What Exactly Makes Someone a Bigot?
Here is the final post on the Lincoln–Douglas Debates of 1858. In this post we will consider what leads to bigotry.
What leads to bigotry? I think it has to do with an absence of words, an unwillingness to listen to the right words. Although we say the pen is mightier than the sword, we give the power of words too little thought. Yet we fill our minds — feed our souls — with words. Good words — God’s Word — renew our minds and cleanse our hearts. Words that speak the Truth save our souls. When we choose to listen to filth — believe lies — we damn ourselves to Hell. Thus, in the Garden of Eden the fall of man began with a conversation.
Because we often have so little desire to know it, we run from the truth. In a process Satan taught our forebears in the Garden of Eden, we can easily elude the truth. First we doubt what we know. Then we deny we ever knew any such thing. Next we deceive ourselves and others. What will harm us now becomes good, and what is good for us now becomes bad. Finally, in the pride of willful ignorance, justified with lying words, we sin (see DOUBT, DENIAL, DECEPTION, AND DISOBEDIANCE).
Want a modern example of our belief in a lie? Consider the most popular definition of “Uncle Tom”. Here is the first definition in the list at the Urban Dictionary.
A black man who will do anything to stay in good standing with “the white man” including betray his own people
The fourth definition in the list, however, reminds us of man’s propensity to doubt, deny, deceive, and finally sin. When Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she did not portray Uncle Tom as a boot-licking coward. Instead, she made the notion of a brave and honorable black man believable to her audience. Her Tom lived as a sincere Christian. Her Tom died before he would reveal the whereabouts of escaped slaves to an evil man. Consider this excerpt.
“Well, Tom!” said Legree, walking up, and seizing him grimly by the collar of his coat, and speaking through his teeth, in a paroxysm of determined rage, “do you know I’ve made up my mind to KILL YOU?”
“It’s very likely, Mas’r,” said Tom, calmly.
“I have,” said Legree, with a grim, terrible calmness, “done—just—that—thing, Tom, unless you’ll tell me what you know about these yer gals!”
Tom stood silent.
“D’ye hear?” said Legree, stamping, with a roar like that of an incensed lion. “Speak!”
“I han’t got nothing to tell, Mas’r,” said Tom, with a slow, firm, deliberate utterance.
“Do you dare to tell me, ye old black Christian, ye don’t know?” said Legree.
Tom was silent.
“Speak!” thundered Legree, striking him furiously. “Do you know anything?”
“I know, Mas’r; but I can’t tell anything. I can die!“
Legree drew in a long breath; and, suppressing his rage, took Tom by the arm, and, approaching his face almost to his, said, in a terrible voice, “Hark ‘e, Tom!—ye think, ’cause I’ve let you off before, I don’t mean what I say; but, this time, I’ve made up my mind, and counted the cost. You’ve always stood it out again’ me: now, I’ll conquer ye, or kill ye!—one or t’ other. I’ll count every drop of blood there is in you, and take ’em, one by one, till ye give up!”
Tom looked up to his master, and answered, “Mas’r, if you was sick, or in trouble, or dying, and I could save ye, I’d give ye my heart’s blood; and, if taking every drop of blood in this poor old body would save your precious soul, I’d give ’em freely, as the Lord gave his for me. O, Mas’r! don’t bring this great sin on your soul! It will hurt you more than ‘t will me! Do the worst you can, my troubles’ll be over soon; but, if ye don’t repent, yours won’t never end!” (from here)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a work of fiction. Stowe never pointed to a particular black and said “that’s Tom”. Instead, she said The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself inspired her work. One major difference between Henson and Stowe’s Tom is that Tom did not escape slavery. Instead, he died helping others.
With a fictional work Stowe revealed the horror of slavery to millions. She did so by humanizing the Negro in the minds of her readers.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible. It is credited with helping fuel the abolitionist cause in the 1850s. In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States; one million copies were sold in Great Britain. In 1855, three years after it was published, it was called “the most popular novel of our day.” The impact attributed to the book is great, reinforced by a story that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start of the Civil War, Lincoln declared, “So this is the little lady who started this great war.”(from here)
Did Lincoln give credit to Stowe for starting the Civil War? The veracity of the quote is disputed. Just the same, everyone knows about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The problem is that too few read it. Because we have never read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, we now believe an “Uncle Tom” is a black man who will do anything to stay in good standing with “the white man”, including betray his own people.
