Further on Dan Savage and SSM “Tolerance”

With respect to this ignorant outburst, James Agresti writes,

First and most succinctly, Savage’s historical revisionism is at odds with primary sources that enlighten the events of the past, such as these words penned by former slave Booker T. Washington in his celebrated book, Up From Slavery:

If no other consideration had convinced me of the value of a Christian life, the Christlike work which the Church of all denominations in America has done during the last thirty-five years for the elevation of the black man would have made me a Christian.

In concert with this, when one studies abolition movements, we find that most of the leading figures who made immense personal sacrifices for this cause were dedicated Christians acting in accordance with Biblical principles. These include William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharp, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, John Newton, James Ramsay, James Stephen, Elizabeth Heyrick, and many other Christians, whose selfless deeds are chronicled in academic texts like Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves.

[From Articles: What Dan Savage Doesn’t Know about the Bible and Slavery]

Also, I wonder how many of the students applauding Savage would have preferred that their parents had followed his sexual ethic in full. (Maybe some of their parents did; I wonder how many of those students were glad about it.) As Mark Oppenheimer writes,

In Savage Love, his weekly column, he inveighs against the American obsession with strict fidelity. In its place he proposes a sensibility that we might call American Gay Male, after that community’s tolerance for pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements, from strict monogamy to wide openness….

The view that we need a little less fidelity in marriages is dangerous for a gay-marriage advocate to hold. It feeds into the stereotype of gay men as compulsively promiscuous, and it gives ammunition to all the forces, religious and otherwise, who say that gay families will never be real families and that we had better stop them before they ruin what is left of marriage. But Savage says a more flexible attitude within marriage may be just what the straight community needs. Treating monogamy, rather than honesty or joy or humor, as the main indicator of a successful marriage gives people unrealistic expectations of themselves and their partners. And that, Savage says, destroys more families than it saves….

“The mistake that straight people made,” Savage told me, “was imposing the monogamous expectation on men. Men were never expected to be monogamous. Men had concubines, mistresses and access to prostitutes, until everybody decided marriage had to be egalitar­ian and fairsey.” In the feminist revolution, rather than extending to women “the same latitude and license and pressure-release valve that men had always enjoyed,” we extended to men the confines women had always endured. “And it’s been a disaster for marriage.”

What do you think, students? Wouldn’t life be better with both Dad and Mom running around?

I don’t think so.

And finally, this on pro-SSM “tolerance:”

Series Navigation (Dan Savage):

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Comments

  1. BillT

    Dan Savage’s ideas on relationships are laughable nonsense. The facts are “open” relationships, married or not, fail. They are nearly 100% certain to fail. The evidence this is true is overwhelming if evidence is even really needed to debunk this kind of absurdity. It’s really hardly worth taking the time to discuss.

  2. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Right.

    I only wish I could ask those high school students whether they like(d) the idea of their parents having those kinds of relationships. That much discussion might actually be enlightening.

  3. BillT

    And I hope some of the more skeptical here take a serious look at the anti-slavery perspective offered in the beginning of the OP. The truth is that Christian ethics is the only ethical tradition that offers a reasoned rational for human rights of any kind. They were the basis for the abolishment of slavery.

  4. Alex Dawson

    I’m a bit confused by what purpose the “Attacked By Tolerance” video is supposed to have. The actions of the people aggrieving TFP are abhorrent and ought to be condemned, but why is that the focus of a video by a group that seeks to promote traditional marriage? The video description itself says “Let’s make this video go viral. Please forward it to your friends.”

    Sadly, there exist some ignorant intolerant people in all walks of life and as members of most groups, but surely this is a well known fact? Are they trying to imply that all who argue for SSM are intolerant? I hope not, and will give them the benefit of the doubt, but I’m not encouraged by phrases used in the video such as “the type of tolerance that the homosexual movement preaches is just a big lie”.

    And assuming they are just highlighting these particular individuals, what point are they trying to make? There exist intolerant individuals who support SSM, therefore SSM is wrong? Again, I hope not and will give them the benefit of the doubt. But if as they profess they wish to have reasoned debate, why not promote videos that expand on that reasoning, and encourage them to go viral? The whole tone of the video just left me a bit unsettled.

    I don’t want to get carried away, but it seems to be bordering on promoting an ‘us versus them’ attitude, which will only serve to deepen the divide between the two sides, and discourage genuine debate.

  5. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Alex,

    Here’s one way to view it: this is incredibly intolerant treatment by a movement that supposedly trades in tolerance above all else.

    Here’s another way to view it: it’s altogether too common. See below for another recent example.

    Here’s a further way to view it: How strongly are the “tolerant” leaders of this “tolerance” movement speaking out against Dan Savage, one of their own leaders? Or against the treatment the video above depicted? Or against the way Douglas Wilson was treated in the video below?

    If this were really a tolerance movement, this kind of treatment would not be a part of it. Its leaders would be putting the brakes on it. Where is there any evidence of that happening??

  6. Alex Dawson

    I’m further unimpressed reading the accompanying article linked to in the video description:

    “When you watch same-sex ‘marriage’ activists destroy your signs, desecrate the Bible, blaspheme, and burn your literature, it becomes clear that the homosexual agenda is not really about tolerance,” Ritchie said. “It’s about the formation of a strange dictatorship – a dictatorship of pseudo-tolerance and make-believe equality – where freedom of speech is only allowed if it advances sinful lifestyles; where God, family values and public morality are off limits and targeted for destruction.”

