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Bible openThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 7:20-24

20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant[a] when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers,[b] in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

——————————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s entry discussed Paul’s words of comfort to Jewish and Gentile men converting to Christianity. There was no need for the Jew to fret that he had been circumcised as an infant. Similarly, there was no need for the Gentile convert to become circumcised.

These verses discuss the state of men and women converting to Christianity. Paul offers similar words of comfort, saying that God knows the circumstances in which we live and He accepts us all (verse 20). Christianity has to do with our spiritual rather than our physical state or social status.

John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

The point is this: a relationship to Christ is compatible with any social status. You can be single, married, widowed, divorced. You can be a slave, a free man. You can be a Jew. You can be a Gentile. You can be a man. You can be a woman. You can live in any kind of society: democracy or total anarchy, or you can live in a dictatorship. You can be anywhere from America to Cuba to Red China to any place in the world, and Christianity is compatible with any social status. Why? Because it is internal, not external

Paul’s concern here is that the Christians realize that the primary business is being a Christian, not outward circumstances that are relatively or totally unimportant. Don’t ever let outward things become a major importance.

You’re saying, “This means you can’t have any progress?”

No, he isn’t saying that. He isn’t saying you can’t have a promotion, you can’t advance in your business or your education, or seek a better life, or seek to increase your income or get a better job or change employment. No.

What he is saying is don’t disrupt the social balance in the name of Christ. In other words, nobody should desire to change his status in life simply because he’s a Christian, as if Christian was incompatible with certain kinds of social positions. It isn’t. It’s compatible with anything. It’s well-suited to any man or any woman in any situation in life as long as that person realizes that the key thing is to keep the commandments of the Lord. Obedience is possible in any situation. Now you may pay a higher price for it in some than in others, but it’s possible.

You see, when the Lord saved you, He didn’t save you to change your earthly status; He saved you to change your soul and your eternal destiny.

Today’s verses concern slavery, which was widespread throughout the ancient world. To be a bondservant meant that you had no property of your own and that you were essentially your master’s property.

That’s a bad state of affairs.

However, in the ancient world, slaves could a) purchase their freedom (e.g. by working long enough to pay off their financial debt to their master) or b) become free men during a census period or c) if master and slave arranged for freedom before a provincial official.

Depending on where one lived at that time, there were closed systems and open systems regarding freed men and women. A closed system still relegated a freed person to the bottom rungs of society with limited participation in it. An open system allowed freed persons to participate much more in society with certain rights guaranteed.

Whatever the case, the good news is that Paul wants slaves to know that their status is no bar to becoming a Christian. At the end of Romans, Paul speaks of various people he has encountered during his journeys and church planting. Some of those people were slaves and they were well respected Christians (see Romans 16:7-10 and Romans 16:14-16).

MacArthur continues:

You say, “John, did the Bible say slavery doesn’t matter?”

No. No, the Bible doesn’t say slavery doesn’t matter; the Bible says if you were saved as a slave, don’t worry about it. You can be a Christian as a slave. Can’t you? You can be a Christian as an anything, socially speaking. I’m not talking about moral things, but social. Paul is not approving of slavery; he is merely saying that slavery is not an obstacle to Christian living.

We see in verse 21 that Paul encourages those slaves who can gain their freedom to do so.

Paul goes on to say that a slave on Earth is a free man as far as Christ is concerned (verse 22). We are all equal in His sight.

MacArthur says:

what he’s saying here is if you’re saved a slave, don’t worry about it. But if freedom comes along, grab it. And, you know, in Rome, there was the provision. In fact, many owners kept a nest egg, and they added money into it all the time, until finally it got to the place where the guy could buy his own freedom. So, the definition wasn’t that, necessarily, oppressive. In some cases there were cruel masters, but you could be a slave. And it could be tolerable. Don’t worry about it. But if you’re freedom comes, use it. And this just means God’s giving you that and taking you another step.

He then explains the story of the Book of Philemon, which concerns one of Philemon’s slaves, Onesimus, who was on the run:

There’s a good illustration of this in the little book of Philemon. Philemon is an interesting little book, right after Titus and before the book of Hebrews. And Philemon was a Christian man in Colossi. He had a slave, among other slaves. He was probably a very wealthy man. One of his slaves was named Onesimus. And Onesimus decided he wanted his freedom. So, Onesimus stole some stuff out of Philemon’s house, packed his little bag, and hustled off to Rome. And what he was figuring, to lose himself in the mob at Rome.

