Tag Archives: Slavery

Broad is the Road to Moral Insanity

Slacktivist recently posted a very insightful series called Unlearning the Lies We Learned from the Theologians of Slavery. Briefly, he points out that many of the great Protestant theologians who are America’s spiritual Founding Fathers supported slavery or even owned slaves — men like Jonathan Edwards (yes, even in the North!), Patrick Henry and George Whitefield. Slacktivist shows that this disturbing truth ought to challenge us in many ways. Do read his whole series, but I’d like to focus on one sentence from Part 4:

You have to get a host of other things wrong in order to arrive at the place where you get that one thing [slavery] wrong.

What wrong steps did Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield take that made that final step of justifying slavery seem perfectly sensible and even godly? Might we have already taken some of those steps?

As a former conservative Christian who walked the same path as Edwards et al, I suggest the road to moral insanity can go something like this…

  1. You believe that you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and this gives you a supernatural edge in deciding moral questions: you can understand scripture and hear God’s voice more reliably than people who do not “know God.”
  2. In fact, you are taught to distrust non-believers’ ideas as non-spiritual “worldly wisdom” or worse.
  3. From that privileged position, you allow yourself a moral epistemology that you deny to others. When a fundamentalist Muslim arrives at obviously inhuman morality based on the Koran, you wonder how he can be so blind. “Why don’t his conclusions lead him do question his scriptures?” you ask. But when the same hermeneutic is applied to the Bible to arrive at positions that the rest of society has come to agree are harmful (e.g., the condemnation of homosexuality), you defend the process as being “faithful to God’s Word.”
  4. Having fully embraced an epistemology that has, by your own account, failed everywhere else it has been tried, you are well-prepared for final steps to moral insanity.
  5. You encounter passages in the Bible about, in this case, slavery. Although you are a good person, the plain reading of the text is that God not only tolerates slavery, but actually commanded his people to enslave whole cities full of people that were at a distance, minding their own business. The New Testament provides not a glimmer of relief for slaves, with Jesus’ parables casting God himself as a harsh slave-owner, and Paul teaching that slaves should obey their masters, rather than teaching masters to free their slaves.
  6. Although you are a kind person and would never in a thousand years have tried to justify slavery on your own, far be it from you to deny the authority of God’s Word. You come up with excuses for it. If you are Jonathan Edwards or George Whitefield, living in a culture where a consensus against slavery has not yet emerged, you positively endorse it as part of God’s Order.
  7. As I outlined in my last post, you are now mired in the same moral insanity as ISIS, for exactly the same reasons.

Maybe you think, “I’m quite sane, thank you very much. I don’t support slavery at all. I’m completely against it.”

Really? Have you repudiated God’s commands to enslave in the Bible, or do you justify them with one lame excuse or another?

When your Bible tells you that God commanded genocide, do you blame the victims, or do you say that genocide is wrong, period, therefore the Bible is wrong?

When the Bible commands a man to stone his own wife to death if she expresses the slightest desire for religious freedom, what is your reaction? Do you justify this command as “God forming his people” or do you say that no amount of historical context can justify stoning one’s wife?

These are all markers of moral sanity.

Although slavery, genocide and religious freedom are no longer a sources of controversy in America, we are fighting other battles in the culture wars, with same-sex marriage and abortion rights being the most active and long-running. More lately, a flare-up has started over contraception. In each case, the spiritual heirs of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield appear to be on the wrong side of history.

Jesus said, “The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. The gate is small and the way narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

As we consider the questions that stand where the slavery question stood 150 years ago, I would add, “Be careful. The gate to moral insanity can look a lot like the gate to God’s Kingdom, and the road can appear to be the road of faith.”

ISIS, Evangelicals, and the Mantle of Moral Leadership

Even if you’re reading this ten years from now, I doubt you’ll have forgotten the horrifying events of the summer of 2014.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have, among other atrocities, besieged members of the Yazidi religious sect at the Sinjar mountain, where children have died of thirst; they have captured and enslaved hundreds of Yazidi women after killing their male relatives; and they have issued “convert or die” ultimatums to hundreds of other members of this often-persecuted minority, slaughtering at least one entire village that refused. ISIS have not been kind to anyone, but they seem to have an especially large ax to grind with the Yazidis, holding them to be polytheistic devil-worshipers who should not be allowed to live.

