Slavery, Homosexuality and the Bible

I have to apologize up front for the rambling nature of the information on this page. Basically, I have combined my own ideas with lots of things I found at various other places. I found so much, and unfortunately don't have time now to organize it all as I'd like. But, I want to get it up, so it's not lost. You'll see this page is related to the gay marriage issue.

Here is just some information for people to read and think about. Rarely is this stuff mentioned in Christian churches today because it is so abhorrent in our culture. Young people today mostly have no idea the churches they often attend used to be blatantly racist and taught that it was the Christian way.

I can remember not many years ago myself, hearing my pastor talk about how the races were meant to be separate; how it was an abomination for blacks and whites to intermarry, etc. Something about the tower of babel, Ham, etc. He had lots of bible verses to back him up. He said the races "mixing" would lead to the disintegration of society. I haven't been back to that church in decades and I bet no one there today would admit to having believed those things back then. But, they certainly believe that homosexuals should not be allowed to marry each other. Anyway, all of this sounds all too familiar? Same stuff being said today about homosexuality. Same stuff that was said in the past about women and jews. This is ugly stuff, but if we forget our history we are condemned to repeat it. So, I want to preserve something of it, right here.

Some have told me that's unChristian to bring up long-settled issues that the Church was wrong about in history. They say it's divisive and makes the church "look bad." I say, while it might seem nice to just leave these things buried, that would be a mistake. It is crucial to understanding what the bible means that we learn from the ways we have let culture influence our interpretations in the past.

Only then can we begin to grapple with how it does today. Only when we clear away these cultural prejudices can we hope to see the unvarnished truth. But, if we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. The same arguments are used today; it's just the targets of the attacks have shifted.

To understand what the bible means we need to understand how we are to use different parts of it. The bible is not a scientific textbook. So, the various passages that talk about the earth being flat (i.e. seeing the four corners of the earth; seeing all of the earth from a mountaintop, etc) do not mean the earth is flat. Of course, it is the case that in ancient times nearly everyone thougth the earth flat. No doubt, the men who wrote the bible thought so as well. And, some people cited these passages as supporting the notion that the earth is flat. They were wrong not only scientifically, but also as a matter of biblical interpretation.

This is an example of how cultural and even scientific beliefs, even wrong ones, can impact biblical interpretation. Another example, in the scientific realm, is Galileo who was branded a heretic for saying that the earth was round.

The problem to Christians of his time wasn't the earth being round, it was the fact that not everything revolves around the earth so, arguably then, it can't be the center of God's creation.

Galileo saw the moons of Jupiter through his telescope and realized they revolved around Jupiter. He then figured that the earth revolved around the sun. This was heresy according to the Catholic church. They put him under house arrest and made him take back his theories. His dying words were "yet it does move..."

More recent examples are how people used the bible to support slavery and racial segregation.

It is striking to readthe parallels between how the bible was used to discriminate against people who are different because of their race (slavery and segregation) and how it is used today to defend discrimination against people due to their sexual orientation.

The arguments are similar; the passages of scripture cited are similar; the particular part of the Christian church making these arguments (conservative part of the Church) is the same or similar. The question then is what role (if any) do our cultural influences play in our interpretation of the bible? I think this is the only way to explain the evolution of, for instance, Southern Baptists, on this issue -- and surely many others as well. The obvious application today is arguably to the homosexual issue raging in the church which boils down to different interpretations of six passages in the bible that address the topic of homosexuality. Hey, people are free to reach whatever conclusions they want about how to interpret scripture. I just want us to consider the mistakes we've made in the past and ensure as best we can we don't make them again.

Protestant churches in the southern U.S. once preached that slavery was sanctioned by God. Interracial marriage was a crime in South Carolina as late as 1998 when the state repealed its anti-miscegenation law. Although the repeal was supported by a majority of voters in a referendum, almost 40 per cent opposed it. Among them was a Republican state representative who argued interracial marriage was "not what God intended when he separated the races back in Babylonian days." His stance, he acknowledged, probably stemmed from his Southern Baptist (SBC) upbringing. Breaking from northern Baptists over the issue of missionaries owning slaves, the ultra-conservative, evangelical SBC preached a Biblical basis for slavery and later used its pulpits to vigorously oppose anti-segregation laws.

