“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” – Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
How much longer do we as Christians intend to accept (encourage) the continuance of slavery in our nation? Our Christian ancestors didn’t just turn a blind eye to slavery; they justified it with the Word of God. They used the words of the apostle Paul to subject an entire race of people to torture, humiliation, divided families, and many other tragedies.
Slavery is legal and exists even today in this country pursuant to the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Now, however, it isn’t only African-Americans who are enslaved; it is anyone who is convicted of a crime.
We are allowing the trade in human flesh to continue in our ever-growing prison system. The form of slavery has evolved, but the concept is no different. People are being used as commodities. Laws are passed to continue the right to imprison a certain class of people and to accumulate wealth for another class. As Christian men and women, we need to remove the band-aid and have a close look at this deep, old wound.
I say “wound,” not scar. It still hasn’t healed; we’ve just kept it covered up for too long because we don’t want to look at it. Slavery wasn’t abolished; it merely changed form. The slave became a prisoner; the plantation is now a prison. In Mississippi and Louisiana, prisons are literally located on top of old slave plantations. The relationship is not that far-removed. How do we continue to let slavery go unpunished?
This isn’t the example that Jesus left us. He tore all kinds of band-aids off of the old Jewish wounds. He showed the people the wounds of their past. He died to provide freedom; he lived to demonstrate freedom. He was a member of a culture that had once again found itself under the rule of another. Rome may have given the Jewish people certain liberties, but they still didn’t rule their own land or their own lives. Jesus was making a point about freedom, about oppression, and about foolish laws that are meant to subjugate and punish. Remember the woman caught in adultery? Indeed, if we think about it, “there was only one guy in the whole Bible Jesus ever personally promised a place with him in Paradise. Not Peter, not Paul, not any of those guys. He was a convicted thief, being executed.” American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.
Jesus knew help was needed, and he knew who needed help. His own people were enslaved over and over again. He knew they were being oppressed, and he acted, all the while providing us with the greatest example of love and compassion and bravery. We need to be brave. We should not just drop our stones and walk away; we need to throw the damn rocks at the walls that continue to entrap people in slavery. Jesus’ disciples were ready to fight for him. If we are a part of his body, shouldn’t we fight for it? Shouldn’t we fight for the freedom of our brothers and our sisters? What we do for the least, he said, we do for him.