Rose Madrid-Swetman

— Random Thoughts, Stories of Life, and Questions about the Journey —

April 4, 2008

Sometimes We (the Church) Just Get it Wrong

Category: All Posts,Leadership,women – Rose – 3:59 pm

From Divided by Faith
Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America
By Emerson and Smith

Why Christians Should Support Slavery
Key reasons advanced by southern church leaders.

Many Southern Christians felt that slavery, in one Baptist minister’s words, “stands as an institution of God.” Here’s why:

Biblical reasons
Abraham, the “father of faith,” and all the patriarchs held slaves without God’s disapproval (Gen 21:9-10).
Canaan, Ham’s son, was made a slave to his brothers (Gen 9:24-27).
The Ten Commandments mention slavery twice, showing God’s implicit acceptance of it (Ex 20:10,17).
Slavery was widespread throughout the Roman world, and yet Jesus never spoke against it.
The apostle Paul specifically commanded slaves to obey their masters (Eph 6:5-8).
Paul returned a runaway slave, Philemon, to his master (Philemon 12).

Charitable and evangelistic reasons
Slavery removes people from a culture that “worshipped the devil, practiced witchcraft and sorcery” and other evils.
Slavery brings heathens to a Christian land where they can hear the gospel. Christian masters provide religious instruction for their slaves.
Under slavery, people are treated with kindness, as many northern visitors can attest.
It is in ‘slaveholders’ own interest to treat their slaves well.

Social reasons
Just as women are called to play a subordinate role (Eph 5:22; 1Tim 2:11-15), so slaves are stationed by God in their place.
Slavery is God’s means of protecting and providing for an inferior race (suffering the “curse of Ham” in Gen 9:25 or even the punishment of Cain in Gen 4:12).
Abolition would lead to slave uprisings, bloodshed, and anarchy. Consider the mob’s “rule of terror” during the French Revolution.

Political reasons
Christians are to obey civil authorities, and those authorities permit and protect slavery.
The church should concentrate on spiritual matters, not political ones.
Those who support abolition are, in James H. Thornwell’s words, “atheists, socialists, communist [and] red republicans.”

In many ways I hear some of the same reasons to keep women from all God has put in their hearts to do and be…


  1. WOW! What an analogy….lots to think about here!

    Comment by Tracy Simmons — April 6, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

  2. I love this approach to considering the ridiculous notion of the oppression of women. Some questions about the slavery issue directly though, too:
    1. Why didn’t Paul and others take a strong stand against slavery?
    2. Are we supposed to be ‘okay’ with the cultural excuse?
    3. Or the timing excuse?
    4. When is it ever a ‘good’ time to take a stand for what’s right?
    5. Isn’t this one of the best examples of how human biblical people were flawed as well? Just because Paul didn’t address it, didn’t make it okay that he didn’t address it. It’s unfortunate, in my mind, that he addressed it at all. I think his ‘efforts’ helped to perpetuate the oppression.

    any thoughts out there??

    Comment by amy powell — April 7, 2008 @ 7:43 pm

  3. Thanks Rose. Discovering that the Bible in these “technical” ways supported slavery started my journey away from being a literalist. The church in our own context has an ongoing responsibility to interpret the word of God into that context. The fact that the Bible seemed to allow slavery was not a timeless truth to be extracted but a demonstration that God comes into our human stories. Seeing God allowed so much of our humanity in His story should lead us to engage God in the journey and not try to fix Him by extracting disembodied truths from scripture. Attempting to pull out truth propositions seems to be about having truth we can control so that we don’t need to keep engaging God. In this we end up profoundly not representing him whether supporting slavery or denying the equality of women.

    Comment by Jim Mathwig — April 15, 2008 @ 10:05 am

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