Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Black Hebrews of Israel by The Durham News | The fatal fringe

A sentence in an Aug. 14 N&O story on the Pete Moses religious cult - you know, the one that drew seven people into a web of evil that left a woman and a 5-year-old boy dead - was deja vu all over again.
"Police say the two were victims of the Black Hebrews ... a radical sect that believes a race war is coming that will leave blacks dominant and supreme." Change black to white, and you have the Christian Identity Movement, which believes a coming race war will leave whites dominant and supreme.
Both extremes are as nutty as Aunt Minnie's pecan pie.
Where Pete Moses' branch of the Black Hebrews fits into the constellation of black liberation movements, maybe only he knows. But he is one of many charismatic leaders that have landed in the headlines under the rubric of Black Hebrews or Black Hebrew Israelites.
In fact, the latter has maintained a presence in Israel for decades. The sect isn't recognized by the rabbinate, and no wonder: Black Hebrew Israelites aren't Jews. Nonetheless, Black Hebrews claim they are descendants of Judah, one of the so-called lost tribes of Israel. This is on authority of the angel Gabriel, the same heavenly scrivener who dictated the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad.
That the lost tribe of Judah made its way via West Africa to North America strains credulity to the snapping point (the same can be said of the predominantly white Mormons, many of whom still believe some American Indians are related to peripatetic Israelites). No DNA or other empirical evidence supports either claim.
Of course, truth is a wayfaring stranger in fringe religious groups. Black Hebrews are not the same as Ethiopian Jews. Curiously, Black Hebrews tend to be not only anti-Semitic but also dismissive of native Africans, whom they reject as the spawn of slave-traders. But this is what you get when people have surrendered their critical thinking to an infallible and all-powerful leader.
Black Hebrews are fanatically insular, as Pete Moses' sect illustrates, they practice polygamy and are not beyond taking extreme measures against adherents who buck discipline or renounce the faith.
Pete Moses insisted on being addressed as Lord. That explains life in the haunted house at 2109 Pear Tree Lane.
Court documents accuse Lord Pete of putting a bullet through little Jadon Higganbothan's brain, believing the youngster had homosexual tendencies. Police say Antoinetta McKoy - Moses' high school flame - met her end at the hands of Moses and six others in the sect because she tried to escape.
For Lord Pete, it was his way or the die way. And so they did.
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