The right is still going after Obama because he dared to admit what everyone knows -- that Christians have a history of committing atrocities. Right-wing propagandists know full well that Obama said nothing false. But they also know that they can benefit politically when they play to the resentments and prejudices of working class fundamentalists and Southern Baptists.
At a national Prayer Breakfast, Tucker Carlson emitted one of the most hilariously dunderheaded statements I've encountered in recent times:
"So we're responsible for the Crusades a thousand years ago?" Carlson complained. "Who's 'us' anyway? And by the way, who ended slavery and Jim Crow? Christians. The Rev. Martin Luther King. Christians."
"Christianity is the reason we don't have slavery in the world today," he added. "I mean, talk about ahistorical."
Indeed. Talk about ahistorical. Let's look at some numbers:
The number of slaves in America before the civil war: Around four million. Total worldwide: Around 25 million.
The number of slaves in the world today: Twenty-seven million
, according to one respected source. Other sources put the figure at 30 million
Slaves are often treated even worse today than they were 200 years ago, because human beings are worth less
An average slave in the American South in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s money; today a slave costs an average of $90.
In 1850 it was difficult to capture a slave and then transport them to the US. Today, millions of economically and socially vulnerable people around the world are potential slaves.
This “supply” makes slaves today cheaper than they have ever been. Since they are so cheap, slaves today are not considered a major investment worth maintaining. If slaves get sick, are injured, outlive their usefulness, or become troublesome to the slaveholder, they are dumped or killed. For most slave holders, actually legally ‘owning’ the slave is an inconvenience since they already exert total control over the individuals labor and profits. Who needs a legal document that could at some point be used against the slave holder?
Tucker Carlson would be surprised to learn how many slaves exist in "Christian" America
You don't have to go far to see slavery in America. Here in Washington, D.C., you can sometimes spot them on certain streets, late at night. Not all sex workers or "prostitutes" are slaves, of course; plenty have chosen the work voluntarily and can leave it freely. But, as the 2007 documentary "Very Young Girls" demonstrated, many are coerced into participating at a young age and gradually shifted into a life that very much resembles slavery.
A less visible but still prevalent form of slavery in America involves illegal migrant laborers who are lured with the promise of work and then manipulated into forced servitude, living without wages or freedom of movement, under constant threat of being turned over to the police should they let up in their work.
Tucker argues that Christianity "cures" slavery. While it is true that the largest numbers of slaves are in India and in sub-Saharan countries such as Mauritania, there is also a high tolerance for slavery (particularly sex slavery) in the historically Christian countries of eastern Europe and South America. Child sex slavery seems to be particularly popular among in Brazil
Carlson would probably counter these points by offering some variant of the "no true Scotsman" argument. (Such as: "Brazil may be a Christian country, but any Brazilian who participates in the slave trade must not be a true Christian.") We need not concern ourselves with that kind of casuistry beyond noting that the historical religious affiliation of a nation or a culture must count for something
In short and in sum: Despite all of the evidence indicating that slavery remains widespread and horrifying, Tucker Carlson actually dares to say that "we don't have slavery in the world today." This statement is not just ignorant: It is offensive
. Did this man take idiocy lessons, or does his talent come naturally?
But we have hardly squeezed all the juice out of Carlson's statement. Let's take another look at his words:
And by the way, who ended slavery and Jim Crow? Christians.
It should be obvious by now that, even though Carlson speaks of "the world," his conception of slavery begins and ends with the plantation system of the American south. Very well, then. Who instituted
that system, if not Christians? Who instituted the Jim Crow laws, if not Christians?
The fundamentalists, evangelicals and Southern Baptists who feel so desperate to buy what Carlson is selling are the ideological (and, to a large degree, biological) heirs to the Christians who once justified slavery on theological grounds
Slaveholders justified the practice by citing the Bible, Brinton says.
They asked who could question the Word of God when it said, "slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling" (Ephesians 6:5), or "tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect" (Titus 2:9).
