The Bible and Racism

Great illustrations, Joseph! This is why “What do you mean by that?” is one of the most useful, yet underused, questions in dialog.

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Thanks for the encouraging words Brendan.

Generational curse/ sin, is so prevalent in societies world wide. I love it when God intervenes. One saved human in a chain of sinful ways, breaks down that reproducing sin. And children begin to teach what they are taught, and whole families, communities and nations can shift gears as a result of the influence.

Thanks,

Ken

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Hi Michael,

Just to provide further context, let me quote the post on my office chat platform which got the Bible and slavery discussion going in my work place. I have seen similar sentiments and attack on the Bible expressed not just in my office but on other chat platforms I belong to as well. Anyway, the rather unfortunate post referenced is stated below.

<<Start
“During slavery, it was illegal for Africans to read any book other than the Bible. Anyone caught reading philosophy, science, governance, history, economics or any other genre of literature, faced the death penalty.

Why was this so?

The slave masters understood that the Bible was a tool to limit the thinking of black Africans and to keep them perpetually subservient. They knew that to keep them in servitude they had to make them accept their lot as the will of God and have them thinking about the end of days, these things will keep them in perpetual servitude. They refused to give them anything good but they gave them Christianity and the bible.

Over five hundred years later, the descendants of the slaves who were whipped, tortured, raped and murdered, now confess implicit confidence in the same Bible. (a book hurriedly put together by Emperor Constantine in 325 AD when he decreed Christianity - an infusion of Roman paganism, Greek and Egyptian mythology" as the new State religion and his troops would violently convert most of the world’s populations to this newly formed order by force and through violence. The Bible was central to the success of the trans Atlantic slavery. On a trip to Cape Coast in Ghana 2010, I saw first hand the role Christianity played in slavery. Slaves were first baptized and letters (signifyng their new names such as John, Peter, Isaac and other Christian names) engraved with hot metal in their backs - this was even before they learnt English. While in chains, blood dripping from all over their bodies, they recited the Nicean creed, not knowing the meaning. Verses like:

Ephesians 6:5
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” lent divine credence to the predicament of slaves and consigned them to perpetual slavery. Revolting against the oppressors, was a direct rejection of God - so they were made to believe.

Today, many Africans know the Bible from the beginning to the end but they know little about themselves or ideas that can improve their lives. They can feel Jesus in their spirits and they are absolutely sure that Christianity is the only true religion. They are waiting for an apocalyptic climax to humanity where a blue eyed, blonde haired Caucasian savior would appear from the sky at the sound of a trumpet, to save them from debilitating poverty, a dysfunctional system, diseases and imbecility. 500 years later, Africans are still languishing in profuse ignorance.

The damage has been done.

In the words of the late scholar Dr. Henrik Clark;

“To control a people, you must first control what they think about themselves and how they regard their history and culture. And when your conqueror makes you ashamed of your culture and history, he needs no prison walls and chains to hold you”.
End>>

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Joseph, I “liked” your comprehensive quote from your office chat platform only because it illuminates this entire discussion. I have several thoughts about it, but I want to give @ConsecratedLife first response because you addressed it to him. Let me know if you want my take on it.

Yes. Please do.

Hi All, feel free to take a stab at it from as many angles as possible. I find the diversity of thoughts and perspectives enriching. Regards, Joseph

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I have to ask, what time period is your friend referring to? American pre-civil war or African slave trade in general which goes back a lot further than the trans Atlantic period. I hope I am not butting in.

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Joe-D, Thank You for a clarification of the factors involved.
I am somewhat surprised by the initial point involved concerning slaves being allowed bibles.
It had always been my understanding that the last thing the slave owners wanted were literate slaves let alone slaves filled with Faith in a God that will do the exact things He has promised in the scriptures.
When it comes to literacy the historical legislation concerning slaves that I have found so far makes no exception for bible study , and seems to verify what I have always understood .

