Fixing America In 500 Words Or Less


Those who have studied very little history for themselves are often deceived by biased hucksters of various narrow vision using the term “slave”, as if it is a generic across the historical board more or less equal horrific experience.  In reality, terms like “slave”, “servant”, “serf” and similar vary dramatically from culture to culture, as to the lifestyle reality of what a slave, serf or indentured servant actually experiences.

Unlike the horrific existence of most American slaves, Hebrew slaves experienced a reality that was generally far less severe.  In ancient Rome, a slave might experience anything from extreme brutalization comparable to the worst cases among American slaves, to a reality much preferable to what a modern migrant worker or homeless day laborer endures on a daily and ongoing basis.

Not all, but some Roman slaves could earn their freedom, along with the freedom of their children and, some Roman slaves were known to rise above the average free Roman citizen in terms of economic lifestyle and status.  Others were sometimes literally worked to death.  Even among American Native and African-American slaves, not all slaves received the same equally harsh treatment.

Thus the term “slave” can be historically deceptive, compared to the actual reality experience of one slave in comparison to another.  Old Testament Hebrews who were enslaved by fellow Hebrews were by law, freed every seven years, whether or not they had been enslaved for the full seven years.  And, they were by law given a certain stipend upon being freed, so they could begin a new life on their own.  They also had a choice of remaining with their masters if they chose to do so, which apparently some did, preferring the shelter, food and military security offered in exchange for their labor.

Lower slaves on the Hebrew societal chain that were captured in war and not fellow Hebrew slaves, were not treated as well as this, but even those slaves were required by law to be treated humanely and be provided with adequate protection, room and board.  Compare how our own so-called “advanced” and “free” modern American society treats migrant workers and homeless day laborers; who are neither guaranteed room or board, are often raped and otherwise imprisoned, beaten and abused and, are frequently cheated out of even minimum wages; nor do they have much of an economic light shining at the end of a seven year tunnel of servitude.

Some ancient Hebrews who didn’t have the means themselves apparently sold or otherwise gave their own children to be enslaved by their fellow Hebrews who were of economic means, so that their child could learn a trade, have room and board provided and otherwise survive.  Their child would also receive greater protection from thieves and in time of war than a poor family with too many children to adequately care for could have provided.

To compare, homeless parents today in the United States have been known to cut their own children loose in their early teens to fend for themselves, not out of lack of love but rather, because they can't otherwise afford to care for their younger children.  While no caring parent wants their child to be enslaved, most progressive and fair-minded people today might agree that it would be better for your child to be indentured into a wealthier household, enslaved for a set seven year period of time, than to be cast aside to fend for themselves among the estimated 1-3 million homeless children living in the United States today.  Such children often find themselves enslaved into child prostitution and otherwise severely abused.

In Old Testament times, to be “cut off” from one's people to fend for yourself was apparently considered a fate worse than death.  Apart from the protection of the larger society, one would likely either slowly thirst and/or starve to death, be attacked by wild animals or be captured and enslaved by an enemy society; finding themselves in far worse conditions than a Hebrew slave would likely ever endure.

It is wise to remember that according to Jesus himself, God allowed things regarding the Old Testament Hebrews, because of the “hardness” of their hearts, that God himself does not endorse or approve of.  Consider what the lessor of two evils would be:  1) To allow for a child to be enslaved for seven years until old and experienced enough to fend for themselves; or 2)  To not allow this and instead, a child of impoverished parents would be left to fend for themselves without food security or protection, at the mercy of the wild beasts and violent blood-thirsty nations of ancient Palestine.

And, lest anyone use this as an excuse to condemn the ancient Hebrews, consider the horrific reality of daily media news and great and growing disparity of wealth here in a so-called post-enlightenment modern 21st Century.  According to both the Old and New testaments, there can be a vast difference between what God allows because of the hardness of our hearts, so that ultimately the human race itself will survive and, what God himself either prefers or endorses.

In New Testament historical reality, slavery was an entrenched accepted part of life in the First Century Greco/Roman world.  Publicly opposing slavery would have likely quickly led to arrest and crucifixion.  If Jesus had publicly verbally opposed slavery, it would not only have placed himself in peril, it would also have gravely endangered the thousands of men, women and children who hung around him on a daily basis.

It may also be true that Jesus did either publicly or privately speak against slavery but it was left out of the four New Testament narratives due to fear of persecution of his early followers.  One of the many legitimate fears First Century followers of “the way” had was to be perceived as being a threat to the Roman societal structure.  The narratives themselves tell us that much of what Jesus said and did is not included.

The poorly schooled today who criticize Jesus for not publicly opposing slavery truly don't know their historical ass from a hole in the ground.  This also may be the reason that Paul advises slave converts to either be content with remaining a slave or, if they can obtain their freedom, to like the rest of us, use their freedom wisely.

The alternative, if they had openly rebelled, was crucifixion, as well as revolting converted slaves would have greatly endangered the large growing number of early followers of Jesus who were not themselves slaves.  This reality is implied in Paul's short letter to Philemon, where he apparently beseeches a former master of a runaway slave, that he accept him back as a freed brother, the same as Paul himself was a free citizen.

Philemon is hardly a letter written by someone who endorsed human slavery, as Paul has often wrongly been accused of.  And much more so, neither is Paul's letter to the Galatians, which not only grants equal status to slaves, but also to women, as well as to people of every ethnicity, skin color and nationality:  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28  This is by far one of the most liberal and greatest human-rights oriented statements in all of known history.

Modern people today who routinely stand on the corner holding up a pro human rights or anti-war sign, often just arbitrarily transpose their ‘progressive’ requirements upon Jesus and the First Century authors of the Bible, without considering that they didn’t at all have the same freedom to do likewise.  Historical reality back then called for wisdom to know what to say and do and what not to say and do and, historical reality today, likewise calls for the same.  Much of the greatness of Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez and the modern Civil Rights Movement lies in knowing where and when and when not to strike.

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