We need to talk about race—and historical facts


Giles Udy writes: George Floyd’s death was deeply traumatic for many people. In the months that followed as those who had experienced racism found a voice to express the history of their pain, I felt it was important for me not only to listen to them but to educate myself as much as I could, to better understand their experience. I’ve spent many months reading and carefully examining my own reactions to see in what ways I had contributed to their sense of not being heard or understood.

As part of this process I picked up Ben Lindsay’s book We Need To Talk About Race: Understanding the Black Experience in White Majority Churches. I made a conscious effort to approach it with as open a mind as possible but as I read it I found myself feeling increasingly uneasy about some of his statements. Where he gave footnotes, I checked them out and found a number of them didn’t even say the things he said they did. That alarmed me and I began to dig deeper. What I’ve found has really concerned me.

I believe the book is deeply flawed. Far from being distributed to, and studied by, groups throughout the church, my view is that it should actually be withdrawn from church bookstalls. I’m aware this is a drastic suggestion which must be supported with solid argument. I believe it can be. My reasons follow.

I really find myself ill at ease with the idea of criticising a fellow author, especially one like Ben who comes across as a genuinely nice person. But since the summer I’ve been reading extensively in slavery history, black theology, and critical race theory and I am becoming increasingly convinced that the wider church is making a number of mistakes in its well-meaning but ill-informed attempts to address racism, including its partnership with the Black Lives Matter organisation (as opposed to the ‘black lives matter’ idea). I expressed my broader concerns recently in UnHerd.

As I have written in that article, the fact of the existence of racism in the church does not validate every diagnosis of its cause, nor every solution for its eradication. It is absolutely right that the British church pursues racial justice but it is essential that that process is seen to be academically, historically and theologically credible. If it isn’t and that becomes known, there will be resentment and division, rather than healing, in the church. Ben’s book fails drastically on all these three criteria.

It is in that context that I write now about the book. I have found that it to be so poor, in so many instances, that I am still struggling after nine months to put my voluminous notes in some form of order. For this reason, these points may seem somewhat disjointed and I apologise if they come across as such. I will simply state each in turn.

The Problems with Ben Lindsay’s We Need to Talk About Race – A Summary

Ben states that key Black liberation theologians such as Robert Beckford and Anthony Reddie “should be required reading”. Yet they deny both the atonement as traditionally understood and the authority of scripture, and offer a parallel interpretation of the life of Jesus which is unrecognisable to orthodox Christians. Endorsing BLT to church members is a pathway to division. My article gives more detail and my paper will explore this subject at length.

Ben states that “the church was the moral cement for our structure of racism in our nation” and “we have not yet fully reckoned with our Christian responsibility for the legacy of racism in our society” (my italics) and cites ‘Rev Duke Kwon’ as the source. This is a massive accusation. Ben never mentions that Kwon is American and was referring to America. This is a very serious error. British church members reading these words, endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other senior leaders, will believe them to be the truth about the British Church – on the basis of an American pastor’s contentious comment about the American church.

Many of the footnotes Lindsay uses to support his arguments simply don’t say what he says they do. In one case he cites a Harvard study to support the accusation of police brutality against black people (in America, not the UK which makes it irrelevant anyway) but checking the source I find that the Black author of the article actually says the opposite and debunks the claim – which came not from a prestigious Harvard study but from the British Guardian newspaper. If I was marking a college paper with such mistakes in it, I’d give it a ‘D’.  I give other instances of misleading footnotes in some of the points which follow.

Ben has taken many of his core understandings about racism from Reni Eddo-Lodge whose bestselling book is a popularisation of Critical Race Theory:

In July 2017, I read Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. It is one of the best books I’ve read on race from a UK perspective, covering issues such as the histories of racism, systematic and structural racism, what white privilege is and race and class.

He says he gave the book to his whole church leadership in the days when he pastored a church.

This is not the place to expound on the errors of and damage being done by Critical Race Theory (my article touches on that, albeit briefly). But the significance here is that Ben openly states that he bases his perspectives on the pervasiveness of white supremacy, white privilege and his definition of racism from Critical Race Theory, which is increasingly coming under fire from Black intellectuals such as Trevor Phillips, the Black founding chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission who comments:

Critical Race theory is a Scam. It has nothing to do with improving life for Black people. It makes the issues entirely about white people, what they do or feel. It is great for academics who sell books and go around guilt tripping white people but it makes no difference to the ordinary black person’s life.

CRT is also criticised by Black orthodox theologians, mostly in the U.S. as well as leaders here in the UK. Does Christianity really need to be “disentangled from white supremacy” as Lindsay asserts? He writes

There is no doubt, however, that, historically, the concept of white supremacy has been woven into the fabric and structure of our society, which is to the detriment of black people and the benefit of white people.

Many would challenge that view.

Ben’s footnote supporting this last accusation, that “white supremacy has been woven into the fabric and structure of our society” (i.e., the UK), surely so radical a charge that it must be supported by fact, is puzzling—not least because a number of the evidences he gives are nothing to do with Britain. The comment “See the transatlantic slave trade” ignores the extraordinary anti-slavery mood which swept 19th Century Britain. Queen Victoria even adopted one African child as her goddaughter. Sarah Forbes Bonetta, as she became known, had just reached the age which according to the custom of her captors, the Dahomey, who practised human sacrifice, she had become liable to be one it its victims. She was rescued in 1850 by a naval officer of the West Africa Squadron, which had been stationed off the African coast to put down slave trading.

He then mentions “apartheid” which was South Africa not the UK, “Jim Crow laws”,  America not the UK, “The McPherson report” from 20 years ago, specific to the police not the UK as a whole, “hostile immigration laws”, a contentious assertion, which at least needs to be supported by an argument rather than used as argument, “disproportionate incarceration rates in the UK…” a complex issue, but to use these as proof of ‘white supremacy’ is contentious, “and in the U.S.” once again, an American example, “and the UK ‘Race disparity audit’”—there’s no evidence of ‘white supremacy’ in the report – disparity, yes, but not ‘white supremacy’.

In short, yet another Lindsay footnote simply doesn’t support the claim that he uses it to do.

Ben also writes: “Knowing that civilization derived from the continent of Africa … it could be argued that everyone in the Bible is of African descent.” This is not really tenable, though it’s a popular idea in Black liberation circles, where at its most extreme it ends up as version of ‘black supremacy’ in contrast to ‘white supremacy’. Scholars maintain that Mesopotamia, not Africa, is commonly accepted as the first place in which ‘civilisation’ began, and it developed independently in China and Mexico.

He continues,

I believe that one of the main reasons Christianity is unappealing to some black people in the UK is that, throughout history – and today – black people have been consistently unmerited by the church. This is the same church that, ironically, came from Africa, was cultivated in African educational institutions and produced African theologians.

“Came from Africa”? Abraham was not African; neither were Jesus, Peter or Paul.

The oft-repeated accusation that British theology is ‘Eurocentric’ and ‘whitewashed’ also appears in the book, similarly derived from Black liberation theology and critical theory (as my article makes clear). It is an easy charge to make and everyone nods in agreement but what does this actually mean? Where are concrete examples which show that ‘traditional’ theology is racist? Such assertions must be supported if they are to be taken seriously. They aren’t and so they simply cannot be taken as valid. Anthony B. Bradley’s Liberating Black Theology (2010) is essential reading on Black liberation theology and its critique of so-called ‘white theology’.

Ben Lindsay and slavery history – the major problem with the book

Lindsay places history (or, rather, his interpretation of it) right at the centre of the arguments and purpose of the book – so much so that these are the opening lines of his back cover blurb:

From the UK Church’s complicity in the transatlantic slave trade to the whitewashing of Christianity throughout history, the Church has a lot to answer for when it comes to race relations.

The problem is that Lindsay’s knowledge of history is wafer thin and, given the bold assertions he makes from it, this is deeply troubling. There are numerous smaller examples which I could cite to begin with. Each merits a detailed refutation. Here are just three.

First, he writes “in Bonhoeffer’s time it was clear – the Nazi’s (sic) were the perpetrators and the Catholic Church was the bystander [to, it is implied, Nazi racism]” – this in context of the British church today, and Trumpian racism (the latter having no relevance to the UK). This is simply untrue. While some stayed silent for pragmatic reasons and others did support the Nazi party, Catholic clergy as a whole were brutally persecuted from the moment the Nazis gained power. Clergy, nuns and lay leaders were targeted following the Nazi takeover, often on trumped up charges of currency smuggling or “immorality”. Priests were watched closely and frequently denounced, arrested and sent to concentration camps. From 1940, a dedicated Clergy Barracks had been established at Dachau concentration camp.

Intimidation of clergy was widespread. Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber was shot at. Cardinal Theodor Innitzer had his Vienna residence ransacked in October 1938 and Bishop Johannes Baptista Sproll of Rottenburg was jostled and his home vandalised. In 1937, the New York Times reported that Christmas would see “several thousand Catholic clergymen in prison.” Propaganda satirized the clergy, including Anders Kern’s play The Last Peasant. Jesuit historian Vincent A. Lapomarda writes that Hitler campaigned against the Jesuits, closing their schools and confiscating or destroying their property, imprisoning or exiling thousands, and killing 259 of them, including 152 who died in Nazi concentration camps. The superior of the Order in Germany, Fr Anton Rosch, was imprisoned, brutalised and scheduled for execution when rescued by Soviet troops at the end of the war.

In 1937 anti-Nazi Catholic bishops travelled to Rome where, with the Vatican’s chief diplomat, Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII), they convinced Pope Pius XI to issue a German-language encyclical—a departure from the usual Latin—to condemn the abuses of a regime that had promised in 1933 to leave Catholic institutions alone in return for the church staying out of political affairs.

Secondly, Ben comments:

The 32 images of William Wilberforce in comparison to just 4 images of black abolitionists and anti- slavery activists displayed in the National Portrait Gallery tell their own story.

No, they don’t! It’s remarkable, given the very few black abolitionists that there were in Britain, that there are any. This is a simply unsupportable accusation that shows no understanding of British 18th/early 19th century history. Portraiture was a luxury for the wealthy. Ben simply does not understand history, in this instance social history, and makes a potentially divisive statement based upon that lack of understanding. Portraiture was not the 1790s equivalent of press photography, which costs nothing today and is indeed a reflection of popular culture interest.

A much better reflection of popular interest in black abolitionists would be in the popularity of their written memoirs. Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789) went through nine editions. Ottobah Cugoano’s Thoughts and sentiments on the evil and wicked traffic of the slavery went through at least three printings in 1787, was translated into French and was revised in a fourth edition four years later. Yet again, a proper examination of history totally discredits Lindsay’s throwaway but inflammatory remark.

