How can we create multicultural church?


Greg Smith writes: Following the international emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, the recent publication of the UK government Sewell Report followed by the Church of England Lament into Action report into tackling institutional racism in the Church of England, there has been considerable debate in evangelical circles. Some of this has been about theology and the politics of race and ethnicity but a more interesting theme is around the desire to develop and strengthen multicultural church congregations. This article will explore the theme out of a personal experience as a white, male, Christian with forty-five years of life experience in multi-ethnic churches and neighbourhoods and of academic and research engagement with the topic of ethno-religious diversity and relationships.

The topic is by no means new. The Faith in the City report (1985) highlighted the growing importance of black majority churches and of racism in society; in part it was a Christian counterpart to the Scarman report which highlighted how urban deprivation, social exclusion and racism in policing had been the trigger for the Brixton uprising of April 1981. If anyone doubts this was real it is vividly described in Leroy Logan’s book Closing Ranks (2020) and Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe” film based upon it. Moreover I can personally testify to numerous incidents that raised my awareness of racism. For example a Jamaican pastor colleague was arrested and charged with affray after being beaten up by white racist thugs when travelling home on a bus from church one Sunday night in 1976. He was only cleared at the Appeal Court stage because of influential white friends who prayed, engaged and paid good lawyers and stood alongside him as character witnesses.

The Newham Deanery submission to the Archbishop’s Commission on Urban Priority Areas (who produced Faith in the City) was based on research, in which I was involved, documenting the varied church life of West Ham. We found a growing number of minority ethnic churches alongside several in the historic denominations where members from various ethnic groups worshipped together regularly, some where Black people were in the majority yet few with any Black people in ministry or leadership. Based on this and subsequent research I wrote numerous pieces about the theory and practice of multi-ethnic churches including:

Evangelicals for Racial Justice : a brief history

From the mid 1970s a group of Evangelical Christians who were ministering in increasingly multicultural areas mainly in London and the Midlands came together to form the Evangelical Race Relations Group. In the early days members were predominantly white male clergy such as David Bronnert and John Root, or returned overseas missionaries such as Maurice Hobbs and Dorothy McQuaker, but as interest in the issues of race and the church grew the membership grew and became more diverse. The Evangelical Alliance was supportive, leaders from the New Testament Church of God and other Black Majority churches became involved.

Large annual conferences were held, a quarterly journal was published and enough funding was raised to employ a series of development workers, (Sue Conlan, Raj Patel, Clarice Nelson, Bev Thomas). Most of these were from ethnic minority backgrounds and were tasked with educating churches and developing groups and networks to work on issues of racism. In the mid 1980s the group was rebranded as Evangelicals for Racial Justice (ECRJ) with an explanation that “eek raj” in Hindi translates as “one Kingdom”. The manifesto shown below summarises a basic Biblical theology of race and suggests some action points relevant in the context of those times, most of which remain valid today.

Most of the publications of ECRJ and its associated networks are publicly available in this archive google Drive folder including the groundbreaking New Humanity Study Course. Our thinking within ECRJ engaged not only with the Bible but with the sociological and historical analysis of racism. The study course covered the history of Empire and slavery, the post war patterns of immigration and settlement in British cities, and the discrimination faced by Black people in housing, employment, education, immigration and the church. The sociological analysis of ethnicity, race, culture, religion and identity formation drew on the social constructionist approach developed in my Christian Ethnics and reiterated in my more recent Temple Tract on evangelical identity (p9 ff).

John Root explores this helpfully from the angle of Biblical theology in this edition or his excellent weekly blog which should be required reading for any Christian with an interest in living in a multi-cultural society. In the 1980s Critical Race Theory, (which is discussed extensively and more intelligently from a Christian perspective in this blog by Willian Murell than anywhere else I have seen) let alone the recent ill-informed “culture wars” rejection of it by many evangelicals, was unheard of. The contextual hermeneutic of Black Liberation Theologies was in its infancy. Nonetheless in discussions within ECRJ we drew some valuable insights and encouraged our Black and Asian Christian members to develop and articulate their own versions of contextual theology and racial justice activism.

Racism—personal and systemic

35 years on I and many other anti-racist Christians feel a deep disappointment and dismay that we are having to rehearse again the theology and social understandings we had come to see as established positions, and to engage in arguments with a new generation of evangelical Christians.

It is true that there have been some significant changes for the better. Black majority churches are thriving, accepted as part of the ecumenical family and have produced a cadre of outstanding leaders and theologians. Very few white people in the church or wider society are happy to be labelled as racist, or to use the language and stereotypes which were common a generation ago. Some ethnic minority groups are doing better than they were, when measured by educational or economic statistics, or even in terms of church and political leadership opportunities, and in comparison with some white working-class people who live in areas of multiple deprivation.

Yet on so many other measures, from the risk of being a victim of hate crime, to being stopped and searched by police, living in poor quality housing, being deported from or prevented from entering the UK, to becoming seriously ill or dying from Covid, to feeling unwelcome or unappreciated as a potential leader in church, people of colour face discrimination and racial injustice on a more or less daily basis. The situation has not been helped in the political climate which led to Brexit, and the populist nationalism which has had electoral success in Britain, much of Europe and on the other side of the Atlantic. Without understanding these realities and listening carefully to the voices of Black brothers and sisters who have experienced these issues there is little hope of building a healthy multi-cultural local church.

One of the stumbling blocks seems to be is that a significant segment of white evangelical Christians are in denial about four aspects of contemporary racism.

First, evangelical protestants generally operate from a very individualistic perspective on faith and morality. They tend to say that only individual human agents can sin or “miss the mark” thus causing harm to other individuals. Thus as long as they don’t beat up a black neighbour, call them racist names or directly discriminate in a job interview or tenancy agreement they cannot be racist. They may go on to deny that institutional or systemic racism exists or that it can be considered sinful or in need of redemption.

A more complete Biblical theology would understand that the fall has implications for social institutions and indeed the whole created order. The Bible is clear that whole societies or nations can and do sin. We are all members of a body, firstly of the church and also of wider society, and the doctrine of total depravity suggests that both of these are infected with and prone to sin. Corporate repentance would be to acknowledge in public the specific elements of such sin, the way we have participated in and benefited from it, through ignorance weakness and our own deliberate fault.

Secondly, affluent white Christians sometimes hold views which are conservative politically and economically and sometimes slip into thinking that everything they own and enjoy are the rewards of their own hard work rather than the gracious gift of God. Even when recognizing the radical equality of all human beings as sinners before the cross it can be hard to accept that they in this world at least enjoy power and privilege. They can become uncomfortable when it is suggested that some of this is linked to their whiteness, and fail to recognize that because of slavery, Empire and racism the mainstream church and society in Britain has enjoyed power, prosperity and privilege, and continues to tolerate racial injustice to this day.

Thirdly, many white British people have a limited and biased understanding of history. School lessons barely scratch the surface when it comes to the horrors of imperialism and the slave trade on which our prosperity was built, or the way this was built on a false ideology of “scientific racism”. Britain is still portrayed as the best of all possible nations in which to be born. Within the church there is still an element of glorying in the Christian civilisation which we once enjoyed and the heroic efforts of missionaries to evangelise the colonies with lament that these days have passed.

Furthermore the good news story of the abolition of the slave trade and slaveholding is almost always told through the lens of privileged white men such as Wilberforce, Thornton and the Clapham sect while the amazing contribution of Black Christians in the 18th 19th Century to the abolition movement been whitewashed out of evangelical history. In our desire to see multicultural churches it is important to revaluate some of our readings of history and one of the best places to start from a Christian perspective is the Movement for Justice & Reconciliation.

Fourthly, most white-led evangelical churches struggle with the concept of political activism on issues of racial justice. The focus is sometimes narrowly on the life of the church and fails to recognize a calling to be salt and light on the reform and transformation of wider society. Multi-cultural churches are sometimes challenged into advocacy roles for individuals in their church or community who may have been victims of hate crime, discrimination in employment or service provision or are badly treated over immigration and asylum claims.

Such episodes do offer an opportunity to discern where there are patterns of injustice and widen the scope of advocacy to other neighbours, of other faiths and none. I am proud of our own local church’s decision to support financially and in other practical ways a local Muslim woman and her children, who were destitute, and deserted by the husband and father, who had no recourse to public funds because of her undocumented immigration status. Yet so far it has been a step too far to petition the government about the injustices of the new immigration legislation.

Multi-cultural Local Churches

So at last we can move on to some of the practicalities of building and pastoring multi-cultural local churches. I hope that almost every evangelical Christian concerned with this issue would find the Biblical principles set out in the ECRJ manifesto uncontroversial. However, what this means in terms of ecclesiology and practice is going to be context and locality dependent. In metropolitan areas such as Greater London, the West Midlands and Manchester there are thousands of Christians from every nation under the sun, and a variety of thriving churches some of which have diverse congregations and others which attract the diaspora communities of a single people group.

Even in a small city like Preston (population approx 150,000) we find several mainline and independent churches with significant ethnic minority membership alongside “ethnic churches” such as the long established Seventh Day Adventists with a majority of people from Caribbean or African heritage, a Chinese fellowship, an Urdu speaking South Asian Group, Nigerian Redeemed Church of God, Romanian Orthodox and Pentecostal congregations, a South Indian Syrian Orthodox group, Iranian Farsi speaking fellowships and several Polish Catholic parishes. However just down the road in Burnley multiculturalism means a dualism of South Asian Muslims and White English “Christians”. A few miles away in Blackpool or Fleetwood ethnic minority populations of any type are a tiny minority.

Therefore an appropriate multiculturalism in the church is context dependent and subject to changing local demographic factors such as residential segregation, white flight, urban churn, and gentrification. In some places it may simply not be possible to develop a multi-cultural congregation or even, as second best, good fellowship and working together in mission across the multiple congregations that form the diverse people of God. London is one of the few cities where extensive research on church ecology has taken place most notably in the 2019 volume by Goodhew and Cooper which I review and reflect on here. Further thoughts on the diversity of the urban church are found in my unpublished conference presentation Reassembling The Urban Church.

Recent research for a doctoral thesis by Jessamin Birdsall offers some fascinating insights about the different ways British evangelical Christians frame their thinking about multi-cultural local churches. The limitation of the research is that it is confined to the Greater London area, where there is ethno-religious super-diversity, and a thriving religious market in which Christians may choose to worship at mega-churches within commuting distance, in a multi-ethnic or mono-cultural congregation, or in a small parish church in the neighbourhood where they live.

