The clobber verses of slavery & the slavery of clobber verses

Mark Twain and Neo-Confederate fossil Loy Mauch agree on one point: The Bible contains many texts that permit, condone, and even command slavery.

They’re both right about that. It does.

But it would be wrong to conclude that, therefore, the Bible as a whole condones slavery. Because the same Bible that offers this “authorization” of slavery in some places also, in other places, demands its end. The Bible both condones slavery and condemns it.

Mauch is as clueless about what the Bible actually says as he is about American history. He falsely claims that slavery is never condemned by “Jesus, Paul or the prophets.” That’s not something he could say if he’d ever read Jesus, Paul or the prophets.

The final chapters of Isaiah, for example, are filled with visions of a world without slavery. In Isaiah 58, the prophet dismisses religious observance as irrelevant without liberation of the enslaved:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Jesus read a nearby passage from Isaiah in his very first sermon, announcing the essence of his gospel of the kingdom of God. Slavery has no place in God’s kingdom:

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The reference there is to Jubilee — the end of slavery and debt. Jesus was proclaiming the fulfillment of Jubilee. Even more than that, Jesus was declaring himself to be that fulfillment, declaring himself to be the ultimate, final Jubilee. It’s absurd to say that Jesus never spoke against slavery when he began his ministry with the audacious announcement that he was emancipation personified.

As for Paul, well there’s a long, popular convention of plucking clobber verses out of his epistles — usually from out of the midst of one of his many long arguments against being ruled by clobber verses. Those seeking proof-texts condoning slavery can find them in Paul, but to do so they’ll have to dance around and between other passages where he proclaims that there can be no slaves in Christ or tells his readers “do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” And Paul can only be declared a defender of slavery by those pre-committed to a perversely obtuse reading of Philemon (about which more later).

But let’s not get sucked into the very thing Isaiah and Jesus and Paul all warned us against — imagining that religion amounts to compiling lists of clobber verses to tell us what to do. If you’re reading the Bible as a collection of clobber verses, then you’re doing it wrong. The point is never to see which side’s clobber verses can out-clobber the other side, but to account for the full context and trajectory of the whole.

This argument — proof-texting vs. a more comprehensive reading of the Bible — has been going on here in America for centuries. And this argument began in earnest around this very subject: slavery. What the Bible says about slavery depends on how you go about reading the Bible. Long before the Civil War — and even before the Revolution — Americans fought over slavery by fighting over how to read the Bible.

The defenders of slavery settled on the approach to biblical interpretation that best served their purpose (and, not coincidentally, that best served their economic interest). The only way to make the Bible useful in defense of slavery was to treat it as a collection of legal proof-texts. They began isolating and elevating these disparate texts and demanding that they be treated as authoritative. They asserted that this was a literal, obvious and common-sense approach to the Bible (all while desperately avoiding the glaring fact that American-style slavery is nothing like the kinds of slavery described in those passages).

Opponents of slavery sometimes also cited particular texts, appealing to their authority. But generally they took a broader view — invoking not just specific passages, but the great central themes of scripture, the over-arching principles rather than the isolated proof-texts.

Historian Mark Noll has written a great deal about all of this — about how the debate over slavery in America was, for many years, shaped by a parallel debate over biblical hermeneutics. And, he notes, that debate over slavery has continued to shape American biblical hermeneutics more than a century after Emancipation. (See, for example, Noll’s The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.)

There’s an excellent essay of Noll’s online, titled “Battle for the Bible.” Noll begins by describing a theological debate from 1845 between slavery proponent Nathan L. Rice and abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard (who went on to help found Wheaton College).

While Rice methodically tied Blanchard in knots over how to interpret the proslavery implications of specific texts, Blanchard returned repeatedly to “the broad principle of common equity and common sense” that he found in scripture, to “the general principles of the Bible” and “the whole scope of the Bible,” where to him it was obvious that “the principles of the Bible are justice and righteousness.” Early on in the debate, Blanchard’s exasperation with Rice’s attention to particular passages led him to utter a particularly revealing statement of his own reasoning: “Abolitionists take their stand upon the New Testament doctrine of the natural equity of man. The one-bloodism of human kind [from Acts 17:26]: — and upon those great principles of human rights, drawn from the New Testament, and announced in the American Declaration of Independence, declaring that all men have natural and inalienable rights to person, property and the pursuit of happiness.”

