A recent article by CNN criticizing black churches for publicly condemning President Obama’s decision to support gay marriage opens with a series of questions, one of which is “Why would the black church cite scripture to exclude gays when a similar approach to the Bible was used to enslave their ancestors?”
James Cone, a black theologian, is quoted as saying “I’ve said many times in black churches that the black church is on the wrong side of history on this. It’s so sad because they were on the right side of history in their own struggle.”
Mr. Cone is wrong, and so is CNN in their posturing on this point. The blacks were right the first time, and they are correct now by condemning homosexuality. They are correct in both instances because they actually know what the Bible says.
WHAT THE BIBLE REALLY SAYS ABOUT SLAVERY
The Bible’s penalty for kidnapping is death: “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:16)
The slave trade in Western society that began in the fifteenth century was based on kidnapping (man stealing). Native Africans were paid by Western slave traders to kidnap members of other tribes so that they could be sold into the Western slavery system.
Without buyers, there would have been no such slave trade. The traders initiated the deal. They participated in the kidnapping. They created the demand. They were co-conspirators. They were guilty of kidnapping. Judicially, they deserved to be put to death for these transgressions.
But they weren’t. They sold their slaves to plantation owners in the South. The rules for slaves in the Bible protected slaves from unrestrained abuse. After all, the Israelites had been slaves to Egypt for over 200 years. The rules of slavery are among the first that God commands the Hebrews to obey in the Book of Exodus. And for good measure: it was fresh on their minds.
SOUTHERN CIVIL GOVERNMENT WAS IMMORAL, CORRUPT
It is the role of civil government to enforce God’s civil laws. The civil rule of law in the South was corrupt, claiming ultimate sovereignty over their slaves for themselves. They ruled autonomously instead of ethically as God commands.
God requires restraints on physical abuse: “Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight.” (Deuteronomy 25:3) The South clearly refused to penalize slave owners for such abuse. Henry Bibb, an ex-slave in writing about his life as slave and his “upbringing,” wrote “…I may safely say, I was flogged up; for where I should have received moral, mental, and religious instruction, I received stripes without number, the object of which was to degrade and keep me in subordination.” (http://bit.ly/BibbNarrative)
We are made in God’s image, and to beat his representatives mercilessly and without abandon, especially to the point of humiliation and degradation, is an affront to God’s honor.
Furthermore, the Bible requires that no man be a slave for life. The Southern system of slavery made no provision or possibility for release. It also did not protect slaves from abusive owners. In Exodus 21:26-27 God tells us that “An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth. “
Deuteronomy 15 requires that slaves to go free on the seventh year after six years of service. They are also to be outfitted with liberal provisions from their master’s stock because of their good service. “Do not consider it a hardship to set your servant free, because their service to you these six years has been worth twice as much as that of a hired hand. And the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.”
The South made no laws that required their civil governments to uphold the laws of God unto humane treatment of slaves. The South engaged in an immoral slave system and, though they twisted the Bible to justify their sick perversion of God’s law, they certainly didn’t lean on the Bible to tell them how to manage their slavery system and treat their slaves.
The South imposed no judicial restraint on the mistreatment of slaves. They provided their slaves no civil protection.
BLACK MAGIC, VOODOO, SORCERERS, DEMON WORSHIP AND ANIMALISM
Despite the fact that the initiation and administering of the Western slave trade was immoral, God worked it for good. What standard schools and historical scholars fail to discuss with their audiences is the cultural and spiritual bondage suffered by the Africans at the hands of voodoo witch doctors, indulgence in magic, and their entrenchment in sin.
Bondage to sin produces bondage in other areas of life. For example, a business man who is known to be one who cheats chronically on his wife is one whose reputation punishes him in his business dealings — his economic partners are less inclined to trust him. “If he’ll cheat on his wife, he’ll cheat anyone.” If they do business with him at all, they may impose greater penalty for his breaking of a contract or require steeper fees — insurance — up front just for considering the deal. This leads to stifled income and profits for the man bonded to sin.
Multiply this out across all of society, and you end up with a culture of men who cannot trust each other. This leads to excessive lawsuits and lawyer fees paid to enforce contracts signed by unscrupulous men. Excessive economic resources are diverted to legal expenses when they could have been devoted to lowering prices by re-investing in production and making all of society richer.
A society that is bound by sorcerers and witches and black magic is one that is not allowed to develop basic economic customs. They seek power by worshipping demons instead of gaining wealth and prosperity by foregoing power-seeking in the interest of ethics — keeping God’s commandments and trusting in the goodness of the Lord.
VISITING THE INIQUITY OF THE FATHERS ON THE CHILDREN TO THE THIRD AND FOURTH GENERATION…
God used the Western slave trade to deliver the Africans who were kidnapped from spiritual bondage. He planted them into a certainly flawed Christian American South. They were taught the Word and introduced to Jesus. Though the civil system they suffered under did not allow hope for freedom, their trust in the Lord did.
And that trust paid off. After almost 200 years in bondage at the hands of the Egyptians, God grew impatient with the Egyptians’ lack of progress in freeing the Hebrews. This is the promise God gave us in the Book of Exodus: if man cannot be trusted to impose God’s sanctions on the civil court systems, then He himself will impose them.
After nearly 200 years in bondage at the hands of a defiant South, God used the cane of the Northern army to physically free the slaves after bringing them up in His ways and teaching them his commandments. As Gary North wrote in Authority and Dominion, “Freedom begins with internal regeneration, and then steadily works its effects outward. If spiritual freedom is not allowed by civil rulers to work its way toward political and economic freedom, then God at last breaks the chains of bondage that restrain the covenantal blessings of freedom.”
Just as God promises us.