The thesis is well summarised in this interview with the author who gives an email address if you want to ask her for a copy of her full thesis. I will attempt to summarise her typology of approaches to multiculturalism in the church, and comment on the strengths and weaknesses of each frame. Clearly these categories are ideal types and should be seen as a spectrum rather than bounded sets, with the possibility of nuance and overlap in local churches and even in the thinking of individual Christians.

1. Race and Culture is irrelevant. This frame seems to be particularly common among white-led Conservative Reformed Christians. Essentially it is colour blind and culture blind. The assumption is that all those who are born again are members of God’s family with a new identity in Christ that transcends all ethnicities, cultures and other identities. There is little or no room for contextualised hermeneutics or theologies; what matters is faithful and authoritative exegesis of Scripture, which is taken to be objective truth.

It seems to me there are two major weaknesses in this approach. Firstly the theology, doctrine and life world application will be derived in an unquestioning way within the framework of systematic theology expounded almost exclusively by highly educated white European men in the Reformed Protestant tradition, even in the unlikely event that preaching and teaching is delivered by a person of colour. Secondly this type of church will be attractive mainly to university educated Christians who long for clarity and certainty, so that while there may be ethnic diversity within the congregation it is less likely to be inclusive in terms of social class and for people whose faith is more focussed on an emotional connection with Jesus.

2. Multiculturalism is essential to the nature of church. Here it is taken for granted that God who put the rainbow in the sky has also created a beautiful diversity of people groups with their different languages and cultures. By the Spirit he has spoken in polyglot languages at Pentecost and since, and has called people from every language, tribe and nation into the new humanity in Christ. Reference is often made to Revelation Chapter 5; 6-10 where the vast international choir is implicitly assumed to be offering praise in diverse languages and musical forms.

There is much to commend this framework, though it is exceptionally difficult to put into practice within a single local congregation, or even in a thriving network or ecumenical fellowship that represents the whole of Christ’s church across a city or borough. Furthermore it fails to recognize any sense of ethnic hierarchy in society and church and can fail to address questions of equality and justice, implicitly accepting the persistence of white privilege.

3. Multiculturalism is instrumental for mission and evangelism in urban diversity. In some ways this framework is a variation on type 2, though here the focus is on mission. In Matthew 28; 19-20 the risen Jesus tells his disciples: ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’. Since globalisation has brought diaspora communities to our neighbourhood it is important to offer the gospel to all of them and disciple new believers into the local church. At its most basic level the concern is to develop a strategy for church growth, either for the local church or a wider denomination.

While such a mission focus is a noble aspiration, experience suggests it is difficult to achieve. Most church congregations in diverse urban areas seem to be struggling to survive and do not have the resources to employ specialist evangelists for even one of the minority communities in their area. Few among the church membership will have the cross cultural skills or confidence, or the social networks to reach out to people of other ethnicities or faiths. If the church calls someone to a specialist “ethnic outreach” ministry it is all to easy for them to become marginalised from the church, and for groups of believers worshipping in a heritage language or cultural form to become a separate congregation unconnected with the sponsoring church. This has happened to a friend of mine who is Pakistani priest, commissioned by the diocese to plant and pastor congregations of South Asian Christians across a wide geographical area. The job description fits with wider mission and church planting strategy but does little to build multi-cultural local churches.

4. Multiculturalism in the church as a barrier. The fourth frame of Christian thinking about multiculturalism in the church regards it as a hindrance to the healthy development of churches and the growth of the realm of God. It is most likely to be articulated by Christians from ethnic minority backgrounds, though it has some unfortunate resonances with some of the Christian narratives of apartheid South Africa or the segregation era in the South of the USA. There are two lines of argument that may be advanced both of which seem more pragmatic than derived from Scripture or doctrine.

Firstly, attempts to be multicultural are a barrier to outreach and church growth, especially among recent immigrant communities who have a strong sense of group identity, extensive social network bonds, communicate mainly through their minority language and desire to maintain their heritage and culture. The argument here is one in support of Homogeneous Unit Principle of Church growth which has been critiqued earlier.

The second argument is that multicultural churches do little to advance the cause of racial justice in church and society. The logic of these claims is that it is better for minority communities to gather together in churches where they can gain confidence in their faith and identity, become self sufficient and self propagating, identify and develop strong “indigenous” leadership and exercise agency rather than dependency on “white saviours” in political and social action, and even in evangelism and mission. The book World Christianity in Western Europe: Diaspora Identity, Narratives & Missiology is a valuable set of case studies and reflections on the situation internationally. It is edited by Rev Israel Oluwole Olofinjana who has recently been appointed to a key role in the Evangelical Alliance’s One People Commission which is playing a leading role in thinking and practice around multi-cultural church.

Case studies Churches in Multi-ethnic communities.

In conclusion I believe that frame 2 which sees multiculturalism as essential should be the favoured option on theological grounds, though in the real world of British cities we need to recognize that option 4 is alive and thriving. I don’t know any churches that live up perfectly to the ideals of 2, but I’m aware of some in London and elsewhere who have gone a long way towards it. The examples I know are mostly among Baptists or Methodists, although Jessamin Birdsall’s research mentions a couple of Anglican parishes that have developed over several decades as thriving and healthy multicultural churches. Jon Kuhrt has written about his church in Streatham as a social melting pot. When we lived in Newham we belonged to a majority black, white led Baptist church which had also made good progress. Several years ago I told an anonymised version of its story which you may read here.

Multicultural churches are desirable, and can be exciting illustrations of the realm of God. But they are my no means easy to achieve. Long term commitment to the vision of a multicultural fellowship plus an abundance of grace and agape love seems to be the secret of success.


Greg Smith has worked for over forty years in urban mission, community development and social research in London and Preston. Until retirement in 2019, Greg worked for Together Lancashire, supporting faith-based social action and urban churches. From 2011 to 2016 he also worked for the Evangelical Alliance managing the 21st Century Evangelicals research programme and continues to analyse and publish academic papers based on the data.


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88 thoughts on “How can we create multicultural church?”

  1. This is going to take time to absorb and respond to properly, and will likely not see the engagement such an important article should. But I did want the first comment to be one of thanks for a stimulating, encouraging, but most of all challenging article.

    A lot of food for thought….

    Reply
  2. Agreed, Mat.
    There is almost too much to give careful consideration to in a blog article and one that is wider than the CoE and to pick up on one or two points only, would be to diminish it.
    Many thanks for the article, a product, which appears to be, if I may say, of many years in faithful ministry.

    Reply
  3. Surely a church should simply seek to minister to the people called to it, and in a parochial system, those in the parish. How should a church in a pretty much exclusively white area respond to a call to be multicultural?

    Is this call equally valid, for example, to heavily black majority churches? Should we expect them to reflect wider society and introduce white practice and theology? If not, why not?

    Reply
    • There is acknowledgement of geographical, place differences, comparing London, (including West Ham); Preston to Burnley to Blackpool ( but maybe not relating exclusively to CoE denomination).

      Reply
    • Yes indeed. But the evidence suggests that that is not actually happening, and people are not noticing it.

      Why are C of E city churches less ethnically diverse than their contexts? In part, because their culture is not open, in part because there is some history, in part because cultural minorities like to meet together, and in part because multicultural church is hard work.

      All these need to be explored if we are to pursue that vision for parochial ministry with self-awareness.

      Reply
  4. Greg, Thanks for this. A historical point: from its inception in the early 70s Evangelical Race Relations Group included significant minority ethnic leaders such as Patrick Sookhdeo and Morris Stuart.
    As you say, sadly little has developed over the past 40 years – my 1994 Latimer booklet “Building Multi-racial Churches” has just been republished. It shouldn’t be as relevant as it is!
    Part of the weakness I think is that there has not been a means of holding and building upon shared experiences, which ERRG/ECRJ once provided. Typological analysis of approaches and churches is only secondary to what is actually happening on the ground in churches; and here there are good stories, but they need bringing together – good practice shared, theology and vision refined, students and newly ordained inducted. We badly lack an on-going learning community. My blog (at [email protected]) aims to provide this sort of shared, growing understanding.
    Greg, that we have only recently made contact with each other again after a gap of 25 (?) years may illustrate the problem.

    Reply
    • Thanks John… yes it’s interesting that ERRG emerged in the 1970s… (you were involved a bit before me and I only just remember Morris Stewart being involved, while my links with Patrick were in the local context of Newham so I had failed to recall his involvement. I know ERRG tried hard to involve Black leaders, we did also have Stanton Durant on the committee in those early days, but it was as you are aware a slow process).

      Yes it is interesting that ECRJ continued into the mid 90s and then lost steam and it is only since BLM last year that some networks have been resurrected and a new generation has become concerned. Was it that we became complacent that society and church were going in the right direction on racism? Was it rather that the baton was passed to other more ecumenical agencies – the Evangelical Alliance certainly became more diverse in leadership, while friends and allies the CTBI CRRU also took up the cause. Anyway it is good to be back in touch and I hope and pray that reflecting on the history will move things forward.

      Reply
  5. If British wealth was caused by two hundred years of slavery then should we not expect to see Africa being far richer than Britain on account of their multiple millennia of slavery? How is it that we are so much richer than any point in history based on a slavery banned over two hundred years ago? In truth, we owe our success less to slavery than Savery. Although, he is ‘pale, male and stale’. And the forces that actually made the serious contributions to the business of abolishment of were also stale, male and pale (Although certainly there did exist a small minority of free black people at the time who were gladdened by the success of the campaign.) It isn’t white-washing, it is the truth. You can not build peace on lies and double standards and distorted evidence. You say that school lessons ‘barely scratch the surface’ of imperialism. Do they mention at all the Berbers? When the talk about how the Romans were full of black people – so take that, racists – do they point out in the same-breath their enslavery of the British? Or do they focus with the focus of a greyhound of a small period of less than two hundred years, like an abusive husband who holds the one time his wife slapped back over her head for the rest of her life.

    If Britain’s evils are so great that they need to be the utter focus of everything, whereas black history is to be celebrated. Does that make black culture superior? If not, then how do you square that circle? If so, then do black people have to repent for feeling culturally superior? If not, then why the double standard? Because of the Atlantic slave trade? What makes two hundred years two hundred years ago so ontologically significant as to make everything else resolve around it?

    One thing, in the 1989 manifesto it calls the 1981 Nationality Act evidently racist. How so? My online research hasn’t shed much light.

    Reply
    • “If British wealth was caused by two hundred years of slavery then should we not expect to see Africa being far richer than Britain on account of their multiple millennia of slavery?”