How can this happen in the 21st century? Haven’t we arrived at the point where every person on the planet knows it’s wrong to besiege a religious minority, to enslave and rape its women, and to kill its men? Have we not learned that nothing can possibly justify this behavior – not even even the demands of the One True Religion?

Apparently not. But at least we Americans have gotten the memo, right?

Again, apparently not. I have heard more than one such American use the same thinking as ISIS to justify the same behavior as ISIS and defend a tribalistic morality that is just like ISIS’. I have heard this from Americans who are nice people and whom I otherwise respect. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be; there are tens of millions of Americans who hold these views.

I am thinking, of course, of American evangelicals. Before you close your browser, hear me out.

Consider Bible passages like Deuteronomy 20:10-15, in which the God evangelicals worship commands his people (verse 15) to besiege (verse 12) members of other religions, and enslave them (verse 11), treating women as “plunder” to be “used” (verse 14) after killing their male relatives (verse 13).

10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.

As Christians who believe the Bible is God’s Word, evangelicals must defend God’s commands in this passage as “good” — and they do. As a member of that group for 40 years, I heard all the reasons.

“Those nations were evil and deserved what they got” is the primary one. “He had to drive the infidels out of the Promised Land” is another. “He was forming his people” is a third.

That sounds a lot like “This is where the Islamic State belongs and these Yazidi devils who are in it now don’t deserve to live,” doesn’t it?

But what if evangelicals are right? What if God really did have good reasons for ordering genocide, enslavement, and the plundering of women? Is that possible?

The thought is not as crazy as it sounds. Ironically, the idea that some entities are justly privileged to do things that others may not is what the rule of law is all about. Think about it. The State gets to put criminals in jail, but if a private citizen does the same thing, it’s called kidnapping. The State may impose a fine, to be paid to itself, but if a person does that it’s called stealing.

So is God like the State, meting out justice in ways for which the rest of us are not qualified? Not in the case we are considering. The claim that God is perfectly just, coupled with the claim that he is omnipotent, implies that whatever he is up to in Deuteronomy 20 is the best of all possible worlds. What we call atrocities are, in fact, the highest good. His plan could not possibly be any better.

Is that true? Presumably a state of affairs in which everyone, including God, is at least as well-off would be a better one. Can we think of such an outcome?

It’s easy. Here’s one modest improvement. Surely there were children in these cities who had not yet reached the age of reason. If they worshiped another god, it was only because their parents dragged them to church, so to speak. They did not deserve to become slaves. God could have tucked in a verse along the lines of “…but every child under the age of ten, you are to raise as your own, lovingly teaching them all I have commanded.” To kill the parents and steal the children would still be barbaric, but it would be better than calling the kids “plunder” to be “used”.

And don’t even get me started on what it meant to “use” the women as plunder. Are we seriously saying that such explicit permission brought about the highest possible good?

And let’s not forget that God could have sent his Holy Spirit on these distant cities, converting them into worshipers of himself, or at least giving them the chance. He would supposedly do exactly that in a few hundred years. Why wait?

The argument that God was doing the very best that could be done, given his broader purposes, just doesn’t hold up. The hard reality is that the God of the Bible ordered the same atrocities that ISIS has committed, for much the same reasons, with just as little justification. And tens of millions of evangelicals in America continue to defend him for it.

I believe that most evangelicals have good hearts and want what’s right. I believe that if all the passages like Deuteronomy 20:10-15 were in a book other than the Bible, Christians would believe that book to be inspired by the devil himself. Yet there they are in the Bible. Christians now must choose between defending and repudiating them. As long as they continue to defend, it will be hard for some of us to believe that Christians are in touch with moral reality.

Christians who stick by those passages have the same moral epistemology as ISIS: consult an ancient text and justify whatever you find there. Why should such an epistemology, which has led to moral and humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq, be trusted in our churches?

American evangelicals want to wear the mantle of moral leadership. That’s fine, but to qualify they must stand up and thoroughly repudiate the moral philosophy of ISIS.

What do you expect them to do?

One of the most-read posts on this blog is What did Jesus say about slavery? People often land there by Googling exactly that question; although biblical slavery ended millenia ago, people are still troubled by it.  So, I am not totally surprised when the series on biblical slavery that I wrote almost two years ago continues to garner the occasional comment.

The latest was from Henry. I had been addressing a passage where God commands Israel to sack distant cities and enslave their populations. Henry said of the captives,

They were prisoners of war, what do you expect them [Israel] to do capture the city and let them regroup for retaliation? (Only Americans and British let their enemies go free so they can come back to fight again.)