    Can this group really be said to be participating in rational debate if they’re attaching the actions of a few to the meaning of a whole agenda?

  7. Alex Dawson

    I am admittedly unknowledgable about pro-SSM leaders/movements/campaigns. While intolerance by any proportion of people would make it too common, it is only noteworthy it occurs significantly more than as it does in the general population. Perhaps it is, and I would be sad if so, and if you have any quantitative evidence to demonstrate this then please share! Otherwise I think I would find youtube videos of occasional events rather anecdotal (especially given that most seem to be student events, which always seem to attract a disproportionately high number of people who wish to disrupt).

    If there is no high-profile condemnation of Savage then I would be surprised and disappointed (I would agree with your criticisms of him), but I would imagine only a minority of SSM-advocates pay significant attention to such “leaders” or are themselves prominent activists.

    However if such accusations of widespread intolerance are indeed true then it is very good to raise them and denounce them, and encourage the movement to act in a better manner.

    However where I do start to disagree is where you say:

    If this were really a tolerance movement, this kind of treatment would not be a part of it.

    The way I see it, even if all of the worst claims are true, and a majority of the activists and leaders are failing to be tolerant, this is merely a criticism of how the campaign is run. It is still completely irrelevant to rational debate of the issue of SSM itself (and so in particular, whether allowing/prohibiting SSM is about tolerance). If something is preached by a hyprocrite, that does not in and of itself decrease the merit of what is being said, it merely reflects badly on the character of the hypocrite. Even if warranted, advertising the negative character of a movement supporting an agenda, as a primary means of campaigning against the agenda, seems to me to be roughly equivalent to an ad-hominem attack on the agenda.

  8. AgeOfReasonXXI

    Tom Gilson,

    this is incredibly intolerant treatment by a movement that supposedly trades in tolerance above all else.

    Being intolerant towards intolerance (which is the only moral stance towards the homophobic, pro-slavery stupidity of the Bible) doesn’t make a person intolerant. On the contrary, that goes to show one’s commitment to tolerance. I’m guessing you wouldn’t say that when the state imposes the death penalty on a convicted murdered, that makes the state guilty of the very same thing, i.e. murder.

    Tolerating intolerance is what actually constitutes a betrayal of tolerance

    SO what you’re offering here is just rhetoric.
    It sort of reminds me of the typical rhetorical jabs of Lame Craig, such as responding to a claim about Christians being judgmental, by retorting “isn’t that judgmental?!”.
    That didn’t stop this hypocrite, however, from shamelessly manipulating the audience during one of his debates in the U.K. into voting that Christianity is not a delusion by insisting that voting it is a delusion, is–you guessed it!– judgmental: “do you really want to be that kind of person? are you really that judgmental?”.
    Craig got laughs after these remarks, but I presume he would’ve been boo-ed off stage, had the audience been aware of the fact that one of Craig’s talking points is that being a religious particularist and claiming the followers of every other religion have gotten it wrong, is not judgmental or intolerant.(but suggesting that Craig is deluded apparently is.) And, in any case, those who insist it is, are in fact being themselves intolerant and judgmental, as Craig smugly announces. (that is, unless he’s trying to convince an audience that articulating their own belief that Christians are deluding themselves makes them judgmental!)

  9. BillT

    AOR on a WLC rant again (yawn). And, of course, on a post that had nothing to do with WLC. Not to mention the “…the homophobic, pro-slavery stupidity of the Bible” idiocy. You’re so far from reality here AOR as to be laughable. Get a grip.

  10. asdf

    Man, you really hate this Craig guy, it seems. It’s almost as if you’re being…really intolerant.

    It seems to me that to blithely dismiss another’s deepest held beliefs as mere delusion might well be intolerant or judgmental, whereas respectfully asserting that another is mistaken could count clearly toward your intellectual honesty, especially if the issue in question conflicts with your own belief.

    In other words, if a large part of your belief is holding exclusive truth, then perhaps it is extremely hypocritical to continue to hold that other traditions are equally valid.

    The key issue is ‘delusion’. This implies a certain gullibility and naivete, and insinuates a lack of intelligence. When it is a clearly demonstrable fact that many Christians hold deeply to their convictions, when people on this very site are willing to give reason upon reason for their faith, it seems immanently reasonable to conclude that calling their viewpoint, their way of life a ‘delusion’ is disrespectful, judgmental and intolerant.

    As are certain phrases that you’ve strewn around your description of Craig; ‘hypocritical’, ‘smug’, ‘Lame Craig’. I mean, I understand that you don’t like the guy. Try subtlety some time.

  11. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    AOR: from where do you get this bit about the Bible being pro-slavery? I think it’s from an unreasoning, unexamined, unstudied, out-of-context, prejudicial jumping to conclusions.

    Read the OP again, okay?

    As for “homophobic,” that’s rhetoric. As a Christian I neither hate nor fear homosexuals. I just think homosexuality is wrong, and for good reason.

    Speaking of reason, you probably know I edited a book on atheist irrationality. I could have included this line: “Tolerating intolerance is what actually constitutes a betrayal of tolerance.”

    The current culture of tolerance and so-called non-judgmentalism is terribly judgmental and intolerant. It’s irrational.

    So is your assessment of Craig. You say that because he believes in what you consider an intolerant religion, therefore to be intolerant towards Christians is not to be intolerant. Let me simplify that for the sake of clarity. “… therefore to be intolerant … is not to be intolerant.”