An Excerpt From The Lincoln – Douglas Debates
How did we get so confused about “Uncle Tom”? Why isn’t such a historically important book required reading? Isn’t the answer too obvious? We listen to the wrong people. Instead of resolutely trying to determine the rightness or wrongness of the thing, we believed what we wanted to believe. Hence, we have been led like sheep to the absurd belief that the main character of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a traitorous weakling.
Freedom requires we face the truth. So it is that in their seventh and last debate, Abraham Lincoln insisted upon talking about a subject his opponent, Senator Stephen Douglas, refused to discuss. Is slavery right or wrong?
On this subject of treating it as a wrong, and limiting its spread, let me say a word. Has any thing ever threatened the existence of this Union save and except this very institution of Slavery? What is it that we hold most dear amongst us? Our own liberty and prosperity. What has ever threatened our liberty and prosperity save and except this institution of Slavery? If this is true, how do you propose to improve the condition of things by enlarging Slavery-by spreading it out and making it bigger? You may have a wen or cancer upon your person and not be able to cut it out lest you bleed to death; but surely it is no way to cure it, to engraft it and spread it over your whole body. That is no proper way of treating what you regard a wrong. You see this peaceful way of dealing with it as a wrong-restricting the spread of it, and not allowing it to go into new countries where it has not already existed. That is the peaceful way, the old-fashioned way, the way in which the fathers themselves set us the example.
On the other hand, I have said there is a sentiment which treats it as not being wrong. That is the Democratic sentiment of this day. I do not mean to say that every man who stands within that range positively asserts that it is right. That class will include all who positively assert that it is right, and all who like Judge Douglas treat it as indifferent and do not say it is either right or wrong. These two classes of men fall within the general class of those who do not look upon it as a wrong. And if there be among you any body who supposes that he, as a Democrat can consider himself “as much opposed to slavery as anybody,” I would like to reason with him. You never treat it as a wrong. What other thing that you consider as a wrong, do you deal with as you deal with that? Perhaps you say it is wrong, but your leader never does, and you quarrel with any body who says it is wrong. Although you pretend to say so yourself you can find no fit place to deal with it as a wrong. You must not say any thing about it in the free States, because it is not here. You must not say any thing about it in the slave States, because it is there. You must not say any thing about it in the pulpit, because that is religion and has nothing to do with it. You must not say any thing about it in politics, because that will disturb the security of “my place.” There is no place to talk about it as being a wrong, although you say yourself it is a wrong. (from here)
Instead of attacking Douglas, Lincoln pointed to Douglas’ call for willful ignorance. Without even using the word hypocrite, Lincoln made Douglas’ hypocrisy self-evident.
Consider the problem of our own evil. When we sin, don’t we always arrogantly pretend we are doing nothing wrong? So what can we do? You and I cannot stop others from sinning, but we can humbly turn to our Lord and ask for wisdom.
James 1:5 English Standard Version (ESV)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
What issues of right and wrong would some like us to ignore these days?
- Is aborting the birth of a baby murder?
- When government redistributes our nation’s wealth, taking from the “rich” and giving it to the “poor”, is that stealing?
- Is same-sex “marriage” just an effort legitimize a perverse form of fornication?
- Is affirmative action a reverse form of racism?
- Does the idea of a “living” Constitution make any sense?
- Why do we trust politicians, people nobody trusts, with the education of our children?
- Is the entertainment produced by Hollywood an appropriate substitute for spending time with our children?
Don’t we want our children to deal sanely with issues of right and wrong? Then how does it make any sense to hand over their education to politicians and Hollywood?
Proverbs 11:2-3 English Standard Version (ESV)
2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom.
3 The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
It is not like we do not know that giving our children over to the care of politicians and Hollywood is a preposterous notion. Our problem is we don’t want to know the truth. We each want to make “me” more important than the truth. So when we should turn to God for guidance, we doubt. When we fear what God might require of us, we deny. And when politicians and Hollywood “offer” their services, to teach our children the wisdom of the world for “free”, we accept their deceits as truth. Then, in disobedience we fail make certain of the instruction our children in schools where God is feared and properly reverenced.
When government pressures parents to send their children to secular government-run schools, does that constitute an infringement upon our religious freedom? Are you willing to consider the question? Do you approve of the increasing moral degradation of our society? You don’t? Then encourage parents and help them, especially Christian parents. Insist upon the right of parents to choose who teaches their children.
For a list of the posts in this series, see AN EXAMPLE OF BIGOTRY — PART 1.