How many Black Hebrew Israelites are there?

The recent Instagram post of DeSean Jackson created a heavy dose of backlash for the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver. The post is an affirmation of a quote by Adolf Hitler in reference to the Jews and black people. While this may quote may be misattributed to the leader of the Third Reich, it does not appear DeSean Jackson knew this at the time. The tweet below was correctly seen as anti-semetic.

DeSean Jackson's Instagram post

While much of the internet took to compare the reaction to DeSean Jackson’s post with past comments of fellow wide receiver, Riley Cooper, there is a much deeper cultural question to ponder by comparing DeSean Jackson’s Instagram post to Ice Cube’s Twitter. The tweet below refers to black people’s place in Scripture.

And then there’s this:

Definitely diving into conspiracy theories surrounding religion and the occult.

This is more of a reference to Nation of Islam.

This tweet on the other hand is where the similarities between Ice Cube and DeSean Jackson are clear. They both seem to adopt beliefs from the Black Hebrew Israelite movement.

To be as brief as possible, Black Hebrew Israelites believe that black people are the real Jews. Therefore, Jewish people are impostors in their cultural identity and heritage. This is a false religion in contemporary America, specifically among black Americans.

Many Christians have never heard of this movement, especially if they are white. I had only heard of this movement after I met someone who was a BLI. This presents a difficulty with defining what the movement is and how to combat it.

I do not claim to be an expert on this movement. My expertise is in other false teachings. However, I do want to start a conversation, one that would be edifying for the church. On this issue the divide between white and black churches is apparent, with white churches seldom if ever mentioning it. As for black churches, it’s unknown. Eric Mason, the author of Woke Church, in this book that I do not endorse, addresses this. The inference made here indicates a greater need to combat these ideologies that are taking captive black men.

The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry estimates the population to range somewhere between 40000 and 200000, but this could easily be outdated. Events like the Black Lives Matter movement could easily be driving membership in BLI organizations.

While for white churches, it may be more fruitful to study Mormonism given who white Christians are more likely to interact with, black churches likely need to take aim at this particular religion. However, the pervasiveness of this movement is hard to gauge. There are many Black Hebrew Israelite chapters which presents greater difficulty in gathering data on the population of Black Hebrew Israelite in modern America. The trajectory of their numbers is also challenging to research. But with prominent black celebrities promoting Black Hebrew Israelite beliefs on social media, it’s not unfair to hypothesize that this may be a growing movement among black men. This is a concern that needs to be addressed with further research so that we can equip churches to combat it.

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