a.k.a. The Brotherhood, Garbage Eaters, etc.
This article is a continued below from Part 1
The faith group was founded in 1971 by Jimmy T. Roberts, (1939-2015), a former sergeant
in the Marines. Members considered Roberts to be "The Elder." He is also
referred to as Brother Evangelist. Outsiders sometimes called 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 goals.
Separating from friends and family:
Members generally minimize direct contact with all persons outside the group, except
when proselytizing, or negotiating for food or accommodation. This separation from outsiders is critical to many of the members' friends and family.
Sources disagree about the frequency of letter writing by members. Some parents claim that
they had received only two letters: a brief letter shortly after their adult child joined the group;
a second letter a few weeks later which stated that there would be no more contacts in the future.
After that, there was only silence. However, some group members claim that they frequently send brief
notes to parents and friends to confirm that they are OK. They often stop sending letters if parents
pressure them to leave the group.
Members believe that they are following the instructions of Jesus by
avoiding any close association with those
outside the Brethren. They regard direct contact with their family of origin to be particularly disruptive. This policy is
supported by a number of gospel passages in which Jesus told his
||Separate totally from their families of origin.
||Dedicate their life totally to following him.
||Anticipate persecution and hatred from their families and friends.
Some the "anti-family" passages in the New Testament attributed to Jesus are:
Many of the estranged parents and friends of the Brethren are justifiably
distressed, for two reasons:
||Matthew 10:34-37: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I
not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance
against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the
daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be
they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me
is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is
not worthy of me."
||Matthew 12:46-50: "While he yet talked to the people, behold, his
mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then
one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without,
desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that
told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched
forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my
brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in
heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."
||Luke 9:59-62: "And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said,
suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the
dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And
another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid
them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him,
No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for
the kingdom of God."
||Luke, 14:26: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and
mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his
own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
||Luke 21:16-17: "And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and
brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends; and some of you shall they cause
to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's
sake." All quotations from the King James Version of the Bible.
Most of the members were above average in intelligence and had been
attending university when they joined the group. Their parents
probably had high expectations that their sons and daughters would
graduate and become financially and socially successful later in life.
- Some parents live with the minimal or no contact, with their
loved ones -- some not even knowing if they are still alive. 1
"The Roberts Group Parents Network" is composed of parents of members of the Roberts Group whose mission is to:
"Release the members from the control of the Roberts Group and establish two-way communication and an open and loving relationship between members and their families."
That network has posted a series of letters on their web site, addressed to their adult children. They talk of the
incredible sadness, anger, and frustration caused by losing contact
with their adult child. 2 We believe that the Brethren only accept adults as members -- not
children or adults with children. This has allegedly led to some adults
leaving their spouses and children and severing all contact with their
spouses and/or children in order to join the group . A literal
interpretation of some of the above passages from the Bible might be used to
justify such actions. However, it would be considered illegal in some
jurisdictions if young children are involved and immoral according to many moral and ethical systems and faith groups.
Misinformation about the group:
The group has been targeted by many who are:
||In the Anti-Cult Movement, who claim that the members are victims of
deceptive recruiting practices and mind-control manipulation
administered by their leaders. Members are described as wandering
around dazed, in a trance for years, while being physically isolated
from all contact outside the group, and being manipulated and exploited by the leaders.
This is a common charge against new, high-demand religious groups. Academic researchers
have found little or no evidence that it is true.
||In the Counter-Cult Movement, who accuse the group of
being a heretical "cult" -- deviating from
traditional Christian beliefs.
They give the same designation to The Churchof Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS/Mormon church), Jehovah's
Witnesses, and many other established faith groups.
||Former members, who have become estranged from the group. This is a
common response of ex-members of high demand religious groups. When, after a few years, an
individual finds that their continued membership is no a longer
positive experience, they leave. Some are angry at at what
they view as wasted time and effort while they were in the group.
||Estranged parents and friends of current members with whom contact has been severed.
Jim Guerra was one follower of the group. He joined them during his sophomore
year at Harvard University, and has since left. He wrote a book "From Dean's
List to Dumpsters" 11
The group has been the subject of a number of unsympathetic programs
on radio stations and network television. They have been featured in negative articles in Newsweek and in local newspapers in the various areas where they visit. 4,5 Much misinformation is spread about the group.
||They do not regard themselves as disciples of Jim Roberts.
||They do not believe that Roberts is Christ, or an incarnation of
Christ, or in any way divine.
||They do not stress apocalyptic beliefs -- an obsession with end of the
world scenarios. In common with many other conservative Christian groups, they do
believe that Jesus Christ will be returning to the earth in the near future. However, they do
not predict dates nor do they stockpile survival foods.
||They do not demonize people outside of the Brethren.
||They do not promote group or individual suicide.
||They do not condemn marriage.
