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For record — Paul, Philemon, Onesimus, slavery etc. and the Christian ethics of the softened heart; a response to Dan Savage, Nick Matzke and others of like ilk

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As Dr Torley recently highlighted here at UD, Mr Dan Savage, an activist for homosexuality, recently tried to trash Bible-based Christian ethics (at a conference on bullying) by accusing the Bible of advocating slavery.

(We need not elaborate on his publicly displayed ignorance on issues linked to the general, historic, NT-based Christian view on the ceremonial law in the Pentateuch, and his conflation of topics under that head with, say, relevant issues in sexual ethics and principles of core morality. Let’s just say that on ethics, I highly recommend Dr Torley’s discussion here.)

When several dozen high school students walked away in protest at the tone and substance of his diatribe, he then proceeded to mock them.


In response to Dr Torley’s remarks on the incident, Mr Matzke (late publicist of the US-based NCSE) proceeded to try to support Mr Savage’s contention, dismissing any and all correctives.

The significance of all this for UD, of course, is that the incident, the tone and tactics used by defenders of Mr Savage, and the underlying significance of ethics are all quite relevant to the way major, worldviews-tinged issues are now commonly debated. Namely, by using polarisation and appeal to hot button issues presented to sow discord and contempt, as a primary response.

So, while Mr Matzke has studiously avoided the following annotated citation of the Epistle of Paul to Philemon (the whole is a one-page letter of twenty-five verses), I think it is important to headline it here at UD, to correct the polarisation tactics that are being used.

In addition, I think the epistle is fundamental in helping us understand Christian social ethics and the concept of amelioration and reform of evils as hearts are softened and minds enlightened by gospel ethics.  Such a discussion also throws a stark light on the dynamics of willful, angry, even violent resistance to correction and reform (whether by those who name the name of Christ, or who sit on Judge’s benches or in parliaments, or even who wear the holy lab coat).

Namely: there is none so blind as he who WILL not see.

And so, let us look at the markup of Philemon that, regrettably, Mr Matzke has so far refused to respond to. It will help to recall that, per tradition, Onesimus later became Bishop at Ephesus.

Let’s roll the tape (with slight adjustments):


Wedgewood's Antislavery emblem, for ceramic ware. Notice the allusion to Paul's description of Onesimus in Philemon, esp. in vv. 15 - 16 (Courtesy Wikipedia)

>> Philemon 1

English Standard Version (ESV)

1 Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[a –> Establishes a context of fraternity, mutuality and fundamental equality in the image of God, in the redemptive grace of God.]

Philemon’s Love and Faith

4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.[a] 7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

[b –> Reminds Philemon of the good path that he began, and now is going to need to build on.]

Paul’s Plea for Onesimus

8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus,[b] whose father I became in my imprisonment.

[c –> I have power to command, based on personal obligations you hold and loyalties, but that will not deal with the heart issue, so I move to the platform of love and the brotherhood of men in God by creation and redemption.]

[d –> Onesimus, BTW, means, useful or beneficial, so Paul is about to use the issue of a prophetic name as a rhetorical pivot.]

11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.

[e –> He is going to the heart of the issue: do you see that this is one who is of like flesh and blood, family and redemption with us? How, then can you stand on the legal points of that which was regulated because of the hardness of men’s hearts, lest it be even worse? Recall: I hate divorce, but for the hardness of men’s hearts, regulate it lest it be even worse. Then, as hearts are softened by the gospel, I call for a different level.]

[f –> Remember, too, this is going to have to pass the censors, for a prisoner who is perpetually chained to a soldier, and is on trial for his life, before those who would pounce on any excuse of promoting slave uprising or harbouring runaways to gleefully pronounce a death penalty.]

13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

[g –> Paul goes for the heart.]

15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant[c] but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

[h –> He asks for manumission, and sets it in the context of fundamental equality in God by both creation and redemption.]

[i –> Remember, this is the apostle to the gentiles, dealing with a field problem when he judged the time ripe to do so; a kairos of God where he had the hearts softened enough to address the issue, even hampered by the watching censors for a prisoner on trial for his life. And at this pivot of history he speaks in the name of fundamental equality and directly implies that liberty is the right of those who are equals in God.]

[j –> No show of learning and/or of alleged theological erudition and/or of clever rhetoric and legalistic point scoring can ever suffice to erase this. And, given that it is self-evidently true that en are equal by creation and thus nature, this principle extends without limit to the human race. The problem is not the principle, but the hardness of our hearts.]

17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.

[k –> Remember, the one to whom Philemon in ANE culture, owes his all.]

18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.

[l –> Paul offers compensation for any losses.]

19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

[m –> Paul explicitly appeals to the cultural norm of a debt of honour of Philemon to Paul. And, multiplies it by the principles of brotherhood and redemption plus duties of mutual support and encouragement in Christ.]

[n –> To reinforce this, he does not use an amanuensis at this point, but as the one who holds authority, writes in his own hand. One can see Timothy coming over and handing the pen to a man manacled to a Roman soldier in armour, sword at his side. This is a statement of Paul’s theological will and legal stance.]

21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

[o –> Paul here hints that his confidence is that Philemon’s heart has been softened through the gospel allowing him to see the light of the message of brotherhood, equality and right to be free.]

22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

[p –> Paul thus implicitly dates this letter as being of his first imprisonment in Rome, and that this is c 62 AD. In this context, he is saying that he expects to be set free and he is coming, expecting to follow his son Onesimus, and expects that his heart will be refreshed. Indeed, Onesimus is clearly the messenger sent with the letter, which obviously is also a subtle announcement that the trial before Burrus is expected to go well. Which, evidently, it did.]

Final Greetings

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.