    It’s contradictory. It’s irrational. It’s self-defeating. It’s a failed way of looking at reality, because it’s a denial of reality.

    Craig’s audience figured that out, because they paid attention to reasoning. That would be a good example for someone who calls him/herself “AgeofReason” to follow.

  12. BillT

    Why is it then when we get posters who want to tout their intellectual bona fides in their screen name they inevitably prove just the opposite. First, we had “(doctor) logic” who proved his logical abilities fell far short of doctoral status. Now, we have “AgeOfReason” whose inane ranting about WLC shows a paucity of reason. Not to mention his inability to understand that books can’t have phobias.

  13. Doug

    @AOR,

    Tolerating intolerance is what actually constitutes a betrayal of tolerance

    So that implies intolerance (of intolerance) is consistent with tolerance.
    Which implies that intolerance is consistent with tolerance.
    Bravo!
    Thanks for supplying a lovely example of irrational discourse (to be used in elementary logic class) with your egregiously self-serving doublespeak.

  14. Alex Dawson

    Doing a little reading, I think some barbs are being traded unnecessarily. The problem is tolerance is a very nuanced word. It is not some fundamental quality which one either does or does not have, it is context dependent.

    The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes it thus:

    The term “toleration” — from the Latin tolerare: to put up with, countenance or suffer — generally refers to the conditional acceptance of or non-interference with beliefs, actions or practices that one considers to be wrong but still “tolerable,” such that they should not be prohibited or constrained

    I’m pretty sure most people are intolerant of murder, but I wouldn’t imagine that would give rise to someone being called an intolerant individual (again I’m not sure the idea of an intolerant individual is a meaningful one at all, beyond perhaps “intolerant of many things”).

    One can be tolerant of some things and intolerant of others, and this is by no means a contradictory position.

    There are different conceptions of tolerance, which can lead to different understandings of its consequences, but I quite like the following by Hans Oberdiek:

    As long as no one is harmed or no one’s fundamental rights are violated, the state should keep hands off, tolerating what those controlling the state find disgusting, deplorable or even debased.

    A significant part of the SSM debate is whether in fact harm is caused (to children, society, etc), so whether it is reasonable to be tolerant of SSM or not is exactly what is disputed. However (as I will hope at some point to expand on) if it cannot be demonstrated that harm is caused by SSM, arguments that solely boil down to the preference of [married] heterosexual sex are insufficient to argue against it if one adheres to the above conception of tolerance.

    Also, with regards to AgeOfReasonXXI

    Tolerating intolerance is what actually constitutes a betrayal of tolerance

    This is equally meaningless with reference to particular instances of intolerance. If intolerance by others includes violence/things which cause harm, they should not be tolerated. However, if there are people who are peacefully intolerant (i.e. non-acceptant rather than interfering) and not causing any harm (such as the cases Tom has highlighted), one should tolerate them.

    Even if by some judgement you thought that the intolerance is not to be tolerated, the way to oppose that is not violently, which you seem to imply that you condone.

  15. Andrew

    The problem, Alex, is that the rhetoric of “tolerance” has gone from meaning “put up with error or disagreement” to “uncritical acceptance (of things of which the right people approve)”. In order to tolerate something, you must first disagree with it. And yet champions of “tolerance” will aggressively declare “intolerant” any sign of disagreement.

    The “tolerant” person at least accepts disagreement and debate. To aggressively silence any dissension is the epitomy of intolerance. Now, there might be reason for such a stance, but “tolerance” is not such a reason, and it’s pure doublespeak to suggest that it is.

    As an example, Tom is “tolerating” your current argument. Though it is obvious that he disagrees with it, he is not attempting to silence it except through providing counter-argument.

    Should you or I resort to foul language or personal insults, I expect we should find Tom most in-tolerant. In that context, I would think that a virtue, not a failing, but wouldn’t try to call it “tolerance” (’cause it’s not, and that’s a good thing).

    The rhetoric of “tolerance” is to hide the hypocrisy of creating categories called “right” and “wrong” while demonising opponents for using these terms. “I tolerate all viewpoints, except those that claim I’m wrong” isn’t actually displaying any meaningful tolerance.

  16. Tris Stock (@mygodlesslife)

    If no other consideration had convinced me of the value of a Christian life, the Christlike work which the Church of all denominations in America has done during the last thirty-five years for the elevation of the black man would have made me a Christian.

    But being Christ-like would be supporting slavery.

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

    Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)

    In the following parable, Jesus clearly approves of beating slaves even if they didn’t know they were doing anything wrong.

    The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” (Luke 12:47-48 NLT)

  17. Doug

    @Tris,

    In the following parable, Jesus clearly approves of beating slaves even if they didn’t know they were doing anything wrong.

    In the preceding text, you clearly mishandle the parable. It might be helpful to appreciate what a parable is, for starters?

    Besides — should we take your word for it, or prefer to listen to B. Washington (your quote), or F. Douglass (for example), who wrote:

    To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slave holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.

  18. BillT

    Oh, wow! Quote mining “slavery” passages from the Bible. Who could have seen that coming. So you’re telling us that Booker T. Washington was wrong to believe what he did. He, a former slave and a Christian, just didn’t know what he was talking about. Thanks. We’re all so in your debt (especially Mr. Washington).

