Category Archives: slavery

Nationalism: Who makes the bricks?

Moses wrote the book of Genesis to the nation of Israel who had just been delivered from the oppression of Egypt. In Egypt, they were slaves who made bricks and built buildings for their oppressors. They made bricks day and night to build cities for Pharaoh.
Moses wrote about this when he wrote about the tower of Babel:

Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth (Gen. 11:3–4).

They were building a kingdom to regain what they had lost in Eden. After mankind was exiled from the presence of God, they were scattered. After Noah departed from the Ark, they began to scatter. It didn’t take long for them to organize and seek to build what they had lost.

We will fight the grave. We will make a name for ourselves. We will establish ourselves.

Isaiah later takes this idea and adds to it. Lucifer, by the way, refers to Babylon, not Satan.

Isaiah 14:12–15 (NKJV)
12“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!
13For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;
14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
15Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.

Notice the echoes of the same themes – the tower reaching to heaven. We will be like the most high. We will exalt our throne. We will sit on the mount of the congregation of the Lord. Read the whole chapter. Isaiah is speaking about the spirit that drives Babylon, and every kingdom of this earth.

In other words, “We will establish the kingdom of God on this earth. We will build cities. We will pass laws. We will deal with evil-doers. We will create a society, a City on the Hill. And there will be no more curse.”

View it from the backdrop of the description of Babel. This is a major theme throughout the Bible, but I only want to focus on one aspect of it.

The Tower was built with bricks and mortar. And the original readers of Genesis would have known exactly what that meant. Someone had to make the bricks and build the buildings.

That would not have been Pharaoh, the one with the grand plan. It would have been the slaves.

And so comes the downfall of every single scheme to build the kingdom of God on this earth. Someone has to make the bricks.

Even the founding of our own country, which many claim is the “City on the Hill”, using the phrase of the puritans. Who did the work?

Dabney complained after the slaves were set free that he hardly had time to write anymore because of all the menial labor that wasn’t getting done.

In our own state, the California Indians were enslaved to harvest the crops and build the cities. The adobe houses weren’t going to build themselves.

The “City on the Hill” is a grand idea, until you think about who is making the bricks. One thing is for sure. The one who says, “Come let us make bricks” is NOT the one who is actually making the bricks. The one who holds the whip is the one giving the commands. The one at the other end of the whip is making the bricks.

At the end of Genesis 11, there is a contrast. We are introduced to a new character. Abraham. God gives Abraham a promise, and Abraham believes it. And he learns to wait for it.

Hebrews 11 tells us this:

Hebrews 11:9–10 (NKJV)
9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;
10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Abraham lived in tents his whole life, because he waited for another kind of city. A city where God makes the bricks and builds the city.

Dwell on that for a moment.

There is no oppression, no vanity under the sun, no pain and toil.

And truly no more curse. No curse for anyone, for God will take it on himself.

HE makes the bricks and prepares a place for you. And you can dwell in a tent while you wait, if that is what it takes.

THIS is the kingdom of God.

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Filed under liberty, Nationalism, slavery

Happy Juneteenth.

Happy Juneteenth, everyone. In case you need a little history, you can check this out here.

I am writing this post, not to add any more division and misunderstanding. God knows we have had enough of that. Nor am I writing to point fingers at anyone. I am simply seeking to understand and seeking to be understood. So this might be a bit of my own history here. I know more about the hidden recesses of my own heart than the hearts of others anyway, and I am still searching.

All of my life I have heard of the confederate “heroes”. You know the ones. Stonewall Jackson. Robert E Lee. Jefferson Davis.

I have heard of the southern heroes of Presbyterian orthodoxy as well, men like R.L. Dabney, J.H. Thornwell and others.

And I know now of the controversy surrounding these men. With all of their achievements, there was one huge glaring error – the support of the horrible institution of slavery.

To critique these men in some circles is to incur the wrath of the orthodox. One simply needs to spend a moment on Twitter to see it. Now it seems more relevant than ever, when the movement is so strong to remove the statues of Lee and Jackson from southern cities.