Blanchard’s linkage between themes from scripture and tropes from American republicanism was repeated regularly by abolitionists. But this use of the Bible almost never found support in the South and only rarely among northern moderates and conservatives. In general, it was a use that suffered particular difficulties when, as in the ground rules laid down for Blanchard and Rice in their Cincinnati debate, disputants pledged themselves in good Protestant fashion to base what they said on the Bible as their only authoritative source.

Abolitionists like Blanchard moved from “the whole scope of the Bible” to “great principles of human rights,” but as Noll notes:

The stronger their arguments based on general humanitarian principles became, the weaker the Bible looked in any traditional sense. By contrast, rebuttal of such arguments from biblical principle increasingly came to look like a defense of scripture itself.

… Nuanced biblical attacks on American slavery faced rough going precisely because they were nuanced. This position could not simply be read out of any one biblical text; it could not be lifted directly from the page. Rather, it needed patient reflection on the entirety of the scriptures; it required expert knowledge of the historical circumstances of ancient Near Eastern and Roman slave systems as well as of the actually existing conditions in the slave states; and it demanded that sophisticated interpretative practice replace a commonsensically literal approach to the sacred text. In short, this was an argument of elites requiring that the populace defer to its intellectual betters. As such, it contradicted democratic and republican intellectual instincts. In the culture of the U.S., as that culture had been constructed by three generations of evangelical Bible believers, the nuanced biblical argument was doomed.

Noll’s conclusion closely echoes the words of Mark Twain. “The world has corrected the Bible,” Twain wrote. “The Church never corrects it; and also never fails to drop in at the tail of the procession.” Noll sees the same dynamic:

The country had a problem because its most trusted religious authority, the Bible, was sounding an uncertain note. The evangelical Protestant churches had a problem because the mere fact of trusting implicitly in the Bible was not solving disagreements about what the Bible taught concerning slavery. The country and the churches were both in trouble because the remedy that finally solved the question of how to interpret the Bible was recourse to arms. The supreme crisis over the Bible was that there existed no apparent biblical resolution to the crisis. It was left to those consummate theologians, the reverend doctors Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, to decide what in fact the Bible actually meant.

  • http://reasondecrystallized.blogspot.com/ Andrew

    I rather hold with Twain in thinking that those broad principles of equity and common sense were only discovered in the Bible after the fact.  This is the same book that juxtaposed Moses receiving ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and then ordering genocide/mass murder.

    Christians (myself included, once) come to it with our moral sensibilities and say that murder is wrong, or slavery is wrong, and of course try to read those sensibilities into it, finding some support, here and there.  But they’re still basically taking the Bible and making it say what they want.  Those who want the Bible to say good and moral things will find them there; those who want slavery, genocide, witches and the rest will find that, too, just as clearly if not more so. I’d much rather the nice ones won out, of course, but I don’t think that either side is unambiguously ‘right’ about the Bible.

    In the end, I don’t think that it even matters which side is right, because I don’t think that the Bible really matters.  What we bring to the text determines what we find in it–why do we need it?  If the Israelites hadn’t known that murder is bad, they never would have made it as far as Sinai, yet the command did nothing to stop their repeated murders after it was given.  So what does it really add to the discussion of morals to claim that there is a divine being whose book commands us to live in a certain way?

    (Edited for formatting)

  • Nenya

    I’m actually kind of surprised to hear that it takes a nuanced, complex reading of the Bible to discover an anti-slavery message. What about the Exodus? A whole epic tale, upon which the identity of the Chosen People was in a large part based, about freedom from slavery! 

    But I am of course coming at it from a cultural position that *assumes* that the Bible is *obviously* not pro-slavery. Perhaps in a hundred years people will be equally gobsmacked that so many people read homophobia into the Bible. I mean, I know people read the Bible as being pro-slavery, but…Exodus! 