Thirdly, Ben writes:

The UK has and continues to benefit from slavery, whether it’s the innovation of the Industrial Revolution, which was a direct result of the wealth generated from the slave trade…

The thesis that the Industrial Revolution resulted from slavery originates with two Trinidadian Marxist scholars writing in Britain in the 1930s and 1940s, the Trotskyite C. L. R. James (The Black Jacobins, 1938) and Eric Williams (Capitalism and Slavery, 1944). Marxism holds that that capitalism is based upon the economic slavery of the oppressed masses. These writers simply applied Marxist paradigms to history and drew conclusions driven by political philosophy, not economics or history. As long ago as the 1970s historians Roger Anstey (Professor of Modern History at the University of Kent at Canterbury, author of The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition, 1760-1810) in England and Seymour Drescher (Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh, author of Econocide: British Slavery in the Era of Abolition) convincingly refuted James and Williams but their assertions remain in popular thinking.

The problem with all such erroneous assertions is that they are convincing and together build a picture of a wholly racist past which lingers long after the details have been forgotten. The effect is worrying, damaging and divisive. No one has the time in the church to do what I have done, almost full time for weeks on end, to research each in detail. But only after research like this can we see how misguided so many of Lindsay’s assertions are.

Lindsay’s most serious accusations

Lindsay’s most serious accusations, particularly because he insists that racial harmony cannot come until they are acknowledged and repented of, concern the British Church.

First, he states that ‘without both black and white Christians sharing an agreed collective memory of past racial wrongs by the church, it will be difficult to move forwards in unity’. To fix this “there have to be moments of publicly acknowledging the pain and the complicit racist history in the UK church”.

And he details the wrongs which the British church now needs to acknowledge:

From the UK Church’s complicity in the transatlantic slave trade to the whitewashing of Christianity throughout history, the Church has a lot to answer for when it comes to race relations… the UK church must also acknowledge the crucial and significant role it played in starting the barbaric transatlantic slave trade in the first place … the propagation of slavery by the church … receives minimal scrutiny [here and elsewhere the italics are mine]

These are very grave accusations. Given that Lindsay demands their acceptance as essential if the church is to move forward towards racial harmony, they must be supported by the facts. As I will show, they aren’t.

Before I even respond to these charges, which really form one of the central themes of his book, we need to know Lindsay means by the “UK Church” which he believes bears so much guilt—the CofE, Catholic, Baptist, or Methodist church? New independent churches like the Vineyard? He never defines it, and instead accuses the whole UK church. This is illogical. The Methodist church was founded long after the beginning of the slave trade by one of slavery’s most bitter critics, John Wesley (see John Wesley, Thoughts upon Slavery (1778)). Baptist and Methodist missionaries worked tirelessly among slaves in the West Indies, treating slaves as equals, planting congregations and raising up Black leaders to head them. White Baptist and Methodist missionaries were persecuted by planters, had their churches burned down and in some cases were killed.

Turning in detail to specifics, we are required by Lindsay to ‘acknowledge’ that the ‘UK church’ (whatever that means) played a ‘crucial and significant role’ in ‘starting’ and ‘propagating the barbaric transatlantic slave trade’.

No supporting documentation or references are given to support these charges.

The Church of England and Slavery: The Codrington Plantation

The sole involvement of the Anglican church in slavery was when its missionary society, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), was left a plantation in Barbados in 1711 in the will of a man who wanted to found an order of medical missionaries to alleviate the plight of slaves, funded by plantation profits. It was bound by the will to maintain the plantation and slaves. If it had closed the plantation down the slaves would have been seized by other planters. The SPG got excited by the prospect of being able to create a new more humane model of a slave-run plantation. But if ever there was a poisoned chalice, this was it. It was mistaken, morally questionable, and ultimately a failure.

This cannot be defended, but it needs to be seen in its historical context. Until Christians in the third quarter of the 18th Century investigated and publicised the conditions in which slaves were transported and then held, virtually no one in England knew much of their plight. This was why the famous print of slaves stacked on the ‘Brookes’ slave ship (1787) created such a stir, was printed in thousands of copies, and was hung in inns and private houses throughout the country. People did not know what slave conditions were until then. They were appalled when they found out. This was even less the case in 1711.

The involvement of the SPG has now become infamous (actually it was quite controversial even in the late 18th Century) but no one has thought to look behind the widely repeated accusations and inferences to establish the actual historical facts. They are complex, nuanced, but don’t support the wilder accusations and give context for the lesser ones.

Suffice to say, there were 400 slaves on the Barbados plantation at emancipation, 83,000 on Barbados itself and 750,000 in the West Indies. But on those figures, the Church of England was never central to slavery. Fewer than 100 out of the 6500 Anglican clergy serving in 1833 received compensation for slaves at emancipation. (The exact numbers of serving clergy are hard to come by; it could have been as many as 10–15,000.)

47,000 compensation payments were made on emancipation. 97 payments were made to clergy (not all of whom were direct owners of slaves, in that some had inherited shares in plantations). Those 97 represent just 0.2% of the total.

Even though the charge was first made in Synod in 2006 that the Bishop of Exeter was paid for slaves he owned (ever since held up as the ‘smoking gun’ of wider CofE guilt) this is totally without foundation. He was one of a number of executors of an aristocrat’s will, and had nothing to do with slavery (he even presented petitions to parliament for its abolition). It is deeply regrettable that the clergyman who raised was not better informed and that there has never been a retraction. There should be. The story went round the world at the time and continues to be widely repeated, as has the story that ‘the church’ (i.e. the CofE with its full knowledge and on its instructions) branded its slaves – another story which has got twisted out of context. The SPG were absentee landlords and put local managers in place to run the plantation who did brand some slaves. This was discovered by the resident SPG chaplain who was utterly horrified and put an immediate stop to it.

The SPG did receive compensation for slaves on their plantation (not the Archbishop of Canterbury as has been alleged). The SPG was paid £8,558 as compensation for the estate slaves. It then returned over seven times that amount to the Codrington estate (£61,626) and over twenty times that, (£172,047) elsewhere in the Caribbean over the following decade. The money was used to build churches and schools, funding staff for them, to help build the foundations of a stable new society for freed slaves.

Demands for financial reparations continue to be made against the CofE, argued on the basis that the CofE took money for the slaves but left them destitute with no compensation. These figures, which I have found in an old record of SPG mission work, tell a different story.

The UK Church ‘started’ and ‘propagated’ slavery

The accusation that the church started and propagated slavery is unsupportable nonsense. It is based on a complete misunderstanding of the history of the way early white Europeans (not the church) viewed Africans, at a time when the world was little understood, using bible stories to help them find an answer. That fact has been shoehorned to fit the presuppositions of critics, rather than the reverse. Once again, after an examination of the real contextual history, the charge simply doesn’t stack up. Many Black liberation theologians and historians influenced by critical race theory conflate ‘white European’ with ‘Christian’, in the same way people talk about the Muslim world, regardless of their actual faith or unbelief. Christians today would not recognise someone as ‘Christian’ merely because they were born white British or European. Moreover, church attendance was compulsory in the 17th Century and laws restricting appointment to public office to communicant Anglicans were only repealed in 1828, so even the fact of wide church attendance is no proof of faith.

In further support of this accusation, Lindsay repeats Black liberation theology’s widely used accusation that the church (he implies the British church) during slavery subscribed to the ‘curse of Ham’ argument that denigrates Black Africans to secondary status as slaves and inferior beings. There are two major problems with this.

First, the footnote reference Lindsay cites to support this accusation against the British 18th Century Church actually refers to anti-abolitionist preachers in the American South in the mid-19th Century, though he clearly uses the argument to imply a British mid-18th Century context. Once again, Lindsay marshals support for an assertion using a footnote that doesn’t do that. He obviously hasn’t researched it himself and merely repeated what he has read elsewhere.

In fact, by 1850, the date to which the quote actually refers in America, Britain was so gripped by moral outrage over slavery that it was, in effect, according to one historian, an ‘anti-slavery state’. See, for example, Richard Huzzey, Freedom Burning: Anti-Slavery and Empire in Victorian Britain (2012) and Jan Morris, Heaven’s Command: An Imperial Progress (1973). Huzzey’s book is scholarly, fascinating, and essential reading. Black liberation theologians and radical Black historians dismiss British 19th Century history solely as one of imperialist expansion, exploitation and greed. The reality much more nuanced.

Ironically, Britain actually used its imperial power (‘ironic’ because Lindsay clearly adopts the standard anti-imperial/left perspective on British Empire history throughout the book) to send gunboats into foreign ports to suppress slave trading in both Africa and Brazil. (The Brazilian trade was remained substantial even after emancipation in the 1830s although its government had nominally banned slave trading. After one just brazen British naval bombardment of a Brazilian slave trading port the government backed down and completely reversed its former inaction.)

I have now spent nine months reading on this subject intensively, reviewing 18th/early 19th Century SPG annual sermons, Christian tracts, and Bishops’ speeches in the House of Lords and nowhere (beyond a few exceptional and totally unrepresentative opponents of abolition in the late 18th Century) have I found any mention of the ‘curse of Ham’ thesis or sympathy with its core idea—quite the reverse.

Lindsay also repeats, without any supporting references, the accusation made originally by the first Black liberation theologians in the US (e.g., James Cone) that Christianity was used to suppress slaves and make them more compliant:

Religion was also a driving force during slavery in the Americas. Once they arrived at their new locales the enslaved Africans were subjected to various processes to make them more compliant, and Christianity formed part of this … minimal evangelism actually took place in the early days of slavery.

I have researched this subject in great detail too. The facts, at least in the Caribbean, the only region which is relevant to the British church, are very different from the myth. Ben’s mention of slavery ‘in the Americas’ is not only irrelevant but ignores the complexity and lack of uniformity of Christian practice in 17th/18th Century America – where at its most extreme the Puritan leaders of Boston condemned three Quakers to death for heresy in the 1650s. Later on, Quakers refused to admit anyone who owned slaves to their congregations.

From the early 18th century, sources (such as Arthur Dayfoot, The Shaping of the West Indian Church, 1492-1962 (1999)) make it abundantly clear that the planters in the Caribbean were, as a whole, deeply obstructive to Christian missionaries and mission among the slaves, fearing that Christian teaching would cause the slaves to rebel—exactly the reverse of Lindsay’s accusation. When they did, the planters’ hostility often was directed against clergy, particularly Methodists and Baptist pastors (at least one was killed) and their churches were burned down. Anglican clergy were not paid by the CofE but received their stipend and housing from the planter establishment. Any Anglican clergyman who stepped out of line was impoverished, at worse thrown out of his living.

