A PROPOSAL TO COUNTER BLACK HEBREW ISRAELITES

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The Black Hebrew Israelites are an unorthodox religious group who target disenfranchised minorities in the inner-city. Yet there are very few resources on this group. I am working on creating a guide for Christian leaders and church members so they can better:

  • Understand the appeal and claims of the Black Hebrew Israelites.
  • Know how to answer the challenges to Christian faith Black Hebrew Israelites raise.

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

  • The Black Hebrew Israelites are a religious group which is growing in visibility, activity and influence in many urban areas, including metropolitan Phoenix, AZ. 
  • There are no in-depth apologetic resources for Christian leaders or church members to adequately understand or answer the claims of the Black Hebrew Israelites.
  • My goal is to generate and distribute such a resource, foremost of which is a physical and digital guide or manual.
  • I also plan on generating and distributing online resources (blog posts, memes) and multimedia resources (audio, video). A few of the resources will be directed towards the Black Hebrew Israelites themselves, such as customized evangelistic tracts.

To reiterate, the problem is there are no apologetic books published on the subject of Black Hebrew Israelites and Christian doctrine. There are only a few scattered online articles. There is a void and I want to help fill it by explaining BHI doctrine to others, as well as refuting their teachings. I want to help vulnerable Christians be protected and prepared. I want to give practical answers to BHI questions and use these in real life evangelistic encounters with BHI members.

WHY DO PEOPLE JOIN THIS GROUP?10451119_1182188515140685_6518594777697587983_n
Many people become members because they are disillusioned with their church experience. Almost all I have met have been poorly churched. They have been at churches where it’s entertainment-driven, where money is the main focus, or where the leadership is the focal point. Those who embrace BHI doctrine often place a high value on Scripture and crave deeper teaching. These churches did not provide serious exposition and it left the (now) BHI members wanting. They also place a value on the law, and many went to churches where holiness was not valued. Church discipline was non-existent and the moral standards were not enforced in any meaningful way. Another problem has been the mainstream evangelical church: they have often ignored or minimized the concerns of the minorities in large American cities. This applies to both historical and current events and attitudes.

THE SETTING
Over the past decade, there has been a noticeable increase in activity, visibility and energy from BHI groups. The main venues they utilize are city blocks, the corners where they set up and yell. There are more groups doing this more frequently. I have witnessed an increase in the amount of YouTube videos uploaded by these groups. Online videos are a key way they spread their message. The videos have greatly increased in production quality recently.

I have also seen an increase in the output of BHI media: especially in the area of book publishing but also music and graphics. Lastly, I have uncovered more of these groups being able to afford physical spaces, renting store fronts and the like. Historically, these groups have mainly been nomadic, meeting in coffee shops and the like. Now more are able to rent low budget buildings where they give regular teachings.

The rise in these groups affects the global church of Christ. The doctrines preached by the BHI affect Christians specifically in large cities of both the United States and the U.K. There are some ramifications for the church in Israel and on the continent of Africa (especially Liberia, Ethiopia, South Africa and counties in West Africa). BHI members have been led astray in a hateful and heretical group and are now leading others astray.

For example, I was on a BHI message board and saw a post from a BHI man asking if he had to divorce his wife. There was no other reason given other than she was white – an “Edomite”, to use their vernacular. Their unanimous answer from the community was yes, he needed to divorce her.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

  • What are the key beliefs and practices of the Black Hebrew Israelites?
  • What are some notable variations and divergences in doctrine and practice between distinct Black Hebrew Israelite groups?
  • What has contributed to the recent rise of the Black Hebrew Israelites?
  • What are common profiles of the average Black Hebrew Israelite?
  • What is the appeal of the Black Hebrew Israelites; why do people join?
  • What can city-dwelling Christians and urban churches do to counteract BHI?

Studying this movement equips Christians to better understand their theology. Writing a Black Hebrew Israelite guide fills a gap in apologetics resources. Access to a BHI guide assists Christians in urban ministry (evangelism, discipleship). After I create the BHI guide, I will distribute it to urban Christians (especially church and ministry leaders) and create mechanisms by which I can receive feedback.