The 1864 general assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America affirmed it was the mission of the Southern Church to conserve the institution of slavery, and to make it a blessing both to master and slave.Streets, parks schools and orphanages in the U.S. South bear the name of Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer -- a prominent Christian evangelist, orator, "founding father" of the Southern Presbyterian Church and esteemed New Orleans clergyman of the second half of the 19th century. Palmer was also a vicious bigot, "a vociferous advocate of slavery who relied on the so-called curse of Ham to justify the South's peculiar institution." A staunch defender of Southern interests, Palmer viewed the Civil War as a "holy" conflict between a righteous South and an ungodly North and devoted much of his time and energy to ensuring that God's design of racial separation and Anglo-Saxon domination were reflected in church and society alike.

Coincidentally, Palmer, who died in 1902, is recognized as the "father" of what was once Southern Presbyterian University and is now Rhodes College, a liberal arts institution in Memphis Tenn., where Haynes, a Southerner and Presbyterian clergyman is professor of religious studies. A college commemorative plaque praises the "father" of an institution "which was the first to place the Bible as a required textbook in its curriculum and which through all the years continues to enshrine this ideal of Christian education."

In Palmer's hands, the textbook was a teaching tool to underscore biblical texts justifying not only slavery in general but also the enslavement of Africans in particular. In Genesis, the first book of the Old (Hebrew) Testament, the story is told of Ham coming across his naked father Noah who was sleeping off a drunken binge. Instead of covering his father, Ham runs and tells his brothers Shem and Japheth who avert their eyes and cover their father's nakedness. In retaliation for Ham's behaviour, Noah puts a curse on Ham's son, Canaan. "Cursed be Canaan, lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers." In Karen Armstrong's book, In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis, the well-known author and lecturer suggests that Noah'srefusal to take responsibility for his drunken state shifted his guilt and self-disgust onto an innocent party, Canaan. "Some of the worst atrocities of history have occurred as a result of this type of scapegoating when we blame others for our own crimes andinadequacies," Armstrong says. "It provided a rational for Israel's later subjugation of the Canaanites and the proposed genocide of the native people of the Promised Land as described in the Book of Joshua."

There is no specific condemnation of slavery anywhere in the Bible. The Bible is silent on what it is that Ham did to bring down Noah's wrath upon his grandson. And while both books of the Bible are replete with references to slavery and how it should be regulated, there is no specific condemnation of the practice. In Exodus, it is written that 'if a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property." Outside of slavery, he argued, the black race would experience "rapid extermination before they had time to waste away through listlessness, filth and vice." And while he was not the first to assert that aboriginal Americans' displacement by Europeans was an act of providence, Haynes says Palmer used a Biblical text that was pivotal in American debates regarding the destinies of Africans and Europeans to illuminate the fate of the American Indian.

"As a Christian rhetorician, Palmer's goal was to demonstrate that the 'practical extinction' of Native Americans under the pressure of an expanding white civilization was in conformity with the divine plan revealed in scripture." Palmer used Leviticus 25:44 and I Timothy 6:1 as his scriptural foundation. Acts 17:26 (KJV): "And [God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation." This verse is extracted from Paul's Sermon on Mars Hill, and is normally interpreted as a declaration of Christian universalism; indeed, it was commonly used in the nineteenth century to refute racist theories of polygenesis. But the phrase "bounds of their habitation" was used to claim that segregation, as an existing "bound," must ipso facto be divinely ordained. The oft-repeated Mosaic law ban on the Israelites mixing with the Canaanites during the conquest described in the book of Joshua.

