I ordinarily do not give any time or attention to the Black Hebrew Israelites for the same reason I wouldn’t give any time to the Ku Klux Klan, namely because both are equally racist and theologically ignorant. In many ways, I believe neither deserve any kind of attention for fear that addressing the group might somehow lend validation to them. However, given how the Black Hebrew Israelites have been in the news recently, especially with the Covington High School controversy, it might be necessary to briefly address them.
Before I dive into the topic explicitly, I have to give my background. I grew up in Israel, in fact, I’m an Israeli citizen, and practiced Judaism as a child. My children are all mixed with African American ethnicity or Afro-Caribbean ethnicity. I’ve spent years in the black community, especially in predominately black churches, and have had interactions with the Black Hebrew Israelites during my time in NYC. I mention my background to demonstrate I don’t have an axe to grind and to show my personal familiarly with the topic at hand.
Concerning the Black Hebrew Israelites (hereafter BHI), there isn’t one uniform group. The BHI are a group of largely separated fellowships that are often at conflict with each other. So, when we speak of BHI, there really isn’t a monolithic group that could be identified as the one BHI fellowship, rather, it is a group of separated fellowships with very little agreement and interaction with one another. Likewise, their doctrinal views vary and are as numerous as there are individuals. That is why I will paint with a broad brush, but also recognize there are always exceptions.
In listening to their material, watching their debates (my favorite is with Dr. James White, seen below), I gather the vast majority of the leaders are extremely ignorant of Hebrew, history and theology. To a person who knows very little of those topics, which is the vast majority of the adherents to BHI, some of their leaders may sound knowledgeable and profound in the same way that a person who uses the term deoxyribonucleic acid may sound intelligent to someone who knows absolutely nothing about biology. But in the same way that any random person could google a biological term, know very little about it, and pose as knowledgeable to those who know nothing about the field, so do the BHI dupe many in the African American community, who are usually looking for a reason to hate Caucasians, often due to negative personal experiences.
The BHI also believe they are the real Israelites referred to in the Old Testament. This is laughable to anyone who knows history and I’ll simply refer the videos below by Dr. Michael Brown, a real Jew, who deals with the topic of BHI.
I also want to address a recent interview on Fox News with a BHI, seen below:
In the video, they show a clip of the BHI yelling at the Covington High School students, shouting things like “That’s ‘Make America Great Again’. A bunch of child molesting f****ts!”, “Look at all these dusty a** crackers with that racist garbage on. Look at these dirty a** crackers”, “a bunch of future school shooters”, “A bunch of incest babies! A bunch of babies made out of incest!” and my personal favorite “The biggest terrorist on the face of the earth is the pale face man, woman and child.” Aside from the fact that the biggest terrorists today are not ethnically based but are religiously based (I’m referring to Islam here), I think it is clear these slurs are just as racist as anything the KKK would say about African Americans. Be that as it may, the BHI in the video was asked if these comments were racist and he simply refused to admit they were. He repeatedly insisted those comments made by the BHI were simply a matter of “style”. So, when a KKK member shouts out equally racist statements, should one identify those as merely “style” or should one denounce them as racist? I think the BHI member has a double standard here.
Later in the video, he claims the BHI are the real Israelites and are entitled to the land of Israel. When one begins to question the BHI on this claim, they usually get the most absurd reasons to substantiate their claims. Please watch the videos above for examples of their views along with their refutations by Dr. White and Dr. Brown.
At one point in the video, the BHI claims that the sons should be punished for the sins of their fathers. This is interesting given that the BHI would claim the prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament was a BHI, yet the prophet explicitly teaches:
The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:20)
This is, however, indicative of the BHI movement, as a whole. They are generally speaking utterly ignorant of Scripture, history or Hebrew, and yet want to make outlandish claims about said topics. For this reason, I’ve observed the BHI are not really a group of educated people who became convinced of BHI due to the compelling nature of the facts, historically or theologically, but are a group of hurt people who know very little about the topics at hand but have found some illegitimate way to voice their pain, frustrations and anger (much like the members of the KKK).
Might I offer a better alternative to those hurt by racism? Instead of returning pain for pain, racism for racism, or ignorance for ignorance, might it be better to forgive ones enemies (Matthew 5:44), cast all anxieties on Jesus (1 Peter 5:7) and earnestly seek the truth of Jesus, even if it means embracing people from another race, letting go of past hurts and especially recognizing that “[t]here is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”? (Galatians 3:28)