The white race is magnificent, and has indeed created the world in which live. Surely, therefore, a comment or two on errors on the way to glory cannot be inutile, and might actually be great benefit. Let’s see.
One of the first and perhaps most grievous errors in the white conception of history is the idea that there was a tragic dispersion of the Jews immediately resulting from the crucifixion of Christ. The Christian church, which quickly spread west, being dominated by white European nations, has historically berated the Jews a scattered, homeless, hopeless people, in perpetual punishment for the death of the Messiah.
Here is perhaps an archetypical expression of this sentiment, quite seasoned by the end of the 19th century:
The Jews had forged their own fetters; they had filled for themselves the cup of vengeance. In the utter destruction that befell them as a nation, and in all the woes that followed them in their dispersion, they were but reaping the harvest which their own hands had sown. Says the prophet: “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself;” “for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” Hosea 13:9; 14:1. Their sufferings are often represented as a punishment visited upon them by the direct decree of God. It is thus that the great deceiver seeks to conceal his own work. By stubborn rejection of divine love and mercy, the Jews had caused the protection of God to be withdrawn from them, and Satan was permitted to rule them according to his will. The horrible cruelties enacted in the destruction of Jerusalem are a demonstration of Satan’s vindictive power over those who yield to his control.
This is from the book, The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White, published in 1888. It is is from the first chapter, about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70.AD.
Uriah Smith, 1832-1903
The problem? There was no dispersion in 70 AD. Under Roman Emperor Vespasian, General Titus destroyed Jerusalem, and the temple, indeed; but not people. Judaism immediately developed new centers in Palestine, chiefly under Rabbi (and Pharisee) Johanan ben Zakkai, at Jamnia. Later the general center was moved to Galilee.¹ Jews in Jerusalem who were believers in Jesus did flee across the Jordon to Petraea, but this is hardly a “dispersion.” These were a relatively few refugees, nothing more.
By the first century AD, the Jews were already living in every known part of the world, in significant numbers. (See, ACTS 2:1-1-12, e.g. Also, see Martin Gilbert, Atlas of Jewish History, Dorset, 1969).
The real dispersion happened in 722 BC, under Assyrian emperor Sargon II. The ten tribes of the northern kingdom (Israel) were most definitely dispersed, even to cities in western Iran. (See, II Kings 17:6).²
Interestingly, some of the more liberal Christians of America’s northeast felt a certain guilt about that nineteen hundred year guilt trip they had so rigorously laid upon the Jews. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow certainly expressed his regrets in 1854 when he published a poem entitled, “The Jewish Cemetery at Newport.” It is a truly heart-felt lamentation and remorse over the plight of the Jews, historically; it is profound it its perspective and sentiment, yet, in the end, Longfellow accepts the standard western Christian position that the Jews were doomed to their dispersion, and that they would never have or be a nation again.
So, what happened in 1948?
The birth of a new Israel threw a real curve ball to the Christian traditionalists. After 1948, it seemed that, to compensate for nearly two thousand years of condemnation of the Jews, and endless dramatizations of their homelessness, the guilty Christian evangelicals went overboard, and felt that they must make Israel now the center of their eschatology. At this point, nearly every evangelical, professional Christian movement believes modern Israel is somehow intimately bound up in their Messianic expectations. The closing events in earth’s history are all tied to what happens in Israel.
I for one do not share these interpretations. I’m thinking that the highly aggrandized role Israel is understood to play in Christian ideology is directly due to the profound misconception of the diaspora that has dominated white Christian thinking for the last two thousand years. Christianity is still digesting the existence of modern Israel. Personally, I simply suspend judgment. I do not know what the role of modern Israel is to be in Christian eschatology.
Edward Gibbon, 1737-1794
Perhaps the second greatest error in white, Western Christianity is the matter of the United States in prophecy. It is true that a gigantic prophetic period ended in 1798, and a new nation was to be rising (evolving) at that very time. (The prophecy is found in Daniel 7, possibly combined with Daniel 9) The distinction of this new nation rising was the fact that it was not built on the imperial remains of the past. It would arise from whence no such nations existed prior.
Nineteenth century Christian commentators were quick to seize upon the unique appearance of the United States of America as the obvious fulfillment of these prophecies. One Uriah Smith (1832-1903) was a paramount figure in this interpretation, publishing his interpretations in 1867 and in 1872. (See, Daniel and The Revelation.) Like other commentators, e.g., Gibbon, Volney, Townsend, etc., he placed great emphasis on America arising “out of the earth” (Revelation 13:11). In fact, he noted how that such historians used notably similar language in their supposedly unbiased, unprejudiced, objective descriptions of the rise of America.
