Bring back slavery!

by Kim on April 6, 2011

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.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Alec Macph 04.06.11 at 6:27 pm

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.

Similar difficulties had to be overcome with opposition to the death penalty, as discussed on BBC4 last night.

~alec

2

Joseph W 04.06.11 at 6:28 pm

No, God hates slavery, hence the Passover story!

3

Joseph W 04.06.11 at 6:30 pm

They pick out dubious verses from Genesis and manipulate the curse of Canaan, but I think there is an anti-slavery message to the Bible, culminating in the death of slavery-to-sin, via Jesus’ atoning death.

4

Alec Macph 04.06.11 at 6:55 pm

Surely the Curse of Canaan was, as with the Dutch Reformed Church’s justification of Apartheid through the Mark of Cain, based on race? There were separate references to debtor slavery, and before the West African slave-trade reached North America, chattels were travelling from the British Isles to what only can be described as slavery.

5

Joseph W 04.06.11 at 7:22 pm

It’s a funny one, because Canaan received the curse and not his brothers, for the sin of their father Ham. I don’t really have an answer, otherwise.

6

Tony Buglass 04.06.11 at 10:56 pm

“They pick out dubious verses from Genesis and manipulate the curse of Canaan..”

That’s the point, really. The defenders of the slave trade did so by the use of scripture. So do the defenders of the death penalty. So do Christian capitalists like Earl, Doug and their ilk. So do left-wing liberationists. So did the apartheid regime in S Africa.

The point is, if you’re not careful (or if you’re careful enough) you can defend almost any position from scripture. Which is why fundamentalist prooftexting is so dangerous and open to heresy. The only way to read the Bible properly is critically, examining texts in their proper context.

7

Joseph W 04.06.11 at 10:58 pm

Hold on, capitalism = slavery & apartheid? Really?

8

Alec Macph 04.06.11 at 11:11 pm

The emergence of the capitalist model put an end to slavery.

~alec

9

Richard 04.06.11 at 11:38 pm

Joseph, think you should read what Tony said again.

Alec - Unfortunately, slavery is still with us

10

Earl 04.07.11 at 2:35 am

“That’s the point…” etc. Continue to grasp at straws. You can then possibly make a bed and lie on it. But like it or not, the death penalty is fully in accord with Scripture. And, in the case of capital crimes, it is a fully just sentence for those who have committed such crime.

When it comes to economic organization, no system is closer to ideal that capitalism. It allows the greatest freedom of choice and opportunity for the individual. No other economic system is as capable of best providing opportunity and freedom. Unlike these other systems, it requires no apology.

When Scripture is cited those on the receiving end may complain of what they consider to be prooftexting. Jesus was known to quote Scripture. He used it against the Devil in the wilderness. He used it against assorted enemies during his ministry. None of them enjoyed his prooftexting. But, he wasn’t trying to earn their applause. Those who nowaday quote Scripture in exactly the same way are walking in good company. There is no danger inherent in prooftexting. There is danger in misusing Scripture, such as was done by Satan when he tempted Jesus.

11

Kim 04.07.11 at 7:10 am

There is no document of civilisation that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.
– Walter Benjamin

Thanks, Earl, for the QED.

Capitalism? Capitalism is the continuation of slavery by other systemic means.

12

Tony Buglass 04.07.11 at 9:38 am

Joseph - “Hold on, capitalism = slavery & apartheid? Really?”
Insofar as they have been defended by recourse to scripture. That was what I was talking about; I wouldn’t draw the parallels any more than that.

Earl - “There is no danger inherent in prooftexting. There is danger in misusing Scripture, such as was done by Satan when he tempted Jesus.”
What Satan was doing was prooftexting. He did it like any other prooftexter, by taking texts out of context. A text without a context is a pretext.

13

Tony Buglass 04.07.11 at 9:42 am

“When it comes to economic organization, no system is closer to ideal that capitalism. It allows the greatest freedom of choice and opportunity for the individual. etc…”

Arguably. You have made a good pragmatic and economic case. Whether it it is ethical in subordinating people to money, and whether that is defensible from scripture, that’s a whole other question.

14

Earl 04.07.11 at 11:54 am

“There is no document of civilisation that is not at the same time a document of barbarism. – Walter Benjamin.” Not impressed. One must make choices in life. Failure to choose is to default to others. Best is to act responsibly. Just because one cannot act with perfection is no argument for doing nothing.

