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Old 07-17-2001, 07:49 AM   #1
Vorkosigan
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Post Daniel Wallace on Slavery

Daniel Wallace on Slavery

Last week Nomad recommended the <A HREF="http://www.bible.org/docs/soapbox/soaptoc.htm" TARGET=_blank>
Prof's Soapbox</A>, Daniel Wallace's site on the New Testament, Evangelical Christianity, and sundry topics of interest to fundamentalists and evangelicals. Wallace believes the Bible is the word of God and inerrant. He also subscribes to the inhuman and evil beliefs that such people have about the world, believing that it is an evil, hostile place where people are alone without their Bible, and that it is "dying." While I could have much to say about the rationality and morality of people who hate the world around them and believe a compilation of holy fictions is without error, we will pass on to Wallace's thoughts on slavery.

The Biblical attitude toward slavery is of course one of the most profound of the many moral failures of the New Testament. Slavery is accepted by both Paul and Jesus. Explaining away this problem is an acute issue for fundamentalists, judging from its constant appearance at article sites such as this, and on boards where such things are discussed.

Wallace attempts to solve the slavery problem with two strategies. First, the old "it wasn't that bad" argument:

  • 1. Slavery in the first century was quite different from slavery in early American history. For one thing, Roman slaves were either taken as the spoils of war or were such because they sold themselves into slavery (known as "bond-servant"). They were often well-educated (cf. Gal 3:24 in which the "tutor" or better "disciplinarian" or "guide" of the children was usually a slave). The normal word for "slave" in the New Testament is the term dou'lo", a term that in earlier centuries usually referred to one who sold himself into slavery; later on, it was used especially of those who became slaves as the spoils of war.


Wallace apparently thinks it is OK to make humans into chattel so long as they were taken in battle or came into it "voluntarily." In fact, African slaves sold in the Americas were taken in raids, wars and through sales as well, among the many methods by which they were taken.

Further, Wallace has missed a key point: being a slave was not an unlucky state affecting individual persons, but a permanent status. The children of slaves were also slaves. Thus, Romans got their slaves exactly the same way as Americans did, and there are no significant differences between the two cultures in their practice of slavery.
  • 2. Although the masters had absolute rights over their slaves, they generally showed them respect, very unlike the South in the days of Lincoln. They often treated them with human dignity and, although they could beat them, such does not seem to be as regular a practice as it was in America. [snipped]

Wallace here has constructed a Christian fantasy world. In reality, with the exception of a minority of slaves who were educated and served as household slaves in urban areas, slavery in the Roman world was every bit as harsh as slavery in the Americas. Revolts were as common as rain among rural slaves, who lived a life of constant torture, hard work, little food, and death at a young age. Such slaves worked in the mines, fields, forests, in construction gangs, and on large estates. Slaves also rowed ships until they died, and served as gladiators in contests where a lucky slave could win wealth and fame. For the vast majority of Roman slaves, life was a living hell leading to an early death.

From http://vassun.vassar.edu/~jolott/rep...slavelife.html

Making up the largest percentage of the slave population were the field hands, or familia rustica, who constituted the major work force on the large agricultural and mining farms of the Roman aristocracy. On one estate alone, as many as 40,000 slaves could be kept, forced to work in extreme conditions. As a result of this, however, field slaves provided Rome with its greatest source of economic wealth. This was especially crucial in the later republic as expansion became less and less profitable.

From the same site:


Secondly, rural slaves were forced to do work that was both physically and emotionally straining. Field hands were given a life expectancy of about ten years due to the physical exhaustion they encountered on a daily basis. Among the jobs they were expected to perform were as ploughmen, hunters, ditchers and forester. Slaves were expected to work all day on very little food and water, and were whipped or beaten when they did not. The extreme nature of the environment in which rural slaves lived is best exemplified by the number of slave revolts which resulted from rural area as opposed to urban areas. Urban slaves had very little to complain about, as will be discussed later, and revolt only would have led to their execution, whereas for rural slaves death was the outcome no matter which route they chose to exercise.

