Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Has the Bible Ever Been Used to Assault and Oppress Vulnerable People? Let Me Share Some Important Information with You

This posting is a footnote to the main story today, the photo-op the man in the White House staged for himself while having troops tear-gas peaceful protesters legitimately gathered in a park — a photo-op designed to show him brandishing a bible he never reads in front of a church he never attends, to signal that he and other white males like him own the bible and the rest of us better adjust ourselves to that fact:

Has the bible ever been used as a tool of raw power to assault and oppress vulnerable people, you ask? Well, let me share some important information with you:

In the 1930s, the WPA employed out-of-work writers and teachers to gather the testimony of those who had been enslaved. A whole generation, the final generation of those who had endured American slavery, was passing on, and before that generation and its valuable testimony were lost to history, the WPA thought it was important to capture it.

Again and again, people who had been enslaved told WPA workers that, while enslaved, they were prohibited from forming their own churches or having their own preachers. They were forced to listen to white men preach to them. Those white men told them persistently that the bible is all about slaves obeying their masters — "See, it's written right here, in black and white" — about slaves submitting meekly to white male control, about slaves not stealing or lying, about slaves going to heaven eventually if they obeyed all these rules.

Has the bible ever been used to oppress? That's what the bible was all about for years on end, in the hands of white male slaveholders and the preachers and theologians who offered religious justification for their oppression.

All those fine white men held the bible up, brandished it like a weapon, and used it to beat enslaved people into subordination, to force them into submission. 

The bible brandished as a weapon in the hand of a ruling white man is the religious counterpart to the gun or weapon he holds in his other hand. It is absolutely no accident that the same set of white US Christians who still want to use the bible as a weapon to oppress those they consider inferior also lust — they positively slaver — for white male police to patrol, beat, tear-gas, shoot uppity brown and black protesters or white folks supporting them.

Law-and-order white Christianity in the US goes hand in hand with a carefully crafted, tailored use of the bible that throws away its central passages about Moses leading the Hebrew children out of slavery and the prophets and Jesus teaching us that God values love, justice, and mercy above all things. Law-and-order white US Christianity is about keeping the bible in the hands of white men who wouldn't be caught dead reading or listening to it, so that they can continue to use it as a weapon — in concert with the police — to beat back those asking for justice and mercy. 

Let me end with one more story. The very first gay pride march I ever took part in — this was around 1993 in Charlotte, North Carolina — as the very small group of people taking part in the march made our way through the streets of the city, we approached a certain intersection in Charlotte and could hear a loud, brutal thumping sound.

The sound was audible for blocks before the intersection.

When we got to that intersection, we encountered a crowd of white men, all in suits, holding up bibles, beating those bibles with their fists as we walked by. Glaring at us with hate in their eyes….

Has the bible ever been used as a tool of oppression, to harm, attack, dehumanize people?


And it's still used that way, notably by the more than half of white Christians who elected the moral monstrosity who brandished the bible as a weapon while scowling in front of a church yesterday.

The photo is an AP photo of Louisiana pastor Tony Spell heading to his church ion April 26 in defiance of his governor's stay-at-home order. The photo is an AP photo and has been used in numerous news stories online about Spell, including this one from Arkansas Online.

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