Philemon 1:6 Or for Christ’s service
Philemon 1:10 Onesimus means useful (see verse 11) or beneficial (see verse 20)
Philemon 1:16 Or slave; twice in this verse (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)

[–> Cf. pastoral reflection, from an Orthodox perspective,  here. This in effect informal commentary, here,  is also useful.] >>


In short, we here see a case study on how genuine reform and enlightenment work, through moral enlightenment and yielding to the good. We also find how, in the providence of God, a reformation strategy that works in the teeth of even brutal dictatorships — and that is just what Imperial Rome had become — can work, so long as there is a modicum of respect for law, order and fairness.

(Remember, this is a letter that passed the censors, in a context where “anything you say or do can and will be used against you.” As in: off with your head. Literally.)

We also see how genuine reforms move towards the ethically sound and the sort of appeals that genuine reformers make, as well as how they earn their stripes to make such appeals.

Of course, this exposition was in the context of the accusation that the Bible supports or even advocates slavery. Leaving off for the moment discussion on just what varieties of meanings, circumstances and realistic alternatives lurk in the terms being used in the original and in translation, we can see that in Biblical ethics, slavery is plainly an evil, to be ameliorated at minimum, and to be removed if and when possible. If someone is unwilling to acknowledge this, there is but little hope for reasonable dialogue, so we can only correct for record. Similarly, no amount of snipping out and quoting of verses to make debate talking points or erudition can remove the impact of this specific, concrete case and the principles it lays out.

Indeed, where some insist on brushing this sort of caution and balancing remark aside, they need to hear one of the grimmest warnings in the Bible:

2 Peter 3:15 . . . count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters.

There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. [ESV]

We are warned that there are things in the scriptures that are not for novices, so we should take care in how we handle the text.

In addition, we are warned against the error of the evil which are what in my native parlance would be called: own-way [they refuse to be governed by sound principles and insist on doing as they please and denigrating those who would differ or correct], who are apt to quote and wrench in ways that mislead the unwary.

It is in that general context that I went on to say:

Do you see how this is the plain pivot of the NT teaching on slavery, and how this extends immediately to any number of real abuses in times and places?

Do you understand why reform based on softened hearts is the better path to abolition of grave social injustices, and that in the meantime, if ameliorative and restraining measures can be got through, they should?

Also, do you see why any attempted justification of this particular abuse as supported by the Bible MUST be fallacious and will founder on the many pivotal principles of Christian theology that it must ignore or pervert?

Do you also see why I am incensed to see the sort of toxic rubbish that Mr Savage stood up to spew out in the name of objecting to bullying in schools?

Yes, I am incensed. Mr Savage is a public spokesperson, who was speaking to the young in an educational context. He therefore had a special duty of care to be fair, balanced, respectful and truthful. Instead, he took occasion to vent his spleen, spewing out his hostility to the Christian faith, the gospel, the Scriptures and the God of the Bible on what was essentially a captive audience. And when some took the only act of protest they could, walking out, he took occasion to verbally assault them.

Sorry, I am not going to make excuses for Mr Savage: that pattern of angry, bullying public behaviour in the name of correcting bullying tells us all we need to know about what would happen were the Dan Savages to hold real power over people’s academic results, career prospects or even court cases.

It also brings to mind a caution from the apostle James that highlights themes we all struggle with:

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.

Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell . . . .

11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. [ESV]

So, let us never forget the out-of-control conflagration we can so easily set off with that little member in our mouths that is so powerful and so potentially destructive. But, which can also be used to bless and build.

But, that is a secondary (though important) point.

The main point remains: Christian, gospel based biblical ethics sees that there are many abuses and evils in society at any given time.  Given the moral dilemmas of being all too human — finite, fallible, fallen, too often ill-willed and stubborn — they cannot all be swept away at once. Sometimes, the worst are going to be backed up by overwhelming force.

So, reform should proceed by the gentle path of enlightenment and heart softening.

First, at personal levels and through relationships in which we have the sort of gentle influence we see Paul exerting on both Onesimus and Philemon — just think, of how it must have been to be an escaped slave sent back home with a cover letter!

Then, reform proceeds in the church and family, then as a critical mass builds up and a chain reaction of renewal of life and institutions proceeds, reformation and transformation of the society as a whole become possible.

But, such genuine reformation will show itself ethically sound.

Which — as the slavery case shows (if you know the history, as opposed to the myths) — is usually not a trivial challenge.

Though, it may seem that way in retrospect.

So, let us take a leaf from Paul’s letter to Philemon, conveyed by Onesimus. END


F/N: This video, sadly, has to bring the issues right up to date, as in one form or another slavery and the like are still with us, so let us renew our determination to rid our world of this shame:

[youtube R1o59xbHdo0]

