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Stupid or Dishonest


Tucker Carlson may be the dumbest person in the United States. Or maybe he is just dishonest.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Sunday declared that all slavery in the world had been eradicated thanks to the Christian faith.

At the National Prayer Breakfast last week, conservatives accused President Barack Obama of comparing Christianity to the Islamic terrorist group ISIS when he observed that many religions had been used to justify violence throughout history.

“So we’re responsible for the Crusades a thousand years ago?” Carlson complained. “Who’s ‘us’ anyway? And by the way, who ended slavery and Jim Crow? Christians. The Rev. Martin Luther King. Christians.”

“Christianity is the reason we don’t have slavery in the world today,” he added. “I mean, talk about ahistorical.”

Good thing none of those slaveholders were Christian. Because there’s no way that Christians would hold slaves or create a Christian doctrine around defending slavery.

While countless Union soldiers and northern civilians depended on theological narratives to sustain them, a providential view of history particularly influenced how Southerners reacted to and interpreted the events of the war. After all, the preamble to the Confederate constitution, unlike the federal one it replaced, explicitly invoked “the favor and guidance of Almighty God.” They were, Southerners believed, a people chosen by God to manifest His will on earth. “We are working out a great thought of God,” declared the South Carolina Episcopal theologian James Warley Miles, “namely the higher development of Humanity in its capacity for Constitutional Liberty.”

Miles held, though, that divine mandate extended beyond simply the Confederate interpretation of states’ rights, and that Southerners were bound by the Bible to seek more than merely “a selfish independence.” The Confederacy must “exhibit to the world that supremest effort of humanity” in creating and defending a society built upon obedience to biblical prescriptions regarding slavery, a society “sanctified by the divine spirit of Christianity.” In short, as the Episcopal Church in Virginia stated soon after the war began, Southerners were fighting “a Revolution, ecclesiastical as well as civil.” This would be a revolution that aimed to establish nothing less than, in the words of one Georgia woman, “the final and universal spread of Gospel civilization.”

This “Gospel civilization,” many believed, didn’t just permit slavery — it required it. Christians across the Confederacy were convinced that they were called not only to perpetuate slavery but also to “perfect” it. And they understood the Bible to provide clear moral guidelines on how to properly practice it. The Old Testament patriarchs owned slaves, Jewish law clearly assumed its permissibility and the Apostle Paul’s New Testament letters repeatedly compelled slaves to be obedient and loyal to their masters. Above all, as Southerners never tired of pointing out to their abolitionist foes, the Gospels fail to record any condemnation of the practice by Jesus Christ.

There is consequently a fascinating, if unsettling, paradox in the efforts of slaveholders to fulfill what they considered divinely imposed duties toward their slaves. Southern Christians believed that the Bible imposed on masters a host of obligations to their slaves. Most fundamentally, masters were to view slaves as fully members of their own households and as fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. Therefore, as the South Carolina Methodist Conference declared before the war, masters sinned against their slaves by “excessive labor, extreme punishment, withholding necessary food and clothing, neglect in sickness or old age, and the like.”

Of course, like everything else in Christianity, slaveowners decided for themselves to what extent they would adhere to this ideology, so throwing an old slave out into the swamps to die or beating a slave to death, well, these things just happen. Praise Jesus.

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  • ChrisTS

    As always, I feel it is my duty to point out that stupidity and venality are not mutually exclusive. In Snucker’s case, I think they are clearly mutually re-enforcing.

    • Answer c is definitely both in this case.

      • DrDick

        Always the right answer for Fucker Carlson.

    • Amanda Matthews

      That’s what I was popping in to say too. With Carlson it’s really really dishonest and really really stupid.

    • Halloween Jack

      Why not Zoidbergboth?

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    is there *any* kind of ideology/religion out there where people *don’t* pick and choose the parts they want to follow?

    carlson’s about at the level of a used car salesman as far as pandering to his customers’ prejudices goes

    • I have not yet heard of Cafeteria Chthulism.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Try the calamari!

        • Warren Terra

          I’m unclear: is eating tentacles a sacrament or a sin in Cthulhuism?

          • Lee Rudolph

            In R’lyeh, tentacles eat you!

          • It is a petty and ultimately futile act of preemptive revenge. The joke’s on the squid eaters though. Cthulhu neither notices nor cares if his followers eat food with tentacles. Cthulhu may not be aware that he/she/it has followers, he certainly won’t treat them any different than the rest of us when the stars align.

            • burritoboy

              It’s indicated in several canonical stories that Cthulhu reaches out to communicate with followers (or potential followers) in their dreams or their psychotic episodes. Now, what that in turn means is unclear, but Cthulhu is aware on some level that he has followers. That, of course, does not mean he will treat followers any differently when the stars align.

      • NonyNony

        You clearly haven’t spoken to many members of the North Innsmouth Traditional Rite when they discuss just how lax and awful the practices of the members of the South Innsmouth Dark Rite are.

        At least both groups can agree that that the practitioners of the West Innsmouth Radiant Seeker Rite are utterly wrong and will be the last who get eaten when the Stars Are Right and R’lyeh rises.

        (Spell checker knows Cthulhu but not Innsmouth or R’lyeh. Or fhtagn for that matter. Probably programmed by a damn Radiant Seeker slacker, I tell you…)

      • Sarcastro The Munificient

        When Cthulhu returns, WE are the cafeteria.

      • burritoboy

        You just haven’t read enough of the fiction.

  • howard

    The Pavlovian reaction on the right to anything Obama says never ceases to amaze me.

    But even dogs are smarter than tucker Carlson.

    • I have a couple houseplants that are probably smarter than Tucker Carlson.

      • NonyNony

        There might be a couple of houseplants that aren’t smarter than Tucker Carlson.

        It’s doubtful to be sure, but there might be a couple of species of fern that he might be able to out think.

  • Shakezula

    Nice to see Mr. President still enjoys trolling the right wing. Tucker’s sputtering is on par with “Men can’t be sexist because men gave women the right to vote.” And blancmange-shaped creatures from Skyron opposed their right to vote. Yeah.

  • Aimai

    Do Budhists have slaves at all? Hindus don’t have slavery although they have debt peonage and low caste people who serve much the same function. My point is that despite Tucker’s bizarre conceit there are more religions than just Christianity and Islam in the world, and not all of them have justified slavery at any point in their history.

    • PohranicniStraze

      Actually, slavery in Thailand was abolished later than in the US, by Rama V (the current king’s grandfather). Slavery was extremely widespread in Thailand – slaves were a majority of the population in many areas. It was also practiced in Burma. That said, slavery is pretty explicitly condemned in Buddhism, and I am not aware of any theological justifications that were concocted to justify slavery in Buddhist terms.

      For my part, the largest slaveowner in my family tree as of the time of the civil war was a Protestant minister in Mississippi.

    • There was slavery in India, including the importation of African slaves … about a thousand years ago, plus or minus a century.

    • heckblazer

      Bhutan didn’t abolish slavery until 1958.

      • Aimai

        I stand corrected! Porrhan (?) have you read edward ball’s “slaves in the family?” I think thats the rught title. Fascinating book.

        • PohranicniStraze

          I did read it and enjoyed it quite a bit. The part where the author actually went to Africa to talk to the descendants of the middle-men in the process was fascinating.

          As it happens, when the book came out my mother thought it was about some of our ancestors, because we also have a line of slaveholders with the surname Ball. Turns out, though, ours were a different, probably unrelated, and nowhere near as wealthy Ball family. But it did mean we have a sort of family connection to one of the last Civil War widows, Daisy Anderson, which is pretty cool.


    • BigHank53

      Tibet was apparently pretty medieval up to the point where the Chinese invaded. Not slavery but explicit serfdom: farmers tied to land and running away punished by mutilation.

  • Code Name Cain

    I struggle with this because I imagine if you pointed the above out to Carlson he would say something like:

    No True Christian(TM) would ever own slaves (or disagree with any of my current political positions), therefore the Confederates weren’t really Christians.

    This is to be expected but the real intrigue would be to see how he still somehow concludes that America was founded as a Christian nation. If forced to guess, I’d wager on a healthy amount of both lies and stupidity being present.

    • medrawt

      Well, the insanity-making thing about this whole kerfuffle is that the Christiansplaining used to say “hey, the true spirit of Christianity doesn’t allow for [all the awful things people have done supposedly in the name of Christ]” is precisely the grace that these same folks don’t grant other religions. Which I took to be sort of the point of Obama’s remarks in the first place. Atrocities which were justified with appeals to Christianity can be caveated away; atrocities justified with appeals to Islam are Islam’s fault.

      • JustRuss

        This. The blanket condemnation of Islam by Christians who should damn well know better cheeses me off.

    • MAJeff

      No True Christian(TM) would ever own slaves (or disagree with any of my current political positions), therefore the Confederates weren’t really Christians.

      I could see this getting him into trouble with the Neo-Confederate theocrats comprising the Southern wing of the GOP.

      • John F

        Yes, but I am quite fond of the argument that not only were the Confederates not true Christians, their intellectual successors (i.e, southern style evangelicals) are not either.

      • Ahuitzotl

        the Neo-Confederate theocrats comprising the Southern wing of the GOP.

