Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God, Princeton University Press. P.325
“Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy?” Obama asked in the speech. “Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?…Folks are not reading their bibles.” Barak Obama in 2006 speech to a liberal Christian group
Here the then senator questioned the idea of a nation being guided morally and ethically on a biblical basis. Yes, the bible has been misused and used out of context for wrong in the past and our forefathers were far more aware of the details of that misuse then the Senator. And yet they all insisted this country had to based on a Christian morality and plainly said so. I am always curious as to what basis the secularist will put us on once they have persuaded us the bible is not a good basis for moral and ethical guidance. And of course, if we were Jewish and still considered ourselves under the Mosaic covenant we might want to abstain from all things considered unclean in the Torah. But the New Testament makes it clear that we are under a new convenant, and while the moral laws are still in force, the dietary laws are not. The Senator Obama’s quotes of Deuteronomy are not accurate, the text speaks of children who have become disobedient to their parents and totally rebellious;
Deuteronomy 21:20“They shall say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a drunkard and a profligate.’ Then all of the men of the town shall stone him to death.”
The fact the senator completely misquoted a bible verse he was using to discredit the bible when speaking publicly to thousands is not very impressive. You think maybe he might have looked it up. At any rate our forefathers knowledge and respect for the bible was light years ahead of our presidents, so they would have known how to deal with the issues he so blithely raises.
Stark’s comments were directed towards the fact that until Moses stepped off the mountain and gave a series of laws protecting slaves, no philosopher, no leader religious or civil, had ever acknowledged the plight or taken pity on those in slavery. Slavery was the status quo just as abortion is the status quo today. The law of Moses commanded that anyone who killed a slave be put to death, that children could not be separated from their parents or wives from their husbands. Any slave injured by his master was to be set free, and Israelites were NOT to return escaped slaves to their masters. The Talmud further advised that slaves were to be treated like one of the family;” Do not drink old wine while you give him (the slave) new wine. Do not sleep on cushions while he sleeps on straw.”(1)
Compare that to Plato, who laid out a code for treatment of slaves that was more severe than any American code, as horrendous as they were. Aristotle justified slavery by agreeing with Plato that some people were just made by nature to be slaves and using them for work would free up time for more enlightened men to pursue virtue and wisdom…he said,” From the hour of birth some are marked out for subjection…”(2)
Rome was built on the back of slaves, the African nations kept slaves and in fact, often sold them to American, English and Islamic slave traders. American Indians kept slaves, every nation in the world kept slaves. Only in the Christian nations was slavery ever consistently challenged and outlawed. And that challenge was based on Scripture starting with Moses.
When America and Britain took up the slave trade and enacted treatment of slaves worse than many would treat animals, they did so in the face of both the letter and spirit of both Testaments. And when men like Wilburforce in England took vigorous action to deliver the slaves they did so by appealing often to the spirit and letter of the Scripture. And they did so following a long line of Christians from at least the 7th century ( Saint Bathilde, wife of King Clovis) to St. Thomas Aquinas and others who called slavery a sin, leading eventually to at least three major condemnations of slavery by at least three Popes, culminating in 1535. However the actions of the American and British slave owners in no way conflicted with past pagan or secular atheist rulers or philosophers,as slavery and a complete disregard for the rights of slaves went unchallenged in those realms as it still is in many Muslim and pagan countries today.
Nor could any cogent case be made against slavery based on purely secular morals, as survival of the fittest leaves us very little to build on. Let us not be so quick to undermine the role the bible has played in the past and can continue to play in the future and build our laws and ethics on it, not on personable and brilliant public speakers, who though well meaning don’t have a well thought out understanding of the bible or it’s use in the history of Western Europe and the New World.
The fight against the African Slave trade did not start at Mecca; it started in the hearts of Popes and bishops, puritans and baptists and quakers, who were reading their Scriptures.
Solo Deo Gloria
(1) In Meltzer, 1993:44
(2) politics, 1.1254