NOTE: This, in no way, implies that Christians cannot be moral people (or Muslims, etc). It means that they are ignoring very serious issues with their religious texts, and it is often these issues that enable and empower extremists. I acknowledge that the bulk of Christians (/Religious People) are simply hard working, honest, loving people. If that was the extent of Religion then I would have no beef with it. But Religion doesn't stop there (see image).
I know that the Kübler-Ross model ("five stages of grief": denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) is technically inaccurate but I think it still provides a good framework for looking at how Christians behave when faced with Slavery and other moral failings of their religion. Of course, not every Christian will go through the contortions in an orderly fashion, but I just want to make sure I touch on the salient points.
Stage 1: Denial
They will object that Christianity doesn't condone Slavery, or at least not "that kind" of Slavery. Or others will claim that Christianity was the birth of a kinder and gentler form of slavery, for the good of the 'godless heathens' they enslaved. And others yet still will claim the Bible merely speaks of Indentured Servitude. And the final appeal will be that "it was a different time", which is an argument for moral relativism (which even I largely reject), not any kind of moral authority.
It should be an embarrassment that such a morally foundational question should be rendered incomprehensible by so many Christians.
While the Bible does speak of Indentured Servitude, this is ALSO immoral and it was still Slavery. But this isn't what I'm writing about today, I'm writing about:
And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour. (Leviticus 25:46)
Two phrases here make it clear this is not mere Indentured Servitude, that these people are considered property and that they can be kept as Slaves "for ever".
The passages that do refer to Indentured Servitude (as the latter portion of this passage does but the first portion clearly DOES NOT) make it clear that this applies to their fellow Israelites, NOT of people from foreign nations.
These slaves can also be beaten, and while the punishment for Murder is to be stoned to death, the punishment for killing a Slave is merely a property crime (and only then if the slave dies immediately, if they die after a day or two then you aren't guilty of anything).
The Reverend Richard Fuller summed up the Christian position in defense of American enslavement of African people in 1845, his letter stating: “What God sanctioned in the Old Testament, and permitted in the New, cannot be a sin”
So, Slavery cannot be wrong in the eyes of God (the definition of sin) because it was sanctioned in the Old and confirmed in the New with Paul returning the fugitive slave Onesimus to his master; not with the admonishment that Slavery is wrong but that failing to obey ones master is the crime. Pardon me while I puke.
A Southern Christian View of Slavery, James Henry Thornwell, 1861, From The Annals of America: 1858-1865, The Crisis of the Union
The Presbyterian Church in the United States has been enabled by the Divine Grace to pursue, for the most part, an eminently conservative, because a thoroughly scriptural, policy in relation to this delicate question. It has planted itself upon the word of God and utterly refused to make slaveholding a sin or nonslaveholding a term of communion.
So I really DO NOT CARE how nicely some Slave owner treated their slaves, the institution is wholly filthy and I categorically condemn it. Pity that so many Christians cannot do the same.
On Christianity, slavery CANNOT be considered wrong or immoral because it was sanctioned by God. If you disagree then, I'm sorry, but you don't even understand the basis of your own religion and you remain in the denial phase.
Stage 2: Anger
Once you confront them with these issues they will often become angry with you. They will attack you, insult you, charge that "you just don't understand it because you don't have Holy Spirit". Best I can tell, 'Holy Spirit' involves a removal of that part of a normal human brain that questions absurd propositions.
Few seem to progress beyond Anger.
Stage 3: Bargaining
They will make all kinds of arguments that are completely irrelevant. Every Red Herring and Strawman and attempt to shift the Burden of Proof in the book will be thrown your way.
They will try to dismiss the 'Old Testament', but this is foundational to the New Testament, without it Jesus wouldn't have legs to stand on and he constantly reaffirms and references the Old, perhaps in a new light, but never throwing out a single iota of the law.
Stage 4: Depression
This is an example of why religion (ANY religion, not just "the right one") has such a strong hold on people, they are inculcated with the idea that they are worms and need the Religion to cure them. They build up a mental dependence on the idea, almost as if it were a drug.
David Zucker: I believe in justice, maybe not in this life, but there has to be justice. And if there isn't a God, I think it would be very depressing. I'd prefer to believe there is.
From the outside of the delusion this statement makes no more sense than wishing for a Tooth Fairy. Having been inside the delusion myself I understand the sentiment but it is as baseless as missing an imaginary friend. The feeling of loss is real, the pain felt is real, but the basis in reality for it isn't.
It is a virus that damages the host. We need to understand better how to care for people in this situation, which is part of why Recovering From Religion exists.
Stage 5: Acceptance
When you can state plainly and openly, "I categorically denounce slavery, in all variations, as an immoral action" you will have reached Acceptance.
The Bible plainly has a God that:
- ordained Slavery,
- commanded a man to sacrifice his own child (and then sent the Son to be the scapegoat human sacrifice after this pattern),
- commanded the genocide and infanticide of 8 different nations (Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites and the Amalekites):
"Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." (1 Samuel 15:2-3)
- murdered the first-born of all Egypt and all infants, children, and adults in a supposed global flood.
- See also: How many has God killed?
If you STILL think this is the foundation of all morality, go back to step 1 and #ThinkHarder
The next step for most people is usually a prolonged 'Spiritual but not Religious' phase, with a general trend that the more you study the sciences, the more you will find that superstition is one of the greatest evils in our world. Upon the precepts of superstition no atrocity, no matter how heinous, cannot be excused.
There are lots of resources out there now days that can help you eliminate this kind of superstitious thinking from your life but YOU have to first recognize it and work on it.
Death of the Southern God