Sunday, June 28, 2009

HWA and British-Israelism

It is highly obvious that HWA very liberally stole his ideas of Anglo-Saxon-Celtic descent from Israel from the earlier movement of British-Israelism. After I renounced Armstrongism I, quite by chance (or was it just chance?), came upon a book entitled Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of Christian Identity Movement by Michael Barkun.

Now years ago I had read HWA's Wikipedia article and someone had stuck in there that something called "Christian Identity" also believed in British-Israelism. A quick look at the article showed that that was a racist version of the belief. Only because of that brief look was I vaguely aware of "Christian Identity" in any sense and that is the only reason I gave the book notice.

Now this book is about how a generally philo-Semitic movement, British-Israelism, was gradually transformed into a virulently anti-Semitic movement, Identity. It only touches on Armstrongism in the most vague and brief way as Armstrongism did not really play a part in that story.

Although the author did not intend it, I found this book a most revealing expose of HWA's hopeless plagiarism, since in the author's discussion of British-Israelism many beliefs of HWA are clearly present in this movement long before HWA took up religion. HWA clearly stole and adapted these ideas for his own uses.

I encourage the reader to look at this book on Google books here. In the preview one may read pp. 6, 8, 10, 11. Alas pp. 7, 9, 86 and 128-9 are not in the preview.

Here are some ideas which the book discussed that HWA would use for his own religion.

HWA declared himself to be a descendant of King David by his mother, who, we are told was descended from King Edward I who in Armstrongite dogma was a continuation of the royal line of David. The first great preacher of British Israelism was one Richard Brothers (1757-1824), and he also declared himself to be a descendant of David (p.6).

Remember how HWA would breathlessly declare that end time Israel had to be located to the north-west of Canaan? Well John Wilson (1799-1870), another prominent teacher of British Israelism, proclaimed precisely the same thing, that Israel is in the north-west of Canaan. He concluded that lost Israel has to be "in the NORTH-WEST--in our own part of the world. [Britain.]" (p. 7.)

HWA proclaimed that God made two covenants with Abraham, one physical, the other spiritual. The Jews got the spiritual covenant, and Britain got the physical covenant. He also taught that most end time prophecies applied to the US and Britain today. Wilson taught exactly the same thing. "Jews bore only those divine promises God" had given to those from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, "while the bulk of the prophecies were inherited by descendants of the tribes that dwelt in Israel--preeminently the tribe of Ephraim, which peopled the British Isles." (p.7).

Wilson also taught that it was the descendants of the two sons of Joseph who would be most prominent among the lost tribes. "Britain retained a place a spiritual preeminence" bcause of their descent through Joseph and the bestowal of Jacob's birthright blessing upon Joseph's sons. In his view "it was the descendants of [Ephraim and Manasseh] who would lead the way" for the rest of the Israelites. (p. 8.) How similar this sounds to what HWA taught. HWA would also inherit this focus on Joseph.

Remember how it was taught that many other European peoples are descended from other tribes of Israel? Herman Hoeh would claim that many different European peoples were in fact Israelites. A similar belief was also taught by Wilson who viewed other Europeans as also being Israelites with Israelites ""in Italy, and especially in France and Switzerland," as well as in Scandinavia." Furthermore the Germans were viewed as fellow Israelite brethren. (p. 8.)

Adapting this inclusive version of the identities of modern Israelite would lead to some embarrassing inconsistencies with their teachings, as can be shown here in an article quoted by the Ambassador Report: "In the last few years, the [Plain Truth] News Bureau has toyed with the idea that the European Beast might be Otto von Habsburg, a member of the Habsburg dynasty. But this would mean that the "Beast" would be an Israelite, not an Assyrian, because the Habsburgs are Swiss in origin (H. G. Wells, The Outline of History, 1971, p. 661). They originally came from the German-speaking two-thirds of Switzerland that Hoeh has said was not descended from the Assyrians but from the Israelite tribe of Gad." (AR 16, July 1981.)

Edward Hine (1825-1891) arose after Wilson and he rejected Wilson's identification of Germans as Israelites but instead identified Germany as Assyria, and furthermore taught that the biblical struggle between Israel and Assyria would repeat itself in the future. He taught that Assyria was also lost like Israel and "the modern-day Assyrians were none other than the Germans." Furthermore these two nations "were destined to continue the struggle" in the future. (p. 11). HWA adopted this same idea of Germany's ancestry and its future of the great physical adversity of Israel from Hine.

Unlike HWA's fear-inducing spin on this doctrine these British-Israelites seemed to be more optimistic about the outcome of this struggle.

Ever wondered why HWA identified Turkey as Edom? Among British-Israelites Edom was identified with the Turks. M. M. Eshelman, for example, identified the Turks as Edom in a book published in 1887 (p. 128-9). HWA simply copied this earlier idea.

This is information that can be found in just one book that does not even discuss Armstrongism in any extended way. It is very clear that he stole many ideas from British-Israelism and claimed that he and his followers alone had sole access to God's truth. There is no reason to regard HWA or his conclusions as anything special.

1 comment:

  1. I found this interesting. I am a new British Israelist, myself. I have heard of HWA by now, but I actually stumbled across the idea of British Israelism before I knew the word for it when doing historical research.