By Brian Birmingham

I once knew an older gentleman who lived near Mobile, Alabama. He called himself a “Christian” and he refused to read or study from any Bible other than a King James Version. He was retired, and he studied the Bible every day for hours. He was friendly and generous. We became Bible study partners and friends.

After weeks of study together, he began to share some of his personal beliefs and opinions.

That’s when it became evident that he was a racist.

But all of his racism was justified through interpretations of the King James Bible.

“Everything” he said was somehow explicitly spelled out and justified biblically, he claimed.

First there is the “Curse of Cain” (Genesis 4:15), which he interpreted as a premise for black slavery and servitude. Then he claimed that Acts 17:26 laid the foundation for biblically mandated segregation. He later told me that that Jeremiah 23:25 was the basis for denouncing Martin Luther King, Jr. as a “false prophet.”

He rejected all my arguments and insisted that “God” had commanded that the races must live separately and that black people specifically must be subservient to white people.

Within the world of “cults” these same racist sentiments are expressed by certain groups, who also insist that such pronouncements are solely based upon “God’s Word” in the Bible.

There is a group called “Twelve Tribes,” founded by Eugene Delbert Spriggs, that preaches Biblical justifications for holding racist beliefs. But Spriggs simply copied his teachings from other racists.

We often call groups that harbor such sentiments “White Supremacists.”

Now on the other hand what many don’t know is that there are also Black Supremacists.

The Ku Klux Klan marching on parade.

Black Supremacists often manipulate the bible too, much like the Ku Klux Klan and my old white racist friend from Alabama. The only difference is, which race is considered preeminent.

For example, the so-called “Black Hebrews” or “Black Israelite” movement, which includes “Israelites United in Christ” (IUIC) led by Nathaniel Ray of New York, also known as “Nathanyel Ben Israel.”

The IUIC represents just one faction, within the larger context of Black Hebrew or Black Israelite movement. But in many ways the IUIC is not unlike the Klan concerning their insistence upon ordained racial superiority.

By the way, the IUIC is hardly original. Just like the Twelve Tribes its beliefs are largely derived from earlier groups such as the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK), which is arguably even more militant.

Would Martin Luther King be considered a “false prophet” by such groups due to his philosophy of non-violence and peaceful resistance?

Years after my studies with the man from Alabama I came across a street preacher on a sunny Spring Day in downtown Dallas. He was accompanied by several supporters. The preacher blasted his message through a bullhorn, while his companions passed out flyers to pedestrians. They wore dark, tunic-like uniforms. Some had headpieces and they all carried Bibles. They were Black Israelites.

I stopped to listen and read one of their flyers. It was published by Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK). The message was hardcore Black Supremacist doctrine. All about how African Americans, and other people of color, are the true descendants of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. How Christianity is a “false religion” and white people are “devils.”

Hate speech is still free speech in America. And the ISUPK preacher shared a racist and anti-Semitic message based upon a twisted interpretation of the Bible.

Were they so different from the Klan or the White Supremist Christian Identity Movement or any other supposedly Bible-based hate group?

Scripture twisting, after all, is characteristically done by both.

Black Israelites preaching

FYI — The Anti-Defamation League provides a very good history of ISUPK and related groups on its website, in an article titled “Extremist Sects Within the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement.” It explains how the ISUPK and IUIC have the same ideological roots, beginning with a preacher named Frank Cherry.

I stood and listened to that street preacher, which apparently drew his attention. He said, “If you are truly sorry for all the evil done by white people, bow down and kiss my boot.” He explained, “Talk is cheap and action speaks louder than words. Humble yourself before this descendent of slaves that your ancestors tormented and exploited. Kiss my boot.”

So, I did it.

All the Black Israelites clapped as I rose to my feet and shook the hand of the preacher, who seemed genuinely surprised.

I was interested in his reaction and how my act of contrition might affect him.

Would this change his opinion of me or about white people?

“I didn’t think you would do it,” he said.

And then he put his arm around my shoulder like a friend.

Then he said, “After the race war, which is coming, I will make sure that you are a well-treated slave.”

We talked for a while after that, but he never really changed his mind about me or white people. There was nothing I could do or say to persuade him. He was just
as rigid as my old white Bible study partner.

Today there are many hate groups online recruiting new members. Some have been banned on social media, while others have not.

YouTube has policies concerning hate speech.

However, groups like the IUIC, led by Nathaniel Ray, operate with impunity, using social media to spread hate, recruit and raise money. The IUIC is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok and uses the app Clubhouse.

Nathaniel Ray IUIC

See the IUIC YouTube channel and the many indoctrination videos available there. For example, the one titled, “Let’s talk Israel United in Christ” by IUIC founder Nathaniel Ray. Ray explicitly calls whites and Jews the “Devil” at the 14-minute mark.

Ray provides a very concise explanation of the basic beliefs of the IUIC. He says that European Jews are “Edomites” and are themselves the “Devil.”

I have no regrets about my brief encounter with the ISUPK or boot kissing. It helped bring some clarity about the nature of all hate groups and how rigidly they hold onto their hate, whether someone kisses their boot or whatever.

When someone has hate in their heart it’s hard to change them. They see the world in black and white, “us vs. them.” And this distinction isn’t about race, it’s about the dichotomy and limits of their thinking and the rigidity of their mindset.

