Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Is British-Israelism An Inherently Racist Teaching?

Is British-Israelism An Inherently Racist Teaching?

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


Percy Q. Ted said...

Yes, It Is! Anyone Who Thinks Otherwise Is A Fool!

Connie Schmidt said...

Is the Bible itself inherently racist?

Sons of Noah, Descendants of Abraham, Sons of Ishmael, Sons of Israel, all given preordained "lots in life",

all based on genetic lines. Question- Is it true, and is it fair?

When one starts doing some genealogy work, it soon becomes apparent that virtually everyone is related to everyone , even outside of ones race. This is how every American president, Even Obama , are all related to each other.

Percy Q. Ted said...

"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...Ritenbaugh explains that: "God did not choose Israel because of anything they had going for them - in fact, they were a small, insignificant people."

Ad populum followed by a reverse ad populum?

If you're an Anglo racist, then if there's only a "handful" of you, that's evidence of how kooky you are, but if you're an Anglo Israelite, if you're just "a small, insignificant people," then that's evidence of how special you are...even though genetics reveals that "Anglo Israelite" is an oxymoron?

This "handful of kooks," in the U.S.however, comprises at least the 13.4 million people who voted in favor of Drumpf's racist rhetoric in the primaries, if not a full third of the population—over 100 million racists—who think this shitshow is the greatest thing since they were allowed to enslave African Americans and butcher Native Americans, and would support him if he tore the constitution up during the State of the Union Address while President Putin was right in the middle of delivering it.

What's kooky is Armstrongism, but not because there were only ever a handful—150,000 at it's height—but because we had rather extreme, and rather racist doctrines, and we were led by a racist cult figure. Catholics are kooky too. Sharing your brand of crazy with a billion other people doesn't make you any less crazy.

"...and 2) the notion that the doctrine is derived from God/the Bible and consequently cannot be characterized as racist."

Our god was always a racist god. The very notion of a "chosen people" is a racist idea. Just shows how man-made he is. If you want to see god, go look in the mirror. That's why his opinions are your opinions, all the parts of the bible you don't like are "metaphors," And he hates all the same people you hate.

Near_Earth_Object said...

The OT is not inherently racist, it is inherently tribalistic. For example, Israelites were directed to have nothing to do with Canaanites. This was not a racist model but a religious-cultural model. It was converted to a racist model by Herman Hoeh. Hoeh did this by mistakenly identifying the Canaanites of Palestine with the West African people. From this point, all of the negativity that God spoke regarding the Canaanites acquired a racial underpinning for Armstrongists because they thought that God was condemning Blacks.

But, in fact, the Phoenicians, the Canaanites of Palestine, were Haplogroup J just like the Israelites. They were not racially different from the Jews. To corroborate this, you can look at ancient representations of Phoenicians and they look similar to the other Middle Easterners including the Jews.

In fact all of the descendants of Adam belonged to a small collection of clans who were racially homogenous, if we can give any credence to the genealogy contained in the misnamed "Table of Nations."

God favored the Jews as a tribe over other tribes in the area such as the Canaanites or Moabites. We must ask ourselves is tribalism better than racism? Not really. It just involves two different ethnological population units. But the OT makes and seeks
to preserve a distinction between a particular tribe and others because of an election to a specific role in history. And this is based on religion and culture and not genetics.

RSK said...

For some reason, this post doesnt format well on mobile.

RSK said...

"Hoeh did this by mistakenly identifying the Canaanites of Palestine with the West African people."

Via Carthage, I'm guessing?

RSK said...

Its very funny when the initial question was "is (doctrine) inherently racist?" and commenters turn out to prove its not by demonstrating their own racism. Oh, sorry, had a prophet moment...

NO2HWA said...

Check it now. Reformatted it.

Mister Chubbs said...

RSK, I think it's safe to say that the "Anglo-Isreal" teaching is racist. 'Nough said.

Near_Earth_Object said...

RSK wrote: "Via Carthage, I'm guessing?"

This may have been so. I tend to think that Hoeh, rather, backed into this conclusion. He started with the premise that the Blacks enslaved in North America were Canaanites and their enslavement was not really a bad thing because Canaanites were destined to be slaves. And because many of the North American enslaved Blacks were from West Africa, therefore, the West Africans had to be Canaanites. I know this is an idea that I heard within the WCG but I do not know if it came from Hoeh or if the idea were widely held.

It was essentially believed by Armstrongists that any people that occupied the land before the coming of the "Israelites" of northwest European extraction were Canaanites. Hence, the Maori, Lapps, South African Blacks, Native Americans, Australian Aborigines and others were all Canaanites and God granted "Israel" carte blanche in the OT to exterminate them. I recently found a reprise of this Armstrongist belief on the website of an Armstrongite fragment organization - something called "The Hope of Israel Ministries."

The problem is, that the genetics indicates that all these people have different haplogroups. And the one thing they are not is Canaanites. There is no genetic underpinning to any of the ideas such as UK and USA as Israel, Germany as Assyria and a whole host of people who were supposed to be Canaanites.

