Question of the Week: What is the Bible’s perspective on White Guilt?
The topic of White Guilt needs to be properly defined before it is effectively addressed. The concept of White Guilt is the shame that the descendants of slave owners bear for the actions of their ancestors. Given that the popular narrative presents the majority of slave owners as white-skinned, those that share the ethnicity of slave owners also requires them to bear their guilt and answer for their actions. The common biblical illustration given of someone apologizing on behalf of an ethnicity and culture that they didn’t necessarily take part in themselves is referenced in Daniel 9 where the prophet apologizes to God for the sins of his nation.
Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You.
Daniel 9:3-7 (NKJV)
There are many problems with this approach to addressing the atrocities of the past, as well as this approach to interpreting scripture. Starting with the Bible, understand why this approach to Daniel’s prayer is missing the point of the passage entirely. The claim is that the idea of bearing the guilt of actions you yourself haven’t committed ignores the fact that Daniel is addressing his sins in this prayer as well. It goes on to be very specific about what laws and standards they violated, why they ended up in Babylon as a result, and what caused Daniel to pray this prayer in the first place.
in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem
Daniel 9:2 (NKJV)
“As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. Therefore the Lord has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly! “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
Daniel 9:13-19 (NKJV)
Daniel makes constant reference to the Laws of Moses that they not only violated, but were judged according to. Daniel wasn’t taking a modern understanding of idolatry and judging the actions of his ancestors. They knew what they were doing was wrong and on that basis of personal responsibility for his own failure to obey those laws, he was also judged according to the consequences detailed in Deuteronomy 28. The only way an accurate comparison could be made between the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade the United States participated in and Israel’s exile in Babylon is if the Founding Fathers of the United States had included in the Constitution that slaves were not to be owned or purchased, and a prediction that the violation of this law would result in them being taken from the United States and enslaved by another nation. The comparison is not historically accurate to justify innocent descendants of people who were the same ethnicity of slave owners bearing the guilt of actions they never committed.
Going on to address the fundamental flaw in claiming White Guilt is biblical, it assumes that anything an ethnic group has committed in the past shares the guilt of those actions with those who have that ethnicity. Even if you are a direct descendant of slave owners, the Bible acknowledges the plain fact that authentic guilt is determined by the actions of the individual. Not their ancestors or the color of their skin.
“Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. “But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?
Ezekiel 18:19-23 (NKJV)
Hopefully the plain statements in this passage are clear. If anyone is going to bear the shame of committing an action and be required to apologize for it to the offended party, it is going to be the person who actually committed the action to the actual offended party. The concept of White Guilt assumes the opposite of this. If we have learned anything from history, it’s that people are evil. Ethnicity is irrelevant to your character. If you have enslaved someone as a Christian or treated someone as if they were inferior based on their ethnicity, you are sinning and need to repent. Human beings are to be honored and respected based on one factor, they bear the Image of God. If they are His Creation, your treatment of them should directly reflect your love and respect for the Creator. If you accuse someone of crimes they haven’t committed, but consider them guilty of those crimes because of their ethnicity, you need to repent for the exact same reason. The concept of White Guilt is not only incoherent, but racist by definition. It is just as wrong to treat people differently on the basis of the color of their skin when it is light as when it is dark.
A Reason For Hope is a ministry of Calvary Christian Fellowship of Tucson
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