Men Whose Ancestors Were Never Enslaved Question How Bad Slavery Actually Is

Men Whose Ancestors Were Never Enslaved Question How Bad Slavery Actually Is June 25, 2020

Well this is just lovely.

During Sunday’s “Breaking News Bible Study” program, radical anti-LGBTQ activist Scott Lively and his co-host Richard May asserted that according to the Bible, homosexuality is a much graver sin than slavery.

May, a pastor in Knoxville, Tennessee, whose biblical worldview radio program airs on WETR on Sundays, said that while “slavery is an unfortunate event … it’s not something to lose your mind over,” especially in comparison to what he thinks are more pernicious sins, like homosexuality or witchcraft.

I’ve had evangelical Christians insist to me that it’s crystal clear that the Bible is against slavery and that antebellum Christians who used Christianity to justify slavery were not only wrong but actually so far off the mark with regards to what the Bible says that it’s almost unfair to even mention them in the same breath with the label “Christian.”

Here’s the thing, though—this sort of thing is still happening. Oh sure, Scott Lively and Richard May aren’t calling for a return to slavery—but they are downplaying the severity of the Bible’s condemnation of the practice, and they’re even arguing that it’s a worse sin for someone to be gay than for someone to own slaves. “The Bible is clear that slavery is an unfortunate event, but so are bad kings and wars and famines,” May claimed, before going on:

“There is a perspective in all of this,” May continued. “From a biblical point of view, there are things much worse. For example, which is worse biblically: polygamy or witchcraft? Witchcraft by far.”

“Now, I’m going to hit a nerve with this one,” he continued. “Which is worse: slavery or homosexuality?”

“Homosexuality by far,” Lively replied.

“By far,” May agreed, “and I think that’s something we need to herald. I mean, come on, guys. Our priorities are all mixed up.”

Regular readers may remember Scott Lively, a conservative Christian activist and writer who traveled to Uganda to stir up homophobia and the advocate for a bill making homosexuality a capital crime. Lively did the same thing in Russia as well. Lively’s actions were so horrific that he was taken to court and sued for crimes against humanity by a Uganda-based LGBTQ rights group (these charges were eventually dismissed for jurisdictional issues).

To be sure, Lively and May are far-right evangelicals, and some may dismiss them as fringe. Fair enough. But they’re still out there minimizing the horrors of slavery and claiming the Bible as justification. Rather than dismiss the idea that anyone could have ever used the Bible to justify slavery, evangelical Christians would do better to focus on building a robust biblical framework that takes the horrors of slavery seriously.


Somehow I doubt Lively and May would discuss the horrors of race-based, chattel slavery in such dismissive tones if they had been the ones to experience it.

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