  19. Tris Stock (@mygodlesslife)

    Well, apparently Mr. Washington didn’t see it coming, else he would have realised that slavery is a trait that Christians were perfectly fine with.

    Quote mining is the deceitful tactic of taking quotes out of context in order to make them seemingly agree with the quote miner’s viewpoint. It’s a way of lying. fail to see how using the bible to contextualise Christian thought is either deceitful or my own viewpoint.

    Was Mr. Washington wrong to believe what he did? No, but then he wasn’t acting according to Christian scripture, was he? Perhaps you think the bible is wrong?

    You’re welcome.

  20. Alex Dawson

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say Andrew, I hope that nothing I’ve said has come across otherwise. The notion of champion of tolerance is a ridiculous one, no-one ‘owns’ tolerance, and as you’ve eloquently put it is a virtue to be tolerant in some circumstances, but equally a virtue to be intolerant in others.

    As you say, people who misuse the word tolerant in the way you describe are being (unvirtuously) intolerant, and should be rightly condemned for that behaviour, and encouraged to be genuinely tolerant with regards to disagreement.

    What I was questioning was:
    1) Whether it is warranted to generalise most SSM-advocates as in fact being intolerant in such a manner.
    2) The relevance of the behaviour of SSM-advocates to the debate of the issue of SSM itself.

  21. Doug

    @Tris,

    using the bible to contextualise Christian thought

    was precisely what you were not doing!
    And do you even know who B.T.Washington was?

  22. BillT

    So Tris, you’ve come here and thrown out some Bible verses without offering any explanation or reasoning except “…being Christ-like would be supporting slavery.” and you think you’ve “…contextualise(d) Christian thought…”. Hope you’re arm isn’t too sore from patting yourself on the back.

  23. Doug

    @Andrew,

    In order to tolerate something, you must first disagree with it. And yet champions of “tolerance” will aggressively declare “intolerant” any sign of disagreement.

    very well put. It reminds me a bit of this article

  24. Victoria

    A bit off topic, but relevant since Tris brought it up….

    Look here for a summary of slavery in the Roman Empire.
    Contrast this with the NT view of masters and slaves.

  25. Andrew W

    (changed moniker to Andrew W to avoid confusion)

    Thanks for that clarification, Alex.

    What I was questioning was:
    1) Whether it is warranted to generalise most SSM-advocates as in fact being intolerant in such a manner.
    2) The relevance of the behaviour of SSM-advocates to the debate of the issue of SSM itself.

    Good questions. I have 3 “answers”:

    (1) I do not think that Dan Savage speaks for all SSM-advocates. And yet, the lack of outspoken condemnation, or at least rhetorical distance, is telling.

    For example, a number of Protestant leaders are willingly allying with Roman Catholic leaders on the contraception mandate issue, and yet are also careful to distance themselves from Roman Catholic theology in general. There is also a readiness to censure when one spokesman makes claims that another finds completely incompatible.

    The silence surrounding this (relatively public) issue suggests that Savage’s comments are not seen as an image problem for the SSM movement.

    (2) One can make a strong argument that Savage’s behaviour is a more outspoken version of what is being championed in the political arena.

    (3) Behaviour matters. The public / private view of life is a lie. If you are a spokesman, then what you do and who you are is part of your message, and anything you put your name necessarily embraces your identity. Either “It gets better” embraces this behaviour, or it disowns it; irrelevant is not an option.

    Note that I am not claiming that a champion must be perfect. A champion for good sportsmanship may have a short temper, but that does not necessarily conflict with his message, as long as this failing is part of his message. But to fail to condemn such failings is to condone them, and such condonation passes necessarily to those the champion leads.

    People and organisations follow their heart, and what we have seen of Dan’s heart in this matter is disturbing.

  26. AgeOfReasonXXI

    BillT,

    AOR on a WLC rant again (yawn). And, of course, on a post that had nothing to do with WLC. Not to mention the “…the homophobic, pro-slavery stupidity of the Bible” idiocy. You’re so far from reality here AOR as to be laughable. Get a grip.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t Lame Craig hailed as the foremost defender of Christianity by Christians themselves? Or do you think that whether the guy is a slime-ball or not has no reflecttion on Christianity at all?
    While true that the post had nothing to do with Craig directly, as I pointed out, Tom Gilson’s approach here is essentially the one Craig takes anytime the question of tolerance (or more specifically, Christian intolerance) is raised; but it makes little sense: being intolerant towards intolerance is actually at the heart of what it means to be committed to tolerance. Then, I thought it’d be only appropriate to illustrate “Christianity foremost defender”‘s shameless opportunism and double talk on the subject of tolerance and judgement by providing specific examples of that.
    It should go without saying that simply calling it a ‘rant’, doesn’t negate the truth of what I said about your star apologist.

    As for the Bible, dismissing what I said as ‘idiocy’, doesn’t change the fact that your holy book IS homophobic, and not only doesn’t condemn slavery but gives instructions to both slaveholders and slaves. So, sorry but the only one “so far from reality here” is you. And btw, this coming form a person with an invisible friend, sounds just pathetic. (projecting onto one’s opponents: another one of Craig’s–or, as it appears, Christians’–favorite moves)

  27. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    AOR21,

    First, his name is William Lane Craig, sometimes written in the shorter version of Craig or WLC. Calling him “Lame” is a) irrelevant to this post, since no one here brought him up; b) rude; c) offensive; d) tantamount to calling all of us the same, since you regard us as being his clones; and e) a violation of this blog’s discussion policy.

