There’s a lot of talk today about white guilt and while privilege; some of Evangelical Christianity’s finest are jumping on BLM’s racism bandwagon to convince white America that we’ve something to be ashamed of, simply because we’re white Americans. They’re teaching us about corporate guilt, being guilty and bearing responsibility for the sins of our group.
Yet both examples, as well as the general concept, break down in light of God’s clear instruction that children ought not to be punished for their parents’ sins. (De 24:16, Eze 18:20) This would include any of our ancestors.
The truth is that Daniel never admitted any personal guilt for ancestral sin; he did confess that Israel had sinned, stating the obvious, but he didn’t admit that he himself shared in this guilt, that he himself bore any responsibility for it, or that he could repent for the nation – that he could not do so is clear once one understands the nature of repentance.
Similarly, Achan’s family and children may not actually have been stoned along with him, only his animals and possessions included; the biblical text is unclear on this point, and Rabbinic scholars are mixed in their views. If the entire family was put away, we may safely conclude from God’s own command that they each knew about their father’s sin and were complicit in it, guilty along with him, which is certainly plausible.
Corporate guilt is only relevant for a group member when that individual actively and personally participates in the corporate sin; all die in Adam (1Co 15:22) because all in Adam have actually personally sinned. (Ro 5:12)
Apart from personal responsibility, corporate guilt makes no sense if we think about it just a little: if we’re to be punished for our group’s sins, then doesn’t it follow that we’re also to be rewarded for our group’s righteousness? How, for example, can a white individual today be both ashamed that some whites were racist slave owners, while other whites rooted out and extinguished slavery?
And why focus on just the white group? We’re each in practically an infinite number of groups, starting with the human race? Are we all then guilty for every single sin ever committed by any human?
And how far back in history should we go for each group? Ten years? A thousand? Can such guilt ever actually be remedied? By what standard? It makes zero sense.
Those aligning themselves with corporate guilt are, of necessity, aligning themselves with corporate punishment. If I’m guilty for the sins of my group, then I also deserve to be punished for these sins: justice demands it. So, what penalty should be imposed, and by whom? There are no biblical precedents here.
When we support victimization by conceding that one group has unfairly treated another group, we may think we’re being compassionate, but we’re departing from a biblical worldview into the realm of Marxism and group identity. Marxists consistently use class warfare and group victimization to empower themselves through the envy and murderous resentment of the marginalized. Historically, it typically results in genocide of one form or another.
Today, conceding the victim narrative is already excusing the anemic response of officials as rioters intimidate fellow citizens and burn down our inner cities. Those who dare to stand up and defend themselves risk further harassment from employers and leftist officials.
At present, the mob is a marginal fringe, and largely unarmed, yet it’s already the most influential force in American society due to a vast base of passive, empathetic citizens. But the more powerful the mob becomes, the more murderous it will be; there’s no appeasing it.
We need to be very careful how we articulate this, because the price for getting this wrong in western culture this election cycle is our safety and freedom. It’s an ideological warfare, and it’s powerful because it contains much partial truth which appeals to compassionate souls who aren’t thinking for themselves. Yet even if intentions are good, oversimplification here will be devastating.
There are certainly generational consequences for sin, in that we tend to inherit sinful patterns of behavior from our parents. We’re also influenced by our culture and our upbringing, and will tend to be swept along with the crowd if we aren’t careful.
But in the final analysis, we’re each individually responsible only for our own personal choices, and we’ll be judged entirely on our own merits. (Ga 6:4) So, we’re wise to be watchful for sinful patterns within ourselves that are common in our culture and ancestry, repent and root out every trace of these iniquities from our own lives. To the degree that we’re successful in doing so, we’re free of corporate guilt.
Scripture never clearly shows God treating an individual better or worse merely due to what their ancestors have done, when they themselves were not complicit in the same sin, nor does God ever encourage anyone else to do this.