Only rarely are members of The Brethren interviewed in the media. 6 Almost all reports are based on parents' accounts and those of the anti or
Information on the group: 1997 to now:
- 1997-NOV: The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper published an article about the group by Phillip Lavelle and Sandi Dolbee, titled: "Across America, a nomadic band quietly recruits brothers and sisters for the 'true' church." 7
The article indicated that there were about "... 10 "cells" of Brothers and Sisters, each typically containing 10 or fewer members, scattered in moving "camps" across the United States, with occasional forays into Canada and Mexico."
- 2000-JUN: According to the ReligionToday news service at
Crosswalk.com, ABC News reported on The Brethren. They quoted a
"cult expert" as saying that new members are taken
into hiding in a different part of the country, in order to isolate them
from their former lives.
- 2001-SEP-06: Michael Robeson wrote a positive and thoughtful
article in Collegian.com about his encounter with Jerry Williams, the
local leader of The Bretheren in Fort Collins, CO. 8
- 2011-APR: Evangeline Griego directed and produced a video titled: "God Willing: What would you do if faith took your child away." Available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com. She also wrote an article on Huffington Post about her experiences making her video. See: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- 2015-DEC: The founder, Jim Roberts (1939-2015), died on DEC-06 in Denver, CO, aged 76, of cancer. Jerry Williams, a.k.a. Brother Hatsair, took over the leadership of the group. 9
- 2016-DEC-18: Ubah Bulale presented a podcast called: "Exploring the Cult of Garbage Eaters." See: https://www.btrtoday.com
- 2017-MAR-07: A New Zealand newspaper, the Sunday Times, published an article on the group. See: https://culteducation.com
- 2018-MAR: A discussion in Reddit mentioned that:
"The Brethren Membership is strongly concentrated in three states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, but also exist in states including Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Wyoming, Arizona, California & Kansas." 12
- 2018-JUN-26: Radio Public produced a podcast called "The Cult of the Garbage Eaters." See: https://radiopublic.com
The Brethren is a secretive group of very dedicated believers about which little is known. Many of the factors found in destructive
cults are missing in this group. We would
identify them as a high-demand but benign Christian group. Membership requires almost total
personal commitment. They are attempting to
live a simple life, free of encumbrances, avoiding sin, and seeking after
righteousness. They feel that the route to a close relationship with God is to
simulate the experiences of
Jesus' original disciples.
However, in their drive to live a life as
Jesus commanded, they forsake all possessions and separate themselves
from their families of origin. They generate immense amounts of grief and anger in most of
their families. As the ABC News program stated, 3 parents can't
understand what made their children change so suddenly, and don't know if
they will ever see them again.
Much of this pain could be alleviated if
The Brethren would establish a simple, periodic, one-way Email link to
members' parents that would keep families informed of the health and
status (but not the location) of their children. In their drive to follow
Jesus' commands to abandon their families and live a life of poverty, they
are ignoring other commands by Jesus: to perform acts of kindness towards
people who are suffering -- presumably including their parents. The
sponsors of this web site, the OCRT, offered to provide such a
link at no charge. Unfortunately, our offer was never taken up
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Larry & Judy Wilcox, "The Brotherhood Stole
our Son," at: http://www.dldewey.com/ (Site
is no longer active)
- "The Roberts Parents Group" is a group of parents of members of
Brethren who have lost contact with their adult members. They maintain
a list of letters to their children at: http://bigfoot.com/
Email address is: email@example.com
- 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/
- "A Chronicle of Religious Persecution in America" is a story by a
member of the group, describing how he had been harassed by a stalker.
- "Held captive by a cult: Cleveland man intent on reclaiming his
daughter," NewsNet 5 has written a story from the parent's
perspective about desperate parents kidnapping their 18 year-old daughter
from the Brethren. See: www.newsnet5.com/
- Coleman Cornelius, "Member: Life joyless before joining."
This is an interview of Patrick Rooney who was kidnapped out of the group.
- Phillip J. Lavelle and Sandi Dolbee, "Across America, a nomadic band quietly recruits brothers and sisters for the "true" church," Seattle Union-Tribune, 1997-NOV-10, at: https://culteducation.com/
- Michael Robeson, "Time spent with the Brethren brings self-reflection
and many questions," 2001-SEP-06, at: http://www.collegian.com/
- "The Brethren (Jim Roberts group)," Wikipedia, as on 2019-JAN-08, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
- "Looking to visit a cult,"
Reddit, 2018, at: https://www.reddit.com/
- Jim Guerra, "From Dean's List to Dumpsters: Why I left Harvard to
Join a Cult," Dorrance Publ. Co., (2000). Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. A
review of this book was published by the Roberts Group Parents Network at: http://members.tripod.com/ We have searched for a sharper image of the book cover but was unable to find one.
- See the posting by "yoyo2749" at: https://www.reddit.com/
Copyright © 1999 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2019-MAR-19
Author: B.A. Robinson
How you may have arrived here: