Are Black People Cursed? An Analysis of the Use of “Ham’s Curse” as a Justification for African Slavery

Are black people cursed? The question was raised this Sunday as our church concluded its first part of a three part series on racial reconciliation. What about “The Curse of Ham?” What about the white Southerners that used the story in Genesis 9 as a justification for slavery? I was asked to do some digging that we might appropriately respond to this question. Here are my results and conclusions:

The “Curse of Ham” comes a story from Genesis 9, where Noah, after surviving the flood, gets drunk and lays naked in his tent (quote shocking, I must agree, for the righteous man who just watched God unleash his wrath upon the world and save his family). One of Noah’s three sons, Ham, sees his father naked and tells his two brothers, Shem and Japheth . Since Ham’s actions are considered sinful enough to receive a curse, we must assume that he shared this information that was in some way dishonoring to his father. Contrary to Ham, Shem and Japheth honorably drape a garment over their father without looking at him. When Noah wakes up, he places a curse on Ham’s son, Canaan: “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers” (Gen. 9:24-25) for his dishonorable act. He goes on: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth…and let Canaan be his servant” (Gen. 9:26-27).

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An Example of Praying Without Ceasing- Sir Thomas Browne

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Despite a time where England was passing through a period of national convulsion and political excitement, men and women of God found comfort and strength through prayer. One beloved English physician, named Sir Thomas Browne, is one of these men. He wrote in his journal,”I have resolved to pray more and pray always, to pray in all places where quietness invites, in the house, on the highway and on the street; and to know no street or passage in this city that may not witness that I have not forgotten God.”

Do we witness that we have not forgotten God in all places?

Browne adds, “I purpose to take occasion of praying upon the sight of any church which I may pass, that God may be worshiped there in spirit, and that souls may be saved there; to pray daily for my sick patients and for the patients of other physicians; at my entrance into any home to say, “May the peace of God abide here;” after hearing a sermon, to pray for a blessing on God’s truth, and upon the messenger; upon the sight of a beautiful person to bless God for His creatures, to pray for the beauty of such an one’s soul, that God may enrich her with inward graces, and that the outward and inward may correspond; upon the sight of a deformed person, to pray God to give them wholeness of soul, and by and but to give them the beauty of the resurrection.”

May adding constant daily patterns of prayer give us comfort and strength through our hard times?

“Stonewall” Jackson & Rock-Solid Prayer

If we took a glance throughout our history books, scanning over the names of the heroes and major figures,  we would be surprised to find out how many of them possessed a vibrant relationship with God through faith in Christ. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a Civil War general, is one of these men. Military historians consider him to be one of the most gifted tactical commanders in U.S. history, but his gifted mind was engaged in far more than military strategics.

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Discovering The True Jesus (pt. 2)

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In Part 1 of this series, we took a look at the historical perception of Jesus among theologians, scholars, and historians alike. We did this in order gain a holistic view of the basic knowledge that most people have about Jesus. We learned that He was a man who lived 2,000 years ago, who claimed to be divine and changed the world through His followers after His death. But who was He, really? What did He teach? What did He do?

We said that in order to answer these questions, we must take a look at the eyewitness accounts of those who knew Him best- His closest friends. Thankfully these documents have been faithfully recorded, handed down, and translated through many generations, producing an English text that is 99.9% accurate when compared to the original documents.

But, we will dive into those accounts in the next post. For now, I want to take a look at what was written about Jesus before the New Testament…what was written about Him even before He was born!

These writings about Jesus before His birth are called “prophecies,” and they are recorded in the Old Testament. In biblical times, if a “prophet” was truly sent of God, then what He said would come true. Many of these prophets (most writing about 600-1200 years before Jesus birth) spoke about a coming Messiah (a savior) that would save their nation, Israel. In fact there are over 353 of them!

Here are 13 of them: (Remember, all of these were written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth!)

  1. The Messiah would be born of a virgin woman in Bethlehem
  2. The Messiah would come from the line of Abraham
  3. The Messiah would have His hands and feet pierced
  4. The Messiah would be crucified with criminals
  5. The Messiah would be forsaken by God
  6. The Messiah would be betrayed and falsely accused
  7. The Messiah would be mocked a ridiculed
  8. The Messiah would pray for His enemies
  9. The Messiah would resurrect from the dead
  10. The Messiah would ascend into Heaven
  11. The Messiah’s throne would be anointed and eternal
  12. The Messiah would be called King
  13. The Messiah would sit at the right hand of God
  14. The Messiah would be declared the Son of God
  15. The Messiah would be a sacrifice for sin

All of the above were written about in the Old Testament, and then fulfilled by Jesus life (and then recorded in the New Testament). This is one of the biggest proofs that Jesus was who He said He was…He fulfilled all 353 of these prophecies. The “chance” of Him doing this could be equated to covering all of Texas in 3 feet deep in silver quarters, with only ONE red quarter, and then going to somewhere in Texas blindfolded and trying to select the red one with only one attempt. It simply cannot be by chance! Jesus was the foretold Messiah!

All of these prophecies pointed to Him as the Messiah, as someone that would save Israel by being a sacrifice for their sins. In order to be “right” with God, Israel had to continually sacrifice lambs, goats, bulls, doves, food, and other things to cleanse themselves of their sins and receive forgiveness from God. But now, Jesus would become the true and final sacrifice, available to all who would accept Him.

Now we are a little farther in our understanding of the true Jesus- the Messiah foretold by the Old Testament prophets. In the next post, we will examine His entrance into the world, the starting point to His life here on earth.

