Atheist claims that Jesus approved of slavery

The topic of slavery is always a hot-button topic, but in many cases the charges are made simply against Christians. Anyone who is paying attention already knows that Christians are fallible enough, sometimes failing to pay any attention at all to the teachings of Christ.

Recently, atheist activist Michael Martin has joined the numbers of those who claim that Jesus himself is immoral because we do not find him calling out specifically to abolish slavery, which Martin calls "one of the most heinous practices in the history of the human race".

Actually, the human race has quite a wide variety of heinous practices. Jesus did not set himself out as a political change agent on a "social reform" platform to target one of them at the expense of others. War, hatred, killing, all forms of crime, corrupt governments, corrupt economic systems, systematic oppression -- the list goes on of all the heinous practices and institutions with which we have filled our history. Jesus' teachings of "love your neighbor" and "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" have led his followers to lead the world in abolishing slavery -- even in the face of some self-justifying opposition from other Christians who had not grasped the fundamentally unloving aspects of slavery. It has also led Jesus' followers to fight for the rights of the oppressed and lead the world in matters of care for the sick and needy. Plainly, some of Jesus’ own followers have not followed Jesus’ teachings on loving others, but this is hardly Jesus’ fault if people do not keep to his word.

Jesus did not make the mistake of thinking that evil was something confined to one institution, or even to unjust institutions in general. The injustice in the world tracks back to a failure to love our neighbors as ourselves, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. The face of hatred and oppression will keep changing. Note that after the abolition of slavery in the U.S., it was another century before blacks in the U.S. had more than minimal improvement in their condition. Even after the institution of slavery was gone, there still remained the contempt for other people which had been a root cause of this country's slavery and many other injustices. Only when the contempt and indifference were much reduced – and this led by a Christian preacher – was any real improvement made.

Jesus knew that hatred, contempt, and even indifference are not problems that can be addressed politically. You can't ordain a change of heart. The response Jesus gave to injustice is universal, not limited to one cause, no matter how worthy.


lindsaylobe said…
At the time of Jesus he expected the end of the world in line with the "messiniac world view" at that time.

So there was not a concentration on the future of civilisation other than the introduction of the universal golden rule unto others and the parables as you refer....all linked to the kingdon of heaven that was to come...

If your preparing for the "end of the world" such social activitism takes on a secondary role.

I think Jesus also was confined to the social customs and way of life of that time in history.

It intersting to consider the Bible was written for Jews by Jews for later adoption by Gentiles,strong on imagery and never meant to be taken literally.

Jesus may well have commented upon the evils of slavey and other aspects but his followers thought it unimportant or politically unaceptable to record this matter.
Weekend Fisher said…
Hi there & thanks for the comment.

As far as social activism -- there wasn't just a whole lot of social activism at that time in history of the kind we now think of as commonplace. Paul, sending the runaway slave back to his master with a plea to free him and receive him "no longer as a slave", could envision that someone might set a slave free for the love of Christ. But I think he could not even imagine that Christians might stand up and demand that all slaves everywhere should be free forever. The thought was still too mind-boggling.

On the rest, it sounds like you are on-board with a revisionist/reconstructionist Jesus -- but I can't see how the usual arguments for revisionist/reconstructionist Jesus hold. Seems to me like the world's most implausible conspiracy theory, really ... though that's a topic for another post, it deserves better than the comments section.

Take care & God bless

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