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Monday, 18 November 2013

Slavery, Colonialism and Christianity

Museum of London Docklands: portrait of William Wilberforce, whose Christian faith prompted him to successfully campaign against slavery

My analysis of my reader Tony's attacks on Christianity, after Support for Christianity Should Not Alienate People and How Christian Charity Developed Western Ethics, Hospitals, Schools, continues. On the subject of slavery he writes:
The Bible actually condones slavery Enza. I can send you verse after verse from the Old Testament where God tells his people how to treat slaves, how they should be sold etc. Never once does the OT teach that slavery is wrong. In the New Testament neither Jesus nor Paul call for slavery to be abolished. On the contrary they provide teaching on how to treat slaves. The Bible was used as justification for slavery in the early colonies of America. Furthermore slavery was spread around the world as Christian Western powers built their Empires. One Pope, Nicholas V, actually issued a papal bull in 1452 authorising slavery of captured Muslims.
Here we find again the problem that I briefly mentioned in a previous article: Tony's failure to recognise the break between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Christian part of the Bible is the New Testament.

Although we can talk of a Judaeo-Christian tradition, we cannot talk of a Judaeo-Christian religion. These are two separate and different religions.

St Paul compared the condition of the world (including the Old Testament) before the advent of the religion of Jesus to a child-like, immature state.

Christ said: “The law and the prophets were until John [the Baptist]: from that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached” (Luke 16:16).

In addition, just about everything that Tony says about slavery comes to nothing for one simple reason: you cannot discuss a historical subject abstracting it from a historical context.

When we talk about slavery, we may forget that we are looking with modern eyes at an institution that has been part of human history in virtually all cultures.

No culture on the globe has ever questioned the morality of slavery, no culture has ever effectively abolished it. Only in relatively recent times this has been done - and it was Christians who did it.

If Tony, and all of us, reject slavery it is because we were born in the Christian West, regardless of whether we consider ourselves Christian individually or not. Or, as the great Oriana Fallaci, who was among the first to alert the West to the dangers of Islam after 9/11 and who called herself a "Christian atheist", said: "We are all Christian".

Very early the Church baptised slaves and treated them as human beings equal to all others in dignity. They were allowed to marry, be ordained, and some became saints.

St. Isidore of Seville (born about 560 AD) said: "God has made no difference between the soul of the slave and that of the freedman."

His teaching has its roots in St. Paul's First Epistle to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:10), which condemns slave traders and places them among the sinful and lawbreakers, and Epistle to Philemon. In the latter, Paul writes that he is returning fugitive slave Onesimus to his master Philemon, but he urges Philemon to regard Onesimus as a beloved brother.

Historian Rodney Stark writes in The Victory of Reason:
Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. [Emphasis added]
This was during the "Dark Ages".

Later, when the Spanish Conquistadores were enslaving South American Indians and importing African black slaves, their main adversary was the Catholic bishop and missionary Bartolomé de Las Casas, "Protector of the Indians", who devoted 50 years of his life actively fighting slavery and the abuse of native populations.

His efforts led to a greater focus on the ethics of colonialism and to many improvements in the legal status of indigenous peoples, including a 1542 Spanish law prohibiting the enslavement of Indians. Las Casas is considered as one of the first advocates for universal human rights.

In 1537 Pope Paul III issued the papal bull Sublimus Dei against the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the continent of America, who were non-Christian. A papal bull is a document of rare importance and significance, formal and profoundly authoritative. Sublimus Dei shows in an exceptionally meaningful way the Christian approach to slavery as early as in the Renaissance:
We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ.
Yes, slavery persisted, and sometimes received ecclesiastical permission. Yes, supporters of slavery before the American Civil War used the Bible as justification for it. But abolitionists could easily point out that slavery was against the whole Christian message of love for your brother and neighbour like for yourself and equality of all men before God.

If we are too attached to and fixated on the letter of the Scriptures, we risk losing the most important part, their spirit, the whole picture, namely the message that Jesus conveyed with all His entire life, His words and His actions.

He was not a slave owner, like Muhammad 600 years after Him.

So, anti-slavery views were present in Christian thought and practice since the 6th century AD.

Modern abolitionism, the anti-slavery movement, started in Britain in 1787 with the foundation of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. The people behind it were Christians, including William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, who wrote:
We cannot suppose therefore that God has made an order of beings, with such mental qualities and powers, for the sole purpose of being used as beasts, or instruments of labour.
The strong, prolonged opposition to slavery that followed - a unique example in the whole history of mankind - was a formidable effort, with nothing to gain and everything to lose economically by ending this enormously profitable business. Only an exceptional moral force could have achieved it: and that force was the profound Christian conviction of the abolitionist leaders that slavery was wrong.

