What HBO Won’t Tell You About Slavery and the Bible
The producers of the HBO series “Game of Thrones” intend to produce a new series once “Thrones” runs its course. It will be entitled “Confederate,” and will be based on premise that the South won rather than lost the Civil War. There will be a demilitarized zone between the Confederacy and the Union, and there will not only be slaves and slaveowners but fugitive slaves and fugitive slave bounty hunters.
Of course, the whole exercise will turn into a year long smear campaign against white American Christians, tagging them as unrepentant racists. Surely there will be white-haired, white-skinned preachers in the deep South who pound their pulpits and their Bibles in defense of the wretched institution of slavery. The ultimate purpose will be to inflame as much white guilt as possible, make white Americans feel guilty for, well, being white, and persuade them to feel a brooding weight of guilt for something they had nothing to do with. The fact of the matter is that it was white evangelical Christians – the abolitionists in the North – who were responsible for ending slavery in America. But you likely will never know it watching this exercise in racist demagoguery.
You can expect all the racist slave owners to be Republicans. You can count on the fact that what will be completely obscured is that slavery was inescapably a Democratic matter. It was the Democrat Party which fought to defend slavery, which spawned the KKK, which was responsible for Jim Crow laws, and which stationed its bigots in school house doors with firehoses and police dogs. It was Democrats who filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and vigorously fought the Voting Rights Act of 1965, both of which only passed because a greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for them. Good luck learning anything about that from HBO.
What you also will not hear is that the first slave owner in America to have a slave declared his legal property for life legally was a black man, one Anthony Johnson.
It’s also worth noting that in New Orleans at the time of the Civil War, a full third of all slave owners in the city were blacks. My best guess is that you won’t hear anything about that politically incorrect factoid from HBO either.
But the larger point is that, in contrast to indentured servitude (by which many Africans and white Europeans came to America), involuntary servitude is a truly wretched and inhuman institution. And it turns out that if the Bible had been followed, slavery never would have been allowed on the shores of America.
In 1 Timothy 1, Paul outlines those whose conduct can properly be prohibited by civil law: “…those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10).
The ESV footnote for the word translated “enslavers” quite correctly says it refers to “those who take someone captive in order to sell him into slavery.” The lexicons tell us the word (anthropodistes in Greek) means “slave dealer, kidnapper, man-stealer, one who unjustly reduces free men to slavery, one who steals slaves of others and sells them.” In other words, prohibiting the slave trade is, according to the Bible, a proper matter for our criminal code. It can and should be prohibited by law and punished in the breach. But the government of the United States, because it did not follow the word of God in this matter, did not make the slave trade illegal until 1808.
Now the first slave ship docked on American soil in 1619, which means for almost 200 years the practice of kidnapping men and selling them on the slave market was permitted in America, contrary to the plain teaching, or “sound doctrine,” of Scripture. It’s also worthy of note that the kind of slavery practiced in the United States was also a death penalty offense under the Mosaic code: “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him (think every plantation owner in the old South), shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:16).
Bottom line: when it comes to slavery, the Bible is not the problem. The Bible is, as always, the solution. But don’t expect to learn that from HBO either.
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