In normal run of things, God's providential economy requires that grace build upon nature, hence, for example, the patriarch Jacob's resorting to a prostitute (his daughter-in-law, disguised under a heavy veil). Had the Christian Church in Paul's day sought to overturn the pagan, slave-culture, it would have been crushed, in the absence of an expressly-divine intervention, inconsistent with the precept of allowing grace to build upon nature. However, there are two intrinsically unambiguous precepts which automatically preclude ownership of slaves by Christians: Yahweh proscribed the taking of slaves by the Hebrew people from among their own number, stating that it was an abomination in his eyes. Then there is the duty of evangelisation incumbent on Christians; which means that, together, the precepts absolutely forbid slavery, as of course one would expect of a religion whose god was born and lived in poverty as a fully human being, as well as being fully divine; and who was during his time on earth, greatly exercised by the injustices suffered by the poor people, the Anawin, among whom his own family numbered. Axel
Q: You have a point, though the Romans and Greeks in particular had some serious problems, and in all cases there was a lot of room for abuse -- hence the ameliorative character of the Hebraic law. Unfortunately, however, the former varieties were used as the precedent for the latter, and the pretence was made to the public that it was much the same. It is in fact the abolitionists who were in large part responsible for exposing the horrors of the trade and the realities of plantation slavery. In the case of the British Empire, it is particularly telling that when he had been sent to England as a delegate of the dissenter missionaries in Jamaica in the aftermath of the 1831 uprising [and after the attempt to hang said missionaries as instigators, and the burning of fifteen dissenter chapels by the Anglican-based colonial church union], William Knibb swore to let the Christian people of England know what their brethren -- note the significant parallel to Philemon vv 15 - 16 esp. -- in Jamaica were suffering. The implication, of course, is that they basically did not know enough from credible and knowledgeable sources to stand up to the objections and dismissals being made. Evils thrive in the shade, but sunshine drives out corruption. The histories I have seen duly record that no-one was able to stand up to Knibb's testimony, and that he spoke to parliament [I think, to a committee]. Then, the Governor's report confirming the account that fifteen dissenter chapels were razed came in in May I think it was, May 1832. At that time, the government was in turmoil and the dissenter districts were pivotal. I think there was even talk of the Scots marching on London. That is the context in which the West India Interest of planters and merchants was thrown overboard by the establishment. Frankly, it is doubtful they were acting out of genuine heart change, but they sure knew that they could not go back to the bad old days of the 1500's and 1600's. The interests were able to drag out proceedings to 1833, but Emancipation was passed and went into effect on a phased basis in 1834. Apprenticeship was a mess, but the monster was dead. And it was Knibb who in Falmouth Baptist Church [Jamaica], counted down the seconds to midnight at the beginning of August 1, 1834, the monster is dying, the monster is dead. The slaves, Christian and Animist alike, crowded the Dissenter chapels, for they knew. In your own country, no less a person than Lincoln said to Ms Stowe, that her book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, was decisive. I know that in the 1960's there was an attempt to revisionise and dismiss, but the point of the book was that it exposed the abuses of slavery, and it showed what could easily happen to even the most decent of slaves; cf. Ms Stowe's evidence here. And of course it gave vivid illustration to the point Paul made to Philemon: Onesimus, your slave, is a good Christian and a brother in both the flesh and Spirit. So, do the right thing! Indeed, I find that a big missing part of the puzzle is precisely the role played by the letter to Philemon in the whole process of Abolition. It is there in the iconic Wedgewood emblem in the British Empire, and in your country it lurks in the background as the theme that lends force to Uncle Tom's Cabin. But somehow too many of the historians and too many theologians also, somehow are not seeing that. Indeed, when I looked at the Hull paper (filling in MN's ellipsis . . . ), I was astonished to see:
The Apostle Paul supported slavery, counseling obedience to earthly masters (Eph 6:5-9; Col 3:22-25) as a duty in agreement with "the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness" (1 Tim 6:3). Because slaves were to remain in their present state unless they could win their freedom (1 Cor 7:20-24), he sent the fugitive slave Onesimus back to his owner Philemon (Phlm 10-20) [--> Contrast this with the actual text and context of Philemon. This is willfully distorted to serve an agenda.] . The abolitionist north had a difficult time matching the pro-slavery south passage for passage . . . . Professor Eugene Genovese, who has studied these biblical debates over slavery in minute detail, concludes that the pro-slavery faction clearly emerged victorious over the abolitionists except for one specious argument based on the so-called Curse of Ham (Gen 9:18-27).[2] For our purposes, it is important to realize that the South won this crucial contest with the North by using the prevailing hermeneutic, or method of interpretation, on which both sides agreed. So decisive was its triumph that the South mounted a vigorous counterattack on the abolitionists as infidels who had abandoned the plain words of Scripture for the secular ideology of the Enlightenment. Here is the beginning of that familiar ploy by which those who insist on a literal reading of the text try to bolster their position by suggesting that their opponents are "liberals" . . . . The problem here is that the traditional Southern hermeneutic gave to slavery a transcendent justification rooted in sacred Scripture. Bad as it was to claim that slavery was backed by the almighty dollar, Southern preaching succeeded in claiming that it was also backed by Almighty God! Do you have a hermeneutic adequate to challenge that conclusion, or do you just hope that the hard questions will somehow go away? . . . . God is never defeated by our sinful circumstances but works redemptively to overcome such bondage in ways that honor our freedom of choice. In the case of biblical slavery, he was forever "pushing the envelope" by insisting on the more humane treatment of slaves, a strategy which came to a climax in Paul's skillful appeal to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. [--> notice, how Hull has loaded the debate by holding this back and misrepresenting what a fair and informed reading would have immediately given, but plainly that would not have served Hull's agenda] Indeed, by sending his own Son in "the form of a slave" (Phil 2:7), God transformed the very category of servitude and invested it with radically new meaning foreshadowed centuries earlier by the Suffering Servant of the exile (Isa 52:13-53:12). In this forward thrust of the slavery texts we see God sowing the seeds of change in the rocky soil of human exploitation where their harvest would ripen slowly, even fitfully, in response to human growth. Here is the key issue: did God intend for this growth to come to a stop when the Canon of Scripture was closed, or did he intend for the dynamic launched by these texts to energize his people throughout the ages until they learned to express his will for human relationships in a more mature fashion?[4]