All urban slaves, however, did not experience the surroundings of luxury that the fortuitous were able to enjoy. Many slaves that lived in urban areas were property of the government, kept to aid in the erection of public buildings and roads. The atmosphere in which these slaves were kept rivaled that of rural slaves in work expectancy and living conditions.


Let me add that slaves on such urban construction gangs were beaten, manacled, and kept in underground prisons at night.

A moment's research into the topic at the library or on the Net will quickly dispel the deliberate delusions of Christian apologists. For the vast majority of Roman slaves, life was hell. To argue that slaves in such conditions should submit to their masters, as Paul does, is degenerate moral bankruptcy.

Wallace then goes on to begin construction of his apology for this failing of Paul's and Jesus'.

  • When we think through this issue, it is plain that the NT writers simply could not outright condemn slavery (the disastrous results of Spartacus' rebellion [in spite of the Hollywood portrayal] would have been etched in their minds). Further, to whom would such a directive be pointed? To the pagan masters? They do not place themselves under God's law and are not a part of his kingdom program. Paul's exhortations to them would be meaningless. To the slaves? They are powerless to bring about their own freedom apart from overt actions (e.g., rebellion, running away). Further, such actions hardly comported with the gospel: change is to take place from the inside out, not from imposition on social structures. (The one exception to this had to do with ultimate allegiance and worship: civil disobedience was always encouraged when it came to having to choose between Christ and Caesar.)

Wallace's do-not-rock-the-boat position on social issues is pretty silly. Paul does not hesitate to condemn other Roman practices. The Christians were already on the ban list, and Romans considered Christianity atheism. Wallace's assertion that the slaves were "powerless" flies in the face of history: revolts were extremely common. Individual slaves could and did run away.

Wallace states his personal beliefs as they apply to Paul in the following:
  • As much as I believe that Christians should become involved in several aspects of society (we are, after all, "the salt of the world"), when we exchange the gospel for a merely social agenda we contaminate our mission. I believe there are social implications of the gospel that are quite extensive, but let us never forget that our primary task in relation to the world is not to change political structures, but to offer forgiveness of sin in the name of Jesus Christ.

Of course. Torture and death are mere political problems. The really important thing is getting people to come to their fictional god. What a sick, hateful and inhuman philosophy! I always accuse Christians of being nihilistic, and it is hard to argue with me when passages like the one above represent serious arguments. The really urgent thing, for anyone filled with love of others, as Christians claim they are, is to end the torture and pain.

  • 5. Now, with this background in mind, let's look briefly at a couple of passages: Col 3:22-25 and 1 Cor 7:17-24. The first text only gives instructions to those who are slaves to perform their duties well. I think that if Paul lived in Dixie 150 years ago, his advice to Christian slaves would be the same.

I don't think there is any need to comment on the sick inhumanity of that last sentence. I suppose that makes all the humanistic Christians who fought Southern slavery failures, since they were focusing on the body, and not the soul. Never mind the atheists and humanists who did so.

  • His advice to Christian masters would be quite different: he would ask them to treat their slaves with dignity and respect and hope that they would come to recognize the incompatibility of slavery with the gospel.

How? How could masters come to recognize the "incompatibility of slavery with the gospel" when that is never openly, clearly and directly stated anywhere in the gospels? When Jesus' parables are full of master-slave relationships? When Paul quite clearly calls for slaves to "submit to their masters"? The answer is that masters could not recognize such an "incompatibility" -- what a weak weasel word! -- because there isn't one.


In fact, as Wallace surely knows, southern masters taught their slaves Christianity precisely because they expected it to make the slaves weak and docile. Nor would they have done so over and over, for many generations, if that effect had not been obtained.

  • He could certainly write on this topic, too. But Paul would not tell the slaves to rebel or run away. He always sought change from the inside.

Paul did not seek concrete change. He merely sought to expand the influence of his religion. Whether humans were chattel was unimportant, so long as they worshipped the Canaanite sky god Yao and his putative son, Jesus.

