Apparently, we can pick and choose parts of the Bible after all, says Pat Robertson. When asked on the 700 Club today why some believe “America was founded as a Christian nation” even though it allowed slavery, Robertson said, “like it or not, if you read the Bible in the Old Testament, slavery was permitted.” But Robertson concluded that despite what the Bible says, “We have moved in our conception of the value of human beings until we realized slavery was terribly wrong.” Of course, when Dan Savage made a similar point about the Bible (albeit with saltier language), the Religious Right was irate.
Pat Robertson is half right: Yes, the Old Testament permits slavery. But so does the New Testament. Here's a little something from Ephesians:
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
I was accused of "attacking" Christianity when I told a room of 3,000 high school journalists that we could—that we must—learn to ignore what the bible says about homosexuality just as we learned to ignore what the bible says about slavery. (Twenty-two Christian students walked out, the other 2978 students—most of them Christian—stayed for the rest of the speech.) I'm not interested in relitigating Bullshitgate. (My posts about the controversy are here and here.) But I would like to take this opportunity to point out that LGBT people aren't asking conservative Christians to do anything they aren't already doing. We're asking conservative Christians to ignore what the bible says about homosexuality just as they ignore what the bible says about slavery. (They ignore what the bible says about slavery so thoroughly that many don't know that the bible says anything about slavery at all!)
Christians moved in their "conception of the value of human beings" before and they can do it again.