Guilt and Words

Posted on August 9, 2020


Guilt is a word and issue we need to know and deal with. We are facing it right now as the race issue divides rather than unites us a nation with a major election in November 2020.

Webster’s defines it several different ways, from official guilt in the commission of a crime or offense to “feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses” which is the one I want us to focus on today.

The issues are the accusations that “systemic racism” has governed this nation’s history from even before its founding to now—an interpretation called the 1619 Project–, to the need for reparations by whites to pay blacks for the sin of supporting and sustaining slavery from 1619 to 1866 in the nation, and for all of the injustices which followed: segregation, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, etc.

We dealt in a previous Port Rail with the issue of whether the national history of the U. S. is driven by “systemic racism,” while such frivolous and distracting items as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, free speech, the rule of law, the rise of capitalism, the Civil War, etc. are all merely eye wash to disguise the reality of white dominance and black subservience. This point of view is described in the 1619 Project promoted by the New York Times and one of their journalists Nikole Hannah-Jones. It was dismissed as bad journalism and even worse history by a group of historians at Princeton who I agree with.

The reparations issue is based, at its core, on white guilt for the bad behavior of our ancestors. What does Scripture say about guilt and reparations?

The Old Testament says we can bear the sins of our fathers up to three or four generations although it is clear these “generational” sins ae usually against God and God’s laws. Deuteronomy 5:9 says  “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”, On the other hand, Deuteronomy 24:16  says “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin,” and so clearly states sins are not transmitted or generational. Ezekiel 18:18-20 adds: “the son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.”

What does the New Testament say about generational sin? In the simplest way, it does not exist because Jesus wiped our slate clean. Scripture clearly states that we each bear personal responsibility for life and life everlasting, and nothing—like sin or guilt– is inherited legally from the past. We cannot be held responsible for the sins of our ancestors, our children, or our great grandmothers.

Was slavery bad? Sure enough, and the study of the slave experience from Biblical times to today is part of our history and should never be buried, erased, destroyed or otherwise removed from the study of our past. To do so is to mangle the words and images which preserve the past.

History is often a war of words. The act of pulling down a statue of Christopher Columbus or defacing a statue of Ulysses S. Grant is a physical reflection of two elements: one is a gross historical ignorance; and, two, it is merely a symbolic gesture reflecting a set of values driving the Left towards a destruction of culture as it now exists to replace it with the “truth” of socialism or communism.

One must first win the war of words. The radical Left says “we are right, and you are wrong. We set the stage. You have to play by our rules and words.” You can call it names like cancel culture, political correctness, identity politics, wokes, etc. but you are aiming for power, and words, not firebombs, laser beams, and bricks are far more powerful. The actions of a true revolution will follow the words.

Returning to guilt and reparations. If, in spite of Scripture, you still insist on white guilt, remember your history: slaves bought by Portuguese mariners on the coast of West Africa in the mid-fifteenth century were enslaved by other Africans themselves–the kings and chiefs of Africa. Slavery was perpetuated by Africans, so if you insist on reparations, collect your reparations from the heirs of those slave trading kings and chiefs.

Or, even better, dump reparation as another gambit to separate and divide our nation. Take up the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. who preached we are one people, perhaps still evolving, but what a beautiful, Christian message he spoke, and lived. I liked these two particularly.

“We may have all come on different ships, but we are on the same boat now.” And “we must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.” That MLK, Jr’s wisdom came wrapped in a Christian package makes his life, and his example, even more powerful, and, indeed, eternal, far beyond the confines of cancel cultures, political correctness, identity politics, or the wokes.

Published as Guilt and words in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday August 9 2020.