“Thanks, Earl, for the QED.” Always best to speak plainly when responding to raving.

“Capitalism? Capitalism is the continuation of slavery by other systemic means.” Failure of reason. Need to do some serious study of economic systems. Suggest begin with Wealth of Nations, etc.

15

Earl 04.07.11 at 12:07 pm

“When it comes to economic organization, no system is closer to ideal that capitalism. It allows the greatest freedom of choice and opportunity for the individual. etc…”

“Arguably. You have made a good pragmatic and economic case. Whether it it is ethical in subordinating people to money, and whether that is defensible from scripture, that’s a whole other question.”

One may as well protest dependence upon air to breath for ongoing life as to protest the reality of economic exchange that is the demand/supply market based economy that is modern life. Ethical? Absolutely. No system can guarantee equality of origins. Capitalism offers the best equality of opportunity for all persons in all stations of life. It is superior to any other system that supposes to violate one person at whose expense another person is privileged and advantaged.

If one wants to establish a social order predicated upon a Biblical ethic, then one will have to begin outside of contemporary economic and social systems. What will be required is a common commitment to Christ if such a Biblical ethic is to be the norm of social and economic organization. If individuals are to forgo their personal rights in the name of others, it will take something more than the mere assertion that we should do so. To suppose that a Biblical ethic can be normed for economic or social systems apart from a commitment to Christ is the equivalent of and as effective as putting a Band-aid on a broken bone. It may be very well intentioned. But it fails in application for simple lack of any capacity to do any good at all.

16

Earl 04.07.11 at 12:16 pm

“‘Earl - “There is no danger inherent in prooftexting. There is danger in misusing Scripture, such as was done by Satan when he tempted Jesus.’
What Satan was doing was prooftexting. He did it like any other prooftexter, by taking texts out of context. A text without a context is a pretext.”

Of course Satan was using Scripture out of context. It is a common tactic by those who use Scripture disingenuously. The problem is not that he quoted Scripture to support his position. The problem is that he deliberately misquoted Scripture misrepresenting it to support his position. Jesus quoted Scripture. He did not quote long passages with copious footnotes to satisfy those who love such things. He simply quoted Scripture and let it say what needed to be said to those to whom it was directed. Doubtless his enemies considered his use of Scripture to be a violation of the standard rules of scribal practice.

17

Alec Macph 04.07.11 at 12:19 pm

Yes, Richard, in non-capitalist and hideously underpreforming countries - from a purely economic standpoint, with no mention of the morality.

Capitalism is the continuation of slavery by other systemic means.

It’s done everyone here very nicely, and offers everyone the chance to improve their material situation, running against the ethos of slavery. Slaves received - in principle, at least - food and board, whilst employees receive monetiary payment which they then can exchange for services unconnected to their employer.

In a sense, neo-liberalism/conservatism is a true multi-cultural economic model because it doesn’t care what colour one’s skin is or what religion they are, just as long as they can make money.

~alec

18

Kim 04.07.11 at 12:21 pm

Ah, yes, the church father Adam Smith, the economist for whom God is otiose because, after all, you’ve got nature, and for whom goodness issues from actions that do not intend the good at all, actions indeed that may be selfish, greedy, and grubby. Yes, him of the “invisible hand” notoriety, a hand which has a way of turning into a fist which hits the poorest the hardest. Yes, Adam Smith, the patron saint of liberation theology.

19

Alec Macph 04.07.11 at 12:39 pm

There’s a term for Christian anti-capitalism… it is the “Fallange”.

~alec

20

Earl 04.07.11 at 5:00 pm

Adam Smith. Fine fellow. One who stated starkly that invincible reality against which others beat their heads as they follow the dimwits of Marx/Lenin round and round in circles never making any progress.

21

Alec Macph 04.07.11 at 5:30 pm

Like this Lenin, Earl?

~alec

22

Earl 04.07.11 at 7:02 pm

“Like this Lenin…” Really! This is much better… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwnnSSs0kFA (Being ignorant of how to post a link, I must ask that you cut and paste the above into your browser).

23

Chris H 04.07.11 at 7:24 pm

Earl, you are a very bad man!

24

Joseph W 04.07.11 at 7:37 pm

Fair enough then Tony ;)

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