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With the recent agregious remarks of Pope and the violent response by Muslims, this should gives us pause. We need to step back and BREATHE!!!

Religion, when the political partisanship and fundamentalist sects are stripped away, is the process by which humanity tries to grasp, and wrestle, with the idea of something being "bigger than yourself". Unfortunately in that quest for enlightenment, we've gotten into petty arguments about "my enlightment is better than your enlightment", which then leads to -- my religion is better than your religion.

Now add race to the mix...

Lets start our discussion from the beginning......of time. Well maybe not that far...but we'll start in biblical history. I will be an using an african american view to discuss this topic, but I welcome others to add their ethnic experience, and history as it relates to race and religion. I planning on compiling information left in comments and organizing a more robust picture of this issue. If you would like to include your information, tag your comment with -- (INCLUDE)

Racism In Biblical Times

Most of us know the basic story of Moses in the Bible (parting of the Red Sea, the plagues that beseiged Egypt, receiving the 10 Commandments, etc), but a little known incident of racism that is rarely discussed is the marriage of Moses to an Ethiopian, and Miriam's (Moses sister) response verses God's response to the whole ordeal. As the history is recounted:
Numbers 12:1-16
1 And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.

2 And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.

3 (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)

4 And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out.

5 And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.

6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.

7 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.

8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?

9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed.

10 And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.

11 And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.

12 Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb.

13 And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee.

14 And the LORD said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.

15 And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again.

16 And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran.

(emphasis by me)
As it stated Miriam begins to question Moses' reasoning skills, and standing with God because he chose to marry an Ethiopian. Also, notice that it was emphasized (not mine, but the bible text itself) that the disagreement was over the fact that Moses' wife was Ethiopian, not that she was from another tribe. Now, notice God's response to Miriam, (1) challenging his chosen one was an insult to God, and (2) the racism displayed was so abhorrent to God, being the creator and all, that he struck Miriam with leprosy for 7 days causing her to be ostracized from group.

Slavery In The Old World, And New (Old) World

Old World. Most people don't know the the first enslavement of African people was by the muslim world. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya "enjoyed" the the benefits that slavery brought with it.

The Arab slavers raided at nightfall, during the dinner time. Africans who resisted or tried to run were shot and killed. Most adult men were killed as the Arabs favored women and children for sale. The captives then endured a long and torturous march through the African countryside as the slavers searched and gathered more captives. Young men, women, and children were bound by hand and by neck throughout this journey, enduring beatings and rapes along the way. Those who fell sick or dead were left behind. Others remained bound to living captives.

After surviving the torturous ride aboard the Arab slave ships, Africans were taken to the slave markets. Here Muslim men would inspect their intended purchases. Women and young girls were degradingly probed by these men in public or private stalls to test their sexual worth. Those that did not survive their time in these markets were left out to rot. It is said that that hyenas, very numerous in the region, "gorged themselves on human flesh..."

The muslims found, in their religion, a way to justify enslaving a people based largely on race, from reasons such as, God has ordained this, to it being a sign of financial standing in the community -- reinforcing the idea of being "favored" by God, thus the more slaves you have (or aquire) the more perceived favor you had from God.

New (Old) World. The slave trade that was the pillar of the arab world spreaded to Europe, through the Portugese. The Portugese had trade relations with many African countries, and wrote of seeing these slaves when meeting with arab traders on the west coast of africa.

Slavery soon traveled to America and South American countries, and just like the muslims, those europeans who owned slaves, and at the same time considered themselves christians (includes catholics and protestants), made the same justifications that the muslims did -- God meant it to be, and the more slaves a plantations had the more prestigious you looked. But the europeans took it on step further. They used their view of christianity to (1) convert the slaves from their islamic roots, and the same time (2) say that only certain parts of the Bible were applicable to them, eventhough Bible clearly states that salvation is afforded to all. Christian missionaries would travel to plantations on several occasions and preach to the slaves, that it was God's blessing on them, and that they should be honored to be slaves. Now their were additional things that kept slavery in play, but one must not underestimate the planting of the idea that "God is why you are, where you are"

How can you fight your situation if you are told that God is the reason for the situation?
It was genius on the part of the europeans. It kept internal strife in the souls of the slaves, making them feel as if they are rebelling against God by not wanting to be slaves.

