In 1966 Mick Jagger and Keith Richards released their huge hit ‘Paint it black:’ “I see a red door and I want it painted black. No colors anymore, I want them to turn black . . . Black as night, black as coal.” What happens when White Replacement Theology gets painted Black?
Students of Christian theology have usually bumped into something called ‘Replacement Theology’ in the course of their studies. This term refers to is a way of interpreting the Scriptures. It takes references to Israel and the Jewish people and re-interprets them as referring instead to the Gentile Church. Any seeming connection with the Jewish people and the physical seed of Jacob is now seen as overshadowed and altered by Christ’s work on the cross. All those ‘primitive Jewish’ blessings have evolved (according to this teaching) and morphed into ‘God’s original intent’ – which means that the blessings come only to Gentile followers of Jesus. Of course, the curses spoken over Jewish disobedience (according to this interpretative system) still apply to the Jews. Here are three articles that may help to flesh out what’s involved here:
Replacement Theology studies have focused on the thoughts of Western (and therefore white-skinned) theologians. This newsletter broadens the scope, looking at how Black permutations of this ‘White’ theology have influenced Black communities not only over the years (both Christian and non-Christian), but some recent expressions in today’s Black communities as well.
Black American Christian origins
America’s first Black churches were founded in the forty year period between 1774 and 1813. The ministers were usually freed slaves. The very first Black congregation (First Baptist Church, Petersburg, Virginia) was founded in 1774, part of the spiritual fruit of the Great Awakening movement connected to George Whitfield. Other first fruits included First African Baptist Church, Savannah, Georgia (1777), Free African Society, Philadelphia PA (1787), the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Philadelphia (1793), and the Union Church of Africans, Wilmington, Delaware (1813). These congregations were broadly evangelical in theology, and were established at a time when segregation and racial prejudice were ‘the law of the land.’
British Israelism becomes Black Israelism
In the 1890’s a teaching known as British or Anglo-Israelism began to spread throughout the United Kingdom and America. It emphasized that the original inhabitants of Britain were direct descendants of the ancient Israelites. Pseudo-Celtic and pseudo-Druidic elements peppered this movement. As this teaching spread throughout the northeastern U.S.A., some Black leaders took this new teaching and altered it, saying that it was actually the Blacks and not the Anglo-Saxons who were the original Israelites. This mutation of White Replacement Theology would leave a pronounced spiritual scar on American Black communities (see Genesis 12:3).
Masonic influence started impacting Black American communities in the 1790’s (see Jacob S. Dorman, Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions, 2013). The two main spokesmen of Prince Hall Masonry (the original Black Masonic Lodge) John Marrant and Prince Hall taught in Boston (1789, 1792, 1797) that “the legacy of ancient Egypt and the biblical destiny of Ethiopia belonged to African Americans” (Joanna Brooks, ‘Prince Hall Freemasonry: Secrecy, Authority, and Culture;’ Boston, Massachusetts; 2007). Freemasonry cultivated a tradition of doctrines, passwords, and symbols – symbolic rituals which supposedly were derived from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. These Arabesque symbols and Arabic-sounding names brought an esoteric quasi-African/Middle Eastern flavor to Black Masonic rituals. It also set up a sympathetic open door to things Islamic, which would later be unpacked by Black movements in the 20th century. Black Israelism would access these Masonic pseudo-legends ‘of the ancient Israelites’ and build an African-Israelite synthetic hybrid which has strong influence to this day.
Loving the Talmud and hating the Jews
Frank S. Cherry in 1866 organized the Church of the Living God, Pillar of Truth for All Nations in Chattanooga, TN. He taught himself rudimentary Hebrew and Yiddish. According to Cherry, Jesus, Adam and Eve were Black, but White Jews deceitfully altered their blackness for nefarious purposes. Cherry stated that White Jews were interlopers and frauds, and that God hates White Jews because they are inherently evil and rejected Jesus (using Revelation 3:9 as his proof text; “Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie…”).