    Second, calling him a slime-ball is (pardon the repetition) a) irrelevant to this post, since no one here brought him up; b) rude; c) offensive; d) tantamount to calling all of us the same, since you regard us as being his clones; and e) a serious violation of my discussion policy.

    Third, you’re not debating WLC. You’re debating us.

    Fourth, if you’re going to say we have an “invisible friend,” you might as well come out and say we are infantile idiots stuck in fantasy–which is what you believe, I am quite sure, along with “pathetic,” which you did come right out and say. If you think that of us–and if you also consider us lame slime-balls, I don’t know why you would sit across the table from us at Starbucks, or why I would want to sit across the table from you. I don’t usually choose to hang around with people whose main purpose in the relationship is to let me know I’m a despicable moron.

    Fifth, are you interested in learning something further about the Bible’s view on slavery? Learning is a good thing, you know. Assuming that you understand everything about it already is one of the great barriers to learning. Judging, as you have done, prematurely, with regard to the Bible is another of the great barriers to learning. And not learning is one of the most likely ways to remain far from reality.

    Sixth, buried deep in your last comment you have hidden some substance that might be worth talking about, having to do with a commitment to tolerance. I think it’s pretty funny that you think a commitment to tolerance should be carried out through standing there name-calling and insulting people this way. I mean, I know you think we’re wrong, but there have to be more mature ways to tell us that than these schoolyard tactics.

    Do you want to continue in conversation here? Try bringing some substance. And be aware of point 11 in the discussion policies. I don’t ban anyone for disagreeing, as many can attest, but I don’t intend this blog to become a cesspool of insults, name-calling, and other lame and disrespectful tactics.

  28. BillT

    Yeah sure AOR. Going on another WLC rant certainly was relevant to what Tom said. Oh, and your opinion on what the Bible says (coming from someone who has demonstrated how very little of the Bible he knows) is only slightly more absurd than that. And just so we know that you’re fully informed to the ins and outs of the average atheist web site, an “invisible friend” sighting. Could you possibly pack more bad reasoning and secular clichés and into a single post? (BTW, you capitalized “IS” definately made your argument.)

  29. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Tris,

    You say “being Christ-like is supporting slavery.”

    Let me ask you two questions, and if you can answer them we can move on.

    First Question: If Jesus Christ, and the apostles after them, had said “Slavery must end now,” and if people had taken them seriously what would have been the social, economic, and law-enforcement/military effect of that in that time? In your answer please be sure to take the actual economics of the day, as well as the social and law-enforcement/military situation, into full account. That will of course require that you understand those factors. Also please take into account the manner in which slavery was practiced, how persons entered into slavery, how they were treated, what their roles in the household were, and how those factors differed from the slavery we are familiar with in America. Also please take into account that kidnaping for slavery was expressly forbidden (1 Tim. 1:9; see the original Greek). Also please take into account the effect of instructions given to those who had slaves, and how it would have affected their slaves’ lives.

    Once you have displayed your thorough understanding of those topics we can take your assessment seriously. Until then it will be safe for us to conclude that you are projecting your 21st century knowledge back into a situation of which you know nothing. If you are content with judging that of which you know nothing, then you are content with unjust intolerance toward people you do not understand. Is that part of your ethic? (Oops, I snuck another question in.)

    Second Question (multi-part): Why is it that slavery disappeared in Christian Europe? Could it be because gradually the biblical truths that we are all created in the image of God, that prejudicial distinctions are erased (Gal. 3:28), that love is the primary ethic, worked its way through society so that they had the desired effects without the evils of serious disruption in the economic and social order? And why is it that the great abolitionists were Christians? In other words, to sum up this question, isn’t it the case that Christianity has resulted in changed hearts, changed lives, changed societies, that ended up changing the social order so that the evil of slavery could be eliminated?

    Once you have given us an answer to that question as well, one that takes into account the history of the elimination of slavery in Europe and other Christian-influenced situations, and compares it to the progress of abolition elsewhere in the world, then we can take you seriously on that count.

    Until then, I’m afraid you might be judging people and situations you just don’t know or understand. Is that part of your ethic?

  30. Chip

    AOR,

    You have claimed the Bible says X. I am curious how you know the Bible says X, but before you do so let’s consider an analogy.

    Each person has a computer for processing and determining the meaning of the Bible. Let’s call this computer the “Bible interpretation computer.” The person places the Bible in one side of the computer. The computer does some process based on its ruleset, and finally the results, or meaning, come out the other side.

    To further the analogy, I recall many years ago when Intel released the first Pentium. The processors had a bug in the floating point unit which caused it to return incorrect results. The ruleset being used by the processor was flawed. So, let’s turn back to my point.

    Before I accept your claim that the Bible says X, I need to know and evaluate the ruleset your computer uses to process data. That is, I want to know what principles and assumptions you are making about interpretation and the Bible (i.e., your hermeneutical approach). If I am satisfied with your ruleset, then I’ll be happy to apply it and see if I receive the same results you have. If I do, then I’ll be happy to agree with you that the Bible says X.

    So, how about it? What is your hermeneutical approach to the Scriptures?

  31. Tris Stock (@mygodlesslife)

    Q1 If Jesus Christ, and the apostles after them, had said “Slavery must end now,” and if people had taken them seriously what would have been the social, economic, and law-enforcement/military effect of that in that time?

