Slaves, Obey Your Masters

Mano Paul wrote a poem. The meter is terrible and the rhyme scheme inconsistent, but glass houses and all that. No one can doubt the amount of energy Mano and his family dedicate to their own slavery. And thus ends 2012, the most recently declared “Year of the Bible“. Is there any hope of this horrible tradition ending?

In honor of 2012’s designation by the state of Pennsylvania as “Year of the Bible”, an atheist group purchased a billboard reminding voters of some of the less savory parts of the book. The billboard was promptly torn down. While there are no doubt valid concerns that this may not have been the most sensitive way to call attention to the immorality of the Bible that the Senate was so proud to celebrate, apparently for some people the correct response was simply to destroy the evidence. Christian apologetics for slavery are some of the most backbending, special pleading, ill-considered arguments in the whole of religious discourse, but of course Christians can’t admit that something in the Bible was wrong, or else they might have to start honestly examining what else in the Bible might be wrong.

Mano starts off 2013, with no apparent self-awareness of irony, by whitewashing American history for his fellow believers. While there were no doubt Christians on the side of abolition, the Bible was used by slavers to justify the practice up until it was pried from their cold, dead hands. Perhaps we owe Mano the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he is simply ignorant of American history. Perhaps we owe the Austin Christian Fellowship of India a similar benefit of the doubt for not denouncing Mano’s ignorant sermon, for they may simply be ignorant themselves.

It is one thing to glorify a moment which we should regret for ever having been necessary. It is another thing to take credit on behalf of benighted first century shepherds for being the first “oppressed” group to experience this moment, as if those shepherds who worked the night shift were yearning for freedom from their oppression and not just doing a crappy job that had to be done. But by far the worst thing is that Mano not only ignores the truth about the role of Christianity in the US institution of slavery, but goes on to proudly declare how wonderful it is to be a slave to God instead of “sin”.

In 150 years since Mano’s celebrated Watchnight, progressive thinkers have been working toward a society and moral system which does not require enslavement of any kind. Mano and his fellow fundamentalists are still working to return us to the times of slavery, whether they realize it or not. If only Mano spent as much energy with his family learning history and studying ethics in 2012 as he did making poetry out of his immoral doctrines – perhaps the rest of us would have more hope for the new year.


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