      Because, in contrast with slave labour in Africa, the transatlantic slave trade demanded industrial levels of forced output:
      “A First Gang slave was expected to dig out between 60 and 100 squares each day, which involved moving as much as 1,500 cubic feet of soil.”

      While slavery is evil in any context, African slavery, as described by explorer Mungo Park, did not impose the harsh levels of forced manual labour output that was required to sustain the levels of sugar production that made the transatlantic slave trade so lucrative.
      “ The slaves in Africa, I suppose, are nearly in the proportion of three to one to the freemen. They claim no reward for their services except food and clothing, and are treated with kindness or severity, according to the good or bad disposition of their masters. Custom, however, has established certain rules with regard to the treatment of slaves, which it is thought dishonourable to violate. Thus the domestic slaves, or such as are born in a man’s own house, are treated with more lenity than those which are purchased with money. … But these restrictions on the power of the master extend not to the care of prisoners taken in war, nor to that of slaves purchased with money. All these unfortunate beings are considered as strangers and foreigners, who have no right to the protection of the law, and may be treated with severity, or sold to a stranger, according to the pleasure of their owners.”
      Travels in the Interior of Africa, v. II, Chapter XXII – War and Slavery

      I won’t engage with the rest of your comment, which comes across as a defensive rant

      Reply
      • You mention the work required from the African slave in the Caribbean, but not the work required from the slave in Africa. And the travels that you quote “But these restrictions on the power of the master extend not to the care of prisoners taken in war, nor to that of slaves purchased with money. All these unfortunate beings are considered as strangers and foreigners, who have no right to the protection of the law, and may be treated with severity, ” hardly suggests that they did not try to get all the labour that they could get from certain of their slaves.

        And the slave taken by the Barbary pirates? He was not outside with his companions. He was chained to his post. No mere twelve hour shift for him. He urinated where he was chained, and he defected where he was chained. He was permitted only the sleep that human flesh required. Otherwise, he was rowing the massive ship along. Moving more cubic feet of ocean water than man can measure.

        No, it seems to me that the African had quite the same drive to get all the work out of his vanquished lowest-of-the-low slave as the European did. And yet how the civilizations of the Europeans and the Barbaries developed could not be more distinct.

        Reply
        • “And the slave taken by the Barbary pirates? He was not outside with his companions. He was chained to his post. No mere twelve hour shift for him.”

          We might agree that such slaves were subject to the same abject conditions as those who were forced into slave-ships that crossed the Atlantic.

          In fact, I wrote that “all slavery is evil”.

          Nevertheless, you might well argue that, while the latter were packed like sardines for the one to six month journey (depending on weather) and also defecated where they were chained, their captors granted them the ‘luxury’ of not having to row the ship along!

          And when compared to slavery in service of a pirate ship’s journey is not nearly as lucrative as slavery in service of sugar production.

          “ And yet how the civilizations of the Europeans and the Barbaries developed could not be more distinct.”

          Almost a rationalisation for the ‘civilising mission’. While Rudyard Kipling (‘White man’s burden’) would concur, that’s hardly Christian.

          Reply
          • I mean it was more like “all slavery is evil, BUT”. If we agree that all slavery is evil, then you ought to agree with me that the omni-focus on a tiny sub-set of slavery is unjust.

            Rudyard Kipling was a fine Christian and a great thinker and poet. If all slavery is evil, then should we not praise the civilising mission that transformed warring slave states to states that can be free? If we would not let white people get away with it, what makes it a Christian duty to allow black people to get away with it?

            If the Barbary pirates and the Europeans were both trying to derive full work from their slaves, then the difference in outcomes cannot be the result of trying to get full work from their slaves. If slavery is the road to prosperity, why was it the non-slaving Europeans who got to the new world? How did they overcome the slave-owning natives. Why did the United States defeat the Confederacy. Slavery – like most perverse wage-reducers – is a poison that enriches some while impoverishing the nation. If slavery was not adopted then there would still be sugar – a little less of it, a little less profitable, sure, but it did not change our civilization.

            Also, the person who credits the two hundred years of the Atlantic slave trade with the modern world has to ask ‘was it worth it?’. Improvements to birth outcomes and the later abolishment as just two things. I have never seen somebody who takes your position confront that issue.

          • “I mean it was more like “all slavery is evil, BUT”.
            No, I meant what I wrote: “slavery is evil in any context.” My further statement was not a mitigation, but, instead, I replied to your ‘straw man’ argument that: “If British wealth was caused by two hundred years of slavery then should we not expect to see Africa being far richer than Britain on account of their multiple millennia of slavery?”

            It’s a straw man because neither the OP, nor anyone else here has argued that British wealth was caused by slavery. What I highlighted was the comparatively more lucrative exploitation of slavery for sugar production in contrast with piracy.

            Yet, you repeatedly compound your ‘straw man’ fallacy by asking: “If slavery is the road to prosperity, why was it the non-slaving Europeans who got to the new world?” and stating “Also, the person who credits the two hundred years of the Atlantic slave trade with the modern world.”

            I have neither mentioned nor implied that slavery is the sole route to prosperity, nor that it is to be credited as responsible for the modern world , but that hasn’t stop you from trying to attribute falsely that assertion to me.

            “Rudyard Kipling was a fine Christian and a great thinker and poet.”

            “The white man’s burden” peddled white supremacist notions and negative racist stereotypes in order to exhort the US to adopt a ‘manifest destiny’ policy towards the Philippines.

            It is inimical to Christianity, as revealed in the New Testament.

            I have no interest in further engagement with your ‘straw men’. They merely reveal the weakness of your thinly-veiled white supremacist assertions.

          • You replied to me. You replied to the statement “If British wealth was caused by two hundred years of slavery then should we not expect to see Africa being far richer than Britain on account of their multiple millennia of slavery?” with an argument against that.

            This article says “many white British people have a limited and biased understanding of history. School lessons barely scratch the surface when it comes to the horrors of imperialism and the slave trade on which our prosperity was built, “, how is ““If slavery is the road to prosperity, why was it the non-slaving Europeans who got to the new world?”” possibly a strawman?

            I am sticking to the arguments presented. You ought to ask yourself that if you are correct, why are you unable to do that? Why do you have to resort to namecalling?

          • “ how is ““If slavery is the road to prosperity, why was it the non-slaving Europeans who got to the new world?”” possibly a strawman?”

            Because you’ve fallaciously assumed that for Greg Smith to state: “ horrors of imperialism and the slave trade on which our prosperity was built” is tantamount to stating: “ horrors of imperialism and the slave trade on which our prosperity was exclusively built.

            Greg Smith has correctly identified imperialism and slavery as foundational aspects of British prosperity, which, during that time, largely accrued to the influential merchant class.

            By stating that fact, he is not excluding all other foundational aspects of British prosperity.

            You might want challenge yourself on name-calling, considering your demeaning allusion: “like an abusive husband who holds the one time his wife slapped back over her head for the rest of her life.“

          • If he didn’t mean ‘exclusively’, then surely he made a large error in not giving some indication how much it was built on imperialism and slavery. Because if what he meant by our prosperity being built on horrors was a sub-set society increased their personal wealth through engaging with the slavery market, then why does it need to be taught even more? The argument doesn’t follow. The argument only works if ‘our’ is broader than the mercantile class and if ‘built’ means primary, importantly or exclusively. If he meant ‘ imperialism and slavery as foundational aspects of British prosperity, which, during that time, largely accrued to the influential merchant class.’ – I am not part of the mercantile class, nor are the working-class Brexit and Boris voters that Greg hates – then he ought to apologise for writing something completely different.

            But we both know that he meant what he wrote. And what he wrote is popular. And what he wrote is untrue.

            On the husband metaphor, I think that the standard of ‘morality’ that Greg uses is morally wrong. It is wrong to come with your agenda and then cherrypick history based on that. Can either you or Greg say that it is how you would wish to be treated? If you are allowed to choose what it to be looked at and what is to be ignored, then you can conclude anything. The metaphors I use to convince people of that will necessarily be negative ones. That’s not namecalling.

          • “If he didn’t mean ‘exclusively’, then surely he made a large error in not giving some indication how much it was built on imperialism and slavery… If he meant ‘ imperialism and slavery as foundational aspects of British prosperity, which, during that time, largely accrued to the influential merchant class.’ – I am not part of the mercantile class, nor are the working-class Brexit and Boris voters that Greg hates – then he ought to apologise for writing something completely different.”

            No. Because, unless you can prove that his statement could only make sense by adding ‘exclusively’, there’s no onus on Greg to pre-empt your counter-arguments or your assumptions about what he might mean (according to what you describe as “popular”, but “untrue”) with a myriad of qualifying adverbs.

            I did qualify my statement: “largely accrued to the influential merchant class” with words “during that time”.

            We do know that it was this ill-gotten wealth of the merchant-class that was re-invested in the industrial revolution, which did prosper the entire country.

            It’s only by pretending that the profits and plunder from imperialism and slavery did not become finance and resources for the industrial revolution that you can declare the ensuing superstructure of prosperity to be no more than: “a sub-set society [who] increased their personal wealth through engaging with the slavery market”.

            We both know that pretence isn’t true.

          • A sizable amount of the History curriculum is dedicated to slavery and imperialism. If our prosperity is ‘built’ only in a minor way on slavery and imperialism – which simply isn’t idiomatic, but perhaps Greg is breaking new ground – then it does not follow that there should be even more attention to it. (For example, slavery gets far more time to it than the steam engine)

            Sugar is perishable. The pleasure gained from sugar is fleeting. The lasting effect of the sugar trade is sugar traders gaining increase from the diminishing of others. A country does not leave a better legacy by the consuming of sugar. But the real question is: Were the early investors in machinery the same people that profited from slavery? The answer’s ‘no’, as far as I can tell.

            It seems to me quite the opposite put forward by you, it was because the air of England was too pure for slaves that the investment in British invention came coming in. Those with eyes focused abroad had less need of it.

            What leads you to think that if not for wealth gained by slavery that the Newcomen engine – for example and invented by a British Baptist lay-person – would have not been used to produce prosperity?

          • ” If our prosperity is ‘built’ only in a minor way on slavery and imperialism”.

            Introducing ‘in a minor way’ as an alternative to ‘exclusively’ is no less a straw man argument.

            Concerning the industrial revolution, you wrote: “But the real question is: Were the early investors in machinery the same people that profited from slavery? The answer’s ‘no’, as far as I can tell.”