Hoeh should have known the Carthaginians were not Black Africans. Carthaginians stamped their images on their coins. They look like Middle Easterners which matches genetic research.

RSK said...

IIRC from school, Carthage was settled later by displaced Phoenicians. The religion they had adopted by the time of the classical writers was described by a couple of travelers in horrendous terms that suggest a degree of exaggeration. Many modern writers have since taken those accounts and applied them backwards to the Canaanites of Joshua's day. Which makes no real sense when you think about it, but I see the same reasoning repeated frequently by fundamentalists. Some of that found its way into Wolverton's Bible Story as well, so I would not be surprised if Hoeh was the one who originally brought the notion into WCG with his own twist.
That said... I'm attempting to read the Compendium right now. I'm trying very hard to give Hoeh a pass for using now out-of-date sources and questionable methodology, but its hard for this ex-archaeological student to read this mess. :)

Anonymous said...

"But the OT makes and seeks
to preserve a distinction between a particular tribe and others because of an election to a specific role in history. "

exactly...but those that hate God have renamed it "racism".

God chose a particular group to do a job, which will benefit the entire human race, and for some reason the rest of mankind is jealous of them, and angry at God for not doing things their way.

news flash: God is God, and He gets to make all of the decisions...resist Him at your own peril.

nck said...

In a wider context there was a strong identification of newly formed protestant nations with "Israel" when they broke away from the Holy Roman Empire late 16th century . Israel that broke away from the Catholic pagan oppressor paraoh being the emperor.

These prorestant nations became great colonizing empires. By analogy when entering these "promised lands" that NEO mentioned the indigenous peoples could have beem viewed as virtual cannaanites. This is very clear regarding the south african protestants. And more "white man burdenish" in north america while in australia aboriginal families were ripped apart for the children to reveive a proper anglo upbringing.

Many hymns allude to being "pilgrims in barren land" like the people of israel, facing hardship in the dessert surrounded by "hostile pagans".

History has taken its course. Many governments have apologized and maori get to stick their tongue out at the royals nowadays.

The question is did Hoeh take the common settler identification to a more benign level or not?

I take into account his South African sermon at the 1977 black feast site with the title. "Why do we gentiles get to keep the feast?

The word gentiles strongly alluding to the protestant identification with Israel and oc course the inclusion of the non israelites into the armstrongite kingdom of god on earth. (Similar to the british and american expansionist empires.


Byker Bob said...

Nck, during the historic times of the 1500s and 1600s that you mention, there were a lot of antiquated and superstitious ideas floating around. Even though the nautical explorers had proven that the world was round, many people even stuck to the idea that the world was flat. One of the main problems with Armstrongism was that after the rest of the world had largely transitioned away from some of these superstitious or speculative ideas, Herbert Armstrong taught them as truth, yanking as many people back into such theories as British Israelism, German Assyrianism, and Native American and African Canaanitism as would listen to him.

Noting the roots and history of error is often helpful, so long that is done in retrospect after that error has been corrected. Citing those roots as source material in order to continue to justify and teach the error is ignorant, absurd, and disingenuous. With the mapping of the human genome has come the total obliteration of British Israelism. Whatever statesmen believed during colonial times, and used as justification for their conquests is irrelevant because their premises were always incorrect from the very start. Within the last 50 years, and vastly improved travel, every race of people on the face of the earth has become “Samaritanized”, anyway. There are very few “pure” in generation people left, and many of the ones who claim that status are very much inbred, unstable, and diseased.


nck said...


Yes. That is a valid addition. Thank you.

In the beginning was the "word", and from the word came stories. It is what makes us different from the ape.

Stories are powerful forces. It makes one drink a brownish sugarry drink in order to "feel" freedom, it makes one "teach the world to sing....and sing in harmony......". Other stories about drinks promoting world empires are about (wolves) milk, keeping the founders of Rome alive.
Funny that the drink carrying the story of the stone of scone on the bottle is actually Oban Whisky.

I guess there is a connection to the promotion of a drink, the founding of empires and mythological religion. As a matter of fact, you also have alluded to the "goodies of Asher's draft, when you posted your contributions on this blog. From Milk to Oinos, to Coca Cola.


Byker Bob said...

When Mark Twain wrote about African-American Jim, and Native American Joe, it could be said that his fiction reflected the culture of his day (a culture in which racism was sadly and badly institutionalized).

But, as the USA was beginning to wake up from its racist past, Herbert Armstrong continued to teach that WASPs and Jews would be at the top of the children of God hierarchy for all eternity, and people of color in the congregations had to listen to that crap and to deal with it silently. If I had been a black teenager in the “golden era” Radio or Worldwide Church of God, there’s no doubt that instead of becoming a biker, I would have joined up with the Panthers!


nck said...

I guess so!

True change takes time.

As a side note. Hwa was 18 years old when 1835 born twain died. When hwa was born about 10 us states were not yet fully established. Including, nm, az, alaska, idaho, washington, north dakota? Oklahoma etc.

My point! Just interesting factoids on the sign of the times.

Nck (deputy wannaby guvnah of tatooine)