As I watched the unthinkable horror of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon unfold, I found myself thinking back to the previous night’s much smaller, yet still significant terrorist attack on our home in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Rocks were thrown through our windows and our car tires were slashed. Of course, the two events were vastly different in magnitude, yet they were chillingly alike in essence.
Although it has not yet been proven who specifically is responsible for the plan to hijack several commercial airliners and use them as missiles to destroy the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and to murder thousands of innocent people in the process, there is little doubt that it can be attributed to some Middle Eastern demagogue 1 whose followers have the hope of paradise awaiting them on the other side of their martyrdom. I found myself wondering what could have been going through the minds of those men who hijacked the planes as they sat waiting at the gate to board their flight, along with the unsuspecting men, women, and children whose brutal murder they were planning. How could they be so heartless?
They were soldiers fighting for a cause, a “holy war” against the “Great Satan” — the United States. All their lives they had been taught to hate those American infidels whose country supports Israel, to the point that they no longer saw them as human beings, but as objects of God’s wrath. They were doing their highest service to Allah by losing their own lives in killing these infidels.
But radical Muslims did not originate the “holy war” concept. In the 11th through 13th Centuries it was the Muslims who were made the objects of God’s wrath as several popes waged war on them to regain control of Jerusalem and the “Holy Land”, ruthlessly slaughtering men, women, and children in the name of Christ.
In the 13th Century the popes turned their attention to the Albigenses (Cathars), a Christian sect that flourished for centuries in southern France. Once the Church had branded them as heretics, they were brutally repressed and ultimately destroyed. The Inquisition was launched on the Albigenses, but continued for centuries to dehumanize and then destroy many other religious groups on this same pattern: brand them as a heresy or cult, pronounce God’s judgment upon them, then declare open season on them.
The spirit of the Inquisition was carried right into the Protestant Reformation by John Calvin and Martin Luther, both former Catholics. Calvin was merciless to those he deemed heretics, his most famous victim being Michael Servetus, whom he had burned at the stake for the crime of not believing in the doctrine of the Trinity. Martin Luther ruthlessly persecuted the Anabaptists 2 and also penned a venomous treatise against the Jews, giving a seven-step plan to destroy them as a people (which we utterly reject and denounce): 3
What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing, and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves ... I shall give you my sincere advice:
- Set fire to their synagogues and schools, burying and covering with dirt what won’t burn, so no man will see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and Christendom.
- Second, I advise that their houses be seized and destroyed.
- Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings be taken from them.
- Fourth, I advise that the rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of life and limb.
- Fifth, I advise that safe conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews, for they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, or tradesmen. Let them stay at home.
- Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and all cash and treasures be taken and kept for safekeeping.
- Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an axe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses, letting them earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam. For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time ... boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat ... For, as we have heard, God’s anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them! (Luther’s Works)
About four hundred years later, Julius Streicher, one of the most notorious anti-Semites even in the perverse world of the Third Reich, used Martin Luther’s seven recommendations in his defense at the Nuremberg Trials. Not only was Martin Luther the spiritual father of the Protestant Reformation, but also of the Nazi Holocaust. His teachings contributed to the dehumanizing of the Jews to the degree that millions of good Lutherans and Catholics either actively participated in or passively watched the wholesale slaughter of a race.
The common denominator of all of the examples cited above is the personal hatred in the heart of a leader, especially a religious leader, towards a people with a different religion, different values, and a different way of life. It is impossible for such a leader to be objective, but instead he becomes obsessed in his passion to destroy the object of his wrath. But as a leader he must maintain some degree of composure and respectability, so rather than doing the dirty work himself, he speaks publicly about the supposed dangers of this group, gathering a following for himself by feeding their insecurities, fears, and prejudices. As people look to him as the authority on the subject, it fuels his own sense of self-importance, increasing his confidence to vilify 4 the group. Those who look to him as the authority, in their desire to be recognized themselves, inflate, distort, or even invent tales of the beliefs and practices of the hated group. So the cycle escalates until there is enough animosity for violence to break out against the group.
