Anyabwile’s Specifics

My goal in these posts is to raise epistemological awareness of some issues relating to biblical ethics. As it stands, any humanist can ride circles around well-meaning Christian ethicists on what the Bible says about slavery.

After searching TGC for specifics on this debate, and wading through a lot of irrelevant posts on “insensitivity,” Anyabwile finally gets to the heart of the matter. He writes,

This, the central premise of the book, fails to sense how horrific an experience slavery was for African Americans.

Wilson’s larger argument is that Southern slavery was far more benign than Roman slavery. I do not think he is saying it is an ethical good, but merely making a contrast. I might take issue with some parts of Wilson’s book, but he has a point here: what was the difference between slaves in Greece and Rome and Southern slaves? The former could be killed and sexually used with impunity. While this certainly happened to a lesser degree in the South, the South had moral and cultural bulwarks to lessen this evil. Rome did not.  Here is the argument:  The Hellenistic world saw the man as needing sexual release in any way he got.  Semen was building up in him and he had to release it somehow (other men, women, animals, slaves, etc). Even Roman and Greek youth–youth who were not slaves– could be masturbated on until they became adults (Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea).  The only thing forbidden was actual penetration.  Now if that would happen to the free sons, imagine–or don’t, for that matter–what would have happened to the slaves. That didn’t happen in the South. There’s Christianity for you. But Lincoln died on the cross to free the slaves.

Does that make African slavery right?  (Why just African?  Many Scots and Irish went to the plantations, too).  My point is that if Paul knew that was happening to slaves in the Roman empire and he didn’t say anything (the only thing he did say was Masters be right to your slaves), then that sheds some light on Southern slavery and the Church.

Anyabwile writes,

Second, Wilson writes about the “obvious inferiority of black culture” with seemingly no understanding or acknowledgement of how the Southern culture he’s defending actually actively guaranteed black underdevelopment!

I think both of them are wrong on this point. Wilson is simply stating a historical fact: where in Africa do you find Bach, Vivaldi, and neo-Classical architecture prior to the coming of the European?  Where did Voodoo come from? Why did the Haitians consecrate their island to Satan? The Malinese are kind of an exception. I am not making a judgment, just an observation. Anyabwile does have a point that the Southerner could have done a better job in elevating black culture. Fair enough.

Anyabwile is upset that Wilson writes,
Christians who doubt this should consider whether it was safer to be a black child in the womb in 1858 or in 2005″

But this is no different than what Martin Luther King’s daughters have been saying for the longest time.  Why is it bold and heroic for Alveda King to say stuff like this but racist for Wilson to say it? It is no different than What Ms Sanger said when she started Planned Parenthood. It is no different from what Alice Walker’s daughter has said, and Anyabwile has yet to answer the question, “Well, is it more dangerous?”

Wilson had written that more people are upset over someone’s calling Robert E. Lee an honorable than the black-on-black crime. Well, he has a point.

Even Will Smith was bold enough to call out black on black crime.

Anyabwile for the most part doesn’t deal with the specifics of biblical exegesis or historical realities.  At most he simply accuses Wilson of “racial insensitivity.”  Let’s pretend that is a sin for the moment.  Per Matthew 18, eventually Wilson should be excommunicated from the church (let’s pretend the Federal Vision didn’t happen for a moment).  By extension, that also means that anyone who thinks Robert E Lee is a noble human being is also guilty of racial insensitivity and thus risks excommunication, which is being cut off from the Kingdom of God.

How is this any different from Romanist tyranny?  Racial inensitivity is not a biblical category, and so it isn’t a sin.  Aspects of said behavior might be sinful in “not putting others first,” but that’s a different question.   While we are on racial fellowship in the church, when I used to attend Auburn Avenue (this was a long time ago) there were black people in the church (how many white PCa churches can say that today?  LOL).  We had the Lord’s Supper every week.  Thus, blacks and whites were sharing communion and eucharist with each other.  I would say at the same table ala Galatians 2, but churches don’t eat communion at tables any more, Galatians 2 notwithstanding.  But you get the idiom.

The Anyabwile/Wilson debate

My take is different.  I am not here to defend the “Confederacy” or State’s Rights.  I am largely indifferent to the political minutiae of such issues.  My concern is that well-meaning Christians, rightly recoiling from concrete instances of racism, go beyond Scripture and proclaim as sin what Scripture does not call sin. This is the essence of Legalism.

