The New York Times, through what it is calling “The 1619 Project,” has decided to rewrite American history by identifying the date of our “true founding” as August 20, 1619, 400 years ago today. The Times has picked that date because that’s the day when “20. and odd Negroes” (sic) were off-loaded from a Dutch man-of-war in Jamestown, Virginia and slavery first came ashore in what became the United States.
There is no question that slavery was our original sin as a nation, much as abortion is our great and grievous national sin today. Much blood was shed in the slave trade, and the Bible indicates that the only way a land can be purified from the shedding of innocent blood is by the shedding of blood. “You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it” (Numbers 35:33). The blood of 600,000 American brothers, fathers, and sons was spilled on American soil in the Civil War to atone for the sin of involuntary servitude. (It is a sobering thing to think of the amount of American blood which must be shed to atone for the innocent blood of 60 million babies.)
Thus atonement, to the degree that it is humanly possible, has been made for the sin of slavery. And reparations, to the degree they are humanly possible, have been made through the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, through the Civil Rights legislation of 1964 and 1965, and through generous government subsidies for housing, welfare, health care, and food.
The Times is making a shameless play to shame modern Americans – especially white ones – into an unending series of abject apologies for something they did not do and had no part in.
One huge problem in all this is that many Americans falsely believe that slavery is endorsed in the Bible. This a lie that simply will not die, a lie in some cases aided and abetted by careless Christians who have misinterpreted and misapplied the actual text of the Bible to see sanction for a practice the Scriptures explicitly prohibit.
It must be stated as unambiguously as possible: slavery as practiced in the United States is flatly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments.
While the Old Testament is often cited as giving approval to slavery, the truth is actually quite the opposite. Moses flatly prohibited the slave trade under penalty of death. “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:16). This is precisely the kind of slavery that was practiced in America. Men were stolen (e.g., from the continent of Africa) and sold, first to slave traders and then to slave owners, who would then of course, “be found in possession” of forbidden human flesh.
But if the Word of God had been applied as written, then those who kidnapped Africans, sold them to white slave traders, and those who acquired them would have committed a capital crime, each and every one of them.
It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that if the Bible had been followed from the beginning of our history as a nation, slavery never would have existed in the United States. The reason is simple: everyone who participated in any part of it would have been apprehended and hung by the neck until dead.
The slave trade is flatly prohibited in the New Testament as well. Paul speaks in 1 Timothy of the proper role of the law. He first points out that the law “is not laid down for the just,” who do not need the external coercion of the law to make responsible social choices. Their internal value system will guide their conduct in culture-affirming directions. As James Madison put it, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
But, alas, law is in fact necessary because not all men are angels. Criminal law is needed “for the lawless and disobedient…for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, (and) perjurers…” (1 Timothy 1:9-10, ESV).
The word translated “enslavers” (andropodistes) literally means a “man who brings others to his feet.” The lexicons define the word this way: “a slave dealer, kidnapper, man-stealer, one who unjustly reduces free men to slavery, or steals slaves of others and sells them.”
So in point of fact, the entire Judeo-Christian tradition from day one has been adamantly opposed to the trade which made slavery possible here.
If a strictly biblical code had been followed that fateful August day in 1619 when that slave ship pulled into port, the slave trader who captained that vessel would have been arrested the moment he landed, prosecuted, and strung up. The slaves on board would have been returned to their families and their homelands, and slavery would never have gained a foothold in the United States.
But instead, because the Scriptures and its plain teaching were ignored, slavery became our first national sin, as abortion is today.
By the way, the first legally recognized slave in America, John Casor, was actually the property of a black man, a colonist by the name of Anthony Johnson. A Northampton County court ruled in 1654 that Casor was “owned” by Johnson, and was his property for life. There were many black slaveholders in the South at the outbreak of the Civil War, and many of them took up arms against the North.