  • Finally, on 1 Cor 7, Paul does make one significant pronouncement: In v. 23 he says, "You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men." Here we clearly see his attitude toward slavery and the seeds of social freedom embedded in his words. The gospel and slavery are incompatible because someone else has already purchased us.

Ah, now we understand. Christians are slaves of god.


Yeesh!

Michael

[ July 17, 2001: Message edited by: turtonm ]
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Old 07-17-2001, 01:58 PM   #2
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I've gotten into this debate many a time with fundamentalists and evangelicals. The fact of the matter is that Paul and his followers believed that slaves should just accept their lot in life because they would get a heavenly reward later.

The interesting thing is that the author above admits that Paul would have told slaves in the 1800's to submit to their masters as he did in Col. 3:22:

Quote:
Now, with this background in mind, let's look briefly at a couple of passages: Col 3:22-25 and 1 Cor 7:17-24. The first text only gives instructions to those who are slaves to perform their duties well. I think that if Paul lived in Dixie 150 years ago, his advice to Christian slaves would be the same.
At least he's honest, getting this admission out of some other fundamentalists is like pulling teeth. Poor Harriet Tubman. And she thought she was doing God's will with the Underground Railroad. Must have been a demon.
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Old 07-17-2001, 02:05 PM   #3
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Another excellent post from turtonm!
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Old 07-17-2001, 02:41 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by TollHouse:
<STRONG>Another excellent post from turtonm!</STRONG>
Amen.

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Old 07-17-2001, 03:00 PM   #5
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Nomad likes to push the Prof's Soapbox because it is well written and sounds reasonable. Thanks for pointing out that it is still based on a fundamentally irrational and anti-humanist belief system.

You may also want to read this Christian Reconstrctionisn justification of slavery, which may send a chill down your spine.

Quote:
Slaves have no economic incentive to work, since they cannot improve their situation regardless of how hard they labor. Therefore the master is allowed to provide that incentive by beating them (Exodus 21:20-27).
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Old 07-17-2001, 04:19 PM   #6
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Michael:

It may be on this site, I've got to go look, but there was a paper written about the mind-set of the Christian religion.

And it was exactly as the last sentence of your excellent post...the Christian mindset is that they are slaves, inferior, unclean, unworthy, etc, etc, etc, ad nausm.

This was traced back to Eastern Asiatic/Greek mindsets of the time.

But it makes horribly logical sense. And why Christians struggle so mightily to hang on to their addiction...they simply don't know or can't function without it.

I'll try and find it. I think I bookmarked it at work.
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Old 07-17-2001, 04:46 PM   #7
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Originally posted by Lance:

And it was exactly as the last sentence of your excellent post...the Christian mindset is that they are slaves, inferior, unclean, unworthy, etc, etc, etc, ad nausm.


Thanks for all the accolades, but I think we should at least wait for the riposte. I wonder what peripheral issue Nomad will focus on this time...

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Old 07-22-2001, 07:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by turtonm:
<STRONG>Thanks for all the accolades, but I think we should at least wait for the riposte. I wonder what peripheral issue Nomad will focus on this time...</STRONG>
I think the lack of responses is a testament to quality of the original post. How can anyone, religious or not, morally justify slavery?
Good post.
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Old 07-23-2001, 02:49 AM   #9
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Interesting Michael, yet I think your perspective is one-sided.

How about we look at the two times when Paul talks to masters about slaves?

Colossians 4:
1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Ephesians 6:
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.
6 Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.
7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men,
8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.

I personally find Paul's commands to be above reproach. The Christian theme of love for others is here extended by Paul into the issues of slavery. Paul goes so far as to threaten those who even threaten (!) their slaves with the punishment of God!

Slaves are to serve and love their masters as if their masters were the Lord. And masters are to do the same. ie to serve their slaves.
The great Christian theme of being servants to others is here extended to the masters as well. It is not that the slaves should stop being slaves: It is that the masters should become slaves also!
Jesus the Lord performed the task of washing the disciples feet (a task done by a slave for their masters)! He later gave the command to "Love one another, as I have loved you". He was the greatest master of all, yet he made himself a slave of others. And commanded them to do the same!