And while he was mingling with the crowd at Rome, he ran into a very interesting man by the name of Paul, which began a very dramatic transformation in the life of Onesimus. In verse 10, Paul says, “I beseech you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.” Now, we don’t know how – Paul was undoubtedly a prisoner here, and somehow he got in connection with Onesimus, and led Onesimus to Christ.

Onesimus became a Christian, and oh, Paul loved him. In verse 11 he says, “This guy was profitable, and I really cared for him. And he was important to me.”

But one day, Paul and Onesimus were kind of getting down to it, and they sat down, and Onesimus says, “Hey, Paul, I’ve got to tell you something. I don’t know how this is going to go over, but I’m a runaway slave.” Well, that must have really crushed Paul. What was he going to do?

“Well, who’s your master?”

“Well, he’s Philemon. You know, a Christian over at Colossi.” That even made it worse.

“Oh.” Well, what could Paul do? “Well, look, slavery’s a rotten institution anyway. Just cool it, and I’ll keep you here, and no one will ever know. That’s one thing; we’ll just hide you. The other one would be I’ll send you back with a letter telling Philemon what I think of him as a slave owner.” And Philemon could have been, “Dear Philemon, let all your slaves go. Slavery’s a rotten institution.”

Or Paul could have just said, “No, according to this society, we have a social status of masters and slaves. You’re a slave. You disobeyed the rules of society. You have to go back and make it right.”

And that’s what he did. And he sent Onesimus back with a letter. And you know what the letter says? “Hey, Philemon, here comes your slave, and he’s really been great to me, and I’ve led him to Jesus Christ. Would you accept him as a brother? Would you take him back in good graces as your good slave? I think he’ll serve you better than he’s ever served you.”

And off hustles Onesimus with a letter. And, you know, he had a lot to risk, because slaves in those days, for running away, could be killed, or at best they could have a brand on their head. They put a big F on their head for fugitīvus which meant runaway. So, he could have paid a high price. But Onesimus, now in the bonds of Christ, goes back and gives the letter, and tradition tells us Philemon embraced him with open arms, and they were accepted as brothers together, even though he continued to be his servant and his slave.

Now, in all of Philemon, Paul says nothing about slavery. He doesn’t condemn it. He doesn’t tell Philemon to set Onesimus free. He just accepts the social status that Onesimus was in and knew he could go back and be a slave, and it wouldn’t have any effect on his Christian life.

Slavery in the US and in former British colonies was in the news a lot last year. Marxists have long condemned the Church for not having done enough about it. They conveniently ignore the abolitionist movement, more about which below.

However, MacArthur offers a reason why there were no Christian revolutions about slavery in the New Testament era. It would have completely taken Jesus out of the equation. Jesus came to offer us salvation, not a socio-political revolution:

Now, some people have criticized Paul for not attacking the system of slavery. But the point is this, people, if Christianity had encouraged the ending of slavery, then Christianity would have been seen as a political revolution, and Christians would have been killed in a revolution.

And I would add another thing. If Christian slaves had started to disrupt society, then the major issue would have been lost: the issue of faith in Jesus Christ.

Now, you know what’s happened in America. Every time ‘Christianity’ attaches itself to a social movement, the message of Christianity gets totally lost. Given the Christian faith, emancipation is bound to happen. At the time, it was not right. So, Paul says, don’t concern yourself with your earthly state; don’t concern yourself with a situation that is superficial. The major issue is internal.

Therefore, a slave can live as a slave and still be redeemed by Christ. To Christ, the slave is a free man (verse 22).

However, Paul adds in that verse that a free man becomes a slave to Christ upon his conversion:

All he’s simply saying is, “You may be a slave physically, but you’re a free man spiritually. And you may be a free man physically, but you’re a slave spiritually.”

In other words, he just kind of shows the fact that nothing really matters on the surface. It doesn’t matter whether you’re physically bound or free, it only matters that you’re both spiritually bound and free in the paradox of Christianity. Do you understand that paradox? That as a Christian, you’re the servant of Jesus Christ; and yet, as a Christian, you’re free from the law, from sin, from Satan, from hell, from the curse. You understand that paradox? That’s what he’s saying.