In short, Hull is hardly an objective writer. He has an agenda to undermine the historic Grammatico- contextual- historical approach to Bible interpretation, and to overturn the credibility of those he would doubtless view as "fundamentalists." And in particular he clearly wants to "liberate" ethics from the Biblical text, which he wishes to relegate to a barbaric past. In short, simply a more refined version of Savage's agenda. In that context, it is at once evident why Hull has so badly misread the text and significance of Philemon, even though it is staring us in the face in the main icon of the antislavery movement and in the book that seems to have done more to open people's eyes to what was going on in the US than anything else. Now, I am an unabashed protestant. That means I will look august councils and authorities in the eye and say: let us search the scriptures to see if what you say is so. (Ac 17:10 - 11.) For all his faults, I will wholeheartedly stand with Luther at Worms -- and I give the traditional rendering (never mind disputes among the historians) as that is the one that shaped history:
Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God's word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
The facts are that Philemon has been there on the ground ever since 62 AD or thereabouts. It lays on the table the principle of universal brotherhood in Adam, and multiplies it by recognising equality in Christ and in his service. It plain out tells Philemon to do the right thing by Onesimus, with the apostle and church looking on. The themes in this text clearly set the whole question of slavery and other abuse-prone social institutions into sharp relief, and set the regulatory laws in the context amelioration in light of the hardness of our sinful, ever deceitful hearts; divorce being the chief example -- and the difference here is that of course, Augustus did not like either adultery or divorce, so the official support for being fairly stringent was there, but with the Spartacus uprising ever in mind, the powers that were were ever vigilant concerning slavery. So, I insist: a prisoner on trial for his head, had to be subtle in that context. This, I take to be in the providence of God, to show how softening of heart and enlightenment of the mind by opened eyes, would lead to reformation. Just so, in our day, in Christ and by his Spirit, we are to continue to be softened and to live by another principle than laws backed up by swords and fear of punishment, that of love enlightened by the Spirit of Christ. Love that will not do harm to neighbour. (Cf Rom 13:8 - 10, in light of vv 1 - 7.) There is absolutely no good reason to surrender the sound principles of interpretation or respect for the Scriptures and gospel ethics. Just, we are called to the courage and diligence to read them and apply them fearlessly in light of the whole counsel of God. yes, one who wants to play at proof text verse hopscotch games can say that Pariarchs held slaves -- but skip over that one of these "slaves" --Eliezer of Damascus -- was originally slated to be Abraham's heir and was so trusted that when the time came to select a wife for his successor as heir, Isaac, Abraham entrusted the decisive duty to him. Yes, Abraham erred greatly in how he treated Hagar and Ishmael, precipitating an irreconcilable situation, which he further mishandled in how the separation was effected, leading to disastrous consequences for 4,000 years. And so on and so forth, we could debate texts back and forth for weeks. But in the end, Philemon shines the decisive light on the subject. If your interpretation and application cannot pass the Philemon test then it is false and even heresy; and the preachers of the American South who tried to make it out that the Bible advocated slavery knew this or should have known this, save for the hardness of hearts. But of course, heresy in power will often use force to get its way and will try to brand correction as falsehood. So, what we should do is to learn from the sins of Christendom, and learn to follow the light from Philemon, not only on slavery but on many other issues. For instance, the Muslim peoples are our brothers and sisters, held under a system that -- per Quran Surah 9:5 and 29 etc, envisions global subjugation under Allah, his prophet, his law and his warriors, including his Caliph and the expected Mahdi; where the Islamists plainly envision completing this project over this century. So, we must do two things: (a) we must distinguish the radical ideologues and would be conquerors from those who are trying to serve God peacefully best they know how, and (b) we must treat the different cases appropriately. That is we must support the civil authorities -- God's servants to do us good and to protect the civil peace of justice -- in protecting the civil peace of justice, and we must live in peace through the truth in love with our neighbours who are willing to live with us in the civil peace of justice. Thus, we will respond to ordinary, decent people in one way and to those who are embarking on the strategy of settlement-jihad in a very different way. We can do that without compromising gospel principles and good neighbourliness. Similarly, when we see homosexualist radicals like Mr Savage embarking on bullying tactics in promotion of their agenda, and on attempting to deride and undermine the counsels of the Scriptures, we will have to deal with such ideologues quite firmly; correcting their talking points and countering their ideologies, including the "my genes made me do it" meme. (Noting, that these -- so far -- are not throwing bombs or the like.) But that is very different from how we will need to reach out to people who live and/or struggle with attractions and habits that are objectively disordered. Likewise, we can easily learn that the pornographers destructively exploit and abuse women (and children) especially, in a form of human trafficking, all to enmesh those they lure in into an addictive and ethically ruinous bondage. Worse, this latter-day cousin to the slave trade undermines the moral sensibilities that protect the family. Indeed, I gather that the US Trial lawyers say that over half of divorces are porn-linked. To my shock, I learned that a few years back, it was porn that paid for the rollout of the broadband internet in the US, and that it may have constituted over half the bandwidth usage of the web at that time. Where, if the US sneezes, we in the Caribbean catch pneumonia. That points me to the way that addictions to things like porn, drugs, alcohol, gambling etc etc are all plagues on our civilisation that need to be exposed and opposed. Where, those who are enmeshed in the snares of the promoters and pushers need something like an openly gospel based version of the alcoholics anonymous 12-step programme as a rescue ministry. The focus here is to expose the destructive nature of the addiction, and to set out on rescue and restoration of life and community. But in this, we must recognise a key lesson of the US Prohibition era: when an evil is sufficiently entrenched in a culture, an attempt to legislate it out will fail because it lacks sufficient support to be