Are We Becoming Slave-Holding Christians?

Today, DOMA was overturned by the Supreme Court. This does not grant equal marriage rights to every couple in the US, but it is a step in the right direction. Even months before all the DOMA hype, though, I have been hearing Christians say this one specific thing in regards to gay rights that I think is a misconception: “Can’t we give up all of these politics and focus on Jesus?” I hear it all the time. They see politics such as discussions about gay rights to be divisive and unnecessary when we should just be “focusing on the Gospel.” To a point, I think there are things we can do in the mean time. I think there are fights we can fight as we process this question (for instance, sex trafficking, local and global poverty, etc.), but no, dropping questions like these in favor of the Gospel is counterproductive.

 

Here’s where we can learn from American slave-holders. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Charles Colcock Jones was a devoted Christian and a notorious proponent of the institution of slavery. He fought tooth and nail to preserve the traditions of the Confederacy, then he came home and evangelized to his slaves.

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At first, this baffled me. How could someone preach the message of Jesus that I understand: peace, overwhelming love, uninhibited freedom, and in the same breath tell a group of people that they are less than deserving of equality. I came to realize that it was not logically possible for Jones to have understood the Gospel as I do. Jesus preached social justice without tiring. Jones was preaching salvation, not the Gospel. And that is, I think, the problem today. The church is so caught up in our evangelizing that we neglect the Gospel—a message that cannot leave out social justice. To “forget politics and focus on Jesus” doesn’t make any sense, because Jesus was inherently political. He made rifts in the social world as he taught about God. If Jesus is any indication, the two go together.

 

We must learn from the slave-holding Christians so we do not become them—we cannot continue to shrug off political questions as “divisive” and “worthless” because they are not. They have to do with people. They have to do with how we treat people and how and whether we love them. This cannot be separated from the Gospel. Perhaps if our gospel does not include any political implications, we have watered it down. 

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Are We Becoming Slave-Holding Christians?

7 thoughts on “Are We Becoming Slave-Holding Christians?

  1. I think, perhaps, you leave out the perspective that Jesus did not work “within” the political system. He pointedly remained outside of it; for good reason. When I, personally, say we should get out of politics – as in, the church – I mean that we should stop being “political”. We should stop greasing palms and schmoozing politicians to try and advance a Christian agenda in the secular world using politics (instead of Jesus’ good news) as our tool. That does not mean we stop caring about social problems.

    1. Cowboyfriend says:

      I still cant believe that there were such things as “slave holding christians.” It’s hypocritical!!! We pick and choose what we want to believe.

  2. I think that to echo the gospel of JC we need to use the legal and ethical tools available. Government was not available to Jesus or any other believers of the first several centuries of Christianity.

    I want to emphasize the “legal and ethical” qualities of our tools. While we work for a particular group, ex. homeless people, we must not simultaneously attack another, such as women. There is no tradeoff. I believe Christians must uphold the gospel while doing our work.

  3. Jesus was certainly considered in a deep and visceral way about social issues. But he almost never said anything about the politics – the governmental structure and legal systems – of his time. I largely agree with your discussion here, but I think it would be interesting to consider also how social and political concerns interact. The two certainly have always influenced one another, but have they always been as closely connected as they currently are in the US political system? Should Christians be primarily concerned with social issues in themselves and thus leave politicking out? Should Christians be primarily concerned about politics and thus leave out individual or organized social action? Or should Christians find some middle path that takes into account the full spectrum of the social and political – and is that a harder task than we usually think it is?

  4. As Christians we are citizens of two kingdoms. I might leap into excitement about that fact, and with good support, but it is harder than it looks. One kingdom has darkness on the throne, and the other light. Dual-citizenship, the in-between, can feel like being lost in twilight sometimes as a result. I don’t know how Christians ever owned slaves – but then I don’t know how any Constitutionalist did either because it clearly values the human individual and provides them innate rights.
    It is the Imago Dei that should inspire all possessors of it to love and cherish it in all others – it is the reason I don’t own slaves, and wouldn’t – it is the reason I don’t view porn or treat the person in the McDs window with disdain – it is the reason I say please and thank you and smile when I meet another – it is even the reason I don’t litter – I value that unknown person who would have to come along behind me and pick up my crap and so for their sake I refuse to litter. It is not about “Right” and “Wrong” in the typical use, it is about value and love.
    The Imago Dei is not politics but it does change personal policy with great power. My citizenship of light is carried with me through every dark place, and while I will never extinguish that darkness – others may see they need not be lost to it.

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