  • MAJeff

    Tucker Carlson may be the dumbest person in the United States. Or maybe he is just dishonest.

    Both/and, not either/or.

    • LosGatosCA

      Those Intertubes won’t troll themselves.

    • Mike G

      You’d have to be both dumb and dishonest to espouse such a hypocritical, mendacious and morally bankrupt ideology.

  • tew

    Somewhat ironic, given that today was declared the first International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking by the Catholic Church, and Pope Francis led a prayer today for “the many men, women, and children who are enslaved, exploited, abused as instruments of labour or of pleasure, who are often tortured and mutilated.”

    • Warren Terra

      You might want to rephrase that. I eventually figured out that you meant that the Catholic Church had declared today the “International Day of Prayer and Awareness against [Human Trafficking]”, but it can also be read as the “International Day of Prayer and Awareness against [Human Trafficking by the Catholic Church]”.

      • Shakezula

        Toe-may-toe, tah-mah-toe.

  • MAJeff

    Would be fun to ask Tucker, and the rest of the GOP about the origins of the Southern Baptists. (Have they ever not been a hate church?)

    • Warren Terra

      I’ve never looked into it, but I was always taught that racism was literally the reason for their founding, and that their reform has been slow, grudging, and incomplete.

      • MAJeff

        Not only racism, but slavery itself.

        • dn

          Yep. Not just the Baptists, either.

          Religious denominations in America had no North/South divide until the 1830s and 1840s when animosity developed over slavery. Presbyterian factions formally split their denomination in 1838 over the question. The Methodists in 1844 declared, “We regard the officious, and unwarranted interference of the Northern portion of the Church with the subject of slavery alone, a sufficient cause for a division of our Church.” When the national Baptist Church Board refused to accept slaveholders in the missionary field, southern members withdrew from this, the largest denomination, and in 1845 formed their own Southern Baptist Convention.

          – from The Age of Lincoln by Orville Vernon Burton. Excellent, excellent synthesis of 19th century America from the Jacksonian era to the Populists, has back-cover blurbs from both McPherson and Foner. Burton is especially good at capturing the apocalyptic religious atmosphere of 19th century US politics, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

  • Manju

    I dunno…if a high marginal tax rate is slavery, then perhaps Christianity is in fact the reason we don’t it.

  • Malaclypse

    Fred Clark just wrote something rather germane, and a follow-up. Fred Clark makes me wish I were a Christian. Tucker, not so much.

    • MAJeff

      Part of the discussion strikes me as a bit “Christianity cannot fail, it can only be failed.”

      After all, his position seems to be, “pro-slavery Christians were pro-slavery first and Christian second” strikes me as a version of “people use religion to justify their bigotry.” Both neglect that support for slavery and bigotry are entirely consistent with, and can flow from, religious belief.

      Yes, the Bible can be used to support slavery. Yes, the Bible can be used to oppose slavery (if you ignore all of the “this is how slaves and masters should interact” stuff). It is inherently neither because Christianity is whatever Christians make of it.

      • dn

        Yeah, I honestly feel the same way. Much like with progressive Christians trying to read the sexism and homophobia out of their Bibles. Sure, it might be theoretically possible with the right hermeneutic, but the attempt has always felt pretty strained to me.

        One of the things Ta-Nehisi Coates has taught me is to recognize the essential wrongness of the viewpoint that sees white supremacy as America’s “original sin” – as if America had somehow fallen from an original “pure” state, and if we could only get back to that state we’d all be happy. The same lesson basically applies here. I don’t think a way forward can come from looking back to an original “pure” Christianity, because ultimately there is no such thing.

        • MAJeff

          Yeah. Saw something earlier on dKos about “Using religion to justify bigotry” or some such similar construction.

          No, it’s quite reasonable and accurate to state that, for many people, bigotry flows from their religious beliefs. Yes, their religion is the source of their hatred, not some post-hoc justification.

        • Vance Maverick

          the viewpoint that sees white supremacy as America’s “original sin” – as if America had somehow fallen from an original “pure” state, and if we could only get back to that state we’d all be happy.

          Pretty sure original sin is not something you can just fix that way either. There are lots of flavors of the doctrine, of course, but the Fall was pretty irreversible in all of them.