I am not defending slavery. I am defending the Bible.  If the bible doesn’t call “slavery” a sin, then I can’t.  If the Bible doesn’t call for the Jubilee laws to be enacted on all Christians (whether or not that is a good idea) then we can’t say someone who doesn’t call for that is sinning.

Further, unless conservatives own up to the fact that the Bible sanctioned slavery as a regulation of ills in society, whether related to sin or just bad luck, they will lose every debate with humanists.

It’s difficult to follow this debate.  Neither debater does a good job collecting all of the posts for and against.  More often than not Anyabwile is not attacking biblical arguments but pointing out to Wilson that he is “insensitive.”  And?  After a while it gets hard to find yet new ways to “reconcile” or apologize for the infinite strands of racism.   Even worse, insensitivity isn’t  a biblical category.

Anyabwile begins with a list of agreements that most could agree on.  I do want to call attention to his “Jubilee” logic.  I agree that the Gospel liberates, but appealing to the Levitical Jubilee is problematic: 1) It’s in Leviticus so it isn’t immediately clear how it applies today (remember why Bahnsen got persecuted?) and 2) Jesus and the disciples did not make the connection between Jubilee logic and freeing slaves, whether or not such an inference is warranted.

Anyabwile rebuts Wilson for privileging constitutional arguments over GOd’s word.  If that is what Wilson truly were doing, then he’s wrong.  I don’t think that is the case, though.

Anyabwile writes,

Only an immediate end to slavery would have been consistent with the “jubilee logic” of the gospel and repentant of the “grievous sin” of racism upon which the practice was based.

I don’t want to sound cold or hard, but this isn’t true.  It flies in the face of Leviticus 25 (and if the Jubilee applies today, then so does chapter 25). And it is a matter of common sense that a person, white or black, who is culturally, educationally, and spiritually not as advanced cannot seriously participate in the advanced culture of a civilization.  Go to the ghetto today and tell me I am wrong.

Regarding #2: Speculation is vain.  We have no idea how slavery would have continued or ended if the South had won.  We do know that the Confederate elite:  Jackson, Lee, A.H. Stevens, and others rejected slavery and sought for better means of ending it.   Further, Wilson completely refutes Anyabwile’s logic:

For an American soldier to go the Middle East today and fight for “democracy” is also to fight against nations that don’t allow abortion-on-demand, and it is to fight for a nation that does. To help America is therefore to help abortion.

That is the most devastating rebuttal I have seen in the past few years.

Further, Wilson points out something painfully obvious:  Our obedience before God will be reckoned in how we dealt with the sins of our own era, not the sins of another. My central interest in all these historical issues has to do with how the legal principles that were laid down then are being understood and applied today.

Regarding #3 Anyabwile effectively concedes the debate to Wilson, only noting that we need to be gentle about “angular texts,” whatever that means.

Regarding #4:  I agree that the Constitution is a weak document and appeals to it are pathetically naive.

Elsewhere, Anyabwile tries to give concrete definitions on “racism” and “sensitivity.”  This is good, as many are notoriously vague on this point. He defines it as,

I would suggest it’s a certain inability or unwillingness to sense and lovingly consider the concerns, feelings, and perspectives of others across racial lines

Fair enough.   We should all be aware of common courtesy.  I’m just not clear on the biblical directive that I should use this as the filter for all truth and discussion.  Further, anybody to the left of Hillary Clinton is a racist by these standards.

He goes on to say,

So, who gets to decide? I don’t know if they get the final word, but the person so hurt should at least have the first word

 

Looks good on paper, but this can go back and forth.  Given the ubiquitous dominance of rap music, particularly its lyrics about women–white and black–does this count as a “hurt party?” (Just consult any Dr Dre song about white women getting raped and killed).  Anyabwile then gets to the heart of Wilson’s book, which I will address in another post.

 

But he said he was sorry

U. S. Attny General and drug lord/gun runner Eric Holder urged America to have “an honest talk about race.”  What he meant was, “Shut up and listen to me gripe.”  I doubt an honest conversation will ever happen because emotions run high on both sides.  Still, it’s worth a shot.

The Impossibility of an Honest Talk about Race

I saw on my Facebook feed a PCA thinker, who is a black man, complain about Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s creating a chair in Morton Smith’s honor.  He is angry because Smith created the PCA with the values of the Old South in mind (He seemed surprised.  I thought this was common knowledge years ago to anyone who read more than an hour’s worth of Southern Presbyterian history).   Of course, the situation today is somewhat amusing since the PCA is more likely a pale reflection of the SBC’s Worship Committee’s than a continuation of Dabney, but I digress.  I really don’t care one way or another that GPTS is doing this.  The Reformed seminary world has long been dead to me and I refuse to even look back.  However, it raised other questions.

