ship on ocean waves

Southern clergy defended the morality of slavery through an elaborate scriptural defense built on the infallibility of the Bible, which they held up as the universal and objective standard for moral issues. Religious messages from pulpit and from a growing religious press accounted in large part for the extreme, uncompromising, ideological atmosphere of the time. …

As Pastor Dunwody of South Carolina summed up the case: “Thus, God, as he is infinitely wise, just and holy, never could authorize the practice of a moral evil. But god has authorized the practice of slavery, not only by the bare permission of his Providence, but the express provision of his word. Therefore, slavery is not a moral evil.” Since the Bible was the source for moral authority, the case was closed. “Man may err,” said the southern theologian James Thornwell, “but God can never lie.”

Gordon Rhea, “Why Non-Slaveholding Southerners Fought,” Address to the Charleston Library Society, June 25, 2011. [link to the full article follows]

This is why hermeneutics matters: because some readings of Scripture are bad, and bad for you, and bad for everyone.

[edited 6.19.20 – included the quotation]