Friday, April 12, 2013

Chalcedon Presbyterian Church Pastor Defends Slavery

Vyckie Garrison at No Longer Quivering recently posted a video of Joe Morecraft, pastor of Chalcedon Presbyterian Church of Cumming, Georgia, defending slavery. To give readers a sense of Morecraft's theology, Chalcedon's front page announces a "Christ / Politics / Morality Seminar", which includes lectures from the late Christian reconstructionist author R.J. Rushdoony.

Morecraft cites Proverbs 11:29 -- "the foolish will be servant to the wise-hearted" -- to defend the idea that irresponsible people should be enslaved by sensible, godly masters. Morecraft was not citing Proverbs 11:29 figuratively, but literally. At the 2:12 mark of the video, he insists that slavery has a place in "godly cultures".
"There is a place for slavery, then, in godly cultures. It's the only place you can keep a fool under wraps. It's the only way you can keep a man from ruining other people's families. He has a slave mentality, doesn't want to live for the future, doesn't care for the past, doesn't have any commitment to family, lives only for the present, wants to be a dependent, doesn't want the responsibilities and freedom of maturity. Put him in somebody else's service where they can watch over him and make him do right work even though he doesn't want to do it. I didn't say that. Says it here [in the Bible]."
At the 3:32 mark, Morecraft claimed that men who did not want to adopt the station of an adult could opt to remain enslaved in ancient Biblical times. He sneers at men who wear earrings, although what he thinks of women who wear earrings is anyone's guess.
"In the Old Testament ... If a man was in your service and was an indentured servant, and he did not want the rights and the freedoms of a mature, independent man, he could become your permanent slave. And what he would do, he would put his ear on the threshold of your door and there would be a nail pound[ed] through his ear. Pierced ears in men was a sign of slavery. Still is."
Morecraft ignores what the Biblical passage in question really says. Exodus 21:2-6 states that if a slave-owner gives a wife to his male slave, the wife and any children belong to the slave-owner indefinitely. If a male slave is set free, his wife and children are forbidden from going with him. If the male slave chooses to stay with his family, he is condemned to lifelong slavery after his ear is pierced with an awl. In other words, a slave-owner coerced his male slave to remain in bondage by holding the man's family hostage. This was NOT a matter of genuine choice for any of the slaves involved.

If Morecraft performed a thorough reading of his Bible, he'd realize that slavery under the Hebrews was a cruel, unjust institution. Contrary to Morecraft's words, slavery was not a means of teaching responsibility to wastrels, but a coercive form of labor bondage and sexual servitude. Slave-owners purchased slaves as chattel (Leviticus 25:44-46) or captured them in war (I Chronicles 5:18-22; II Chronicles 28:6-8). Warriors captured foreign women and enslaved for sexual use (Numbers 31:1-18). Even children were forced into bondage (Deuteronomy 20:13-14). Slave-owners could torture their slaves short of immediate death (Exodus 21:20-21) and force male slaves to choose between their families and freedom (Exodus 21:2-6). In short, Biblical slavery was NOT a beneficial institution, but a violent and exploitative one.

We need look no further than our heritage for evidence of slavery's atrocities. Has Morecraft forgotten the chilling legacy of slavery in American history? Human beings reduced to chattel, forced labor, forced ignorance, torture, sexual violence, families rent asunder, and a host of other horrors were the fruits of slavery in the U.S., as even a casual student of U.S. history knows. Is THIS what Morecraft wants us to return to? Is THIS what Morecraft considers a virtuous practice?

Even today, slavery exists across the globe in the form of debt bondage, labor trafficking, and sex trafficking. Unlike Morecraft, activists (both Christian and secular) recognize these human rights violations as evil and work diligently to combat them. If other Christians have been inspired by their faith to defend human rights, what's the hold-up with Morecraft?

In short, Morecraft has become so fixated on his particular interpretation of scripture that he ignores basic ideas of right and wrong. By its very nature, slavery is an affront to intrinsic human dignity. No person, no matter how allegedly "irresponsible", deserves to be dehumanized as chattel. Morecraft needs to reexamine his conscience and recognize slavery as the evil it truly is.

Vyckie Garrison reminds readers that "Pastor Joe Morecraft’s theocratic vision of building a Christian nation is one more reason why freedom-loving Americans must vigilantly guard our cherished Separation of Church and State." If we value human rights and wish to preserve the progress that society has made, we need to reject the disturbing ideas of Christian reconstructionists as well.


  1. Presbyterians condoning slavery?! Wow! This guy definitely must be PCA, as opposed to PC(USA), who tend to be more in, not into slavery!!

    1. Michelle -- See what fundamentalism and scriptural literalism lead to? Ugh.


      They're a part of their own, strange denomination. PCA and PCUSA don't believe this slop.

  2. What a truly daft interpretation of that verse from Proverbs.

    1. Doug -- Lack of empathy + fundamentalism = this kind of truly daft nonsense.

  3. Wow, just wow. To think that someone could look around today and think slavery is a good idea is just crazy. When we point to things like slavery in the bible, most Christians will be quick to say that no one actually argues for slavery based on the bible. Most people don't, but some will.

    One quote from him really stood out to me
    "[slavery is] the only way you can keep a man from ruining other people's families."

    So basically he wants to have the freedom to run his family any way he wants. His plan to accomplish this is to enslave someone else. Nice job guy.

    1. Hausdorff -- Some fundamentalist men seem to want to run their families any way they want, as if they were fiefdoms. I don't know how enslaving people is supposed to achieve this, though.

      Things like this should be a warning to the world about scriptural inerrancy and fundamentalism.

    2. The fact that he wants to run his family that way is fine with me. The fact that he states this as an explanation of why slavery is okay is mind boggling.

      Totally agree with you about inerrancy and fundamentalism

    3. Hausdorff -- I wonder what his family thinks of it, though. Can you imagine having this guy for a dad?

      The more I look at fundamentalists, the more I realize that they will find odd ways to defend their position.


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