            You missed out the financial intermediaries (the banks), many of whose directors, continued to benefit financially post-Abolition, through the subsequent Slave Compensation Act.

            For example, London and Brazilian Bank’s first chairman John White Cater was not only a wealthy slave-owner, but also a recipient of post-Abolition slave compensation, as was his fellow board member John Bloxham Elin.

            That bank was eventually merged with Taylors & Lloyds (which became Lloyds Bank Group), the first bank in Birmingham, which was a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution.

            This is just one example of how the major banks that financed the Industrial Revolution and through which British prosperity was established used profits and plunder from imperialism and slavery.

            There are numerous further examples of similarly contemptible legacies of British slave-ownership here – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/.

            And you really can’t valorise 19th century ‘money laundering’.

          • So, the bank that profited from slavery was – at the time – different from the bank that financed Birmingham. They later merged a hundred or so years later. If that’s your best example, then should you not have the decency to acknowledge that I’ve been right the entire time?

            What leads you to think that if not for wealth gained by slavery that the Newcomen engine – for example and invented by a British Baptist lay-person – would not have been used to produce prosperity?

          • I previously wrote: “We do know that it was this ill-gotten wealth of the merchant-class that was re-invested in the industrial revolution, which did prosper the entire country”.

            I have provided an example of that, which supports the position that imperialism and slavery were foundational aspects of British prosperity.

            That neither means ‘exclusively’ nor does it mean “in a minor way”.

            So, no, nothing in your argument warrants acknowledgement that you’ve been right the entire time.

            Seeing as I previously wrote: “ neither the OP, nor anyone else here has argued that British wealth was caused by slavery”, probing why I might think that “wealth gained by slavery” would be sine qua non sine of inventions, like the Newcomen engine, is yet another disappointing ‘straw man’ fallacy.

          • “ neither the OP, nor anyone else here has argued that British wealth was caused by slavery”

            “We do know that it was this ill-gotten wealth of the merchant-class that was re-invested in the industrial revolution, which did prosper the entire country”.

            Please make up your mind. Or are you pretending a difference? Bear in mind that Greg used the would ‘built’ which is far closer to ’cause’ than it is to ‘was one of the foundational aspects’.

            And, no you have not given an Example of how Britain prospered from slavery. John White Cater is not an example of that. Are you under the impression that Britain profited from paying compensation to free the slaves? That would be Milo Mindbender levels of bad accounting.

            But, sorry, I thought you were using John White Cater as an example of ‘how the major banks that financed the Industrial Revolution and through which British prosperity was established used profits and plunder from imperialism and slavery’ on account of that being what you said. In which case, since there is no suggestion that he did invest in the industrial revolution (since the industrial revolution and slavery were staunch rivals, as machinery and cheap labour always are), your best example was a shockingly poor one.

            Britain’s wealth – the world’s wealth, in fact – came from the industrial revolution. The steam engine is the invention that changed the world. If slavery did not contribute to that then it is not one of the foundational aspects of British prosperity. Not in an exclusive way. Not in a minor way. Not at all.

            Enslaving one’s countrymen cannot make a country wealthy.
            Enslaving one’s continentmen cannot make a continent wealthy.
            Enslaving one’s worldmen cannot make a world wealthy. The world is wealthier (look at birth mortality rates, if you like). Slavery cannot be the direct cause. It also was not an intervening one. (As this discussion has demonstrated.)

          • 1. “ Bear in mind that Greg used the would ‘built’ which is far closer to ’cause’ than it is to ‘was one of the foundational aspects’”

            Given that buildings generally have foundations, that’s far more analogous correspondence than ‘cause’.

            2. “ there is no suggestion that he did invest in the industrial revolution (since the industrial revolution and slavery were staunch rivals, as machinery and cheap labour always are), your best example was a shockingly poor one”

            As if banks would carefully avoid investment in (supposed) rivals.

            Beyond sugar, you only have to look at the textile industry: cheap labour to pick cotton and industrial machinery to turn it into cloth are not rival investments.

            I’m happy to call time on your straw men and non-sequiturs.

            Feel free to indulge yourself in having the last word.

      • Utterly hilarious. White slavery bad, African slavery ( some of it) good.
        Africans selling fellow Africans as slaves to whites? Er, let’s not go there.
        Your “argument”, such as it is, David is ridiculous and completely unworthy of a Christian.

        Reply
        • One must add that this rewriting of the past and the demonisation of white people on the basis of slaving in the Caribbean over two centuries ago is a product of contemporary politics and manipulation of education. Very few school children in Britain, for example know anything about indigrnous snd endemic African slavery or the very long lasting Arab slave trade, or even about the caste system of India that has prevailed for millennia. Previous generations had a far better knowledge of these historical realities. Education on these matters in British schools today us increasingly partial and ideologically driven from the left.

          Reply
        • What part of “ While slavery is evil in any context” do you not understand?

          But, instead, you introduce a ‘straw man’ (African slavery (some of it) good) to bolster Kyle Johansen’s thinly-veiled insinuation of white superiority (“ If British wealth was caused by two hundred years of slavery then should we not expect to see Africa being far richer than Britain on account of their multiple millennia of slavery?”)

          What’s truly ridiculous is your own hypocritically unChristian resort to derision motivated by unChristian white solidarity for which you felt compelled to misrepresent my own comment.

          You clearly have an axe to grind.

          Reply
          • White people are disproportionately Christians – and most certainly were at the time – if Christ is the supreme good then surely we ought to think that those nations were better. I do not see how you can be a Christian and believe in the Holy Spirit and assume that Christendom was inferior, unless you want to say that the peoples of Christendom were so naturally inferior that the Holy Spirit did not get them up to par. That is a racialist position, mine isn’t.

            Christendom was saved by Constantinople. Goodness and rightness was saved by Constantinople. By the workings of geography those saved by Constantinople had lighter skin. I believe that all those things are true. I believe only that the first two are important.

            Indeed, even calling the distinction ‘white’ as the racialists that dominate our discourse demand we do is to still be in cahoots with the scientific racism that the post mentions. How do we deal with the fact that Britain – a country of the pink-skinned – abolished the slave trade, created the steam engine and advanced science, morality and technology as they had never been advanced before? The same way that we deal with olive-skin of the Greeks, or the brown skin of Augustine. We ignore it. We don’t lie and claim that was really all black people, but it has been white-washed. Lies are poisons not the solutions, however tempting that they seem to be.

            Have you heard of the Black Hebrew Israelites? They are the ‘Hidden Figures’ agenda taken to its natural conclusion. It isn’t pretty.

          • Ad hominem nonsense. You know nothing about me or my motives – or my mixed race family.
            Don’t make excuses for African slavery which continues even today in Mauretania.
            Christianity ended slavery not only in the Caribbean but in Africa. That is something to celebrate isn’t it?

          • “White people are disproportionately Christians – and most certainly were at the time – if Christ is the supreme good then surely we ought to think that those nations were better.”

            By analogy, that white (moral) supremacist position undermines Paul’s argument in Romans. For centuries, God’s people were predominantly Jewish. Yet Paul doesn’t consider Jews to be morally superior to Gentiles, but, instead, morally more accountable:
            ““What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;” (Rom. 3:9)

            I agree that: “Lies are poisons not the solutions, however tempting that they seem to be”.

            Such blatant lies include the straw man argument that I (or anyone else here) has claimed: “that was really all black people, but it has been white-washed.”

          • @James:
            “Don’t make excuses for African slavery which continues even today in Mauretania.”

            Straw man, which based on nothing I’ve written, And you also “know nothing about me or my motives – or my {insert supposed ethnic credentials here] family”.

          • David, you stated without any knowledge of me or my thinking that I am motivated by “unChristian white solidarity”, which is rather close to an accusation of racial prejudice. You should not make such untrue accusations.
            It is a fact that slavery was endemic in Africa until the colonial powers ended it. And we celebrate also the work of David Livingstone in helping to end the Arab slave trade from central Africa.
            If African enslavement of other Africans did not reach “industrial levels of production”, that can only be because pre-colonial sub-Saharan Africa was for the most part pre-industrial and pre-literate, without metals, ocean-going ships, wheels or record-keeping. North African and Barbary slavery were very different, sharing in Arabic culture and technology.
            I sometimes wonder how much of Africa’s contemporary problems go back to intertribal conflicts that long pre-date European colonialism. To say nothing of the faultline across Africa caused by the southward expansion of Islam and its encounter with African traditional polytheism and now Christianity. The real picture is a very complex one and largely invisible to western eyes unfamiliar with a long and complicated history.

          • Of course, if one is going to make an analogy between Christians and Jews, then one ought to look a few verses above “3 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.”

            The Law is different from the Spirit. People in Christendom had the very Spirit of God. Was this effectual, or was it ineffectual?

            The article we are responding to accepts the “whitewashing” conspiracy theory (search ‘whitewash’ in his post). Although, he only mentions abolishment with regards to it, he gives no indication that he does not agree more generally. If he thinks that the theory is only correct on the abolishment issue, then I think it rather behooved him to clarify that (if somebody says that Romeo & Juliet was written by Francis Bacon, I don’t think he has any right to complain when his audiences assumes that he thinks something similar about Hamlet.)

          • @James,

            And you’ve introduced the ‘straw man’ in declaring that I’m “making excuses for African slavery”, when none of my comments remotely implied that.

            What’s ironic is for your offence at my description of your own derision as motivated by “unChristian white solidarity” to be juxtaposed with your ‘litany’ of the ‘civilising mission’ (through proxies for race of ‘European’ superiority and African inferiority).

            Q.E.D.

          • @Kyle:
            Rom. 3:1,2 doesn’t lend credence to your argument.

            “The Law is different from the Spirit. People in Christendom had the very Spirit of God. Was this effectual, or was it ineffectual?”

            While the Law is different from the Spirit, St. Paul still harks back to God’s judgement on the Israelites, writing: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.

            Also, Christendom is neither synonymous, nor coterminous with Christian. So, no, people in Christendom did not, to a man, have the Spirit of God.

            In Christendom (as in first-century Judaea) the work of the Holy Spirit is as effectual in calling many, but choosing few, as Jesus describes when upbraiding the generation that experienced His own ministry:
            “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matt. 12:43-45)

          • Sure, not to a man. But were there more or less Spirit-filled men in the British Isles than in sub-Saharan Africa? And did this bear fruit, or did it not bear fruit?

