Dr Glenville Ashby, Contributor
Nathanyel Ben Israel strikes an imposing picture. Nearing baritone octaves his oratory is definitive and commands attention. He is the bishop of the Israel United in Christ, a growing religious movement that is disciplined, proud and determined to evangelise.
He is accompanied by Deacon Asaph. Their preaching style is similar to other Israelite groups. It is a one-two delivery with Asaph verifying his superior's pronouncements with readings from the Bible that they uphold as historically factual, didactic and prophetic.
"We follow the law, while other Israelite groups dance to their own beat and hold some views on women and violence that are reprehensible," Ben Israel says. Although they withdraw from the controversies swirling around these outfits, Ben Israel concedes that his message is also stark and uncompromising." It's also controversial. "We the children who were taken from our land and enslaved comprise the 12 tribes of Israel, and our religion is the law or the Commandments."
The Israelites are a nation, he notes. "The people we call Jews today are not descendents from Hebrews. They are converts. But you cannot be converted into a nation and this fact invalidates their identity. This is not an emotional attack, neither is it any part of a hate campaign." Deacon Asaph then holds court, citing Revelation 2: "I know your afflictions and your poverty, yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan."
He gives a telling example of the falsehood promulgated today.
"The identity of an Israelite is determined through the paternal line, which runs counter to the commonly held view that "you are a bona fide Jew only if your mother is Jewish."
He supports his argument with the following biblical verse: "And they assembled the entire congregation together on the first day of the second month, and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by the house of their fathers."
The late Egyptian leader Abdel Nasser's verbal jab during the Six Day War against Israel is noted: "How can the Jews leave black and come back white?"
Spurious and Self-Destructive
Ben Israel explains that the Israelite nation includes West Indians, Black Americans, Native American Indians, the indigenous people of Latin America and others are living an illusory existence, oblivious of the law and ready to adopt identities that are spurious and self-destructive.
Bishop Ben Israel assails Christian churches, calling them a "clear and present danger to our people". He argues that by ignoring the law, Christianity preaches salvation through Jesus by merely "invoking" his name. "That's why our communities are ravished by crime, alcoholism and drugs. We have thrown away the very law that Jesus came to fulfill. We have to see life through our spiritual eyes."
He challenges ministers and pastors who preach a Pauline doctrine that Biblical laws can be abrogated or "done away with". Asaph intones: "For it makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God's commandments."
That today's churches fail to preach the essentiality of the commandments and the homogeneity of the Bible; that they have failed to identify the Israelites as black is troubling and tantamount to a betrayal. "When Paul was taken captive, he was believed to be an Egyptian because of his appearance," according to Bishop Ben Israel. He quotes Job 30:30: "My skin is black upon me; my bones are burned with heat." And then Jeremiah 14: 2, "Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up..."
In that vein, Solomon 1: 5 is also quoted.
Both men caution that the King James version of the Bible should be trusted for accuracy. They view the Bible as prophecy and an admonition of "our people", who have been sold into slavery and are wandering in a hypnagogic state. "If our children are taught who they are, we will not see black-on-black crime and other social problems besetting us."
Also referring to the Apocrapha (Books not included in the Bible), Deacon Asaph cites Esdras 30.13:40 which bolsters his argument that the Israelites, because of their disobedience were forcibly taken from their homes into the barbarism of slavery: "ten tribes carried away prisoners out of their own land, carried them over the water into another land."
In another reference to slavery, he recites Deuteronomy 28:48 - "Therefore you shalt serve thine enemies ... and hunger and thirst, and in nakedness ... and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck until he has destroyed thee."
Deuteronomy 28:68 - "And the Lord will bring thee into Egypt (a reference to slavery) again with ships...and thou shall see it no more again, and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondsmen and bondswomen ... ."
In one markedly controversial exchange, the ancestors of the Israelites (our people) were said to be victims of African and Arab conspiracy which led to their enslavement. Joel 3:3-6 is cited.
They decry Pan-Africanism and attempts by intellectuals to see one African people when biblical history, according to Bishop Ben Israel, bears a different story.
"The Israelites have always been unique, special people, different to any other nation. Black ministers never preach the significance of Matthew 15: 21 that speak volumes about us in relation to other peoples."
His words reverberate: "A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us. He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs."
He then apostrophises his stance on the special status of the Hebrew nation with Isaiah 14:14.
Israel United in Christ can be called provocateurs and their stance is unwavering. Yet, they are convinced that they will be vindicated by a true understanding of the Bible.
They uphold that the end time is near, that the duplicity and lies of Babylon will be exposed and the empire will fall under its own weight of greed and corruption. Their church, they say, is poised to spread its eminence and resurgence.
Theirs is a reactionary view that ruffles feathers. "We use the Bible to make our point and that's why we are seen as a threat. We have had our computer systems hacked several times and this has disrupted our online classes," Bishop Ben Israel notes. Yet, he has seen more people embracing his theology with churches in a half-dozen states. There are also 20,000 subscribers to its monthly newsletter. And in almost apocalyptic language he adds, "No one knows the exact hour but this land, Babylon, will be destroyed and the wool will be finally removed from the eyes of our people."
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