Henry asked, “What do you expect them to do?”

I suggest that this is not the most fundamental question. It was supposedly God, not the Israelites, who came up with the idea of enslaving these cities. I suggest a better question would be, “What do you expect God to do?”

Here are some possibilities.

Instead of directing the Israelites to enslave distant cities, God could have told them, “March around the city 7 times, praying for them. Upon completion of the seventh circuit, I will send my Holy Spirit upon them. They will welcome you into their city and you are to teach them my ways.”

If that would be just too easy, God could have said, “You are to be missionaries to the distant cities. Some of you will suffer and even be killed for my Name’s sake, but you must continue to faithfully spread my love.”

If that would be asking too much, God could have just said, “Stay away from them, and I will make sure they stay away from you.”

If God had really wanted those distant cities to be judged, using Israel as his instrument (which I highly doubt), he could at least have said, “You are not to use my solemn judgement as an occasion to gratify your carnal lusts. Keep your hands off the women.” (But of course, he said just the opposite. See the last part of this post.)

…and I’m sure you can think of more ideas.

If I were to steal a loaf of bread to feed my child because I have no food, no job, no friends, no money and no alternative, few people would condemn me.

If I were to do the same thing when I had a refrigerator full of food and all the money in the world, people would think I was compulsively evil.

Of all the characters that have ever been reputed to live, the one with the most embarrassing richness of alternatives for everything he does is God. That’s why his horrible acts in the Bible troubled me enough to finally push me out of the faith.

If he exists, he could have done so much better.

Letting it Go

On a whim, I Googled the name of a college friend yesterday. He had been one of the leaders of our InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and it seems that his faith has not abated. In fact, he has earned both a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry at a well-known seminary. He’s not a pastor; apparently he did this just to increase his knowledge.

My Googling uncovered his blog, in which he offered to answer people’s questions about the Bible. His last entry was in 2008, but I was able to find an email address that is probably recent.

With his email address in hand, I was all set to invite him to address the concerns I raised in my series on biblical slavery. (Long-time readers will recall that I invited several professional apologists to do the same, but none were willing to say anything on record.) I was interested in my friend’s responses, but I have to be honest: I was also rubbing my hands just a little at the chance to bring my crusade (or, really, anti-crusade) to new territory.

But then I paused.

I considered the possibility that he would have something to say that I had not heard before. It was remote.

I also considered how likely it was that anything I said would change his opinions. Also remote.

Finally, I thought about how distressed he would be to hear that I had chucked the whole faith thing. Probably very.

So I did something that is very uncharacteristic of me. I just let it go. Maybe I was a wimp, but I find I can’t be at peace when I’m at war.

What do you think? Have you experienced this sort of transition?

Biblical Slavery Postscript: Where Were the Apologists?

If you’ve been with me since the initial post of my series on biblical slavery, you may remember that I planned to invite some Christian apologists to respond. You might wonder what happened with that.

Coincident with the start of the series, I did invite three full-time Christian professionals to comment on it: the author of the AIIA article that served as the springboard for the series, a man I’m acquainted with who runs an apologetics ministry and who has written about biblical slavery, and a former pastor who now works full-time to combat modern-day slavery and sex trafficking.

One of them was kind enough to spend an hour on the phone with me midway through this series. I wrote a summary of our conversation and emailed it to him so he could verify that I had represented him accurately. I told him that I would post the summary if he would approve it. He promised to send me some minor revisions, but so far I have not heard from him. It has been over 2 months, so I think he has moved on to other things.

I had a short correspondence with another one of the men by email. Since he chose email instead of public comments on this blog, I don’t feel at liberty to post our exchange. Suffice it to say that he did not say anything I had not heard before.

I have not heard anything from the third man. I should note that he never promised even to visit the series, let alone comment on it.

So, there was some dialog, but nothing for the record.

You may also be interested to know that long before the series started I sought the input of three pastors besides my own. One of them I knew personally. The other two were recommended by close acquaintances as intelligent and thoughtful, able to answer questions like mine. I wrote each one a letter explaining why I was troubled by the Bible’s teachings on slavery and pointing out some of the key verses. Each one promised to reply. None of them did, even after multiple requests from me.

I finally canceled my questions. I sensed that they didn’t have an adequate response to my arguments, and they knew it. I thought we would all be more comfortable if I just let them off the hook.

