Half of Christians believe slavery still impacts America today: Barna report

A man is silhouetted against the ''Door of No Return'' at the House of Slaves on Goree Island near Senegal's capital Dakar March 16, 2007. Millions of Africans were shipped from places like this whitewashed fort in Elmina, Ghana, to a life of slavery in Brazil, the Caribbean and America. The world will mark the bicentenary of the end of the Atlantic slave trade on March 25. |

Fifty percent of practicing Christians in the United States believe that the history of slavery still has an impact on the country, according to a new report by the Barna Group.

In a report released on Tuesday, Barna found that 50 percent of practicing Christian respondents answered that they “mostly or totally” believe that “the effects of slavery continue to be felt today.” This was slightly higher than the general U.S. adult population at 46 percent.

Further, 28 percent of practicing Christians responded that they “mostly or totally” agree with the statement that “our society has moved past slavery,” while 16 percent responded that they are “not sure.”

Barna found a considerable gap among respondents by race, with 79 percent of black Christian respondents saying that the effects of slavery are still felt, versus 42 percent of white Christian respondents.

Further, while 34 percent of white Christian respondents felt that society had moved past slavery, only 9 percent of black Christian respondents agreed.

Data for the report came from online surveys of 1,007 U.S. adults and 1,502 practicing American Christians that were completed April 2018 through August 2018. The sample had a margin of error of 2.9 percent, while the practicing Christian sample had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percent.

Another finding of the report was that millennials were more likely than older generations to believe that slavery still affected modern U.S. society and were the least likely of surveyed generations to have not considered the issue.

“Millennials appear to be the most sensitive to these conversations, even though they are the farthest removed from the civil rights era. Among practicing Christians, they are the generation most likely to report being aware of effects of slavery on our present-day society (65% vs. 55% of Gen X, 40% of Boomers, 41% of Elders),” noted Barna.

“Only 2 percent of millennials haven’t considered the impact of slavery on black Americans today. This could be because, as this and other Barna studies show, millennials (and Gen Z beyond them) are more likely to represent a multiethnic community.”

Barna’s report came amid renewed debate in both political and religious circles on whether the modern descendants of American slaves should receive reparations.

Keri Day, associate professor of constructive theology and African American religion at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, recently argued that reparations were biblical.

In a lecture last month at the historic Riverside Church in Manhattan, Day used the example of Zacchaeus the tax collector as described in Luke 19.

“Zacchaeus is a tax collector who has participated in Roman imperial oppression against marginalized Jewish populations. Jesus sits with Zacchaeus but is clear with Zacchaeus on what his reparative response needed to be and that this reparative response as Zacchaeus was tasked to do was not simply and only a political response but was more deeply a theological response,” she explained.

“In his encounter with Zacchaeus, I want to suggest that Jesus sets forth a reparations ethic …. Zacchaeus is expected to give back that which he has stolen so that he can be reconciled with others and God. Reconciliation cannot occur until he has given back what he has stolen.”

John Carpenter, pastor of Covenant Reformed Baptist Church in Yanceyville, North Carolina, wrote on social media that the call for reparations merely “creates ‘social Justice Contras.’”

“Obviously taking money from one group of people — none of whom actually participated in the wrongdoing and many of whom don’t have any ancestors who did — to distribute it to others is divisive and sure to inflame racism,” tweeted Carpenter in March.

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