          • dn

            Well, sort of. The usual idea of salvation in orthodox Christian tradition as I have always understood it is that one overcomes original sin through justification by a “second Adam” (to use the Biblical phrase). In other words, you can do it, but only by looking resolutely backward to some revealed, incorruptible source. In the biblical context, that would be Jesus as represented in the Bible; in the US political context, the Founding Fathers as represented in the Constitution (by which proponents of the theory obviously mean the mythical Constitution that, once we got the 3/5ths clause out of it – how did that get in there, anyway? – was always perfect and has never again ever needed fixing ever; certainly not the kludgy, flawed Constitution that libruls are always complaining about, no sir!). In either case it’s really not clear how that’s supposed to work, but that’s why they call it a mystery I guess.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          actually, i don’t think a way forward is going to come from looking for some kind of original pure humanity, either, for the same reason given

          religions were created by generally fucked-up human beings and i tend to think that if we woke up tomorrow to godless heathen paradise it wouldn’t last long because that’s not the way human beings roll

      • “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” — G. K. Chesterton (1910)

  • Matt Stevens

    I’d say dishonest, because this is a textbook case of Frankfurtian bullshit. Yes, British Christians were greatly responsible for shutting down the Atlantic slave trade; most U.S. abolitionists were devout; it was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and so on.

    Problem is, Carlson is leaving out all the other Christians who enthusiastically defended slavery and Jim Crow. He wants to push a simplistic view of Christianity to go along with his simplistic view of Islam. Sadly for him, even the dumbest American knows about witch burnings and the Inquisition, and I don’t think this B.S. is going to stick.

    • rea

      Hell, the origin story of most Protestant denominations involves persecution at the hands of other Christians. Fires of Smithfield, the Pilgrim Fathers, Roger Williams, and all that . . .

      • Keaaukane

        No love for the Cathars and the Albigensian crusade?

        • Lee Rudolph

          I’m pretty sure that doesn’t fit under “Protestant denominations”, and it certainly doesn’t fit under “Protestant denominations currently existing in the US-of-God-fearin’-A”.

          • Ahuitzotl

            Donati? Monophysites? Nestorians?

  • calling all toasters

    Christianity is the reason we don’t have slavery in the world today

    I’m reminded of Jackie Mason on Frank Sinatra: “Frank Sinatra saved my life the other night. Some hoodlums were beating me up until Frank came along. He said ‘that’s enough, boys.'”

    • JustRuss

      Acutally Shecky Greene, but yeah.

  • Lt. Fred

    It’s like his name is an elaborate malapropism or Spooner gag. I also object, like Jon Stewart, to his style of dress. You might forgive Carlson for being his ignorance and venality on the basis of his massive privilege – but can we at least have well-dressed aristocratic fops?

  • djw

    Eric Bolling may have topped him.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      he’s certainly trying to stuff a lot of shit into a relatively small container there

    • elm

      Too be charitable, I think Bolling is saying that other religions haven’t killed anyone in their name in the past few months, not that they never have.

      I mean, this is still obviously wrong, but it’s not nearly as stupid as what Tucker said.

  • Fats Durston

    Not to get too far away from things (the whole Crusade breakfast kerfuffle), but

    a) Bragging about ending the Atlantic slave trade (which, of course, is the only one that Carlson would really even think of, except maybe Oriental despotisms) is a lot like bragging that you’ve stopped yourself from beating your kids any more.

    b) Let’s talk about continuums of “unfreedom,” as some of us in the historical profession say, that an awful lot of post-emancipation experiences for ex-slaves and regimes of work created by Christians looked an awful lot like slavery, and in some cases were even more murderous, even if the human victims weren’t technically owned.

    c) I’m not exactly clear why bombs dropped by Christians today (how much of the USAF is evangelicals?) aren’t attributed to their Christian-ness.

    • heckblazer

      I’d just note that the terrorist group that’s killed the most Americans is rather famous for using a cross as its symbol.

    • Aimai

      I presume the reason TC focuses on the christians and the ending of the atlantic slave trade is because he saw that stupid movie “amazing grace” about the redeemed sea captain, the whining hymn, and british abolition. Its history by pop cult.

      • I declined to see that movie after I found out it wasn’t a biopic of Ms. Slick.

    • BigHank53

      Bragging about ending the Atlantic slave trade

      How does one take credit for things that were not only accomplished before they were born, but were accomplished over a century before they were born? That’s a neat trick.

  • Christianity is the reason we don’t have slavery in the world today

    Catholicism is the reason why the heliocentric model of the solar system is taught in schools today.

  • Who’s ‘us’ anyway? And by the way, who ended slavery and Jim Crow?

    I didn’t do it. No one saw me do it. You can’t prove anything.

  • Pingback: Carlson’s Slave Mentality » Balloon Juice()

  • Tucker had a relatively short-lived gig on PBS (2004-05ish). I actually watched it. Blows my mind whenever I remember this. Clearly it ended up being a [cough] bad fit, and I remain convinced that PBS was prejudiced by the bow tie.

  • Roger Ailes
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