‘Minimal evangelism’ was certainly due, on occasions, to the worldliness of some of the local clergy (a fact bemoaned by a number of devout Christian pastors, missionaries and even bishops back in England) but more often it was because planters strongly resisted it wherever they could.

What is true is that, in seeking to overcome planter hostility, clergy said that converted slaves were less likely to be involved in violent uprisings. They said this in order to gain more access to slaves. But this fact has got twisted into the opposite – the accusation that Christianity was used to suppress African resistance. It wasn’t. Given the contributions made to slavery history by Marxist historians and Marx and Lenin’s insistence that the ruling class use religion as ‘opium’ to neutralise the resistance of the oppressed, I personally wonder if Marxist theory, rather than historical evidence, is at the root of this allegation.

In passing I would also note that Lindsay even gets his basic figures wrong:

Just before the start of the 20th century, the transatlantic slave trade was responsible for the enslavement of approximately 24 million African men, women and children.

Modern research puts the figure at 12.5 million. The footnote Lindsay provides with this is to a book which states that “24 million” represents the whole trade over history including the Arabic/Islamic slave trade not just the transatlantic trade. This really is sloppy writing and, sadly, yet again characteristic of the book as a whole.

There are many more points I could raise but I will conclude with just one final example, the one that first alerted me to question the book. Early on, as an emotive re-told example of the historic racism Black people have experienced in Britain, Lindsay recounts a story about a white churchgoer’s conversation with his mother about Nelson Mandela.

I remember an occasion in the 1980s when my mum had come home from her midweek prayer meeting. There had been a discussion about Nelson Mandela … a white church member had described Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and said he should be locked up.

The historical context shows that at the time this was a not unreasonable thing for a British person with limited access to detailed news to say and was quite possible to say that without being racist. Mandela refused to renounce violence in the 1980s; his wife Winnie Mandela called for ‘necklacing’, a hideously cruel form of murder where a tyre full of petrol was placed round the wretched victim’s neck and set alight, of other Black South Africans that opposed her (and was implicated in one such infamous murder in 1989); the UK was under terrorist siege by the IRA – including the bombing of the Grand Hotel in 1984 in an attempt to assassinate PM Thatcher. This was the climate at the time and might well lead a South Londoner in the 1980s to quite reasonably conclude that Nelson Mandela was a ‘terrorist’. Given what was known at the time, there was no reason to believe it was not true.

Then comes the following: “That was a view shared by the then UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher.” That’s where I raised my eyebrows. Lindsay’s footnote on the Thatcher quote cites an article in the Independent newspaper. The Independent piece doesn’t mention Mandela—it mentions the ANC (Africa National Congress), stating that Mrs Thatcher called the ANC a ‘terrorist’ organisation. Not Mandela. Yet again, Lindsay uses a footnote to support something the footnote doesn’t say. In fact, even that story was untrue. A simple fact-check uncovers multiple articles, even in the Left press, which show that the Thatcher quote is a myth. Mrs Thatcher never said it. The Observer had to issue a retraction (which it did on Sept 10, 2006). As we now know Mrs Thatcher was actually privately urging the white South African government to end apartheid. It just needed a simple Google search to uncover the truth of the story. Sadly, this is typical of the book.

Does this matter?

If these were exceptions rather than typical examples of poor scholarship which are found throughout the book, they would not; however, there are many more that I could cite.

If the book had not been so highly acclaimed (even as a ‘must read’ by Justin Welby; “This is one of the most important books to have been written in recent years and is essential reading for every Christian and especially every church leader in the UK.” Selina Stone, lecturer in political theology, St Mellitus College), these examples would not matter. If Lindsay’s book and the ideas it contains were not being used as the go-to for Anglican churches seeking to address racial justice, they would be of little consequence; and if Lindsay was not addressing staff and congregations in some of the leading churches in the country and even theological colleges (Lindsay is to give the prestigious annual Moule Day Lecture at Ridley on 9th June 2021), they would not matter.

A number of churches are now either using the book in their home groups or proposing to do so, together with study notes written by Ben Lindsay. And we do not have to look far to guess what those notes will say. In his book, each chapter already ends with study questions. On page 50, we find this one:

White church member: were you aware of the UK churches role in the transatlantic slave trade and its implications for today? Are you aware of the privileges you have inherited as a result of the ideas that initiated and maintained slavery?

As I have shown, the answers Lindsay provides to respond to this question here are based upon fiction rather than historical fact. Most church members will not have studied slavery history, especially with regard to the church’s involvement in it. If the book is promoted to church groups as ‘excellent’ (as the group leaders of one large church have been told) and then recommended to congregation members as a set book for home groups they will believe Lindsay’s version of both slavery and modern history is correct. In fact, it is deeply flawed.

Many churches have now, commendably, made it clear that they are committed to racial justice. In the process they are adopting a book which states that in order to achieve racial justice and unity in the church, white Christians must first accept “an agreed collective memory of past racial wrongs by the church”, which include its “whitewashing of Christianity throughout history”, its “complicity in the transatlantic slave trade” and acknowledging “the crucial and significant role it played in starting the barbaric transatlantic slave trade in the first place” and the “propagation of slavery by the church”.

If they do so, the church will be responsible both for deceiving them and for persuading them to assent to what is, in reality, untrue—a lie.

None of this negates Ben Lindsay’s commendable work over the years with gangs and in developing strategies to combat serious youth violence strategy. And he is clear that his aim in the book is to facilitate unity among Christians of all ethnicities, something every Christian would share, as I do. The flaws are with the ideas he promotes and the history he retells, not that aim. As I wrote at the start of this, it is essential that every church’s approach to racial justice is seen to be academically, historically and theologically credible. If it isn’t it will only lead to resentment and discord. Ben’s book fails drastically on all these three criteria. Once church members become aware of these flaws, the book is in danger of increasing division rather than healing it.


Giles Udy is a political historian and author of Labour and the Gulag – Russia and the Seduction of the British Left. He has written for The Times, Telegraph, Mail, UnHerd, Critic and Standpoint as is on Twitter as @gilesudy

(The image at the top is from the print of the Brookes slave ship which caused such a stir on its publication.)


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78 thoughts on “We need to talk about race—and historical facts”

  1. Thank you.
    This puts some of my own dis-ease at the way this issue is handled into a better and wider context.
    I’m concerned on more than one level…
    First, obviously this book and its dangerous impact on others.
    Secondly.. Why does the “CofE” seem to jump so uncritically on bandwagons? Are we so weak intellectually or so needy of popularity?

    Reply
  2. Well, this is uncomfortable reading.

    I’m not sure what else there is to say in response to this polemic. I personally thought Ben Lindsay’s book was good and I was personally challenged by it. I do not regret reading it, nor recommending it to others.

    The foundational historical analysis may be wide of the mark, and I’ll admit some of the claims sounded ‘fishy’ to me as well (as a layman), but the core point of the book, it’s purpose, was never meant to be analysis but rather an exercise in highlighting black perspectives within the church, and calling the church (as a whole) to better racial inclusivity.

    Hmmm.

    Mat

    Reply
    • “The foundational historical analysis may be wide of the mark,”

      If the foundations are oundations are sand when examined surely the solutions (however well intentioned) cannot go unquestioned. A problem wrongly understood can’t lead to a real world solution.

      Reply
      • Does it undermine the credibility of the argument? Of course.

        Does it undermine it to the point that we should discard or avoid the thrust of what Ben Lindsay argues? No.

        I think that’s the key for me. While criticism like this is nessecary, and good, it shouldn’t distract from the urgent need to address race issues within the church and wider society.

        Reply
        • “it shouldn’t distract…”

          I thoroughly agree… but that’s the problem. The book critiqued appears to do exactly that.

          One doesn’t need the historical fabrication in order to present the real racial issues of today. The only thing that does is to throw petrol on a bonfire.

          Reply
      • I’d agree that: “a problem wrongly understood can’t lead to a real world solution.” But let’s also consider Giles Udy’s suspect ‘foundations’.

        As an example (and I will provide more), Udy wrote: “Ben states that “the church was the moral cement for our structure of racism in our nation” and “we have not yet fully reckoned with our Christian responsibility for the legacy of racism in our society” (my italics) and cites ‘Rev Duke Kwon’ as the source. This is a massive accusation. Ben never mentions that Kwon is American and was referring to America. “

        In fact, during his sermon for 2017 PCA General Assembly, Kwon stated: “In 1969 the National Committee of Black Churchmen asserted that, historically, the Christian church has served as the ‘moral cement’ of the structure of racism in this nation, and that therefore, the church should share accountability for the problem of racism in America. “

        Here’s the relevant verbatim quote from the statement made after the 1969 meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Committee of Black Churchmen in Atlanta, Georgia:
        “There is no question but that the American religious establishment, along with
        almost every other institution in the society was the conscious beneficiary of the
        enforced labor of one of the most inhuman forms of chattel slavery the world has
        ever known. 6ome churches actually owned slaves and many others thrived on the
        tithes and offerings of both Northern and Southern churchmen who profited
        directly and indirectly from the uncompensated labor of the slaves. The white
        churches and synagogues undeniably have been the moral cement of the structure
        of racism in this nation and the vast majority of them continue to play that role
        today.”

        The Church of England was the largest and most influential communion in the American colonies.

        Enslaved Africans were baptized into the Anglican Church as early as the 1600’s. They were relegated to segregated worship spaces in slave galleries and met at separate worship times. In order to adhere to Christian values while justifying slavery, Christian theology and biblical interpretation of the time had to be infused with messages of black inferiority and the spiritual benefits of servitude.

        As historian Christine Leigh Heyman describes it: “the Church of England in the colonies suffered from a sluggish rate of growth and a shortage of clergymen throughout much of the seventeenth century. But in the century before the American Revolution, that communion’s fortunes prospered: Anglican churches spread along the length of the Atlantic seaboard, the largest concentration being in the coastal South. In these colonies, Anglicanism also enjoyed the advantage of being the established, state-supported church, as it had been in England since the sixteenth century.

        “…there were many diverse groups of Protestants within the white population—Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Dutch Reformed as well as Anglicans, Quakers, and Lutherans, to mention only the most numerous. But, in historical terms, the MOST IMPORTANT (because they were the largest and most influential communions) were the Anglicans on the one hand and, on the other, the heirs of the Reformed tradition (i.e., Calvinists like the Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Dutch Reformed, and a host of German “pietist sects” like the Moravians).”