"Slaves Are Prohibited to Read and Write by Law
Slavemasters understood that their social control of the slaves could not be based solely on physical coercion. Knowledge was power, and virtually all slave codes established in the United States set restrictions making it illegal to teach slaves to read or write. The statute below, passed by the state of North Carolina in 1830—1831, was fairly typical.
AN ACT TO PREVENT ALL PERSONS FROM TEACHING SLAVES TO READ OR WRITE, THE USE OF FIGURES EXCEPTED
Whereas the teaching of slaves to read and write, has a tendency to excite dis-satisfaction in their minds, and to produce insurrection and rebellion, to the manifest injury of the citizens of this State:
Therefore,
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That any free person, who shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any slave within the State to read or write, the use of figures excepted, or shall give or sell to such slave or slaves any books or pamphlets, shall be liable to indictment in any court of record in this State having jurisdiction thereof, and upon conviction, shall, at the discretion of the court, if a white man or woman, be fined not less than one hundred dollars, nor more than two hundred dollars, or imprisoned; and if a free person of color, shall be fined, imprisoned, or whipped, at the discretion of the court, not exceeding thirty nine lashes, nor less than twenty lashes.
II. Be it further enacted, That if any slave shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any other slave to read or write, the use of figures excepted, he or she may be carried before any justice of the peace, and on conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to receive thirty nine lashes on his or her bare back.
III. Be it further enacted, That the judges of the Superior Courts and the justices of the County Courts shall give this act in charge to the grand juries of their respective counties.
Source: “Act Passed by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina at the Session of 1830—1831” (Raleigh: 1831). "

From this legislation it sounds very much like a slave owner himself could end up in very hot legal water were it discovered he was supplying his slaves with reading material of any kind .

: I would start out by pointing out to the people making such allegations concerning slaves being encouraged to read bibles the actual legislative record revealing the absolute paranoid nature of slave owners concerning them achieving any advancement educationally.
Let alone giving them access to an uplifting orthodoxy of fellowship with a transforming God who is able to make all things new and is able to makes slaves citizens of His Heaven with nothing more than a knock.
" Knock and it shall be opened unto you." ( Luke 11:9 )

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Well written Michael,

Strange to hear what Joseph’s colleagues pass off as facts? The danger in their statement is blunt. The Bible has been a major spark for the reformation of nations and laws regarding slavery. A person wanting to sell humans would rather avoid Scripture about Jesus than quote it. Even in churches where racism is taught, the Bible teaching has to be watered down and entire doctrines ignored, or the racism would be exposed. The Bible is loaded with big Xs over mistreating fellow humans and considers all humans made equally in God’s image.

On another religious note, you could make a strong argument that Islam endorses slavery. Even in this day women and children are sold at auction after a Jihad take over. The UN has serious issues in Syria and Iraq:

"In any case, the results were devastating: During the week-long assault, IS killed hundreds of Yazidis and abducted 6,417, more than half of them women and girls. Most of the captured adult men were likely eventually killed. Hajji Abdullah, an ethnic Turkman from Tal Afar, an area near Sinjar, was believed to be the highest IS judicial official in the area and so stepped in to play a key role in distributing slaves.

The women and children – their husbands and fathers butchered or missing – had to learn to navigate the perverse rules of a world where they were considered commodities for rape and servitude." The Globe and Mail- Investigators Building a Case Against IS- A System of Slavery May 21, 2020

And this practice goes back to Muhammad himself. More than a blessing to do it, the practice is law. And these attacks against the “infidel” are unprovoked. It’s the way things get done.

"The Barbary Wars were a series of conflicts culminating in two main wars fought between the [United States], [Sweden], and the [Barbary states] [Ottoman Empire], including [Tunis], [Algiers], and [Tripoli] of [North Africa] in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The [Swedes] had been at war with the Tripolitans since 1800; they were eventually joined by the Americans.

The [Barbary pirates] demanded [tribute] from American merchant vessels in the [Mediterranean Sea]. If they failed to pay, the pirates would attack the ship, take their goods, and often enslave crew members or hold them for ransom.