enforceable. It is in this sense that one cannot legislate morality, though of course in the saying erroneously attributed to Ben Franklin, we should regulate behaviour. So, in such cases, I would push for amelioration and diminution by gradual extinction. And, extinction is the goal, I kid you not; just as for tobacco (and I remember the days in which those who objected to tobacco on moral grounds were derided or seen as oddballs). If you wish to challenge that, I dare you to look children whose lives have been harmed because of these sorts of addictive and destructive behaviours, in the eye and tell them that that which brought ruin and hardship into their lives is okay. For that matter, I am beginning to take seriously the idea that things like sugar are addictive and unhealthy -- I gather the Caribbean creole idiom: "it sweet you" may be all too revealing of how sugar gives a rush that hits the same brain pleasure centres that are implicated in more serious addictions. For these relatively mild problems, I suggest public health education and counselling. (We can even get addicted to the Internet!) When it comes to pushers, pimps, promoters and traffickers, I am a whole lot less inclined to be sympathetic. Such need to have the book thrown at them. And if it is not possible -- because of freedom of expression concerns or the like, or at least because there will not be sufficient support to effectively legislate and enforce it -- to say, outright ban porn beyond a certain line and lock up the porno pushers, then we can ban child porn and we can look into human trafficking and drugs pushing to benumb the "talent" to get them to do the things that they would otherwise not wish to do or put up with. Occupational health and safety concerns in a world where there are some three dozen significant STDs out there [some of which the use-a-condom line will have no effect on], would also be relevant. After all, they apparently could not get Al Capone on murder etc, but put him away for tax evasion. (I note that I think it is no accident that in the first wave of hate-driven Internet harassment I was subjected to a year ago for my involvement with UD, I was attacked for opposing porn. And it turned out that there are some very questionable connexions for some of the objectors. The issues we are dealing with at UD are not just about science and science education, by any means.) Similarly, when we see the evolutionary materialist ideologues and fellow travellers donning the holy lab coat and abusing power in science, education and media institutions, etc, we must shine the light of public exposure on them. Since there is plainly an adverse balance of power and opinion, driven by some very highly twisted and too often willfully poisoned views of history, science, institutions and individuals, we will have to be patient in this work. We will need to highlight the truth about science, its strengths and limitations, especially when science deals with the unobservable deep past of origins. Since the institutions are plainly dominated by ideologues and largely hostile, we need to set up independent institutions and support them adequately. That is why, for instance, I advocate independently educating students and teachers on origins science on a community basis. Let the ideologues have their schools if they insist on it -- as the pagan priests of old were left to their utterly discredited temples. Let the Demetriuses scream about how the temples are neglected and how great Diana is. Let us just point out that we here dealt with a silversmith guild that profited from the ignorance of idolatry. And let us seek for decent politicians like the -- evidently pagan -- city clerk who intervened in the interests of justice and civil peace and dismissed the riotous assembly in Ephesus after it had been baying out how great Diana of the Ephesians was for two hours; as though repeated shouting and attempted drowning out of the truth would make patent falsehood true. (Ac 19.) In all of this, the epistle to Philemon has something to say to us. GEM of TKI PS: I gather that under the US 13th Amdt, one sentenced to gaol by a court is liable to involuntary service at what used to be called hard labour. kairosfocus
The key problem with Dan Savage's hate speech against Christianity is his profound ignorance of the difference between the brutal, involuntary plantation slavery of the New World, versus the types practiced in the Old World. Kenneth Stampp's "The Peculiar Institution", a book I read in college, makes this point abundantly clear. The slavery practiced in the Ancient Near East is significantly different, and the slavery described (and limited) in Torah is similar to an indentured servant or a live-in housekeeper. In general, this type of "slavery" was a voluntary, temporary condition typically initiated to pay off debts or escape poverty. Of course none of these facts seem to be of interest to Savage. Incidentally, did you know that according to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, slavery is still legal under some circumstances? Read it for yourself. Querius
F/N 3: I have added the video. kairosfocus
F/N: I have added the Wedgewood ceramic antislavery emblem to the original post to underscore the significance of Philemon, not only in the ancient world but to the antislavery movement of the past few centuries. This video brings the same right up to date. I trust the visual element will help drive the point home. (And BTW, I note that though the image is familiar, it was not even hinted at in the History books I studied from that this key antislavery movement theme was taken from Philemon vv 15 - 16. That tells us something about what is going on.) KF kairosfocus
GUN vs Null: An interesting contrast:
G: there’s nothing remotely anti-slavery in Paul’s letter . . . N: Paul’s letter is pretty inconvenient for “pro-slavery folks”, considering the sort of treatment and relationship Paul was instructing there to be between both slave and master . . .
A simple glance at the actual text in light of its background and context will at once show that Null is right and GUN wrong. Hull, of course, should have worked through the implications of Philemon in particular, with an emphasis on contrasting the meaning and force of the letter and a contrast to the Bible verse hopscotch games that too often lend themselves to the sort of ignorant wrenchings Peter warned against, with particular emphasis on . . . the writings of Paul. And BTW, Mn, to move up to exegesis, I would have to go at parsing Greek. Wouldn't make a dime's worth of difference to what a contextually informed reading will quickly yield. As can be seen. But, that's not the interesting issue. The real issue is why G is plainly blind to what the text is doing and actually did in history. Twice. The root of that, I suspect, is what we have forgotten about a key difference between reformation and radical revolution imposed by power and seizure of control. Reformation, especially that which rides on the wings of transforming revival and renewal, changes cultures and induces change of institutions. Radical overthrows usually end in tyranny and reigns of terror then a return to oppression as usual. Indeed, that is the last scene in Animal Farm: "there was no difference." Paul put the stake through the heart of slavery, simply by bridging master and slave as brothers, children of our common father and equal partners in ministry to be reconciled. Yes, if you are a slave, do not let it eat you out from within, but if you can gain your freedom do so. So also as one freed by the Lord, let none enslave you -- primarily spiritual, but the echo is plain. (A point, BTW, made by Jamaican scholar Orlando Patterson in his reflections on freedom and its prominence as a value in our civilisation.) Let us learn from this crucial blind spot. GEM of TKI F/N: TM, please think about why you itched to find a moral equivalency that simply is not there, and how it led you to snip out of context and suggest contexts that simply don't belong there. In particular consider on the events of Gethsemane and how they echo and repudiate the path taken by the Maccabees when the officials came to Modein c 167 BC. Jesus's sword was the Word of God, not an implement of iron. kairosfocus
