How The Bible Has Contributed To the History Of Tennessee
In Tennessee, the state legislature has passed legislation declaring the Christian Bible to be the official state book. The legislation is clearly unconstitutional, not simply as a violation of the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, which applies to all levels of government in the United States, but also as a violation of the state constitution of Tennessee, which declares that, “no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.”
It’s no surprise that Southern Christians would seek to use the power of government to elevate their religion above all others. Unfortunately, this happens all the time. What’s curious is the justification of historical relevance for the bill. ABC News says that the legislation’s author, State Senator Steve Southerland, “bill is aimed at recognizing the Bible for its historical and cultural contributions to the state”.
The historical contributions of the Christian Bible to the state of Tennessee?
To be honest, it sounded like a ludicrous idea to me. After all, the Christian Bible is a religious text, not an historical one, and even the history that it purports to report took place in Asia, Europe, and Africa, not in Tennessee.
But then, I ran across this passage from Leviticus: “You may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.”
Exodus also supports slavery: “When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.”
The New Testament also instructed Christians to support slavery: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.”
Jesus himself is described in the Christian Bible as telling his followers that it’s only natural for people to be beaten when they don’t obey their masters. “The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it.”
Tennessee, as we all know, was part of the Confederate States of America, which was formed in order to maintain the legal right for rich people to own other human beings as slaves. Slaves in Tennessee were treated horribly, just as Jesus said they ought to be. It’s right there in the Christian Bible.
So, I suppose that recognizing the historical influence of the Christian Bible in Tennessee makes some sense. Yet, by making the Christian Bible the official state book of Tennessee, lawmakers there are praising the pro-slavery heritage of the book, not deploring it.
The Governor of Tennessee still has the power to veto the Bible legislation. Do you think he’ll do it?