**For all of the scripture references to the prophecies, their place in the OT, and their fulfillment in the NT, please email me at jrfletch@uga.edu

Discovering The True Jesus (pt.1)

For one of my Marketing classes this fall, I am required to write ten different blogs about anything that I am passionate about to practice gaining a presence on the web and to better “market” myself to employers/network associates/etc. So…I had to choose what to write on that would have a consistent theme throughout the semester. After much thought, I decided to write about….Jesus. Instead of marketing myself, why not market Him? Most of what I do in my life is based off of who He is and what He did- so why not share that with my peers and fellow students?

In order to do this, I plan on analyzing ten major events, stories from, or teachings about Jesus from the Bible, so that I can paint an overall picture of who the true Jesus is, and what He came to accomplish on earth. I hope that you will join me regularly on this journey, and comment and interact with me as I seek to unveil the truth about the most influential human being that ever walked the earth!

So, for my first post, I will simply introduce Jesus from a historical perspective, and how He is viewed by the world. Most credible historians agree that a man named Jesus did live 2000 years ago, and quickly gained a following that changed the course of the future forever. Josephus and Tacitus are some of the main secular historians who wrote about Jesus as they recorded events in Jerusalem and Rome near Jesus’ lifetime. However, there are countless hundreds of individuals who wrote about Jesus’ life, relaying information that they heard from eyewitnesses, within 100-200 years after His death. Any argument that Jesus never existed is not very credible, and goes against the grain of many leading (even secular) scholars. So then, if Jesus existed, what do people believe that He actually did? Who was He?

People of Jewish descent believe that Jesus was a man who claimed to be a messiah (a savior for the nation of Israel) but that He was a false messiah. Muslims believe that Jesus was just another prophet in a line of prophets before Muhammad. Secular historians believe that Jesus was just another religious individual who gained popularity after His death and started a new world religion. Christians believe that He is the Savior of the world, the Son of God who ransoms mankind. But most would refer to Jesus simply as a “good teacher” or a man with many helpful and wise teachings.

However, if Jesus is only a “good teacher,” what must we do with the fact that He claimed to be God’s Son? That He said He was the Messiah? That He said He would raise from the dead? Would “good teachers” say these things about themselves? I think not! Jesus, then, must either be a liar, a lunatic, or who He said He was. He cannot be just a good teacher, or even a prophet (because good teachers or prophets would not make false, incorrect claims about their identities and still be considered “good”). He is either intentionally lying (trying to deceive others), or He is crazy (He thinks He’s God’s Son!) or He is who He said He was (He was telling the truth!). These are the only three options for who Jesus can actually be.

So….who is He? What evidence is their to back up some of the world’s major views of Him? Is He who He claimed to be? Or was He disiluusioned? To learn about anyone’s life, we must go to the people that knew them best: their family members, their friends, their colleagues. Thankfully, Jesus’ closest friends wrote about His life in four distinct books called the Gospels. We will take a look at one story in the next blog and try to come a little farther in answering the question, “Who is the REAL Jesus?”

John 3 – “You Must Be Born Again”

Jesus was very clear about the change that must take place in order to become one of his own and see the kingdom of God.

You must be born again” John 3:7

Must I go to church? No, you must be born again. Must I pray a certain prayer? No, you must be born again. Must I give to the poor? No, you must be born again. Must I be baptized? No, you must be born again. Must I follow the law? No, you must be born again. Must I teach Sunday school or sing in the choir? No, you must be born again!

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” John 3:3

One of my spiritual heroes, C.H. Spurgeon, illustrated this truth this way (in my own paraphrase):

Suppose that in England, there should be a law passed that admission to courts, preference to office, and any privileges in the nation were only given to the natural born citizens of the country. What then, would court officials say if an native Indian man came to them and said, “I will change my name” or “I will change my dress” or “I will change my family, my friends,” or “I will learn the language” or “I will work for it!” You see none of these things could admit the man, for the law is absolute, the man must be an natural born citizen to obtain the privileges, and he is not.

This illustration also correlates with us as Christians. We cannot change our names (call ourselves Christians), change the way we dress, change our friends, change our behavior, learn to talk like Christians, learn to pray like Christians, give away our money, help the poor, or do any type of Christian service. For God’s statement is clear: “You must be born again.”

This new birth is a sweeping process which is more than a change, it is a creation. Not just reformation, but regeneration. Not just becoming religious, but being born. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefor, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; Behold, the new has come.”

Do you exhibit a different life than you did before? Do you now hate the very things you used to love? Have your desires changed? Do you have a hunger for reading and understanding God’s Word? Do you desire to be around other believers? Can you persist in sin? What is your attitude towards sin- are you brokenhearted over it? or are you still indifferent to it? To whom have you entrusted your whole life to?

We cannot bring about these changes ourselves, nor make ourselves “born again.” We are only born again of the Spirit, the power of God. Salvation is a magnificent work where a soul is saved and made completely new. Ultimately, Jesus is the only one who can bring about this new creation in us.

It is imperative to understand that he brings about this change. “Behold” says Christ, “I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Dear friend, you must be made new; you must be born again! I paraphrase Mr. Spurgeon again, “Christ can make you really pure in heart; he can make you a new creature, so that you shall be converted and become as a little child. “Oh!” say you, “how can I get it? How can I prepare myself for him?” You do not want to prepare yourself for him. Go to him just as you are; trust him to do it, and he will do it. That is faith, you know–trust, dependence. Can you believe that Christ can save you? Oh! you can believe that; well now, will you trust him to save you? Will you trust him to deliver you from your drunkenness, from your angry temper, your pride, your love of self, your lusts? Do you desire to be a new creature in Christ Jesus? If so, that very desire must have come from heaven. I could fain hope that he has already begun the good work in you, and he that begins it will carry it on.”

“”Oh! make me a new creature!” If you have said that from your heart, you are a new creature, dear brother, and we will rejoice together in this regenerating Savior.” (Spurgeon, A New Creation, published July 15, 1915.)