Amazing Grace

It is wonderful that Amazing Grace is raising awareness, and as a part of the zeal people are feeling I’d like to issue a challenge. The challenge is this: What benefit are we ourselves gaining from the slave trade? How are we contributing to it? Just like slavery in previous centuries this evil is flourishing worldwide because there is a demand for cheap labor, goods and services. The southern U.S. (and the north as well) was reticent to “free slaves” because their economy depended upon the labor of slaves. What about us? We say that we care about freeing slaves, but are we willing to pay what it really costs to produce the goods we consume? Do we care if the people making our clothing, picking our fruit, or growing our coffee are exploited? Do we care if our clothing was made in a sweatshop in a developing country where the laborers are not paid a fair wage and work in deplorable conditions (modern-day slavery)?

I’m just asking the question because I know that it is easy for us to locate evil as outside of ourselves, ignore our part in systematic oppression, and agree to be abolitionists without making hard decisions that might change our lifestyles or level of comfort.

In looking at how the demand for cheap, exploitable labor drives the market for slaves, I also want to mention the horror of sex slavery, whether children or adult women are the ones enslaved. YES, let’s work to free people. I have dedicated my life to this very pursuit. But in this effort we cannot ignore that as a society, and more specifically as the church, we have been complicit in creating demand through turning our heads from the notion that it is OK to buy women’s bodies. Prostituted women are regularly demonized and judged but we hear little talk about the socially accepted practice of being the purchaser of their bodies for sex. Sex trafficking accounts for the majority of the slave trade today, so if we want to be abolitionist I wonder if we need to start by looking at how we can reduce the demand for exploitable women and children.

I once saw a book called “No Disposable People.” Until we start really living out this idea, the radical notion that each person on this earth is made in the image of Christ and has infinite value, then we can make no headway in the abolitionist movement.


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