    A1 I have no idea what would have happened if Jesus or his apostles after him, had said “Slavery must end now”. Put simply, it didn’t happen, and that is the fact of the matter. Hypothetical’s have no bearing on the discussion, so my knowledge, or admitted lack of it, is wholly irrelevant.

    Q2a Why is it that slavery disappeared in Christian Europe?

    A2a As an aside I think it worthwhile to note that slavery had already been banned in certain parts of the Middle East some six centuries before Christianity took hold, so I think it ludicrous to suggest that Christianity is the basis for its abolition in any sense, in any time, or in any place.

    As for Europe, the first reference I have happened upon was a RC Council of London decision in 1102 to ban serfdom and the selling of slaves. We would have to wait until Magna Carta in 1215 – a document annulled by Innocent III at the Vatican – until it was codified in law.

    It didn’t take full hold until the Age of Enlightenment (and the Slave Trade Act 1807), when people of all stripes and faiths made inroads into its abolition.

    I do not wish to give a full account of the history as I have other things to be doing, but I trust it will suffice to say that it would appear this is the genesis of the abolitionist movement in modern Europe.

    Q2b Could it be because gradually the biblical truths that we are all created in the image of God, that prejudicial distinctions are erased (Gal. 3:28), that love is the primary ethic, worked its way through society so that they had the desired effects without the evils of serious disruption in the economic and social order?

    A2b Clearly not, or else scripture would have – at least – made allusion to the fact that slavery was wrong. As scripture clearly informs us, this simply isn’t the case.

    Q2c And why is it that the great abolitionists were Christians?

    A2c Churches had significant clout in the 18th century. It should be expected that any abolitionist movement would not have gained credence without their support, but let this not blind you to the fact that there were non-theistic, secular champions that supported abolition also.

    Henry Brougham was not an openly religious man, if he was at all. The same case can be made for John Clarkson, Thomas Day, Samuel Johnson, Richard Oastler, secularist William Smith, Herbert Spencer and more. Charles Dickens was very critical of religion in Victorian England.

    I will, however, bow to the enormous presence of the Society of Friends in their work on abolition. Their pressure on the recalcitrant Anglican church was damning. Indeed, a number of ‘Enlightenment’ supporters went on to become Quakers because they were so influential in the subject (amongst other reasons, I am sure).

    In the U.S., “African Slavery in America”, by British born Thomas Paine (a deist highly critical of Christianity) was the first article published in what would become the United States which advocated abolishing slavery and freeing the slaves.

    Of course, this is all a smoke screen when we consider that it doesn’t matter whether or not the abolitionists believed in the existence of a god or not, our conversation here revolves around my assertion that the bible is fine with it. The fact that Christians choose to ignore what the bible says is a matter for their own conscience.

    Q2d In other words, to sum up this question, isn’t it the case that Christianity has resulted in changed hearts, changed lives, changed societies, that ended up changing the social order so that the evil of slavery could be eliminated?

    A2d Well, you could, but it wouldn’t be the whole answer would it? As I have displayed above, abolition of slavery is not a theistic/atheistic schism; both groups campaigned tirelessly, in spite of scripture.

    Also, you still have to account for scriptural references to slavery’s acceptance in Christianity at the time of its writing. It doesn’t matter what enlightened people were doing in the 18th century, when our discussion revolves around the fact that scripture absolves the Christian from having to make a stand on it. Or do you not think the bible is right on this one? Perhaps you could state a scriptural reference that condemns slavery particularly. I would welcome it.

    Perhaps now, that I have given an account of that which you have asked of me, perhaps you would be so kind as to take me seriously and answer one question of my own, which I feel is more relevant to my initial post?

    Given that slavery is only mentioned in accommodationist terms in scripture (i.e. it is never mentioned as a negative position to hold), why did the Christian feel the need to campaign for its abolition in abeyance with scripture?

  32. Victoria

    I noticed that Tris did not refer to anything the NT has to say about the Christian responsibilities of those whose households employed servants and slaves (see Ephesians 5:1-6:9 – you really have to read Ephesians 6:9 in its surrounding context, or Philemon 1-25.

    Also, Tris quoted only the conclusion of Jesus’ parables in Luke 12, and conveniently ignored the rest of it – see Luke 12:25-48 for the full context; there are really two interconnected parables here, about being ready for the Lord’s return.

    Here is the full text

    35 “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.

    36 “Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.

    37 “Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.

    38 “Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

    39 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into.

    40 “You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”

    41 Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?”

    42 And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?’

    43 “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.

    44 “Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

    45 “But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk;

    46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

    47 “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes,

    48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

    The parables are about good stewardship and service – Jesus used an existing Jewish, not s Roman practice of indentured service to illustrate His point – this is not a social commentary – it is really about being good and faithful servants in the Kingdom of God. The Lord God is our sovereign King, and as such has the rights, authority and position of Master – we are all His servants – the issue is whether or not we are good and faithful servants or wicked ones. The good servant looks after his master’s household and treats his fellow servants well – the wicked servant is the exact opposite – in fact, that wicked servant mistreats his fellow servants: Luke 12:45 and when the master finds out, that wicked servant will be punished accordingly.

  33. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Tris,

    You say,

    A1 I have no idea what would have happened if Jesus or his apostles after him, had said “Slavery must end now”. Put simply, it didn’t happen, and that is the fact of the matter. Hypothetical’s have no bearing on the discussion, so my knowledge, or admitted lack of it, is wholly irrelevant.