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195
Vocab
Malone
Host, Urban Theologian Radio
Staff, Roosevelt Community Church
Student, Talbot School of Theology
Phoenix,
Arizona

All My Black Hebrew Israelite Related Links

29 Apr
Hey, Internet. Maybe you’ve heard: I’m studying the Black Hebrew Israelites. Here is a list of everything I’ve done so far. More links to come:BHI-Israelites-Black-HebrewInterview with Lisa Fields of the Jude 3 Project (4/28/16)
http://www.jude3project.com/podcast/2016/4/28/what-do-black-hebrew-israelites-believe-special-guest-vocab-malone

Interview with Kyle Howard on Coram Deo
http://www.hipcast.com/podcast/HYPZqYvs

Intro Article on Church Blog
http://rooseveltchurch.org/articles/blog-article/who_are_the_black_hebrew_israelites_aka_those_dudes_posted_up_at_camelback

Follow Up Article on My Blog
https://streetapologist.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/apologetic-resources-on-black-hebrew-israelites/

Discussion/Debate w/BHI-influenced Christian rappers
https://blab.im/grow-the-heck-up-hebrew-israelite-theology-w-hazakim-zadok-lavoisier

An interview I did with an atheist podcast on the subject
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DATpZYBmzo
At http://www.UrbanTheologianRadio.com we also did a whole show on them as well host the audio of my street debate with a local BHI camp
http://urbantheologianradio.com/tag/black-hebrew-israelites/
http://www.backpackradio.com/e/black-hebrew-israelites-08042013/

Slim Jim of The Veritas Domain’s excellent notes on the convo
https://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/black-hebrew-israelites-slim-jims-notes/

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Apologetic Resources on Black Hebrew Israelites

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In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus lays out the Great Commission. It includes the command to “make disciples of all nations”. The Greek word translated “nations” is ethnos, connoting peoples (as in “all peoples”) or people group. Black and Hispanic Americans both constitute people groups. Part of fulfilling the Great Commission is to ensure there are disciples from all peoples. If there are common hindrances hindering certain peoples from believing the truth of the gospel message, disciples of Christ should labor to remove said hindrances.

There is a stran2016-0320-BHI-e1458515908874d of teaching – Black Hebrew Israelite doctrine – which is becoming a serious hindrance towards young black and brown men in the inner city from coming to Christ. They target “minorities” and are thriving in the inner-city. I ran into them on the street and had an hour long debate. I posted the audio online and it garnered a large amount of downloads. Since then, I have received numerous pleas for help from friends who have been negatively affected by this group.

The Great Commission’s charge entails aiding all peoples to become disciples; combating false historical and cultural narratives falls under this mandate. An example is from the ministry of Jesus in John 4, where Jesus encounters Samaritan doctrinal idiosyncracies (“which mountain is the right one to worship on?”). As a despised minority in Israelite society, the Samaritan woman’s objections were tied up in historical and cultural considerations. There is a parallel to be drawn between a group like the Samaritans of Israel and black and Hispanic Americans.

In 1 Peter 3:15, the apostle exhorts Christians to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. Different people in different contexts get asked different questions about the hope that is in them. A black Christian living in the inner-city is more likely to hear these questions:

Look at this picture of this white man. Why do you worship a white Jesus”?
“Don’t you know your Bible is a history book of the black Israelites”?
“Why do you go to a church building, listen to a con man and pay him money”?
“Do you call the white man your brother and attend church with the Devil”?

Most white Christians do not face these objections. Yet, a Hebrew Israelite (and others like them) will ask these questions – and more. This movement especially affects the traditional black church, but also Christian congregations made up of diverse peoples. The black Christian community has been negatively affected by the mini-exodus of young black men from their midst. There are few apologetic resources to help black Christians as they seek to receive and give wise answers. In order to help other Christians obey 1 Peter 3:15, some Christians need to be writing and speaking on the Hebrew Israelite heresy so as to provide the relevant information.