  • David Newgreen

    The escape of the Jews from Egypt may be read as anti-slavery. The section of the Book of Exodus that immediatly follows, where God lays out his laws for the chosen people do not lead so easily to such a message. Exodus 21 onwards includes a large number of rules for the treatment of slaves, and generally those rules cannot be summarised as ‘don’t have them’.

    (Male Hebrew slaves, at least, are to be freed after seven years. Women and non-Jews… not so much.)

    One can make parelles to how the founders of the United States liked to complain about how the British government was treating them like slaves, while at the same time quite happily keeping literal slaves themselves. The idea that slavery is wrong even when it’s not happening to you is a fairly recent inovation…

  • fraser

    Having heard neo-confederate bilge by the car load, I know most slavery apologists/supporters claim to believe in the “happy darky” myth of contented slaves. So obviously texts about freeing the oppressed are irrelevant.

  • Becca Stareyes

    I w0nder if myths about slavery are easier to believe if one does not live in a slave-holding society.  IIRC from my history lessons, white southerners were Very Concerned about slave revolts and such, which wouldn’t go with the whole ‘no, seriously, they like it’.  Then again, it’s totally possible to hold two seemingly contradictory ideas with enough mental blocks and justifications.

    But I’m not a historian of the Antebellum South, so I could be wrong. 

  • Carstonio

    Noll’s claim here misses an important aspect of Southern culture:
     

    Rather, it needed patient reflection on the entirety of the scriptures;
    it required expert knowledge of the historical circumstances of ancient
    Near Eastern and Roman slave systems as well as of the actually
    existing conditions in the slave states; and it demanded that
    sophisticated interpretative practice replace a commonsensically literal
    approach to the sacred text. In short, this was an argument of elites
    requiring that the populace defer to its intellectual betters. As such,
    it contradicted democratic and republican intellectual instincts.

    The reason for the authoritarian reading of scripture is because that entire culture was authoritarian, and still is. That contradicts “democratic and republican intellectual instincts” even more than deference to an educated elite. In fact, the concept of deference may not have really been inherent in the nuanced reading argument, as Noll suggests, but may instead have been the authoritarian side’s interpretation of the argument. The authoritarian mindset tends to ignore the distinction between the two meanings of authority, one involving knowledge and one meaning power, and views  educated elites as pretenders to power. It’s almost like listening to a child telling an older sibling “You’re not the boss of me!”

  • Carstonio

    The side that advocates nuance is not simply using a different authoritarian reading of scripture, with a different set of commands. I would describe that side’s view of scripture as authoritative rather than authoritarian.

    But you do have a valid question about the value of the text. Instead of arguing over interpretations, I would think that one would start with a sound moral principle regardless of what the text says. If support and elaboration for the principle can be found in the text, that’s good for helping people understand the principle. But taking sides on interpretation suggests that the text is driving the moral principle to some degree instead of the other way around.

  • banancat

    Exodus was anti-slavery, but only for the Israelites by outsiders. I think you’re not taking into account the Us vs Them mentality. The message wasn’t that slavery is generally wrong, only that the Chosen People didn’t deserve it.

  • Patrick

    If the over-arching principles contradict the proof texts, then they’re not over-arching principles.  That’s how these things work.

    If a book from the 1800s advises a man to behave with a kind and loving nature towards his wife, and advises beating her only with a small stick and not a large one, you can’t conclude that the “over-arching principle” of the book is against beating one’s wife at all.  What you actually have is an author who believes that beating one’s wife is compatible with being kind and loving.

  • Patrick

    Immediately after Exodus, the same people involved start attacking their neighbors and brutally enslaving them.  Their success in these ventures is held up as a sign of God’s approval, particularly when the slaves in question are virgin girls captured and placed into sexual enslavement.

    For a comparison, look at antebellum southern attitudes regarding slavery.  A common refrain leading up to the civil war was that the north was going to “enslave” southern whites.  This was treated as a terrible, terrible thing- but not because slavery, as a concept, was morally objectionable to those speaking.