    Three problems here:

    1. You admit don’t know what other kind of evils would have been initiated in the process of calling for an abrupt and immediate end to this one. You don’t know what slavery was like then. You don’t know the difference between slavery then and slavery in the U.S. To sum up, you don’t have any clue what you’re talking about.

    2. You contradict yourself. You say on the one hand that Jesus and the apostles should have called for an end of slavery, and you imply that if they had done that they would have expressed a better morality. That’s a very strong implication, in fact. It’s also a hypothetical. Do you really think hypotheticals have no bearing on the discussion?

    3. You say your knowledge or lack of knowledge is irrelevant to the discussion. Meanwhile you say that the lack of a ban on slavery is “the fact of the matter.” You are telling us that it is the only relevant fact. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t and your lack of knowledge on this is not irrelevant, because you’ve convinced yourself of something that’s not reality. It’s false. Not only that, but you’re trying to persuade us to believe something that is false, and not reality.

    Ignorance of the subject under discussion is always relevant to the discussion. Isn’t that obvious enough???

    You speak of slavery in Europe. I think you must have done a quick Google search to get the results you did. You don’t know what you’re talking about again. Slavery disappeared gradually in Europe, and it happened long before that change was codified into law. That’s significant in ways beyond what you might guess, because the reason slavery disappeared is because of the influence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in people’s hearts. Persons’ hearts’ changed, culture changed, and people started doing things differently. Isn’t that better than codified law?

    If you’re going to reference the Slave Trade Act of 1807, I suggest you watch the movie Amazing Grace for historical perspective on it. That Act was very, very, very directly tied to biblical belief. Did your Google search lead you to that? You “trust it will suffice to say that it would appear this is the genesis of the abolitionist movement in modern Europe.” I thank you for recognizing that fact in favor of the Christian position.

    Clearly not, or else scripture would have – at least – made allusion to the fact that slavery was wrong. As scripture clearly informs us, this simply isn’t the case.

    So what you’re saying is that no one can draw any ethical conclusions from the Bible but those that are explicitly stated there. The Bible doesn’t mention atomic bombs, so its principles have no bearing on nuclear warfare. The Bible doesn’t mention email so its principles have no bearing on spam or phishing. The Bible doesn’t mention water-boarding so its principles have no bearing on it. The Bible doesn’t mention Islam so its principles have no bearing on that religion.

    Look, Tris, that’s just a wrong view of reality. Not just the Bible, but reality. It is entirely normal to follow the logic of principles toward a conclusion. The principles of the Bible lead toward the conclusion that the buying, selling, and ownership of human beings is wrong. Christians came to that conclusion. They came to that conclusion because it is an appropriate, reasonable, and rational conclusion to reach based on the principles.

    The fact that Christians choose to ignore what the bible says is a matter for their own conscience.

    You’re the one ignoring what it says. You’re focusing on what it doesn’t say, and missing what it does. Check your conscience, okay?

    Also, you still have to account for scriptural references to slavery’s acceptance in Christianity at the time of its writing.

    I’d be glad to, but I’m not sure you would listen. You see, the explanation lies in the realm of your ignorance of history, information which you have told me is irrelevant.

    So before I proceed, let me ask whether you are committed to the position that what you don’t know doesn’t matter. If you are, then my explanations would be a waste of time.

    (On the other hand, I’m preparing a presentation on this, so I’ll post an article on it before long regardless of whether you think it makes any difference. Stay tuned for that.)

    P.S. In this context, “Bible” is a proper noun.

  34. Post
    Author
  35. Victoria

    @Chip
    The atheists’ hermeneutic is really a methodology of misreading – of not appreciating the Bible’s own historical, cultural and literary contexts.

  36. Jared C.

    @Chip,@Victoria
    I really don’t think a browser bookmark to the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible is even a hermeneutic.

    It actually amazes me that these guys will continue to try these tactics among people who actually know what they are talking about. I mean, they probably work just fine in comment sections on Yahoo news stories, but here of all places?

  37. BillT

    Tris,

    You are misinformed about slavery in Europe. The fact is that from 500 AD through 1500 AD slavery was completely abolished in Western Europe. This was directly the result of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.

    It was reintroduced primarily by the Spanish Empire (though others joined in) during the Age of Discovery over the vociferous protests of the Church. Denying the role of Christianity in the final abolishment of slavery after it’s reintroduction is ignorant nonsense.

  38. Victoria

    How does Tris explain modern day slavery and human trafficking? (Just do a Google search with ‘modern day slavery’ as the query string and see the horrific results.

    I do know that Christian NGO’s like World Vision are actively involved in stopping this vile practice (I’m a sponsor – of World Vision, not of the vile practice).
    Interesting that we are seeing a resurgence of slavery in the West at the same time our Western society is rejecting its Judaeo-Christian roots and belief system. I’m not surprised at all that the practice is rampant in countries with little or no Christian influence.

  39. Victoria

    see here.

    One of the aspects of modern slavery is this:
    Slave owners use many terms to avoid the word slavery: debt bondage, bonded labor, attached labor, restavec, forced labor, indentured servitude

    Unlike indentured service in Israel, which was carefully regulated by the Law of Moses (see Deuteronomy 15:1-18 for example), modern day slave traders have no such compassion and mercy – they have only avarice and perverted sexual appetites.