            Now, if you are suggesting – I am not quite sure what you mean, so please correct me, if I am misunderstanding – that those who had heard the good news and did not act on it are worse than those who had not heard it. Then did this make the British Isles worse than sub-Saharan Africa – on Greg’s societal sin lens – or did they somehow perfectly balance each other out?

          • 1. “ Bear in mind that Greg used the would ‘built’ which is far closer to ’cause’ than it is to ‘was one of the foundational aspects’”

            Given that buildings generally have foundations, that’s far more analogous correspondence than ‘cause’.

            2. “ there is no suggestion that he did invest in the industrial revolution (since the industrial revolution and slavery were staunch rivals, as machinery and cheap labour always are), your best example was a shockingly poor one”

            As if banks would carefully avoid investment in (supposed) rivals.

            Beyond sugar, you only have to look at the textile industry: cheap labour to pick cotton and industrial machinery to turn it into cloth are not rival investments.

            I’m happy to call time on your straw men and non-sequiturs.

            Feel free to indulge yourself in having the last word.

          • Buildings also have a single foundation, not foundational aspects. This is basic English. ‘Build’ and ’cause’ do not differ in the degree of responsibility or their claim of exclusivity.

            Banks ‘do not carefully avoid rivals’ – woe, you hypocrite, take the strawman out of thine own eye. But they do carefully invest in what they know. And that was not both the (domestic) machinery and the
            (foreign) slavery – not even in what might now be more vertically integrated markets such as raw crops and textiles – for these were not the massive multi-takings that we have now as a result of centuries of mergers.

            As the fact of your own research, where the closest you found of a former slave bank merging with a former industrial bank after the abolition of slavery, does in fact verify.

            I assure you that if I ever misinterpreted you, it was always inadvertently and it was always in assuming that you had a greater understanding of economics and the relevant time period than you possess.

          • Thanks. I think there is a serious question here, and I am not sure where we find a helpful answer.

            My great grandfather was a prominent mason, and very wealthy. His wealth, some of which was passed down, paid for my father’s education, allowed him to enter a profession, from which I benefited in a stable, comfortable home.

            How much of my own life do I owe to my great grandfather’s morally dubious masonry?

            Every culture sits on the legacy of the previous generations. How far do we see that as a present legacy that needs some sort of reparation?

          • “Every culture sits on the legacy of the previous generations. How far do we see that as a present legacy that needs some sort of reparation?”

            A very significant point and thank you for your excellent illustration of it as well Ian. The whole Iwerne ‘culture’ raises this point as well. I wonder how many of those who came from the top public schools through the Iwerne system are able to effectively lead multi cultural churches. How do they feel about the fact that so many of those public schools are now entirely multi-cultural and multi faith.

          • “Every culture sits on the legacy of the previous generations. How far do we see that as a present legacy that needs some sort of reparation?”

            I’d mention a number of moral principles that should help to navigate this moral maze.
            1. Statute of limitations
            There is statute of limitations on torts resulting from cartel-like practices. However, the statute does not extend to genocide, crimes against humanity (which includes slavery) and war crimes.

            2. Liability vs. guilt
            Consider a widow who faces eviction because the estate faces debts racked up by her deceased husband. Now, that wife may have been scrupulous with credit.

            Despite the personal impact, the liability is incurred by the estate rather than the widow per se (as the resulting attachment would show).

            The lack of intention or culpability does not relieve the estate of the liability incurred.

            3. Corporate vs. personal liability
            Given the statute of limitation and the difficulty in establishing the extent of ‘unjust enrichment’ across generations, any discussion of personal liability would be purely academic.

            However, reparations, as a form of corporate (national) liability are different because successors (governments and corporations) inherit that kind of liability.

            Up to Dec 2010, the German people were corporately still paying war reparations (via taxes) that the Allies imposed on their grandparents after the Potsdam Conference.

            While some of this was to recoup the cost of the war itself, Germany also compensated Jewish victims of the Holocaust to the tune of 63 billion euros by 2005. German companies which exploited forced workers also made payments.

            4. Victor spoils
            Given the Allies’ victory, under the terms of surrender, Germany had no choice but to comply with the demand for reparations. Absent the ability to impose reparations (or compensation), the reaction of collective inertia is to be expected,

            5. Moral liability (which is not the same as guilt)
            Given the statute of limitations, the civil aspect of certain wrongs may not incur financial liability. However, moral liability is not extinguished. That does not require acknowledgement of being a perpetrator.

            Instead, it does requires acknowledgement that part of one’s wealth and certain advantages have been inherited through the generational money-laundering of ill-gotten gains.

            The personal moral consequence of this acknowledgement is neither reparation, nor inertia, but active and vocal promotion and implementation of policies and practices that resist/prevent further dubious dealings and the inequalities that persist because of them, whether in the Church or wider society.

            Of course, for some, that may feel like “biting the hand that feed you”.

          • @eplying to David Shepherd’s link

            Who is Adrian Lordshaughn that we should listen to him? Are you under the impression that the proponents of Scientific Racism – which all us here condemn – were incapable of producing a thousand word article in support of their thesis? If we object when others follow’ the popular, partial ‘In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.’ then we are not permitted to lazily accept cases that we like. If we want others to show discernment and not rushing to judgement to us, then we must treat them as we are to be treated.

            A sample of problem with the article:
            1. ” major cities and seaports like London and Liverpool” these aren’t the cities where the industrial revolution began.
            2. The article’s focus on export markets seems to suggest the economic view of mercantilism. We have known that this is false for hundreds of years. Exports might help with catch-up growth – but as a simple matter of fact – they do not push the wealth ceiling up.
            3. It also mentions the imports such as cocoa and sugar. That doesn’t work. It is intellectually unacceptable to double-count like that. Wealth cannot come both from selling valuables for gold, and also when you give gold to buy valuables. One of them is profit. One of them is loss. Whether using modern theories or hundred year old theories, you can’t count them both as profit.
            4. A mixture of imports and exports also cannot make Britain richer than the Rest of the World, this is because Britain’s Imports plus Exports perfectly equal the Rest of the World’s Exports plus Imports.

            That’s only halfway through, but I don’t intend to filibuster.

            It used to be popular to give credit for the industrial revolution to enclosure. Take a look at this article for example – https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/enclosure-acts-industrial-revolution/ . This article says that cheap cotton contributed to the poverty of the English working man not to his prosperity. It gives no good credit to slavery. This contradicts your article What method do you use to determine that your article is good and mine false? Is this method replicable? Can I use it? Is it the way that you want to be treated?

            Any argument can have a positive case put forward for it. The Bible says that. You can defend astrology if you have the time. Some of the best brains of their time defended scientific racism. There is one truth. We need to be ruthless in our sifting through theories and to test them with the full force of our knowledge.

            To credit slavery with fueling/causing/paving/building/whatever the industrial revolution then we need to answer the question “would this have happened without slavery”. And it is not enough to demonstrate that slavery was present at the time – an awful lot more was present at the time than slavery. You need to understand how the world gets wealthier.

            A good metaphor might be to imagine a village with a good Doctor A. Doctor B murders Doctor A and steals the practice. I get sick of something treatable but life-threatening. I go to Doctor B. Doctor B might save my life. But I do not owe my life to the murder of Doctor A, I owe it to medical science.

            Another thing to meditate on – because she is pure and lovely – is Jane Austen. Jane Austen closest link to slavery is her drinking of tea with sugar. She is a genius. Her drinking of tea and sugar was never of great import or interest. We always could have put forward of a positive case that the genius of her books came from the consumption of tea and sugar. But nobody did. Because it isn’t. It is only when we start with our conclusion that slavery is key, that we write the thousand word positive case saying that slavery is key. You wouldn’t conclude it from looking impartially at Austen. And you wouldn’t conclude it from looking impartially at the industrial revolution.

            If a man lacks that economic knowledge, then there is no shame in being agnostic. But there is sin in partiality and in taking the theory that makes us feel good. It was true about scientific racism, and it is true about the over-crediting-of-slavery today. We are called to love each other with knowledge and discernment.

          • Perhaps to Ian Paul’s chagrin, I’m re-opening my debate with Kyle Johansen.

            In terms of the linked article, you wrote: “Who is Adrian Lordshaughn that we should listen to him? “. Your insinuated appeal to authority is fallacious. Especially, considering your own baseless assertion that: “Banks ‘do not carefully avoid rivals’…But they do carefully invest in what they know. And that was not both the (domestic) machinery and the (foreign) slavery – not even in what might now be more vertically integrated markets such as raw crops and textiles”

            So, to be clear, you are declaring that the banks of that time would not be investing in both (domestic) machinery and (foreign) slavery.

            Yet, you are wrong. As Lordshaughn explains, banks, like William Deacon bank (under its former name of Lowe, Vere, Williams and Jennings) did invest in both (domestic) machinery and (foreign slavery).

            The money for James Watt’s workshop, equipment and other expenses used to develop the steam engine was provided by the bank of Lowe, Vere, Williams and Jennings (founded 1778), who were also investors in the slave trade.

            As you’re probably aware, a key result of that investment was the Boulton & Watt engine, built in 1786, which, in 1796, became double-acting (capable of both grinding barley and pumping water).

            You might also consider the industrialist Anthony Bacon (1716 – 1786). “In 1748, he settled as a merchant in London, importing tobacco from America, dealing in coal from Cumberland where he acquired mines, in Senegal gum, in slaves, etc.”

            “From 1758 onwards he held Government contracts; during the seven years’ war for victualling and paying troops in West Africa, and from 1764 onwards in the West Indies; for the supply of slaves; for coal and shipping. ”

            “Additionally, in 1765 he took out a 99-year lease of some 4,000 acres of mineral bearing land around Merthyr Tydvil setting up ironworks in Merthyr Tydfill, and later at Cyfartha. He was responsible for making Merthyr Tydfill a center of iron smelting in Britain. His business partner Gilbert Francklyn was a West Indian plantation owner.”

            Please feel free to provide hard historical evidence of falsehood.

            If not, since “there is sin in partiality and in taking the theory that makes us feel good”, here’s an opportunity to retract your statement that:
            “Banks ‘do not carefully avoid rivals’…But they do carefully invest in what they know. And that was not both the (domestic) machinery and the (foreign) slavery – not even in what might now be more vertically integrated markets such as raw crops and textiles”

            In fact, there is a wealth of evidence showing how profit from the slave trade fuelled the Industrial Revolution and British prosperity, not
            exclusively, nor “in a minor way”.

            Imperialism and slavery were indeed foundational aspects of British prosperity. They did not cause British prosperity.

