Virginia Theological Seminary
The Virginia Theological Seminary’s decision to pay slavery reparations ignited discussion on whether or not Jesus would have supported paying the descendants of slaves.

The flagship seminary of the Episcopal Church has decided to reckon with its own slave-supporting past. The Virginia Theological Seminary is setting up a $1.7 million endowment fund for reparations. The school, founded in 1823, used slave labor on campus and did not admit black students until the 1950s.

The Alexandria-based school is planning to use the money to fund projects involving African-American clergy and congregations. Ths initiative “has the potential to be transformative,” according to Rev. Joseph Thompson, of the institution’s Office of Multicultural Ministries.

“Though no amount of money could ever truly compensate for slavery, the commitment of these financial resources means that the institution’s attitude of repentance is being supported by actions of repentance that can have a significant impact both on the recipients of the funds, as well as on those at VTS,” he said. “It opens up a moment for us to reflect long and hard on what it will take for our society and institutions to redress slavery and its consequences with integrity and credibility.”

A Moral Imperative

Political circles continue to debate whether the modern descendants of slaves are entitled compensation for the sins of our nation’s slave-owning ancestors. But for Keri Day of the Princeton Theological Seminary, the case is clear. Reparations are not only a moral imperative, but a biblical one laid out in Luke 19.

“Zacchaeus is a tax collector who has participated in Roman imperial oppression against marginalized Jewish populations,” Day explains. “In his encounter with Zacchaeus, I want to suggest that Jesus sets forth a reparations ethic. … Zacchaeus is expected to give back that which he has stolen so that he can be reconciled with others and God.”

Many scholars, like the University of Connecticut’s Thomas Craemer, have applauded the seminary’s unprecedented decision. Per Craemer, as “representatives of the perpetrating side,” proactively funding reparations is simply the right thing to do.

A Tool to Divide

Others, meanwhile, have denounced the very idea as doing little more than inflaming racial animosity in the name of social justice.

Back in March, John Carpenter of North Carolina’s Covenant Reformed Baptist Church tweeted that reparations would only further racial divisions:

And Jeff Maples of Reformation Charlotte suggested that reparations are a “spiritual poison”, and that Christ’s sacrifice is enough to atone for past sins. Maples continues, saying that the church’s goal should not be seeking economic equality for one racial group over another, but to preach the gospel.

Reparations: WWJD?

It’s clear that Virginia Theological Seminary decided that living with a guilty conscience was not an option it wanted to take. But the question of whether or not Jesus himself would truly back such a move is an interesting one.

In her article Reparations: “What would Jesus do?”, Claudia Allen argues that the Bible consistently makes the moral case for reparations. She cites the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis right up to the crucifixion. “It was for the injustice of sin that God paid reparations in the form of His son Jesus. Was it God’s fault? Did God personally inflict these injustices on humanity? No! But the beauty of God is that He took responsibility for something He didn’t do. He paid a debt He didn’t owe.”

But Pastor Tom Hicks, writing for Founders Ministries, suggests that reparations are explicitly anti-Biblical. “The problem with reparations is that God’s law forbids class reparations for sins committed by a group’s ancestors in the 8th commandment, “do not steal” (Ex 20:15).” Plainly put, Hicks says that in the new covenant, “individuals are responsible for their own sins, not for the sins of their father.”

With many Democratic presidential hopefuls joining the discussion about reparations, the discussion seems unlikely to wind down any time soon. The Virginia Theological Seminary seems to have made their decision, but what do you think?

Are reparations God’s work, necessary to repay generations of injustice? Or are the sins of the past just that- in the past?

18 comments

  1. Sharon Shores says:

    https://www.vox.com/2014/5/23/5741352/six-times-victims-have-received-reparations-including-four-in-the-us
    And the list could go on and on and on….. reparations in my opinion only temporarily satisfies both those giving the reparation and those receiving it. And they do little in changing the mindsets that created the problems/issues to begin with. And this article lists reparations –in the U.S and other countries– https://guides.library.umass.edu/reparations

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom says:

      I learned a long time ago in A.A. that we aren’t suppose to tell someone we’ve harmed that we’re going to make amends to them only in certain ways. To those we have offended that might not be amends at all, but might be an insult, and might add fuel to the fire. Besides that, we can’t make amends for the wrongs of others, but can only clear our side of the street. The only thing we can do to make things right is make sure we don’t make the mistakes of our ancestors.

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom says:

        P.S. That is of course referring to this particular situation.

  2. Don says:

    “What would Jesus do?”
    Regarding slaves, Luke 12:47-48
    And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not [himself], neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many [stripes].
    But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few [stripes]. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

    So, other than whipping and beating them occasionally, Jesus didn’t have much to say about them at all.

    1. Lionheart says:

      You are quite right Don, the Jesus person seemed to have double standards. Sadly, he never denounced slavery. The sermon on the mount would have been the perfect time and place to do that, but he had other more important things to say, I guess.

      🦁❤️

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom says:

      Jesus might have had a little too much vino that day, and maybe even some of that hallucinogenic mandrake they spoke of in Genesis. You can’t hold anyone accountable for everything they ever said, for crying out loud!

