Caught in the Middle

So the Pennslyvania House of Representatives declared 2012 the “Year of the Bible.” The Reps used this as an opportunity to explain just how gosh darn important the Bible is to this country.

Then some atheists decided to point out one of the major flaws in the Bible: its pervasive acceptance of slavery. They do this with the following billboard:

When Mark Shea at the National Catholic Register hears about this, he chastizes us atheists for expecting too much from the Bible:

One of the things grownups understand is that things like the epistle to the Colossians were not written by a wizard who could wave a wand and eradicate an institution that had existed absolutely everywhere the fallen human lived since the dawn of time. He was the messenger of a small, harrassed religious sect which possessed absolutely no political power in either the Roman empire to which he went, nor in the tiny Jewish country from which he hailed. His mission was not to be a second Spartacus, but to announce the death and resurrection of the Son of God. Much as normal people have always done, he worked within the granite “givens” of his culture.

We seem to be caught in the middle here. We could wish that Mr. Shea would skip over the atheists and talk directly to the people who are praising the Bible as the book from which all morality flows. He could explain to them that no, Paul had a very limited agenda and shouldn’t be relied upon to provide the foundation for American law. Somehow, that never happens.

As an aside, the Quakers were a “small, harassed religious sect which possessed absolutely no political power” during the 17 and 18th century, and yet they are considered the world’s first anti-slavery institution. (There were anti-slavery individuals before that, but the Quakers seem to be the first group.)