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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Thoughts on Historical "Presentism"
Created by John Eipper on 04/09/17 6:30 PM

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Thoughts on Historical "Presentism" (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 04/09/17 6:30 pm)

Timothy Ashby's post of April 8th provides much food for thought. I understand and to some extent agree with Tim that it might be wrong to "judge people [like slave holders, traders, and members of the Nazi SS] through the prism of our contemporary morality." I see an important difference between these groups.

The Nazi SS monsters committed crimes against humanity but they followed Nazi morality, if one defines morals as the science of the local social customs. They were trained and sworn to do their nasty deeds by their beloved Nazi nation. To non-Nazis they must be condemned as criminals against humanity.

In contrast, to the slave holders (demand) and traders (supply), Africans should have been viewed as assets, not candidates for extermination. Nevertheless, the crimes against humanity in this case were justified by world history, and business necessity. The thing that boggles my mind is how can a nation that supposedly follows and fervently preaches Christianity allow slavery in its midst for so many years?

This obvious contradiction is very likely the primary answer to John Eipper's question about "what prompted the rise of the Abolitionist Movement." After all slavery should be unthinkable for decent nations like England and America, and anathema to any real Christian.

Last we have the widespread phenomenon where humans, after committing horrendous crimes, tend to reject criticism based on their contemporary morality and other excuses. Thus, we still have proud Nazis who "just followed orders," proud Confederates who think slavery was OK because it is actually an ancient custom, etc. By such logic, mass murder by terrorism or by drones can be merely advancing a deliberate agenda of one sort or another, justified as being in defense of freedom, noble private interests, or plainly just the will of God. Truthfully, no matter how heinous or expensive the deed, it can always be explained by a combination of perpetrator's convenience, insanity, religious fervor, and/or continuous thirst for power or money.

JE comments:  I'm quite sure that Tim Ashby has no problem with applying "presentist" morality to the SS.  Regarding slavery and Christians, there was many a passionate defense of the institution based precisely on Biblical scripture.  Look no further than the speeches of South Carolina fire-belly John C. Calhoun.


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