Repenting of Racism
In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared breaks some of the myth of whether or not the church still has repentance and concrete work to do when it comes to her history with slavery. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple here.
The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.
This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith.
Earlier this week I got an email from the School of Theology at Sewanee, where I did my second master’s degree and also my doctorate. Sewanee has decided to rename a longstanding lecture series, one that has been around for nearly a century. It used to be known as the DuBose lectures, so named for William Porcher DuBose. Dubose was one of the first professors at the seminary, which was founded after the end of the Civil War. DeBose also remains one of the greatest theologians that has ever existed in The Episcopal Church, with his writings still having significant respect today.
So, you may be asking, why would they remove his name from the lecture series which has borne it for so long?
Well, there is tremendous difficulty with DuBuse and his history with slavery. His family owned over 200 slaves before the Civil War. During the Civil War, he left seminary to fight on the side of the Confederacy. And then, after the war he was quoted saying that even though we would now say slavery was sin, it had been a system which was beneficial to both slave and owner.
The specific quote my seminary shared in relating their decision to remove DuBose’s name from the lecture series was this: “Now that the judgement is passed [that slavery needed to end], we join in it. Slavery we say, is a sin, and a sin of which we could not possibly be guilty.” To go a step further, DuBose also praises the rising Ku Klux Klan in his memoirs.
Now, I know that some people, including some of my fellow alumni and siblings in The Episcopal Church, will see the removal of DuBose’s name from this lecture series as yet another example of the so-called “cancel-culture.” DuBose was a profoundly insightful theologian who lived in a specific context that resulted in him having a significant blind spot when it came to slavery. Is that reason enough to banish his name from the seminary’s lecture series?
I would say, yes. It absolutely is. And, furthermore, it provides an excellent opportunity to break the myth of whether or not the church still has repentance and concrete work to do when it comes to her history with slavery.
It is essential that Christians today acknowledge that the centuries of slavery in the United States of America were explicitly and vigorously supported by Christians and leaders in the church. Even after the Civil War, when some in the South believed their defeat in the war had been God’s divine providence, Christian leaders still believed it was God’s punishment for mistreating slaves… not for owning slaves. They continued to argue for a so-called “Christian slavery” that would have been OK.
It is no surprise, then, that following the Civil War, the theological weight of the church was thrown behind segregation and the Jim Crow south that was beginning to emerge.