Actually, pro-slavery folks tended to like Paul’s letter. Actually, Paul's letter is pretty inconvenient for "pro-slavery folks", considering the sort of treatment and relationship Paul was instructing there to be between both slave and master, and the realities of slavery in the south. This only gets worse for slaveholders when you deal with the entirety of Christ's teachings regarding how people generally, and certainly fellow believers particularly, should relate to each other. And that's the real problem here. For Christians, anything approaching what passed for southern-style slavery was impossible to justify on biblical grounds. What motivated the southerners first and foremost was not adherence to scripture, but secular concerns. Even Hull strongly implies this in his fuller paper - the slave-holders were trying to find some justification, any justification, for their system, no matter how stretched and desperate. And that's exactly what they got - a stretched, desperate justification, that monumentally relied on ignoring arguably the lion's share of Christ's teachings, and even a sizable share of the OT practice. Which, of course, is exactly the sort of reading Savage engages in. nullasalus
It's telling that the closest thing one can find to an anti-slavery text in the Bible was, as you say, able to pass the pro-slavery censors who would pounce on him for "any excuse" (not that that's surprising - as there's nothing remotely anti-slavery in Paul's letter). As you say, he was in a situation where "anything you say or do can and will be used against you", and, well, there is nothing to be used against - in this context - slavery. It's probably the same reason Nick didn't respond to the letter.  What is there to respond to? Actually, pro-slavery folks tended to like Paul's letter. You compare the regulation of slavery to the regulation of divorce. There are no condemnations of slavery as there are of divorce. The Bible's view on divorce is clear. If the Bible spoke of slavery the same way it does divorce, these kinds of discussions wouldn't exist. Of course, the fact that slavery is regulated isn't itself an implication that there's anything wrong with it - food, for instance, had many regulations. To quote William Edward Hull, New Testament scholar and retired Provost of both Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Samford University (private Christian university affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention): “Then, as now, for Southern evangelicals, the Bible was the supreme source of religious authority. Therefore, the Scriptures were almost universally recognized as the final arbiter of the slave question. Again and again, preachers and theologians poured over the sacred text with minute care to determine its teachings on slavery. Nor were they free to find only what they were looking for, because northern abolitionists were vigorously challenging their pro-slavery conclusions. What evidence was advanced on either side of this bitter debate?… At best, they had to appeal to the spirit of the Bible rather than to specific texts, buttressing this appeal with general principles of justice and righteousness drawn from moral philosophy. But they could not shake the fact that slavery was commonplace in the Bible and that it was often cruel, especially in its treatment of foreigners." The pro-slavery people saw it, even many abolitionists saw it, Evangelical Christian historians from Christian universities see it. I agree with the assertion that "there is none so blind as he who WILL not see." goodusername
My only point was that the Bible contains many examples of godly people, including Jesus Christ, using incendiary and divisive rhetoric to make their point. When there is a division, we should point it out and fight for our side of it. Now if you wish to continue to paint me as physically violent, that's your choice, but you can do so only by failing to apply context to my words in the same way you did to the Bible. In the meantime, you might be imposed upon to take a walk in the various neighborhoods in Britain, France and Germany which are already under de facto sharia law in contradiction to the laws of those nations while their leaders get their panties in a bunch about hate speech. Their house is empty, kf. The strong man is coming. [Kindly cf. the declaration issued by a conference I initiated, here. KF] tragic mishap
Your amazing powers of exegesis failed to notice how I advocated in my first post not using Bibles to pound people over the head. Of course the only reason I did so was that I usually carry a pocket Bible which is unfortunately ineffective administering the vigorous physical beatings I would normally support, at least according to you. tragic mishap
I posted Scripture with no comment whatsoever, much less any twisting, and I never once mentioned violence. If you think I was talking about violence, you're putting words in my mouth. I was talking about free speech. I think you're the one who needs to chill. [--> TM, you knew exactly what you were doing by snipping out of context like that, following the general context and style of the now increasingly common web version of village skeptic tactics. Your attempts to pretend otherwise simply underscore the force of the point. Sorry, we were not born just this morning. KF] tragic mishap
TM: At this stage, you are revealing your ignorance, as Peter warned against. I suggest a timeout. Please read here on the two swords, to see what Jesus' words, responsibly read and handled, mean. let me clip, it so happens I was glancing here this morning:
Matthew 10:34 The verse says: 34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword."[1] (Matt. 10:34) The historical context is Jewish culture, as Jesus ministers to his own people. He sends out the twelve disciples to the “lost sheep of Israel,” not yet to the gentiles (Matt. 10:1-42), who will be reached after the resurrection (Matt. 28:16-20). It is not surprising, historically speaking, that he would spread his word by proclamation to his own, by Jewish disciples. He predicts that some towns may not receive the disciples and that the authorities may put them on trial and flog them. In that eventuality, they should shake the dust off their feet, pray for them, and flee to another city. It is only natural that first-century Jews may not understand this Jesus movement, so they resist it. These cultural facts explain the literary context, which shows division among family members. The literary context must be quoted in full to explain the meaning of “sword” in Matt 10:34. 32 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. 34 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household [Micah 7:6]. 