  • Mary Kaye

    If it weren’t for Us vs. Them the whole issue wouldn’t arise, because slavery is a blatant failure of  “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and/or “what is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor”.   I have never met a slavery advocate who would prefer or even tolerate a system in which *he* was a slave.  The only way you can condone slavery is to assume that the Other is so different from you that what would be hurtful and harmful and wrong to do to you is not hurtful or harmful or wrong to do to him.

    Steven Jay Gould has an essay in which he talks about the fact that through most of the last 6 million years there were multiple species in the humanlike groups existing simultaneously.  He alludes to, though doesn’t really discuss, the question of what this would have done to racism.  I mourn not having multiple species of humans, but at the same time I think we dodged a bullet–we have so much trouble treating our own species as Us, imagine how hard it would be with a significantly different species.

  • LL

    It is terribly inconvenient when someone’s sacred text, from which comes all of their moral guidance, commands that they not do something that they really, really wanna do, esp. when they want to do it to other people. 

    I mean, c’mon, Jesus, don’t be a bummer. And I hope we can count on you not to mention this stuff when we meet up in heaven. Be cool, keep this shit on the down-low. Don’t bring everybody down with all this commie talk about taking care of the poor and not enslaving them and stuff like that. We’re counting on you to be manly Jesus, not wimpy Jesus. Kinda like a combination of Clint Eastwood and Randy Couture. The kind of Jesus other manly men can respect. Kind of a superhero Jesus. Now that we think about it, throw some Tony Stark/Ironman in there, too. A flying Jesus suit would be awesome. 

  • Bnerd

    We’ve been talking about just this issue in two of my classes recently; not just with respects to Biblical interpretation but also a broader look at the use of moral suasion and practical tactics used by abolitionists. What I found most interesting about the discussions in class of the pieces we’ve read (ranging from Grimke to Ida B. Wells to Washington and Du Bois) is the fact that the consensus of the class seems to be that practical arguments carry a little more heft precisely because of the difficulty in interpreting the Bible. They know it condones things that we no longer do, so even looking at an over arching theme presents difficulties for them to side with Biblical arguments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=687121933 Carrie Looney

    I see what you did there, Fred.
    It’s just so frustrating, to me, that people take these ancient texts as moral guidance.  Good people, like Fred, take the good bits from it, and use that as part of their discussion of what it means to be a good person, as an ongoing growing and learning experience.  Not so good people can find plenty of stuff in there to support whatever bigoted positions they want to support. 

  • Marcus

    > I w0nder if myths about slavery are easier to believe if one does not
    live in a slave-holding society.  IIRC from my history lessons, white
    southerners were Very Concerned about slave revolts and such, which
    wouldn’t go with the whole ‘no, seriously, they like it’.  Then again,
    it’s totally possible to hold two seemingly contradictory ideas with
    enough mental blocks and justifications.

    I believe the position was “They like it normally, but Outside Agitators might convince them that they don’t, and fool them into rising up and killing us all.” The Outside Agitator has been a staple bogeyman of repressive societies forever.

  • Sarah Jane Gray

    It’s my understanding that prior to Nat Turner’s revolt (1831), the South as a whole had been able to pass off any number of small-scale slave rebellions as isolated incidents, rather than signs of widespread unrest.

  • Jim Holton

     Having studied and taught the antebellum South…

    Yes, slave owners were very concerned about slave revolts, and about uniting all white Southerners to defend slavery.

    But at the same time, slaveholders could blame outsiders for potential slave revolts. Free speech that entailed even rhetorical criticism against slavery was banned, mails suppressed or searched, and those who spoke such words either silenced or forced to leave. Simultaneously, slave life was upheld as a paternalistic institution, in which the true interests of blacks were looked after by their white masters. It often included defenses that “if only” paternalism were practiced more, and agitators suppressed, slave revolts would disappear altogether.

    During the 1830s-1850s (especially after the Kansas-Nebraska Act and Brown’s Raid) Southern states could focus on the abolitionist threat even more clearly. Much of the written defenses of secession in 1860-1861 involved accusations of Northern/Republican attacks against slavery, both political and literal.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    The challenge of how the Bible addresses slavery is part of a larger issue that faces Christians, a conflict that’s baked into their theology:

    1.) God is the source of all morality.
    2.) The Bible is the timeless, eternal word of God, and the only way to know Him and understand His wishes.
    3.) Therefore, all moral questions can and must be answered by viewing God through the lens of the Bible. 

