They Chose To Be Slaves

You haven’t ever and won’t ever read Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. I just read a portion of it, being guided by the VOL 2 of the Great Ideas Program, my copy being from the Great Books of the Western World set.

Having read some of it, I want to use this post to offer one way in which to respond to BLM and all the other nonsense being spouted by BIPOC disciples. There are many ways to respond, though this may be the strongest.

I want to start with Paul. Concurrent to my reading of Leviathan, I had been reading Ephesians, and was shocked, like jaw-on-the-floor shocked, at what Paul said to the slaves he addressed. If you haven’t read it in a while, here’s the relevant part:

“Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”

By relevant, I mean related to the question that I’ve heard for years now, “Why didn’t Jesus end slavery?”

As I read this part of Ephesians, I thought, “This is horrible. It’s way worse than just not ending slavery, it’s actually, in a weird way, defining slavery and basically validating it.”

At the seminary, professors and their unthinking adherents repeated something like, “We need to look at the biblical trajectory…” when discussing slavery and women preachers etc. That rings clear initially, but upon examination is just meaningless, multi-syllabic euphemism. Jesus didn’t end slavery. Fact. And here, in this passage, Paul addresses slaves directly, gives them a very real instruction, and, oh by the way, defines what a slave is–in case there was any doubt who he had in mind when he used the word.

Working backwards, according to Paul, slavery is forsaking your own will for another’s will. It’s not suicide. It’s living according to the will of another. And in this case, Paul teaches those whose will has been replaced (slaves) by another human’s will (the slave master), to get through their situation/life by treating the situation as if they were simply following the will of god, or the will of Christ. His reasoning? God/Christ is impartial. The slave-master who abuses this teaching will get his in the end. (Hell.)

On the off chance that there is any muddiness to this point, Paul also juxtaposes superficial obedience against true obedience, by the use of the wonderfully concrete language: “eyeservice”. All of us know the difference between looking like we’re working and working. And so did Paul. And, apparently, Paul thought the slaves did too. Why say it if slaves are just stupid, biologically determined humanoids of some kind? No, Paul spoke to the slaves in a dignified manner. No kid gloves here.

Main point for today’s post: Paul defines slavery as having to do with a replacement of will. This is to be regarded as an understanding without value-judgement on the situation. Is slavery wrong? Paul might answer, “It depends. Slavery to Christ is absolutely right. Slavery to some human may be right, but it may not be right.” But that’s just my speculation that helps make my bigger point.

Thomas Hobbes picks up this definition of slavery as he explains the origins of government. To begin, he says that there are two ways men end up being under a government: choice and conquest. One, men can either choose to place themselves under the leadership of one or a few other men. Or two, men can be conquered and be compelled to live under that government. Hobbes says that both ways are based on fear. In the choice way, men would choose government because men are afraid of each other and mutually want the security this outside agent would provide. In the conquest way, men end up under a government because they fear the government that conquered them.

Here’s where Hobbes really says something. Hobbes says that the captives, or conquered people, are captives so long as they are chained and in prison or under guard. And while in the status of “captives” the people are justified in returning violence to their captors, ie killing the guards and running away. But, but! Hobbes continues to describe that once the captives agree to not run away, to not attack the captors, they have now consented to slavery, defined as Paul does. The will of the government that conquered them replaces their will, just like the will of Christ, god, or the master of Paul’s letter might. Hobbes goes further and explicitly states that the conquering government has ultimate power over the slaves property, possessions, and children. Hear me, though. Hobbes says this all happens under the “fear of government” (conquered) reason for being ruled. Hobbes says, if you want to free yourself, you can try, but you’ll probably die. If you want to at least walk around and work etc, then you can live a life that is not your own. But at no point, Hobbes says, does the captive-turned-slave have the option of choice-based government.

I constantly tell one of my good friends, “Man, there is no way you or I would ever have allowed ourselves to become a slave. No way. It just wouldn’t happen. You couldn’t convince me it is even possible. No way. We’d fight. We’d die, rather than be a slave.”

And I mean it. Every time.

But I’m not the only human on the earth. And many other men and women have chosen to be slaves rather than fight and die.

Here’s the crux of the post: There is no systematic racism in America. America wasn’t founded on slavery. Whether within the jungles of Africa, or just on the coast, some people were conquered. Whether they knew they were conquered, whether there was an outright war that was lost, or whether they were just kidnapped, they were conquered. Beginning at that precise moment, the conquered people had a choice: fight/die or live for another’s will. Some chose to fight and die. However, it would seem that most chose to live according to another’s will, or what is the same, become slaves.

Two concluding thoughts then:

Jesus couldn’t have ended “slavery” anymore than he could’ve ended “hunger pangs” or “thirst”. Or “satiation” or “quench”, for that matter.

The African tribes who were conquered were conquered. It’s a tragedy. But afterwards, they chose to be slaves.

And now you know one response to all the race-related nonsense that has been leading headlines for our entire lives.

The African tribes who were conquered were conquered. It’s a tragedy. But afterwards, they chose to be slaves.

****

PS – I can feel my dad asking, “I don’t get how this response works?” Maybe you’re like him. Here goes, get ready to experience the inner-workings of my mind: The “they” are not alive anymore. Boo-ya! BLMers and BIPOC disciples can be mad as hell that “they chose to be slaves”. But they can’t deny the fact that they haven’t chosen to be slaves. What have they chosen then?

“They chose to be slaves.”

What do you choose?

2 comments

  1. noelleg44

    I once encountered a very old woman on the plain above the valley where the city of Prague sits. There is a monument there to those who died during WWII. We chatted about what was then Czechoslovakia and how many times this particular valley and city had been invaded and conquered. She said to me,”Do you want to know how this city and we survived?”
    I nodded.
    “Because we chose to live on our knees than die standing up.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pete Deakon

      It’s always great to be understood. Seems to happen on an increasingly infrequent basis. But I can always count on you, Noelle. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Like

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