Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
June 9th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Lincoln, Homosexuality, Slavery, and Privilege. #umc #umcschism

Scars of a whipped slave (April 2, 1863, Baton...

Scars of a whipped slave (April 2, 1863, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA. Original caption: “Overseer Artayou Carrier whipped me. I was two months in bed sore from the whipping. My master come after I was whipped; he discharged the overseer. The very words of poor Peter, taken as he sat for his picture.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia) – This is not comparable, at all, to the homosexuality, even if you think it a sin.

Wesley Putnam, a steadfast stalwart against the middle — even denying it actually exists — recently wrote a post suggesting something. I’m not sure really, because it comes off looking like homosexuality (if it is a sin) is the same level of sin as slavery (and not just any slavery, but the American version). Lincoln’s words Wesley has quoted are as follows:

“but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it (slavery) to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States?

If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored — contrivances such as groping for middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man — such as a policy of “don’t care” on a question about which all true men do care — such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance — such as invocations of Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington did.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty, as we understand it.”

Knowing how evil slavery was, Lincoln was not concerned with its eradication where slavery existed. His “middle way” was the allowance that slavery would spread. Indeed, he said,

The other policy is one that squares with the idea that Slavery is wrong, and it consists in doing everything that we ought to do if it is wrong. Now, I don’t wish to be misunderstood, nor to leave a gap down to be misrepresented, even. I don’t mean that we ought to attack it where it exists. To me it seems that if we were to form a government anew, in view of the actual presence of Slavery we should find it necessary to frame just such a government as our fathers did; giving to the slaveholder the entire control where the system was established, while we possessed the power to restrain it from going outside those limits. From the necessities of the case we should be compelled to form just such a government as our blessed fathers gave us; and, surely, if they have so made it, that adds another reason why we should let Slavery alone where it exists.

His only goal was to prevent its spread,

Wrong as we think Slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States?

He would seven have allowed, if a new government was formed, slavery to still exist.

Finally, in the midst of the War Between the States, Lincoln still yet would not undue slavery. In 1862, he would write to Horace Greeley of his desire to do nothing but preserve the union, even with slavery — admitting that he would only use “the colored race” to that benefit alone.

If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.

I was saddened and ashamed to see Wesley use our ugly history with slavery in this regards. It took me several days of reflection to write this post, fearing that I would but be using slavery to my own benefit. I hope it does not come across this way. Rather, I would entreat those who would use the memory of slavery, the holocaust, or other nightmares of history in this debate to rather be quiet else you truly bring the wrath of God upon us, and our ruin in privileged humiliation.

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Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

15 Responses to “Lincoln, Homosexuality, Slavery, and Privilege. #umc #umcschism”
  1. Know More Than I Should says

    It is, and has been, fairly well known among both black and white academics that Lincoln was a racist. He was also a master at telling local crowds what they wanted to hear. Had Lincoln lived in the 20th century, instead of the 19th, his contradictions would have gotten him pilloried by national media before ever reaching the Oval Office.

    Lincoln’s bid to end slavery, interestingly enough coming in the middle of the War Between the States rather than at the beginning thereof, was more motivated by pragmatic politics than by humanitarian concerns. He sought to preserve the Union by any means necessary.

    Lincoln mythology exists as a reminder that, in the short-term at least, victors write a their own flattering history. As with Lincoln, it usually take time for any semblance of actuality to emerge from behind a wallpapering of self-serving propaganda.

  2. John Meunier says

    War Between the States? You must be some sort of Southerner.

    • “some sort” – you yankee.

    • Know More Than I Should says

      Absolutely. Do we have a problem? (Not that I particularly care.)

      • John Meunier says

        I don’t have a problem. Just an amused Yankee noting the lost cause still hanging on. Lived for a time in a place where they still called it “the recent unpleasantness,” in jest of course.

        • John, as a point of clarification – I was once a member of the Southern Party. A long time ago…

          But, I do not think it is a “civil war” by any stretch of the definition. The South wanted to leave because they could not force the North to bend to their will. Therefore, I think the best historically accurate term is “War Between the States.”

          • Know More Than I Should says

            Another way of looking at it is that the South didn’t want a takeover of Washington so much as to eliminate its influence from their lives. Thus, the South started a war of succession rather than of conquest. Much of the South was, and frankly still is, happier with the states’ rights model delineated in the Articles of Confederation as penned in 1777.

