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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Let's just say that America is Manasseh

Herbert Armstrong and his Worldwide Church of God taught that Americans with Western European ancestry were the modern descendants of the Israelitish tribe of Manasseh. According to Armstrong, this explained the material wealth and success of the United States of America - that the people of the U.S. were the co-heirs of the promises made to Abraham (the people of Great Britain being the descendants of Ephraim). Unfortunately for America, as far as Mr. Armstrong was concerned, this also meant that most of the ancient prophetic warnings of the Old Testament for the people of Israel were actually applicable to the United States! Indeed, Mr. Armstrong saw it as the mission of him and his church to preach a message of warning to the American people about the terrible punishment which Almighty God was about to unleash upon them because of their national sins. And, in Mr. Armstrong's estimation, things like abortion, homosexuality, and the "breakdown" of the family were among the most important of those sins.

Now, although this teaching about identifying the United States as one of the so-called "lost ten tribes of Israel" has been thoroughly discredited here and elsewhere, very little attention has been paid to the implications which this teaching had on Armstrong's interpretations of all of those prophetic warnings about America's sins. Nevertheless, this was at the heart of the Worldwide Church of God's message to America and the world. Indeed, Herbert Armstrong considered this identification of the United States and Great Britain as Manasseh and Ephraim to be the "KEY" to understanding Biblical prophecy! Moreover, all one has to do is review past issues of the now defunct Plain Truth magazine to see that he attributed all of America's and Britain's then current problems to the beginning of the prophesied time of "Jacob's trouble" - the beginning of God's punishment for our national sins. Of course, if the initial identification of America and Britain as Israel is wrong, that means that the related understanding of the applicability of those prophecies to the modern citizens of those nations must also be wrong.

However, for the sake of argument, let's just say that America is Manasseh - and all of those warnings about our national sins do apply to us! Wouldn't it be incumbent upon us to explore what kinds of sins provoked God's wrath? In other words, what do those ancient prophecies reveal about Israel's sins? Were the issues that Mr. Armstrong identified (abortion, homosexuality, disintegration of the nuclear family) synonymous with what those ancient prophets revealed about the nature of Israel's sins? And, if we can clearly demonstrate that Israel's sins were fundamentally different in nature from America's "sins," shouldn't that conclusively demonstrate that the Divine wrath and punishment described in those ancient prophecies CANNOT apply to the United States?

First, from the Torah and through the period of the kingdoms and writings of the prophets, it should be noted that Israel's sins were based ENTIRELY on the premise that the people had violated the terms of God's COVENANT with them. More particularly, Scripture informs us of a widespread problem with idolatry and adopting the religious rituals of both the folks which they had displaced in the Promised Land and the nations which surrounded them. This, of course, was a direct violation of the first two of the Ten Commandments, and God's instruction not to learn and adopt the religious traditions of other peoples. In similar fashion, Scripture informs us that the Israelites failed to take care of the poor among them and administer justice in a fair and impartial manner (once again, as demanded in the Torah). In addition to these fundamental problems, Scripture also informs us that the Torah laws, rituals, and other observances which they did continue to keep became perfunctory and meaningless to them. In other words, they were just going through the motions of observing the tenets of God's covenant with them. Under the terms of the Old Covenant, Israel was symbolically married to God, and their violation of the terms of that marriage contract also made them guilty of spiritual adultery! As a consequence, we are told that God gave Israel a "certificate of divorce" and allowed them to be conquered and carried into captivity by their enemies.

Now, one could certainly make the case that the United States has made an idol out of their wealth, military might, and their system of governance. It is also apparent that a reasonable person could conclude that America hasn't taken proper care of the poor and disadvantaged in their midst. Likewise, America clearly does not have a spotless record when it comes to the fair and impartial administration of justice. And it is certainly true that the United States has largely ignored the laws, rituals, and other observances outlined in the Torah. However, if the Old Covenant has been abrogated by God, if God truly divorced Israel, it is hard to see by what logic the United States could be said to be worthy of receiving the punishments designated for violating that covenant! This notion is made even more absurd by the fact that the New Testament is very clear that Jesus Christ has instituted a New Covenant with better terms and promises than those which were part of the Old Covenant with Israel! Hence, it seems inconsistent and illogical that God would condemn and punish Israel again for violating a covenant which has already been abrogated and superseded! Moreover, the national sins which Armstrong and other Fundamentalist Christians have underscored (homosexuality, abortion, the dissolution of the family) are clearly different from the ones which Scripture ascribed to ancient Israel!

Finally, even if we could somehow make the case that America's sins are the moral equivalent of those of ancient Israel, we would still have to explain why those sins should be regarded in the same universal fashion that Israel's sins were obviously regarded by God. After all, even in San Francisco and New Orleans, the overwhelming majority of the citizens of those cities are heterosexual! Moreover, most Fundamentalist Christians (and the majority of folks in other religious traditions) have NEVER condoned or sought an abortion! Likewise, whatever the reality relative to the "breakdown" of the traditional family, once again, the vast majority of Americans still hold up those notions as the ideal. In other words, if God promised Abraham that he would spare the universally wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if he found just ten righteous people within them, then how can we justify God destroying the United States for the sins of a minority? Isn't the principle that universal sin brings universal punishment/destruction? In the instance of the flood wasn't the wickedness of humankind said to be so universal in nature that "every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually"? Doesn't Scripture make very plain that ALL of the people of Israel were guilty of spiritual adultery?

Hence, even if we allow that the United States is modern Israel, it is clear that the covenant, sins, and relative culpability of their citizens are NOT comparable to those of the people of ancient Israel! To be clear, this shoe doesn't fit from whatever angle we choose to try to make it fit! In other words, those prophecies of the Old Testament CANNOT and DO NOT apply to the United States of America, and anyone who claims that they do is justly condemned as a FALSE prophet!


1 comment:

  1. For those who are interested, there is a fairly extensive commentary thread related to this article on the blog "Banned by HWA"