There has been almost nothing done to combat this teaching by orthodox Christians. Still, there are a few books which provide some assistance in dealing with them, although very few books deal with their claims directly (the first two). Here is a small bibliography:

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20 BOOKS TO HELP YOU DEAL WITH HEBREW ISRAELITES

ISSUES CONCERNING BLACK AND URBAN CHRISTIANS
Urban Apologetics: Why the Gospel is Good News for the City
– Christopher W. Brooks (2014)
Black Man’s Religion: Can Christianity Be Afrocentric? –
Glenn Usry and Craig S. Keener (1996)
How Black is the Gospel? –
Tom Skinner (1970)
Beyond Roots: In Search of Blacks in the Bible
– William Dwight McKissic, Sr. (1990)
Beyond Roots II: If Anybody Ask You Who I Am: A Deeper Look at Blacks in the Bible
– William Dwight McKissic, Sr. and Anthony T. Evans (1994)
Introducing Black Theology: Three Crucial Questions for the Evangelical Church
– Bruce L. Fields (2001)

A BIBLICAL VIEW OF PEOPLES AND CULTURES

From Every People and Nation – J. Daniel Hays (2003)
One Race One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism – Ken Ham and A. Charles Ware (2010)
Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian – John Piper (2011)
One Human Family: The Bible, Science, Race and CultureCarl Wieland (2014)
One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology – Jarvis Williams (2010)
Christ and the Dominions of Civilization – Love L. Sechrest (2009)

AFRICA IN THE BIBLE AND IN CHRISTIAN HISTORY
The Blessing of Africa: The Bible and African Christianity – Keith Augustus Burton (2007)
Africa and the Bible – Edwin M. Yamauchi (2004)
A History of Christianity in Africa: From Antiquity to the Present – Elizabeth Isichei (1995)

A PRIMER ON THE REAL HISTORY OF THE NATION OF ISRAEL
Israel and the Nations – FF Bruce (1963)

UNDERSTANDING THE LAW AND THE OLD COVENANT
Five Views on Law and Gospel – Stanley Gundry, editor (1999)
What Do Jewish People Think About Jesus? – Michael L. Brown (2007)
40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law – Thomas R. Schreiner (2010)
From Sabbath to Lord’s Day – DA Carson, editor (1999)

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Vocab
Malone
Host, Urban Theologian Radio
Staff, Roosevelt Community Church
Student, Talbot School of Theology
Phoenix,
Arizona

WHO ARE THE (BLACK) HEBREW ISRAELITES?

9 Apr 4f7a544c-3602-43a0-8318-1590555fa8cf

 

Hebrew Israelite groups gather and proselytize in metropolitan areas. This group is usually made up of black and brown Americans who claim to be the true Israelites and that modern day Jews are impostors. Their presence has been more noticeable over the past 2-3 years. They have stepped up their efforts and are growing locally. This is a current cultural issue, especially in the urban community in Phoenix.

If you live in a major city and haven’t met a Hebrew Israelite yet, give it time – you will. Whether clad in camo or purple and gold, the Hebrew Israelites go where you go. Yelling, swearing, debating, pointing, and loudly pontificating; they go hard. The light rail stop at Camelback and 19th in Phoenix is a favorite spot. I’ve seen them at the State Fair, Super Bowl XLIX, ASU, and Occupy Phoenix protests. They’ve been known to storm in churches and disrupt services. 

Some think this group is so obscure, they’re irrelevant. Amar’e Stoudemire disagrees. The former Phoenix Sun and NBA star identifies as a Hebrew Israelite. When SB1070 (a controversial immigration bill) was the hot topic in Arizona, Stoudemire tweeted out his disagreement with the legislation. The reason? The “Latin community” is part of “the 12 ttribes of Israel,” which is, “one nation under Yah.” Stoudemire is an executive producer of “Village of Peace”, a documentary about Chicago-based Hebrew Israelites moving to Israel in the 60’s. He’s applied for Israeli citizenship and is part owner of an Israeli basketball team. I could go on: St. Louis rapper Chingy of “Right Thurr” fame and Antoine Dodson of “Bed Intruder” fame both came out as Hebrew Israelites. Boyz II Men crooners Shawn Stockman and Wayna Morris claim this faith. Hebrew Israelite influence outweighs their numbers.

If you run into a Hebrew Israelite, you’d be wise to know what they believe. Even though they often yell and curse, knowing something about their ideology can assist you in having a more productive dialogue.

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10 Hebrew Israelite Beliefs

1: Hebrew Israelites believe those whose ancestors were put in bondage during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade are the true descendants of Biblical Israel.

2: Hebrew Israelites believe modern day Israelites and Europeanized Jews are impostors and not the real descendants of true Israel.

3: Hebrew Israelites usually hold the King James Version of the Bible as authoritative. Some only hold to the Old Testament. Most hold to the Apocrypha as well.

