Religiously Bad Men (and women)

“Of all bad men, religious bad men are the worst.” CS Lewis

May I say so again:  I love CS Lewis.  I especially appreciate the way he thinks and how he reasons with nasty truths about the world, weaving them into the Christian experience like ugly little bits of yarn that when knit together create a striking tapestry of understanding.

Have you read the book, From Sea to Shining Sea, by Peter Marshall? In the book Marshall talks about the slave trade in America prior to the civil war, and how within the slave community there was a huge appreciation for slave owners who were godless men. You heard me, they applauded godless men.

Why would they do that, you might ask?

Apparently, from the perspective of humans owned by humans, being the slave of a religious master meant an often cruel existence filled with unrelenting obsession and the worst of punishments. Religious slave owners were often characterized as harsh, unfeeling, miserly, abusive, and stubborn people who rose early each day, worked hard all day, stayed diligent in all their ways, and whipped those under their authority who did not do exactly as they said. They did this for as long as they wanted to do it, undeterred by what it might be doing to the victims of their abuse. Their cruel and unusual punishment caused slave labor camp inhabitants to hate religious masters, and not only to hate them, but to cry out to a just God for relief from unyielding oppressors. Is it any wonder slavery in America came to an end? God heard, he acted, and through a bloody war the slaves were delivered.

In From Sea to Shining Sea, one realizes that religious men can be the worst of men, particularly as they are driven to demand of others the kind of treatment that would make them miserable, were they to be shackled and enslaved themselves.

Conversely, ungodly slave masters partied long into the night, slept late in the morning, went late to the fields, caroused with their work force, and in general took a lackadaisical attitude to menial work. This relieved the slaves of many a hardship in life that the slaves of more religious men struggled under. Ungodly owners operated under a more lenient code of conduct, advocated for more tolerant work conditions, and were possessed of a more forgiving spirit.

Yes, you heard me right.  Ungodly masters were more forgiving.

Why?

Maybe it comes down to the fact that men who use religion as an excuse to be cruel, are plainly bad men.  There certainly were enough of them in Jesus’ day, and they are still with us today.  I’m just hoping that I’m not one of them, because no matter what else I do in life, if I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, well, then I’ve missed the point completely.

photo: www.pbs.org

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