37 Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matt. 10:32-39, emphasis added) The one key element in this lengthy passage is the word “sword,” and its meaning is now clear. It indicates that following Jesus in his original Jewish society may not bring peace to a family, but may “split” it up, the precise function of a metaphorical sword. Are his disciples ready for that? This kind of spiritual sword invisibly severs a man from his father, and daughter from her mother, and so on (Micah 7:6). It is a sound interpretive method to let Scripture clarify Scripture. Luke 12:51-53 reveals the meaning of the key verse and metaphorical sword in Matt. 10:34. 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." (Luke 12:51-53, emphasis added) In this passage, the sword represents division (v. 51), not a physical weapon. It is only natural that Matthew, the traditional author of the most Jewish of the Gospels, would include a pericope (a unit or section) like Matt. 10:32-39. Given Jesus’ own family resistance early on (they later came around), it is only natural he would say that no matter what the cost, one must follow him to the end, even if it means giving up one’s family. But this applies only if the family rejects the new convert, not if the family accepts him in his new faith; he must not reject them because the whole point of Jesus’ advent is to win as many people to his side as possible, even if this divides the world in two, but never violently. Jesus never wielded a sword against anyone, and in Matt. 10:34 he does not order his followers to swing one either, in order to kill their family opponents or for any reason. But a true disciple who is worthy of following Christ and who comes from a possibly hostile family has to be ready for a sword to be wielded against him that sever away all family ties. He may even have to take up his cross, as his family may “crucify” him – another metaphorical instrument for the disciples. Or the cross symbolizes his dying to self-will. Either way, he may have to suffer abandonment from his family, a division. It is true that Jesus divides the world into two camps or kingdoms, those who follow him, and those who do not, those in the light, and those in the dark. However, he never tells his followers to wage war on everyone else, and certainly not on one’s family. If people in the second camp do not convert, they will not be harassed with swords, even if they persecute believers.
See the difference between responsible and irresponsible, strawmannising and scapegoating, genuinely out-of-context handling of the text? And BTW, Jesus did send a fire into the World, the Holy Spirit who came in tongues of flame at Pentecost. Did you know that the baptism he was about to undergo was that of his sufferings, peacefully submitted to in a context where when someone tried to swing a sword in his defence, he rebuked him, saying -- ironically in some respects given the kangaroo courts he was about to face at the hands of both Gentile and Jewish elites [power tends to corrupt] -- that those who live by the sword will die by it. In short, you have presented us with some classic, village skeptic scripture twisting. Please, do better than that. See you later. KF kairosfocus
TM: And . . .? Your attempt at [im]moral equivalency falls sadly flat. There are rather specific circumstances and individuals whose persistent and incorrigibly stubborn misbehaviour led to those strong words; such as "Go tell that fox . . ." to messengers of the client king who murdered Jesus' cousin for telling him that he should not have seduced his brother's wife on a visit to Rome and then stolen her from him (evidently with her connivance -- she it is who told Salome to ask for John's head once that degraded young miss had enflamed Herod by a "wutliss" dance). Then, there was that rebuke by swinging a whip in the temple courts and overturning the tables of the money-changers, on turning a house of prayer into a den of thieves. This is worlds apart from what Mr Savage did, where he spoke at a conference of high school students on bullying, and took advantage of his privilege to vent his spleen on those who had no alternative. Don't forget, he used vulgarities to dismiss the ethics of the scriptures; i.e. the exact tactics used by Aiden, the band that Mr Dawkins chose to share a stage with, managing to twist them into a strawman caricature in the meanwhile. And, he tried to poison minds by irresponsibly misrepresenting the scriptures on social evils. In short, you have just shown us one of the tactics of the enablers of this sort of misbehaviour: twist-about accusations intended to embroil the issue in a swirl of accusations of immoral equivalency. And, in so doing, you have managed to irresponsibly handle the same scriptures. Please, do better next time. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
Jesus Christ (again): I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. tragic mishap
The real problem with civil society in the US in my opinion, is that your libel and slander laws have become a mess in light of Supreme Court rulings that in effect remove proper protections.
Yeah well that's because we believe in free speech over here. Have fun when your overlords start telling you you can't say Islam is wrong but yet can't preach the name of Christ. Oh wait, that's already happening. [--> I take the step of an editorial comment: TM here twists the issue of duties of care regarding truth and fairness to the reputations of others, a key issue in Tort, into immoral equivalency to the Islamists' attempt to secure immunity from criticism. This implies all sorts of improper and snide insinuations that are completely out of order. Stop it. In addition, TM, I think you need to understand that "your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins," and just so, your right to wag your tongue ends where you do unjust harm by libel or slander. (Notice, what happened in the US starting with Sullivan in the 1960's. The folly of confusing free and open debate with defamation, and imagining that sanctions against the latter would have a chilling effect on the former, is evident from hundreds of years of experience in dozens of jurisdictions. Cf here a typical Commonwealth libel law, from Canada. Notice, the plea in mitigation of DAMAGES: "In an action for a libel in a broadcast, the defendant may plead in mitigation of damages that the libel was broadcast without actual malice and without gross negligence and that before the commencement of the action, or at the earliest opportunity afterwards, the defendant broadcast a full apology for the libel." See the saner balance? And the pretence that defamation is merely free speech and one only objects because s/he hates freedom stinks, MI.) Do, please, re-read James in the OP on the conflagration that unjust and destructive words can do. The Westmoreland case of about 30 years ago is one that shows just how badly awry the laws of tort have gone astray in the US, where willfully false accusations -- look up the was it CBS story on "the uncounted enemy" on the run-up to the 1968 Tet offensive -- that did harm were given a pass because of a flimsy judicial construct. Doing unjust harm to the reputation of another is not merely free speech, TM. If you think it is, you need to do some serious rethinking. KF] tragic mishap
Jesus Christ: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. Paul: Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. God: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. tragic mishap
