Black Armstrongists

If you listen to the first two minutes of Rod Meredith’s Feast of Tabernacles 2008 opening message, you’ll hear this:

God has been very, very good to us this past year. We deeply appreciate it. Even now, as I make this sermon, a little before the Feast, God has blessed us financially, and we’re running around 8-10% increase in our financial income. We’re very grateful for that. He’s moving us ahead. The new television network we have, the Black Entertainment Network, is producing great fruit!

I wonder how that could possibly be working out? After all, the Living Church of God, of which Rod Meredith is the leader, is an Armstrongist sect, which means one thing: theological, institutional racism.

But does that mean individual racism? Can a church be xenophobic and its members not? Can a theology be racist and its adherents not?

I grew up in the Worldwide Church of God, an organization that  was founded on a racist theology. The leadership denied the cornerstone of the group’s theology was racist. “We don’t believe non-whites are inferior to whites, but we believe interracial marriage is a sin.” Or worse: “We believe all humans are equal before God, but in the Kingdom of God will be segregated.” Yet those protestations don’t stand up to what the founder and leader, Herbert Armstrong, wrote.

The church believed that the white, English-speaking nations of the world were God’s chosen people. America, Britain, France, and the other white European countries were the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, with Britain, America, and the other English-speaking nations having special status.

God had always favored whites. Indeed, Adam was white, as were Noah, Jesus, and all the other patriarchs and prophets. Armstrong wrote,

There was rampant and universal interracial marriage–so exceedingly universal that Noah, only, was unblemished or perfect in his generations–his ancestry. He was of the original white strain.

It is amply evident that by the time of Noah there were at least the three primary or major racial strains on earth, the white, yellow and black, although interracial marriage produced many racial mixtures.

God does not reveal in the Bible the precise origin of the different races. It is evident that Adam and Eve were created white. God’s chosen nation Israel was white. Jesus was white. But it is a fair conjecture that in mother Eve were created ovaries containing the yellow and black genes, as well as white, so that some of the children of Adam and Eve gave rise to black, yellow, as well as white.

The one man God chose to preserve the human race alive after the Flood was perfect in his generations–all his ancestry back to Adam was of the one strain, and undoubtedly that happened to be white–not that white is in any sense superior.

If you are a livestock breeder, planning to enter your prize animals in a livestock show–perhaps at a state or county fair–you will be sure to enter only thoroughbred or pedigreed stock! Mixing the breed alters the characteristics.

God originally set the bounds of national borders, intending nations to be Separated to prevent interracial marriage. Notice, “When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance [speaking of land or geographical boundaries], when he separated [notice—he separated] the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people . . .” (Deut. 32:8).

But people wanted to intermarry–until there would be only one race!

That desire seems still inherent in human nature today! (Mystery of the Ages, pages 147, 148)

God is a livestock breeder, and we his chattel. We whites are the thoroughbreds; breeding with other races will only alter our original, perfect, blameless strain.

Furthermore, the world was originally segregated, and the Kingdom of God would be, too:

In Noah’s day, the chief cause of the violence and chaos of world conditions was racial hatreds, interracial marriages, and racial violence caused by man’s efforts toward integration and amalgamation of races, contrary to God’s laws. God had set the boundary lines for the nations and the races at the beginning (Deut. 32:8-9; Acts 17:26). But men had refused to remain in the lands to which God had assigned them. That was the cause of the corruption and violence that ended that world. For 100 years Noah had preached God’s ways to the people—but they didn’t heed. […]

Noah merely preached to people in his human lifetime. But Noah, in the resurrection, immortal, in power and glory, will be given the power to enforce God’s ways in regard to race.

It seems evident that the resurrected Noah will head a vast project of the relocation of the races and nations, within the boundaries God has set, for their own best good, happiness and richest blessings. This will be a tremendous operation. It will require great and vast organization, reinforced with power to move whole nations and races. This time, peoples and nations will move where God has planned for them, and no defiance will be tolerated. (Mystery of the Ages, pages 341, 342)

Never mind that that the “evidence” Armstrong gave about a white Adam and the “project of the relocation of the races” was his own assurance that “it seems evident.” Armstrong was God’s spokesman, and that was sufficient.

What’s odd, though, is how selectively this kind of racist tripe was preached. I, for one, never heard anything like that in the congregation I attended.

Perhaps that’s because there were three black congregants.

“Apostle” was the highest rank, but there was only one of those: Herbert Armstrong. The second highest rank would be “evangelist,” which might be thought of as a cross between a bishop and an archbishop in the Catholic hierarchy, except they had no say and who would be the next Apostle should the current one die before the end of the age, which is what happened.

It is indeed difficult to imagine that any African Americans would be interested in a church whose theology included the literal proposition that “blacks will be sent back to Africa where they belong,” but there were. Indeed, there was one black evangelist — the highest rank attainable in the church.

In our congregation, there were exactly three African American congregants: a late-middle aged couple and a young lady. They sat together on the second row, always in the same seats, just a few seats down from where my family sat.

For a long time I thought the young lady — an attractive woman in her mid-twenties I’ll call Natalie — was related to the Smiths (obviously not their real name). Indeed, I thought she was their daughter. Why else would they sit together?

Perhaps because they were three in a congregation of 200. They represented around 1.5%.

Eventually, Natalie moved to another congregation of the same sect. There were more African Americans in that congregation, allowing for greater socializing for her: the church wasn’t segregated, you see, but it did ban interracial and outside-the-church dating, so Natalie was a condemned single had she stayed in our area.

It’s difficult for me to imagine, looking back on those three individuals’ self-imposed segregation, what would have drawn them to the sect to begin with? What, to African Americans, is attractive about the notion that white, English-speaking individuals are God’s chosen people, the original Lost Ten Tribes?

All of this makes me wonder how much the executives at BET really know about Meredith and his theology.

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3 thoughts on “Black Armstrongists

  1. Thud says:

    I was really confused by this, since I thought BET was owned by Viacom (it still is). After some digging it’s apparent that LCG bought early-morning ad space on BET, not that the church owns a controlling stake in the enterprise.

    A lot of the old religions started out race-based. This is true of the older religions, of course, but also some of the newer ones. Mormonism has grown out of much of its founding racism and opposition to race-mixing. The Black Christian experience is much different now than it was when Christianity was being imposed upon them. The same is true for much of the American Indian Christian experience. So I think a church and theology can grow beyond racism (or sexism, or homophobia). But at some point, I think, each of those churches has to explain how they came to understand the previous theology was flawed in order to maintain any sort of intellectual consistency.

  2. […] to bring things back on an even keel again, and I just thought I would recommend Gary Scott’s latest over at Critical Edition. Don’t miss the selected passages from MoA, as well as Gary’s recollections of the […]

  3. FT says:

    BET, IMHO have a lot of issues to resolve but letting Rod’s program on their station is an issue they just don’t need!

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