In an editorial published last week, Christianity Today called for churches to “lead the way in biblical restitution” for the history of racism in America, saying that “repentance is not enough.”
Christianity Today’s President and CEO Timothy Dalrymple pointed to American slavery as one of the nation’s “original sins,” and lamented that the church was largely “silent in the face of slavery or even complicit in it.”
“Many of the same ministers who defended slavery in the antebellum South likewise defended the racist systems that followed after the Civil War,” Dalrymple wrote.
Dalrymple also denounced Jim Crow laws, “progressive policies,” and “the persistence of racial prejudice and its enshrinement into the apparatus of government” which he says are responsible for a “catastrophic wealth gap” between black and white Americans.
As for the church’s role in the matter, Dalrymple wrote, “repentanceis not enough.”
“Zacchaeus had not personally designed the unjust system of Roman taxation,” he said, pointing to the story of the repentant tax collector who paid back all he had taken from the people in Luke 19. “But he had not denounced it either; he had participated in it and profited from it. So Zacchaeus did not merely repent of his ways; he made restitution.”
“Perhaps the country is not ready to make reparations,” Dalrymple conceded. “But the history of racial injustice demands personal and corporate response. Perhaps the church can lead the way in biblical restitution.”
“I am aware of one ‘Zacchaeus fund’ in Atlanta, where Christians who believe that African Americans have been subjected to four centuries of injustice and plunder are beginning to do their humble part to make it right,” Dalrymple concluded. “A majority-black committee assigns the funds to support rising black leaders in the church and in the marketplace. It will not be enough, but it will be something. What if there were Zacchaeus funds in every city and believers gave sacrificially, so our brothers and sisters could be restored and so our neighbors could see once again the Christlike love that overcame the world?”
Slavery was a grievous sin and one that should not be taken lightly. Christians are also called to be Christ’s hands and feet in this world, and of course, there is nothing wrong with helping those in need both physically and spiritually.
But to suggest that the Church of Jesus Christ played a role in the perpetuation of slavery and thus should make up for it financially does a gross injustice to the generations of bold Christians who fought against slavery and discrimination for the sake of preaching God’s Word and building His kingdom on earth.
You are not responsible of the sins of anyone else but yourself. Christians can work to heal our nation’s deep-seated wounds with the Gospel first and foremost, as Christians worked to free the slaves and achieve racial equality in the U.S. We do the church disservice to ignore the role of the true church in America’s fight for civil rights.
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