            Oddly enough, institutionalize slavery was on the decline when the War Between the States began. The Census of 1860 revealed half the the national workforce was working from someone else. Because wage-slaves cost less and were more disposable than slaves, recently arrived immigrants off the boat were rapidly becoming the predominate labor force.in the North. It was only a matter of time before this labor model spread Southward.

            Given another decade or so, it is possible that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would been politically dead on arrival. While war might have been unavoidable, the fiction that it was over slavery would most likely never have taken root. If that had happened, the county might have been better able to come to grips with the North-South division that has plagued the country since before The Constitution of the United States was written in 1787.

            Meanwhile, the dumbest thing the North did after the war was to impose Reconstruction. Much like France’s insistence of Germany’s paying reparations after The Great War, it caused more problems for the North than it solved in the South. If the North had the good sense to come up with a post-war Marshall-like Plan, the profound and divisive cleavage between Red States and Blue States might not exist today.

          • I agree with 3/4’s of what I’ve seen here. My only quibble is with the first paragraph.

            I think the South wanted to leave because they sensed that slavery was coming to an end, either through the natural progression or because the non-slave states would finally out number the slave states. It was secession, not civil war.

          • Know More Than I Should says

            One proof that the South was a haven for states’ right is in ratification of the The Constitution. Of the first seven states to ratify The Constitution of 1787, only two were from the South. The last six states were almost equally divided by geographic region – depending on how one wishes to classify Maryland. Of course, as a hotbed of Anti-Federalist sentiment to which the Federalist Papers were addressed, New York was numbered among the last states to approve the godless new constitution that forbade religious tests for public office. Federalist No. 46 even suggests an armed citizenry in the states is a check on central government tyranny.

            Then there were those pesky late 18th century Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions advocating states’ rights. John C. Calhoun was an outspoken 19th century proponent of states’ rights, Jeffersonian-style limited government, and even nullification if Washington got too bossy.

            Despite The Constitution of the Confederate States of America being almost identical in wording to The Constitution of United States of America, with a few notable alterations, the fact that the rebelling Southern states choose to label their government a confederacy further hints a their sentiments.

            It is also worth pointing out that until The Great Depression, Washington and the president had far less power than they do today.

            As enshrined in the Tenth Amendment, states were responsible for most of the fundamental governance. It was not until after the War Between the States that, on a case by case basis, the Bill of Rights was imposed upon the states. Even in the early 20th century, wage and hour as well as similar labor issues to deemed by federal courts to be the province of the states. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, there is still a big push in the South and part of the West to promote states’ rights.

  3. What if slavery and homosexuality are both sin, but not in the sense the blogger intended? What if the sin lies in the way that the institutional church has used Scripture to uphold the wrong side of the argument on both of these issues… to marginalize, to dehumanize, to end the conversation about what is truly right in the sight of God with the spiritual equivalent of “neener neener:” The Bible clearly states….

    • if you look at the link the previous blogger used to datamine the quote – you’ll see Lincoln mocking Christian pastors on both sides of the issue.

      • Know More Than I Should says

        An intensely private man, Lincoln never made a public profession of faith despite attending church. Quite likely, Lincoln was a deist. This was the mold of many American Founding Fathers after the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s disastrous experiment in theocracy. As such, he might not have had much use for dogmatic preachers of any stripe.

    • Interesting. Slavery takes away the rights of someone. Anti-gay movement takes away the rights of someone. Pro-gay movement takes away the rights of someone, to take away the rights of someone.

  4. George Plasterer says

    I realize this is an old post. I have recently read biographies of the Presidents during the Jacksonian Era. The Democrat Party generally wanted to preserve the union and slavery. They believed such preservation would happen only if they kept expanding it to other states as the nation moved westward. The icing on the cake, of course, was the Dred Scott decision. If a southerner who owned a slave went anywhere in the USA, the state had no right to rescind the property right over the slave. In effect, the Court made slavery the law of the land throughout the country. In any case, many Americans were in the same boat as Lincoln, trying to find a middle way. I am not sure of details, but it would not surprise me if Lincoln had contradictory notions on race. His House Divided speech was important. The fact that Lincoln wanted to limit its spread was actually an attempt to end the conflict peacefully, for he knew if it did not spread it would die.

    One of the things I appreciate about the reflection, though, is that comparison with slavery is inappropriate. Granting that some persons have had to struggle to gain certain political and civil rights, none of them have had to face the brutality of the American version of slavery.

  5. t Timothy 1:10 clearly condemns slavery. But it also clearly condemns homosexuality.

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