There were ecclesiastical figures supporting slavery, as there were in every other category of people. But, with rare exceptions, only devout, committed Christians - priests, monks, Christian laymen - opposed slavery. Atheist, secular, non-Christian opposition was unheard of for generations.

If we used the same yardstick employed by anti-Christians, we should say: what have atheists done to condemn or resist slavery when it was difficult to do so, when it was not yet politically correct and orthodox to be abolitionist?

American abolition crusader William Lloyd Garrison declared:
Abolitionism, what is it? Liberty. What is liberty? Abolitionism. What are they both? Politically, one is the Declaration of Independence; religiously, the other is the Golden Rule of our Savior. [Emphasis added]
When Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 and then slavery in 1834, it had to fight against African tribal leaders who wanted to continue their profitable trade in African slaves. These chieftains were also virulently hostile to Christian missionaries because of their opposition to slavery, and not due to their desire to convert.

The current, politically correct orthodoxy about slavery that Tony espouses demonstrates for the umpteenth time how the enemies of Christianity and the enemies of the West use - not coincidentally - similar, false arguments to attack both, showing once again how the fate of the West is intrinsecally tied to that of Christianity.

Not only were black Africans and Arab Muslims deeply involved in slave trafficking - and in Islam slavery is still practised today -, but whites were also enslaved by Muslims in great  numbers. But, while we never cease to hear about the nasty, racist whites making slaves, we never start hearing about other ethnic and religious groups doing the same, including to whites.

In the same way as Christianity is wrongly and unjustly castigated for slavery - when only Christians abolished it permanently -, so the West is uniquely berated for it. If you hear or read "liberal" thinkers, commentators and all the vast numbers of people that they managed to brainwash, you must be forvigen for thinking that slavery, as well as colonialism, are wicked Western, white, European, Christian inventions. All other populations of the earth are just the innocent victims, and they never harmed a hair on anybody's head.

What has been used to whip white Westerners has been used to whip Christians.

Look at what Westerners and Christians have in common and see if it can be a coincidence: they are both disproportionately attacked for two phenomena - slavery and harmful colonialism - that have existed throughout history and geographical locations, and they are both those who in fact saw the immorality of them and put an end to them.

Rather than going through the long history of how Western colonialism is not what it has been portrayed, of how it was often economically disadvantageous for the European powers involved but on many occasions motivated by the desire to help underdeveloped populations - aim that was often achieved -, I'll point you below to well-researched posts on the subject.

The Islamic world never abolished slavery, and still practises it today.

And remember that it was the European imperial powers which put an end to both the frequent raids and piracy by Muslims that for centuries tormented the Southern European coasts, and to the payment of the extortionate jizya tax demanded from the subjugated Christians living in Muslim lands.

The latter was for those unfortunate brothers and sisters a short-lived respite until multiculturalism, producing Islamophilia on one hand and anti-Christianity on the other, strengthened the Muslim world.

To be continued.

Further reading on slavery, European colonialism and Islam:

Photo by Elliott Brown (Creative Commons CC BY 2.0).


  1. A caution must be exercised when citing Bible and Koran side by side.

    The Koran forms part of Islamic law. Denying any verse in it calls for the person to be killed (Manual of Islamic Law o8.2, o8.7(7)), because the person makes himself an apostate. The killing may be carried out without penalty by anyone, “since it is killing someone who deserves to die” (ditto o8.4). Mohammed said, “If somebody discards his religion, kill him.” (Bukhari (52:260), at
    The Koran cannot be altered or reformed: “None can change His words” (18:27).
    The Koran can be consulted online (‎).
    The Manual of Islamic Law, Reliance of the Traveller, is available as a free download (‎).

    The Bible, a library of books from different authors over a long period, informs law-making, but does not form part of European law.

    The Koran was brought to the Arabs by one leader alone, a killer who authorised his followers to lie.

  2. Excellent content, excellently communicated. A million thanks, Ms. Ferreri.

  3. Indeed. Tony might want to read up on particularly Islamic aspects of slavery such as castrating black African slave boys for use as eunuchs, the Islamic sanction for female sex slaves, the Turkish Devsirme policy and Imperial Harem.

  4. The 'slaves' referred to in the Old Testament were servants. And always to be treated with kindness and generally treated as one of the family. The absolute OPPOSITE of how GENUINE slaves are treated, which is with terrible cruelty. The filthy, satanic, INHUMAN, evil slavers and slave owners will be punished severely by God in eternal hell unless they repent!