Christ has totally set you free to be His servant. Don’t worry about the superficial situation you’re in.

MacArthur reminds us that the abolitionist movement in Britain and the United States came from Christians:

Did you know that the concentration of righteousness that was in Christianity really became the catalyst that ultimately abolished slavery in the world? Christianity has done that. The important thing, you see, is to serve God. And a slave shouldn’t worry about the fact that he’s a slave; he should just serve God. And as this whole righteous kind of life begins to penetrate and spread, the downfall of an enslaving system will occur.

Where does slavery exist today? Mostly in Asia. However, in Africa, it still exists in Mauritania, even if the government says it doesn’t. It would be interesting for protesters from the US to go there and urge the Mauritanian government to get everyone to free their slaves. They could protest, riot and topple statues. One wonders what would happen.

In 2018, The Guardian published an article, ‘The unspeakable truth about slavery in Mauritania’, which begins as follows:

In 1981, Mauritania made slavery illegal, the last country in the world to do so. Nonetheless, tens of thousands of people – mostly from the minority Haratine or Afro-Mauritanian groups – still live as bonded labourers, domestic servants or child brides. Local rights groups estimate that up to 20% of the population is enslaved, with one in two Haratines forced to work on farms or in homes with no possibility of freedom, education or pay.

Slavery has a long history in this north African desert nation. For centuries, Arabic-speaking Moors raided African villages, resulting in a rigid caste system that still exists to this day, with darker-skinned inhabitants beholden to their lighter-skinned “masters”. Slave status is passed down from mother to child, and anti-slavery activists are regularly tortured and detained. Yet the government routinely denies that slavery exists in Mauritania, instead praising itself for eradicating the practice.

On June 26, 2020, The Daily Caller published an article, ‘An African Country Still Has Slavery — Obama Awarded Them Trade Benefits, Trump Reversed It’:

There are currently an estimated 21 million to 45 million people trapped in slavery today, and an estimated 9.2 million of them are in Africa. Among these countries, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania is perhaps the only place in the world where people can still be born into slavery.

But I digress.

In verse 23, Paul reminds the Corinthians that Christ paid the price for their spiritual freedom by dying on the Cross.

Therefore, Christians should not worry about their temporal condition (verse 24).

Matthew Henry sums up these verses as follows:

Note, The special presence and favour of God are not limited to any outward condition or performance. He may enjoy it who is circumcised; and so may he who is uncircumcised. He who is bound may have it as well as he who is free. In this respect there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, Colossians 3:11. The favour of God is not bound.

God knows where we are in life. Similarly, our Lord Jesus knows. Christians can fulfil God’s will by obeying the Commandments and be certain of the life of the world to come through salvation through Christ Jesus.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 7:25-28

I was heartened to see two recent videos of Americans of Italian descent object to the tearing down of Christopher Columbus statues in the United States.

Everywhere else in the world — especially Spanish-speaking countries — Christopher Columbus is viewed as a hero.

Not so in today’s United States.

Language alert in the two powerful videos below.

First up is the actor, director and singer Robert Davi. After him, we have an anonymous American of Italian descent who also puts verbal pedal to the metal. Both are short and well worth watching:

Italians did not have an easy ride when they settled in America, which they, rightly, considered to be a land of promise. They — along with many other immigrants during the 19th and early 20th centuries — were not treated well at all.

In fact, a lot of European immigrants — not only Italians — were treated like dirt. They were considered to be too dark, too dirty, too unkempt, too odorous — all because they were poor.

They were called names, the likes of which are not repeated in polite company these days:

But, all of that has been forgotten.

A few factual reminders follow.

When European immigrants landed at Ellis Island outside of New York City for ‘processing’, it was no treat. Many feared the health inspection staff would send them back on the next ship. Their main worry was about married couples or families being separated during that time. A number of extended family members did not make the journey in the first place, because they had health conditions that could prohibit them from entering the country. If you couldn’t walk well or had visible ailments, you didn’t make the grade.

There was no welfare state at that time, either. So, immigrant men and boys had to find work — fast. Lodging was another issue, especially for families. Some had sponsors — relatives — in other parts of the country, e.g. the Midwest or the West Coast. Sponsored immigrants had to find the money to travel further, if they did not have it already.

So, there was no welfare provision for public housing, food or medical care.

NOTHING.