  40. Chip

    @Victoria / @Jared,

    Just once, I would love to see an atheist actually explain how they approach the text in a systematic manner. I’m not holding my breath though.

    I suspect we’ll see a rejection of hermeneutics and/or an appeal to the “literal” or “plain” reading of the text.

  41. Doug

    @Tris,

    In the U.S., “African Slavery in America”, by British born Thomas Paine (a deist highly critical of Christianity) was the first article published in what would become the United States which advocated abolishing slavery and freeing the slaves.

    It would appear that your information is slightly out of sync with Wikipedia, where we read:

    Paine is often credited with writing “African Slavery in America”, the first article proposing the emancipation of African slaves and the abolition of slavery. It was published on March 8, 1775 in the Postscript to the Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser (aka The Pennsylvania Magazine and American Museum).[54] Citing a lack of evidence that Paine was the author of this anonymously published essay, some scholars (Eric Foner and Alfred Owen Aldridge) no longer consider this one of his works.

    But more to the point, it is almost a century younger than The Germantown Protest Document of 1688.
    It is also worth being aware of Anthony Benezet, who is responsible for writing Observations on the Inslaving [sic], Importing and Purchasing of Negroes in 1748. (see this link, which has an earlier date than ushistory.org)

  42. Andrew W

    Since the thread is already off topic, I’ll weigh in with another thought on slavery:

    In general, the Scriptures are fine with the idea of authority: king over subjects, one over another, God over all. Slavery is another form of authority. However, the scriptures speak very strongly against the mis-use of authority, and also constantly remind those who have wealth, authority, or blessings that they are to remember that both powerful and weak, rich and poor, are all under God.

    As such, slavery itself is not a critical issue, but who you are slave to and how those in authority treat their slaves very much are (eg Colossians 4:1). According to the Scriptures, self-determination is good, but it is not absolute good (see 1 Cor 7:22). That’s not a popular message today, and indeed our individualist ways of thinking lead us to be far more critical of slavery (and the Scriptures’ treatment of it) than we rightly should.

  43. Mr Gronk

    And I’ll do the same, with two thoughts.

    First, I’d be interested to know what particular aspects of (Biblical) slavery are objected to. In our culture, the word itself has such negative connotations that it tends to inspire jerks of the knee before anything else. Given how extensively regulated slavery was in the Scriptures, I’m not sure that it differed materially from an on-call employment relationship, except that, having been “paid” in advance, the slave couldn’t just resign if he didn’t like his employer or his duties.

    Second, I understand that the main function of OT slavery was as a mechanism for discharging debt. In this way, it gave debtors a way to repay their creditors more or less honourably, while also reminding people of the dangers of irresponsible borrowing. In our times, people are losing their jobs and states are going bankrupt due in large part to popping credit bubbles. Unwise borrowers can file for bankruptcy and then invite their creditors to go forth and multiply. In this context, one might think that debt-servitude is not entirely without merit…

  44. Victoria

    Leviticus 19:29 forbids Israelites from making their daughters prostitutes (or harlots), and Deuteronomy 23:17 stipulates that Israelites were not to make their daughters or sons cult (or temple) prostitutes, which was a common thing to do in the surrounding ANE culture (the Canaanites); whether this would be considered a form of slavery or not is perhaps another issue, but the Law of Moses prohibited this.

    Kidnapping is also forbidden (a capital offence: Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7 – especially for the purpose of selling the kidnapped person into slavery).

    A runaway slave was not to be returned to his/her master (Deuteronomy 23:15)
    In the time of the Roman Empire, runaway slaves could be tracked down and returned to their masters, who then had the ‘right’ to execute them; certainly a runaway slave would have been a fugitive for the rest of his life. Paul’s letter to Philemon concerning Onesimus makes sense in that light – by returning him to Philemon, Onesimus would no longer be a hunted man, and he would be welcomed back into Philemon’s household as a brother in Christ. So far from endorsing slavery, Paul was being realistic about Roman laws and their implications.

  45. Doug

    @Victoria,
    Excellent points. But why do I have the distinct impression that the people most needing to read them are the same people that are least likely to?

  46. Victoria

    @Tris

    Given that slavery is only mentioned in accommodationist terms in scripture (i.e. it is never mentioned as a negative position to hold), why did the Christian feel the need to campaign for its abolition in abeyance with scripture?

    How about applied “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, in the light of James 2:1-13, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11, and Colossians 4:1?

    When you think about it, Paul’s instructions to Christians who were slaves accomplishes a number of things: (a) by their good conduct and service, God’s reputation and Christianity would be honoured ( Colossians 3:22-23, 1 Timothy 6:1 ), and (b) given the nature of Roman laws concerning slaves and the cold harsh realities of life in the Roman Empire, it protected their lives; (c) it surely prevented anarchy and preempted the terrible consequences that another slave revolt (Spartacus was a real person in Roman history, but I doubt he looked like Kirk Douglas) would have brought down on both the slaves and Christians in general (as if our brothers and sisters didn’t have anything else to worry about, eh?), and (d) by their exemplary conduct, their masters would see genuine Christianity at work and perhaps become Christians themselves.

  47. Victoria

    @Doug
    Yeah, but

    For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart. 1No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.

    The Holy Bible : Holman Christian standard version. 2009 (Heb 4:12–13). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

    God can use His word to accomplish whatever He sends it out to do (Isaiah 55:8-11) so I won’t hesitate to use it 🙂

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