A Controversial Post

Legends, Lies & Cherished Myths of American History by Richard Shenkman quotes an editorial from The Mississippian, "Let not slavery prove a barrier to our independence. If it is found in the way--if it proves an insurmountable object of the achievement of our liberty and separate nationality, away with it! Let it perish!" Wow. And I always thought the South started the Civil War in order to preserve slavery. Seems odd that they would so willingly wish to toss out the reason for their war to win the war... Unless maybe the war wasn't about slavery after all... Hmmm....

Anyway, I read today for the first time, the uber "controversial" booklet by Dougs Wilson and Jones "Southern Slavery As It Was." I figured since our church has been refused three locations for our Conference on the Family featuring Doug Wilson because of the "controversy" *eye roll* surrounding him, I might as well see what the big deal was all about. I read it. Thought about it. Still don't see the big deal.

Essentially the article was intending to explain to a misinformed, propagandized modern public just how it was that godly Christian men could live and own slaves in the ante bellum South. Nothing racist in the booklet, though there were many condemnations of racism. But I did learn a lot of things that I didn't know previously. Some of the more interesting points:

  • 25% of free blacks in the South owned slaves.

  • Virginia was the first state to institute injunctions against the slave trade.

  • By buying slaves from the traders and giving them a good place to live and work, Christian men were preventing the unsold slaves from being shipped on to Brazil and Haiti where they would be subjected to hellish conditions and certain death.

  • When a slave named Robin was captured during Morgan's raid and separated from his master, he was offered his liberty if he would swear an Oath of Loyalty to the Union. His response: "I will never disgrace my family by such an oath."

  • Another slave was captured with his master and his master actually took the oath. The slave refused, disgustedly remarking, "Massa has no principles."

  • The average slave had more living space than the working class in New York City (may I rant about capitalism again?) Single family homes were the norm for black slave families.

  • The average life expectancy for slaves in the South was higher than that of free white workers in the industrial North, and higher than any industrialized nation in Europe. Slaves were given the same degree of health care from the same doctors as their masters enjoyed.

  • Few masters beat their slaves. Most offered positive incentives for good work, including clothing, tobacco, whiskey, and cash for extra work.

  • Most slaves had days off and could visit friends and family in other towns on other plantations.

  • "Nearly every slave in the south enjoyed a much higher standard of living than the poor whites of the South...


  • None of this is to say that the system of slavery as it existed in the South was biblical. But it is to say that Christians, operating in a system of unbiblical slavery were applying Christian principles to the way they treated their slaves (like Philemon): generally kind, familial relationships were the norm. Many Christians become embarrassed when discussing the Bible with liberals or unbelievers. They point out that homosexuality is a sin in the Bible and the liberal/unbeliever responds with, "Yes the Bible condemns that but that was just the culture of the time. After all, the Bible allows for slavery too."

    This last statement is true and Christians may not deny it. The Old Testament certainly allowed Hebrews to own slaves, but those slaves were indentured servants whose terms would expire and they be set free. In the New Testament Christians who own slaves in the unbiblical Roman system of slavery (mild compared to the system of unbiblical slavery in the southern United States) are told to treat their slaves according to Christian principles. We may not like this, but it is not up to us to judge Scripture. We are to be judged by Scripture. Most Christians in this situation become ashamed of God's Holy Word, shuffle their feet, and mumble. The correct response would be, "Yeah. So what's your point?"

    Comments

    Erica said…
    So *that's* the controversy. Of course, if you even say you like the south today you tend to get weird looks anyways :-P