I don’t know why I didn’t think of it years ago. Or rather I do: it’s the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, the values of secular culture – it’s like the invasion of the body-snatchers, like being taken over by an alien force, and before you know it the church has been colonised and you’re faith and morals have been paganised.
I’m talking about slavery. Several years ago my wife and I got lazy and decided to hire a cleaner. What were we thinking? We are now paying £18 per week, which, even subtracting holidays, sickies, and emergencies, still comes to over £750 a year. That’s an all-in holiday in Kefalonia! It’s crazy. Why didn’t we think of getting a slave? Precisely because our Christianity has been diluted with unbiblical ideas.
And it’s not just the wishy-washy liberals, it’s also the evangelicals. I’ve searched the internet high and low and can’t find a single Christian website offering to sell me a slave. Zilch! Which just goes to show how biblically illiterate we have all become. Because from Genesis to Revelation the Bible simply assumes, without any moral qualms, that some human beings will own other human beings.
It is true that the treatment of slaves in ancient Israel seems to have been more humane than the practices of surrounding nations like Egypt and Assyria. It is also true that St. Paul urged Philemon to manumit his slave Onesimus – but urged, not ordered, for even the apostle who famously said that there is neither slave nor free never condemned the institution of slavery as such.
That is why the 18th and 19th centuries abolitionists had such a hard time convincing people that slavery is simply wrong: their opponents had the clear teaching of scripture on their side. Indeed more than Darwin or critical scholarship, it was the struggle to end slavery that provoked the crisis of biblical authority in the church. And we distort history if we think that the anti-slavery campaign was solely the work of evangelical Christians. On the contrary, not only were evangelicals among the stoutest defenders of slavery, but fellow-Christians who broke ranks with them were undoubtedly influenced by the ethos of the Enlightenment, an often quite anti-church movement which was the seedbed of modern secularism and even atheism. The Enlightenment discourse of liberty, equality, and fraternity was a foreign language to many Christians, and one they did not care to learn.
Alas, it has become the lingua franca of the modern world. Releasing slaves from their chains was followed by relieving women of their aprons. And following the trajectory, we should not be at all surprised that eventually homosexuals started talking about their human and civil rights (Enlightenment jargon again), and now have the nerve to complain about their exclusion in the church itself. It just goes to show what happens when Christians stop reading the Bible literally, and start dabbling in liberation theology and banging on about justice for the oppressed.
Yep, the church has been corrupted by the big bad world. I’m disgusted. And out of pocket over the cost of a cleaner. It is undoubtedly too late, now that we’re on the other side of Christendom, to bring back slavery in the UK. Still, with some comprehensive back-to-basics Bible study, I don’t see why there shouldn’t be a future for it in the church, holding auctions at coffee mornings perhaps. And then – who knows? – maybe we can get the women back in the kitchen and the gays out of the pews.