I see a parallel between the movies “The Passion of the Christ” and “12 Years a Slave.” I do a lot of thinking about Jesus’ suffering, the “Passion” as it is called. It was a surrender in Gethsemane. It as a death on Golgotha. Then follows a burial — a time of loss, grieving, waiting and hope. Finally comes resurrection, the return of life in a new kind of glory.
I believe the slavery era was, for Africans brought here against their consent, split permanently from family, history, culture and future–was a kind of Golgotha. Don’t cite me for comparing any human suffering (even slavery, even the holocaust) to that of the Son of God bearing the sin of all mankind; that’s not what I am saying. But the unjust torture of a people, the crippling of an entire culture that promised so much vitality, has been perpetrated. As for resurrection, I do not see that it has come to African-Americans. Life with a new kind of glory is still a reverend’s dream. A sampling have made it — and they have oftentimes (perhaps) left their community for better digs. So this seems to be a time of burial for blacks — a long season of waiting, grieving, mourning the losses, but still grasping at hope.
The main part of the gospel story that is missing for the African peoples that were brought here, and the African-American community that exists with the abiding results, is Gethsemane. Jesus had the chance to face His fate, to wrestle with the Father about its necessity, its absolute inviolable necessity. And Father and Son worked it out in those agonizing garden prayers. The Father honored the prayer, yet Jesus agreed that the path to the cross was the right one to take. His crucifixion was ultimately and eternally the best choice. So He surrendered. One thing I don’t see in history is the privilege of Africans to face that decision. They were given no choice. That is the ultimate indignity.
Trafficking in human bodies is trafficking in human souls. Human souls, according to Scripture, are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Of all that such a phrase means, I believe the bottom line is this. As distinct from the animal world, humanity was created with the capacity to know, worship and serve the living God. Every human being is given this ability by the God who desires relationship. No matter how marred the divine image, no one should be bought and sold by another.
How does God stomach the crime of slavery? How is He tolerating human trafficking today? A friend of mine recently returned from a ministry trip to the Philippines, learning about efforts to halt sex trafficking in that country. He said that most all the trafficking is confined to a focused area. You can tell, he told me, by the young girls standing alongside the road every few meters. These “supply side” human beings have been forced out of the lives they should enjoy as teens by greedy brokers of human flesh. The other indicator is the “demand side” — white males from the west who have come there for no other reason than pornography and prostitution (which they suppose comes without consequences, or lust has driven them to not care).
God’s ways are beyond me. Satan was defeated at the cross, yet inspires evil such as slavery, the holocaust, Darfur, and trafficking today. Is it on us to defeat the foe whom Jesus has defeated? Has God tossed the ball into our court? Are we to be faulted for not doing more to take control of these evil kingdoms?
We may blame God. But should we be looking at ourselves for giving satan and evil men and women such freedom to operate? Is God thinking of us this way: “I can’t understand how they tolerate such evil among them! I’ve given them the mandate to have dominion over the earth, to love others and not hate, to protect the innocent ones. Why aren’t they doing more to stop these evils rather than theologizing about what I’m supposed to be doing?”
On that note I will close this rambling confession. Our prime mandate is to make disciples. Have we forgotten that the One we are learning of and obeying came to set prisoners free (Luke 4)? The disciples we make should look like the Master we have brought them to — the One whose calling was to bring salvation, to help the poor, to restore sight to the blind, to heal the sick, and to set captives free.