Is the PCA still racist?

The aforementioned black gentleman is concerned that the PCA is still allowing racist things like this.   How does one respond?  Morton Smith’s actions simply aren’t representative of the PCA.  In fact, he is probably the minority (no pun intended). But the gentleman wanted to the PCa (and presumably by extension any white Presbyterian male) to really apologize for racism.   Here is where it becomes problematic.  How does one really apologize for racism?   Well, the PCA (and the Missouri Lutherans and the SBC) issued statements condemning the nebulous entity known as racism (the SBC does this on a yearly basis).  Is that good?

No.  It isn’t.  Presumably he wants “racist” ministers disciplined.  Fair enough, but keep in mind this is the PCa and no one ever gets disciplined.   A PCA pastor pointed that out to the gentleman.  Not good enough, but we need to remember if the PCA will publicly condemn the Federal Vision but refuse to discipline guys who write books promoting the Federal Vision, that should tell you something.

But all of this raises an even harder question that is at the heart of the problem.  Hating other colors is wrong (and not even Kinists advocate that).  Discriminating at the communion table is wrong (and maybe I missed something in the PCA during the 80s, but was even that a problem?).  Heck, I remember attending Auburn Avenue one Sunday during its Confederate Heritage Conference and I saw a number of black people in church “amen-ing” and “Oh glory-ing.”

So we’ve ruled out “discrimination” and “hating” so what else is left?  It wasn’t exactly said, but I think “racism” in this context means “continuing to love the Old South.”   That is a bit more concrete, but is still problematic.  Loving “what” about the Old South?   I highly doubt Morton Smith means sitting on the front porch of the Massa’s House drinking mint juleps while watching the slaves happily sing in the fields.   I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

But maybe he means “Loving the Confederacy.”  But even this is ambiguous.  Do I love the Confederacy?  Not really.  I think their political system was doomed from the start and the only way they really had a chance of winning the war was to let Stonewall and Forrest go nuts and do whatever they wanted.  That wasn’t going to happen.  The Confederate Establishment thought Virginia’s soil too sacred to be polluted by the foot of an invader. So maybe to prove to the world I am not “racist” (undefined Marxist term that it is), maybe they want me to “apologize” for the Confederacy.

Well, that’s problematic on several levels.

  1. The Confederacy doesn’t exist today.  You aren’t a slave.  I am not a Confederate soldier.  This is silly.
  2. 2/3 of my ancestors weren’t even in America at the time.
  3. The 5th commandment and Hebrews 13:7 demand I honor my superiors and those who brought me to the faith.  Stonewall Jackson is one of those.  To attack him is open sin.

In fact, all of this reminds me of Sheldon Cooper’s trying to apologize to Howard.

And the truth of the matter is I don’t really like the Southern Presbyterian ethos.  They were Baptistic on the sacraments and their descendants made it worse, if anything (this is one of the few areas where the Federal Vision guys legitimately nailed them).  If we are going to have an honest conversation about “race,” then the infractions must be concrete.  Saying, “They really mean otherwise” or “They really don’t like us” or “They really have their fingers crossed” isn’t helpful.  If they are saying things like “Coloreds and Whites should live in different neighborhoods or go to different churches,” then that’s entirely different.  The fact is, and I have read Smith’s Q & A and he is ethically wrong, but probably sociologically accurate, most people aren’t saying this.

If cultures are organic outgrowths, which thousands of years of human history have demonstrated beyond doubt, then they will inevitably reflect this.  Am I arguing for segregation?  Of course not. I would be against government-enforced segregation and government-enforced integration.  Why?  Because it isn’t the government’s business.  People want to live where people want to live.  (Of course, I’m the exception on this since I have many black neighbors around my street.  Which white liberal agitator can say that? None).

By all means attack racism, but attack concrete examples, like when Ice Cube talks about killing white girls.

Regeneration is the real offense

Continuing my series on High Southern Culture.

Much of the force of my argument will not be in downplaying “racism,” whatever that term means (curse thee, Karl Marx, for thy invention).  It will assume it and then redirect it.

Many Southern apologists try to downplay the role of slavery in the War.  They will say, echoing Abraham Lincoln (“Letter 1858”), that slavery was not the cause of the war.  Historically, that is true.   Nobody cares.  The Yankee Elite have already determined the truth and you best abide by it or end up in a FEMA camp.