You provided for yourself and your family or you went back where you came from:

The Irish were treated poorly in the Americas even further back, starting in the days of the Thirteen Colonies:

The two groups can combine forces to fight off today’s Marxist revisionism:

The institution of Columbus Day by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892 was a national apology for the lynching of 11 Italian immigrants by bigots in New Orleans on March 14, 1891.

Even now, that is still the largest number of people lynched on a single day in the United States. Yes, they were Italian.

The statues of Christopher Columbus in the United States were a further way of apologising to Italian immigrants who had been badly treated during their early years in the United States:

The revisionists do not know enough history of North America.

If they did, they never would have come out with their nonsense:

Christopher Columbus has a lot of support, even in Canada:

A few Britons also replied to Robert Davi’s tweet, moved by his video.

For those who never learned the history of immigration over a century ago, please try to become better informed before accusing everyone else of evil.

Most immigrants had a very hard time settling in, but they worked very hard for what they earned. They also passed those values of hard work and patriotism on to their descendants.

On Tuesday, May 22, President Trump addressed the Susan B. Anthony List 11th Annual Campaign for Life Gala.

He said (emphases mine):

This organization bears the name of one of the greatest champions of freedom in American history: Susan B. Anthony. (Applause.) She fought for decades to end slavery, to secure women’s right to vote, and to respect the dignity of every single person. A great person, a great woman, was she. (Applause.)

Now we have a chance to honor her legacy and restore the first right in the Declaration of Independence. It’s called the right to life. (Applause.)

The president then introduced the Alexanders from Gaithersburg, Maryland, who adopted an opioid-dependent baby girl, Catherine. Now four years old, Catherine is developing normally, including cognitively:

Hi, Catherine. Hi. (Applause.) Come on up here, Catherine. Come on. Catherine is four years old, and she is full of incredible energy, spirit, and talent. At the age of two — come on up, Catherine — she memorized “America the Beautiful.” She recites poetry. And recently she announced to her dad that when she grows up she wants to be a famous police officer. And then, when she gets tired of that, she wants to become President. That’s okay with her. (Applause.) She’ll be President someday.

Every time Catherine’s older siblings come home from school, Catherine runs into their arms and gives them a great, big, beautiful hug. They’re amazed by how much she loves them and how much they love her.

So tonight, we celebrate you, Catherine. We celebrate your life. Thank you, darling. (Applause.)

The president pointed out that the United States has more pro-life people in government than ever before in recent history:

This video clip has highlights of the event:

Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and Republican presidential candidate, made an excellent point:

If only Democrats realised that.

Thank goodness America has someone in the White House who does.

Please note — sensitive subject matter below.

On Monday, October 9, 2017, the United States celebrated Columbus Day.

The actual day is October 12, but the second Monday is chosen to give Americans a three-day holiday where it is observed.

When I learned about Christopher Columbus in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the teachers presented a straightforward lesson. We all had to know the year he arrived: 1492. We had to know the names of his ships: the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. We learned that he was an Italian, from Genoa. We learned that Spain — King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I — financed his trip to the New World, which he hoped was the Indies in Asia. The object was to acquire valuable natural resources, e.g. gold.

I don’t think many of us walked out of that history lesson thinking Columbus was perfect, but we remembered that he opened up the Atlantic to future exploration, colonisation and trade.

The American colonies were, for a time, referred to popularly as Columbia, even though Columbus never landed on the US mainland.

Columbus always maintained that the islands he claimed for Spain were in Asia. It was Amerigo Vespucci who proved during his voyages that they were in the New World, and why America was so named.

Remnants of Columbus’s terminology still exist. We use the name ‘Indian’ because that is what he called the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean islands he discovered. Again, he was certain he was in Asia — the Indies he was sent to discover. Even today, some of those islands are collectively referred to as the West Indies.

These days, Columbus is viewed as a bad man. American leftists have defaced Columbus statues in some cities. However, no one today discusses the brutality of the tribes he encountered. Furthermore, no one looks at standard behaviour and legal punishments of the 15th century.

Paraphrasing Thomas Hobbes, life was nasty, short and brutish. Europeans were abused in their own countries with excessive legal corporal punishments of some description, which Westerners have not tolerated for many decades.

Therefore, for people to say that Christopher Columbus was some sort of anomaly is far from the truth. He was typical of his time.

On Monday, October 9, Tucker Carlson of Fox News interviewed a professor from the University of Maryland, asking him about the furore about Columbus Day:

The professor says that Columbus had 100,000 slaves. He also mentions that Columbus started the slave trade because he had a number of blacks on his ships. However, one could go into the Moorish abduction and enslavement of whites in the British Isles in the 1600s and how ‘white slavery’ became another name for prostitution. It wasn’t just in the British Isles, either — but all over Europe (emphases mine below):

The slave markets that flourished on the Barbary Coast of North Africa, or modern-day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and western Libya, between the 16th and middle of the 18th century. These markets prospered while the states were nominally under Ottoman suzerainty, but in reality they were mostly autonomous. The North African slave markets traded in European slaves which were acquired by Barbary pirates in slave raids on ships and by raids on coastal towns from Italy to Spain, Portugal, France, England, the Netherlands, and as far afield as Iceland. Men, women, and children were captured to such a devastating extent that vast numbers of sea coast towns were abandoned. It is estimated that between 1500-1800, 1 million to 1.25 million white Christian Europeans were enslaved in North Africa, from the beginning of the 16th century to the middle of the 18th, by slave traders from Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli alone (these numbers do not include the European people which were enslaved by Morocco and by other raiders and traders of the Mediterranean Sea coast),[6] and roughly 700 Americans were held captive in this region as slaves between 1785 and 1815.[7]

Sixteenth- and 17th-century customs statistics suggest that Istanbul’s additional slave import from the Black Sea may have totaled around 2.5 million from 1450 to 1700.[8] The markets declined after the loss of the Barbary Wars and finally ended in the 1830s, when the region was conquered by France.

But I digress.

The professor whom Tucker Carlson interviewed even says at the 7:30 mark that Columbus never went to the US mainland. That admission rather shoots the anti-Columbus argument in the foot.

However, before bringing on the professor, Carlson introduced this topic wisely:

Carlson says this crusade against Columbus is all about the Left’s attempt to destroy Western civilisation:

  • This isn’t really about Columbus;
  • This is a full-scale assault from within on the West itself.

Before he interviews the professor (this part is in the full video), Carlson mentions an academic paper for the Third World Quarterly that had to be withdrawn not because it wasn’t well-researched, but because the editorial board vehemently disagreed with its conclusions.

This tweet mentions the fear of violent repercussions should the paper be published:

An online sleuth managed to trace the abstract and put the link on the Wayback Machine:

Abstract

For the last 100 years, Western colonialism has had a bad name. It is high time to question this orthodoxy. Western colonialism was, as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found, using realistic measures of those concepts. The countries that embraced their colonial inheritance, by and large, did better than those that spurned it. Anti-colonial ideology imposed grave harms on subject peoples and continues to thwart sustained development and a fruitful encounter with modernity in many places. Colonialism can be recovered by weak and fragile states today in three ways: by reclaiming colonial modes of governance; by recolonising some areas; and by creating new Western colonies from scratch.

Overall, there is some truth in that, although I disagree with recolonisation. Those countries have been independent for well over five decades; they need to govern themselves properly, without corruption — for their people’s sake.

In closing, Carlson made another good point: the Latin American countries with statues, city squares and other places named after Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón) aren’t renaming or dismantling them.

This is just one more reason not to trust the Left.

— Do read the comment below about Spain and Columbus Day. —

In opening remarks to his staff on March 6, 2017, the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Dr Ben Carson, commented on slaves, saying they were ‘immigrants’.

The media and other ‘experts’ verbally ganged up on the retired brain surgeon, best known for his pioneering surgery on conjoined twins. Those outside the United States will be interested to know that Carson is black and grew up in Detroit.

Yet, Obama made the same comment in 2015, and no one said a word. Why is it that Carson was criticised but Obama was not?

The Daily Caller had an article on the media storm:

“That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity,” Carson said during a speech at HUD’s offices.

“There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

Liberal pundits blasted Carson’s remarks, saying that it is insensitive to use the term “immigrant” to describe people taken to a new country against their will.

This is what Obama said two years ago at a naturalisation ceremony:

“Certainly, it wasn’t easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily and yet in their own way were immigrants themselves,” Obama said.

“There was discrimination and hardship and poverty. But, like you, they no doubt found inspiration in all those who had come before them. And they were able to muster faith that, here in America, they might build a better life and give their children something more.”

That was not the only time. He spoke at an earlier naturalisation ceremony in 2012:

“We say it so often, we sometimes forget what it means — we are a nation of immigrants.  Unless you are one of the first Americans, a Native American, we are all descended from folks who came from someplace else — whether they arrived on the Mayflower or on a slave ship, whether they came through Ellis Island or crossed the Rio Grande,” Obama said at the ceremony.

The Daily Caller looked for media mentions of the 2012 and 2015 speeches. There were none.

Everyone harping on about Carson is simply angry that he is a black Republican in the Trump administration. ‘How dare he?’ they think.

Of course, Carson had to issue a statement. He said this (emphases mine below):

“I think people need to actually look up the world ‘immigrant,’” he said in an interview with Armstrong Williams. “Whether you’re voluntary or involuntary, if you come from outside to the inside, you’re an immigrant. Slaves came here as involuntary immigrants.”

Obama’s family and slavery

It is highly possible that both sides of Obama’s family owned and sold slaves in the past.

In 2009, Cynthia Yockey, a former Democrat turned conservative, wrote ‘Obama’s Kenyan ancestors sold slaves’, which is a remarkably well researched article not just on Obama’s ancestors but also on the nature of the slave trade in general. It continues today and is a Muslim practice in certain countries. This is a good article to share with older children and summarise for younger members of the family.

Yockey wrote about the topic because, on July 12, 2009, Obama visited Ghana. She said that he had to:

hope no one in the state-run media would think to wonder why he didn’t choose Kenya in East Africa, the land of his father and his father’s tribe, the Luo, which also was a major slave-trading center.

She added:

One reason may be that New World blacks would be descended from West Africans. However, I am suspicious that another reason is that on both his mother’s AND his father’s side of the family, Obama is descended from people who owned and/or sold black African slaves. How ironic that Obama received almost universal support from blacks who are here because their ancestors were grabbed up and sold into slavery by other black Africans, including Obama’s father’s tribe.

Yockey notes that, in 2007, the Baltimore Sun fully researched the slavery angle involving Obama’s white side of the family.

Having read the Baltimore Sun article, I want to point out to you this interesting bit near the end:

Author and essayist Debra J. Dickerson wrote in a January salon.com article that she had previously refrained from opining about the senator because “I didn’t have the heart (or the stomach) to point out the obvious: Obama isn’t black.”

” ‘Black,’ in our political and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves,” Dickerson said.

Back now to Cynthia Yockey’s research. She saw that there was an article on About.com — no longer there in 2017 — which was reproduced elsewhere, called ‘Obama’s African Forebears Were Slave Traders’. It describes the thriving Muslim slave trade in Africa in the 18th century:

Muslims encouraged warring tribes, Obama Jr’s Luo ancestors included, to capture “prisoners of war” and sell them into slavery.

Kenya tribe leaders, also exported slaves and ivory that had been exchanged by Africans from the interior for salt, cloth, beads, and metal goods. The slaves were then marched to the coast and shipped to Muslim Zanzibar (an island South of Kenya), to be traded again.

The British ended the practice by law in 1847.

However, Yockey reproduced other articles saying that African Muslims had traded slaves for centuries before that. Furthermore, European buyers had to go through a Muslim slaver to buy black slaves. They could not operate independently.

Yockey’s research uncovered another important point: Muslim slavers from Kenya looked African but, in fact, were Arab, just like the Luo tribe of Obama’s ancestors.

White indentured and enforced servitude

In the history of the United States, black slaves were not the only people who arrived involuntarily. White Britons did, too.

I don’t know if history books still include indentured servitude in their coverage of Colonial history. If not, they should re-introduce it.

One of my best friends has ancestors who arrived in the US in the 17th century as indentured servants.

Indentured and enforced servitude were one up from slavery. However, sometimes slaves were treated better than indentured servants.

Indentured servitude involved someone in debt or other hardship becoming the temporary property of the person to whom he owed a debt or a better off person. The person who acquired them — the master — worked them for a certain number of years, after which the indentured servant became a free person.

However, it should be noted that there were also cases where men just wanted to leave their homeland for a new future in the colonies. They voluntarily sought and signed such agreements.

