Monday, July 07, 2008

work and slavery

I've been a Christian for 20 years now, and this post is the first I can recall that talks about slavery in the Bible, relates it to the modern world, and actually has something meaningful to say.

To introduce the writer's thoughts, which admittedly are buried in some other (no less interesting) comments, let me expound a bit. There are usually two situations in which biblical slavery comes up. The first is when a skeptic, antagonistic or merely skeptical, argues, "How can you claim that Christianity is a moral religion, when it never expressly disavows slavery?"

Alas, it does not. Abolitionists used passages of Scripture like the book of Philemon and the first 20 chapters or so of Exodus to point out that God wants people to be free, but the Bible never expressly bans the practice.

Slave owners in the South would use passages of Scripture to justify owning slaves, and to argue that it wasn't so bad an institution. After all, Paul enjoins slave owners to treat slaves with dignity, and reminds them that in Christ slave and slave owner are equal. Anyone who is familiar with the writings of people like Frederick Douglass may question how many slave owners actually heeded those directives. I am sure the answer is quite low.

The second place that such discussions usually surface is in church Bible studies, where pastors and other leaders draw an uneasy and usually weak parallel between slavery and contemporary employment, noting that "It's really not the same thing."

What I like about Brucker's post is his point: "They're exactly the same." Slavery in Israel was voluntary, just a like an employment arrangement today. Under the Torah, a man with no money could sell himself to a rich man for a period of six years, during which time he was guaranteed food, work and a home. It was, all things considered, quite like the Colonial practice of indentured servitude. And, as Brucker points out, it's not that different from modern employment either, particularly when it involves a contract.

Not all chains are made of iron; sometimes they are made of dollars.

Copyright © 2008 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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