Prominent Southern Baptist Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile said conservative opposition to the idea of reparations for slavery is of the devil.
In a series of tweets last Friday, Anyabwile, who leads Anacostia River Church in Washington D.C., argued that conservatives who believe the broadly unpopular idea of reparations for slavery and Jim Crow is about blacks who “want to steal whites’ money” appeared more concerned about the idolatry of money instead of righteousness.
“I’m sad for folks who hear the word ‘reparations,’ w/o any specific proposal attached, who start exclaiming, ‘Blacks just want to steal whites’ money!’ It’s a retort that reveals possible idolization of mammon and willful blindness to 250 years of stealing Black ppl themselves,” Anyabwile began.
“And the hypocrisy of some self-professed ‘conservatives’ who argue all day long that a person should be able to control their labor but who do not think any recompense is owed for CENTURIES of stolen labor is mind-blowing. It’s a glaring inconsistency,” he argued.
Democrat presidential candidates, like former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, have expressed their support for reparations for slavery. They have yet to offer specific proposals. And, there is a debate among them about whether reparations means direct cash payments or can be broader policy programs, such as financial aid, aimed at reducing the racial wealth gap. Warren has also suggested that native Americans should be included.
Anyabwile continued that Christians who argue that supporting reparations will only further divide the church is simply a continuation of “gospel escapism” that will do nothing for racial reconciliation.
“Then there are those who rush to tell us, ‘Reparations won’t bring reconciliation and will only further the divide.’ What omniscience! And as if the burying of our heads, refusing to acknowledge wrongdoing, and gospel escapism the church has been practicing is healing the divide,” he said.
The Anacostia River Church leader suggested that the refusal of Christians to even consider reparations as an effort to right the wrongs of slavery reflects a stronghold that is not of God.
“There are so many excuses tossed about and rejections even before an actual idea is offered that there appear to be strongholds at work. Perhaps the strategy should be to go back to some basic questions: 1. Was a wrong committed? 2. Is it right to right the wrong? Those are admittedly basic questions but it seems to be where a few Christians are stuck. If a *Christian* cannot answer an unequivocal ‘yes’ to those questions then far more than debate about reparations is going on. More serious soul work is needed,” Anyabwile argued.
“And if we cannot bear to entertain a third basic question—3. What does God in His word require of me to right the wrong?—then, as I said, I’m sad for those Christians. These are the ABCs of moral reasoning. Nothing fancy. But is costly to follow Jesus. That’s cross carrying,” he continued.
More than money however, Anyabwile said he wants Christians to be free from historical and personal guilt over slavery.
“In the final analysis I want something much more profound than the country’s money. I want it’s moral and spiritual rectitude. I want Christians to follow the Way more fully with a glad heart. I want your freedom from guilt—both historical and where applicable personal,” he said.
“The stronghold says you can’t have these things or the cost is too high or the task too difficult or it’s unfair. But where does that reasoning come from when the topic is pursuing righteousness? Hint: it does not come from God or His word. It’s the world, the flesh or the devil. I would have you walk in victory over the enemies Christ has defeated. I would have you walk in that faith which is our victory. I would have you walk in the obedience that comes from faith. But I would not coddle you. Following Jesus is costly. It’ll cost more than your money,” he added.
When Anyabwile responded with three question marks however Carpenter took the opportunity to elaborate.
“Obviously taking money from one group of people — none of whom actually participated in the wrong doing and many of whom don’t have any ancestors who did — to distribute it to others is divisive and sure to inflame racism. It doesn’t take ‘omniscience’ to reality (sic) that,” Carpenter wrote.
Anyabwile pushed back against Carpenter’s response by arguing that American society in general has benefited from slavery.
“I see. Yeah, except that enslavement, Jim Crow, discrimination policies were never solely individual acts. All of them were enshrined in law and policy, making them society wide practices and giving them sanction. The country benefited as is, therefore, guilty,” he replied. “If that stirs ‘social justice Contras,’ so be it. It’s the historical, legal and social facts. The monetary benefit to the country *as a whole* have been studied and documented. I’m not buying into the overly individualized view that allows people to ignore these realities.”
Jeff Maples of Reformation Charlotte, an apologetics publication, argued that Anyabwile’s reasoning is spiritually poisonous.
“The reality is, Thabiti has introduced and continues to push one of the most sinister of spiritual poisons — not only that Christ’s sacrifice is insufficient to atone for sins, but that people of a certain skin color are guilty by that very virtue of generational sins,” he wrote.
During a CNN town hall in Mississippi Monday, Sen. Warren argued that she supports a serious national conversation of reparations because African Americans continue to suffer from the effects of slavery today.
“America was founded on principles of liberty and freedom and on the backs of slave labor. This is a stain on America. And we’re not going to fix that, we’re not going to change that, until we address it head-on, directly. And it’s not just the original founding. It’s what’s happened generation after generation,” she said.
“The impact of discrimination handed down from one to the next means that today in America because of housing discrimination, because of employment discrimination, if the average white family has $100, the average black family has about $5. So I believe it’s time to start the national full-blown conversation about reparations in this country. And that means I support the bill in the House to appoint a congressional panel of experts, of people who are studying this, who talk about different ways we may be able to do it, and to make a report back to Congress so that we can as a nation do what’s right and begin to heal,” she added.
Jason Riley, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and Fox News commentator, criticized both Warren and Harris’ support for reparations.
“Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a town-hall audience in Jackson, Miss., Monday that ‘it’s time to start the national, full-blown conversation’ about slavery reparations for blacks. Come again? Compensating black Americans for past oppression has been a subject of discussion for decades. The senator’s problem is that large majorities of the public have consistently opposed reparations, not that we don’t talk about it,” Riley wrote in the Wall Street Journal.