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November 2012

Slavery in the Bible

Nov 08, 2012 - Tags:

 

Chrstians, as I've said more than once, are largely hypocrites, and I consider this an exceptionally good thing. Those people who would hold the Bible up as the perfect word of God and ask us to consider each word and paragraph as divine Truth are preaching a scary doctrine indeed. The Bible is a collection of highly questionable accounts with some real historical significance but only occasional accuracy. Put another way, it's a collection of fairy tales with as much truth buried in the pages as does Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass". Accepting that the Bible isn't the absolute word of God is hard for some, but it's the truth. My religious friends and family selective pick and choose from the Bible all the time, accepting some passages and rejecting others. In other words, they don't truly believe that it is the unnerring word of God. They are, at best, agnostics. They are leaning over the edge looking down into atheism. And so, from time to time, I like to remind them of their selective belief in the so-called "Good Book".

Most people today think that slavery is a bad idea and few would suggest that we should take our Negro brothers and sisters, shackle them, and sell them in the public square. Of course, if we all followed the word of God as outlined in the Bible, we'd still have slavery, and we would support it because God, through the perfect word of the Bible, says it's okay.

Slaves are pretty cool in the bible -- you could pass them and their families to your children as wedding gifts and the like. As in Leviticus 25:44-46:

Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life.

For life? That doesn't sound much like a short work term. Incidentally, slaves in ancient Israel were automatically emancipated after 6 years of slavery, but only if they were Jewish (you knew there was a catch). However, if the slave owner "gave" the slave a wife, the owner could keep the wife and any children as his property. You knew there'd be a loophole too.

In most cases slavery is to be offered to others as a means of getting out of debt - the practice of selling yourself to your debtor, working for him for 7 years, and then being released from both slavery and debt." A friend once pointed out to me that slavery is a pervasive reality in all recorded human history and it still exists today, as though that made it okay. Granted, he was trying to make the Bible look a little less evil. But that doesn't make it right, nor did it ever make it right. Using that as an argument is asking to forgive the authors of the bible for being people of their time. Fair enough. But that doesn't mean they weren't violating basic human rights.

Here are a few more:

Exodus 21:20-21 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.

So you could beat your slave as much as you wanted, so long as it only incapacitated him/her for a couple of days. Okay . . . actually Exodus has a lot of advice on how to buy and sell slaves. As usual, women get the short end because women, biblically speaking, are inferior to men, even when it comes to slavery. Did you know you can sell your daughter into slavery? But there are rules to follow.

Exodus 21:7-8 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.

As you might expect, sometimes families happen with slaves as with real people. And sometimes they have babies. What if you give your male slave a female and they have babies? When he goes free, you get to keep the wife and kids. If he complains because he loves his wife and kids, you can bore a hole through his ear with an aul. Cool, huh?

Exodus 21:4-6  If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.  And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:  Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

But we were talking about how to deal with slaves that, God forbid, don't like the idea of being slaves. Let's head on over to Ephesians.

Ephesians 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.

In other words, treat your human masters as though they are gods (in the case, Christ), with fear and trembling.

This sentiment is heard again in Paul's Epistle to Titus, or just plain old Titus, if you prefer.

Titus 2:9-10 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

The savior . . . that would be Jesus. So just how did Jesus feel about slavery? Did he preach it was wrong? Let's wrap up with Colossians 3, verses 22-25 where Jesus says the following.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

Et tu, Jesus?

My Personal War On Christmas

Nov 28, 2012 - Tags:

December is just around the corner and the the annual rhetoric around the holiday season is starting to heats up. Yes folks, it's the whole "War on Christmas" thing. Particularly popular with the FOX News crowd, insecure Christians of every stripe manage to get a little hot under the collar at the very idea that this season might be about anything but Christmas. If you hang out on any of the social networking sites like Facebook, you've already seen friends post things like this.

"It's not Happy Holidays. It's Merry Christmas! Hit Like and Share if you agree."  Or perhaps you've seen this one: "I'm keeping Christ in Christmas and putting up a Christmas tree, not a holiday tree" (as though a Christmas tree has anything to do with keeping Christ in Christmas) and a million variations on the theme. In short, well meaning fans of the Christmas holiday season are worried that there's a war going on, a war that can only end when Christmas has been cancelled. For good.

As a raving atheist and obnoxious anti-theist , it's time for me to come clean on my own views regarding the holiday seasons. But first a little history. 

Christmas is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether you believe in the guy or not, that's really the idea behind Christmas. That's what the manger, baby Jesus, and a whole whack of Christmas carols are all about. That said, putting Christmas on December 25th has less to do with Christ and more with trying to make Christianity palatable to Pagans in the early Christian years. Few people had a clue as to when, exactly, Jesus was born and it wasn't until sometime around the fourth century that the Church pegged December 25th as the big day. Since countless cultures on the planet have historically held some kind of celebration around the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice, it made sense to use this time of year to slide Christmas into the calendar. The Romans already had a big thing going with Saturnalia and it already landed around the week of December 25th, so it was perfect timing.

The solstice is why so many religions have a holiday in and around the end of December. In less enlightened days, we saw the days get shorter, the nights get longer, and the temperature get colder. It was scary stuff. But when the solstice was upon us, we knew that the days would start to get longer, the nights shorter, and the season warmer (at least in the northern hemisphere). People who had been feeling depressed suddenly got happier. They threw big parties with elaborate feasts and they filled their world with light. Fire and light. People were doing the winter holiday thing long before anyone had hear of Jesus and the little drummer boy. It was the solstice. Time to party.

Now I love a good solstice celebration as much as the next guy. Come to think of it, I love a good solstice celebration better than a lot of guys I've met. 

I have no trouble with the holiday being called "Christmas" and yes, at my non-believing house, we put up a "Christmas tree" and sing "Christmas carols". One of my favorite Christmas carols is "Oh Holy Night" and it doesn't get much more religious than that one; sung with conviction and a beautiful voice, the song can bring tears to my eyes. I love the giving and receiving of gifts and I love seeing my frends and family gathered together to enjoy an otherwise cold and unpleasant time of year. I say "Merry Christmas", kiss under missletoe, and send out Christmas cards, complete with our annual Christmas letter. I watch Christmas movies, both secular (e.g. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer") and Christian (e.g. "A Chalie Brown Christmas"). I totally get into Christmas, but not because I'm a Christian. I gave that up a long time ago. I do it because it's Christmas and Christmas is fun for me. I've played Santa Claus and worn the red suit many a year.

I also say "Happy Holidays" and "Joyous Solstice" and "Happy Haukkah" as the situation presents itself. It's a happy time and I like to see people happy, especially when they are enjoying the happiness and company of others. When it's Christmas, it's Christmas and when it's Hanukkah, it's Hanukkah. Ditto for all the other calendar-entrenched holidays. It's the solstice and every culture since the dawn of time has had some kind of celebration around the shortest day of the year. Deal with it.

So that's my war on Christmas. Getting people to see that it's okay to say "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Hanukkah", and "Happy Holidays", or whatever feels right to you when you're greeting others with warmth and friendship, and stop being so damned hung up on the whole thing. Take a holiday pill people and get into the spirit. It's the solstice and it's time to party. Have your fun and make sure you let others have theirs too.

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There once was a time when all people believed in God and the Church ruled. This time was called the Dark Ages.

Richard Lederer