Photo

Granting that Southrons did some bad things, and I will focus on Forrest in a bit, I would like to open the floor for some equal-opportunity confessions:

Stonewall Jackson pissed on Virginia Law and taught slaves how to read the Bible in his Sunday School class (Letter to John Lyle Campbell, June 2, 1858).

Let’s contrast this with a local contemporary of Jackson, none other than the abolitionist John Brown.  If I merely said that Brown killed white, Southern men, women, and children, some sick pervert would likely respond, “Yeah, well, their Southern and they deserved it.”  Unfortunately, Brown also killed Northern, Yankee women and children (Otto Scott, The Secret Six).  Praise God his raid failed (who knows how many more women and children would have been slaughtered?) and he was captured by Stonewall Jackson!  History is exciting, isn’t it?

Now we get to the proverbial fly in the ointment, Nathan Bedford Forrest.   Did not Forrest start the KKK and slaughter surrendering blacks and Fort Pillow?  The first objection is more easily dealt with.   True, he was an honorary leader for a brief moment, but we must realize that the KKK in the 1860s was not the same as in the 20th century.  It was a vigilante police force simply because the Reconstructionists refused to protect Southern women.   To his credit Forrest disbanded the organization and when he appeared before a Yankee congress to testify, they accepted his presentation of the facts.

But what about Fort Pillow?  That Forrest was involved is certainly true.    But given that Forrest took over 30,000 men prisoner in war, it seems really odd that he would not do that here.  I am only going to summarize the scholarship.  There are several outstanding analyses that do a much better job.  Long story short, and consistent with Biblical Warfare Terms of Surrender, Major Bradford had numerous opportunities to surrender and only when Forrest’s men stormed the fort did they decide to surrender.  It doesn’t take a genius to see how this is going to end.   Was Forrest at least somewhat guilty?  Probably.   But how come Major Bradford isn’t held to account?

But what is most interesting is that Forrest’s men stormed using hand-to-hand combat and revolvers, which when fired at point-blank range it would have left burn marks which are consistent with execution-style marks.  But perhaps most damning to the case against Forrest,

Moreover, as the Union defenders fled to the beach, the U.S. flag still flew from Fort Pillow’s flagpole – this is significant since in 19th century warfare “Striking (lowering) the Colors” was the universally accepted signal that a garrison had surrendered and an unmistakable signal to the victorious attackers to stop firing. Had Bradford sensibly lowered the U.S. flag, this would have been a clear indication to all attacking Confederates that the garrison had surrendered.

Unfortunate, but not surprising.

But that’s not the real offense.  The real offense is that Forrest found Jesus after the war.

Let’s contrast that with General Sherman’s words.  Most people are aware of how his men burned and raped slaves across Georgia.  Sherman’s own rationale is just as jarring.

"Gentlemen, Niggers and cotton caused this war, and I wish them both in Hell."

Let's end with a contrast.  After Nathan Bedford Forrest's speech to the Independent Pole Bearers

Whereupon N. B. Forrest again thanked Miss Lewis for the bouquet and then gave her a kiss on the cheek. Such a kiss was unheard of in the society of those days, in 1875, but it showed a token of respect and friendship between the general and the black community and did much to promote harmony among the citizens of Memphis.

The hypocrisy of anti-racism racism

Continuing my thoughts on High Southern Culture.  It’s easy to say that the South had slavery so the South is racist forever.  Let’s put that aside for the moment.  It’s easy to beat up the modern South on racism, real or alleged (google the Christian-Newsom murders).  My point in this post is aside from a few Northern ideologues, a more refined and polished racism is in the Yankee elite, both then and now. Southern Racism is crude and barbaric.  Yankee racism is polished, scientific, and refined.  In other words, the theory of evolution applied to social situations.

(And by “Yankee” I do not mean anyone North of the Mason-Dixon line.  I am using it to refer to the cultured and social elite focused in a few Northern cities)

At this point in the debate a lot of well-meaning Southern apologists will (correctly) point out, “Yeah, but the North has some nasty aspects of racism, too.  The KKK has as many rallies in the North and they carry the US Flag as much as the Confederate flag.”  All of that is true, of course, but it rarely convinces anyone.  As an aside I will put the high number of Freemasons involved with the Klan.  Interestingly, Rocky Branch, a town just north of here, has both a moderate Klan presence and a large number of Freemasons (the Baptist church in said town has Masonic insignia inscribed in the foundation stones; a friend of mine was literally driven from that town for speaking against the Masons).