PS: I forgot. Actually, even in a war, there are rules, formal and informal. That's why there are war crimes, and it is why those who start out on the path of atrocities bring down a terrible vengeance on themselves and their survivors, unless of course, they win; which is what will reduce the defeated to horrific slavery and despotism, triggering desperate rebellions and the horrors that follow. The real problem with civil society in the US in my opinion, is that your libel and slander laws have become a mess in light of Supreme Court rulings that in effect remove proper protections. (I still remember the shock of the gen Westmoreland case on a deceptive, irresponsible and slanderous news story.) The issue of duties of care and fairness needs to be revisited in your law, but given the balance of power, that is going to be a hard reformation to pull off. kairosfocus
MI TM (oops): Thanks for your thoughts. There is of course much more to the Bible's handling of social evils, but I gave a pivotal text that must illuminate how we read ANY such text on such a topic. (Cf the remarks I made on slavery here on in context [and linked from the last thread], dealing with government and particularly the rise of modern liberty.) I draw particular attention to:
Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you - although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. [1 Cor 7:21 - 23.]; . . . . It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery . . . . You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbour as yourself." If you keep biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. [Gal. 5:1, 13 - 15.] The law is good if one uses it properly . . . [it] is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders [KJV: menstealers] and liars and perjurers - and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God. [1 Tim 1:8 - 11, emphasis added] If a man is caught kidnapping one of his brother Israelites and treats him as a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from among you. [Deut. 24:7. Cf. Lev. 24:22: "You are to have the same law for the alien and the native born . . ."]
It is worth drawing attention, also, to:
. . . there were questions about [Christian] compromise with the political and social system. Gregory of Nyssa boldly attacked the institution of slavery. Augustine thought the domination of man over his neighbour an inherent wrong, but saw no way of ending it and concluded that, since the ordering of society prevented the misery of anarchic disintegration, slavery was both a consequence of the fall of man and at the same time a wrong that providence prevented from being wholly harmful. Slaves were not a very large proportion of the ancient labour force, since the cost of a slave to his owner exceeded that of employing free wage-labourers. Slaves in a good household with a reasonable master enjoyed a security and standard of living that seldom came the way of free wage labourers. But not all slaves had good masters, and in special cases the bishops used the church chest to pay the cost of emancipation. Refusal on moral grounds to own slaves became a rule for monasteries. [Henry Chadwick, "Envoi: On taking Leave of Antiquity," in The Oxford History of the Roman World, Eds. Boardman, Griffin & Murray, (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press paperback, 1991), p. 471. Links added. NB: In the very next paragraph, the contributor goes on to discuss how the church also deeply disapproved of capital punishment [which in many cases of course would be by the utterly degrading death on the cross, and which would thus sharply contrast with Paul's remarks on the magistrates' power of the sword in Rom 13:1 - 7] and judicial torture. Indeed, he notes that "[a] Roman church-order of about 200 forbids a Christian magistrate to order an execution on pain of excommunication. No Christian layman could tolerably bring a charge against anyone if the penalty might be execution or a beating with lead-weighted leather thongs . . . Torture forced so many innocent people to confess to crimes they had not committed that the Christian hatred of it commanded wide assent . . ." In short, the picture is far more complex than we might have thought.]
What of course happened over the past 500 years, was that a new form of slavery arose, and was embedded in power systems by the high profits it made from blood, unpaid toil, sweat and tears. It was a hard fight to defeat it. And, in that fight the first two steps taken were to go for the low-hanging fruit: the kidnapping-based trade, and the abusive treatment of slaves. It is worth noting that the first key legal step in the British Empire was a ruling in the UK on the received common law that once a slave made it to England, he was free; in a case where an owner tried to recapture a slave and take him back to labour in the sugar cane fields. Free because there was no warrant for enslavement under English common law. That law had been shaped by precisely the principles and history just outlined. Then, the logical question was, why was this tolerated anywhere that the British flag flew? But so entrenched were the interests that it took the growth of the Methodist/Evangelical revival and similar movements to create a critical mass that could overturn it. As to the US political battles, I have but little directly to say, other than that ethics applies. I do think however that one of the key principles must be that those who sow divisions through disrespect and personal attacks are wrong and are to be curbed. Those who insist on playing by Saul Alinski's rules, should be exposed, exposed as destructive, cynically manipulative and dangerous. Willfully, irresponsibly playing with fire. They must be rebuked, exposed and resolutely opposed. KF kairosfocus
First of all, even though the Bible considers slavery something to be "ameliorated" as you say, I would consider it a debatable matter under Romans 14. If that was Mr. Savage's argument, then he would have a point. Unfortunately he claimed the Bible advocated slavery. It doesn't, and that's where he went wrong. What we today should take from this, since slavery isn't really a live issue for most of us, is that we shouldn't use the Bible to pound people over the head when the Bible does not take a clear black and white stand on the issue. Homosexuality is an example where the Bible does take a clear stand, but there are many issues where it doesn't. Secondly, the opponents of traditional morality have been winning politically because they realize we are in a war. In a war there are no rules. You do what works. If polarization tactics work, we should use them. Conservatives have been trying for too long to remove polarization in the hopes of remaining objective. All this has done is served notice that if one side takes an extreme point of view we will meet them halfway every time. Thus over time, conservatives will be slowly beaten into submission. It also puts conservatives in the position of not realizing that we have very real enemies that must be resisted with everything we have. So despite the fact that we greatly outnumber the enemy, most of us aren't fighting because our own leaders tell us there's really no disagreement here, no war, nothing worth getting upset about. I say it's time we realized we are in a war and start acting like it. The only other choice is to lose it. The world will suffer if we do. tragic mishap

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