So what does this have to do with the Twelve Tribes communities today?
Recently a series of articles about us appeared in the Boston Herald, presenting us as a dangerous cult. The articles were filled with inflammatory language, half-truths, distortions, and outright lies, painting a horrific picture of cruelty and abuse inside our many “compounds” 5 in New England and New York, and the daring late-night “escape” of one of our youth from the sinister clutches of the elders. All of a sudden people we had never met began hurling insults at us as they passed our homes and our businesses, calling us a filthy cult of child abusers.
This is a house.
This is a compound.
(A Twelve Tribes community lives here.)
Evidently the writer for the Boston Herald got most of his “facts” from the “Reverend” Bob Pardon, who bills himself as the “Executive Director” of the New England Institute for Religious Research. If you didn’t know better, the name of Mr. Pardon’s “Institute” might bring to mind a beautiful campus of ivy-covered stone buildings full of serious and studious researchers plumbing the depths of the spiritual life of the human soul. And you might expect to find the Reverend Robert T. Pardon, M.Div., Th.M., this fine institute’s Executive Director, sitting in a comfortable old leather-covered chair behind a huge antique desk in his walnut-paneled office, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves full of impressive theological texts such as Calvin’s Institutes.
But until recently all you would have found is Mr. Pardon and his one associate sharing a little rented office in a church basement in a small town in Massachusetts. Oh, and you would also find Calvin’s Institutes there, as Mr. Pardon is an avid disciple of John Calvin, gladly carrying on in the spirit of the Inquisition, searching out heretics to destroy.
The lofty image Mr. Pardon labors to present of himself and his “Institute” is merely the pitiful appetizer for the juicy banquet of misinformation he dishes up for all who are impressed with his credentials. As he writes of himself in his own web site, “Rev. Pardon is recognized as one of the foremost experts in the United States on a number of religious groups, including the Twelve Tribes,” 6 Mr. Pardon has indeed made us the prime object of his inquisition for the past seven years, branding us a cult and stirring up animosity against us. Although he may shake his head in disapproval when the rocks come flying through our windows, or when a madman comes cursing into our place of business, swinging a baseball bat past our heads and smashing our equipment, he refuses to take responsibility for these effects of the fear and suspicion he persistently injects into all who will listen to him. In opposing us, he thinks he is doing God a favor. 7Why is it always those who think they have the “right doctrine” who persecute and kill those whom they think have the “wrong doctrine”? They are those who “claim to see” (John 9:41). Those who boast in their “right doctrine” are the very ones who would think they are doing God a favor.
It is a sad irony that in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the very village where our courageous Pilgrim forefathers established a beachhead for freedom of religion in the New World, self-appointed Inquisitor Bob Pardon is fueling the fires of animosity against us. We are not troubled that he disagrees with our understanding of the Bible; he is entitled to his own opinions. What is really troubling is that, in a country whose system of justice is founded on the principle that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty, Mr. Pardon aggressively portrays us as presumed guilty unless proven innocent. And really, no proof we might offer can stand in his courtroom since he holds his handful of disgruntled ex-members as more credible than the thousands of happy men, women, and children who daily love and care for one another in the communities of our Twelve Tribes.
But we are not surprised at this treatment, for our Master Yahshua, the Messiah, forewarned us that it would be this way. 8 It was the religious establishment that persecuted Him and ultimately demanded His execution — religious leaders like Bob Pardon were threatened by His radical message and the loyalty of His followers. They considered Him a heretic, 9 and His followers a dangerous cult 10 that might have been eradicated shortly after His death had it not been for the wisdom of one Pharisee named Gamaliel:
Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it — lest you even be found to fight against God.” (Acts 5:34-39)
We wish that the self-appointed cult experts of today would observe this simple wisdom.