The biblical defense of slavery included references to such things as the divine blessings often bestowed upon slaveholding patriarchs, the inclusion of "manservants and maidservants" as property in Mosaic Law, and advice to the fugitive slave Onesimus to return to his master. Implict support was infered from Jesus's and the Apostle's lack of condemnation for the widespread slavery of the Roman Empire. Rev Palmer, stated in 1887 (well after the Civil War):

The color line is distinctly drawn by Jehovah himself; it is drawn in nature and in history in such a form as to make it a sin and a crime to undertake to obliterate it.

Pointing to the confusion of tongues at Babel as a divine measure to "restrain sin within tolerable bounds," Palmer suggested that "race distinctions were probably developed at the same time, and for the same purpose." Quoted in C.R. Vaughan, "The Southern General Assembly," Presbyterian Quarterly 1 (1887-88). The Flood was divine punishment for human amalgamation with "beasts" and claimed that black people were not descended from Adam and Eve and were therefore not human. Instead they were part of pre-Adamic creation and, "like all beasts and cattle, they have no souls."

See Ariel, "The Negro: What is his Ethnological Status? Is he the progeny of Ham? Is he a descendant of Adam and Eve? Has he a soul? Or is he a beast in God's nomenclature? What is his status as fixed by God in creation? What is his relation to the white race?" (Cincinnati, 1867). You might also look at Hinton Rowan Helper, enemy of slavery and slaves and friend to the working white man, who wrote "Nojoque: A question for a Continent" (New York, 1867) which contained a chapter on "A score of bible lessons in the arts of annihilating effete races" which Helper claimed presented the biblical case for that sincerest of all forms of segregation, genocide.

Prompted by such attitudes and increasing talk of race war, some one-time paternalists turned to presenting segregation as being for black southerners' own good and safety, some even going so far as to argue for colonization in Africa - another extreme form of segregationist thinking. Methodist Albert Bledsoe, for example, claimed that the slave had been but a "sojourner" in the South for "educational purposes only." Charles Carroll's "The Negro a Beast or In the Image of God," written in 1900 and republished in 1968. More can be found at:

Crucial to understand that the bible has many more verses that can be interpreted as supporting slavery than ones that can be interpreted as supporting homosexuality -- particularly consensual, adult homosexuality. So, it's hard to justify, biblically, opposing slavery hile supporting discrimination against homosexuals.

[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts." Jefferson Davis, President, Confederate States of America.

"The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example." Rev. R. Furman, D.D., a Baptist pastor from South Carolina. 3.

Dunbar Rowland quoting Jefferson Davis, in "Jefferson Davis," Volume 1, Page 286 and 316-317

Jefferson Davis, "Inaugural Address as Provisional President of the Confederacy," Montgomery, AL, 1861-FEB-18, Confederate States of America, Congressional Journal, 1:64-66. Quoted in:

Ref. Dr. Richard Furman, "Exposition of the views of the Baptists relative to the coloured population in the United States in communication to the Governor of South-Carolina," (1838), at:

The Christian church's main justification of the concept of slavery was based on the "curse of Ham" which appears in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) in Genesis 9:25-27:

"Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said, 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem'."

Christians at the time believed that Canaan had settled in Africa and that his descendents had become black.

How the Bible was used to justify slavery:

The Christian church's main justification of the concept of slavery is based on Genesis 9:25-27. According to the Bible, the worldwide flood had concluded and there were only 8 humans alive on earth: Noah, his wife, their six sons and daughters in law. Noah's son Ham had seen "the nakedness of his father." So, Noah laid a curse -- not on Ham, who was guilty of some type of indiscretion. The sin was transferred to Noah's grandson Canaan. Such transference of sin from a guilty to an innocent person or persons is unusual in the world's religious and secular moral codes. It is normally considered highly unethical.

However, it appears in many biblical passages. The curse extended to all of Canaan's descendants:

Genesis 9:25-27: "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said, 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japeth live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be his slave'. "

Christians traditionally believed that Canaan had settled in Africa. The dark skin of Africans became associated with this "curse of Ham."

Thus slavery of Africans became religiously justifiable.

If we apply sola scriptura to slavery, I'm afraid the abolitionists are on relatively weak ground. Nowhere is slavery in the Bible lambasted as an oppressive and evil institution: Vaughn Roste, United Church of Canada staff.

