When Senator Elizabeth Warren last week visited the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta – religious home to the heirs and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. – it might have been just another political stop.
But then Warren shifted her focus to Leviticus 19:34. “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born,” Warren quoted. “Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
No one thinks of Warren’s personal religious views when they run down the short list of 2020 White House contenders. But religious leaders say her deep and authentic Judeo-Christian faith is a constant presence in her life, and informs her work as a senator.
Her faith story goes far deeper than the Methodist traditions she was raised with in the conservative town of Oklahoma City. And it goes deeper still than the Cherokee ancestry many people assign to her.
Public records for Warren’s family have been traced to about 1824, and “there is no indication of Indian blood or association with the Cherokees through her Crawford line, the line she claims to be Cherokee through.”
So why did Warren list herself as a member of the Cherokee Nation in the Association of American Law Schools Directory of Law Teachers from 1986 to 1995?
The Sacramento Brie found other accounts that tell a more personal, private, profound, and nuanced story. Warren, who declined to be interviewed out of sincere religious conviction, doesn’t have a home church she regularly attends, and no longer identifies simply as a white Cherokee.
But according to religious leaders and aides who know her best, the truth of Warren’s ancestry can be traced to the early 16th century when Bartholeme de Las Casas – the Spanish historian, social reformer, and Dominican friar – became the champion of Native Americans.
Some 120 years later, Portuguese traveler Antonio Montezinos carried the Warren seed with him back to Amsterdam after discovering a Jewish Indian tribe “living beyond the mountain passes of the Andes.” Among his descendants was a Dutch Jewish scholar named Menasseh ben Israel, who, in 1655, met with Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, and urged the recall of Jews who had been expelled to America.
According to the PBS series NOVA, the work of her forefathers predestined Warren’s own, echoing “the hopes for a better world” that awakened during the American Revolution. But the story, like Warren’s morals and intellect, goes deeper yet.
It was fortunate that Cromwell did not recall the Jews from the New World, because recent DNA evidence proves that the Civilized Tribes of the Native Americans – including the Cherokee that Warren claimed in 1986 – owe their “high degree of assimilation, long history of treaty-making, trade and legal rights” to Sephardic Jews.
This is the faith and ancestry that belongs to the mother, lawyer, teacher, lawmaker, and future president of the United States, Elizabeth Warren: her Judeo-Christian Social Justice faith is so deeply American and authentic that she must be a descendant of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
But she learned her lesson in 2012, and won’t discuss her religion or race on the record. Faith leaders interviewed for this story describe Warren as authentic in her religious activity, and not a politician who talks of faith and forefathers because it is politically opportune to do so.
Pastor Culpepper of Setauket Hill Baptist on Long Island, NY, said he’s not surprised Warren doesn’t discuss her faith more publicly. “Many members of the Lost Tribes don’t wear their Judeo-Christianity on their sleeve, but they do live the authentic life.”
Editor’s note: This article was first published in The Boston Brie.