        Furthermore, she writes: “While many Reformed churches embraced an evangelical ethos, especially in the mid-eighteenth century as the Great Awakening spread throughout British North America (and revivals simultaneously swept Protestant Europe), most Anglicans (the Methodists in their ranks being the great exception) rejected evangelical influences. Another way of saying this is that, compared to Reformed churches, Anglicans made less stringent demands on the inner resources of individuals. To wit: Belonging to the Church of England did not require individuals to testify to a conversion experience or to submit to an ascetic code of conduct enforced by the clergy and watchful lay members. Nor was any premium placed on strict doctrinal conformity, for, unlike the members of the Reformed tradition, Anglicans had little taste for dogmatism and tolerated differences of opinion on many points of theology. Instead, their clergy encouraged a temperate, practical piety among the laity through liturgical observance and moral admonition. And many colonials found great comfort in this form of Protestantism.”

        So, Lindsay’s statement clearly refers to the historic moral influence of the Church of England in the UK and colonies. Colonising Anglicans and, later, Episcopalians were an integral part of the social and economic system of slavery in America.

        “The southern, slave-owning class formed the financial foundation of the church; and, northern Episcopal churches remained neutral during the Civil War to keep the peace.”

        It’s the fallacy of distinction without a difference for Udy to imply that Ben Lindsay’s statement is not “the truth about the British Church” because it is “an American pastor’s contentious comment about the American church”.

        Reply
  3. I’ve been uneasy for some time about the way ‘woke’ narratives, which have appeared to me to be largely unexamined, have been adopted in sections of the church as ‘gospel’. Thank you for doing all this research, and making it available to us.

    Reply
  4. The author highlights the problem: the problem of and in the church of being unable (with sufficient expertise), unwilling, to spend the necessary time to study and follow the evidence citically.
    Will this article and the author’s other uncolated notes on the book and historical evidences be given any prominence in the CoE, certainly to provide some counter balance, perhaps iaround the fulcrum aim of the book which is not questioned in this article?

    Reply
  5. Unfortunately this comes over as an ideological piece which, whether intentionally or not, will encourage those people who don’t understand or give a damn about the issues of racial justice inside or outside the church. It will help those who wish to deny there is any reality to white privilege, and who want to rubbish the contributions of black scholars and theologians to this vital debate.

    There is some useful material in the study of 18th Century History here.. The church was by no means universally racist or pro slavery, but this needs to be argued in terms of the difference between Christendom and gospel Christianity rather than has a wholesale defence of the Church of England at that time.

    I have to admit I’ve not read Lindsay’s book and it may well be deficient in scholarship. But as I understand it the book is meant to be a short popular introduction sharing the stories, experiences and emotions of Black people in relationship with white majority churches, with a positive programme towards building a more inclusive church. A review like this which pours academic scorn on a popular and constructive treatment of the racism issue and patronises the “a fellow author, especially one like Ben who comes across as a genuinely nice person” does not deserve to be taken seriously..

    Reply
    • A popular level book that is seemingly, uncritically, whole heartedly, embraced and promoted by the CoE hierarchy.
      It takes little effort to separate personal stories and experience today from history.
      Unfortunately Gregg, your comment, to me comes across as prejudiced, and a little patronising in thinking ordinary CoE folk won’t be able to separate history from present day experience. Or are you hinting that it will only justify or fuel their
      ignorant, existing prejudice and white systemic privilege, in the CoE ( the caricature of the middle class at prayer, perhaps?); or are you hinting that applies in all denominations, in the UK?
      You appear to be painting with broad brush generalities which is dissapointing, given your earlier article on this blog.

      Reply
    • White privilege is an insidious concept. No doubt that more money per capita is in white than black hands in the UK, but can you exclude that this is simply because black people here arrived materially poor? The question is whether there is equality of opportunity in schools, universities and institutions, as of course there should be. That question is identical in logic to whether there is racial discrimination. Is there? Statistics about under-representation do not prove racism, for there are many cultural differences between communities – things which correlate with race in this country but for which race is not a causative factor.

      Regarding the funding of the Industrial Revolution, all British profits from slavery during 1761 – 1807 amounted to less than 2% of Britain’s domestic investments in that time, according to the (black!) American economist Thomas Sowell in his book Basic Economics, 5th ed, p561, who gives onward references for his book here:

      http://www.tsowell.com/BE_sources5.pdf

      There seems to be a subtle agenda to make white British people alive today feel guilty for something they have had no choice about, which makes no sense. Perhaps we need to talk less about race, not more.

      Reply
      • “according to the (black!) American economist Thomas Sowell in his book Basic Economics, 5th ed, p561,

        Oh, great: he’s black. Nothing like a person’s race to demonstrate their arguments to be fair and unbiased!

        Reply
        • David,
          You seem to have been discomfited.
          Your comment risks turning this into something farcical, if followed through, rather than looking at the evidence which you have sought to do in other comments of yours to earlier articles on a similar topic and rather than address the points raised.
          It seems almost impossible to look at the history with any degree of impartially and balance.
          What I appreciated from this article was the author checking out the source material cited as authority for the points made by the author of the book.
          Particularly, disconcerting for me as a former lawyer is the false points made by the author of the book and this needs to be pointed out. The article seeks out the source material. Surely, there can be no serious intellectual argument against that.

          Reply
          • Geoff,

            My comment here was ‘tongue in cheek’.

            Of course, Sowell’s race is irrelevant to the robustness of his arguments.

            If anything risks turning this discussion into something farcical, it’s invoking race to lend credence to one’s argument, whether ‘woke’ or reactionary.

            If

        • The woke regard it as legitimate to invoke an author’s whiteness as invalidating his argument on the subject of slavery, but if I invoke an author’s blackness in support of his argument it is illegitimate. If I am wrong, so are the woke.

          Reply
          • I’m not ‘woke’. On this forum, most would distance themselves from ‘wokeness’.

            So, your invocation of the author’s blackness as a counter-credential for his position is a straw man and entirely irrelevant to this discussion.

          • “I’m not ‘woke’. On this forum, most would distance themselves from ‘wokeness’.”

            Define woke. If it’s about being alert to social and racial injustice – which seems to be one clear definition – then I think the vast majority of those who comment on this forum would happily say they are woke.

          • David: I agree that the colour of a man’s skin is irrelevant to the internal logic of any argument he proposes. (Did I suggest otherwise?) I mentioned Sowell’s colour to pre-empt any criticism from woke quarters, since the woke tend to think that any comment on the subject of slavery by white men is illegitimate. Wokeness is liable to get into the church, as it is a facet of Western culture today.

          • Define woke. If it’s about being alert to social and racial injustice – which seems to be one clear definition – then I think the vast majority of those who comment on this forum would happily say they are woke.

            I think first you’d have to define ‘racial and social injustice’ — terms just as contentious and multiply-defined as ‘woke’.

          • Thomas Sowell has been dismissed as a mere ‘white man’, and his arguments thereby disposed of, in the most academically elevated circles:
            https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsereviewofbooks/2012/05/26/book-review-intellectuals-and-society-by-thomas-sowell/

            Another example. Prof Geoffrey Sampson, in his “End to Allegiance” (1985) (I’m quoting from memory as I have not got access to this volume at the moment) remarks that the average reader may be disconcerted on finishing reading one of Sowell’s studies of the economics of race in the USA, to look at the author photo on the back dustjacket and see that Sowell is a black man. Sampson himself distinguishes between Sowell’s entertaining/ depressing tales of first-hand experience (such as his first teaching post at a historically-black college) and the underlying arguments of his books which stand or fall on their own merits.

            It seems we expect to find plenty of people who think that an unseen writer’s skin colour can be predicted from his conclusions (or that the ‘authenticity’ of his racial identity can thereby be judged)… And even more people who will agree with a writer’s conclusions simply because they sound congenial, rather than because they have checked the evidential backing and followed the train of thought that led up to them.

          • “I think first you’d have to define ‘racial and social injustice’ — terms just as contentious and multiply-defined as ‘woke’.”

            Nothing really complicated or contentious there. They mean, for example, that women and men are paid the same for doing the same jobs. That black and tie people are paid the same for doing the same jobs. That the law treats black and white people equally – which, sadly, is not the case. That poorer people have the same access to health care as richer people. How is any of that contentious or complicated?

          • Nothing really complicated or contentious there. They mean, for example, that women and men are paid the same for doing the same jobs. That black and tie people are paid the same for doing the same jobs. That the law treats black and white people equally – which, sadly, is not the case. That poorer people have the same access to health care as richer people. How is any of that contentious or complicated?

            Women and men are paid the same for doing the same jobs, though. Indeed women doing the same jobs as men are often paid slightly more. The so-called ‘wage gap’ is entirely the result of women doing different kinds of jobs to men (women more often work part-time, for example).

            So even that’s not uncomplicated or uncontentious.

            And that’s before we even get to the fact that for some people ‘racial injustice’ means, for example, very contentious ideas like ‘white privilege’ or the idea that our entire society is set up to promote white supremacy.

            So if you say, for example, ‘I believe in fighting racial injustice’ and I say, ‘so do I’, and I mean that I believe in making sure that people of all races are treated equally, but you take me to mean that I am on board with revolutionary restructuring of all of society because our nation was founded on racist principles of white supremacy that cannot be overturned unless all of out culture is turned upside down, and when I object to that you say, ‘but I thought you said you believed in fighting racial injustice!’…

            … how is that not contentious?

          • S: I realise that if I said something was white you would argue it was black so I will leave it there.

  6. I have to admit that I am confused on this whole issue. I would say that I have insufficient time and expertise to study the subject in sufficient detail. Some of the evidence in Mr Lindsay’a book are clearly at fault. Equally, the tone of this review, while generally respectful, seems to aim to exculpate rather than acknowledge if at all possible. There is a virtual dismissal of what appears an over-simplification of CRT – which holds valuable insights (according to many respected evangelical scholars) despite its use to bolster anti-Christian perspectives and it’s Marxist roots.
    So I feel uncomfortable not really knowing the other side of the argument from the perspective of a similarly qualified author as the reviewer.
    It’s tempting to use this review to dismiss any misgivings I might have had about UK Christians and their actions during slavery. I have a deep suspicion that there is much shameful history which I don’t know about connected with UK Christianity between 1700 and 1850.

    Reply
  7. An excellent piece of writing. Having been thrust into racism working for a mining company in Uganda and then South Africa over 50 years ago, I have read up on racism and its history, along with slavery. Writing is harder as I came to similar conclusions to this article and every time I put my head above the parapet in the church I was shouted down! I lived for 18 month in apartheid South Africa was given an unrepeatable nickname (begins with N ) for which I am proud and broke apartheid laws on about 365 of the days I was there. When in Uganda I was given the same nicknam and an African tribal name!! I shall reblog this as it is so good.

