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Are Reparations for Slavery the Right Way to go?

Are Reparations for Slavery the Right Way to go?
The Episcopal bishop of Maryland wants $1 million seed fund from his parishes to benefit the African American community in Baltimore

By David W. Virtue, DD
October 26, 2020

The Maryland diocese of the Episcopal Church is seeking $1 million from its wealthier parishes to make reparations for slavery and systemic racism in order to create a seed fund for programs that would benefit the African American community in Baltimore and beyond.

More than 82% of delegates to the diocese's annual general convention recently voted to establish the fund. Officials said it's a key step in a long-term campaign to confront -- and repent for -- the role the church played in fostering and benefiting from systemic racism in the state.

Sutton recently appeared before the House Judiciary subcommittee and suggested that white people "need" reparations for their souls and to "be able to look" black people "in the eye."

"I'm actually talking to my white brothers and sisters," he said. "You need more than we do. You need this for your soul. You need this to be able to look black persons in the eye and say 'I acknowledge the mistake and I want to be part of the solution to repair that damage.'"

But are reparations being touted by the bishop a way to deal with guilt for past slavery in America, the answer?

Gerald McDermott in his new book Race and Covenant: Recovering the Religious Roots for American Reconciliation says it would encourage descendants to see themselves as perpetual victims rather than forge new bonds of friendship with generations who have always despised slavery and Jim Crow.

Georgetown University historian Joshua Mitchell says there is no way to estimate who pays and who receives and asks on what basis would the account be settled once the checks have cleared, he writes in Race and Covenant.

Derryck Green, a political scientist and member of the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives, writes that this would be white penance but without absolution. Blacks would achieve supposed justice through white atonement, which would be considered necessary for true "equality." In his chapter in Race and Covenant, Green argues that for too many black Christian leaders today, blacks are still victims of white supremacy. They seek consolation in racial solidarity, nostalgic veneration for Africa, and a racialized ideology dependent on white guilt. Being black is simultaneously a source of pride and chip of insecurity on the shoulder of blacks in America.

"If race has replaced religion for black identity, can a Christian identity emerge for blacks that will help them seek reconciliation? On its face, the question seems silly. After all, for centuries in America, black churches kept the souls of black Americans and inspired the country as a whole. The black church is still highly revered as the 'invisible institution' that ministered to the spiritual need of slaves, was the center of black social and religious life, and until the end of the civil rights era was the epicenter of the last great moral movement of our country."

Blacks, says Green, continue to be the most religious demographic group in America, and are more likely than other groups in America to believe that the Bible is the word of God and that it should be understood literally. Black Millennials are more religious than other Millennials. But reparations won't end the distrust: black Christians will still be the victims and white Christians will still be the oppressors. There is no proof that different socioeconomic conditions are a result of racism. The demand is morally wrong; it would be little more than "extortion."

What should the role of the church be in addressing the issues that are of concern to people of color in America?

Green says that when churches and Christian organizations try to address the enduring consequences of racial discrimination (if they engage this topic at all), the starting point is usually the premise that blacks are forever victims of white, anti-black racism. "These churches and organizations then reproduce secular processes of trying to find ways to achieve 'racial justice' for "nonwhite minorities. The obligation is always on white people, in this context white Christians, to curtail their disposition and behavior to "'end' racial discrimination."

"Usually there are few honest examples proving racial discrimination. But they seek the elusive 'racial justice' with no obligation, expectation, or participation required of black Christians that would truly demonstrate equality in the brotherhood of Christ. In these discussions black Christians are not seen as co-laborers in Jesus Christ; in fact, because these discussions exempt black Christians from responsibility, they reinforce inequality. This inequality suggests that white Christians still think blacks are not capable moral agents to be partnered with to overcome sins of separation and racial discrimination. Thus, the process of reconciliation cannot begin, even within churches and regardless of their ethnic makeup."

Even in the multiethnic body of Jesus Christ, we are still not equal.

In these fruitless attempts, says Green, it is always the presumption of white guilt/black innocence and the demand that whites must absolve themselves from the original sin of racism. This presumption simply imitates the way that secular political programs such as Black Lives Matter approach racial issues. They combine virtue-signaling with a look-busy-while-doing-nothing self-righteousness that keeps the "conversation" going interminably.

"The conversation will never end because it is presupposed that the only guilt is white guilt and the only victims are blacks. Even if today's whites are not guilty of enslavement or segregation, they must forever atone for the sins of their fathers.

"This ongoing liturgy would be condemned if it were not stoked by fear and resentment. White Christians genuflect in front of blacks in a ritual act of confession, admitting their white, guilt-by-association sins (racial privilege and 'supremacy') even if they have never personally committed these sins. The next step in the liturgy is for whites to express self-loathing through obligatory sacramental acts of contrition, followed by attempts to seek dispensation, which whites instinctively know they will never receive because they intuitively sense that blacks will never grant it.

Going forward, Green prescribes the way of repentance and forgiveness.

"For black Christians, the implication is clear. Blacks must cast aside--forgive--all past and historical racial slights, real or imagined. We must forgive the physical and emotional traumas that are preventing us from treating our white neighbors as we would like to be treated. This is what the Bible calls love.

"For black Christians and predominantly black churches, the implications are clear. Racial reconciliation cannot be contingent on blacks being compensated for historical sins of racism and oppression by those who didn't commit them.

"Innocent white Christians cannot be made to pay a debt that they did not incur. Nor should they be made to feel guilty for everything thought by blacks to be discriminatory. Blacks should not think that outcomes of inequality are the result of deliberate racism that mandates some form of socioeconomic payout. There is no proof that differing socioeconomic outcomes are primarily or only the result of racism. And the demand for reparations, besides the fact that it is counter-productive, is morally wrong. It is extortion."

Why do liberals ignore the fact that Christians have been in the forefront to end slavery, William Wilberforce for example? Because, says McDermott, they want us to feel guilty. And, as Shelby Steele has argued in his book White Guilt, the anti-racism movement is more about whites feeling good about themselves than doing anything substantive to help inner-city blacks (such as promoting charter schools in the inner city).

The actions of the black Episcopal bishop of Maryland seeking reparations would seem then to be counterproductive to producing the very reconciliation he seeks.

To buy this book; Race and Covenant, click here: https://www.amazon.com/Race-Covenant-Recovering-Religious-Reconciliation/dp/1880595222/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=race+and+covenant&qid=1603736208&s=books&sr=1-1

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