Quote:
Ah, now we understand. Christians are slaves of god.
If you don't understand this, it is not surprising that you are missing the point.
The entire idea of Christianity is that we become slaves of the Lord Jesus. (If it will help you get it into perspective, slaves called their masters "lord" and the people called Caesar "Lord")
Why do you think the NT writers call themselves "Paul, a bondslave of Christ Jesus...", "James, a bondslave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ...", "Simon Peter, a bondslave and apostle of Jesus Christ..."?
Even Mary calls herself "the bondslave of the Lord" (Although she is referring to God).
There are two Kingdoms. The Kingdom of Darkness (or Kingdom of the Flesh or the Kingdom of the World), where Satan is the ruler and complete self-will and freedom the ultimate goal and this Kingdom is run "in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind" (Ephesians 2:3). What is so sad is that this sounds like such an accurate description of the modern western world.
The second Kingdom is the Kingdom of God (Or the Kingdom of Heaven) (Described many times by Jesus in His parables), where Jesus is the Lord and self-less love the ultimate goal.
Various Eastern religions have the extinction of the self and self-desire as the great aim. Christianity takes this concept one step further: after the extinction of the self comes the life as a servant of Jesus.
As Jesus said "Whoever loves his own life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it" (Matthew 10:39, 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24, 17:33; John 12:25)
According to Paul, salvation is to be "delivered... from the domain of darkness, and transferred... to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13)
Having been freed from Sin and the Kingdom of darkness and self-love, we become the slaves of Jesus and call Him "Lord".
"Having been freed from sin, you became the slaves of righteousness
...
At one time you surrendered yourselves entirely as slaves to impurity and wickedness for wicked purposes. In the same way you must now surrender yourselves entirely as slaves of righteousness for holy purposes. When you were the slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness. When did you gain from doing the things that you are now ashamed of? The result of those things is death! But now you have been set free from sin and are the slaves of God. Your gain is a life fully dedicated to him, and the result is eternal life. For sin pays its wage - death; but God's free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:18-23)

"He [Jesus] died for all, that they should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." (2 Corinthians 5:15)
"Take my yoke and put it on you"
-Jesus (Matthew 11:29)
To enter the Kingdom of God we must first die to the Kingdom of self-will and be "born again" into the Kingdom of God as self-less servants. This is what Baptism symbolises.
In Genesis 2 we learn that self-will and subsequent disobedience to the Lord our master was the reason for the Fall. For such disobedience of slaves the just punishment is death. Yet Jesus the true Lord was prepared to "become as a bondslave" (Phillipians 2:7) and "he endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne. All the while we thought that his suffering was punishment sent by God. But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did. We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received. All of us were like sheep that were lost, each of us going his own way. But the LORD made the punishment fall on him, the punishment all of us deserved." (Isaiah 53:4-6)
But to those who still refuse to come to love the Lord, speak evil of him and go their own way (Matthew 25:24) Jesus will judge them.
"When the Son of Man comes as King and all the angels with him, he will sit on his royal throne, and the people of all the nations will be gathered before him. Then he will divide them into two groups, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." (Matthew 25:31-32)
There is a recurring image of sheep. Anyone who knows about sheep knows that they all follow each other together. Goats on the other hand always go off by themselves and do whatever they are feeling like.
The Isaiah passage compares us with sheep who are going their own way, which is an extremely unnatural and alarming circumstance - sheep are not supposed to go there own way.
In Matthew the comparison is between the sheep - those of the Kingdom of God who have Jesus as their shepherd and go where Jesus tells them, and the goats - those of the Kingdom of the World who exalt their own self-will and independence and do not obey their Lord, Creator and shepherd.

This is the very basis of the Christian message. I am sorry if everyone already does understand it and my rehash of it is needless. (Although my past experience suggests that at least one person here will have found most of this entirely new.)
But if you do not understand this then a large proportion of the teachings of Jesus will not make sense and the question of slavery will be out of perspective.