Note: Brian Birmingham is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. He is a native of Dallas.

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As if Whitney Houston didn’t have enough problems, she has apparently continued her involvement with a group often called a “cult.” The fallen star reportedly sought help from the “Black Hebrews” as recently as two months ago.

Whitney Houston in Israel 2003“Friends hoped she had reformed thanks to a ‘spiritual adviser’ and her renewed links to a controversial religious sect” reports the Herald Sun.

But is it wise for Houston’s friends to hope her crack habit can be cured by a cult?

Certainly there are more credible options, such as a hospital treatment program.

Houston and husband Bobby Brown first hooked up with the so-called “Black Hebrews” in 2003 on a trip to Israel. The strange group is led by Ben Carter a former Chicago resident who now calls himself “Ben Ammi Ben Israel”

Carter claims that the “Archangel Gabriel told him that many African Americans were descendants of the lost Israeli tribe of Judah.” He led some followers to settle in Israel during 1969, but they didn’t receive permanent residence status until 2003.

The “Black Hebrews” have been linked to crime and the death of a child.

One of Carter’s henchmen was found guilty of “operating an international crime ring” in 1986 and just last year a couple was charged with manslaughter. And the death of their baby was allegedly tied to the group’s strange diet.

Houston recentlyDoes Whitney Houston really need this kind of help?

Her family has said repeatedly that the influence of Bobby Brown brought about the star’s downfall.

Is the undue influence of this strange sect really going to restore reason to the former diva?

Perhaps Houston’s friends should come up with something better than a choice between either crack or a “cult” for the troubled singer.

The life of singer Whitney Houston has become increasingly rocky, rife with rumors of drug abuse, family estrangements and marital problems.

But now it seems to have taken an even stranger course.

Houston went to Israel and stayed with a bizarre “cult” called the “Black Hebrews.”

She referred to its members as her “brothers and sisters,” reports News 24.

Houston was supposedly “looking for inspiration for her upcoming Christmas album,” reports USA Today.

But this group of polygamists seems like a dubious source for Christmas spirit.

Ben Carter, a former Chicago resident who now calls himself “Ben Ammi Ben Israel,” leads the “cult.”

Carter claims that the “Archangel Gabriel told him that many African Americans were descendants of the lost Israeli tribe of Judah.”

He led his “lost…tribe” to Israel in 1969.

First the group lived on the dole as refugees, but later achieved resident status through the clout of the US government and no doubt due to the influence of some African American leaders.

However, the “Black Hebrews” claim of ancient Jewish heritage has never been proven or officially recognized.

Carter created an idiosyncratic religion that includes a vegetarian diet and polygamy.

Largely through the practice of polygamy the group has increased and now numbers about 2,000 in Israel, though it claims to have 30,000 members worldwide.

As Houston left Israel she waved her arm referring to the Jewish State as “my land.”

What did she mean?

Her parting statement seems eerily consistent with Carter’s teachings about Israel as the “Promised Land” of the “Black Hebrews.”

Has Whitney Houston joined a “cult”?

Her spokesperson said, “She is a spiritual woman and wanted to…touch the land and be around the saints of Dimona,” reports the Denver Post.

Accepting this “cult’s” hospitality may be the worst choice the pop singer has made since saying “I do” to bad boy Bobbie Brown.

A religious group called the “Black Hebrews” emigrated from the United States to Israel in 1969. Its members claim they are descendents of the exiled tribe of Judah, driven out of Jerusalem during the First Century, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

However, unlike the Falasha Jews of Ethopia, there is no historical or archaeological evidence to substantiate such fanciful claims. Instead, like many groups called “cults,” the Black Hebrews depend upon their leader to define the group.

Ben Carter a steelworker from Chicago calls himself “Ben Ammi Ben Israel” and is the founder and leader of the Black Hebrews. And like so many cult leaders he has fantastic claims, which the group’s beliefs are based upon.

Ben says, the “Archangel Gabriel told him that many African Americans were descendants of the lost Israeli tribe of Judah.”


He then found and gathered together his own tribe of 30 disciples, which were then designated as rediscovered “Jews” from the “Tribe of Judah.”

First, the group followed Ben to Africa and stayed there for two years to be “purified.” Subsequently, Carter led them to the “Promised Land,” which ultimately turned out to be an Israeli refugee community called Dimona.

The Black Hebrews largely live on the dole in Dimona. They have remained there for thirty years because the Israeli authorities reject their claims of Jewish identity and apparently don’t know what else to do with them.

Efforts to expel the group Israelis often call a “cult” has been met with political protests from the United States and hunger strikes in Dimona.

The group has grown to 2,000, largely through its high birth rate fostered by polygamy.

The supposedly “ancient faith” practiced by the Black Hebrews is actually an odd, idiosyncratic and eclectic mix of observances concocted by Ben Ammi. He continues to dictate virtually everything the group does. Pictures of Ben Ammi dominate the homes of the insular community.

Interestingly, Jewish authorities have offered Ben Ammi who is now 63 and his followers Jewish identity through recognized conversion. However, like most cults the Black Hebrews reject anything, but what their leader defines as the “true faith.”

But though Ben Ammi has rejected Israel’s offer to become a recognized Jew, the group has accepted working papers, temporary residency, health insurance and social security benefits.