Getting to the Root of Things…

Getting to the Root of Things…

Image from The Guardian

One underlying cause of racism is abuse of power, specifically the abuse of power that pervaded the whole Trans Atlantic slavery system of the past. Many people have been taught and therefore assume that “chattel” human slavery was introduced during the Trans Atlantic slave trade of Africans to the Americas, however this notion is incorrect. Slavery, the act of owning another person as property and / or for forced labor, sexual favors, or servitude has been going on since ancient times. Another popular belief is that since the end of the Trans Atlantic slave trade’s abolishment, that slavery is no longer being practiced anywhere in the world. Of course most people have heard of the child labor sweat shops, or human trafficking of women for sex/ prostitution & pimping, since stories about these topics have made national and international news. However, in today’s culture of fake news and intentional misdirection of attention to petty topics, what is not reported is usually the most important thing to learn about.

What I submit to be considered regarding the topics of racism, abuse of power,  victimization, and inequality, is that the institution of slavery has been one of the sources for these attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and systemic oppression. Let’s take a look at abuse of power- Even the most well treated slaves would still probably admit to having suffered the pain of having someone else harming them through the position of power that they held over them. While the images of police brutality is likely to come to mind regarding abuse of power, it is not always that overt and easy to be detected. Abuse of power has more to do with decision making and enforcement of harsh rules more than the violent brutality and cruelty that it is characterized by. A simple example of abuse of power is Cinderella’s evil step mother refusing to let her go to the ball, ordering her to clean up after her step sisters, all while mocking and belittling her. The position that the step mother held as caregiver for Cinderella was unchallenged, because her biological parents had passed away (in some versions of the story). So Cinderella had no advocate. She had no defense against the person who was providing food and shelter for her…. hmmm this sounds a lot like slavery right? While this is a simple example from a children’s fairytale, it clearly describes how this spirit works. Abuse of power occurs when a person in a position of power decides to use that power to harm, exploit, deny access, or oppress a person/people who are dependent upon them in some way.

This is an ancient problem that never went away….. In the Bible, there is a part of a story that always disturbs me when I read it. It is the story of the aftermath of Hagar having Abraham’s child at the urging of Sarah. When Hagar finally conceived and birthed her son Ishmael, and began to lose respect for Sarah as her mistress. As a result Sarah mistreated Hagar, her handmaiden/slave, so harshly that Hagar fled (Genesis 16:1-6). It’s true that Hagar did act disrespectfully towards Sarah, however Sarah used her position to harm, exploit, and severely distress Hagar to the point that she ran away. We see something similar when Joseph was accused by the Potiphar’s wife. Potiphar’s wife used her position as leverage to have Joseph put in jail. Another biblical example of abuse of power is Haman’s decree to kill the Jews.

I used to wonder why people in positions of leadership who were being cruel, oppressive, and harsh enforcers of the rules were always promoted or received awards for this wicked behavior. It bothered me that corporate espionage (on fellow co-workers/subordinates), writing up certain employees for the smallest infractions of the rules (while other employees were able to do as they wished with no question or inspection), and always highlighting the flaws and shortcomings of people rather than also celebrating the good things that people did was the norm. If you can’t tell from the way this is being phrased and written, I definitely feel like I have experienced the unfavorable treatment of this type of oppressive system. While I was definitely not a perfect person in the past, and still am not perfect now (because no one is perfect), I am finally realizing why I felt like I was dealing with slave masters and overseers (employed by slave masters) rather than true leaders that I could admire and respect. Not every leader that I have encountered fits into this category, and there are people that I highly respect because I value their example, so I do not apply this categorization to all leaders. However, it is quite ironic that all of the sentiment and “jokes” about being on the plantation actually hit home, because that slavery system is really where all of this evil oppressive leadership style is rooted from. On a slave plantation masters and overseers can be as cruel and abusive as they see fit as a means to and end to accomplish their goals for production or just to “keep slaves in line.” Out in the field there is no higher authority (as far as law enforcement goes) than the master or overseer and since it’s the master’s property he is free to do as he pleases. So oppressive rules, lack of provision, neglect, abusive treatment, and harsh punishment can be justifiable in the heart and mind of a wicked person who is not only using/exploiting other human beings for gain, but feels like they have the right to do so, since they paid to have those humans on their property. What little they provide in terms of housing, clothes, food, and possibly medical care is not enough to warrant such nasty and vile treatment, and to take away/ forbid, and suppress the basic human rights of another human being. Not only were these slaves exploited for forced labor, many of them (male and female) were raped, publicly embarrassed by selling them naked in open air markets like a sheep or goat, and always treated with suspicion -like they were the criminals when all the while terrible crimes and injustices were being committed against them. Slaves have to “walk on eggshells” around the overseers and masters (and their respective family members) as not to offend or slight because the retribution for such offenses were often brutal, public, and of the harshest nature: think whippings and lynchings.Men and women of color that were previously free were enslaved, or had property stolen/destroyed and every attempt for economic advancement was sabotaged (think black wall street, Seneca Village, Black Miami, and many other communities) even after slavery wa abolished to keep people of color in a disadvantage economically. Is this still not happening in modern society, in the United States of America and beyond? It is a known fact that while people of color are the minority as in the proportion of the population, that they are in the majority in the prison system, in generational poverty cycles, and holding minimum wage jobs that do not lead to economic security. Yes it is true, people of color have overcome many obstacles, obtained high positions of leadership, are becoming more educated and skilled as a whole, and many are doing well economically, but please do not base the success of the few as a measurement for the whole. Many people are still systematically oppressed and caught in cycles that were instituted when their ancestors were brought to their country of residence (because this is happening all over the world). 