So as you can see religion has been used to justify some of the most horrific events in our history, or at the very least propagate flawed ideaology. But all hope is not lost. For those who are of a particular faith, you can reclaim it from the extremist by countering religious hate speech with the basic tenets of your faith ( which for the most part are the same across the borad) -- Love Your God, and Love Your Fellow Brethren.

Next In The Series (I'll make the links below hot when the diaries become available)
  • ( Religion Colloquy, Part II >> Religion & Politics) The Power Religion Has Over Government
  • ( Religion Colloquy, Part III >> Religion & Spirituality) How Dogma Impedes Connection With God

Originally posted to sephius1 on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 01:38 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar And Rec'd at Top (5+ / 0-)


  •  Two comments. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Utahrd, rtfm

    1.  Regarding Moses, Miriam, and Aaron.

    "Ethiopian" is the word used in Greek and Latin translations of the Hebrew bible.  The Hebrew original is ha-ishah ha-kushit or "the Cushite woman."  While it seems probable that the reference is to a woman from an area in Africa south of Egypt, the matter is open to dispute, and there are those who hold that it refers to an area in Arabia.  See Wikipedia.

    In all events, while the Biblical passage certainly indicates opposition to a marriage outside the group, at least by the people's leader, nothing in the passage tells us that the opposition was based on the woman's skin color or (what some today might call) race.  Midrashic discussions of the passage do not seem to understand the story in racial terms.

    2. Slavery in the ancient world.

    Most people don't know the the first enslavement of African people was by the muslim world.

    Both (black) Africans and (white) Europeans were held in slavery during the Roman empire.

    •  Did they get that far? (0+ / 0-)

      Did the Greeks ever take anyone from what is today Tunisia or Egypt as a slave?

      I also have to imagine that Africans had no qualms about holding other Africans from a different tribe as slaves.

  •  However.... (0+ / 0-)

    The 18th- and 19th-Century abolitionists in Europe and America were all or nearly all Christian, and specifically cited Christian doctrine as the reasoning behind their stance (for a great example, read Frederick Douglass's Narrative of his life, especially the introduction by William Lloyd Garrison).

    One of the strange ironies in this whole thing is that through most of the 19th Century and well into the 20th, progressive politics and Christianity went hand in hand for the vast majority of their followers.  The current association of Christianity with far-right politics, which is assumed to be normal by most conservatives (and, to my dismay, many liberals), would have seemed bizarre to Garrison, Henry Ward Beecher, William Jennings Bryan, or even Martin Luther King.

    I don't know if the 19th-Century abolitionists cited the Moses/Miriam story you mention; it would be interesting to look into that.  

    Bush: The Peter Principle President.

    by lungfish on Fri Sep 22, 2006 at 03:39:36 AM PDT

  •  Slaves in the New World in Canada/French & Indian (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DSPS owl

    It's interesting to note that here in New England, it was a not uncommon practice for Indians allied with the French in Canada to raid, and to sell people into slavery to the French in Quebec and Montreal, as well as keeping some of the captured themselves.  Young children were forcibly converted to Catholicism as well as being enslaved.  They continued as slaves unless they were ransomed by their families.  

    Here's a list of captives carried off to Canada during the French and Indian Wars:


    The rationale always seems to be that the 'favor' of saving the souls of slaves is supposed to cancel out the theft of their liberty even when it's white Europeans enslaving other white Europeans.

    I always wondered how much this practice influenced New Englanders to end up in the anti-slavery camp.  After all, many of us had a 'Saved From Captivity' ancestor who had been a slave in Canada somewhere in the family tree.  New Englanders could picture slavery as something that could happen to them, regardless of their whiteness and the protections envisioned from their God.  

    Resisting the Conservation of Joementum

    by LIsoundview on Fri Sep 22, 2006 at 03:56:35 AM PDT

  •  I owe my soul to the company store. (0+ / 0-)

    Interesting diary.

    On the subject of slavery, I often wonder about degrees of it.  Mozart caused scandal publicizing feudal lords' right to the first night in bed with any bride.  Were those subjects slaves?  And on up to Americans who can't quit their jobs because they'd never again be able to get health insurance...

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