Columbus’ Enslaving, Raping, and Baby Slaughtering Crew: Thanks a Lot, Bible!

ColumbusHate to ruin your Columbus Day festivities, but what better time to explore one of the worst first impressions in human history and how it was all seemingly condoned by the Good Book.

Columbus’ own stated purpose for his voyage (to India) was to find people who belonged to

“the sect of Mahoma [Islam] and to all idolatries and heresies, with a view that they might be converted to our holy faith.”

And Columbus later wrote this about his divine inspiration to sail Westward:

“It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel his hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies . . . For the execution of the journey to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied . . . No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Savior if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service”

Columbus didn’t rely on maps, but instead heard (God’s) voices in his head! Columbus was SOOOOOO lucky there just happened to be an entire, unexpected continent to exploit, because if America weren’t there, they would have all died long before reaching India.

When Columbus finally met the Caribbean locals, his first thoughts were along these lines (from his journal):

“They would make fine servants . . . With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

Columbus’ boyhood friend recounts whipping and raping a native woman

“whom the said Lord Admiral gave to me.”

The expedition’s priest recounts the vilest of all the crew’s acts:

“And the Christians . . . spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women . . . (They) snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, “Boil there, you offspring of the devil!”

Columbus’ crew may have been a bit imbalanced to agree to join his ill-planned voyage in the first place, but an imbalanced mind can find much malevolent inspiration with the Christian holy scriptures:

Complete destruction will come on any man who makes offerings to any other god but the Lord. —Exodus 22:20

And when the Lord has given them up into your hands, and you have overcome them, give them up to complete destruction. —Deuteronomy 7:2

And now slay every male, even of the children, and put to death the women that have carnally known men. But the girls and all the women that are virgins save for yourselves. —Numbers 31:17-18

Their infants also shall be dashed in pieces before their eyes. Their houses shall be rifled, and their wives ravished. And their bows shall dash the young men in pieces, and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb. Their eye shall not spare children. —Isaiah 13:16,18

And finally for one of the most unforgivable lines in the entire Bible:

Blessed be he that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock. —Psalms 137:9

Which is exactly what Columbus’ crew did, again from the writings of Columbus’ priest, Bartolome de las Casas:

“They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them head first against the crags.”

Leading us sadly to Bible Funmentionables’ Core Principle #4: Just because the Bible has consoled many with its uplifting verses, it does NOT mean that it is a harmless book. In the wrong hands it can be the source of profound misery, suffering, and from time to time catastrophic atrocities.

Columbus’ mindset does shed light on why humans like to assume that aliens arriving to earth would have hostile intent. It’s not that we understand alien nature; it’s more that we have seen human nature throughout history.

Here’s hoping that the aliens’ holy books are a little holier than ours.

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.

When You ASS-U-ME the Bible Will Give You the Right Answer…

GogAndMagogI am repeatedly shocked by how often the Wall Street Journal runs ill-conceived and plainly second-rate op-eds on their editorial pages. As long as your political philosophy aligns with the editorial board, they seem willing to run just about anything. So when I read this, I couldn’t keep myself away from the B-fun blog.

Tevi Troy’s assertion that many American Presidents have been influenced by the Bible (“The Presidential Bible Class”) was as inarguable as it was superficial. It left unasked two vital questions: Have presidential Bible consultations yielded universally positive results? and Should the Bible be relied upon as an unerring counsel for political leaders?

To answer the first question we need only travel back in time to 2003 to recall the account of former French President Jacques Chirac who claimed President Bush tried to convince him to join the invasion of Iraq because “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East.” Gog and Magog are not Mr. Magoo’s adorable nephews, but rather they are creatures prophesied in the Book of Revelation to bring destruction upon Israel. Given that a recent Gallup poll shows that 53% of Americans believe that invading Iraq was a mistake, we may have been better served if Bush had studied more about the tensions between Shiites and Sunnis and worried less about Gog and Magog.

A one-time US Senator and Secretary of War once said, “It (slavery) was established by decree of Almighty God and is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments from Genesis to Revelation.” The author of this quote was also a President of sorts: the Confederate States’ President Jefferson Davis.

Slavery is famously not outlawed in the Bible with passages like

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling.” —Ephesians 6:5

and

“Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters.” —Titus 2:9

That could explain that despite being fully aware of the Bible, 10 of the first 10 US Presidents (who were not named Adams) owned slaves at some point in their lives. But that was a different time. No politician today would really think the Bible meant what it said about slavery, right? Well there is the case of state representative Loy Mauch of Arkansas who claimed in 2012,

“If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it?”

So consulting the Bible has been no guarantor of inerrant advice for past politicians. But is there a place for the Bible as an aide in informing today’s weighty political issues?

In my own study of the Bible, I have endeavored to catalogue the most surprising and arcane passages of the Old and New Testaments, and I discovered that for every Bible verse used to support a given political opinion, it was not difficult to find a verse that would support just the opposite.

There are the more lighthearted contradictions:

“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing.” —Proverbs 18:22

and

“It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” —1 Corinthians 7:1

Then there are the confusing directives:

“Even so let your light shine before men.” —Matthew 5:16

and

“Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men.” —Matthew 6:1

Some are deeply theological:

“The Father is greater than I am.” —John 14:28

and

“I and my Father are one.” —John 10:30

And others have important public policy ramifications:

“Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” —Luke 18:22

and

“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” —John 12:8

When I combed through every single saying of Jesus in the gospels looking for those with either a hint of liberal or conservative sentiments, I was surprised to find that Jesus was not wholly one or the other, though by my count his liberal-leaning statements outnumbered his conservative ones by a ration of 2 to 1. Given this mixed message in the gospels, what does it mean to rely upon the Bible as a source of political inspiration. Rather than hearing one consistent message, it seems highly likely that one would be tempted to seek out those verses that conform to one’s preexisting ideology also known as confirmation bias. When is the last time you heard a politician say that even though it goes completely against their political leanings, the Bible made them change a deeply held belief.

I mention this as a cautionary tale. Being well-versed in the Bible does not necessarily equal unparalleled political decision-making. Even Abraham Lincoln understood his limited ability to discern the ideal course of action when he said,

“My concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”

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.

A Slave to the Bible

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
  • abortion
  • 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.