His contemporary Ellen White also dramatized this linguistic coincidence. The twenty-fifth chapter of The Great Controversy (1888) is a dramatization of America’s peaceful rise to power, and how the historians used, unawares, the same language as the Bible (i.e., all based on the one phrase, “out of the earth.”)
What nation of the New World was in 1798 rising into power, giving promise of strength and greatness, and attracting the attention of the world? The application of the symbol admits of no question. One nation, and only one, meets the specifications of this prophecy; it points unmistakably to the United States of America. Again and again the thought, almost the exact words, of the sacred writer has been unconsciously employed by the orator and the historian in describing the rise and growth of this nation. The beast was seen “coming up out of the earth;” and, according to the translators, the word here rendered “coming up” literally signifies “to grow or spring up as a plant.” And, as we have seen, the nation must arise in territory previously unoccupied. A prominent writer, describing the rise of the United States, speaks of “the mystery of her coming forth from vacancy,” and says: “Like a silent seed we grew into empire.”–G. A. Townsend, The New World Compared With the Old, page 462. A European journal in 1850 spoke of the United States as a wonderful empire, which was “emerging,” and “amid the silence of the earth daily adding to its power and pride.” –The Dublin Nation. Edward Everett, in an oration on the Pilgrim founders of this nation, said: “Did they look for a retired spot, inoffensive for its obscurity, and safe in its remoteness, where the little church of Leyden might enjoy the freedom of conscience? Behold the mighty regions over which, in peaceful conquest, . . . they have borne the banners of the cross!”–Speech delivered at Plymouth, Massachusetts, Dec. 22, 1824, page 11.
It is all amiss. It is world evangelism gone awry. Not only were there numerous American Indian nations thick and powerful throughout the land, but the Colonies, states, and then the United States, fought violently with them continuously! What of the Algonquian, the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Choctaw, and the Seminole? Imaginary nations, were they? Tell that to the early settlers, and the colonial governments. Tell that to Old Hickory (Andrew Jackson). Indians wars were the most essential shaping element in the history of the United States.
To read these white Christian evangelical interpretations of “out of the earth,” one would have to pretend there were no Indians! Indians did not exist. Indians were not part of the American experience. This is to say nothing of the wars with England, France, Mexico, Spain, and then the great plains Indian nations.
To to really make a point, consider the words of an earlier American author:
Infidelity itself has often afforded unwilling and unwitting testimony to the truth. It is surprising to find with what unintentional precision both Gibbon and Volney (among others) have used, for the purpose of description, in their accounts of nations and countries, the identical phraseology employed by the inspired writers when foretelling the most improbable evens.
This passage was written by none other than Edgar Allan Poe, in critique of Middle Eastern travel, entitled, “A Review of Stephens’ “Arabia Petaea.’” (New York Review, October, 1837).
Edgar Allan Poe, in 1837. Stating exactly what other eschatological evangelicals would state half a century later. What does this indicate?
It demonstrates the profoundly established white Christian interpretation of Western history. More specifically, it states the dominant role of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, in summary: there were no Indians, and America was God’s new Israel.
I don’t know what else to call this but profound bias, though, it is actually beyond bias. It is an understood, unquestioned Weltanshauung, a reality take. Human populations are seldom aware of such takes, but rather simply live within them. The White Anglo Saxon Protestant view is in fact the view upon which America was built. For that cause, we leave it in tact, with due respect. Anyone who values American accomplishment has to do the same.
I simply don’t see any harm in pointing out just what some of the elements in that WASP world view are, and how they may at times involved deep misconceptions, and thereby lead to possibly very mistaken, even dangerous expectations, or at least intensely uncertain, unclear expectations. Indeed, it is in the midst of uncertainty that false Christs multiply.
¹See, Michael Grant, The Jews of the Roman World, (Dorset, 1973), pp. 206, f.
²Even the eminent Yale Professor Sydney Ahlstrom did not have this matter quite straight in his award-winning book, A Religious History of the American People (1974), p. 570, putting more emphasis on the Babylonian captivity of 586 BC, due to the fact that a significant historical Jewish civilization evolved in Babylon. Ahlstrom mentions Sargon (p.569), but unfortunately minimizes the catastrophic effect.