    Reply
  8. “It is absolutely right that the British church pursues racial justice but it is essential that that process is seen to be academically, historically and theologically credible. If it isn’t and that becomes known, there will be resentment and division, rather than healing, in the church.”

    Precisely.

    Reply
  9. Brian Stanley’s The Bible and The Flag remains a really helpful touchstone for me, after picking it up during my undergraduate degree, when contending with and against the claimed linkages between ’empire and church’. Older now but it remains prescient and timely in my opinion.

    Reply
  10. Thanks for such a thorough and thought provoking critique of Lindsay’s book. I felt he had twisted scripture somewhat when accusing Peter of hidden prejudice towards the Gentiles in Acts 10 (see final chapter).

    Reply
  11. As an Anglican clergyman to what extent should I identify with Anglican clergy Jamaica three centuries ago? Orlando Patterson wrote in ‘The Sociology of Slavery’ of 18th century Jamaica: “the clergy themselves were amongst the most immoral in the island and the established Anglican Church in Jamaica represents, perhaps, the most disgraceful episode in the history of that institution. . . . . (A contemporary) felt obliged to give a ‘dismal account’ of the Church Affairs of the island. He found the clergy ‘of a character so vile’ as to be unmentionable and concluded that ‘they are generally the most finished of our Debauchers'” (p 40).
    Of course I can separate myself and say that my inward faith is not like theirs, nonetheless I share their history, their traditions, and like them have been paid partly from past endowments; so, yes, some sense of shame is appropriate

    Reply
  12. John,
    What do you do with your vicarious sense of shame? What cost redemption? Who, what, how will redemption ever be achieved? Who will atone for sins of your ( spiritual forefathers? How will it be expunged, if ever? How will taint by association, by current office holding, become unstained?
    By resigning robes? By disbanding the CoE?
    By throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
    Or by turning to Christ who vicariously despised the shame of the cross, of abuse, injustice nakedness, defriended, denouncement abandonment, torture? He was shamed by our sins and our ancestors sins, by perpetrators and passers by, near and far for our redemption, salvation. For our forgiveness redemption and individual and collective union in Him.

    Reply
    • Good questions. How do I deal with my own sin? Yes, by receiving complete and free forgiveness through Christ. But also being chastened, humbled and learning as much as I can about myself. So the enslaving activities of our forbears should humble us (just as I’m proud that they fought Hitler), and I need to internalise painful lessons about the way my forbears could so easily fail to treat people of other races with brutality and contempt.

      Reply
      • So the enslaving activities of our forbears should humble us (just as I’m proud that they fought Hitler),

        Presumably then you are also proud that your forebears abolished slavery in the Empire (one of the first societies in history to do so — though the Fench did get their first, but the Napoleon brought it back) and waged an anti-slavery war using the Royal Navy?

        and I need to internalise painful lessons about the way my forbears could so easily fail to treat people of other races with brutality and contempt.

        Is it not important, given that your forebears include both those in Jamaica who behaved so abominably, and those in England who behaved so nobly, to not only acknowledge both sides of your history, the light and the dark, but also to be clear which side, noble or abominable, was the general rule and which the exception?

        Reply
    • Geoff,

      You wrote (as an alternative to John’s vicarious shame): “by turning to Christ who vicariously despised the shame of the cross”.

      Imagine if Zacchaeus hadn’t accepted Christ; that he hadn’t promised: “If I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount”.

      Instead, let’s say that he persisted in his life of commercial exploitation, only to bequeath his ill-gotten gains to his son, who, in contrast, did profess Christ.

      It would be sheer hypocrisy to profess Christ, declaring that He was “shamed by our sins and our ancestors sins, by perpetrators and passers by, near and far for our redemption”, only to connive at his own unjust enrichment from his father’s ill-gotten (and generational money-laundered) wealth?

      On a previous blog, as an alternative to such connivance, I proposed the following four principles for resolving this “taint by connivance”:

      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 has fed you”.

      Reply
      • You say that there should be no statute of limitation on reparation for slavery and war crimes, and that reparation should be made at national level rather than individual.

        This is problematic. I would rather see my tax monies go to deserving individuals in the relevant communities in Africa than to their kleptocratic governors, who are more likely to deposit it in a Swiss bank account for their own enrichment than pass it on to their own people. If it goes to people, in contrast, where are they now and how can we distinguish persons of west African ancestry from those of (say) east African ancestry today? Why should tax paid by the UK black community – impoverishing them – be used in reparation? I also ask – entirely seriously in view of the principles you are proposing – who pays whom for the Norman Conquest and the Harrying of the North? I would need specific answers to these questions in order to be convinced that your suggestions are coherent.

        Reply
        • Anton,

          I’d suppose that the 35 MPs who opposed Germany’s agreement to pay reparations to the Ben Gurion-led Israeli government might well have similarly said:
          “I would rather see my tax monies go to deserving individuals in the relevant communities in Israel than to their war-mongering prime minister and minister of defence, who is more likely to use it to built further Jewish settlements that displace even more Palestinians than to offset the sunk cost of resettling 500,000 Holocaust survivors.”

          While Germany’s decision to pay reparations to Israel was carried by a large majority, post-defeat, their government did not really have any choice, but to comply. Hence, my point about compulsion as part of ‘victor’s spoils’.

          So, there was no need for Germany to become overwrought in seeking to ensure that their reparations had solely paid for the resettlement of Holocaust survivors.

          Nor did they need to compensate their post-war Jewish residents for any tax paid towards reparations.

          In contrast, today, as I wrote: “Absent the ability to impose reparations (or compensation), the reaction of collective inertia is to be expected.”

          And there’s evidence of that in many of the comments here.

          Reply
          • You have not engaged with any of the issues in my preceding post which are problematic for your advocacy of government-to-government reparation – including my question about William the Conqueror’s Harrying of the North. As you assert that there should be no statue of limitation for such war crimes, who should pay whom (and how much), please?

          • No. I just haven’t engaged with it as you’d wish. Your assertion that I am advocating “government-to-government reparations” is a straw man because:
            1. I acknowledged that “absent the ability to impose reparations (or compensation), the reaction of collective inertia is to be expected.”
            2. I also acknowledged that: 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

            Until you engage with those qualifications of my position, I won’t engage with any assertions that elide them from my argument.

          • Of course a reaction of collective inertia is to be expected. But as you are saying reparation is appropriate, a constructive suggestion as to how would be helpful. As it is, you seem to be declining to answer my question by joining the inertia party whom you implicitly condemn.

          • Still, a straw man. The statement about collective inertia was just one of two qualifications.

            The other was: “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.”

            That statement involves no complicity with collective inertia. So, that reductio ad absurdum might take a bit longer to achieve.

          • Your assertion, “moral liability is not extinguished. That does not require acknowledgement of being a perpetrator” is somewhat confused, because the moral liability of which you speak is collective, upon a nation, yet a non-perpetrator who is part of that nation bears no personal moral liability whatsoever. I urge you to clarify the relation between national and individual 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.”

            How on Earth can one have moral liability for an action that one did not do oneself?

            I can see how you could make an argument that one has financial liability if one has benefited indirectly from harm done to another. An analogous, though not perfectly alike, situation may be where one has, perfectly honestly and in good faith, bought goods that turned out to be stolen. then one has a responsibility to give the goods back to their rightful owner. So one has financial liability. Financial liability, in other words, can transmit with stolen goods.

            Same would be true — possibly this is an even better analogy — if one was left the stolen goods in a will.

            That seems a reasonable argument that could be made (not saying I agree, just that it seems reasonable, just as it also seems reasonable to ask for more details).

            However, one does not thereby have moral liability for the theft. That remains with the person who stole the goods. It doesn’t transmit with them.

            Consider this situation: if my father stole something, and then died, and then passed it to me in his will, then when the rightful owner turns up, it’s certainly arguable that I have the financial liability to return the stolen property. I inherited stolen goods and with them I inherited the responsibility to restore them to their rightful owner.

            However I can’t at all see that it’s even at all arguable that I inherited any moral liability for the theft, which may have happened before I was even born. the moral liability, surely, lies entirely with the person who committed the crime.

            Those who indirectly benefit from a crime may have a financial liability to the crime’s victims, but I can’t see at all as to how they have any moral liability for the crime.

            So if you want to go on claiming that ‘moral liability is not extinguished’ then I’m afraid I will have to ask you to justify how on Earth you think that moral liability for a crime can transmit to those who had nothing to do with the crime, who may not even have been born when it happened?

            You’re on much firmer ground, as far as I can see, with the claim that financial reparations might be owed as a result of indirectly benefiting form a crime — that makes sense in a way your ‘moral liability’ argument quite simply fails to. But in that case I’m afraid you do have to provide more detail on how that would work, as you were originally asked for.

          • “if my father stole something, and then died, and then passed it to me in his will, then when the rightful owner turns up, it’s certainly arguable that I have the financial liability to return the stolen property. I inherited stolen goods and with them I inherited the responsibility to restore them to their rightful owner.”

            Nevertheless, if you were aware that the wealth or advantage passed down to you resulted from ill-gotten gain, but simply connived at that wrong, then you are indeed morally liable.

            The fact that you did not commit the crime doesn’t exonerate you from moral liability for connivance at it.

          • Nevertheless, if you were aware that the wealth or advantage passed down to you resulted from ill-gotten gain, but simply connived at that wrong, then you are indeed morally liable.

            Are you? You’re going to have to be specific about what you mean by ‘connive at’ if we’re to decide whether that’s right or not.

          • “You’re going to have to be specific about what you mean by ‘connive at’ if we’re to decide whether that’s right or not.

            Instead of my meaning, how is connivance legally defined in relation to the commission of an illegal act by another?

          • Instead of my meaning, how is connivance legally defined in relation to the commission of an illegal act by another?

            You wrote ‘moral liability’, so we’re in the moral domain here, not the legal domain. So a legal definition won’t settle the matter.

            All I’m asking is for you to define a term that you brought into the discussion. That’s hardly an unreasonable request, is it? You used the term, so it’s your meaning that’s important. If you refuse to do so then it looks like you have something to hide. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to look like you had anything to hide, so you’ll give your definition forthwith and we can move on with the risk of misunderstanding significantly lessened.

          • To consider a legal definition of connivance to be inapplicable to the sphere of moral issues is a False dichotomy.

            “ If you refuse to do so then it looks like you have something to hide. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to look like you had anything to hide”

            I don’t particularly care about perceptions. To resort to such a tack is strange and frankly unworthy of the robust arguments that you’ve previously made on this blog.