On this site
devoted to United States history, we read:
Defenders of slavery noted that in the Bible, Abraham had slaves. They point to the Ten Commandments, noting that "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, ... nor his manservant, nor his maidservant." In the New Testament, Paul returned a runaway slave, Philemon, to his master, and, although slavery was widespread throughout the Roman world, Jesus never spoke out against it.
If you don't mind opening a pdf, you can learn much from a scholarly article titled "The Religious Defense of American Slavery Before 1830"
The South's use of the Bible to defend slavery and the master-slave relationship was thus an attempt to erect a moral defense of slavery. The emphasis from proslavery defenders was always upon a literal reading of the Bible which represented the mind and will of God himself. Slaveholding was not only justified but also moral because it was recognized as such in Holy Scripture.
This point is important: Those who took the Bible literally were the ones who defended slavery on Scriptural grounds, while anti-slavery Christians tended not
to take the Bible literally. We all know that modern fundamentalists have a contemptuous attitude toward any self-labeled Christian who is not a Biblical literalist. The kind of Christians who watch Fox News or listen to Tucker Carlson often refuse to accept non-literalists as co-religionists.
If you know where to look, you will discover that some Southern Christians still
use the Bible to offer a justification for slavery, or at least a rationalization for abuses committed by their white ancestors
Proslavery clergymen could cite biblical references that sanctioned slavery and particularly the enslaving of the black race. The primary citation was Genesis 9:25-27, in which Noah, upset over an indiscretion of his son Ham, who was supposed to be black, cursed all the descendants of Ham's son Canaan. They were to be slaves for eternity and were to serve the other six-sevenths of the population.
Canaan's descendants were said to have populated Africa, and the clergy had only to point to history to demonstrate that the prophecy had been fulfilled.
Fascinating Fact: The Babylonian Talmud states that negroes were the children of Ham, who was cursed with blackness. Ancient Arabs considered black people to have been born to slavery.
After 1865, fundamentalist Christians did not change their attitudes. From the Jim Crow museum
Many Christian ministers and theologians taught that whites were the Chosen people, blacks were cursed to be servants, and God supported racial segregation.
Southern White evangelicals were the leaders of the anti-desegregation movement throughout the post-war period. The following comes from a review of Carolyn Renée Dupont's book Mississippi Praying
Dupont has much to say in response to Charles Marsh, David L. Chappell, and other scholars who argue that lived theology and prophetic religion offered a stronger basis for the Civil Rights Movement than defenders of segregation could appeal to. Lest readers miss this point, Dupont makes it clear in her introduction that “changes in Mississippi’s racial structure came first, and the religious ideology to accompany it came afterward.” Indeed, her work unequivocally shows the religious commitment to segregation among white evangelicals.
The white evangelical commitment to individualistic theology also led the way for an understanding of the world in which the disadvantages facing African Americans in the South were a result of their own failings rather than any structural stumbling blocks.
The emotional climax of the book comes when she writes about the Jackson church visits (or kneel-in campaign). It is in this section that readers see how ordinary white parishioners, sometimes against the will of their pastors, barred African Americans and interracial groups from worshipping in white churches. For those used to a telling of the Civil Rights Movement as a religious movement led by the devout against the nominal, “only in name” believers, this section serves as a withering, deeply discouraging counter-narrative.
Finally, although Carlson seems to find it difficult to think outside of purely American terms (even when he speaks of "the world"), one should make mention of apartheid
in South Africa, which white Christians of that country also defined in theological terms.
"The way Afrikaners justified apartheid was to say it was God-ordained," said Stanley Uys. "Most Afrikaaners are Calvinists and there is a strong streak of determinism in their makeup.
"Their churches found theological justification for apartheid. And their assorted theoreticians, academics and others argued the case for the separation of colours. So it was basically through this determinism - found both in social science and religion - that apartheid was justified."
I could go on, but the point is made. Someone should buy Tucker a wheelchair: The poor fellow hasn't a leg to stand on.