  3. Alun Palmer says:

    Pay the reparations. It’s past due.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom says:

      I think it’s called self-defeatism. Nobody is guilty of the faults of others, and nobody can make up for the mistakes of the dead. That sounds totally preposterous, and even ludicrous. We can only work off our own karmic debt. They’ll atone for theirs in future incarnations. It’s not even rational to think that a Nyone would hold the wrongs of our ancestors against us. If they do, they are sickos! Anyone who feels guilty for the wrongs of others ought to be in psychotherapy. And why would anyone care what Jesus would think about. Can’t these fools think for themselves? Do they want Jesus to also tell them how many pieces of toilet paper to use to wipe their asses? Everything Jesus wants anyone to do is in the Bible. For everything else we’re on our own. That’s what I learned about it when I was a silly Christian.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom says:

      I’ve got some past due a accounts. Would you tell them to pay for mine, too?

  4. David McWilliams says:

    Looking across the other comments, it is clear something should be said addressing historical accuracy and to offer insight that many people may be unaware which simultaneously shows that the Episcopal church while thoughtful and may have the best of intent may be greatly misguided in their actual application. Contrary to what is often assumed, most all the people of a genetically “dark skin” heritage tracing back to Africa were never part of the slave trade whatsoever and in fact were never even targeted either! Instead of common misconceptions, the historical slave trade only targeted one single group of people, one sole tribe and minority sub race even for Africa also found explicitly in a single geographical location who is not in any way whatsoever connected with most all of the many other peoples of Africa regardless of color! It is from this specific separate group the word “negro” also originates. It is the same legitimate term which was unfortunately later distorted into instead derogatory slang. In true irony, the majority of many dark skin peoples from Africa at the time were often themselves were purposefully complicit in the slave trade business as traders themselves and the many other “black races” often collected rewards by pointing out to fellow slave traders the location where those very few of the minority group who was being sought could be found. Also contrary to many very bad assumptions, no regular African themselves ever ended up in the slave trade as far as history can tell which is an actual well documented historical fact many people today are completely unaware and most don’t realize. The one group that was being targeted despite appearances also themselves did not originate from Africa but migrated there from Europe and parts of the eastern Middle East in an ironic twist which is why they were not particularly liked even among actual native Africans often all too willing to turn them in for money. Now take the Episcopal church where it would be actually a misguided idea to blindly open up any kind of fund while entirely ignoring history instead basing benefits on “skin color” alone would potentially lead to possibly many people benefiting from such a fund who themselves have no actual family nor even so much as any racial relation to any of the 19th century slave trade whatsoever; this goes especially heavily among those who are of decent of families who also migrated to America themselves from most any of the locations in Africa as the majority of these are again not even the same race despite the most superficial of appearances! Those who were among the sought after slave trade group tended to be more educated and of a lighter skinned color than most of the other often comparatively “darker” peoples of Africa which unfortunately made this particular group also that much easier to identify in the 19th century verses many other tribes and nationalities present in Africa at the same particular time period. While on the subject of historical misconceptions and the 19th century slave trade, it is always amazing just how many people are ignorant of the fact that the United States Civil War had really nothing to do with slavery whatsoever despite common misconception; or, likewise how many people in ignorance and a failing of the school systems don’t know what the Confederate flag looked like which is not the flag that is mistakenly shown in most news articles which is sadly not even remotely close!

    1. Dr. F350 says:

      I’m surprised you didn’t pull the “lots of blacks actually liked being slaves” line that so many other fake historians love.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom says:

      Can you give us factual examples, or are you just running your mouth, making it up as you go along?

  5. Carl Bernard Elfstrom says:

    You ought to read a book by Alex Haley called Roots.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom says:

      Mc Williams, have you ever thought a bout having your fairytales published in the National Enquirer? They love your kind of trash.

  6. Loretta Howell Lillard, PhD says:

    Certainly, reparations are justified to give a hand up to the millions of African Americans that have been unjustly discriminated against in every area of their lives. Beatings and cruel punishment of Africans who were stolen from the homeland, lost their legacies, and denied an education to better their lives deserve reparations to ensure their children can catch up with white Americans and thus, create an equal playing ground. The denial of a free and fair education to all African Americans will hurt many Black families for years to come. There has never been a honest and fair history of African Americans in history books. This education of racial and ethnic studies to help white people and black people to respect other ethnic groups that came to this country in many diverse ways. Whether a student’s race is Black, White, Latino, Indian, Asian or mixed ancestry, every race has a history. This lack of knowledge has created so much ignorance in the United States the its leaders down, it that has cause much grief and injustice to African Americans and their children. These stereotypes has made it difficult for Blacks in the past to get jobs with equal pay. My final statement is that because of extreme cruelty and racism at all avenues including the military, it has fostered PTSD among many African Americans and as Psychologists have discovered it can and has been inherited by the victims children.

    1. Don says:

      “every race has a history”

      That is so true. But why do some races feel the need for reparations while others – like the Jews and the Japanese – picked themselves up, even after horrific treatment, and became a successful people?

      Please be careful with your answer.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom says:

      And how many of the descendants of African slaves have asked for a free ride back to Africa. They’ve got it far better in this country now than it’s ever been over there. No place is perfect for anyone. All kinds of people are discriminated against. I’m not black, but am glad to be an American, in this day and age, despite it’s imperfections. And I’m a poor, white looking boy who could use more benefits, but I’ll never complain. It could be a lot worse, for which I can only be grateful.

    3. Carl Bernard Elfstrom says:

      Not all doctors of philosophy are excellent spellers, but they try even harder than masters. It takes more for some than others. I’m grateful for my G.E.D., and not having a need to impress anyone with titles.

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