So we have addressed the fact that abuse of power and slavery is not a new concept, but an ancient one, and that regardless of the progression and advancement of some people of color, as a whole many are still living in the effects of an oppressive systemic unjust racial prejudice. Now add to this that slavery is still alive and well in western countries (USA, UK, etc.), and other places in the world: China, India, Africa, Brazil and throughout the Middle East. Every type of human exploitation from sex trafficking to forced labor is beinginflicted on people that are poor and have no means to protect themselves. Militant groups kidnap people and force them into either joining them or becoming slaves. In other cases unsuspecting people are lured to far away countries with the prospect of a new job and better income to provide for the future of their loved ones. Children in India and Africa work dangerous jobs without proper supervision, equipment and protective gear mining ore or other tasks for pennies compared to what an adult person at a reputable company would make. Industries that we do not commonly associate with slavery could be hiding slaves in plain sight of the average person who purchases a service such as a car wash, manicure/pedicure, landscaping, etc. In the industry that I work in, travel customer service, we are trained to identify or question the behavior of person(s) that may be a victim of trafficking. The main obstacle with this training is that cultural norms like the man answering for a woman, or women/children not making direct eye contact can make it difficult to determine whether or not a person is being trafficked or not. As Christians, especially intercessors, this is where discernment is most needed. I must be honest, it is easier to pray for people in this predicament than it is to recognize it happening around us, but we must be vigilant and alert, while praying without ceasing. 