            And, as I said before, “foundational aspects” has an analogous correspondence to “built on”, so please don’t resort again to a literalist dissection.
            https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1754-1790/member/bacon-anthony-1717-86

          • It isn’t an appeal to authority to ask you why we ought to consider as true an economically illiterate article that you posted with no defense.

            It is unjust to accuse me of literalism, and then declare that one and a half examples over a two hundred year period disproves the statement ‘Banks ‘do not carefully avoid rivals’…But they do carefully invest in what they know. And that was not both the (domestic) machinery and the (foreign) slavery ‘. To borrow a phrase from you I ‘I never said that banks exclusively were ignorant of one or the other’. But I’ll say this – if you can give me evidence of two more banks that invested in slavery and the industrial revolution (so one a century plus one more) then I will retract the statement of an expert in one generally being too cautious to invest in the other.

            Men are diverse creatures. Sometime a man will be a slaver and then a smelter. Sometime a man will be a slaver and then a hymnist. But demonstrating that money is made in the slave trade is not sufficient for showing that it helps the production of either hymns or machines.

            Also, what is your source for his business partner being a one ‘Gilbert Francklyn’, plantation owner? The link you provided mentions no such thing. And it does not appear that Anthony himself left anything regarding the slave trade in his will.

            The Watts example is the best example – you have an actual bank this time – but it was during the industrial revolution. It cannot have built/paved/caused/fueled a revolution that was already twenty years old. With the revolution in full-swing then of course it comes to the notice of more abroad-looking people. But one investor in one machine does not a foundational aspect of the industrial revolution make.

            When Coulson had his statue and the banks were a point of pride, nobody respectable was crediting the banks with the industrial revolution. It has never been something proponents of the financial system have been able to boast about. The desire to credit the banks comes from a desire to credit the slave trade, it does not come from looking impartially and fairly at Watt and what he invented. It does not come from treating Watt as we would like to be treated.

            But I have two rather crucial questions about these two examples:
            1. How much effort did it take you to find them?
            2. How much effort did it take the person who you found who found them?

            Are you putting up anomalies as if they were common place? Do you even know if you are putting up anomalies as if they were common place?

            One crucial thing also when we talk about goods and resources being made by slaves, then we are talking about all goods and resources made outside of Christendom. The economies outside of Christendom had always been slavery-based. When thinking about wealth-development during this time period, one needs to decide if one is willing to call all foreign trade unacceptable or not.

            For Watt’s steam engine – your best example – in terms of percentage – obviously it is always to be loose, but as a rough guide – how much credit do you give slavery for its development? How much credit do you give Watt’s wife?

          • “if you can give me evidence of two more banks that invested in slavery and the industrial revolution (so one a century plus one more) then I will retract the statement of an expert in one generally being too cautious to invest in the other.”

            Of course, for you to “move the goalposts” is both arbitrary and arrogant. And even if I provide evidence of two more banks, you’ve already set about minimising the gambit of any retraction by belittling its significance to our debate.

            Your further remarks are merely ‘lobs’ of rhetoric (questioning effort involved in finding examples; speculating that such examples are anomalous). Yet, (to use a tennis analogy) there is no need for me to chase those lobs in a desperate bid to return them.

            Your paragraph on Watt is an absolute ‘howler’ of a straw man. Nothing in my comments even remotely asserts or implies that the cited banks, who founders were involve in the slave-trade, “built/paved/caused” the Industrial Revolution.

            That is not a logical inference from my statement: “Imperialism and slavery were indeed foundational aspects of British prosperity. They did not cause British prosperity.”

            Given the foregoing, I don’t particularly expect a retraction, but I’ll call your bluff by providing two more examples (and I’m open to surprises):
            1. In 1807, John Moss, a slave owner, founded Moss, Dales and Rogers bank at 4 Exchange Buildings. He owned and traded slaves on Crooked Island in the Bahamas.
            His recorded investment in railways across Britain was £222,470 (at least £200m in today’s money).
            “He was a key figure in the early days of the railways: deputy chair of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) and chair of the Grand Junction Railway (GJR), in both cases alongside several other slave owners.”
            “It is worth pointing out that, whilst all the elements of a modern railway system were in place, at the time of its opening in 1825, George and Robert Stephenson’s Stockton and Darlington Railway was a hotch-potch of locomotive-worked, incline-worked and horse-worked sections without much in the way of regular services.”

            “The Stephensons really pulled everything together for the L&MR, however. This was a truly modern system, and is the line that not only set the groundwork for Britain’s national network but formed the template for railways worldwide.”

            “Without Moss, it is unlikely that either the L&MR or the later GJR would have got off the ground, and without these lines linking the north to London (when the London & Birmingham Railway opened in 1838), the railway system would have looked very different today… Indeed, the overall success of the railways may have been slowed by the core of expansion remaining up in the north east of England, rather than being spread across the country.”
            https://www.londonreconnections.com/2020/slavery-and-the-railways-part-1-acknowledging-the-past/

            2. Bristol Bank (a,k,a, The New Bank) was formed 1786 as Ames, Cave, Harford, Daubeny & Bright.
            Levi Ames, John Cave, Joseph Harford, George Daubeny and Richard Bright, were all involve in and profited from the slave-trade, either personally or through family links.

            The bank re-invested its founders’ wealth from the slave trade into industrial growth in Bristol.

          • Greg said “when it comes to the horrors of imperialism and the slave trade on which our prosperity was built”. He used the word ‘built’. The link that you provided used the word ‘fuel’. You now say it is a strawman to use ‘built/caused/fueled’ . This discussion began when you accused me of being a white supremacist for disputing Greg’s claim: “when it comes to the horrors of imperialism and the slave trade on which our prosperity was built”. Are you going to apologise, now? Since, you now consider ‘built’, or ‘fuelled’, or ’caused’ to be so far from what you believe as to be a ‘strawman’?

            They are not ‘rhetorical lobs’. They are the brakes on rushing to judgments, and aids to discernment, and calls to fairness that every person would want applied to themselves when they are being judged.

            Let’s look at your two examples – Moss isn’t a bank, he’s a person. An entrepreneur changing industries isn’t a counter-example to “Banks ‘do not carefully avoid rivals’…But they do carefully invest in what they know. And that was not both the (domestic) machinery and the (foreign) slavery – not even in what might now be more vertically integrated markets such as raw crops and textiles”. I can provide a better case that electric guitarists are expert physicists, than you can provide for slave-banks being industry-banks. So you couldn’t even manage that lowest of bars.

            We are called to have discernment. A person who indulges the temptation for secret, superior knowledge of a thousand word positive case even if it involves smearing huge numbers of people (as being involved in ‘whitewashing’) and who trains his mind that way is the same person who will like the secret superior knowledge even when the stakes are higher.

            I bow out, good sir (and unlike you, I mean it).

          • “Moss isn’t a bank, he’s a person. An entrepreneur changing industries isn’t a counter-example to “Banks ‘do not carefully avoid rivals”.

            But he founded Moss, Dales and Rogers bank at 4 Exchange Buildings. He may well have had a myriad of alternative reasons for going into banking, but, surely, the overt reason was for the purpose of investing as banks do in business (instead of just individually as “a person, an entrepreneur changing industries”.)

            Notably, the bank was established in 1807, 27 years before the Abolition of Slavery Act was passed. So, there was no prohibition on its investments in both (domestic) machinery and (foreign) slavery.

            The same goes for the Bristol Bank.

            “I bow out, good sir.”

            Thanks for an invigorating and robustly argued debate.

            While we may be diametrically opposed on this issue, from your comments elsewhere, I’m sure that we are far closer on others.

            Fare well.

          • “Moss isn’t a bank, he’s a person. An entrepreneur changing industries isn’t a counter-example to “Banks ‘do not carefully avoid rivals’…But they do carefully invest in what they know.”

            In fact, as I stated, Moss established a Bank (Moss, Dales and Rogers bank at 4 Exchange Buildings). Founded 27 years before the Abolition of Slavery Act was passed, that bank legitimately borrowed/lent with interest and invested in both the slave trade (in which the partners engaged) and the development of Liverpool & Manchester Railway.

            The latter concern was George and Robert Stephenson’s first major commercial opportunity to industrialise their locomotive invention.

            The Bristol Bank (founded some 41 years before the Abolition of Slavery Act was passed) not only invested in the slave trade (in which its partners engaged), but also in Bristol’s burgeoning industrial concerns, such as the Bristol Copper Company.

            Thanks for an invigorating debate.

            We may be poles apart on this issue, but, from your comments elsewhere, I can see we are closer on others.

            Fare well.

      • I previously wrote: “We do know that it was this ill-gotten wealth of the merchant-class that was re-invested in the industrial revolution, which did prosper the entire country”.

        I have provided an example of that, which supports the position that imperialism and slavery were foundational aspects of British prosperity.

        That neither means ‘exclusively’ nor does it mean “in a minor way”.

        So, no, nothing in your argument warrants acknowledgement that you’ve been right the entire time.

        Seeing as I previously wrote: “ neither the OP, nor anyone else here has argued that British wealth was caused by slavery”, probing why I might think that “wealth gained by slavery” would be sine qua non sine of inventions, like the Newcomen engine, is yet another disappointing ‘straw man’ fallacy.

        Reply
          • I have only just seen this thread of comments and I have to say I am rather dismayed that so many words have been expended on contested and detailed readings of history triggered by a couple of sentences I wrote. The main point of the article was to explore how we can develop better multi-cultural churches in the light of a context where racism persists and there are still memories and readings of slavery and imperialism.

            I am also angry that you accuse me of hatred against white working class people who voted for Brexit. Sure I disagree with them and find it hard to understand how they and even more middle class white English people fell for the populist nationalism of the leaders of the leave campaign, but as someone of white working class origins myself, and having served in church and community contexts where so many friends and fellow Christians are also from that background to accuse me of hatred is unfair.

            Having said that I see no point in engaging further in this part of the discussion.

          • The casual way you said our prosperity was built on slavery, the casual you way you referred to ‘popular nationalism’, the casual way you refer to ‘whitewashed’, and the casual way that you ignore Welsh voters in that very reply. It is the exact same casual way that anti-Semitism became endemic in the Labour Party (and they get angry when you bring it up, too.) It is immoral and non-Christlike.

            Ian – if you are the only one to rad this, as you were the only one to read my reply to David above – I do hope that you reflect on the call for discernment, impartiality and love found in the Bible and the dangers that self-righteousness without it can cause – as the Labour party’s anti-Semitism demonstrates.