There was a time in my life when I also would have said, “Yes, slavery was wrong and it needed to be abolished. But it was only a very small aspect of who these men were. Certainly we can honor their achievements and their character while disagreeing with their stand on slavery.”

Yes. I used to think that way too. And then I listened.

It occurred to me that my saying this exposed a very ugly part of my own heart. The only way I could say this is if black lives didn’t REALLY matter to me. In theory, they would have mattered. I would say, “Of course, black lives matter. ALL lives matter.” But in practice, things were different.

It pains me to say this. Repentant sin still has the power to shame.

But let me explain. To say that Robert E. Lee or Thomas Jefferson or George Whitefield were true heroes except for their views on slavery is the same as saying that black lives really DON’T matter. There are certain viewpoints that color everything about a man.

One recent tweet from a very famous, conservative Christian leader and apologist exposes what I am saying. He said, “Slavery was a very small part of who Robert E Lee was.”

Which you can only say if slavery doesn’t really matter. And you can only say that slavery doesn’t matter if black lives don’t matter.

Please think it through. Would it be tolerated in any other setting?

“Marquis de Sade was a fine citizen except for his habit of torturing young women.”

“Bill Cosby was a great man, with strong family values except for that little peccadillo of drugging and raping women.”

“Larry Flint was a great champion of freedom. Violent Pornography was only a trivial part of who he was.”

“Dennis Rader was a fine Christian man, who taught Sunday School and was a leader in his community. Binding, torturing, and killing was only a trivial part of his character.”

I think you are getting my point. When we say that Robert E Lee or R.L. Dabney were great Christian influencers, and that slavery was only a small part of who they were as men – here is what is heard: Black lives are trivial and don’t really matter.

If you want to know why there are so many who are insisting that black lives matter, there it is.

Here is how slavery operated. Read a history. Men, women and children were sold on auction blocks, inspected like cattle. Families were torn apart, children were sold apart from their mothers, husbands and wives separated for the profit of landowners. Men, women and children could be raped, beaten, tortured. And they were, frequently. They did not count as humans. It was a crime to teach them how to read. They were not allowed in white churches. It was illegal to put them in “white” clothes. A white man seen in the company of a black man was considered an accomplice to an escape in Virginia. Laws were passed that made it impossible for slaves to be freed.

Whole presbyteries owned slaves and rented them to land-owners who worked them into the ground until they were dead. And the churches used the proceeds to pay for their pastors so that they could continue to preach the gospel over the bodies of the slaves.

The first gun control laws in Virginia ordered all white men to come to church armed to prevent any blacks from trying to seek asylum.

And so when we say, “Robert E Lee was a good man, except for his support of slavery” we are counting all of that history as trivial. And the only way that we can do that is if black lives don’t really matter.

PS – I guess I also need to say this. Apparently there is a movement and an organization called “Black Lives Matter”. I know nothing about them. This post isn’t about them.

It is about real lives and real people. Your daughters matter, which is why we don’t have statues of Marquis de Sade in our public squares. Your children’s lives matter, which is why we don’t put up statues of Dennis Rader. And black lives also matter. The first two aren’t disputed, but tend to be well-agreed-upon.

But as long as people keep considering slavery to be a trivial issue, or “good for the African”, or, “A product of its time”, then we will also need to continue to insist that black lives do indeed matter.

It is time to do justice to the millions that died, trampled into the dust by white slave owners, pulled from their homes by white slavers, and sold like cattle to plantation owners. A good first step would be to acknowledge that the “defense of slavery” is not a trivial thing. It overshadows everything else about a person.

A pedophile might otherwise be a good person. A murderer might not be murdering 99% of the time. A bank robber doesn’t rob every bank. A man beating you up might be a kind and loving husband the rest of the time. A cheating wife might not cheat 6 days of the week.

But they are defined by the one thing – pedophile. Murderer. Robber. Brawler. Abuser. Adulterer.

Or a slave owner. One who used the body of another against his or her will for their own profit. And then tried to justify it from the scripture.

Quit honoring these men. We can do better, and we should.

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Filed under Race, slavery