There is always a danger putting 21st Century beliefs and standards on people from other times, and this is no different with the ideas surrounding slavery.
The enslavement of other people is “biblical” in a sense, and those biblical ideas were used to justify slavery well into the 29th century here in the United States. The Southern Baptist Convention recently voted on a resolution condemning white supremacy, and that has ignited another conversation about the role the Church played in historical thoughts and ideas about slavery here in the United States.
I am in no way endorsing or defending their ideas just stating that we 21st Century Christians have a different understanding of Scripture than our 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th-century counterparts did so we cannot hold them to our standard.
I was in the process of researching this issue when I noticed an article by Kyle Roberts come across my twitter feed so rather than duplicate the effort I will link to Kyle’s excellent piece.
Here is just a bit of the article and I would encourage you to read the rest here.
In my Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism course today, we’ll be talking about the history of slavery and segregation in American Christianity.
It’s the ugly underbelly we can’t ignore, but so often would rather pass over quickly.
Many of (white) American Christianity’s great “heroes of the faith” defended slavery on “biblical” and theological grounds–as God’s punishment for sin or the outworking of a divinely ordained and divinely sanctioned hierarchy.
Some argued that slavery is necessary for a robust economy, which is necessary for the propagation of the “gospel”–but which “gospel” is that, again? A number of them owned slaves themselves (Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, for two prominent examples).
Even many years after the Emancipation Proclamation and in the decades following the Civil War, some theologians and denominational leaders vigorously defended white supremacy and segregation, and refused to grant equal rights to freed slaves and others, simply because of the color of their skin.
Jack Rogers, in Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, details a disturbing and eye-opening description of the way that the Bible was used to defend slavery and to uphold white supremacy in the years preceding and even following the Civil War.