    When we talk about broad ethical principles, yeah, the Bible works pretty well. (“Love thy neighbor”, etc. etc. etc.) But when we try to drill down to modern moral challenges, we wind up debating the interpretation of certain verses, or discussing the translation of specific words, or arguing for cultural context at the time of writing.

    So, if we ask about charity, mercy, compassion, and equality? Lots of good stuff.

    If we ask about economic policy, reproductive rights, medical ethics? Um…. well… it must be in there somewhere, because of #1 and #2! It has to be! Because that’s what the Bible is for! 

  • Aiwhelan

    One of the inherent problems with using the Bible as your source for everything is that its so broad that you are basically saying “of course this is right and just, it says so right here in the library! How can you argue with the library?”

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I think it’s well-nigh obscene that the Bible has not had any additions for nearly 2000 years. Even the creaky American Constitution is worlds better than that. 

    Everything in the Bible was written before germ theory. WAY before germ theory. Before telescopes. Before people understood how human reproduction worked. The people who wrote it had no clue the Americas existed. They didn’t know China existed. The Old Testament was written before Rome even connected Europe. 

    Trying to clobber each other with what a bunch of people said at least 2000 years ago is absurd in the first place. And Christians aren’t the only ones who do it; if I had a dime for every time I saw an atheist quote an ancient Greek philosopher in an attempt to win an argument, I’d have a few bucks. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Of course, that’s also one of the inherent advantages (politically rather than epistemically speaking) of using the Bible as my source for everything.

  • Tricksterson

    Neo-Confederatism…Why is that even a thing 150 years after the event?

  • Tricksterson

    Well, Sinfest has JetPack Jesus, does that count?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    White plantation owners claimed to white northerners that slaves liked it while planning that very night to rape slave women, and with the full knowledge that what they were doing was rape. The white women married to male slave owners would know full well that the slaves waiting their tables were the children of their husbands/brothers/sons/fathers, but still pretended (by and large) that they weren’t.

    How on earth anyone thinks they can believe anything a slave owner says about anything, let alone about slaves, is a mystery to me. I don’t believe that the apologists for the Confederacy even believe the “happy darky” myth themselves. They’ve seen the pictures. It just suits their purposes to pretend to believe it.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    we have so much trouble treating our own species as Us, imagine how hard it would be with a significantly different species

    Well, there’s evidence that we deliberately wiped out the Neanderthals. So, that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    The only way you can condone slavery is to assume that the Other is so
    different from you that what would be hurtful and harmful and wrong to
    do to you is not hurtful or harmful or wrong to do to him.

    Actually, there’s at least one other way.  Complete failure to apply the Golden Rule.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I think it’s well-nigh obscene that the Bible has not had any additions for nearly 2000 years.

    “Orthodoxy versus heterodoxy? Those must be made-up words! Apocrypha? Never heard of it!”

    Also, the Mormons would like a word with you. 

    Trying to clobber each other with what a bunch of people said at least 2000 years ago is absurd in the first place… if I had a dime for every time I saw an atheist quote an ancient Greek philosopher in an attempt to win an argument, I’d have a few bucks.

    Yeah! Everyone knows that concepts like Reducto Ad Absurdum  and Argumentum Ad Populum are meaningless! 

    It’s a shame that we can’t selectively recognize the strengths and weaknesses of ancient texts. But sadly, we live in a world where either Aristotle and Plato must be ignored because of their notions about women and fruit trees, or where the Bible must contain a clear truth about in vitro fertilization.

    edit: fixed tag

  • AnonymousSam

    Shortly after the epic tale of the escape of slaves from their masters comes a list of rules about how they’re supposed to treat their slaves, including bits about how women and children born by a slave to her master become permanent possessions of that master. This is also in Exodus.

    “Anti-slavery” means “don’t keep slaves,” not “here’s the best way to keep your slaves.”

  • Eamon Knight

     I think the point is that Othering is a way to circumvent the Golden Rule.