I think evangelical Christians know deep-down that it would be wrong to defend the acts and commands of God that we have seen in this series, but they can’t bring themselves to admit it — even to themselves. They are too heavily invested in the inerrancy of the Bible. I have compassion for the bind they’re in because I’ve been there myself.

Incidentally, the series started out as an “invitation to a dialog.” I really did hope that there might be some back-and-forth. As the series progressed and none of the professional apologists were willing to comment for the record, I sort of gave up on the dialog and settled for a diatribe. I hope you enjoyed it.

Why I Care About Biblical Slavery

We finally arrive at the end of this series on biblical slavery. I’d like to tell you now why I bothered. Bible-believers don’t enslave anyone these days, so why not just be happy about that and move on? There are three reasons.

  • This has been an act of penance.
  • This serves as a window to why I left evangelical Christianity.
  • I want to make the world a better place.

Before I get to them, I want to mention a question that more than one evangelical has asked me: Why do I care about anything at all? If I’m nothing more than a bag of chemicals, why don’t I just maximize my pleasure-of-the-moment until my chemical reactions cease? I’m sorry to say that I won’t be answering that question here. It deserves its own series of posts. (Stay tuned!) [Done, here.]

An Act of Penance

For about 40 years, I believed that the Bible was God’s Word. It was his primary way of bringing us into relationship with him. I read it frequently, often daily, but I now see that I did not read it in an honest, responsible manner.

I did not blink an eye when God commanded people to be enslaved. I did not care enough about them to think of what that really meant. I believed that they must have deserved whatever they got.

I breezed over passages where God commanded women to be distributed to Israel’s soldiers as the plunder of war. I did not stop to consider that those women were real people just like my mother, sister, wife and daughters.

If I had kept my bigoted opinions to myself, that would have been bad enough, but I taught others that the Bible would lead them into a relationship with a loving and just God. I now know that this doctrine is not just false, but can be harmful.

For these failings and more I am truly sorry. As an act of penance, I feel compelled to correct my mistakes somewhat publicly. Out of consideration for those in my family who are still Christians and may be embarrassed by my apostasy, I do not use my real name on this blog, but a few key people know who The Beagle is and it’s easy enough to find out if you’re determined.

A Window on a Deconversion

It is rare that an adult finds his way out of evangelical Christianity. It is so unusual that most evangelicals don’t know what to make of it. Even my spelling checker chokes on “deconversion.”

I have been told that I must have been in rebellion against God, that I didn’t pray enough, that I wanted to indulge in sin, that I read the wrong books, that I was prideful, and even that I must not have been a true Christian in the first place. Some of these accusations came from people who know me well, and ought to have known better. It hurt.

To those people, I offer this series on biblical slavery as a window to my thoughts as I wrestled with my faith. “Why did God command slavery? was only one of many show-stopper questions I had, but my experience in resolving it was typical of all the others.

In what way was it typical? Here I’m afraid you’re in for a short rant. I’d like to state up-front that what I am about to say applies only to professionals who hold themselves up as answer-men. It does not apply to the many ordinary Christians I know and admire. As Jesus did with the religious authorities of his day, I hold the professionals to a higher standard, and it’s appropriate to do so publicly.

In this series, I hope I have shown that the arguments of evangelical apologists are worse than poor. They are dishonest. (Review Does the Bible Regulate the Care of Slaves? if you don’t believe me.) The worst lie is the claim that I have heard and read many times: “The Bible never condones slavery.” That lie is either ignorant or cynical — take your pick — as I showed in Did God Command Slavery, or Merely Tolerate it?  Either way, professional apologists ought to know better.

This level of dishonesty on the part of Bible-advocates pervaded every single issue I looked into. I found that brand-name evangelical apologists were ignorant of readily available facts, misrepresented their opponents, twisted quotations out of context (even from the Bible!), reasoned poorly and told bald-faced lies. By contrast, the arguments from the secular side were generally better-informed, better-reasoned and much more honest.

This was doubly devastating to my faith.

First, I found no answers to my questions. These were questions that I could not just hang on a peg for now, like a coat out of season, but got to the very heart of who God is and what it meant to have faith in him. Without at least provisional answers to those questions, I did not see how I could continue in faith.

Second, I was forced to admit that evangelical Christians, even those most respected in the evangelical world, were no better than anyone else. In fact, when it came to making a wise, perceptive, informed and honest case for their position they were worse. Not just worse in logical soundness, but worse in character.

