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Monday, July 9, 2012

Pat Robertson: The Bible Is "Terribly Wrong"

Posted by on Mon, Jul 9, 2012 at 1:39 PM

Right Wing Watch:

Apparently, we can pick and choose parts of the Bible after all, says Pat Robertson. When asked on the 700 Club today why some believe “America was founded as a Christian nation” even though it allowed slavery, Robertson said, “like it or not, if you read the Bible in the Old Testament, slavery was permitted.” But Robertson concluded that despite what the Bible says, “We have moved in our conception of the value of human beings until we realized slavery was terribly wrong.” Of course, when Dan Savage made a similar point about the Bible (albeit with saltier language), the Religious Right was irate.

Pat Robertson is half right: Yes, the Old Testament permits slavery. But so does the New Testament. Here's a little something from Ephesians:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

I was accused of "attacking" Christianity when I told a room of 3,000 high school journalists that we could—that we must—learn to ignore what the bible says about homosexuality just as we learned to ignore what the bible says about slavery. (Twenty-two Christian students walked out, the other 2978 students—most of them Christian—stayed for the rest of the speech.) I'm not interested in relitigating Bullshitgate. (My posts about the controversy are here and here.) But I would like to take this opportunity to point out that LGBT people aren't asking conservative Christians to do anything they aren't already doing. We're asking conservative Christians to ignore what the bible says about homosexuality just as they ignore what the bible says about slavery. (They ignore what the bible says about slavery so thoroughly that many don't know that the bible says anything about slavery at all!)

Christians moved in their "conception of the value of human beings" before and they can do it again.


Comments (29) RSS

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OutInBumF 1
The hypocrisy knows no bounds.....grrrr.
Posted by OutInBumF on July 9, 2012 at 2:02 PM · Report this
Well said. It appears Robertson is making your point for you. Christian apologists do have a way of using context to their own liking, so I am skeptical this will convince anyone. As far as I can tell, the way you are supposed to read the Bible is: decide what your value system is, then read the Bible in a way that supports your value system. Then use this reading as a kind of "evidence" to convert others to your value system.

I've read enough of the Bible to think this process is better than the alternative of actually ascribing to the moral code in the Bible, which is pretty atrocious. The trick is then to convince the religious folk that being gay is moral, then they will proceed to read the Bible in a way that supports that position. This is why conceding Biblical "truth" to theists is a waste of time-- they are going to read whatever they damn well please in that book. Better to convince them with non-religious arguments and trust their religious subconscious to smooth out the inconsistencies.
Posted by wxPDX on July 9, 2012 at 2:03 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 3
The bible was written by the ignorant for the ignorant. I ignore the whole fucking thing. And so do billions of others.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on July 9, 2012 at 2:04 PM · Report this
The amusing part is that not only does the Bible promote slavery, but even so its attitude towards slavery was actually more enlightened than that of the antebellum South - you couldn't be born into slavery, and slaves must be manumitted every seven years, iirc.
Posted by Warren Terra on July 9, 2012 at 2:05 PM · Report this
very bad homo 5
I'd encourage people to ignore the bible entirely.
Posted by very bad homo on July 9, 2012 at 2:08 PM · Report this
sikandro 6
Is that like saying that Jesus' injunction to turn the other cheek "permits" violence?
Posted by sikandro on July 9, 2012 at 2:09 PM · Report this
Original Andrew 7
Religion didn't cause these people to be horrible assholes, it's just the excuse.
Posted by Original Andrew on July 9, 2012 at 2:16 PM · Report this
Heck, the Paul's letter to Philemon is a letter exhorting a man to take a runaway slave back into his service and to forgive the slave for wronging him. Of course the New Testament permitted slavery.
Posted by Sheryl on July 9, 2012 at 2:28 PM · Report this
Fnarf 9
Pat Robertson is full-bore evil, about as far from "Christian" as it is possible to get. Check out his slave-operated gold mining interests in Africa and his associations with Liberian butcher Charles Taylor. The man has blood on his hands.
Posted by Fnarf on July 9, 2012 at 2:45 PM · Report this
I'm not sure if the Bible ever technically condones slavery... but it does permit it and regulate it. That is, the Bible itself didn't establish slavery, it just dealt with the fact of slavery within its context. It didn't forbid it, of course, and if you're someone who thinks slavery is abhorrent no matter what the time period context, I think that should be a mark against the notion that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and/or God is an purely good and moral being (for any useful definition of "good"). I don't know how anyone can suggest that either God or the Bible are sources of altruism (usually invoked as a criticism for altruism arising through natural selection). Sources of practical Bronze Age tribal governance is more like it.