Cherry said that he received a divine vision that not all Blacks are Jews, but that all true Jews are Blacks of the lineage of Jacob. According to Cherry, the first white man was Gehazi (2 Kings 5:27) whose color changed to white when he was cursed. At other times Cherry argued that he and his followers “were part of the original Israelite tribes chased from Babylonia (and, they claim, into Central and Western Africa where they were later sold into slavery) by the Romans in 70 CE” (Janice W. Fernheimer, ‘Stepping Into Zion: Hatzaad Harishon, Black Jews, and the Remaking of Jewish Identity;’ University of Alabama Press, 2014; page 10).
Cherry taught that the earth is square, surrounded by three layers of heaven. He prophesied that Jesus would return in the year 2000, raising all the saints who kept the Ten Commandments and obeyed Cherry’s teachings (Eugene V. Gallagher; ‘Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America; Greenwood Publishing Group, 2019). He accepted the Talmud as authoritative, forbade the eating of pork, the observance of Christian holidays, the use of pianos and speaking in tongues. Services began and ended with a prayer facing East toward Jerusalem. Meetings were held Sunday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, and all day Saturdays. Men wore skullcaps and women wore blue and white capes with tassels (Black Jews in Africa and the Americas, Tudor Parfitt, 2013).
Reverend William Christian in 1889 founded the Church of the Living God (Christian Workers for Fellowship) in Wrightsville, Arkansas. His catechism asks and answers the question: “Was Jesus a member of the Black race? Yes. Matthew 1 … Is this assertion sufficient proof that Jesus came of the black generation? Yes” (Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster in the Evangelical South, Paul Harvey 2012). In his book of essays ‘The Feeling Intellect’ (1990) Philip Reiff notes here: “What could more curious for one persecuted people to adopt the [history] that is another’s? . . . What is it to be a Jew? . . . It is to be a living expression of the highest ideals of human existence . . . [This sect] asserts the fiction of its Jewishness to assert its own dignity and equality.” The present attempt to place Black people at the core of Western history and religious narrative (as manifested through the Black Lives Matter movement) has its fledgling beginnings in these initial Black Replacement Theology declarations.
William Saunders Crowdy in 1896 founded the Church of God and Saints of Christ in Lawrence, Kansas. Crowdy was heavily influenced by Masonic symbolism and eschatology. He taught that Blacks are the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, the Chosen People, destined to play a central role in the narrative of mankind. Crowdy’s congregations kept a seventh day Sabbath, celebrated the Jewish feats, practiced circumcision and denied the deity of Yeshua. Crowdy dealt with issues of race-connected shame in an unusual way: he taught that modern ‘so-called Jews’ have breached God’s laws against intermarriage. As a punishment these Jews have become White. In so doing they have degraded themselves – now to be White is to be degraded! Instead of confronting the supposed shame of Blackness, Crowdy has turned the equation upside down. Now we have the shame of Whiteness. There are strong echoes of this dynamic today in issues pushed by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Leon Richlieu in 1899 established the Moorish Zionist Temple in Brooklyn. Richlieu maintained that he was of Ethiopian origin (from the supposed union of King Solomon and the Queen of Ethiopia), and that his congregation was composed of Black Jews from two or three Jewish tribes driven out of Israel and into Africa as a result of civil war. In 1929 it was re-organized under Mordechai Herman as the Congregation of the Moorish Zionist Temple of the Moorish Jews in Harlem (1929). An offshoot was Beth B’nai Abraham (House of the Sons of Abraham). They taught that they were descended from Black Jews in Carthage (modern Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya). Others taught that Black Jews come from Ethiopia, or from the Hausa tribe of Nigeria. This latter congregation also denied the deity of Yeshua but observed Ramadan.