As far as physical slavery goes, here are some pieces from the article in The New Bible Dictionary on "The New Testament Attitude to Slavery":
Quote:
The twelve disciples of Jesus apparently had no part in the system of slavery. They included neither slaves nor owners.
...
[Church membership] included both masters and servants. Slavery was one of the human divisions that became meaningless in the new community in Christ (1 Cor vii 22; Gal iii 28). This apparently led to a desire for emancipation (1 Cor vii 20) and perhaps even to the active encouragement of it by some (1 Tim vi 3-5). Paul was not opposed to manumission if the opportunity was offered (1 Cor vii 21), but studiously refrained from putting pressure on owners, even where personal sentiment might have led him to do so (Phm 8,14).
...
Thus, whether in practice or by analogy, the apostles clearly branded the institution as part of the order that was passing away. In the last resort the fraternity of the sons of God would see all its members free of their bonds.
In the new world order represented in Christianity - The Kingdom of God - masters are to serve their slaves and slaves their masters. All are to become complete servants of each other and to love one another as Christ loved us. No wonder the New Testament authors do not condemn slavery - they promote it! This is simply consistency to the highest degree and is the natural outworking of the Kingdom's message of selfless love.
It is however "evil" by the standards of the Kingdom of the World, which regards slavery as the greatest of all evils as it infringes upon the greatest goal of Satan's Kingdom which is self-will and freedom for the self.
And so those in the Kingdom of the World regard the self-less slave-like devotion to others, as preached by Christianity, as the greatest evil of all. So be it. They will be condemned (Matthew 25:44-46) as they deserve.


"Suppose one of you has a servant who is ploughing or looking after the sheep. When he comes in from the field, do you tell him to hurry and eat his meal? Of course not! Instead you say to him, ‘Get my supper ready, then put on your apron and wit on me while I eat and drink; after that you may have your meal.' The servant does not deserve thanks for obeying orders, does he? It is the same with you; when you have done all you have been told to do, say 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" (Luke 17:7-10)

"So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus" (Galations 3:28)

An unworthy bondslave of the Lord Jesus Christ,
-Tercel
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Old 07-23-2001, 07:02 AM   #10
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Originally posted by Tercel:
Interesting Michael, yet I think your perspective is one-sided.

It IS one-sided; it's written from the perspective that ownership of human beings is always wrong.

Colossians 4:
1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.


Thanks for making my case. Paul clearly finds slavery to be a non-problem; in fact, he declares slave revolts to be morally problematical. Could a slave demur if her master approaches her for a little "service?"

I personally find Paul's commands to be above reproach.

I'm a little stunned by this. Does that mean you would advise slaves not to revolt, or only against mean masters, or what?

All slavery, even of the urbanized house slave kind, is inherently degrading and no "nice master" can ever remove that stigma. This is well brought out by current research into the conditions of Roman (and other) slavery.

Further, Paul does not seem to grasp the inherent effects of slavery on things like gender relations (what happens to wives in slave states, Tercel?), economic productivity, technological and social progress, and even on the masters themselves. Slavery debases all it touches.

The Christian theme of love for others is here extended by Paul into the issues of slavery. Paul goes so far as to threaten those who even threaten (!) their slaves with the punishment of God!

Oh, well, that makes up for the lack of political and social rights (like marriage), the constant threat of punishment even when not overt, living in a police state, forced illiteracy, poor medical care, and so forth. It is not merely that Paul's thinking is morally indefensible, it is also the blatant lack of a sound critique of the whole problem of slavery and what it does to others.

Clearly there is no love of others in Christianity, there is just power and control. Your description of the Church as a master-slave society illustrates this well. Christianity is lust for power. True love of others does not seek power over them, nor does it demand service. It is open, liberatory, human-centered and life-affirming.

Slaves are to serve and love their masters as if their masters were the Lord. And masters are to do the same. ie to serve their slaves.

How can a master "serve their slaves?" Power in this relationship runs in only one direction.

