At the end of my Israel tour, Continental Airlines offered me a generous voucher if I would delay my flight from Tel-Aviv. They put me and one other volunteer up in a beautiful brand new hotel downtown.
The other volunteer, Kay*, was a very nice middle-aged American lady who had been to Israel many times. She is a former evangelical Christian who stands now somewhere in between Christianity and Judaism.
Kay and I talked for a while about religion. She told me explicitly, “I am no longer a Christian.” She argued that the Talmud gives a more trustworthy interpretation of Jesus than the New Testament does. I argued the reverse, of course, and I decided that the most important passage to bring up was the New Covenant promise in Jeremiah 31:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
The point of this all-important passage is that the Mosaic Covenant had a built-in flaw. Not every member got a new heart from God. In other words, not every Jewish man or woman was regenerated—or, in Jesus’ words in John 3, “born from above.” The OT is the story of total depravity winning out over the promises the nation made to obey the Lord. Jeremiah promises that no member of the New Covenant will have to encourage any other member to “Know the Lord,” because knowing the Lord will be part of the covenant itself. This is one of the most essential points the Bible makes: God must change people on the inside for them to truly obey. Race or education aren’t enough.
When I began to quote these verses, I was surprised to find that Kay was already familiar with them. Only she missed the point. She seized instead upon the mention of the “two houses,” Israel and Judah. Then she excitedly pointed me to the writings of Yair Davidiy at Brit-Am (Covenant People), a group whose goal is to show that the supposedly lost ten tribes of Israel are scattered around the world today but can be located in Western nations and brought back to the land. My friend believed that her visceral love for Israel, something which came unexpectedly to her on her first visit, was proof that she was part of one of these lost tribes.
When I got home, I looked up britam.org, and I immediately began looking over their scriptural proofs. The first one I ran across wasn’t promising. Britam finds “representative democracy” in the meaning of the name Manasseh and then surmises that this particular lost tribe is to be found in the USA! But the verse they point to, Gen. 41:51, already tells us what "Manasseh" meant to Joseph: it was a testimony to God’s grace in bringing him out of his hardships. It meant "forget." Even if, by a wild stretch, someone could prove that Manasseh means "representative democracy," which democracy would it be referring to? The US isn’t the only one.
I have seen some pretty wild argumentation. (There are, of course, Christian preachers whose Bible interpretation descends to this level at times.) But I was, frankly, amazed by Brit-Am. They found another “scriptural proof” of their view in the supposed fact that the word "Yankee" (i.e., American) derives from "Jacob" ("Yaaqov" in Hebrew)! “Ephraim” is supposed to refer to the nobility of England; “bullock” refers to “John Bull.”
How could anyone possibly take this seriously?
2 Thessalonians 2 provides an answer to that question. Even though it is an eschatological passage, it is surely true today that there are people who “refuse to love the truth and so be saved,” people to whom “God sends…a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.”
Brit-Am is not only false but embarrassing. I do feel sad that anyone, especially such a nice lady as Kay, would give any credence to it.
*Not her real name.