Image from Time Magazine

I want things to change. I want to see a move of God that frees the oppressed and truly sets the captive free. Not just on a spiritual level, but in the natural, physical sense as well. Could it be that the Church has been so spiritually minded regarding slavery and oppression that we have been numbed to its existence and its effects on the people around us? Could it be that we want to believe that slavery, racism, and the abusive residue of both have been put to rest so that we don’t have to take responsibility for making sure that it does not happen to others? Is it possible that the church at large has drank the Kool-Aid of the abolishment of slavery as a law, while not checking to see if those laws were actually being enforced? A short book in the New Testament- Philemon, is a letter from Paul to a wealthy friend Philemon, who was a supporter and philanthropist to the early church, to forgive and restore (essentially set free) his slave Onesimus who ran away and ended up getting into trouble which led to him being imprisoned next to Paul. I think it is so ironic that all of the commentary that I read concerning this very short book of the Bible, make a point to say that the message of the book is not about abolishing slavery, but about forgiveness, acceptance, and receiving converted slaves as brothers in Christ, when Paul’s instruction to Philemon was to not take Onesimus back as a slave but to set him free as a brother in Christ so that he could pursue his purpose in life as a Christian minister- who eventually became a Bishop who introduced salvation to many. I understand that the primary message is not about abolishing slavery, however it is undeniable that if Onesimus had remained a slave he would not have had the opportunity to do what God was calling him to do. He would have been denied the fulfillment of destiny and purpose in life that was designed for him before the creation of time. This proves that slavery is not only a crime against humanity, it is a crime against the advancement of the Kingdom of God. The minimizing of potential of a person reduces the amount of contribution that they can offer to their family, community, and ultimately the world. Let’s get real: Does a book in the Bible have to say specifically that slavery is wrong and an evil practice that does not give glory to God in order for us to agree that it needs to be ended and not inflicted on another human being? Do we need a commandment to say “Thou shalt not make a person your slave,” to enforce the laws that have already been created to prevent and abolish slavery? Would committing to the cause to end slavery of every kind impact our economic system as we know it? Of course it would, but that is the price to pay for the centuries of ignoring the suffering of others for our gain, comfort, or to just not “get involved” with a socially taboo issue that is affecting the lives of many people. If it is wrong, why does God allow it, or even uses it as punishment for serving idols in the Old Testament. In my personal opinion, and I will study more on this topic, however it occurs to me that slavery is not necessaily a “punishment” for idolatry and sin, but more like a consequence of it. Serving the true God leads to freedom and blessing, not necessarily free from all hardship, but much better than the life of a slave. Whereas serving idols which are demonically exalted is only going to lead to enslavement which is the equivalent to dead works. It seems like a punishment because the reality of it is so harsh and unfavorable, but after all of the opportunities the people had to repent it actually is a just outcome. Remember God is love, He is holy, but He is also just. He will not go back on His word, so He has to allow the repercussions of idolatry so that His people can recognize the difference of what is like serving a holy and righteous God, versus serving an evil and perverted demigod. So God gave humanity free will, and with that free will humankind fell into sin. Abuse of power, oppression, slavery, etc. are all effects of sin on the human soul. If we stop here it would make sense for these evil practices to continue, but God also sent His Son Jesus to redeem humankind back to unrestricted access and fellowship with God. The work of the Cross makes slavery, especially modern slavery, something that we can resist supporting, or ignoring. The anointing is not just to set the captives free spiritually, although there is great constellation in that, the anointing was given for people to be free physically and relationally as well. Where is the proof of this? Well Onisemus has already been discussed from the book of Philemon, but what about all of the miracles Jesus released while He was in the flesh? When he gave Blind Bartimaeus his sight, was this an ability to see in the spirit or to see in the natural? When he told the man by the pool of Bethesda to take up his bed and walk, was he proposing this man mentally or emotionally do this, or to physically get up with the bed and walk? When Jesus delivered the man possessed by the Legion, everything about this man changed. His sanity was restored and life as he had been living was completely over! Yes he was set free from spiritual oppression, but everything in his natural life was affected as well. So why minimize what freedom and deliverance means in regards to Christianity? Of course many businesses, corporations, enterprises etc. would go out of business if we actually began to care about the people who are being exploited to make our goods, but if these businesses are illegally using and mistreating people, especially children, for profit then they need to go out of business anyway. 

Image from The Guardian

It will take a lot of work to change these oppressive systems that are the foundation for capitalism in modern society, but someone is waiting, praying, and desperately in need of help. So you are not “called ” to missions or advocacy, that’s fine, can you pray regularly for the release and blessing of these people caught up in such a terrible situation? Can you contribute funds to organizations that specialize in rescuing and reestablishing people who have been ensnared by human trafficking? Can you be observant to your surroundings and sensitive to the cues and indicators of human trafficking and report it immediately? Yes, doing these things: praying, giving, being observant and sensitive are all things that stretch us, but are we not chosen for such a time as this? I admit, as a person who tends to be introverted, I enjoy being in “my own world,” but I desire to serve God in whatever capacity He offers, so I commit to make myself available to His leadership. I do not always get this right, but I am willing. How about you?

Image from USA Today

Let’s pray: Father God thank you for all of the liberties and freedom that I am blessed to enjoy. Lord I recognize that this freedom came at a very high price. You sent your only Son to die and take the death penalty for me. As a result I can be free in every area of my life, Lord thank you for this. Thank you for all that we take for granted, being able to come and go as we please, opportunities to learn at school and work towards a career, and even for the option to retire later in life. Lord, we know that not everyone is experiencing this level of freedom. Some are being held against their will in abusive, dangerous and neglectful environments. Some are forced physically and/or economically to do things that are shameful, harmful, or exhausting, Lord please step into their situation and rescue them. Lord anoint those ministries, nonprofits, and those chosen citizens of the Kingdom to be positioned with resources and proper channels to effectively deliver any human caught in trafficking, slavery, and abusive situations. Lord You trust us to be Your body in the earth, give us your heart for the suffering, Your arms for the broken, and Your mind for solutions and strategies in the mighty name of Jesus. Lord let this evil system be completely eradicated with Your Kingdom taking over in its place. Lord truly let Your will be done in earth as it is in Heaven concerning this in Jesus name Amen!

Thank you for reading, as always use this post to share with and inform those you love. 

Blessings Always, 

Dionne Renae

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