I recently watched the horrific biographical story of Solomon Northup’s kidnapping and enslavement in the film Twelve Years a Slave. All the way through it I struggled to understand the mindset of the slave owners. The cruelty and hardship inflicted on other human beings is often justified by downgrading their humanity, or elevating the status of the oppressors.
The worth or value of a human being measured like livestock, or compared to some moral yardstick that presupposes an authority that cannot be challenged, makes inhumanity excusable to those who set themselves above their fellow beings.
A scene in which a Bible passage was read to the slaves to justify their treatment was nearly as shocking as the brutality they endured. How far have we come since the events described in 1853?
Religion is still used to justify inequality, although slavery is no longer defended by Christians. The battleground has shifted to gay rights.
A former member of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, Lord Fowler, advocates acceptance of gay people as a normal part of society whilst the Liberian Council of Churches resolved “That God is angry with Liberia, and that Ebola is a plague. Liberians have to pray and seek God’s forgiveness over the corruption and immoral acts (such as homosexualism, etc.) that continue to penetrate our society. As Christians, we must repent and seek God’s forgiveness.”
Perhaps the passage in the Bible that Religious Studies pupils at Hunterhouse College in Belfast were recently asked to consider might explain the hostility towards gay people.
1 Corinthians 6: 9-11
“9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed,you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Questions on the pupils’ worksheets asked
- What do these verses tell us about homosexuals?
- Who else is included with homosexuals?
- What hope is there for all these people?
What about 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20?
” 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.”
- How are we not our own selves?
- Is it divine to bargain with human flesh?
- When humans were washed, did that include brain washing?
Surely genuine spirituality frees humanity from hatred and persecution. Make slavery history.