4: Hebrew Israelites believe the “time of the Gentiles” means “the time of the white Europeans”, whom they refer to as Edomites. They believe this time is almost over; America and its allies will soon be judged.

5: Hebrew Israelites believe righteousness is achieved by keeping the Law. Strict Sabbath-keeping, dietary restrictions and a certain physical appearance is important (e.g., beards are good).

6: Hebrew Israelites believe Jesus Christ (although they use a different name for him) was a black man.

7: Many (not all) Hebrew Israelites believe “Edomites” (white people) can’t be saved. They are destined to be slaves for Hebrew Israelites after the Messiah returns. Others believe that “Gentiles” (non-Hebrew Israelites) can be grafted into the Kingdom if they keep the law and are under the authority of a Hebrew Israelite.

8: Hebrew Israelites believe both heaven and hell are conditions – mere “states of mind”. Neither are viewed as metaphysical realities as they are in orthodox Christianity.

9: Hebrew Israelites believe you must refer to God as “Yah” (or some other name) and Jesus as “Yahshuah” (or some other name) but their preference depends on their individual sect (which they call “camp”.

10: Hebrew Israelites believe by spreading their message they are helping to gather the scattered Israelites who do not yet know the truth of their ancestry and heritage.

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Five Common Practices/Characteristics

1. The Hebrew Israelites members on the street tend to be boisterous, belligerent and bold. They blurt, blare and bellow. If you engage a  member on the street, be prepared for a noisy encounter. They often enjoy shouting obscenities at pedestrians and onlookers, especially those whom they deem to be morally repugnant (e.g., women wearing pants, black-and-white couples, etc.).

2. Hebrew Israelites craft their own signage. Common images include politicians with devil horns, “white Jesus” portrayals, images of slavery (men with scarred backs, slave ship diagrams, etc.) and the all-important 12 Tribes of Israel genealogy chart. For example, the Tribe of Judah are said to be the ancestors for black folk,
Isaachar for Mexicans and Gad for North American Indians.

3. Hebrew Israelites travel in groups. I’ve seen anywhere from three to a dozen congregate.

4. Hebrew Israelites members love to carry tattered old Bibles. Their message is often peppered with various Scripture passages. Usually, there is a primary speaker and then a Scripture reader. The speaker will shout a verse to the reader, then the reader yells it out – loudly.

5. Most Hebrew Israelites will engage you – to a certain extent. If they view you as “having a demon” (a common accusation they make against opponents), they will act dismissive and aggressive. If they see you as interested (but not too “talky”), they love the chance to lecture and even “cross-examine.”

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If you are a Christian, you should engage Hebrew Israelites when you see them. Why? They will benefit from well-informed brothers and sisters in Christ dropping knowledge. If you call yourself a Christian but don’t know your stuff, study up and come back later – they eat the biblically ignorant alive!

Remember, it’s not just knowledge they need; the Hebrew Israelites need to see authentic love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control and patience. If you are going to converse with them, ask the Lord for a double-dose of the last one – patience.

If you know the Bible well and are quick on your feet, they may show some extra respect to you, but then again, they may become more irritated than usual – it all depends on the makeup of the group and the nature of the crowd. As you can imagine, engaging a Hebrew Israelite in this environment can be intimidating.

My main goal in this piece was to give the reader the basic about the Black Hebrew Israelites. It is not intended to be an all-out rebuttal; I’m writing more in the vein of “heads up my man, coming at you.” In the future, I’d love to tackle some of the truth claims Hebrew Israelite adherents make.
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Vocab
Malone
Host, Urban Theologian Radio
Staff, Roosevelt Community Church
Student, Talbot School of Theology
Phoenix,
Arizona

THE FIVE MOST PATRIOTIC GI JOE CARTOONS

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THE FIVE MOST PATRIOTIC GI JOE CARTOONS
(JUST ONE DAY LATE FOR THE FOURTH OF JULY)

EPISODE TITLE:  “Rocket’s Red Glare”
Reasons: Duh, the title. The story centers on middle class (minority) Americans trying to run a small business. The Joes help them. Oh, and it has people eating hamburgers. How American is that?

Bonus Reason: Roadblock ends the episode with an impromptu freestyle … wait for it.