            Here’s the link to a legal definition of connivance: “Ignoring another person’s wrongdoing, for example, by indirectly condoning an illegal act by another person”: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/connivance

      • Hello David,

        You’ve raised a number of points, but first let me say that I know nothing of international law. Some brief comments for consideration are made on your numbered paragraphs which arise out of

        Zacchaeus reparations: I don’t see that Zacchaeus personal response to acceptance of Jesus, relating to his personal dishonesty, to identifiable people he transgressed can, necessarily as a matter of principle, be extrapolated to nations and corporations for historical transgressions especially where material and fiscal gain can not be traced and quantified. (Unlike the nation return from exile with the Temple spoils and unlike the Exodus where the Israelites escaped with wealth).
        From your illustration you suggest that the son (of Zacchaeus), the next generation, continue the perpetration of Zacchaeus transgression by conniving at his own unjust enrichment. That is an argument from something that didn’t happen and in any case the son would be a party to his father’s offences. Where is the current, contemporary generational national “connivance” with forefathers sin? And I’m not sure that contemporary language of money laundering can be retrospectively applied to pecuniary advantages that can not be traced and unpicked and unravelled down the centuries, which you appear to concede in para 3.

        1. Statute of Limitations
        1.1 Limitation periods in Torts in England and Wales is are fixed by statute (1980) and vary according to the tort. The underpinning principle is essentially ‘public policy’. Under the laws of England and Wales, it is unfair and contrary to public policy for individuals or organizations to be perpetually exposed to litigation for wrongful acts or omissions. When a significant time has passed following a wrongful act, witnesses’ recollections and memories may fade, documentary evidence may be lost, and other evidence may be weakened. This means it can become difficult or impossible to properly adjudicate a case and prevent justice being served.

        It is therefore deemed to be in the public interest that claims are barred by statute after a certain period of time has elapsed.

        I’d suggest that this is the principle to be extended to any present argument for “damages” (financial compensation), reparations. They are time barred.

        1.2 Crime. Again, I know nothing of international law, but serious crimes are not time barred. Public policy may, however, result in no proceedings being brought.
        But I ask: how far do the laws against genocide, humanity, war crimes apply retrospectively, retroactively. Where in reality is the timeline to be drawn? Against nations? In living memory, a generation or two or three or four?

        2 Liability v Guilt
        Liability for debts of a deceased estate. They are bourne by and set against the assets where the estate is solvent (subject to any security). Where it is insolvent, the debtors are paid in statutory order of priority. In neither instance are the assets of the widow to be used, nor is she to seek finances to make payment to the estate creditors.

        3&4 Corporate v personal liability

        A Limited Company is a legal person. It can act ultra vires. beyond, outside its purposes, constitution set out in articles and memorandum ofassociation, Officers are personally liable only in limited circumstances. But a limited company can be vicariously liable for it’s employees actions carried out in the course of their employment.
        I don’t see that Germany can be used as an example or precedent for historical reparations from centuries ago. And in this history, to use your language, who are the victors to impose reparations?

        5 Moral responsibility
        Condemn me if you will be I do not accept and personal moral responsibility, for being born and raised in England for being the grandson of a coal miner and a bus conductress for receiving state education an professional qualification in a western democracy, even with its chequered history like every tribe tongue and nation.
        What is my personal moral responsibility as a follower of Christ at my stage of life and within my tiny sphere of control and truncated sphere of influence. The neighbour principle and the golden rule would apply (imperfectly) to an intermittent Muslim neighbour from Somalia, employed by a multinational corporation and multi-ethnic Anglican church community to which belong.

        Addendum. For a comment on reparations, see part of this link to an article by Ed Welch. I don’t know who he is or how accurate it is:
        https://unherd.com/thepost/the-historical-myths-about-britain-that-actually-need-correcting/

        Reply
        • Geoff,

          Firstly, let me say that I enjoyed (yes, enjoyed) your reply. I always love a thorough and well-informed response.

          You wrote: “Zacchaeus personal response to acceptance of Jesus, relating to his personal dishonesty, to identifiable people he transgressed can, necessarily as a matter of principle, be extrapolated to nations and corporations for historical transgressions especially where material and fiscal gain can not be traced and quantified.”

          I haven’t simply “extrapolated to nations and corporations for historical transgressions” from “Zacchaeus’ personal response”. Instead, my position was developed cumulatively.

          As a precursor to other points, I established that restitution is a normative concomitant of Christian faith. As Ex. 22:1 shows, the fourfold restitution was not based on a equal compensatory quantum, but, instead, on an exemplary multiplier.

          1. While your points about domestic law are accurate, The UK is a co-signatory to the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity was adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by the U.N. General Assembly. Under that international convention, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide have no statute of limitations.

          You ask pertinently: “how far do the laws against genocide, humanity, war crimes apply retrospectively, retroactively. Where in reality is the timeline to be drawn? Against nations? In living memory, a generation or two or three or four?”

          As I explained in point 3, “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.” That’s, at least, three generations.

          2. Liability vs. guilt
          You wrote: “Liability for debts of a deceased estate. They are borne by and set against the assets where the estate is solvent (subject to any security).”

          My own assessment agrees with this: “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.”

          So, it was not on account of their guilt, that, up to 2010, German descendants were still paying reparations to Israel. Instead, their payments were on account of the liability of the German ‘estate’.

          3. “I don’t see that Germany can be used as an example or precedent for historical reparations from centuries ago.”

          Unless you can prove that a statute of limitations applies to the genocide that was the transatlantic slave trade, then that is no more than a special pleading for the relief of Western consciences.

          4. Victor spoils. The reason that Germany had no alternative but to pay reparations to Israel was because the latter had the support of the Allies, who, as victors of WWII, could enforce compliance.

          The current situation contrasts sharply with that era. That’s why I wrote: “absent the ability to impose reparations (or compensation), the reaction of collective inertia is to be expected.”

          5. Moral responsibility
          “Condemn me if you will be I do not accept any personal moral responsibility, for being born and raised in England for being the grandson of a coal miner and a bus conductress for receiving state education an professional qualification in a western democracy, even with its chequered history like every tribe tongue and nation.”

          In 2010, reparations were still being paid to Israel through the taxes of humble, hard-working Germans. They might have said something similar about moral responsibility, while similarly not addressing the explanation of what that meant by that.

          Regardless of such humble status, moral responsibility concerning slavery should acknowledges 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.

          If, even within a tiny sphere of control, we can vehemently denounce the evils of extramarital sex, abortion and euthanasia, etc, then I’m sure that it’s possible to do much more in the fight against racism than the bounty bestowed upon the “intermittent Muslim neighbour from Somalia” through the unalloyed goodness of the multi-national corporation for which he works.

          Reply
      • S,
        Buying stolen goods may be a crime, depending on the circumstances and many have been convicted while contending they had no knowledge. As far as criminal intent is concerned there is an objective test where knowing and believing the property to have been stolen is imputed to the buyer. A coonbexample would be buying something from an unknown bloke in a pub.Often the property is held by the police until after the case and there may need to be a civile case to decide ownership.
        In civil contract cases the property (legal ownership remains with owner and doesn’t pass to the buyer if bought prom someone without the right to sell. An example might be the purchase of a car at a market price from a private seller while the car is subject to HP. It remains in the ownership of the finance company.
        There are also exceptions such as buying goods from a “market overt” even if they turn out to be stolen they become the property of the buyer.
        I think David’s terminology of inertia is misapplied so far as he seeks to apply to moral responsability today for centuries old human life misappropriation and land and financial transgressions.

        Reply
        • Buying stolen goods may be a crime, depending on the circumstances and many have been convicted while contending they had no knowledge.

          Yes, I know, but it’s not a strict liability crime: if you buy stolen gods honestly and in good faith (as I made sure to specify) then you haven’t committed a crime. (Obviously if you lie and claim you had no idea the goods were stolen when actually you knew perfectly well they were then that is a crime, but it’s my hypothetical so I get to set the terms and my hypothetical buyer was honest).

          There are also exceptions such as buying goods from a “market overt” even if they turn out to be stolen they become the property of the buyer.

          Although that is falling out of use, as while it made sense in days gone by to expect an owners whose property had been stolen to at least check out the local market when that was basically the only place they could be sold, it doesn’t really any more with ease of transportation.

          I think David’s terminology of inertia is misapplied so far as he seeks to apply to moral responsability today for centuries old human life misappropriation and land and financial transgressions.

          I agree, but it’s always helpful to pin people like that down on specifics.

          Reply
      • To consider a legal definition of connivance to be inapplicable to the sphere of moral issues is a False dichotomy.

        “ If you refuse to do so then it looks like you have something to hide. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to look like you had anything to hide”

        I don’t particularly care about perceptions. To resort to such a tack is strange and frankly unworthy of the robust arguments that you’ve previously made on this blog.

        Here’s the link to a legal definition of connivance: “Ignoring another person’s wrongdoing, for example, by indirectly condoning an illegal act by another person”: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/connivance

        Reply
        • To consider a legal definition of connivance to be inapplicable to the sphere of moral issues is a False dichotomy.

          I didn’t say it was inapplicable, though, did I? I said it wouldn’t settle the matter, because as you were the one who brought the word up, what matters is the definition you were using, and how was I to know if some definition I found, from a different domain of discourse, would match what you had in mind? Far better to ask you direct to define your own terms.

          Here’s the link to a legal definition of connivance: “Ignoring another person’s wrongdoing, for example, by indirectly condoning an illegal act by another person”: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/connivance

          There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

          Thing is, I don’t see how that helps your case. Nobody these days condones slavery, directly or indirectly. So by your definition of ‘connivance’ (ie, condoning an illegal act), there is nobody alive (at least in the UK, I’m not going to speak to countries which still practice slavery, like China or Mali) who ‘connives at’ slavery. So when you speak of connivance in this context, you are speaking of the empty set.

          So given that, it seems irrelevant to bring up connivance. So why did you bring it up, again?

          Reply
          • “ There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

            No. It wasn’t at all hard to find a legal definition, which is exactly what I asked you earlier on.

            Straw man 1: You described those words as my definition. Of course, you know it’s not my definition; it’s just an objective legal dictionary definition.

            Straw man 2: You wrote: there is nobody alive (at least in the UK, I’m not going to speak to countries which still practice slavery, like China or Mali) who ‘connives at’ slavery.

            In contrast, I wrote: ”Nevertheless, if you were aware that the wealth or advantage passed down to you resulted from ill-gotten gain, but simply connived at that wrong, then you are indeed morally liable”.

            For your analogy, the son’s connivance (as I described it) is not at slavery per se, but at his unjust enrichment by inherited ill-gotten gains.

            I’m concerned that you’ve fallen prey to such basic logical fallacies already. I expect better from you.

