Janie B. Cheaney: The only way forward

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, October 2nd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. In the realm of the spirit, there’s only one way forward. Here’s WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney.

JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: On August 20, 1619, an English privateer named the White Lion dropped anchor near the Jamestown settlement. On it were 20 African slaves, the first brought to North America.

The human cargo had been sold by their countrymen in Angola, a Portuguese colony. Many were baptized Christians. Some earned their freedom after years of indentured servitude, on the same terms as poor whites. But too soon black slavery hardened into an evil system that made chattel of millions of Africans. The system corrupted all it touched, kindled a slow fire that blazed into a devastating war, and still haunts us today.

On the 400th anniversary of August 20, 1619, the New York Times introduced its “1619 Project,” with the explicit purpose of tracing everything wrong about America, from capitalism to “sugar addiction,” to its slave history. Slavery, supposedly, is our true heritage.

The keynote essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones begins with her father, a World War II veteran who suffered discrimination all his life, but proudly flew the stars and stripes in his back yard. Quote, “He knew that our people’s contributions to building the richest and most powerful nation in the world were indelible, that the United States simply would not exist without us.”  

Hannah-Jones then traces the unjust treatment of blacks throughout U.S. history, concluding with, “Our founding fathers may not have actually believed in the ideals they espoused, but black people did.” The very concept of civil rights would be unthinkable without them.

The essay is worth reading, and the history she cites is true. Her point about African Americans compelling the nation to live up to its ideals is well taken. But it contradicts the main thesis of the 1619 Project: that America was founded on slavery, with racism as its original sin.

An original sin is the primary fault from which every other fault stems. For that, we should look to the misapplication of American liberty. Liberty, at least to some, means the freedom to exploit as well as to succeed. Exploitation is not essentially racist. It is egotistic, and no one is exempt. America’s original sin is the Original Sin. Racism is an effect, not a cause.

Proposed solutions are mostly about money. But the problem is spiritual not material, and so is the solution: forgiveness. Someone who was owed a much greater debt showed us that forgiveness is the only way out of the bondage of sin. “For freedom Christ has set us free.”   

What do we want—fellowship, or alienation? Peace, or warfare? Our Father desired peace and fellowship with us enough to pay dearly for it. Guilt must be borne, and the one to bear it was his own Son. Yet he considered the gain worth the price. God willing, may my brothers and sisters, so long out of Africa, make that reckoning. I can never compensate them, but Christ can.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Janie B. Cheaney.

(Photo/Creative Commons)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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