In an interview with a homosexual Chicago newspaper, CNN’s openly-homosexual African-American anchor Don Lemon argued that the same Bible that was used to “keep us as slaves” is now being used against homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Lemon claimed: “We [in the African American community] have, in many ways, been a victim of the Scriptures and theology that have been used to keep us as slaves. . . . It’s been ingrained [in] us, and now we use it against gay [sic] people without thinking about things objectively.”
The homosexual, transgender, bi-sexual, and whatever-sexual movement works overtime to hitch its cart to the civil rights horse. Contrary to media perceptions, Christians believe homosexual behavior is the issue. Sexual behavior cannot be compared to the struggle of blacks to secure full civil rights. Blacks were brought here by force, as slaves. Being black is not a behavior trait. Homosexuality is. Homosexuality is what a person does. Colin Powell, who is a black man, sees no relationship between homosexual rights and civil rights:
Skin color is a benign, nonbehavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument.1
Mr. Lemon is correct, however. The Bible has been used to defend slavery as it was practiced in the United States and Great Britain. The Bible was also used to denounce slavery.
The Bible is not the only written document to be misinterpreted. The Constitution has been used to support abortion on demand even though it doesn’t say a word on the subject. As a result, since 1973, nearly 60 million preborn babies have been killed, a disproportionate number of them being Black. Lemon and CNN are silent on the issue.
The Constitution has been used to support an expansive federal government even though it was designed to limit its size, scope, and power. Like the Bible, certain passages of the Constitution have been misinterpreted. For example, “General Welfare, the Commerce clause, and the religious clauses in the First Amendment. The same is true of the Second Amendment. The three-fifths clause is interpreted by some to mean that Blacks were considered three-fifths of a “white” person. The context says otherwise.
Misuse of the Bible has a long history. Satan tempted Jesus by quoting the Bible. Like those who supported slavery and now homosexuality by using the Bible, he falsified its meaning for his own purpose (Matt. 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13). Jesus was well aware of how the Bible was misused. Because some people misread and misuse the Bible on one subject does not mean that they misread it on other subjects. Jesus regularly condemned the scribes and the Pharisees, but when they sat “in the chair of Moses,” that is, when they were faithful to Scripture, they were to “do and observe” (Matt. 23:1–3).
Many of this nation’s earliest settlers paid for their passage as indentured servants. Indentured servitude is neither unbiblical nor unconstitutional. A thief who was unable to make restitution could be sold into servitude for his theft (Exodus 22:3b). Property crimes are best paid for by restitution, and when this is not possible, working off a debt is the next best thing. Chuck Colson’s perspective on this issue is instructive:
Recently I addressed the Texas legislature. . . . I told them that the only answer to the crime problem is to take nonviolent criminals out of our prisons and make them pay back their victims with restitution. This is how we can solve the prison crowding problem.
The amazing thing was that afterwards they came up to me one after another and said things like, “That’s a tremendous idea. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that?” I had the privilege of saying to them, “Read Exodus 22. It is only what God said to Moses on Mount Sinai thousands of years ago.”2
Even after the abolition of slavery, indentured servitude was retained by the Constitution as a legitimate form of punishment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (Amendment XIII, Section 1). We should, therefore, distinguish between slave (man stealing) and bondservant (indentured servant). We should also keep in mind that the word “slave” appears only once in the King James Bible (Jer. 2:14a), as does the word “slaves” (Rev. 18:13). The word slavery does not appear anywhere in the King James Version.
Stealing People for Profit
I quoted Exodus 21:16 to support my contention that slavery as practiced in America cannot be supported by an appeal to the Bible: “And he who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” Some time ago, a letter writer claimed that Exodus 21:16 only applies to kidnapping Hebrews (compare Deut. 24:7). Robert L. Dabney, the most articulate defender of Virginia and the South, disagrees: “It need hardly be said that we abhor the injustice, cruelty, and guilt of the African slave trade. It is justly condemned by the public law of Christendom. . . . It is condemned by the law of God. Moses placed this among the judicial statutes of the Jews: ‘And he that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.’”3
There is no indication that Exodus 21:16 refers only to Israelites. If it does, then verse 12 would also only apply to Israelites since its language is similar to that of verse 16:
- “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death” (21:12).
- “And he who kidnaps a man whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death” (21:16).
James B. Jordan offers a good summary of the issues involved: “The Bible punishes all man-stealing with a mandatory death penalty. In Deuteronomy 24:7, the kidnapping of covenant members is particularly forbidden, but in Exodus 21:16, all man-stealing is prohibited. It might be maintained that if we read v. 16 in context of v. 2, it is only Hebrews who are protected and avenged by this law. The text simply says ‘man,’ however, and there is no indication in the immediate context (vv. 12, 14) that ‘man’ is restricted to covenant members.”4
The New Testament and Slavery
We know that in the New Testament Paul condemns slave traders (kidnappers) in 1 Timothy 1:10. The book of Revelation considers those who traffic in “slaves and human lives” to be immoral and destined for judgment (18:13). Nowhere does the New Testament support trafficking in slaves. For a further study of this see my book Myths Lies and Half-Truths.
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Paul’s letter to Philemon does not support the notion that the New Testament tolerated chattel slavery. Onesimus was probably a bondservant who owed a debt to Philemon. Paul encourages the runaway Onesimus to return to Philemon and encourages Philemon to release Onesimus upon his arrival. Paul promises to pay Philemon if Onesimus “owes you anything” (Philemon 18). Paul’s mention of a debt seems to indicate that Onesimus was an indentured servant.
Mr. Lemon is wrong in equating the support of slavery by an appeal to the Bible to the rejection of homosexuality by an appeal to the Bible. The Bible condemns kidnapping (man stealing) in no uncertain terms. Homosexuality is condemned in both testaments. The misuse of the Bible by supporters of slavery and homosexuality should not be tolerated.
- General Colin Powell, letter to Rep. Patricia Shroeder (May 8, 1992). Cited in John W. Whitehead, Religious Apartheid: The Separation of Religion from American Public Life (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994), 126. [↩]
- Charles Colson, “The Kingdom of God and Human Kingdoms,” James M. Boice, ed. Transforming Our World: A Call to Action (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1988), 154–155. [↩]
- Robert L. Dabney, A Defence of Virginia, [And Through Her, of the South] (New York: Negro University Press,  1969), 288. Reprinted by Sprinkle Publications, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 1977. [↩]
- James B. Jordan, The Law and the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21–23 (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1984), 104. [↩]