openly listened to the tidbits about my life I shared with them and I never once felt judged.
So, who are these people? There are many details on the community’s website: http://twelvetribes.com/about, and below are a few points about the community that stood out to me:
- There are an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 community members worldwide, but there is no census kept
- Community members worship Yahshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name)
- “Abba” is how they refer to God
- The community doesn’t celebrate Christmas; it celebrates Yom Kippur but it is not a Jewish religion
- Children are “trained” in the home, rather than attend public or private schools
- Children are not sent to college. Instead, they learn skills and trades through other members
- Members don’t have independent sources of income. Everyone helps in some way. Some members stay at home to look after the kids, while others (in Winnipeg) work at the Yellow Deli. It’s so communal. Everyone plays a role in the community and everyone benefits overall.
- Members are quite particular about their diets. We always had healthy meals without sugar and had salads (with fresh vegetables from the farm) every day
- The community is very self-sufficient. Among other things, they grow much of their own food, they make their own honey, they’re knowledgable in carpentry, they have their own goats for milk, they have their own business (the Yellow Deli) so they can depend themselves for an income.
- There are no screens in community houses – no TVs, no smartphones, no tablets. The central focus is on human relationships, and such technology would be a distraction.
- Women’s clothing always covers all of their legs and they never show their chest
- Men always wear pants, button-down shirts, and their hair tied back in pony tails about an inch long. They also wear short beards.
My list is far from comprehensive, so if you’re interested in learning more, the link above the list is a great resource. It’s a little lengthy, but it’s thorough.