    Start from the truism that, even applying the GR, we don’t treat others *exactly* as we want to be treated because we recognize that we all have different likes and dislikes; that what pisses you off may not bother me. So right off, we abstract away from the details to a more general version that says something like: “Do things that make other people happy, not miserable”. So far, so good: as long as there’s an understanding that this human variation in preferences has its limits.

    But if we can persuade ourselves that the Other is so fundamentally different from us that their likes and dislikes don’t align with ours at all, and if we further assume that they are so far our moral and intellectual inferiors that we don’t even have to listen to self-reports on what they consider good in life, then we can grant ourselves permission to just make up their preferences, and treat them accordingly. All with a clear conscience, since we are acting for their own good (and — how convenient! — ours too).

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Hauling out the hoary old words of stuff written by dead white guys (by and large) – especially when trying to use them more for “sporting cred” than in intelligently using them to buttress your point – happens to be a common problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cphlewis Chloe P. H. Lewis

    One of the other sutures between the claim that slaves were naturally happy to be so, and fear of slave rebellions, was the claim that in slaves the desire to be free was a mental illness. `Drapetomania’, I believe, a word that drips with evil.

    Not only did Homo sapiens apparently wipe out Homo neanderthalensis, but there seem to be H. n~ genes in H. s~. But that means (I think) partly H. n~ children being brought up by the successful H. s~ groups. Optimistically, there was jolly voluntary crossbreeding and the long-term survivors were mostly but not entirely sapiens. There are lots more depressing versions.

  • http://twitter.com/Didaktylos Paul Hantusch

    I don’t know about that. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novel “Monstrous Regiment of Women” features a religion whose sacred text is published in ring-binder format …

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    I think the point is that Othering is a way to circumvent the Golden Rule.

    Right, I’m not saying flat-out ignoring the Golden Rule is the only way, just that it’s another way.

  • Dmoore970

    Color me unconvinced.  Exodus and Deuteronomy both have extensive slave codes.  No one ever challenges slavery as such as illegitimate.  It simply would never have occurred to anyone at the time that a society could exist without slavery.  It was only after slavery had died out and was re-introduced that people began to question it.

    Sorry, but it is the people who claim the Bible is anti-slavery who are text proofing.

  • Deborah Moore

    White southerns said that black people really liked being slaves.  They also said that if slavery were abolished, all-out race war would follow as former slaves sought to avenge old wrongs. 

    They said that black people lacked the intelligence, drive and ambition to make it on their own and were better off as slaves.  They also went to extreme lengths never to expose their slaves to the written word because they feared that slaves could show an almost superhuman ingenuity in teaching themselves to read.

    Yes, I’d say people are really good at holding mutually contradictory beliefs.

  • LL

    I agree. That’s why I never participate in “the Bible says this/no, it doesn’t” arguments. I don’t care what any bible says. They were all written by ignorant men thousands of years ago. Thus, what they say is irrelevant to me. When somebody’s sacred text actually manages to impart something like common sense or wisdom, I view it as kind of a “even a stopped clock is right twice a day” thing. 

  • D9000

    Does it worry anybody that in 1860 the (white) South panicked themselves into a civil war because they believed the boogetyman in the White House was going to come steal their slaves, and in 2012 a similar class of people are panicking themselves by believing that the (black) boogetyman in the White House is going to come steal their guns/money/whatever?

  • LL

    Is it equipped with RPGs? Or any kind of weaponry?

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Hauling out the hoary old words of stuff written by dead white guys (by and large) – happens to be a common problem.

    So, because the first person to describe the rhetoric known as ad hominem is a dead white guy, we shouldn’t place value on the concept?

    - especially when trying to use them more for “sporting cred” than in intelligently using them to buttress your point -

    False dilemma; you can buttress your point while looking sporting. (It’s true; I saw it in an “Old Spice” ad once!)

    Seriously though, if a point is valid, it doesn’t matter who said it, and if someone says it extremely well, I’d rather use an elegantly-worded formation than my own clunky construction. Part of what makes The Golden Rule so fundamental is that various constructions of it can be found in the philosophical and religious texts of multiple cultures worldwide. 