Jesus the Lord performed the task of washing the disciples feet (a task done by a slave for their masters)! He later gave the command to "Love one another, as I have loved you". He was the greatest master of all, yet he made himself a slave of others. And commanded them to do the same!

This is the nihilism that lies at the heart of Christianity: its insistence on a world of masters and slaves. Why not simply do away with the whole idea of master-dom and slavery, and make all equal in society (not merely "equal before the lord" -- fictionally equal)?

All are to become complete servants of each other and to love one another as Christ loved us. No wonder the New Testament authors do not condemn slavery - they promote it!

Hmm....I can't respond to this kind of moral nihilism.

It is however "evil" by the standards of the Kingdom of the World, which regards slavery as the greatest of all evils as it infringes upon the greatest goal of Satan's Kingdom which is self-will and freedom for the self.

Why, yes, Tercel, many of us hold freedom as our highest goal. I assume you wouldn't want to be a slave. Neither would I.

And so those in the Kingdom of the World regard the self-less slave-like devotion to others, as preached by Christianity, as the greatest evil of all.

No, we hold slavery to be a great evil. Service to others is not incompatible with human freedom, but a way of helping others to realize that goal. I assume your point here is that atheists do not believe in serving others?

That's a joke.

"Suppose one of you has a servant who is ploughing or looking after the sheep. When he comes in from the field, do you tell him to hurry and eat his meal? Of course not! Instead you say to him, ‘Get my supper ready, then put on your apron and wit on me while I eat and drink; after that you may have your meal.' The servant does not deserve thanks for obeying orders, does he? It is the same with you; when you have done all you have been told to do, say 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" (Luke 17:7-10)

Yeesh! The thought of making another wait while I torture him by eating in front of him, reminding him of his degraded and exploited status, makes me sick. I am glad you pointed this passage out to me. Every time you give an example, you prove that Christianity is ethical nihilism.

Luke could just as well have written. "Free your servants, and feed them. You owe them a debt, so help them start a business. He who forces a hungry man to watch him eat is a morally contemptible person."

The exploitative and degraded position of slaves herein is extremely clear. The servant is inherently unworthy, by virtue of his status as a slave. Such good treatment as he recieves is bestowed as a benificent gift of the master, and is not the slave's right as a fellow human being.

In a loving and liberatory ethic, the master wakes up and says: "What the fuck am I doing owning slaves?" and immediately frees them. Because of his debt to them as someone who has used and exploited them, he is required to compensate them somehow, like setting them up in business, or paying for their education, or giving them a sum of money to support themselves. This is their due as a fellow being.

In your slave society, humans are obligated to each other in reciprocal power relationships, where submission is called "love" and dominance "grace." In my society, we seek to mitigate power, whenever it appears, with a liberatory ethos, restricting it only to such relationships as it is needed. No human seeks to submit or dominate in my society, while in your society there are no relationships outside of this matrix of dominance and submission.

No wonder theocratic states are living hells for those not in the ruling theocracy.

"So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus" (Galations 3:28)

That's good. Can we knock off our chains too, or does this equality only happen after we die?

Well, Tercel, it would be hard to imagine a more hateful and inhuman philosophy than this. Service to others does not require a master-slave relationship, but can easily take place among equals. When I worked for the Taiwan independence movement, or volunteered for the Peace Corps, I did so out of an ethic that was liberatory and freedom-oriented. Do you think the head of the local PTA required my "submission" when I volunteered there last year? I coached two soccer teams in the local youth league last year. Should I have required the parents "submit" to me, or I to them? Or can I envision a whole 'nother ethic of service, with everyone working together to advance the human condition?

Slavery is completely incompatible with an ethical stance that is human-centered, loving, freedom-oriented, and seeks to advance the well-being of the human race in concrete ways.

All Paul had to do was forcefully insist, minimally, that Christians not own other people. He did not. Instead, he treated Christianity as a set of power-relations in which submission is mistaken for love. I would not ask any human to submit to me, and I do not mistake the love my wife bears for me for submission.

Michael
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