Monday, January 16, 2012

Jesus Christ and Slavery

If Jesus Christ had spent more time criticizing the institution of slavery instead of performing miracles to win friends and influence people, there may not have been a need for Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Christian Scriptures and Slavery:
Neither Jesus nor St. Paul, nor any other Biblical figure is recorded as saying anything in opposition to the institution of slavery. Slavery was very much a part of life in Judea, Galilee, and in the rest of the Roman Empire during New Testament times. The practice continued in England, Canada and the rest of the English Empire until the early 19th century; it continued in the U.S. until later in the 19th century.  (source)

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    Process Theology as Political Theology by John B. Cobb, Jr.
    . . .
    In his account of the movement toward the abolition of slavery, Whitehead faced . . . the fact that the extension of freedom and equality are not the only or even the most fundamental values. Even more fundamental is the survival of human community. More concretely, Whitehead speculates that the price for the abolition of slavery in the Roman Empire might well have been too high. He asks:
    Would Rome have been destroyed by a crusade for the abolition of slavery in the time of Cicero or in the time of Augustus? Throughout the whole period of classical civilization the foundations of social order could scarcely sustain the weight upon them -- the wars between states, the surrounding barbarians, the political convulsions, the evils of the slave system. In the age from the birth of Cicero to the accession of Augustus to undisputed power, the whole structure almost collapsed, before it had finished its appointed task. Even earlier, it had nearly met its fate, and later by a few centuries came the final collapse. It is impossible to doubt the effect of any vigorous effort for the immediate abolition of the only social system men knew. It may be better that the heavens should fall, but it is only folly to ignore the fact that they will fall.32
    Political theologians seem, on the whole, to be willing for the heavens to fall.33 Whitehead judged otherwise, and in this judgement most process theologians are likely, reluctantly, to follow. We need to appreciate the positive contributions of existing social structures as well as to be sensitive to their failures to embody the principles of freedom and equality . . .
    There is no doubt that this point can encourage support for existing structures which in fact should be overthrown. What now functions can always claim to have proven itself, whereas the proposals of revolutionaries have not. We must recognize the danger that ‘realism’ can be used to justify what in fact it does not justify. But we must recognize the danger that the abandonment of realism can lead to unjustifiable projects also. . . . imagination must be disciplined by a knowledge of political, social and economic theory. But it must not be restricted to the patterns into which the thought of the past has been channeled.34
    32.Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, pp. 25-6.
    33. Note, however, the sober realism of Jürgen Moltmann in ‘An open letter to Jose Miguez Bonino’, Christianity and Crisis (29 March 1976), p.60. ‘The necessity of a speedy and radical transformation of the socio-economic conditions can be understood by everyone as indisputable. But what use is the best revolutionary theory when the historical subject of the revolution is not at hand or is not yet ready?’
    34. See Dorothee Sölle’s call for fantasy in Beyond Mere Obedience, trans. Lawrence W. Denef (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg, 1970); and Rubem Alves, Tomorrow ‘s Child: Imagination, Creativity, and the Rebirth of Culture (New York: Harper & Row, 1972).
    Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas (New York The Free Press, 1933)