When [Thomas Jefferson] became [President of the United States] in March 1801, he refused to pay tribute and sent a [United States Naval] fleet to the Mediterranean. The fleet bombarded various fortified pirate cities in present-day [Libya], [Tunisia], and [Algeria], ultimately extracting concessions of fair passage from their rulers. [James Madison], Jefferson’s successor, directed military forces for the second war in 1815, shortly after the conclusion of the with the Treaty of Ghent." Wikipedia- Barbary Wars

These wars were the reason the U.S.A. has their Marines.

The above mentioned exegesis by the coworkers is ripe with “hate christians” pop-doctrine. Not much historical relevance listed, just the typical misrepresentation mantras. Not surprising really. Since mounting an attack against something you do not like is normal practice. So, love them back ten-fold. Nothing says, “I love you”, like taking the time to walk with someone through uncomfortable waters. Go through their breakdown of “how the bible became”, one piece at a time. Correct the history with open and tested sources. Explore the “Case for Christ” (Lee Strobel’s book-good stuff!), all the relevant evidences for the Bible and our faith. Sure, these coworkers might get bitter. But, they might get saved too.

Perhaps start with their quote and explanation of Ephesians 6:5? May-be ask them if they had considered themselves a slave at work? Do they have masters over them, people that they are accountable too; masters that demand respect and labour for pay? The passage is all inclusive. Children, fathers (parents), slaves and masters are being kept accountable. The term slave here can easily be applied to a servant, worker or employee. And the message in the passage is that such slaves are to work honourably regardless of their situation, as unto the Lord. As slaves of Christ. A slave of Jesus’ righteousness in any situation. And in the gentile world of Paul’s day, slaves were not so well treated. And they didn’t just get to choose to not be a slave anymore. The emphasis is on the slave’s attitude. And notice, that the masters (in the flesh- mankind) are also being held accountable. An African slave trader didn’t fit this picture of non-threatening, kind behaviour knowing they too will be judged by the Father in heaven did they? The context must be true to the intension of what the Apostle Paul is actually teaching.

“Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eye service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” Ephesians 6:5-9 NASB

This is an important topic, dig in and dig onward.

Ken :south_africa:

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Joseph, I agree with @Jimmy_Sellers and @ConsecratedLife. The poster needs to clarify some things and fill some logical holes. My initial thoughts follow.

First, if your employer allows this post, it is only fair for them to allow you to post a response. I would be cautious about this however; anything you post can and will be used against you in the court of office politics. It is probably best prayerfully to wait for God to present in-person opportunities for you to dialog with people about these things. You know your employment and cultural situation better than I do, so take my words with a hefty bag of salt. I write as an American.

Second, what are the person’s sources for his or her information? @ConsecratedLife has already touched on this. Getting a grip on the sources will help you to assess the quality of the information.

Third, I wonder if the person has the Slave Bible in mind. This was a heavily redacted version of the Bible that missionaries brought to the British West-India Islands in the early 1800’s. It included only portions of the Bible that encouraged submissive behavior (Katz, 2019). This was truly a weaponized version of the Bible. Whether the poster has this in mind or not, I suspect that the poster has never read the entire Bible. I would inquire about this.

Fourth, using something as a tool for bad purposes does not mean that the tool is intrinsically bad. I can use a machete to cut through elephant grass or people. If I use a machete to commit an atrocity, would the poster blame the machete? No. I misused the machete. The same applies to the Bible–moreso, in fact, because the Bible is God’s Word and God prohibits misrepresenting him in the third commandment and holds false prophets highly accountable for falsely claiming to speak for him. I would show the person Deuteronomy 5:6-22 and 13:1-5 and ask what God thinks of those who misused his Word to perpetuate slavery. (Some may shrink from showing a skeptic these passages; I believe that God’s Word speaks for itself and does not need to be censored in order to protect it!) These principles also apply to the horrifying abuses described by the poster.