 (I don’t see any Confederate flags)

In some ways that points to the irony of Southern race relations, an irony ably captured by Professor Ralph Wood (Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South).   The essence of his argument was that the Southerner might say mean things about the Negro and probably couldn’t make sense of the race-tainted past between the two, but at the end of the two the white man and the Negro were used to working shoulder-to-shoulder.  The Yankee, by contrast, started out with grandiose ideas about the social equality of man (an equality, incidentally, which is condemned in the Westminster Larger Catechism on the Fifth Commandment) but generally despised the Negro in practice.  Here is proof:  what is the difference in demographics between the KKK’s neighborhood and a white liberal’s?  Nothing.

At this point a lot of well-meaning Southerners will say, “But I have many black friends” or “I’m not a racist, but…”

Whether the above sentiment is true or not is irrelevant.  It just sounds so “fake.” By employing that defense you are buying into the PC-Yankee narrative.  Just bypass that narrative altogether. (For the record there are as many blacks in my general neighborhood as whites.  Which white liberal can say that?)

So where does the South go from here? It’s hard to say.  The Obama administration acted as a catalyst that woke many conservatives out of their slumbers.  It would be foolish to make prognostications when the reality changes so quickly.

On the Soul of the South

This is a hard post for me to write.  Somebody will be offended.  Since there is no avoiding that, the only fair thing to do is to piss everyone off.    And a warning note: some of the language I use will be coarse, but when I am using it I will be quoting Yankee generals, who as a general rule despised black people (contrast that with Stonewall Jackson).

This article has several goals:  I will use the thought and “soul” of High Southern culture to show the inadequacies of the Confederate position, the sinful hypocrisy of the North–which continues to this day, and to show the utter bankruptcy of modern Conservative thought (I like the moniker “High” as contrasted with “Old,” “New,” or worse, “Paleo.”  I will explain why below).

As to the actual legitimization of the Confederacy I have no wish to enter that debate.  I can give a passing answer: in terms of the Solemn League and Covenant, neither the Federals nor the Confederacy were ultimately legitimate.  See? I can make both sides angry. I will make a few passing remarks on the Confederacy, though.  I really don’t think Jefferson Davis was a competent leader.  No doubt he was morally superior to Lincoln, but Lincoln was a true genius; Davis was not.  Davis made a better martyr than he did a leader.  (Trick question:  If the Confederacy was necessarily treasonous, how come the US Government refused to try Davis for treason?)

A few words about slavery.  That the Bible does not categorically condemn slavery is another instance where the sons of this world are wiser than the sons of the kingdom.  Not only does the Bible legitimize forms of slavery, it is quite specific and provides details on how slavery (or indentured servitude) can better society.   I remember at RTS Jackson we got to Philemon in Pauline Theology.   Everyone was quick to point out that the Bible made it possible to get rid of slavery:

Me: Really, what verse?
RTS:  (Silence)

Don’t get me wrong:  I think a theology of dominion can place the discussion of slavery in a better light.  Following Rushdoony (Politics of Guilt and Pity) I believe that regenerate man is dominion man; he is a priest-king ruling over the new creation.  It’s usually better if he were free.  Of course, modern Reformed people are scared of dominion, so they really can’t combat the secularist on this point.  Chalk another one up to the sons of this world.

One thing I do not intend to give is a naive, pollyannish defense of “The Old South.”  I do think it was strong in areas we are weak.  Further, I think it’s existence (at least mentally today) sheds painful light on modern conservatives.  It is schizophrenic for modern American conservatives to condemn Obama’s big government yet praise Lincoln.  What was Lincoln but the consolidation of Federalism?  And while I love the Covenanters–and I consider myself in the Covenanter tradition on the Establishment Principle–and while I understand their desire to end slavery, I do not think they were wise to support Lincoln.  They are absolutely correct to condemn the anti-Christian nature of the American state.  How on earth do they support Lincoln, who further empowered this anti-Christian State beyond Richard Cameron’s wildest nightmare?

Conclusion

So where do we go from here?  As the current government spirals out of control the issue of secession will be inevitable.  I only pray we can have wise thinking beforehand.

regenerate and renewed south can sing with Dr F. N. Lee,

Now the Triune God must never be forgotten!
Again He’ll march through the land of cotton
and from here, Dixieland — we’ll yet win, America! 

For the Brave New World that now is so perverted,
in God’s good time is going to get converted
and the Earth, will get full — of the fear, of the Lord! 

Our God will yet revive us
and our King will bring
both Dixieland and Yankeeland
and all the world to serve Him!
Don’t shirk, let’s work,
and live the Gospel Story!
Begin, we’ll win,
and give God all the glory!