If you want to provoke the ire of folks in the Armstrong Church of God culture, then all you have to do is tell them that the doctrine of British-Israelism is inherently racist in nature. The staunchest defenders of this teaching take immediate offense at anyone who has the audacity to suggest that their belief is racist at its core. Sure, some of them will admit, that a "few" folks have carried the teaching "too far" and have manifested the classic characteristics associated with racism (they love to cite the dictionary definition of racism); but they will insist that they do not share those "extreme" views, and that it would consequently be inappropriate and unfair to characterize their belief as being racist in nature.
In February of 2005, the Church of the Great God attempted to directly address this question in an article on their website. In the article Is British-Israelism Racist?, Richard Ritenbaugh admits that some of the folks who adhere to this doctrine exhibit "a weak and prejudicial nature" and "could carry this to the point of snubbing, abusing, or persecuting individuals of these supposedly lesser ethnicities." He goes on to say: "Sadly, some advocates of British-Israelism have done just this, shining a bad light on other believers who do not share their racially motivated hatred and violence."
Unfortunately, this line of reasoning has obscured the issue of racism for many years and has allowed the phenomenon to continue to flourish among many "white" Americans to this day. It's a neat trick - If you define racism as extreme and associate it with hatred and violence, then you can disassociate the more subtle manifestations of the phenomenon as having anything to do with racism.
In his article The Easiest Way to Get Rid of Racism? Just Redefine It, Greg Howard noted how the definition of racism has evolved in America. He wrote: "Soon, nearly everyone could agree that racism was the work of people with hate in their hearts - bigots. This was a convenient thing for white Americans to believe. Racism, they could say, was the work of racists." He went on to say: "Racism ceased to be a matter of systems and policy and became a referendum on the rot of the individual soul. Calling people racist was no longer a matter of evaluating their opinions; it was an accusation of being irrevocably warped at the very core."
In his article defending British-Israelism against being labeled as inherently racist in nature, Ritenbaugh states that "the irrationality of a handful of kooks does not - or should not - malign the majority of sincere believers who base their understanding and practice on true biblical principles." He must marginalize the "handful of kooks" who hold extreme views so that the vast "majority of sincere believers" aren't tainted with the label of racism. For him and the other "sincere believers," it is crucial that we recognize that their beliefs are based on "true biblical principles."
Hence, we can see that Ritenbaugh's apologetics for the doctrine of British-Israelism depend on what I consider to be two very dubious premises: 1) a narrow definition of racism which eliminates any association of the term with systemic policy/thought, and 2) the notion that the doctrine is derived from God/the Bible and consequently cannot be characterized as racist. Ritenbaugh explains that: "God did not choose Israel because of anything they had going for them - in fact, they were a small, insignificant people. He chose them because He loved them, and that love has its basis in His relationship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Most Israelites have lucked into God's blessing, as it were, by being born of Israelite stock; they have done nothing to deserve what God has bountifully given. Their receipt of the blessings is based solely on God fulfilling the promises He made to the Patriarchs."
According to Ritenbaugh, the belief cannot be characterized as racist because the special status which these folks enjoy is derived from God. They simply "lucked" out! God decided to love them more than anybody else. How then can anyone dare to question God or characterize them (or anyone who accepts this teaching as legitimate) as racist? These folks enjoy this special status by God's choice - they don't have any voice in the matter. Hence, it is absurd to question their status or characterize anyone who recognizes this "truth" as racist!
Oh sure, Ritenbaugh goes on to state that the Israelites "are bound by their 'lucky birth' to be a model nation to the rest of the world of God's way of life," but that constitutes their responsibility in the matter as far as he's concerned (and he does go on to acknowledge that these folks have largely failed to do this). In fact, he goes on to say that "Because of Israel's rejection of God, He is now working with select individuals whom He calls, makes a New Covenant with, and converts to His way of life. To these He gives His Spirit, and they become His witnesses among the nations." In other words, Israel's failure to be that example to the world has resulted in a change of plans
Even so, Ritenbaugh continues to be oblivious to the implications of what he's saying and returns to the importance of the special status of these folks. He asserts that "God is not finished with the Israelites," and that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was intended mainly as a message for them. For those acquainted with the racist teachings of Herbert Armstrong and his Worldwide Church of God, that should sound familiar. And, if you still can't see that such a view is inherently racist, then you must be one of the unfortunate few who still adheres to the teaching of British-Israelism.
By Miller Jones from God Cannot Be Contained blog