Modern day (contemporary) slavery is truely vile. It eclipses in just about every way the slavery that took the Civil War to end, and which still scars the national complexion. That slavery too had only the fact that it was not … worse to commend it. Critics of the Christian/Jewish traditions which flow from the Old and New Testaments (or Torah, Tanakh, et al) note that slavery is not criticized, or that criticism of the same requires somewhat careful exegsis and non-straighforward hermeneutics.
However, slavery as practiced and discussed above, involves to separate things, cruelty and a loss of personal freedom. Cruelty and brutality I will not defend. However, I’m a little more confused about the freedom part. This will continue, in the dreaded bullet list fashion, below the fold:
- Freedom, in the modern sense as choice, compared to ontological freedom as I recently discussed as described by Zizioulas drawing from Trinity and the Cappadocian Fathers as well as Dostoevsky needs comparison.
- Freedom is seen by some as the freedom from constraint. Ontological freedom, drawn from Dostoevsky can be partially described when one is willing to commit suicide. After one is willing to die at a moments notice, one cannot be constrained. One is more free than one who is free by other means.
- Via Baptism and it’s promise, Christians participate in eternity. This renders Christians doctrinally and in practice ontologically free.
- One question therefore is whether when one encounters slavery (with cruelty) whether emancipation or conversion is the priority.
- Slavery without cruelty? What does that look like. Perhaps like slavery in the first century, a lot like welfare perhaps? And that is the crucial question after all. Much slavery in the first century wasn’t cruel (or more importantly any different or more cruel than employment of the free).
- If one could imagine slavery as a voluntary choice, indenturing oneself in when in economic straits (or as alternative to the happy cruelty of the UNs “permanent refugee camps”). And the owner(s) taking any slaves into one’s household something akin to family.
- I’ve argued earlier, following Zizioulas that equality and heirarchy are not opposed qualities, that is heirarchy can exist and does not necesarily denigrate or diminish equality. Slavery could be an example of this … if divorced from the cruelty (and replaced with charity, i.e., love).