There is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral." Rev. Alexander Campbell

"The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example." Rev. R. Furman, D.D., Baptist, of South Carolina
"The hope of civilization itself hangs on the defeat of Negro suffrage." A statement by a prominent 19th-century southern Presbyterian pastor, cited by Rev. Jack Rogers, moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
"The doom of Ham has been branded on the form and features of his African descendants. The hand of fate has united his color and destiny. Man cannot separate what God hath joined." United States Senator James Henry Hammond. William Lee Miller, "Arguing About Slavery: The Great Battle in the United States Congress." Alfred A. Knopf, (1996), Page 139.

Slavery was sanctioned and carefully regulated by many passages in the ebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) largely in the Pentateuch - its first 5 books.

Passages from the Hebrew Scriptures that sanction slavery: There are many Bible passages which directly sanction and regulate slavery. Quoting from the KJV (except as noted) some of these passages are:

see --

The Ten Commandments: Rabbi M.J. Raphall (circa 1861) justified human slavery on the basis of the 10th commandment. It places slaves

"... under the same protection as any other species of lawful property...That the Ten Commandments are the word of G-d, and as such, of the very highest authority, is acknowledged by Christians as well as by Jews...How dare you, in the face of the sanction and protection afforded to slave property in the Ten Commandments--how dare you denounce slaveholding as a sin? When you remember that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job--the men with whom the Almighty conversed, with whose names he emphatically connects his own most holy name, and to whom He vouchsafed to give the character of 'perfect, upright, fearing G-d and eschewing evil' (Job 1:8)--that all these men were slaveholders, does it not strike you that you are guilty of something very little short of blasphemy?"

In a 1960 radio address, Bob Jones declared that God had been the author of segregation and that opposition to segregation was opposition to God. Turner, Standing Without Apology, 3 quotes from the sermon above, he starts by saying all problems in world are caused by people not treating bible as authoritative, putting mans opinion over Gods. Opposition to segregation is an example according to Dr. Jones. Jones emphatically believe and taught that if you were against segregation, you were against God. Full quote provided at

"I am glad to tell the world I stand for the principles of the KKK as these principles have been outlined to me by the leaders of the order." - Dr Bob Jones Sr, December 3, 1923

"We will not lower our school's flag for an apostate!" --Bob Jones, Jr. replying to President LBJ's order that flags be lowered to half staff after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. - Bob Jones Jr, 1968

Bob Jones III once declared that BJU had banned interracial dating because "God has separated people for His own purpose"

Jerry Falwell Used the Bible To Justify Segregation and Criticize Interracial Marriage. In 1958, Falwell gave a sermon on segregation, stating that "The true Negro does not want integration... He realizes his potential is far better among his own race... It will destroy our race eventually... In one northern city, a pastor friend of mine tells me that a couple of opposite race live next door to his church as man and wife... It boils down to whether we are going to take God's Word as final."

In 1958, he said:

If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God's word and had desired to do the Lord's will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision [Brown v. Board of Education] would never have been madeā€¦.

The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.

AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh's charioteers . . . AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."

The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this (the destruction of 9/11) because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way--all of them who have tried to secularize America--I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

This is Westboro Baptist stuff

You've got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops and I am for the President [Bush] --chase them all over the world, if it takes ten years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord.

What happened to turn the other cheek, love your enemies... I think it can be argued that we need to pursue enemies and even kill them as a matter of national defense, but "in the name of the Lord?"

(Jimmy Carter's) message of peace and reconciliation under almost all circumstances is simply incompatible with Christian teachings as I interpret them. This 'turn the other cheek' business is all well and good but it's not what Jesus fought and died for. What we need to do is take the battle to the Muslim heathens and do unto them before they do unto us.

Labor unions should study and read the Bible instead of asking for more money. When people get right with God, they are better workers.

I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!

Thank God for these gay demonstrators. If I didn't have them, I'd have to invent them. They give me all the publicity I need.

All above quotes from

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