    God gave the DEATH sentence for kidnapping/slavery in the OT Bible. We must bring back the death sentence for kidnapping/slavery! The death sentence is to prevent the evil slavers from kidnapping/enslaving more victims. God will give the punishment deserved on Judgment Day.

    Exodus 21:16 He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.

    NT Bible, Romans 12:19 VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY, says the LORD.

    God's Word in the Old Testament is eternal, just as God's Word in the New Testament is eternal. God gave His requirement for ALL humanity in the Old Testament: KINDNESS:

    OT Bible, Micah 6:8 And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

    When Jesus stated the Golden Rule; this came from the very heart of God and from the teaching of the Old Testament.

    NT Bible, Matthew 7:12 Treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

  5. Eventually abortion will be done away with and no doubt Christians will be blamed for its practice today.

    1. Quite likely. It wouldn't surprise me at all if that happened, as it's totally within the prevailing spirit of Christianity being "damned if it does, damned if it doesn't".

  6. very concise and educative . thanks for giving me these tools to defend the gospel of JESUS CHRIST.

  7. Should criminals be in charge of correcting the wrong they inflicted?

    Puerto Ricans vote in elections every 4 years at an 80% level of participation. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States (US) government for the past 116 years. If the US government has the final say in what happens in Puerto Rico, what is the purpose of these elections? The purpose is to fool the world that Puerto Rico is a democracy.

    The United Nations (UN) declared colonialism a crime against humanity in 1960. The UN has asked the US government 33 times to decolonize Puerto Rico immediately. The US government has refused. It says that Puerto Rico’s political relationship with the United States is none of the UN’s business. The US says that it is a domestic affair.

    To appear that the US government wants to decolonize Puerto Rico, it promotes the use of plebiscites to determine what Puerto Ricans want. Doesn’t that sounds innocent and democratic? So what’s the problem?

    To begin with, the international community already rendered its verdict and determined that colonialism is illegal. So to have a political status option in a plebiscite that favors maintaining Puerto Rico a colony of the United States is not permitted. To have a political status option of Puerto Rico becoming a state of the United States is also not permitted under international law. The problem goes back to the beginning of this article. In order to have free elections, the country must be free. So before these elections and plebiscite could be valid, Puerto Rico would have to first be an independent nation.

    What people must realize is that Puerto Rico is a colony of the US because the US government wants it that way. That is why it has used terrorism to keep it that way. That is why it refuses to release the Puerto Rican political prisoner of 33 years Oscar López Rivera. That is also why it is ridiculous to believe that decolonization is a US internal matter in which the UN has no jurisdiction over. If we allow the US government to decolonize Puerto Rico, she will remain a colony of the United States forever!

    José M López Sierra

  8. The Second Oscar – Mandela March in New York City 2015

    We will be having our 2nd Oscar – Mandela Protest March on Monday, June 22, 2015. We will start marching peacefully at 9 AM from Hunter College on East 68th Street and Lexington Avenue, to East 43rd Street and Lexington Avenue. We will then go East (turning left) to end up at the Ralph Bunche Park on First Avenue (across from the United Nations).

    We will be at the park until 5 PM. We will be giving out flyers and talking to people about who Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera is. We will also be educating the public about Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the government of the United States (US).

    Most people don’t know that every year, usually on the Monday after Fathers’ Day, the United Nations holds its hearing about the decolonization of Puerto Rico. The petitioners will usually join our protest after this meeting.

    The UN determined in 1960 that colonialism is a crime against humanity. Since then, the UN has issued 33 resolutions asking for the US government to immediately decolonize Puerto Rico. The US government has ignored these resolutions. What kind of democracy is that?

    The US government tries to keep these hearings a secret. What we are trying to do is to get them out of the closet. The UN is in its 3rd decade trying to make the world colony-free. Please help us!

    Most people also don’t know that the United States government takes out 14 times more money than what it invests in Puerto Rico. But, that is what colonies are for!

    This savage exploitation impedes Puerto Rico’s ability to provide opportunities for Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico. That is why there are now more Puerto Ricans living away from Puerto Rico than in their homeland.

    Oscar López Rivera has been incarcerated for 34 years for his struggle to decolonize Puerto Rico. Since colonialism is an international crime, international law gives Oscar the right to use whatever means necessary to decolonize his homeland. Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years for doing the same thing as Oscar. This is why we say, Oscar López Rivera is our Nelson Mandela!

    United Partners for Puerto Rico Decolonization invites the public to be part of the tsunami of people that will be necessary to make the US government comply with the UN resolutions. These annual protests in Puerto Rico and at the UN are absolutely necessary, because, those who maintain colonies, don’t believe in justice for all!

    José M López Sierra