A Darkness in the Armstrongist Heart:
Blackwellian White Supremacy
Back in the Seventies, Dean Blackwell, an evangelist in the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), was sent out to many congregations to present the official understanding of race then held by the WCG. I heard this special message in a large WCG congregation in the Midwest. To my knowledge, none of Blackwell’s material exists in official written form. I am working from memory in the writing of this op-ed. It is unfortunate that crucial elements of WCG dogmata are not documented. Two generations of Armstrongists have come and gone since the Seventies. Eventually and unfortunately, the doctrinal nature of Armstrongism at its roots will be lost to the passage of time.
While the WCG did believe in White Supremacy, it was not one of the traditional types of White Supremacy current in the USA. British-Israelism had to be accommodated. British-Israelism would dictate a different racial hierarchy that looks like the following list with the superior class at the top and then descending:
1. Whites descended from Ephraim and Manasseh (British-Israel; most White Europeans of USA, Britain and former British colonies).
2. Jews and other Tribes of Israel (Jews and Northwest Europeans).
3. Other Whites (with purported descendants of Shem as defined by Herman Hoeh at the highest status among White people).
4. People of color (with Blacks occupying the lowest status).
The momentum and pervasiveness of this belief in the WCG is illustrated by the following incident involving one of Blackwell’s sermons that I heard a few years later. Blackwell explained Isaiah 19:23-24 but altered its meaning even as members of the congregation were actually looking at the scripture in their open Bibles. He preached that the scripture stated that both Egypt and Assyria would be servants of Israel in the future. Whereas, from larger context, it is clear that the scripture refers to Israel, Egypt and Assyria all being one day servants of God together. And the status of the three is that of equality rather than a super-ordinate Israel with a subordinate Egypt and a subordinate Assyria. Blackwell’s mishandling of this scripture based on the already established WCG racial model provoked no reaction from the audience.
Error in Translation
The problem is, this scripture does not say that. It instead refers not to the “sons of Israel” but to the “sons of god.” The full passage speaks of “El” and “Yahweh” and the “sons of god.” The nations were to be parceled out by El to the “sons of god” and Yahweh was to receive Jacob’s descendants from El as his portion in this process. The Masoretic translators altered this to read “the sons of Israel” to expunge anything that would seem to even hint at polytheism (see Michael S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God” and also Peter Enns’ interview with Mark Smith entitled “Who is Yahweh and Where Did Yahweh Come From?” both available on the web.) Heiser concludes: