Abraham, the Slave Owner

Why does it matter that Abraham owned slaves?

Confederate Statues and Memorials

Yes!

Why Does This Make Christians Uncomfortable?

  • Scripture as the inerrant or infallible word of God. If a person approaches scripture with the belief that every word is deliberately chosen by God, then there’s no room to question anything written inside of it, including any instruction concerning the taking or governing of slaves. If God instructed people, or allowed people, to enslave others, who are we to question? Moreover, it must have been good, because God is good.
  • I believe this approach to scripture inevitably becomes inconsistent with the simultaneous claim that slavery is bad. Any romanticizing of slavery, by default, begins to imply that slavery was “less” bad than it really was, and theological dissonance often leaves people feeling vulnerable and defensive.
  • Righteous by default. If someone is chosen by God to be a prophet of God and archetypal leader among the people of God for the mission of God, how could that person not be righteous? Of course Abraham was righteous…wasn’t he?
  • This seems consistent with a fairly common, Western assumption about righteousness, where people equate righteousness and holiness with sinlessness. If Abraham was righteous by default (because God chose him), and righteousness equals sinlessness in the eyes of God, then Abraham gets a pass on slavery (or worse, God is saying slavery is good). An attack against God’s righteous prophet, Abraham — an attack against that which God has declared to be good — is an attack on God. If this is a person’s perception, they may feel the need to be defensive. (Another way to think of this one is “guilty by association.” If the Confederacy was bad and we equate Abraham, on some level, with the Confederacy, then Abraham is bad. That might be farther than some Christians are willing to go.)
  • Denial. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of not wanting to change how we perceive someone or something. “Abraham was a good man — a Godly man — and your slander isn’t going to change my mind.” Similarly, “Confederates were bad people, and no amount of debate is going to change my mind.” As much as I enjoy a deeper dive into human behavior, sometimes it’s just a matter of staying in our comfort zone. It’s easier that way, but I hope most of us recognize that this isn’t a sufficient reason for almost anything, even if we’re doing it ourselves. Living in denial is never healthy.

A Gospel of Grace

Statues of Confederate Soldiers and Abraham

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Brice Laughrey

Brice Laughrey

21 Followers

Owner of Breaking Bread Theology and co-founder of 1310 Ministries. Currently living and worshiping in Las Vegas, NV.