USHistory.com has an excellent article on indentured servitude, which came at a time of severe unemployment in England and a boom in the new colony of Virginia. These bonded servants worked in the tobacco fields or as house servants. A summary and excerpts follow.

Most indentured servants were men, however, women also signed these agreements. The master paid for their passage to the American colonies and provided them with food, clothing and shelter during the years of their servitude:

Perhaps as many as 300,000 workers migrated under the terms of these agreements. Most were males, generally in their late teens and early twenties, but thousands of women also entered into these agreements and often worked off their debts as domestic servants.

There was also enforced servitude, involving miscreants:

Vagrants, war prisoners, and minor criminals were shipped to America by English authorities, then sold into bondage.

The masters’ treatment varied, just as it did with slavery:

In some areas, slaves were treated more humanely because they were regarded as lifetime investments, while the servant would be gone in a few years.

There were also terms and conditions the servant had to abide by:

The length of servitude could legally be lengthened in cases of bad behavior, especially for those workers who ran away or became pregnant

Masters retained their right to prohibit their servants from marrying and had the authority to sell them to other masters at any time.

The only upside to indentured or enforced servitude was access to the courts and the possibility of owning property, provided one hadn’t died from overwork.

Upon being given their freedom:

many workers were provided with their “freedom dues” — often consisting of new clothes, farm tools and seed; on rare occasions the worker would receive a small plot of land.

Some former servants could not find jobs after being given their freedom. Men in such a position often ventured westward, which, in the 17th century, would have been as far as Kentucky or Tennessee. (The big move to the West did not begin until the 19th century.)

Servitude, slavery and the law

Each colony — later, state — had their own laws governing indentured or enforced servitude and slavery.

The Law Library of Congress has a detailed and interesting article on how colonial and state law applied to indentured servants and to slaves. The article focusses mainly on Virginia but provides a useful overview. Excerpts and a summary follow.

Both practices ended on January 31, 1865 with the Emancipation Proclamation, however:

many laws and judicial precedents that had been established before that date would not be changed until the mid- or late-twentieth century.

Before that happened, most of the laws around these two groups of people involved women, illegitimate children and racial intermingling.

In 1662, Virginia:

passed two laws that pertained solely to women who were slaves or indentured servants and to their illegitimate children. Women servants who produced children by their masters could be punished by having to do two years of servitude with the churchwardens after the expiration of the term with their masters. The law reads, “that each woman servant gott with child by her master shall after her time by indenture or custome is expired be by the churchwardens of the parish where she lived when she was brought to bed of such bastard, sold for two years. . . .”37

The second law, which concerned the birthright of children born of “Negro” or mulatto women, would have a profound effect on the continuance of slavery, especially after the slave trade was abolished—and on the future descendants of these women. Great Britain had a very structured primogeniture system, under which children always claimed lineage through the father, even those born without the legitimacy of marriage. Virginia was one of the first colonies to legislate a change:

Act XII

Negro womens children to serve according to the condition of the mother.

WHEREAS some doubts have arrisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a Negro woman should be slave or free, Be it therefore enacted and declared by this present grand assembly, that all children borne in this country shalbe held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother, And that if any christian shall committ ffornication with a Negro man or woman, hee or shee soe offending shall pay double the ffines imposed by the former act.38

Because of this law, slave masters were keen to procreate with young female slaves, so they would have a steady supply of slaves to come:

There are a number of court cases concerning slave women who either killed their masters who forced them to have sexual relations or killed the children rather than have the children enslaved.39

Racial mixing, including sexual congress, was not unknown in that era. In 1691, Virginia amended their aforementioned 1692 birthright law, under which a child born to a white woman and a black man was free:

This amendment stated that a free white woman who had a bastard child by a Negro or mulatto man had to pay fifteen pounds sterling within one month of the birth. If she could not pay, she would become an indentured servant for five years. Whether or not the fine was paid, however, the child would be bound in service for thirty years.

Conclusion

Both slaves and indentured servants had a miserable life.

And, there was nothing that Ben Carson had to apologise for, especially as Obama had spoken similarly on two occasions during his time in office.

I hope this brief foray into American history, past and present, has helped to enlighten and fill in gaps on what was known as ‘human chattel’ and immigration, regardless of race or origin.

The Riverwalk has appropriate Bible readings for the Emancipation Proclamation — 152 years on — that we would do well to read and remember today.

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