It may be the case that Church’s that have held slaves or participated in slavery should engage in the work of restitution and restoration. But to draw this out to engaging every church in social work and public policy is distracting and weakens the spiritual mission of the Church.
Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair [by Duke L Kwon and Gregory Thompson] offers some critical insight into the history of racism and white supremacy while offering solutions rooted in Scripture and the Christian tradition. However, the author’s theological paradigms of the Church’s mission are fundamentally flawed and weaken the Church and its spirituality. The authors fail to implicate the Christian in public policy based on their civil citizenship and resort to turning the Church into a civil institution with the responsibility of fixing the world (p. 17).
The authors spend almost half of the book walking through a historical account of racism and white supremacy in the United States. While this is important, it does not strengthen the book’s thesis as a historical and theological call for reparations. Other Christian and secular authors have already provided this history and in more detail. Some might object that the historical account strengthens the thesis that racism and white supremacy are “a cultural order” within which we live, but without a clear definition of a cultural order or even culture at all, a historical account does nothing to strengthen the main ideas (p. 4). The book also seems to ignore precisely how this persists as a cultural order today. Statistics centered around the number of black Americans in jail are not enough to argue that this is a pervasive and enduring cultural order today (p. 26).
Within this arbitrarily defined cultural order of white supremacy, the Church lives and moves and has its being. And according to the authors, it’s the Church’s responsibility to “engage culture, transform cities, and bring the kingdom of God” (p. 6). It’s easy to gloss over that line, but it is pregnant with a view of the Church that is foreign to Scripture and damaging to the Church’s mission. One can see the heart of this paradigm when the authors go so far as to call the Church a “civil organization” differing from the federal government only in size and resources (p. 11). We should be clear, the end of a civil institution is civil, and the end of a spiritual institution is spiritual. God does not design means that lead to different ends. The end of the Church is eschatological glory. The end of civil institutions is preserving the world until the Judgment.