Recently I’ve been following some debates between a Christian and an elder in the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. (They prefer to be referred to simply as Hebrew Israelites, but the word Black is important to help identify this particular movement in case you’re not familiar with it.) Within the movement are a number of sects which vary widely in doctrine; from somewhat conservative to extremely violent, and everything in between. (Here is a discussion about this movement for any who are interested. And here are the debates: Debate One, Debate Two.)
In learning more about this movement and watching the debates, it’s easy to recognize how cult-like it is. It’s based not on careful research of the Scriptures or history, or even logic for that matter, but on powerful emotional manipulation. So, why is it so effective? Three words: sense of identity. Groups like this give people a place to belong, a sense of purpose and identity, and connection within a community. It is human nature to yearn for every one of those things. Sadly, it is also human nature to take advantage of those longings and draw people into well-spun lies. From that point of view, we can see how easily cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and LDS can draw in new members. They seek out people who are feeling lonely, isolated and in need of understanding, direction, and connection. When watching the debates, you can see the similarities between this newer movement and other cults.
But even more than that, what really stands out with this particular movement is the overwhelming sense of pride that seems to ooze out of every word proclaimed. It occurred to me how much like the LGBTQ movement it functions. Recently, a young man I know came out of the closet. While he is not currently “active” (dating, etc.), “being gay” is his comfort, his identity. I’ve had to spend a lot of time in prayer, research and thought about how this came about, so that I can support and care for him and his family. He was raised in a wonderful, protective, Christian home. He was never abused or exposed to anything harmful in his childhood. (One of the most helpful discussions that I came across regarding this whole subject this one: Is It Okay To Be Gay? A Candid Conversation on Christians and Same-Sex Attraction.) Clearly there is something serious going on in a situation like that, and it isn’t as simple as natural sexual attraction. There are deeper issues at play.
Just like with the Hebrew Israelite movement, pride is a key factor that really sits at the very heart of the problem. Everything else grows out of that root. Another interesting fact is that both movements focus on a sense of victimization and “aggressively rising above in victory.” I decided to write about this because it is so important for us as Christians to really put in the effort to understand the complexities of these issues. We cannot just say “living a gay lifestyle is sinful,” or “claiming black slavery in the USA was prophesied in Scripture because America is ‘your Egypt’ is absurd.” That’s like trying to pluck off the dandelion flower instead of digging down at the root.
These are huge issues at play in our culture. True, they’re not really “new.” But they are more pronounced than we might realize. We need to be praying regularly for our friends, family, and neighbours who are caught in these destructive seductions. We need to pray for wisdom and grace, crying out to our Lord, that He will have mercy on them. We didn’t deserve salvation and forgiveness any more than they do! But our God is a God of mercy, grace and love, beyond anything we can even imagine. And He is mighty to save. If He can save me, He can save them. Be bold and graceful and loving when sharing the gospel with them. Don’t give up. God is good! And He is glorified even in our efforts to proclaim His name.
One final note: for those of you who have also been watching the debates, I encourage you to pray for the elder and his followers, but also pray for the safety of Dr. White and his family, as well as those who have helped to arrange the debates. Death threats were made. This is serious stuff.