After a long and stressful day, there’s nothing like a sip of your favorite beverage to help soothe your soul. For freshman girls, no other premium malt beverage can match the delicate taste and subtle flavor of a bottle of Smirnoff Ice. Robert Pattinson, of Twilight fame, prefers to quaff a tall glass of AB positive. But for me, all other drinks taste like a mixture of antifreeze and turpentine when compared to the closest thing we mortals have to the ambrosia of the gods: a Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie from the Maté Factor Café.
For those who have never been, the café, located in the Commons, is owned and run by a religious group called the Twelve Tribes. The kind, gentle workers wear traditional Amish style clothes. No visit is complete without being invited to a Sabbath dinner at their communal home.
The PBC smoothie is like a flavor parade in my mouth — minus the elephant and horse droppings. The generous serving of all-natural smooth peanut butter may be the main attraction, but the blended concoction really sparkles with its supporting players. Delicious carob chips practically dance across my palate; their bitter flavors deftly balanced by honey, which supplies a rich sweetness that can only come from something a bee regurgitated. Yogurt and bananas provide an incredibly thick base for the smoothie, meaning that none but a brave few endowed with an iron stomach can finish it in one sitting.
Over the summer, I had heard rumors that Maté Factor was changing their menu for the upcoming year, and no items — not even the smoothies — were safe. As I had long since grown dependent on this legume-based beverage (two years of ordering it on a weekly basis will do that to you), I desperately Googled to see if Peanut Butter Cup had survived the menu abattoir, but I could find nothing. For two long smoothie-less months, I waited in smoothie limbo, not knowing the fate of my frappéd fix.
As soon as I got back to Ithaca, my heart pounded and my palms sweat uncontrollably as I nervously entered the restaurant. I looked to the smoothie menu and let out a moan of anguish. Peanut Butter Cup lay dead on the killing room floor.
I’ve mourned the deaths of pet bunnies, gerbils, turtles and frogs, but none of these tragedies even came close to the PBC crisis. I felt like I had lost a best friend and was so upset that I used the bathroom and left without buying any food.
When I got home, I visited the Twelve Tribes website to figure out why they got rid of a perfectly good smoothie flavor. After some extensive research, I found a website with uploaded church documents (Twelvetribesteachings.com), which shed light on some pretty unsettling things about the group’s beliefs.
In the early 1970s, the group was founded by a man named Eugene Spriggs, known as “Yoneq” by his followers. Spriggs teaches his own brand of fundamentalist Christianity in which followers give up all personal possessions and prepare for the biblical apocalypse. The religion focuses on communal living and sharing of wealth, and its 4,000 members live in communities all over the world. Recently, the group has received criticism from organizations such as Ithacans Opposed to the Twelve Tribes Cult for accusations of anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, misogyny, child abuse and extreme authoritarianism.
Yoneq, believed by members to be a direct pipeline to God, teaches that the Jews of today are “cursed,” living in a state of embarrassment, disturbed in mind and purpose. He claims that the whole race “who are of the same persuasion, having the same murderous rage that took the life of an innocent man, passed on to the children’s children almost 2,000 years later.” Of African Americans, Yoneq teaches, “It is horrible that someone would rise up to abolish slavery. What a marvelous opportunity that blacks could be brought over here to be slaves so that they could be found worthy of the nations.” He also believes that “all manner of evil” filled Martin Luther King Jr.
As you might guess, homosexuals and women are also held in low esteem to Yoneq. The sin of homosexuality is “so enormous and beyond measure that Sodom and Gomorra were destroyed,” and homosexuals “deserve to die.” Women, whom God created subservient to their husbands, should never strive for a career or multiple sexual partners, as a woman doesn’t need to “try to become ‘greater’ than she was created to be.”
While I’m not exactly thrilled that a church exists that believes that I’m cursed, or that my friends deserve to be treated like animals or put to death, the Twelve Tribes has a First Amendment right to believe whatever despicable garbage they want. Their Constitutional protections end, however, at abusing children. According to Yoneq’s teachings, children should be beaten with a rod until “blue wounds” appear. Any adult in the community may administer the punishment to children for transgressions such as engaging in make believe and playing games. Further, the state of New York fined the Twelve Tribes $2,000 for illegally using underage children as workers in their candle and furniture factories.
Although I disagree with many of their beliefs, the Twelve Tribes members at the Maté Factor have been nothing but kind to me. I’m sure that most members are good people and don’t necessarily buy into all of Yoneq’s racist doctrine — as in all organizations the leadership tends to be the most polemic. Also, the religion provides a great service as a community and support system for its members. But I personally am unable to monetarily support an organization that preaches hate and institutionalizes the exploitation of children. Plus they stopped making my smoothie.