We could all use more help around the house. Most people’s first thought would be to get some hired help, and it wouldn’t occur to them to invoke Jesus’ name as they, in all seriousness, mention that slavery might not be such a bad idea.
I say most people, but not all people.
I never imagined that a modern human, let alone a state representative from Arkansas, would come to the following conclusion:
“If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it, why was it in the Constitution, and why wasn’t there a war before 1861?”
That is an actual quote from Republican Representative Loy Mauch of Bismarck, Arkansas. To get a little better picture of Rep. Mauch, you would want to know that he considers the Confederate flag a symbol of Christianity. Evidently the Jesus image was rebranded in the 1860s with a flashy, new, full-color logo; the cross and the fish both being a little passé.
Clearly not a deep thinker, Mauch states that the lateness of the Civil War proves that slavery wasn’t so bad, while ironically also claiming that the Civil War wasn’t even about slavery.
So is Mauch right about the Bible NOT condemning slavery? Absolutely! Having read it cover to cover, there is never any indication that we should even have a discussion of whether slavery might be a bad idea. The Bible’s idea of having a discussion about slavery involves detailing how hard you can beat your slave.
If a man strikes his servant or his maid with a rod, and he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he gets up after a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his property. —Exodus 21:20-21
or this from the New Testament:
Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters and show them complete respect. Obey not only those owners who are good and kind, but also those who are cruel. —1 Peter 2:18
Now is it true that Jesus and Paul didn’t condemn slavery? Yes. Jesus doesn’t mention it, and Paul thinks it’s the best thing since sliced manna.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. —Colossians 3:22
Do we really want to live in a country that bases its laws on whether Jesus and Paul took a stand on the issue 2,000 years ago? Let’s take a look at a few other things that Jesus and Paul did NOT condemn.
- gay marriage
- spousal abuse
- dog fighting
- cock fighting
- bear baiting
- human cloning
- smoking in preschools
- those annoying drum circles that never seem to end on those days when I’m walking in the park, and I’m just not in the mood for a drum circle serenade. Don’t get me wrong sometimes I enjoy them: people having fun, going into a percussion trance, it’s all good, but other times the monotonous droning is interminable, and I just want to shout, “Hey can somebody play a melody for God’s sake? Nobody has a pan flute on them? A trombone, a kazoo even?” (but I digress).
Following Rep. Mauch’s logic, there’s tacit biblical support for each of these controversial activities, (though something tells me Rep. Mauch might actually enjoy a good bear baiting). According to the Bible, Jesus and Paul never flew kites, ate sushi, or went bobsledding, so therefore…?
You know your party is starting to get a reputation for backwards thinking when a Republican Party County Chairman has to go on record saying, “I support the Emancipation Proclamation.” What year is this?
I admit that sometimes I pity Bible literalists. The knots they tie themselves into in order to hold all kinds of bizarre, twisted and contradictory beliefs are worthy of a Cirque du Soleil contortionist. My brain could never handle all of that cognitive dissonance. My pity begins to wane though when there literalism takes them to the sorry place where Rep. Mauch ends up.
Lastly, and much to my surprise, a quick word in support of negative campaigning. The guy who ran against Mauch in the election chose NOT to run a negative campaign! In my part of the country, when your opponent calls Lincoln a war criminal and claims that Jesus condoned slavery, as Mauch did, that’s your campaign right there. Negative yes, but also the honest truth. And here is one more honest truth that I reluctantly admit that Rep. Mauch and I agree on:
“Nowhere in the Holy Bible have I found a word of condemnation for the operation of slavery, Old or New Testament.” —Rep. Loy Mauch (R-AR)
But unlike Rep. Mauch, I think the Bible actually got it WRONG on the slavery issue—no matter how much help I need when I’m out working in the yard.
Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.