          • Sure I disagree with them and find it hard to understand how they and even more middle class white English people fell for the populist nationalism of the leaders of the leave campaign, but as someone of white working class origins myself, and having served in church and community contexts where so many friends and fellow Christians are also from that background to accuse me of hatred is unfair.

            Indeed; your attitude is not hatred at all, rather it is pure condescension.

  6. The obligatory Conservative Evangelical bashing above wanders very close into a caricature. Some of the most conservative FIEC churches have a particular attraction to educated African and Asian professionals – precisely becuase these churches are NOT Pentecostal or Prosperity Gospel “miracle centres”.
    I don’t see much recognition of the fact that the majority of black Christians in Britain today are from African immigration in the past thirty years or do and not of West Indian origin. Some of them are in Anglican churches, probably many more in Catholic churches, and many in Pentecostal churches of Nigerian and Ghanaian origin. Does the writer critique this fact? Or the lack of White preachers and leaders in these churches?
    Talk of “contextualised hermeneutics and theologies” may sound impressive (if a little mysterious) to some, especially when contrasted with (boo!) “the Bible as absolute truth”, but what is the cash value of this throwaway line? It is African churches which have the most conservative theology, in my experience. Communities created by immigration have to wrestle with the question of their own identity: do we seek to perpetuate our parents’ and grandparents’ overseas identity or do we become some kind of British – albeit in a country that is sloughing off its Christian history?
    As for CRT – meuh. But that’s for another day.

    Reply
    • ‘Some of them are in Anglican churches, probably many more in Catholic churches, and many in Pentecostal churches of Nigerian and Ghanaian origin. Does the writer critique this fact? Or the lack of White preachers and leaders in these churches?’

      Yes quite clearly, in the last section:

      ‘The fourth frame of Christian thinking about multiculturalism in the church regards it as a hindrance to the healthy development of churches and the growth of the realm of God. It is most likely to be articulated by Christians from ethnic minority backgrounds…attempts to be multicultural are a barrier to outreach and church growth, especially among recent immigrant communities who have a strong sense of group identity, extensive social network bonds, communicate mainly through their minority language and desire to maintain their heritage and culture.’

      Reply
      • I didn’t read that as much of a clear critique but rather as a wordy afterthought which really ought to be front and centre in this piece.
        As I said, the African emigré churches are increasingly the majority of “ethnic” churches, certainly in London, and the function of these churches is not so much “the growth of the realm of God” (what is wrong with the word “kingdom”, by the way?) as in creating a supportive community for immigrants and their children – which has happened all through history in every place (German Lutherans and Italian Catholics in America, Polish Catholics in Britain etc). My own impression is that a significant factor in whether minority ethnic people affiliate with a church has a lot to do with their professional and educational background. A few years ago I noticed literally scores and scores of Singaporean Chinese at All Souls, Langham Place, which I think was a mark of the esteem with which John Stott was held in educated circles in Asia. Singaporeans are ambitious people obsessed with obtaining professional educational qualifications, and that fits closely with the ethos of All Souls.
        West African Pentecostals have recreated their culture to some extent in London and other large cities as well. Does this kind of Christianity appeal to the more educated professional classes? To some, perhaps, but others will be less attracted, especially if the teaching and ethos are highly “supernaturalist”, foregrounding miracles and exorcisms.
        In the end, culture and education are never static things, and what appeals to parents may have less appeal for British-born children faced with other challenges and attractions – and dangers.
        A last reflection: there is a growing movement in some “Africanist” circles to repristinate African Traditional Religion (ATR), especially the cult of pre-Christian and pre-Islamic ancestors, as if African ancestors were still present like tutelary spirits watching over Africans today – and 8 May has been designated “Ancestors Day” in South Africa. Another challenge for churches?

        Reply
        • That James, is succinct and clear, and yes indeed the starting place of thinking about race and ethnicity and church in UK.
          Is the church to assimilate merge, mingle ethnicities, culture?
          I aware of one Pentecostal church, that passed under various guides where one Chinese elder left to start a Chinese church. I don’t know whether links were maintained, whether it was seen as in -reach to the Chinese community.
          A black church with a handful of white people paid for a USA prominent white preacher/teacher to visit for a weekend teaching on prosperity and Faith movement.
          While there didn’t seem to be much mixing between congregants of different churches, the leaders (including Anglican) met and prayed together.
          Just a question. Are there any all/majority black churches in the CoE?

          Reply
          • Good question – and I don’t know the answer to it. Maybe other readers do? It’s a very long time since I lived in London. On occasional visits to South London, I have noticed some (non- Anglican) Caribbean origin churches and some Nigerian Pentecostal churches. I know of the Anglican parish in Herne Hill of which a close friend has been a leader for many years, and I think it is about a third black in membership. For years it had a Nigerian vicar. But I understand the epicentre of African Christianity in England today is Southwark, which I don’t really know. Are there any majority black Anglican churches there?
            One factor to bear in mind is that black Christianity is very conservative theologically and often revivalist in temper, and many black Christians see the Church of England as theologically liberal or worse, so that may limit its appeal to them.

        • It was not a ‘wordy afterthought’ (and the pejorative tone of your comment isn’t really helping discussion of the issues). It was the summary conclusion, arising from research, of what is now needed.

          It brings us back rather neatly to the biblical rational that we started with.

          Reply
        • If you want to explore this (and my thinking about it a bit more deeply) it would be worth clicking on some of the hyperlinks into some of my ancient writings, (Christian ethnics etc.) and on contemporary London my review of the Goodhew Cooper book.

          Reply
  7. From USA a comment from someone who is to me always worth reading, Keller.
    https://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/the-fading-of-forgiveness/
    Maybe it is something we all need to practice. Or we stew, captive in our own pot of bitterness; appreciation and thankfulness absent – lessons, wisdom not learned in the exodus.
    While as a young teen, I thought nothing of it holidaying in Dortmund, Westphalia, the Rhine and Bodensee, with German friends ( he was a Prisoner of War in a nearby local camp in England) but now, and in the present febrile cultural *moment* I find it remarkable that in less than 20 years after the end of WW2 that could take place.
    And here we are on the same side???

    Reply
    • Excellent article by Keller that encapsulates everything that is wrong about our current culture of blame.

      Reply
      • I also enjoyed his article. His conclusion has lessons for our endless debates on some other issues here…
        “We must never give up on each other or on the supernatural potential of Christian community. Jesus has brought “incompatibles” together. No wonder we often fight! We must strive to hold ourselves accountable to practice forgiveness and reconciliation. Our mutual love for one another is how the world will see who Jesus is.”
        Amen to that.

        Reply
  8. “Fourthly, most white-led evangelical churches struggle with the concept of political activism on issues of racial justice”

    A very helpful article and many thanks for publishing. I agree with Mat that it will take some time to engage fully with this.

    Two questions:

    1. Is there an example of where white led evangelical churches engage fruitfully with political activism that would be a useful model?

    2. My experience is that they tend to be disparaging of any mention of liberation theology, but I would love to be proved wrong. Is there a positive example?

    Reply
    • It’s worth looking at the Citizens UK movement especially in London where a wide range of churches including some of the HTB network have been involved in community politics.

      Otherwise in my experience churches tend to leave it to individual members who have a calling to politics to get involved.. There are Christian networks in most of the main parties .. I’m most familiar with Christians on the Left who recently have developed a more evangelical leaning and prayer focus. (The labour Party sure needs it!)

      Liberation Theology…several of us in urban evangelical networks were engaged with this in the 1980s.. I wrote about this in the early 1990s here

      https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7UDiSlsmmA8TmFnTmpFd3JncWc/view?usp=sharing

      Reply
  9. Yes there are, outside and inside the Anglican Church. And it can be found in individual church members in their day jobs.
    There is also a need consider what a wide remit political activism covers.
    Keller’s church was greatly socially active and he has a book.
    From my admittedly short experience as a CoE church council member, it seemed that it was tied to some many rules and regs that the church down, so much so that it couldn’t move quickl, had to form other trusts, organisations charities or become officers or members of outside groups. That may have changed.

    Reply
  10. For those interested in this subject, I strongly commend Harvey Kwiyani’s book Multicultural Kingdom or, indeed, his interview on my own blog https://www.kouya.net/?p=12567 .

    In my experience, multicultural churches are the norm, with songs in multiple languages and music styles, translation across several languages and so on. The most obvious exception to this rule is in the Western world, where we struggle to practice what seems to come naturally to much of the church worldwide.

    Reply
  11. ” If our prosperity is ‘built’ only in a minor way on slavery and imperialism”.

    Introducing ‘in a minor way’ as an alternative to ‘exclusively’ is no less a straw man argument.

    Concerning the industrial revolution, you wrote: “But the real question is: Were the early investors in machinery the same people that profited from slavery? The answer’s ‘no’, as far as I can tell.”

    You missed out the financial intermediaries (the banks), many of whose directors, continued to benefit financially post-Abolition, through the subsequent Slave Compensation Act.

    For example, London and Brazilian Bank’s first chairman John White Cater was not only a wealthy slave-owner, but also a recipient of post-Abolition slave compensation, as was his fellow board member John Bloxham Elin.

    That bank was eventually merged with Taylors & Lloyds (which became Lloyds Bank Group), the first bank in Birmingham, which was a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution.

    This is just one example of how the major banks that financed the Industrial Revolution and through which British prosperity was established used profits and plunder from imperialism and slavery.

    There are numerous further examples of similarly contemptible legacies of British slave-ownership here – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/.

    And you really can’t valorise 19th century ‘money laundering’.

    Reply
    • Empires are a fact of universal human history. If Europeans hadn’t colonised Africa, the Arabs or maybe the Indians would have, though with very different outcomes. Which would you have preferred?
      Was there injustice and exploitation? Of course there was. When has this never happened? Chinese enterprises in Africa are doing the same, but not settling there. In the Chinese Communist scheme, Africa is for the extraction of resources, not the development of its people.
      Did Africa benefit from its colonial era? Of course it did. Infrastructure, schools, medical services, Westminster style government, European style legal systems, and cities were all colonial creations. What price would you set these at?