    I know Lliira was probably complaining about the Epicurus quote. It sounds nice, it’s well-translated into fairly elegant phrasing, and I’m sure it is as utterly unconvincing to a theist as Pascal’s Wager is to an atheist. But that’s a problem of substance, not source. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    I’d rather use an elegantly-worded formation than my own clunky construction

    For my own part, I would usually rather use my own clunky construction. I mostly figure I don’t really understand an idea unless I can construct it myself when I need it.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Sorry, but it is the people who claim the Bible is anti-slavery who are text proofing.

    Too true.  On a related note: rather than neo-Confederates, the slavery apologists I have encountered have more often been Christians who explain how sure, the Bible doesn’t speak out against slavery, but that’s because slavery in Bible Times was totally okay.  Yeah, it was people owning other people and all, but lots of slave owners back then were really, really nice, not at all like those awful American slave owners.  And hey, if a slave was really, really good and worked really, really hard, he could buy his freedom!  So the Bible didn’t advocate against slavery because the slaves had it pretty good.

    (I will paraphrase Dave Barry: I swear I am not making up the above views.)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     As it turns out, justifying a continuing abomination that mars the soul and offends the intellect of any civilized creature makes you REALLY DUMB.

  • Tricksterson

    Don’t forget that they believed blacks lacke d the courage, and intelligence to be soldiers but feared what would happen if blacks got guns and training.

  • Tricksterson

    No, Tatsuyo’s Jesus is, by and large peaceful although you don’t want to piss him off.

  • christopher_young

    There are lots more depressing versions.

    Aren’t there though? As far as I understand it there’s no Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA in modern humans. Mitochondrial DNA is significant because it’s only passed through the female line; so it looks likely that all our Neanderthal legacy comes from Neanderthal men mating with modern women. Best case scenario: modern culture was entirely exogamous for women at the period they were interbreeding; worst case scenario: Neanderthals were as bad as we are.

    But there’s not a lot of evidence that we deliberately wiped them out, is there? We coexisted for 10,000 years: in that time a tiny cultural or genetic advantage – better resistance to some diseases, for example – could have let us out-compete them without resorting to wholesale slaughter.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Well, there’s evidence that we deliberately wiped out the Neanderthals. So, that.

    “But there’s not a lot of evidence that we deliberately wiped them out, is there? We coexisted for 10,000 years: in that time a tiny cultural or genetic advantage – better resistance to some diseases, for example – could have let us out-compete them without resorting to wholesale slaughter.”

    This.  Also, saying anything like ‘deliberately’ is probably attributing way to much coordination to a bunch of stone-age tribes… a policy requires someone to make a policy.

  • reynard61

    “Neo-Confederatism…Why is that even a thing 150 years after the event?”

    It’s basically the same tactic that the pro-birthers/pro-lifers are trying to use against birth control (since they’ve had no luck getting abortion banned yet): revive the question as to whether it’s harmful (or not) to society and then gin up controversy by putting forth “evidence” that (at least in the case of slavery) it isn’t.

    Unlike abortion and birth control, however, there is an Amendment to the Constitution that directly prohibits slavery — the 13th — and someone needs to inform them of it and the utter futility (especially considering the current African-American population) of repealing it.

  • reynard61

    “Is it equipped with RPGs? Or any kind of weaponry?”

    Well; if the ATF has been doing it’s job, they certainly *shouldn’t* have RPGs! At worst they (the “boogetyman-ers”, if you will) shouldn’t have anything more powerful than “legal” firearms and ammunition. (Especially if they’re NRA members…um…right? [/snarkasm])

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    Actually, that was in reference to Jetpack Jesus, so I don’t think ATF has much say in the matter.  I remain agnostic regarding his membership in the NRA, though.

  • Marketing

    While the Old Testament allows slavery, it does not condone,
    there were many reasons not to condemn it outright. One, it was endemic and an
    outright ban may have caused the Israelites to chuck out the Bible altogether.
    Two, the biblical laws make it difficult to own a slave so it gradually works
    its way out of society; as it did. Three, one can teach idol worshippers your
    moral precepts while slaves.

    As Israelites were slaves in Egypt, the bible’s position is
    that slavery is not encouraged.


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