FIfth, the poster has the burden of proof because the poster made the assertions. I would ask the poster to explain to me how these abuses fit with Biblical teaching. I would make the poster show that he or she has actually read and processed God’s Word. These are very serious allegations that require in-depth examination and substantiation. I would also ask the poster if he says the same things about the Koran, which has also been used to at least equal degrees to enslave people. (How much of the slave trade originated with Islamic war-making may be worth researching, although I would be careful not to blame-shift. Western powers incentivized the slave trade by continuing to purchase slaves.)

This should give you plenty to chew. I have to go to bed now! God bless!

References:

Katz, B. (2019, January 4). Heavily abridged ‘slave bible’ removed passages that might encourage uprisings. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/heavily-abridged-slave-bible-removed-passages-might-encourage-uprisings-180970989/

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2 posts were split to a new topic: Where do demons come from?

Wow! This answer is amazing! Thank you for sharing.

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Recently I read a book called Slavery and Christianity by John W. Robbins. The book is a commentary on the Biblical book of Philemon. It is a good read and details how St. Paul very subtly and compassionately prods Philemon to free his slave Onesimus, but not only to free him, but to embrace him as his brother.

Because of the book of Philemon and other passages in Scripture it is apparent that the Bible does not support slavery, but promotes brotherhood and more importantly son ship to God.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galations 3:28

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For the record, I also agree with @Curious. Sorry, Kenneth; I did not see your fantastic post until after I posted mine! :grinning:

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Very interesting. Thanks @ConsecratedLife

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You are very welcome Joe-D,

I enjoyed the look into the subject matter and it was a learning experience for me .
God Bless+ Mike

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Thanks to all for your contributions to the topic. Insightful and really helpful. Highly appreciated

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Welcome Joseph,
Some people misuse the scriptures to fit their narrative. It was a black man that helped Jesus carry his cross. In Acts 8:26-40 is the story of the Holy Spirit sending Philip on an encounter with a black man from Ethiopia. Jesus died once for ALL.I hope this helps. May you be richly blessed in your pursuit of truth.

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Who is it that became a “curse” for ALL the human race?
I looked up a few things that I have heard over the years about this subject and they are below:
I am aware that some people use the passage of Noah’s son becoming cursed as the origin of black people, and then to think that all black people are cursed. I have looked it up online and found the following:
This is copied and pasted from Wikipedia:
Biblical narrative
The concept of the curse of Ham finds its origins in Genesis 9:
20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
26 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
– [Genesis 9:20–27], King James Version
(Below is a copy and pasted from https://biblehub.com/galatians/3-13.htm)
Christ became a “Curse” for us:
Christ Redeemed Us
…12The law, however, is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14He redeemed us in order that the blessing promised to Abraham would come to the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.…

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Hey Joseph, I’m a latecomer to this conversation, but your question is such a valid one, so I’d like to share just a couple of thoughts I didn’t see addressed in the above comments.

Anyway, Ravi often quoted St. Augustine when answering similar questions. St. Augustine said, “Never judge a philosophy by its abuse.” Many people have done horrible things “in the name of Christ”, e.g. Hitler, the Crusades, etc. But these things are all in direct contradiction to the message of Jesus and, so, are clearly opposed to Christian philosophy/religion.

With regard to racism, I find the conflict recorded in Numbers 12 to be a very clear message AGAINST racism! Apparently his brother and sister were badmouthing Moses for marrying a “Cushite” woman. Cush is ancient Ethiopia and we all know what color Ethiopians are! So, yeah, Moses had married a black woman and they didn’t like it. Well, God heard about it… and called a meeting with Moses and his siblings. And when that meeting was over, sister Miriam was ‘leprous, WHITE AS SNOW.’ It’s like God was saying, “So you think white is superior to black? Then, alright, be WHITE… like leprosy.”

I have found this passage to be quite helpful in discussions on this topic. Hope it helps you as well!

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Michelle, yours is an illuminating take on Numbers 12. I had never thought of it before. Thank you!