EPISODE TITLE: “GI Joe: The Movie”
Reasons: The opening sequence; easily the most patriotic 3 and a half minutes ever drawn.
EPISODE TITLE: The Revenge of Cobra: The Vines of Evil”
Reasons: The Joes protect Washington, DC and all its monuments from giant balls of hail. With energy mirrors. Created by a black doctor. Who graduated from Harvard. Try and top that for patriotism.

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EPISODE TITLE: “The Great Alaskan Land Rush”

Reasons: Begins with the Joes transporting the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The Joes fight/cooperate with Russia’s elite force, The Oktober Guard, to decide the fate of Alaska. Cold War era patriotism at its finest.

EPISODE TITLE: “Sink the Montana”
Reasons: General Hawk goes to the Philadelphia Naval Yards to attend the decommissioning of a WWII battleship. The Admiral defects to save his ship. The Joes save the day by setting sail on the Navy’s oldest ship: the USS Constitution.

Bonus DIC episode:

EPISODE TITLE: “Kindergarten Commandos”
Reasons: Cobra attempts to undermine American society by rewriting US history. That’s right, pro-Cobra textbooks for kids. In the end, Cobra is defeated by a group of kids, Red Dawn-style. Sort of.

Learning Shariah at a Phoenix Mosque

21 May 1455863_10153437087750453_664404781_n

There is a well-known mosque in Phoenix, Arizona. It is north of Orangewood and east of 27th Ave. Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, both killed when they attacked a Draw Muhammad Contest in Texas, attended this mosque.Hassan Abujihaad, convicted of handing over military intelligence to al Qaeda, attended this mosque.

I didn’t know all that then. On Friday, December 16th, 2011, I was passing out copies of the Gospel According to St. John on a public sidewalk near mosque. The team I was with was there to discuss Islam and Christianity with Muslims for the purpose of having all peoples call Jesus Lord and be saved from their sins. Here’s how we proceed: I usually ask the men leaving prayer as they are on their way to their vehicles if they have read the Holy Injil. Most people pass by but sometimes they take one and say “thank you”, while other times they say “no” – in so many words or less. However, if they stop or inquire further I say, “This is Gospel According to Saint John in Arabic and English”. Sometimes, we talk more.

One man I spoke with that day was ‘Miraj’, who was visiting Phoenix from the midwest. We spoke for about one full hour. The first 50 minutes were very cordial. I told him he was nice and respectful numerous times. I apologized once for cutting him off in my excitement. He was very patient and understanding. This is not to say I was not troubled by some things he said. Miraj told me Muslims had proof for their beliefs while Christians utilized “blind faith”, that mosques have been burnt down in the United States, and that persecution in countries such as Pakistan was not bad at all (in fact, he claimed the laws there usually protect Christians). Most troubling was this exchange:

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Me: “What if I said anything like that [like what a Muslim apologist I just quoted said about Jesus] about Muhammad in an Islamic country?”
Him: “You cannot say that because the punishment is very clear, like if you say that such thing, you will be beheaded – that’s the punishment and it is clear – there is no two opinions about it – that’s very clear.”
Me: “Listen, my name is Mark. What is your name?”

Him: “Miraj.”
Me: “Miraj?”

Him: “Yeah.”
Me: “Miraj, we just shook hands and we’re talking, we’re calm, I’m not making fun of you, you’re not making fun of me – this is good. But right now if I said something dirty about Muhammad what should happen to me?”

Him: “Well, because here I don’t have all the …”
Me: “What should happen to me under God’s law?”

Him: “Well, then in Islamic law, it’s clear, if you insult Prophet Muhammad, then the punishment is you should be beheaded”.

Shortly after this, a tall young man (pictured in the video below briefly, wearing all white) interrupted us. I had already spoken with this young man the week prior briefly – he was rude and not well-informed. I did my best to get the conversation with Miraj back on track. I asked the tall man to please refrain from interjecting and we could talk again next week.  He said he was going to leave but then did not and loudly dominated the conversation. Whenever he told me to stop and listen to him, he would place his rather-large hands on my shoulders in a less than gentle manner. This tall man said the following to Miraj:  

“Good job, brother. You handle it. Yeah, just stick to the truth like that.  Don’t worry. Don’t be like salty Muslims and be like, ‘oh, no, in Islam we don’t have these things’”. 

I responded: “No, no, he said I should I should be beheaded if I say something dirty. He said this; so you would be happy about him.” 

