Trump and Slavery

Some conservative Christians have apologized many times for being on the wrong side of history, including on issues of slavery, misogyny, and anti-Semitism. I believe Christians will one day apologize for metaphorically embracing Donald Trump as a false savior.

Biblical literalists found it easy to embrace slavery, misogyny, and anti-Semitism because the Bible accepts and even encourages such prejudices.

Slaves are told to obey their masters with fear and trembling (Ephesians 6:5) and to submit and give satisfaction to their masters in every respect (Titus 2:9). The Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:19) tells us not to covet our neighbor’s house, wife, slaves, donkey, or any other property, and condones slavery and treating women as property. Nowhere does the Bible condemn slavery. Christian opponents of slavery promoted biblical (and humanistic) principles of justice and equality, while having to ignore many contrary passages.

Defenders of slavery not only argued that it was divinely sanctioned, but that it also brought Christianity to the heathen from across the ocean. My fellow South Carolinian John C. Calhoun said, "Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually." I live in Charleston, one block away from a prominent statue of Calhoun on a street that also bears his name.

As for women, the Bible says they are not to teach or have authority over man (1 Tim. 2:11); the head of every man is Christ and the head of woman is the man (1 Cor. 11:3); woman was created for the sake of man (I Cor. 11:9); a capable wife rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant girls (Proverbs 31: 15). Countless women were burned to death and drowned because of Exodus 22:18: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Jews have fared poorly with passages like “Jesus’s blood be on Jews and on their children” (Mathew 27:25) and “The Devil is father of the Jews” (John 8:44).

When a culture matures enough to find statements in ancient holy books to be ridiculous, believers either ignore such portions or find creative interpretations for what God really meant. Atheists like me decide on how best to behave without appealing to divine authority or so-called holy books, and sometimes we agree with biblical passages that still make sense today.

I can easily quote scripture to show that Donald Trump’s values are inconsistent with almost any biblical (or secular) morality. For instance, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25); to be perfect, sell your possessions and give them to the poor (Matt. 19: 21); if someone slaps you on the cheek, turn to him the other (Luke 6:29). (I couldn’t find a biblical passage that says, “Slap him back ten times harder.”)

And here is biblical guidance that I think almost every American wishes Donald Trump would heed: He who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11); the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15).

Donald Trump has inadvertently exposed the hypocrisy of many evangelicals who voted for him, and continue to support him despite his deplorable behavior in office. Do they now suggest that a candidate’s religious beliefs might not really matter so much? Apparently, many Christians can rationalize ignoring much of what Jesus advised to focus exclusively on opposing abortion.

Yet even when it comes to abortion, I find it difficult to come up with a biblical justification for assigning personhood to a fetus. Quite the contrary, Exodus 21: 22-25 indicates that a man who hurts a pregnant woman and causes her to have a miscarriage should only be fined. But if the woman dies, the penalty is death. In other words, fetuses are not biblically considered to be fully human life.

I never thought I would say this about any American president, but for the first timealla ever I agree more on public policy with the Pope than with the President. This includes social justice and human rights issues, immigration guidelines, and respect for scientific findings like climate change. Also refreshing is that the Pope can disagree on issues without being disagreeable or demeaning.

Just to be fair and balanced, I’ll mention an area in which I agree more with President Trump than with Pope Francis. I’ve been married to the same woman for much longer than Donald Trump has been married to any of his three wives. However, unlike Pope Francis and the Catholic Church, I agree with Trump that divorce should be a viable option. I’m also OK with sex between unmarried, consenting adults. So, I disagree with Pope Francis when he remains faithful to untenable religious dogma to which he feels bound.

I just wish President Trump would be faithful to, or at least acknowledge, the guarantees in our secular Constitution and Bill of Rights, which include freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceably assemble. There must be no religious tests for public office and the government may not promote one religion over another, or religion over nonreligion. Civil or reasonable discourse is not constitutionally guaranteed, but I think it’s an aspirational goal that would help make America great again.

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