I subscribe to Christianity Today and I’ve listened to CT Podcasts (Quick to Listen) for quite awhile. The last few months have seen a bold shift for them. This time it is a piece from the president of CT calling for a major step in justice: reparations. A loaded word that when people hear it they often just shut down.
This piece is worth reading and digesting.
This is the institution that endured on American soil for nearly 250 years. We shudder when we think not only of the physical torment but of the social suffering—the sense of humiliation and abandonment, that the white society around the slaves was often deaf to their cries and did not view them as human and worthy of love—and we wonder at the profound wound it would leave in the collective consciousness of a people. Slavery in the antebellum economy was one of the most powerful engines of wealth creation in the history of our people. It generated economic and cultural capital that flowed downstream into affluent communities, as well as opportunity for labor and investment and educational institutions that supported research, innovation, and quality of life. Yet it left African Americans utterly desolate.
It is clear this is not about conservative vs. liberal or progressive because BOTH sides have failed in this matter:
Many progressive policies only deepened the social and economic divide between blacks and whites. Social security laws in the New Deal era effectively excluded the vast majority of blacks from federal retirement assistance, and the GI Bill was thoroughly ineffective at supporting home ownership and only meagerly effective at funding college education for black veterans returning from war. As a matter of policy as well as prejudice, blacks were forced into neighborhoods of ever-deepening poverty, and very few could climb their way out. Young people growing up in proximity to violent crime, surrounded by joblessness, family breakdown, addiction, and despair, could not secure a quality education, a home, or a fair shake in the job market. All this is to say nothing of the collapse of the American criminal justice system in the second half of the 20th century, which led to over-incarceration and increasingly violent clashes between law enforcement departments and the communities they serve.
The American Church has been complicit:
Much though it grieves us as people who love the church, it may be that the most monstrous sin of the white church in America was shaping a theology of racial superiority in order to legitimize and even encourage the institution of slavery. Slavery was not only permissible, many white Christians argued, but beneficial insofar as it brought gospel and culture to a benighted people. Even on the eve of the Civil War, preachers spurred on the secessionist cause by arguing it was part of God’s “providential trust” in the Southern states “to conserve and to perpetuate the institution of domestic slavery as it now exists.” If God had ordained the racial hierarchy, who were we to overturn it?
What is the call? Repentance for one. While even THAT is a difficult ask among a lot of white Christians who say things like, “Well, I didn’t own slaves!” or “I’m not a racist.” , the next step is even harder: some way to find restoration through reparations. AND they make a biblical case for it. (For that, you have to read on in the article.)
We are at a significant time in this nation and in the history of the American Church. In the midst of deep sorrow and upheaval we find hope. For that I give thanks.