Arnold Jossiah Ford in the mid-1920’s became rabbi at Beth B’nai Abraham. He was born in Barbados to a Nigerian father and a mother from Sierra Leone. He was part of the Harlem jazz world when he met Marcus Garvey of UNIA fame. He unsuccessfully tried to get Garvey to convert to Judaism and move to Ethiopia. His teachings were a cholent of Judaism, Pentecostalism, Islam, kabbalah and Freemasonry (Black Jews in Africa and the Americas, Tudor Parfitt, 2013). In November 1930 Ford traveled to Ethiopia to participate in the coronation of Haile Selassie as ‘Lion of Judah’ (Martina Konighofer, The New Ship of Zion: Dynamic Diaspora Dimensions of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, 2008). Ford died in Ethiopia in 1935. Though his Black Israelite colonization of Ethiopia had not borne much fruit, the Black Israelite engagement with Ethiopia proved critical to the formation of Rastafarianism, which lives today as Jamaica’s most visible artistic culture (Dorman, Chosen People). The Rastafari movement believes that they are the descendants of the original Hebrew Israelites, and that Haile Selassie is the coming Messiah of Judah.
On November 2, 1930 when Ras Tafari (Selassie) was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia, he received the rank of Negusa Nagast (King of Kings). His royal epithets ‘King of Kings,’ ‘Elect of God,’ ‘Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah’ – these titles are applied in the Book of Revelation to Yeshua (Revelation 5:5, 19:16). Ethiopian tradition claimed that the royal line in Ethiopia began with Menilek, first king of Ethiopia and child of the supposed union of King Solomon of Israel and the queen of Sheba. The king of Ethiopia was thus a descendant of the House of David. Jamaican Leonard Howell concluded that the oracle was being fulfilled in the coronation, and that the Messiah promised in Acts 2:29, “he shall come through the lineage of Solomon, and sit on David’s throne,” had arrived in the person of the Ethiopian emperor. Here is an amazing example of how Black Replacement Theology places an Ethiopian Gentile on David’s throne, wreaking havoc on some major Messianic prophecies.
Timothy Drew aka Noble Drew Ali in 1913 founded the Canaanite Temple in Newark, NJ which was later renamed the Moorish Science Temple of America. He later moved to Chicago. Ali taught that he was a reincarnation of Jesus, the Buddha and Muhammad. He taught that Blacks are descendants of the Moabites aka Moorish, and are Islamic. Ali recounted that an Egyptian priest gave him a ‘lost section’ of the Quran. His ‘lost section of the Quran’ contains the first 19 chapters from an occult work published in 1908 called ‘The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ.’ Chapters 20 through 45 are borrowed from a Rosicrucian work, Unto Thee I Grant.
Noble Drew Ali believed that Chicago would become a second Mecca. Chicago did become the center of his movement. After Drew Ali died in 1929, a congregant named Wallace Fard Muhammad aka David Ford El claimed to be the reincarnation of Drew Ali. When his claim was rejected, Ford El broke away from the Moorish Science Temple and moved to Detroit, where he formed his own group that would become the Nation of Islam. On February 26, 2014, Louis Farrakhan acknowledged the contributions of Noble Drew Ali to the Nation of Islam and their founding principles (Poray Sr Casimier, Islamic Impostors, 2004).
The deeply anti-Semitic teachings of the Nation of Islam are based on Black Replacement Theology. The Black racist teachings espoused by Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan have strongly influenced leading voices in both the Black Power movement and in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Radical Black nationalist and minister Albert Cleage was deeply influenced by Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam (see ‘The Creation of the Devil and the End of the White Man’s Rule: The Theological Influence of the Nation of Islam on Early Black Theology;’ Marjorie Corbman, 2020). The following quote from Cleage shows how Black Replacement Theology shaped his perspectives:
- We know that Israel was a black nation and that descendants of the original black Jews are in Israel, Africa, and the Mediterranean area today. The Bible was written by black Jews. The Old Testament is the history of black Jews. The first three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, tell the story of Jesus, retaining some of the original material which establishes the simple fact that Jesus built upon the Old Testament. Jesus was a Black Messiah. He came to free a black people from the oppression of the white Gentiles. We know this now to be a fact. Our religion, our preaching, our teachings all come from the Old Testament, for we are God’s chosen people. God is working with us every day, helping us find a way to freedom. Jesus tried to teach the Nation Israel how to come together as a black people, to be brothers one with another to stand against their white oppressors (Albert Cleage ‘The Black Messiah,’ 1968 p. 111)
The recent (December 2019) murder of three Jewish shoppers at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, NJ was carried out by members of a Black Israelite offshoot known as the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ. This denomination is classified as a hate group. Their theology mirrors many of the developments sketched out in this brief historical overview.