          • Straw man 1: You described those words as my definition. Of course, you know it’s not my definition; it’s just an objective legal dictionary definition.

            Are you saying now that the definition you gave is not what you mean when you use the word ‘connivance’? Seriously? How can we possibly have a discussion if you refuse to provide a definition for the terms you use, and then when you do provide one you immediately back out of it and claim that it’s not ho you are defining the term?

            I’m going to pretend you didn’t write that and that in fact the definition you gave is the definition you are using, because I can’t see any other way of continuing the discussion. If you do want to have a discussion where you play bait-and-switch with the definitions of the terms you use you will have to have it with someone else.

            Straw man 2: You wrote: there is nobody alive (at least in the UK, I’m not going to speak to countries which still practice slavery, like China or Mali) who ‘connives at’ slavery.

            In contrast, I wrote: ”Nevertheless, if you were aware that the wealth or advantage passed down to you resulted from ill-gotten gain, but simply connived at that wrong, then you are indeed morally liable”.

            For your analogy, the son’s connivance (as I described it) is not at slavery per se, but at his unjust enrichment by inherited ill-gotten gains.

            Right, so the definition you gave for ‘connivance’ was:

            ‘Ignoring another person’s wrongdoing, for example, by indirectly condoning an illegal act by another person’

            So, I was assuming that the ‘illegal act’ that you were referring to, that people were ‘indirectly condoning’, was involvement in slavery. Apparently it’s not.

            I hope you can understand my confusion though. As you quote, you wrote:

            ‘Nevertheless, if you were aware that the wealth or advantage passed down to you resulted from ill-gotten gain, but simply connived at that wrong, then you are indeed morally liable’

            So, this says that you are morally liable if you ‘connived at’, ‘that wrong’ which resulted in ‘ill-gotten-gains’ which were ‘passed down to you’.

            Well, in context, it seemed clear to me that ‘that wrong’ must mean slavery, and the ‘ill-gotten gains’ were the proceeds of trading in slaves, and therefore that ‘conniving at’ ‘that wrong’ (ie transporting slaves) meant (by your definition of ‘conniving’) ‘indirectly condoning’ ‘that wrong’ (ie, transporting slaves).

            So I pointed out that nobody today would, directly or indirectly, condone transporting slaves.

            But apparently I misunderstood, for which I am sorry. So could you be explicit, so I don’t misunderstand again: what exactly is the ‘illegal act’ (‘that wrong’ in your quotation above) that you think people in the UK today are ‘indirectly condoning’, and therefore conniving at?

          • “Are you saying now that the definition you gave is not what you mean when you use the word ‘connivance’?!

            I’m saying that I’ve provided an objective legal definition, which you’re free to contest. However, I’m not prepared to plagiarise it as my definition. I assume that you’d also take a dim view of plagiarism.

            “so I don’t misunderstand again: what exactly is the ‘illegal act’ (‘that wrong’ in your quotation above) that you think people in the UK today are ‘indirectly condoning’, and therefore conniving at?”

            My comments about connivance have been in relation to your own analogy. In terms of connivance, the wrong that the son would have ignored is his father’s bequest of ill-gotten gains, by treating it as his rightful inheritance.

            In the definition, “for example, by indirectly condoning an illegal act by another person” does not preclude every other example, including “indirectly condoning an immoral act by another person”.

            An analogy is an inductive generalisation, rather than a perfect one-to-one correspondence. Therefore, from such an analogy, it would be a fallacy to make broad deductive inferences about “people in the UK today”.

          • I’m saying that I’ve provided an objective legal definition, which you’re free to contest. However, I’m not prepared to plagiarise it as my definition. I assume that you’d also take a dim view of plagiarism.

            Look, in order to have a conversation, it is necessary, isn’t it, that I know what you mean by the words you use (and vice versa)?

            Otherwise I might end up arguing with a position that is not the one that you are in fact advocating. and that would be a waste of both our time, wouldn’t it?

            So in order to make sure that we are not talking at cross-purposes, it might well be necessary from time to time for one for one or the other of us to define exactly what we mean by a term.

            So I don’t understand why you’re getting shirty or bringing ‘plagiarism’ into it. I just want to make sure we’re not talking at cross-purposes. That’s a good thing.

            “so I don’t misunderstand again: what exactly is the ‘illegal act’ (‘that wrong’ in your quotation above) that you think people in the UK today are ‘indirectly condoning’, and therefore conniving at?”

            My comments about connivance have been in relation to your own analogy. In terms of connivance, the wrong that the son would have ignored is his father’s bequest of ill-gotten gains, by treating it as his rightful inheritance.

            But a bequest of ill-gotten gains is not an illegal act. I’d be hard-pressed even to say it’s immoral. The illegal act was the crime that got those gains in the first place, wasn’t it? Not the leaving them to the son. Especially if the bequest is of fungible currency.

            In the definition, “for example, by indirectly condoning an illegal act by another person” does not preclude every other example, including “indirectly condoning an immoral act by another person”.

            So what, in the example, is the ‘immoral act’ you’re talking about? Bequeathing ill-gotten gains? Again, I don’t think that’s an ‘immoral act’. The immoral act was the crime that got the gains (and which, in the case of trading slaves, no one around today in the UK condones, directly or indirectly). Subsequently bequeathing the gains is not in itself illegal or immoral (and indeed could be moral, couldn’t it, if they are bequeathed to a good cause).

          • “ I just want to make sure we’re not talking at cross-purposes. That’s a good thing.”

            As exemplified by legal judgments, that is better accomplished by referring to a dictionary definition to determine what was meant than (on the assumption that something different from that was meant) asking a personalised definition of a given word.

            ” But a bequest of ill-gotten gains is not an illegal act. I’d be hard-pressed even to say it’s immoral.

            Really? So, returning to your analogy, if the ill-gotten gains were stolen goods, you’re saying it’s not unlawful for someone who knows or believes the goods to be stolen, either to receive the goods, or undertake or assist in their retention, removal, disposal or realisation by or for the benefit of another person, or to arrange to do so.

            Yet, section 22(1) of the Theft Act 1968 provides:
            A person handles stolen goods if (otherwise than in the course of stealing), knowing or believing them to be stolen goods he dishonestly receives the goods, or dishonestly undertakes or assists in their retention, removal, disposal or realisation by or for the benefit of another person, or if he arranges to do so.[3]

            Notably, “in R v Hall [1985] 81 Cr App R 260, it was held that, per Boreham, J.,

            Belief.. is something short of knowledge. It may be said to be the state of mind of a person who says to himself, “I cannot say I know for certain that these goods are stolen, but there can be no other reasonable conclusion in the light of all the circumstances, in the light of all that I have heard and seen”.

            This father’s abuse of inheritance law to bequeath ill-gotten gains for realisation by his son is clearly illegal and immoral.

            For son to connive at such wrongdoing (i.e. ignore and indirectly condone it) by receiving stolen goods would also be illegal.

            And that guilt is not ameliorated by any attempt to salve conscience by bequeathing some of it to a “good cause”.

          • “ I just want to make sure we’re not talking at cross-purposes. That’s a good thing.”

            As exemplified by legal judgments, that is better accomplished by referring to a dictionary definition to determine what was meant than (on the assumption that something different from that was meant) asking a personalised definition of a given word.

            Not, it’s not, not at all. What if you had been using an odd, idiosyncratic definition of a word, and I had looked it up in a dictionary and proceeded to have a discussion on the basis that you were using the definition that was in the dictionary? We would end up in a total muddle, woudln’t we?

            That’s obviously an extreme case, but perhaps more realistically, different dictionaries often have subtly different definitions for the same word. What if the dictionary I looked it up in had a different definition than yours?

            Or, what if the word has six or seven definitions in the dictionary, each with sub-definitions, and I think you mean definition (b).3. but you actually mean definition (e).1.?

            In either of those cases we could end up in just as big a muddle, and it would be even harder to spot where we’d gone wrong because the difference was so subtle.

            Far far easier and better just to ask someone what precise definition they are using of any term which is at all possible of admitting confusion into the discussion.

            ” But a bequest of ill-gotten gains is not an illegal act. I’d be hard-pressed even to say it’s immoral.

            Really? So, returning to your analogy, if the ill-gotten gains were stolen goods, you’re saying it’s not unlawful for someone who knows or believes the goods to be stolen, either to receive the goods, or undertake or assist in their retention, removal, disposal or realisation by or for the benefit of another person, or to arrange to do so.

            And again I go back to my hypothetical where I specified that the receiver of the stolen goods did so in good faith; they did not know, believe, or have reason to suspect that the goods were stolen. So while yes, what you describe would be illegal and immoral, it is beside the point as it is not the situation about which I was speaking.

            For son to connive at such wrongdoing (i.e. ignore and indirectly condone it) by receiving stolen goods would also be illegal.

            If the son knew, believed, or had reason to suspect the goods were stolen, yes. But not if the son received them in good faith. Which was my point, as you will find if you re-read what I wrote.

          • “ If the son knew, believed, or had reason to suspect the goods were stolen, yes. But not if the son received them in good faith. Which was my point, as you will find if you re-read what I wrote.”

            My first comment in response to your hypothetical analogy.

            The subsequent exchange was in relation to the conditional amendment to your statement that I described thus: “Nevertheless, if you were aware that the wealth or advantage passed down to you resulted from ill-gotten gain, but simply connived at that wrong, then you are indeed morally liable.”

            It’s completely disingenuous to write as I we’ve just been disputing the merit of the original unamended analogy.

            This final straw man is fatal to your argument against my initial conditional statement, which you’ve acknowledged by re-phrasing: “ If the son knew, believed, or had reason to suspect the goods were stolen, yes.”

            That’s exactly what’s meant by connivance.

            Thanks for an interesting discussion.

  13. I just read the transcript of this talk and found it very helpful.
    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/video/the-lies-that-serve-us-christians-and-critical-race-theory/
    It’s from an American perspective, directed at those (mainly white) conservative Christians who rail against critical race theory but still have work to do in acknowledging racism and the lived experience of many black people. And yet to support Giles’ piece, the speaker says: “critical theories aren’t wrong for critiquing abuses of power and means of exploitation. The Bible does the same. They are however perilous and un-biblical where they often tell lies to strengthen their arguments, where they essentialize our identities and spurn truth to flatten reality.”

    Reply
    • Andrew,

      Thanks for providing the link to this excellent speech.

      While, in some aspects, it might support Giles’ critique, elsewhere, Gibney’s sage words warn us against over-reliance on it:

      For example: “Still, not every mention of racial justice is Marxist or a promotion of critical race theory. To conflate every demand for racial justice with the worst aspects of critical race theory is deceitful.”