Along similar lines, I consider it unfair to attack the US Constitution as a document condoning slavery. In fact, many of the authors were not particularly happy with slavery, but as a body they knew they would never get a concession from the southern delegates on that point. The much derided 3/5 compromise was a compromise to limit the political power of slave owning states (newsflash: slaves couldn't vote anyway, so counting them for the purposes of apportioning federal representatives only benefited their owners, who could vote; today the same trick goes on with federal inmates). It would have been better if slaves were counted as 0/5 of a person for these purposes! Thus, the sections of the Constitution dealing with slaves and slavery were a practical compromise that put political union above the moral cause. I think a case could be made that without that political union, the moral cause would have had a much more uphill battle. Lincoln fought the Civil War under the auspices of preserving a union... without the concessions to slavery in the Constitution, there may not have been a union for Lincoln to preserve; on the the other hand, we might all be part of the Commonwealth, and slavery might have been abolished in 1833, per the Slavery Abolition Act; although this seems unlikely given that they made exceptions for India and some other territories, and likely would have had to for the US for the same reason the Constitutional Convention had to.

But I digress. It's not really that shocking that an 82-year old man with a history of saying crazy things starts saying sane things in his old age. He probably just ran out of crazy.
Posted by madcap on July 9, 2012 at 2:49 PM · Report this
@4 I think those rules may only have applied to Israelite slaves.
Posted by madcap on July 9, 2012 at 2:50 PM · Report this
@11, you are correct. The rules for Jewish slaves, as opposed to non-Jewish slaves, were very different.

Most Jewish "slaves" were what we would think of as indentured servants, and usually occurred because one Jew couldn't pay the debt s/he owed to another, so became their servant to pay it off. Once the debt is paid, the "slave" is no longer a slave and is free to go.

There were also strict rules about how a Jewish slave could be treated - minimal to no beatings, no "mating" with another Jewish or non-Jewish slave. In fact, Jewish slaves were often married at the time of their enslavement and it was the owner's responsibility to not break up the family and to provide food and shelter for the Jewish slave's Jewish family. Any children born to the Jewish slave was considered the Jewish slave's child and could not be sold.

Finally there was the Sabbatical year - every seven years when the land was supposed to lie fallow, all debts were forgiven, and Israelite slaves were freed.

On the other hand, Non-Jewish slaves taken from another nation, especially one that they just conquered, were slaves in the Southern Antebellum sense - no rights, could be bought or born into slavery, could be mated with other non-Jewish slaves at the owners desire, children could be sold off thereby separating families, etc.

So, slavery as it existed in the South in the US in the 1800s did exist and was condoned in the Bible.

And Dan is right, we finally learned to ignore that part of the Bible, so why can't we ignore the parts about homosexuality and how to treat women?
Posted by SherBee on July 9, 2012 at 3:15 PM · Report this
"Along similar lines, I consider it unfair to attack the US Constitution as a document condoning slavery."

Unfair or not, it is correct.
And it was written that way because (as you noted) certain states would not have joined had it been different.

But that is completely unlike The Bible which (again, as you noted) is the "is the inerrant word of God".

God did not need to negotiate with anyone over slavery.
God did not need to compromise with anyone over slavery.
God could have ended slavery with a Word.
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on July 9, 2012 at 3:29 PM · Report this
@9 actually I'd say he is a pretty good Christian, if by Christian you mean "one who believes and follows the Bible". That book has quite a lot of moral atrocities. If the Christian god is real, that guy is an asshole.…
Posted by wxPDX on July 9, 2012 at 3:35 PM · Report this
Ophian 15
I've got to disagree with all y'alls who are pushing for total ignorance of the Bible. I think it is a wonderful document, one of the seminal works of western literature, and an archelogical treasure. Anyone who wishes to be culturally aware should be familiar with the text.

That being said, it is no good as an "instruction manual to life" in the present age. I mean, duh.
Posted by Ophian on July 9, 2012 at 3:37 PM · Report this
Ophian 16
Also the Bible is a _Iron Age_ document.

To go back to the Bronze Age you'd get to the Minoans for whom the Goddess, the Serpent and the Tree were the central story of the generative powers of the universe.

The Bible--especially Genesis--is a direct inversion of Bronze Age symbols. E.g. if you read The Book of Jonah upsidedown it makes much more sense. God, the Noboddady, is a total prick, the creature of the Deep helps the protagonist. I know who I'm cheering for.

For a good laugh look up Nehushtan.
Posted by Ophian on July 9, 2012 at 3:46 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 17
This should come as no surprise if you remember that Christianity was originally a slave's religion. A Roman Empire that thrived on slavery was threatened by the redemptive aspects of that religion, so the co-opting began and resulted in the Roman Catholic church. That form of slavery never went away.
Posted by Sir Vic on July 9, 2012 at 4:05 PM · Report this
The US Constitution allowed slavery.