Why Black Israelism?
Professor Jacob Dorman has charted three distinct generations of Black Israelism: the pioneer generation of Southern preachers from 1890 to 1916; a second generation from 1920 to 1930, which blossomed in the urban metropolises of the North and incorporated more modern Jewish elements; and a third generation from 1960 to 1980 of militant, black nationalist groups (Michael T. Miller, Black Judaism(s) and the Hebrew Israelites).
“At the heart of all black Israelite faiths was a radical reimagining of the black past, present, and future. It has been a religious . . . counter-discourse that places people of African descent at the very heart of history and civilization as God’s chosen people with a unique racial mission to prepare the earth for the coming of the millennium” (Dorman, Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions; 2013, p. 80).
“African Americans appropriated and advocated Judaism, Jewishness, Jewish history, and often an Israelite bloodline in their attempts to counter oppression, gain approval, re-create lost history, revolt against white authority, and forge new, more useful identities . . . Blacks claimed Jewish racial identity to escape the stigma that came with being regarded as black” (Tudor Parfitt, Black Jews in Africa and the Americas; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013, pages 133, 72).
A more detailed analysis of the Black Israelite movement is available on-line.
Black Replacement Theology meets Marxist Liberation Theology
Marxist political scientists have given the world an ambivalent gift – a blend of Marxist dialectics and anti-capitalist revolutionary strategies. When this political philosophy moves into African American territory, it adopts the name ‘Black Liberation Theology’ or ‘Black Theology.’
On July 31, 1966 an ad hoc group of 51 black pastors (the National Committee of Negro Churchmen) bought a full-page ad in The New York Times to publish their “Black Power Statement.” In 1969 James Cone released his ‘Black Theology and Black Power’ and in 1970 he published ‘A Black theology of liberation.’ These Marxist-rooted perspectives are an integral part of the political worldviews of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement:
A New York Times article in 2008 concludes that at least one quarter of African-American churches follow Liberation Theology (Michael Powell, ‘A Fiery Theology Under Fire,’ New York Times, May 4, 2008). Reverend Jeremiah Wright was former pastor to then-Senator Barack Obama at Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago (a successful megachurch following James Cone’s theology of Black liberation). Wright made headlines many times on a number of issues, including a public damning of America and his use of Malcolm X’s famous line (chickens coming home to roost) in blaming America for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He is also on record as having made many anti-Semitic public pronouncements.
Black Replacement Theology is as guilty before God as is White Replacement Theology, in the same way as Black racism is as reprehensible as White racism. The result of both Black and White Replacement Theology is the robbing of the Jewish people of their calling and gifts (Romans 11:28-29). Anyone – Black or White – who does this comes under God’s mandated curse of Genesis 12:3: “The one who curses/derides/belittles/scorns you, I will curse.” This is serious business, based on God’s promise in His word.
As we connect these dots it is sobering to see how deep the need is for urgent prayer and pro-active discernment here. Who will contend for the spiritual healing of America in general, and for Black America specifically?
How should we then pray?
- Pray for revelation to be poured out about the enemy’s deceptive strategies at work in these areas
- Pray for God to grant intercessory strategies for the spiritual liberation of many in America today
- Pray for salvation to visit many here, especially in Black communities
- Pray for the raising up of the Ezekiel 37 prophetic army among the Jewish people
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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