      “To label everyone who’s concerned with social justice as a Marxist is intellectually dishonest. It’s a lie. It’s a lie that’s useful because it evades the true merits of the best arguments by centering the worst arguments. To center critical race theory in a conversation about race when Black Christians have been fighting and weighing in on the subject for hundreds of years before critical race theory was even a thing is wickedly insincere.”

      So true.

      Reply
      • Hi David,

        I agree with you that it is wrong to dismiss demands for racial justice on the grounds that such concerns might be associated with Marxism or CRT. I don’t think Giles is guilty of this in his article. To me his main point is that serious charges against the Church of England, and white British Christians in general, should not be made if supported by weak or erroneous evidence.

        I hope that discussions like this can continue, perhaps in less of a ‘goldfish bowl’ public setting, seeking to find a way forward guided by Scripture and the Holy Spirit, historical and sociological evidence, and individual experience. This is vital for moving away from antagonism towards creative partnership, even if painful.

        Reply
  14. Freddie Kofi:

    Wow! My dear brother, Ian; I really did not expect your passion and voice in expressing your offence about a book that may or may not be academically inept and historically bent, to trump your passion and voice at such acts as the toppling of Colston’s statue and it being removed from public view; I hope I can live to hear you express as much passion and force in favour of such acts as you are advocating for Mr Lyndsay’s book to be removed and made non-accessible to those who might want to take a peak through the curtain into the life and experience of a Black British brother. I just thought I would gently remind you, whilst you are quick to cite certain British abolitionists (I hope you are not implying they did “us” a favour), against the Abolition of Slave Trade Act 1807, please note, that the abolition of trading of slaves was what first came into force in Britain in 1807. Please can you publish with as much passion, “the facts” that the abolition of slavery (keeping slaves) in the United Kingdom and its colonies, was not passed in Parliament until 1 August 1833; furthermore, the Act did not come into force until a year later on 1 August 1834. Further still, upon the Act coming into force in 1834, it was with further insult to injury that £20,000,000 million in compensation be given, not to those who had been inhumanly sold into slavery, but to those who were the beneficiaries of such evil, the slave owners.

    It is upon such evil acts as these that Britain has been built and for which reparations have never been given; to which no British Government at the time nor since have seen fit to offer any unreserved apology; this is the bedrock of institutional racism that those who are now the guardians and custodians of our democracy would rather rather get upset at the toppling of a statue and a BLM movement than be weeping at the altar’s of repentance that such wickedness could ever be associated with British history. And before you talk about it being over two hundred years ago and that we (Black British people) should move on, may I remind you, the Church to which you belong upholds prayer books, ordinal’s and statutes that go much further in time and history than the Slave Trade, yet C of E stand on those principals today; so, how anyone can play down the depth of hurt and trauma based on events that took place in contextually more recent times – the 19th century – is really playing the ostrich and completely and wilfully missing the point and the passion that has driven Mr Lyndsay’s book. The following three paragraphs is the of the opening declaration of the constitution of the British Abolition Of Slavery Act, 1833:

    “‘WHEREAS divers Persons are holden in Slavery within divers of His Majesty’s Colonies, and it is just and expedient that all such Persons should be manumitted and set free, and that a reasonable Compensation should be made to the Persons hitherto entitled to the Services of such Slaves for the Loss which they will incur by being deprived of their Right to such Services:”

    “Be it therefore enacted by the King’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, That from and after the first Day of August One thousand eight hundred and thirty-four all Persons who in conformity with the Laws now in force in the said Colonies respectively shall on or before the first Day of August One thousand eight hundred and thirty-four have been duly registered as Slaves in any such Colony, and who on the said first Day of August One thousand eight hundred and thirty-four shall be actually within any such Colony, and who shall by such Registries appear to be on the said first Day of August One thousand eight hundred and thirty-four of the full Age of Six Years or upwards, shall by force and virtue of this Act, and without the previous Execution of any Indenture of Apprenticeship, or other Deed or Instrument for that Purpose, become and be apprenticed Labourers; provided that, for the Purposes aforesaid, every Slave engaged in his ordinary Occupation on the Seas shall be deemed and taken to be within the Colony to which such Slave shall belong.”

    “II. And be it further enacted, That during the Continuance of the Apprenticeship of any such apprenticed Labourer such Person or Persons shall be entitled to the Services of such apprenticed Labourer as would for the Time being have been entitled to his or her Services as a Slave if this Act had not been made.” Public Domain. END

    So, it is this, my dear brother, that I wish you had tears about; that I wish you were angry about and that I still hope and pray you will pick up the phone and call Ben Lyndsay, immediately repent of your incredible entitlelement and failure to hear the tune he was singing, and ask how you can help him better make his case; then together become a band of brothers who are singing the same song of a demand for reparations for a generation stolen, lost and abused with children now part of British culture and nationality, with British names but with absolutely no clue as to where there roots are. In every sense, we are a generation of bastards. I pray your actions will show us all that Christ and the gospel really is real and that you will do the difficult thing and the right thing and bring swift healing where , in the words of ColdPlay, you have suffered a clear rush of blood to the head. I hope you will join the band and offer your intellectual hand in our quest to find the right chords to accompany this amazing tune Ben has written.

    Your Brother in Christ, Freddie Kofi

    Reply
    • Thanks for the long comment Freddie. You might like to note that I am not the author of this piece.

      But you might not be aware that I have lived and worked in mixed ethnicity areas; for some years I actively prepared for ministry in inner urban contexts; I have gone out of my way to encourage and support those of minority ethnicity, to help others hear their voice.

      You might note, if you have read this blog regularly, rather than parachuting in on this one issue, the articles I have written arguing that ethnic diversity and plurality are essential and non-negotiable elements of the Christian church.

      None of that means either colluding with a call to ‘all agree’ on things that are historical misconstrued. Nor does it meaning buying in to ideologies which are rooted in perspectives which are profoundly antagonistic to the Christian faith.

      I hope you will join with me in calling the church back to the wonderful vision of Scripture, of people from every tribe, language, people and nation worshipping God together, and looking to Scripture for the resources to realise that.

      Reply
      • Freddie,
        I do not think that Giles-who wrote the article – not Ian Paul is “advocating for Mr Lyndsay’s book to be removed and made non-accessible to those who might want to take a peak through the curtain into the life and experience of a Black British brother.”

        Giles is simply pointing out that many of the assertions that are made in the book are historically inaccurate and misleading and if proper recognition is to be made of the experiences of black people, and racial justice is seen to be done, it is essential that it is seen to be academically, historically and theologically credible.

        Otherwise it will just lead to even more resentment, division and racial disharmony.

        Reply
    • And it took another decade after that for slavery to be abolished in India under the British!

      Please keep in mind that, had that 20 million pounds not been made available to compensate the slave owners, abolition would probably never have got through parliament and the evil of slavery would have continued longer. It is hard not to hope that the money choked them, but that would not be a Christian sentiment.

      I can’t agree, though, that “upon such evil acts as these… Britain has been built”. All British profits from slavery during 1761 – 1807 amounted to less than 2% of Britain’s domestic investments in that time; I have given a source for this figure elsewhere in the thread.

      Who do you think should pay how much reparation to whom, please?

      Reply
    • Yes.. well said. Freddie ..I think too many of us white privileged people fail to hear or understand the heart cry of Ben Lindsay and so many others in the UKME communities, The trauma of slavery and colonialism is still deep, and continues in modified forms to this day.

      Reply
  15. “Later on, Quakers refused to admit anyone who owned slaves to their congregations.”

    The Quakers were of course famous for being keen on abolition in the latter part of the 18th century. But when I did some digging into the slave owners of Antigua in the interests of objective history I was surprised to find that Quakers were well represented among the original plantation families and remained so well into the 18th century. It is refreshing to read a piece like this that deals in facts and not ideology.

    Reply
  16. I can’t help feeling we have lost sight of the fact that we who have been bought with a price are all slaves – slaves of Christ (e.g. Mark 13:34).

    Who owns us? Not us. We have died to our selves. Christ, then? Yes, except that in this covid crisis we have assented to the claim that the State owns our bodies. The State claims the authority to set down rules as to face coverings, who and in what circumstances we can meet friends, relatives, anyone, how far we can travel, when we can exercise. Even buying and selling food is subject to conditions reminiscent of Rev 13:17. What is this if not slavery? And the Church has willingly accepted this authority. So we have become slaves of the State, not God.

    This seems to me of vastly more significance than whether we should repent for the sins of our forefathers, as if slave-trafficking was a sin in a category all on its own and worse than anything our age and we as individuals are guilty of (we whose lifestyles are sustained, in part, by the labour of the Third World’s agricultural poor, we whose lifestyles are largely responsible for the climate change that blights their lives in many places).

    Reply
    • Covid regulations are nothing in comparison with the slave trade and chattel slavery. They are irksome but not brutal, and arguably should be welcomed as serving the common good.

      In the meantime let us be aware that slavery and trafficking does persist today in most countries of the world and in our own communities today .. The history is important and the brutality needs to be acknowledged.. But we might be wise to spend much time, prayer and effort in the struggle against modern slavery. I commend the work of International Justice Mission https://www.ijm.org/

      Reply
      • Sorry I didn’t finish before it got sent…

        To say Covid regulations are slavery is an insult to the millions who suffered across the centuries and to their descendants who feel the trauma, and experience the outcomes today.

        It is also an insult to the millions of victims of modern slavery. Fruits of our repentance, and an honouring of the best Christian abolitionist tradition would be to engage for its elimination

        Reply
        • You are evidently intent on insulting me with your gratuitous charge that I am bent on insulting millions dead and alive. Hardly worth a reply, but as regards Covid lockdowns, these have thrown 108 million into poverty worldwide
          https://www.euronews.com/2021/06/02/covid-19-pushed-over-100-million-more-workers-into-poverty-says-un
          Not my idea of the ‘common good’. In the UK, age-adjusted mortality was higher before 2020 in every single year of the country’s history up to 2008 (source: ONS). The average age at death from Covid in western countries is approximately equal to life expectancy (source: ONS). Currently, mortality is below the 5-year average, but the Govt is still dithering. What has changed since 2008 is the belief that safety, as perceived, is the highest good, with the result that people are slaves to fear. The woke expression of it is seen in universities throughout the land where students complain that speakers they disagree with make them feel ‘unsafe’. It sounds as if you, were you a little younger (or perhaps you are of that age?), would have been among them, with your readiness to brand opinions contrary to your own as ‘insults’. In point of fact the ‘safetyist’ reaction to SARS-Cov-2 has been catastrophic, all things considered.

          Reply
  17. I wonder if Giles would write another article pointing out the errors blithely trotted out in defence of racism.

    Reply

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