For all my adult life, I had believed that the Holy Spirit gave Christians an edge. The Spirit motivated and empowered Christians to live right and be honest. So why, I had to ask myself, do the books of the most reputable evangelicals contain so many lies and distortions? In fact, the more sold-out someone was to evangelical Christianity, the more lies he told. (The young-earth creationists are the absolute worst of the lot. I feel my blood pressure spiking right now, so I won’t get into that sub-rant.)

I saw that the Holy Spirit was not improving the honesty of some of his most devoted followers, let alone giving them any supernatural wisdom. That was one more pebble on the scale that eventually tipped away from my faith.

If you are one of my friends or loved ones who doesn’t know what to make of my deconversion, I hope the foregoing makes it a little clearer.

Making the World a Better Place

The Bible contains many worthy precepts. The message most people take from it these days is to care for the less-fortunate, to give without expectation of return, and to live with integrity. Just yesterday, I combed through the very inspiring Website of a charity called The Time is Now to Help the Children and the Elderly. The founder was definitely motivated by his Christian faith. If we would all live by those precepts, the world would be better place.

On the other hand, here in America a large portion of us also absorb not-so-positive messages from the Bible. They make the world a worse place.

Because the Bible says (and repeats!) that people who don’t believe in God are fools, corrupt and vile, Bible-believing Christians tend not to trust those who don’t share their faith. That was certainly my prejudice when I was a Christian. According to a Gallup poll, 49% of the American electorate would not vote for an atheist for president — making atheists even less trusted than homosexuals (32%).

If it were warranted, that would be one thing, but it is not. For example, while atheists’ fraction of our population is somewhere in the mid-teens, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reports that less than one-quarter of 1% of our prison population is atheist.

In addition to sowing needless division and mistrust, the Bible impairs the moral judgment of those who are committed to its infallibility. I saw a powerful video this morning in which evangelical-preacher-turned-atheist Dan Barker asks an audience to imagine that an otherwise nice person tortures a family and kills the children and animals. Further, the victim had done nothing to deserve the living hell he suffered. Finally, the criminal gives the excuse that he didn’t really have a reason for his actions except that the devil had put him up to it. All agreed that even a nice person who did that would deserve moral condemnation. But then, as any reader of this series on slavery will guess, there was a twist: the criminal is God himself, as reported in his own Holy Book. (Listen to at least the first few minutes of the video to learn which book of the Bible that was.) Because the story was reported in the Bible, and about God, only 20% of the audience would admit that the actions were wrong. The moral judgment of the majority was impaired by the Bible. This is similar to the point I made in the post, Biblical Slavery: Are God’s Ways Higher than Our Ways?

So why do I care? I want us to flourish as a species. I want my children to grow up in a world that is more free of bigotry and prejudice. I want their moral judgment to be clear so they can make wise decisions. In some ways, the Bible serves those goals. In other ways, it does not.

We cannot unite and solve the problems that our country faces if half of us have vowed to uphold the moral standards of a book so flawed that promotes slavery.

We cannot arrive at a moral consensus if good people cripple their moral sense by defending the morally indefensible.

We will not solve America’s problems if the religious majority of the electorate demonizes the minority who do not believe but are generally law-abiding, intelligent and eager to work for the good of all.

Our shared moral core — the values that will enable us to get along, flourish and be happy — is our inheritance as humans. It is our common treasure, hard-won through centuries of struggle by believers and unbelievers alike. It is not to be found in a book that promotes slavery and genocide. It is within us.

Postscript to this series: Where Were the Apologists?

Biblical Slavery: Are God’s Ways Higher than Our Ways?

[This post is a Beagle’s Bark.]

We have now arrived at the final excuse for biblical slavery in our series. Let me emphasize up-front that not all Christians use this reasoning. The excuse and this whole post apply only to that variety of Christianity that believes the Bible is the infallible Word of God.

God’s ways are higher than our ways.

Yes, God’s commands to enslave are puzzling. If we were to run the world we’d do it differently. However, his mind is infinite and ours are finite; he knows all and we know only what he deigns to tell us; he is pure and we are fallen; he is good and we are evil.

If he commanded slavery, or taking 32,000 virgins as spoils of war, or genocide, or anything else that troubles us, the trouble is with us, not him.

The strength of this position is that any argument mounted against it only bounces back as more evidence in favor of it. “You disagree with God? That only shows I’m right: the ways of men are not the ways of God.”

However, by taking refuge in that position, the believer should be aware that he has already admitted that the evidence is so thoroughly against him that he must believe that black is white. He must believe that what he thinks is unspeakable evil is actually good.