OMG!! The US Constitution is TERRIBLY WRONG!!!
Posted by can someone find danny a dry pair of panties? on July 9, 2012 at 4:16 PM · Report this
@15 You are correct. It is a important work of literature and part of western culture. Just that. Fiction.
Posted by JJinAus on July 9, 2012 at 5:21 PM · Report this
Conservative christians are quite liberal about much of the bullshit in the bible. They are liberal about divorce, even though Jesus condemned it and said if you re-marry you are an adulterer. They are liberal about child-rearing, even though the bible says to murder disobedient kids. They are only conservative about us, and abortion.
Posted by Lan on July 9, 2012 at 5:29 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 21
The "New" testament also endorses slavery. The book of Philemon is about a run away slave.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on July 9, 2012 at 5:36 PM · Report this
malcolmxy 22
The bible is also quite anti-slavery.

Porn, from the Latin, Porn, referred to females who performed sexual favors for money (you can find that definition in any dictionary). However, these females were also slaves who were forced into this line of work.

The bible is incredible anti-pornea, though the word has been misinterpreted to mean any kind of sex now (or purposefully changed, since every other word with PORN as the root means one thing, and one thing only).

Also, I'm pretty sure a lot of the slave stuff is metaphor for God, since Jews were slaves of various nations for so long, and I can't believe they enjoyed this arrangement.
Posted by malcolmxy on July 9, 2012 at 7:34 PM · Report this
BEG 23
It's okay! Pat Robertson still fucking hates women (though he's probably fine with still fucking them [over] <- couldn't resist). So the windbag always has some stupid shit going on.
Posted by BEG!/browneyedgirl65 on July 9, 2012 at 8:58 PM · Report this
18: first sentence, past tense and correct.
2nd sentence: current tense and no longer true as regards slavery.

This should not be a difficult concept.

Constitution can be amended because it was known it wasn't anywhere near perfect...and if it were, times change and it wouldn't remain so. Likewise science theories.

Religious books tend to be considered the final word forever.
At best, you can change interpretation and emphasis....or just go discover lost books which tend to be written in surprisingly recent materials.
Posted by david on July 9, 2012 at 11:06 PM · Report this
Oh the irony and sheer hypocrisy! Christians take too many liberties with the bible for them to use it as a conclusive evidence of their homophobia...and yet they do.
Posted by Novia on July 9, 2012 at 11:54 PM · Report this
Hey, Dan, the Religious Right doesn't ignore Bible passages about slavery altogether. In fact it uses them to justify anti-union and anti-worker politics. In 1990, Ralph Reed co-authored a Christian Coalition leadership manual that used slaves-obey-your-masters verses to argue on behalf of a slave-master approach to employee-employer relationships. See the quote in this article on the Religious Right and right-wing economics:…
Posted by PeteMont on July 10, 2012 at 8:02 AM · Report this
Posted by destroyerr on July 10, 2012 at 9:42 AM · Report this
It's strange that a religion (Christianity) would not only survive, but become one of the largest world religions after:

1) their founder was murdered
2) their entire movement was persecuted ruthlessly by both the Jewish religious leadership AND the Romans
3) they believe that a man was THE God (not just a God)
4) they believe that man rose from the dead -- and appeared to over 500 people alive in the following 40 days after his resurrection
5) their holy book, the Bible, which has stories of horrible events (murders, adultery, wars, and genocide) would be the most widely sold book in the world by a huge margin.

I mean, maybe you think it's a crock of $***, but for being so utterly foolish and persecuted and attacked, the religion hasn't actually ever disappeared in 2000 years, and it's showing no signs of disappearing today.

Either a huge section of humanity is insane or maybe there's something to this Jesus guy after all.
Posted by zcochran88 on July 13, 2012 at 12:10 PM · Report this
@28 Ah, the old "it's been around for so long, so it must be true" argument. Sigh. You could say the same about slavery itself. It's been around for far, far longer than Christianity...and still exists in many forms going by your logic, "Either a huge section of humanity is insane or maybe there's something to this slavery business after all." I'll go with the former reason. Or more accurately, replace the legal term "insane" with the more precise term "sociopathic."
Let's go ahead and dismantle your arguments one by one.
1. Big deal. Lots of people who led various institutions get murdered, from kings and queens to leaders of secret societies. The United Kingdom still exists, despite a good number of their monarchs getting run in through swords or beheaded. What's your point?
2. And as soon as they seized power via Constantine, the Christians literally got medieval on their former Jewish and pagan Roman persecutors' asses. Payback's a bitch.
3. Monotheism. How original. Been there, done that. (Amenhotep, anyone?)
4. Appeared to 500 people...all documented in that historically unassailable document, the Bible.
5. What are you, the Bible's publishing agent? You looking for a blurb? What does that prove? You could point at the Koran's runaway publishing success too. Let's go ahead and ignore the fact that these and other holy books provide the underpinnings of political power (e.g. the divine right of kings, justification of slavery, etc etc etc), so of course they'll be widely disseminated and become required reading for everyone, regardless of what anyone thinks of it.
All we ask is that you Christians stop shoving your Bronze Age ideals on us. We've graduated up to steel, for heaven's sake.
Posted by Baron Groznik on February 26, 2014 at 2:01 PM · Report this

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