The tall man said back to me: “Well, of course – you can’t. In a Muslim state that’s the punishment; no one talk about the messenger of Allah.”

I noticed Miraj became more aggressive the minute this other man arrived. He began saying things like this: “It doesn’t matter what you like and don’t like, what matters is what God likes and what he wants. Your opinion doesn’t count – you are no one.” This comment was in regards to my distaste for Sharia Law. This may not seem like a very big deal but for the most part Miraj was not saying things like this before. For example, at one point he even said that Pakistan applied some of its blasphemy laws in an unfair manner against Christians. We continued on like this for a few minutes and the tall man quickly lost whatever patience he had and said the following:

“Here’s what: Islam is the fastest growing religion no matter if you like it and it’s going to dominate the whole world – no matter if you like it. You’re going to be paying the jizyah when that time comes. You’re going to be paying the jizyah.”

I replied: “And you know who is going to judge you?”

“God. Only God.” 

“Yes—”

“You’re going to be paying the jizyah, buddy. It’s going to dominate the whole thing.”

“And this is your dream.”

“It’s going to dominate everything.”

“And this is your dream.”

“It’s not a dream, it is already happening. Yup, it’s already happening.”

Shortly after, the mosque president stormed out, demanding to know what church I was from. He asked if I was from Calvary. He did not believe me when I told him I was not. He told me I could come and talk about Jesus but then asked me not to quote anything from the Qur’an. He said I had to make sure people knew what they were getting was not Islamic. He told me I was deceiving people. Not wanting to be viewed as purposefully deceiving people, I turned to Miraj and asked him if he knew what he was getting; unfortunately, he would not give a straight answer. It did not help that the tall man was still throwing his two cents in. I pointed out that the one article I had said answering-islam.org printed on it. He asked me why it had verses from the Qur’an. I told him because Muslims are not supposed to throw it away that away. In response, he got right up in my face and ripped up the paper – five times. As we continued to speak, he accused me of being a liar and said I was not welcome. I told him I was on a public sidewalk and as long as there was no Sharia Law, I was allowed to be there. The mosque president and I spoke for about five minutes, then he turned and left. The other two men followed suit.

After listening to the audio, there are things I would have done differently. For example, I noticed when the man downplayed Islamic persecution of Christians all over the world, I became agitated. He even mocked the idea of Christian persecution and said Christians do the exact same thing. Even though this issue is dear to me, misinformation is no excuse for me to be rude. Christians must be bold with Muslims, yes, but I also must give them a chance to hear the truth – but only in love. 

NOTE: Some of the audio quoted in this piece can be downloaded right here, on a radio broadcast I did on the topic. Some of the names and such have been changed.

THE THEOLOGY OF ELTON SIMPSON

7 May

We all wonder what makes a killer* tick. People want to know what goes on in the mind of a terrorist. I can shed light on one: Elton Simpson; my former co-worker and frequent debate partner.

The Christian must think theologically about such people. The Christian must not think the murderer – or any sinner, for that matter – is so different, so much worse. The Christian must remember that outside of Christ, we too face God’s judgment for our sin, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Still, not everyone is ready to drive across the southwest United States to commit murder as Elton was. Why? That is the question. The answer: Elton’s theology.

SALAFI ISLAM

“Are you a Wahabist?”, I asked. Elton waved his hands emphatically: “That is the name Orientalists [British scholars of Islam] gave to those who practice true Islam. I am a Salafi.” Non-Salafi Muslims consider the Salafi understanding of Islam to be strict, rigid, limited, and narrow. Salafis believe Salafi Islam is closest to the Islam of Muhammad and his companions. Estimates indicate Salafi Islam is the fastest-growing form of Islam; the headlines indicate Salafi Islam is also the most violent.

Elton Simpson was a Salafi Muslim – and proud of it.

FAVORITE APOLOGISTS

Zakir Naik, arguably the most prominent Islamic apologist alive, is a Salafi Muslim. Naik, along with Ahmed Deedat (deceased), were Elton’s favorite two Islamic apologists. I learned this when I name dropped the high-minded apologist Shabir Ally. Elton’s response: “We don’t all like Shabir, you know.” I asked who he did like: “Zakir Naik and Ahmed Deedat”.