What can I say to someone who has deliberately placed himself beyond the reach of evidence and reason, and calls that a virtue? There is no argument I can offer.

So, I will make no arguments

Instead I will relate a story reported on a Christian Website. The young woman involved uses the pseudonym Gwyneth Nelson and calls her husband Tom. I have no reason to doubt her story. I have read enough others like it to believe that this is tragically common. I have also seen Christian men of good reputation in my own circle of acquaintances abuse their wives or girlfriends.

Gwyneth had met Tom at a Christian college where they were both students. He came from a fine, Christian family; his father was a pastor. They fell in love and married. Knowing their culture as well as I do, I have no doubt that they prayed over this decision and believed it to be God’s will.

As soon as they returned from their honeymoon, Tom started to be abusive. The abuse ranged from jaw-dropping selfishness to physical violence.

For me, the most heart-breaking part came on page 3 of her account.

Though I rarely received bruises, the ever-present threat of physical harm was devastating and, at times, immobilizing. By far, the most harm I received was emotional. He’d call me a self-righteous b**** or a f***ing “good-girl” and end a tirade with a Scripture reference: “I’m just speaking the truth in love.” He repeatedly told me what was “true” about me: I was controlling, disrespectful, unsubmissive, and self-important. I lost confidence in my ability to identify reality. “Truth” had been verbally twisted and used against me. The fear and constant threat of attack rendered me an emotional weakling.

My natural response was to work harder on myself. As a college-educated woman with a corporate career and a deep desire to serve God, I thought I must be capable of turning things around. “Surely,”I reasoned, “Tom loves me. I just have to respect him more. Sometimes I am self-righteous and controlling. If I could be more humble, then things would be better.” But nothing made a difference.

I see devastating parallels between this young bride and the Christian who uses the excuse that God’s apparently evil ways are good — but in some way that we mortals cannot understand.

The similarities are not just in the excuse itself, but in the very nature of the relationship in which this excuse takes root and flourishes. 

  • Tom informed his wife what was “true” about her, apparently in contrast to her own good judgment. God tells us that his ways are higher than ours. He says our moral faculties are so defective that we must rely completely on his pronouncements, even on as basic an issue as slavery.
  • Because of her husband’s domineering abuse, Gwyneth lost confidence in her ability to identify reality. In capitulating to the “God’s ways are higher” excuse for slavery, the Christian admits that he has lost confidence in his ability to identify moral reality.
  • Tom twisted “truth” to mean its opposite. God in the Bible does the same with the morality of slavery, and the Christian accepts this.
  • Gwyneth’s fear rendered her an emotional weakling. The Christian who uses the excuse we are considering has likewise been rendered emotionally and morally impotent.
  • Tom threatened physical harm. God threatens hell. Both threats create an atmosphere where there is heavy disincentive to doubt the other party’s virtue.
  • Tom called Gwyneth a “self-righteous b****.” God says even our righteousness is as filthy rags.
  • Gwyneth’s response to Tom’s abuse was to “work harder on herself.” The Christian’s response to being out of sync with what the Bible says about God is typically to double-down on her devotion. When things don’t work out as promised, she blames herself, not God.
  • Gwyneth continued to believe that Tom loved her and their problems were her fault. The Christian continues to believe that “God is Love” in spite of Bible passages that demonstrate he’s a monster.
  • The more Tom abused her, the more Gwyneth believed she had to be more respectful and humble. The more “mysterious” God’s ways are, the more the Christian believes he must humble himself and defer to God’s judgments.

Bible-believing Christian, if you find yourself suppressing your own moral faculties on issues as basic as slavery, rape and genocide then I tenderly urge you to consider whether your “relationship with God” might be one of codependency and abuse.

If you think not, I recommend this article as further reading: The God of Abuse. It’s pretty hard-hitting, but I have seen the truth in it first-hand.

Like most codependent people, I did not know how toxic my relationship to God was when I was in the middle of it. It was only once I was out from under it that I realized what a burden it had been. Now that I no longer have to defend the indefensible (as with biblical slavery), or blame myself when my prayers are not answered, or convince myself that a loving God is in control when horrible things happen, or struggle to find a reconciliation of science and the Bible — now that all those things are behind me I am amazed that I did not see the “relationship” for what it was.

As always, please leave comments. I will carefully consider each one. I reply to most.

Next in this series: a personal note on why this issue matters to me.