Here’s how Thomas Sowell puts it: “[T]here were thousands of … blacks in the antebellum south who were commercial slave owners, just like their white counterparts. An estimated one-third of the ‘free persons of color’ in New Orleans were slaveowners and thousands of these slave owners volunteered to fight for the Confederacy…”
Now it must be noted that the civil code of ancient Israel did provide, as America has, for two kinds of morally permissible servitude. The first was indentured servitude, which was voluntary and had statutory limits after which emancipation was required. As many as two-thirds of the English settlers who came to America in the 17th century came as indentured servants.
Ancient Israel also allowed prisoners of war to be reduced to involuntary servitude, just as the United States has done in its history. The alternative to custody, of course, is death, since military threats must be neutralized one way or another. Since life beats death in the value system of most people, permitting the involuntary servitude of enemy soldiers captured on the field of battle is a life-affirming alternative to getting lined up against a wall and shot.
Planeloads of German POWs were brought to the South during World War II and worked in the fields until the end of the war. We couldn’t release them back into Germany before the end of the war, where they could take up arms again and kill us, and we didn’t want to execute them. Servitude was the only compassionate alternative. It was the same in ancient Israel.
So if the early colonists had followed either the Old or New Testaments, the slave trade would have been treated as a criminal enterprise from the very beginning, and America never would have been plagued with all the myriad evils that slavery and racism have brought to our land.
The slaves who were brought here in chains in 1619 were Africans who had been kidnapped by other Africans and sold to slave traders who in turn brought them to America. The kidnappers, the ones who went into the interior of Africa to capture their fellow Africans to sell them into bondage, were predominantly Muslims.
In fact, according to Thomas Sowell, a million or more Europeans were enslaved by Muslim pirates from North Africa from 1500-1800, and whites were sold at slave auctions in Egypt until at least the year 1885. Muslims still openly practice slavery today in places like Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
Muhammad himself practiced slavery, and directed his followers to do the same. Since Muhammad is the ultimate role model for Muslims, and Muslims believe that everything he did will be worthy of imitation until the end of time, slavery will always have moral approval in Islam.
Estimates are that over 17 million slaves were transported out of Africa by Islamic slave traders, and a staggering 85 million are believed to have died en route. About 645,000 of those wound up in what became the United States.
Muslims have been the biggest slave traders in human history, by cosmic proportions. Slavery was enthusiastically endorsed by Muhammad in the “holy” Koran and is still widely practiced in Muslim lands to this day.
Quoting Sowell: “…the region of West Africa…was one of the great slave-trading regions of the continent – before, during, and after the white man arrived. It was Africans who enslaved their fellow Africans, selling some of these slaves to Europeans or to Arabs and keeping others for themselves. Even at the peak of the Atlantic slave trade, Africans retained more slaves for themselves than they sent to the Western Hemisphere…Arabs were the leading slave raiders in East Africa, ranging over an area larger than all of Europe.” (Emphasis mine.)
In simple terms, we committed our first national sin by following the principles of the Koran instead of the Bible. Now, in contrast to Islam and Sharia, the Judeo-Christian tradition from day one has been adamantly opposed to the slave trade.
As Sowell has pointed out, the real question is not what created slavery but what ended it. Conservative Christians – we would call them evangelicals today – brought this horrific and barbaric practice to an end.
Sowell: “While slavery was common to all civilizations, as well as to peoples considered uncivilized, only one civilization developed a moral revulsion against it, very late in its history…not even the leading moralists in other civilizations rejected slavery at all….Moreover, within Western civilization, the principal impetus for the abolition of slavery came first from very conservative religious activists – people who would today be called ‘the religious right.’…this story is not ‘politically correct’ in today’s terms. Hence it is ignored, as if it never happened.” (Emphasis mine.)
Bottom line: If the Scriptures had been followed, there would have been no slavery in America, no Civil War with its loss of 600,000 American lives to secure the emancipation of slaves, and no lasting, enduring racial unrest. Biblical Christianity, as always, is not the problem. It is the solution.
But sadly, we made our first concession to Sharia law in 1619 instead of being guided by the wisdom of Scripture, and we have paid a terrible price for it.
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(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NorthWest Connection, American Family Association, or American Family Radio.)