a.k.a. The Brotherhood, Garbage Eaters, etc.
Part 1 of two parts
This Christian faith group actually has no formal name. Members refer it as a church, spiritual community, or assembly. It has been called The Brotherhood,
Brothers and Sisters, The Roberts Group, The Brethren, and the Body of Christ. Counter
cult groups, disaffected parents of Brethren members, and others
frequently call them by the derogatory term "Garbage Eaters." This name
apparently is derived from their practice of searching through supermarket
dumpsters for over-ripe produce and food that is beyond their recommended expiry
They have no connection to the much larger group, The Church of the Brethren, which first
appeared in the U.S. in 1723 CE, and traces its roots back
to an Anabaptist faith group in Europe.
The faith group was founded in 1971 by Jimmy T. Roberts, a former sergeant
in the Marines. Members consider Roberts to be "The Elder." He is also
referred to as Brother Evangelist. Outsiders sometimes call him The
although that is not a term used within the group.
The group is a nomadic religious movement. They travel around North America
in small groups, following a simple lifestyle. They have been described as having "chosen
to lead a nomadic, Spartan existence in search of spiritual salvation." 1 The term "Spartan" seems a bit extreme. They lead a
simple but comfortable life --they have enough food to eat and clothes to
wear. They do not consider themselves as ascetics -- as living a life of extreme poverty and
suffering in order to gain spiritual gifts.
They generally remain in the United States, although they have made occasional
trips into Canada and Mexico. By the middle of the year 2000, they had slightly more than 100 members,
organized into a number of small groups -- each under the
authority of a long-term male member.
They "forsake all" and live as itinerate followers of Christ, much
as the original disciples did in the 1st century. Jerry Williams, a group member,
"Our main message is we're trying to live as Christ and the
early disciples did. We require what the Messiah required -- it has to do with
forsaking worldly possessions and
living for God every day." 2 They accept the Jesus' instructions
to give away most of their possessions and to live a life of simplicity, as
recorded in a number of gospel passages, including:
|| Matthew 19:21-24: "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go
sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have
in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that
saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then
Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man
hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It
easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich
man to enter into the kingdom of God."
||Matthew 19:27-29: "Then answered Peter and said unto him,
have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have
followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the
throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging
twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or
brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or
lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall
inherit everlasting life."
||Luke 14:33: "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that
all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."
||Luke 18:22-25: "Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto
Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute
unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come,
me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very
rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How
hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For
it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a
man to enter into the kingdom of God."
||Luke 18:28-30: "Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and
thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man
that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children,
for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in
this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting."
quotations from the KJV)
||Like the early Christian movement, they have no concept of the
||They believe that living a holy life and abstaining from sin are major
prerequisites for salvation.
||In common with many other religiously conservative groups, they
teach that their ideas provide the only way to salvation.
||Holding down a regular job or pursuing a career is seen as a definite
their main task of seeking God's
kingdom and righteousness.
||They regard the King James Version of the Bible as the only English
translation that is sufficiently accurate to be authoritative. Translations
exist in other languages which are on a par with the KJV. Many
members read the Hebrew Tanach extensively.
||They refer to God as Yahveh, Yeshua and Elohiym.
||Like many other Christian faith groups, they regard their group as having the "fullness of truth" and believe that all other Christian denominations and faith groups are in error.
||They anticipate the end of the world as we know it and the return of Jesus to Earth in the near future.
||They live communally and nomadically, moving from city to city.
||They place many demands on their followers:
||They must accept a life of poverty and simplicity.
||They are expected to energetically proselytize and recruit new
||They do not engage in worldly activities: watch TV, read
newspapers, go to movies, or seek medical support when sick.
||The men often wear a simple brown hooded tunic that reaches down to
the bottom of their knees. They are of no set color or
design. Some have sleeves, some are worn over common button-down long
sleeve shirts. Some have hoods, some don't. Women wear a dress or jumper
of similar design.
carry backpacks and ride bicycles.
||Men grow beards and have short hair; the women let their hear grow
long and do not wear jewelry.
||They do not focus their evangelical effort on a specific group. 2 However they find that they do speak mainly with youths and young
adults (18-24), college or university students,
and pop culture individuals.
||New members initially retain their financial assets when they join the
group. They gradually distribute them to the group as needed. They usually dispose
of most of their possessions before joining. In one case where a new member
had substantial savings, most of it was left untouched in the bank. The group did not
want to be accused of seizing the new member's inheritance.
||Generally, only adults are allowed to join the group. Exceptions are made
in those cases where parents and their minor children join together, or
under other unusual circumstances.
||Some members take a Hebrew or Greek name when they join.
||Members with less seniority in the group give deference to more
||Women are not allowed to be in a position of authority or to teach.
||Members frequently live in homes or other buildings in exchange for watching
the property. Sometimes they camp out, or live in a vacant building, with the
permission of the owner.
||Men spend most of their time in study, meditation, and witnessing to
those outside the group. They also engage in physical work, like gathering
food, repairing and selling bicycles, working at odd-jobs, etc.
||Their food is often obtained as
discards from bakeries and restaurants, or packaged foods older than
their expiry date, from grocery stores and supermarkets.
||They are non-violent; they do not believe in carrying or using
or any form of physical violence.
||They do not date. They abstain from sexual activity
outside of marriage. All members have been single and celibate, with the exception of one
||Following the writings of St. Paul, (1 Corinthians 6:1-7) they do
initiate lawsuits against people who have harmed them. They attempt
settle disputes by negotiation. This makes them vulnerable to harassment and kidnapping.
||They do not use drugs, Alcohol is consumed either not at all, or rarely, in moderation.
||They feel that they must maintain secrecy concerning their exact whereabouts in order to
avoid being kidnapped by members of their families, or by religious deprogrammers.
On rare occasions, kidnappers have allegedly pepper sprayed, forcibly confined and handcuffed members. They have sometimes been
across state lines against their will, and subjected to abusive and criminal deprogramming
by counter-cult or anti-cult groups.
This article continues in Part 2
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Emmy Kondo, "Inside a Secretive and Controversial Religious Cult: The
Clandestine Brotherhood," ABC News, PrimeTime Live, 1998-MAR-25. See: http://more.abcnews.go.com/
- Coleman Cornelius, "Religious group, skeptics differ on path," Denver
Post, 1998-AUG-27, Denver, CO, at: www.denverpost.com/
Copyright © 1999 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2019-MAR-19
Author: B.A. Robinson
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