Learn Your American History: Christianity and Slavery's Fucked-Up Relationship

It was such an inevitable reaction that you gotta figure President Barack Obama was just trolling for shits and giggles. At the National Prayer Breakfast (motto: "I guess I gotta pretend I'm not an atheist for a little while"), Obama made a speech that was full of the kind of humility that, you know, the Bible asks of people. He said that Christians need to stop being such smug fucks about the superiority of their faith over Islam: "And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."

Of course, the nutzoid right lost its goddamned mind. Whether it was the accusation that Obama was comparing "Christianity to ISIL" (which he quite specifically was not) or dismissing it with "the Crusades were almost a thousand years ago" or saying something along the lines of "Well, the Crusades were really a retaliation for Islamic incursions into Christian territory," everything said by the insulted Jesus fellaters pretty much proved what Obama was actually saying: All religions have their crazies and their violence. Don't think you're so fuckin' special. And the fact that the violence is part of the religion doesn't make the religion all bullshit. (Note: All religions are bullshit, but let's pretend.)

Maybe a history lesson is in order here. 'Cause, see, in the United States, Christianity wasn't just used to justify slavery. It was a key component to the maintenance of the slave system and a reason why the Civil War was fought. Don't believe the Rude Pundit. Believe fuckin' history, man.

For instance, here's James Henry Thornwell, a South Carolina Presbyterian minister, writing in 1861:

"[W]e cannot but accept it as a gracious providence that [slaves] have been brought in such numbers to our shores and redeemed from the bondage of barbarism and sin. Slavery to them has certainly been overruled for the greatest good. It has been a link in the wondrous chain of providence, through which many sons and daughters have been made heirs of the heavenly inheritance... As long as that race, in its comparative degradation, coexists, side by side with the white, bondage is its normal condition."

You got that? It's awesome that whites enslaved millions of people because it gave them a chance to hang out with the invisible sky wizard after they die. In fact, the promise of an eternity of cloud beds and good food and no whipping was used as a way to coerce slaves into behaving (although, we know, many slaves were smart enough to know it was bullshit).

Or, hey, how about this from Robert Lewis Dabney from the same time period, about how to apply the Golden Rule to slavery? It's a magnificent clusterfuck of tautology and sophistry: "Surely the principle of the Golden Rule binds the slave just as much as the master. If the desire which one would feel..must govern each man's conduct, then the slave may be very sure that, were he the master, he would naturally desire to retain the services of the slaves who were his lawful property. Therefore, according to. this abolition rule, he is morally bound to decline his own liberty; i.e., to act towards his master as he, were he the master, would desire his slave to act." See? If you were a master, you'd want slaves. Love Jesus. Good night. That is quoted regularly on white supremacist websites.

Of course, this could go on for a very long time. It could include the bible verses that talk about how slaves should be cool with their masters. It could include the ways that hateful people opposed to civil right used religion to justify that hate. Shit, the KKK lynched and burned black people and said it was cool because of Christian belief. That is ISIS-like terrorism, and it wasn't a long, long time ago.

The right-wing Christian reaction (and even the reaction of some on the left, like Lawrence O'Donnell) misses the point. It's not that evil shit was done 800 or 150 years ago. It's that shit was done. Period. And that doesn't excuse the evil shit being done now. It just gives perspective: as much as Christianity was used to perpetrate evil, it was used to make things right, especially with African Americans.

And, frankly, what the upset Christians are implying in their desire to pin the crimes of ISIS and al-Qaeda on Islam as a whole is that we need a religious war. Which means, of course, that atrocities will be committed in the name of Christ. Followed by more atrocities in the name of Allah. Followed by...