Elton’s response illustrates the divide between academic discussions of Islam and Islam in real-life.
Ally: an intellectual; a professor with an elite pedigree.
Naik: only debates opponents whom he knows he can defeat.
Deedat: notoriously shoddy arguments which suffered from a lack of logical rigor.
Why then are the latter two considered the YouTube Islamic champions of debate? Passion. Rhetoric. Intensity. Perceived devoutness. 

Elton preferred apologists like Zakir Naik and Ahmed Deedat over Shabir Ally.


OSAMA BIN LADEN

Very early in our relationship, I asked Elton his opinion of Bin Laden. “Hero.” Elton gave his answer almost before I finished saying the name. I paused; he looked at me and waited with sincere eyes. He wasn’t goading me; he wasn’t toying with me; he wasn’t playing. Elton was for real.

In Elton’s mind, Osama Bin Laden was clearly a hero – no qualifications needed.

ISLAMIC REPUBLICS

During one talk, I brought up Islamic republics. Elton quickly told me none of the current countries calling themselves Islamic Republics actually were; he found the idea laughable. I wondered what nation could meet his standard, so I asked. Elton answered: “Pre-2001 Afghanistan.” Elton did not think this was debatable, he viewed it as self-evident.

Elton believed pre-2001 Afghanistan was the only true modern Islamic Republic.


SHARIAH LAWTwitter

When I expressed frustration with Elton about the nature of shariah law, he seemed exasperated: “We don’t follow shariah to please man; it is the command of Allah. Allah’s law is not there to make you feel nice and cozy. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not.” Elton’s Twitter handle was “Shariah Is Light”. How tragically insightful! He understood shariah to illumine humanity’s path about how we should live. 

Elton believed all people should submit to shariah law for their own good.


RELATIONSHIPS WITH CHRISTIANS

Surah 5:51 instructs Muslims not to take Jews or Christians as friends. I asked Elton if he could take a Christian as a friend. He indicated “no”. If I remember correctly, Elton waffled a bit. Perhaps he was considering another interpretation of this aayat (verse), such as “don’t take them as ‘protectors’”? I don’t know.

I do know that later on in our first (rather lengthy) conversation, Elton said he would potentially marry a Christian girl. That struck me as odd.

Me: “How could you marry a Christian? I thought you said you couldn’t take a Christian as your friend?”
Elton: “I said I couldn’t have one as my friend. I didn’t say I couldn’t have one as my wife.”

I figured Elton was simply being arbitrary. Since then, I learned there is Hadith precedence for this ruling. Elton wasn’t out of line with Islamic thought; Islamic thought itself is what’s out of line.

Elton’s theology of marriage: your wife is not your friend.


FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Before his death, Elton Simpson went to great lengths to stop an act of free expression: drawing pictures of Muhammad. I do not consider events of this nature to be wise or kind. However, I believe events like this should be allowed. So should the Book of Mormon musical. Same goes for Piss Christ.

Islamic thought holds that creating an image of anything with a soul is haram (forbidden). Drawing Muhammad is especially forbidden. I imagine Elton viewed this art contest as too flagrant to allow; too blasphemous to let stand; too disrespectful to let go unfettered. Somebody had to do something to stop this shameful event – but nobody seemed to be doing anything.

garland-shootingElton must have thought he was the one. This was his time, his chance. Elton Simpson was willing to kill others and let himself be killed in order to defend his Prophet’s honor. For Elton, it was worth it to protect Muhammad’s name. 

In one chilling moment, Elton told me jihad was not one of the Five Pillars of Islam, “jihad was the pinnacle of Islam.” He was explicit: he did not mean an “inner struggle”, he meant a physical struggle against the House of War (the non-Islamic portions of the world).

Elton embraced jihad. Elton embraced death.

                                                                                                                                                                Published 05/06/2015


*I don’t feel entirely comfortable calling Elton a killer; he didn’t actually kill anyone. Yet, I know that was his intention. I know Jesus says “out of the heart come evil thoughts” and “murder” (Matthew 5:19).

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Vocab Malone is the PaVocabstor of Teaching and Outreach at Roosevelt Community Church in downtown Phoenix. Vocab has a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is a Doctoral student at Talbot School of Theology. He hosts Urban Theologian Radio and has many recorded debates. He is married and has four children who have been adopted. His hobbies include reading, coffee, and geek culture.
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