      Reply
      • It might be worth thinking about how to answer your own question James. What was the price paid for those things? If you start with the premise that Africa was languishing in a backwater without civilisation whilst Western Europe was a shining example of peace, artistic endeavour, sophistication, intelligence and complex and sustainable ways of living, well perhaps we have not reflected carefully enough. Be open to research more about these things with an open and enquiring mind. I do mean this seriously. We always can learn things. What art and culture was there in Ancient Africa? What are the ways in which society is organised? What books were written in Ethiopia? Where was St Augustine from? What of the trading routes that brought prosperity before colonisation. We are all people so all of us can learn from each other I think. It’s easier to tramp into somewhere if we can mine gold or diamonds or trade people if we think there was nothing really there before. But is this true? Like I said we can learn from each other. So, what wealth and culture did Africa have? And very soberly I ask you, what to African people, was the price of those benefits which you mentioned? What was taken and what was lost for it? Maybe my question will make you angry! I don’t know, but like I said we can always learn if we are open.

        Reply
        • Linda, it doesn’t help to caricature, and no, your question does not make me angry in the slightest. Who said “Europe was a shining example? Not I. All along the human story has been a mixed one of ideals and self-sacrifice mixed with greed and exploitation. It’s the same wherever you go – as Christian realism tells us. Was the British rule in Uganda far better than the kabaka? Absolutely- ask the Ugandan Church. Was Belgian rule in the Congo dreadful in the 1890s appalling? Certainly, as Sir Roger Casement documented, to the horror of the British public (and the inspiration of Joseph Conrad).
          My comments were almost all about sub-Saharan Africa. North Africa was anciently part of the Roman world – overwhelmingly Christian until the Arab conquests with some large sophisticated cities – and Ethiopia, like Nubia, was Christian and literate, in constant touch with the worlds of the Hejaz and Egypt for thousands of years. It had very little in common with Africa to the south and west.
          That is why their histories and development are very different from sub-Saharan Africa.
          The social organisation, economy, material culture and folkloric and religious traditions of sub-Saharan Africa have in fact been studied quite closely for nearly two centuries now, in many ways providing the foundations for the modern disciplines of anthropology and ethnography.
          And the findings have much in common with those from the pre-Columban New World and the Pacific. It was actually the colonial institutions – educators, missionaries and government officers – who strove to preserve much of this old culture – art, languages and traditions – from the relentless onslaught of modernity. Remember that the lifespan of most people in sub-Saharan Africa was relatively short and poor, as you would expect in subsistence agriculture and nomadic cattle keeping. Material culture cannot develop very far without metal tools, literacy and mathematics. This has been obvious since the early Babylonian times and the beginnings of the Indus Valley civilisation.
          It has also been obvious throughout all human history that contacts between an advanced civilisation and (effectively) a non-urbanised agricultural/transhumance culture will be very disruptive to the latter. Some empires have handled this better and more justly than others.

          Reply
      • “ Empires are a fact of universal human history. If Europeans hadn’t colonised Africa, the Arabs or maybe the Indians would have, though with very different outcomes. Which would you have preferred?”

        These alternative outcomes represent a false dichotomy. As if it would have been impossible to derive equivalent outcomes without concomitant colonisation.

        That’s no more logical than suggesting that we should not decry the legacy of pollution on climate change because our modern technological outcomes would have been impossible without concomitant pollution

        Such dichotomies are perspicaciously fallacious.

        Reply
  12. You have missed the point. Empires are simply the extension of rule through political anbition. The European Union is an empire, although it seeks to disguise this fact. The United States- allegedly an anti-imperial power – also exercises an economic empire in the world, buttressed by its military power. Pre-colonial Africa has its own empires as well, as different kings and nations extended their power over other lands and tribes. In fact, the great story of Africa was the southward migration of the Bantu and others from the west and Congo regions and their colonisation and conquest of the lands and peoples of the south – what we know as Zimbabwe and southern Africa. The Khoisan were in southern Africa for centuries before the Xhosa and Zulu but were displaced by the more powerful invaders.
    The story of British colonialism in Africa is actually a very positive one, as Brian Stanley showed years ago in “The Bible and Flag” and as Nigel Biggar at Oxford is demonstrating in his studies.
    No, it would not have been possible to develop Africa without colonisation. First you need modern states and governments and a high level of literacy. It was the missionaries and colonial governments which built this infrastructure. And it took the military force of the Royal Navy to end the Arab slave trade based in Zanzibar. Britain was the defender of Africa from Arsb power.
    I think you mean “perspicuously”.

    Reply
    • You’re merely compounding the error of your false dichotomy by assuming that the end-result (“develop Africa”) can justify colonisation.

      That false dichotomy further assumes a universal moral imperative for all people and nations to be ‘developed’ and follow the Western model of progress through conquest and colonisation.

      In fact, there is no such moral imperative that can justify belligerent unprovoked aggression and domination of other races and nations.

      The doctrine of ‘manifest destiny’ (with which your arguments appear to concur) is inimical to Christian doctrine.

      Reply
      • Conquest and colonisation was not a “Western model”, it is a universal model of human history. The pre-colonial history of Africa was exactly the same, though without the assistance of “Western” (European and Asian) technology.
        How do you think the Bantu, who originated in Cameroon, ended up in southern Africa?
        Through southward and eastward emigration and conquest and the establishment of indigenous African empires, of which Great Zimbabwe was the most notable monument. The Ethiopian empire, being much more developed and literate, was able to resist incursions for much longer. There were numerous empires in west Africa as well that encountered and clashed with Arabised groups from the north.
        Pre-colonial Africa’s history, although difficult to reconstruct in the absence of written sources, is also about the expansion of empires, conquest and conflict.
        As I said, the growth of the British empire in Africa was NOT posited on “unprovoked aggression and domination of other races and nations” – the history is much more complex and, yes, strongly influenced by Christian idealism. I encourage people interested in the history of this time to read Brian Stanley and the work led by Nigel Biggar.
        You can’t link me with the ‘manifest destiny’ idea that guided American thinking in the 19th century.

        Reply
      • “ Conquest and colonisation was not a “Western model”, it is a universal model of human history.”

        Straw man: I didn’t mention the Western model of conquest and colonisation, but instead the Western model of progress (through conquest and colonisation).

        The notion that there is only one universal model of human progress for all mankind does not bear serious scrutiny.

        Reply
        • You’re focusing on Empires and what their respective leaders may have imagined as progress.

          The question is whether there is but one model (or gauge) of human progress.

          For example, consider the Kawahiva and other untouched tribes of Brazil. They are resistant to the gauge of human progress by which loggers feel compelled to invade their indigenous territory.

          If they don’t conform, they will be exterminated: https://www.survivalinternational.org/news/12390

          So, I’m questioning how, for you as a Christian, the mere fact that colonisation has been practiced by all empires makes it morally justifiable to impose, on pain of genocide, but one gauge of human progress on all races and tribes (including the untouched tribes of Brazil).

          Reply
  13. David, ALL empires in history – European, Asian, Arab and African – have imagined they were extending “human progress” by conquest and colonisation. The Greeks in succession to Alexander saw this as their mission (extending Hellenism), the Romans believed they were doing this for Europe (‘Romanitas’), the Han in China, Charlemagne to the Saxons, the Aztecs, Mayans and Incans to the people they subjected in central and South America, the Arab conquests of the seventh century in the name of Islam, the Bantu empires in Africa and their successors. There is nothing ‘Western’ about it. The difference is that European empires have been admixed with Christianity, most notably the Catholic Spanish and Portuguese empires which were explicitly about spreading Catholicism as well as enriching the colonisers, and less directly so the Protestant British settlement of North America.
    A possible exception today is the Chinese Communist economic-political empire, which is interested chiefly in extracting raw materials from Africa and Australia and selling its goods. Perhaps China will change if it again gets into territorial conflict with India or casts its eyes on the endless resources of people-empty Siberia.

    Reply
    • You’re focusing on Empires and what their respective leaders may have imagined as progress.

      The question is whether there is but one model (or gauge) of human progress.

      For example, consider the Kawahiva and other untouched tribes of Brazil. They are resistant to the gauge of human progress by which loggers feel compelled to invade their indigenous territory.

      If they don’t conform, they will be exterminated: https://www.survivalinternational.org/news/12390

      So, I’m questioning how, for you as a Christian, the mere fact that colonisation has been practiced by all empires makes it morally justifiable to impose, on pain of genocide, but one gauge of human progress on all races and tribes (including the untouched tribes of Brazil).

      Reply
      • I would be the first to defend the Kawahiva from the depredations and acts of loggers. A society with rights and laws should do this – obviously with the protection of the Brazilian state. Which certainly cannot be guaranteed because Brazil is in many places harsh and unjust.
        I would also be the first to insist that the Kawahiva have the right to receive modern medical care and technology if they want it, and their children to receive the education and language instruction that would allow them to live and thrive in modern Brazil. And I would insist they have the right to hear the Gospel in their own language and to follow Christ if they will.
        And therein lies the challenge and the conundrum. Modern education and the Christian Gospel profoundly affect so-called “tribal peoples”. Can you imagine what the Karen of Burma or the Naga people would be like if missionaries had never come to them? The Gospel and modernity always create cultural change – and without the Gospel, modernity will be monstrous. But it is a Rousseauist dream to imagine you can – or should- keep so-called “primitives” in a “state of nature”. Human culture is always dynamic.

        Reply
        • James,

          Thank you. There’s a lot less ‘heat’ in this reply.

          Of course, human culture is dynamic. However, the follow-on question is whether the brute force of conquest and colonisation is the only way and the morally acceptable means to impart the benefits that you’ve described.

          Reply
  14. You do not want a multicultural church. Jesus Christ is to be the culture of the church, for He is the alpha and the omega. Human culture is not to be celebrated in the church, but like everything else human is to be crucified – and resurrected in Christ. Notice that St Paul fled Athens without waiting for Timothy and Silas as he had planned, having preached in relation to human culture at the Areopagus (Acts 17), and arrived in Corinth in fear and trembling and resolution to know nothing while there but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2). How to create a multicultural church is the wrong question; rather, the question is how to crucify human culture in the church.

    Of course, you want a multi-ethnic church: that is what the Great Commission is all about, and Paul made a superlative start in his passion to unite Jew and Greek in Christ.

    Reply
    • I don’t agree. Everything of the sinful flesh should be crucified—but not ‘everything human’. We bring all that we are to God, and offer it to him in worship.

      A church that is multi-ethnic will also be multi-cultural, and that is the challenge.

      Reply
      • The entire creation is to be remade, and that even goes for matter – Jesus’ new body was different from the old. The Fall has extended into everything, every part of the Creation. God will remake the lot; starting with as much of us as we let him before we die. We cannot reliably say what will look similar. Diversity will remain in the New Jerusalem, of course – the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations (Rev 22:2).

        Reply

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