Saturday, March 6, 2010

A response to Matt on Slavery in the Bible

This is a work in progress, just spent some time and would love some feedback.


Thank you for your email, I would love to sit down and talk about how we can teach our campus about the horrific nature of slavery. I would also love to know more about Shared Hope. I would like to help with the article on explaining the presence of slavery in the Bible.

I have spent the last couple of hours mulling over your question. In studying marxist criticism I have come across a very interesting aspect of capitalism that I had not thought much about before. Just so you know I'm not a complete advocate for Marxist theories, just feel that there is some truth in what Marx talked about. There were a couple of points that became very intriguing. The first one is the ideas of use value, exchange value, and sign-exchange value. Use value is something that has value in its use and in its use alone. Like for instance a loaf of bread, its only value is in it being used for nutrition, most basic food items are in this category. Exchange value is something that is bought solely for the purpose of selling to make a profit, i.e. the idea of 'flipping houses' buying a house, fixing it up, then selling it for more than you bought it for. The only value of the house in this situation is the prospect of selling it. Sign-exchange value is the idea of buying a $100 pair of sunglasses. The value is not in the use or the resale of the product but in the symbol it represents, which in a capitalist community, is the representation of wealth. Connecting these ideas to the idea of commodification has some interesting connections to modern slavery and even the trans-atlantic slave trade. Commodification is the process in which an object or even person is transformed into a commodity through the apparent placement of exchange value, or sign-exchange value. The process of commodification has been deeply influential and has become a norm of capitalism. Where as in the barter system use value is paramount, people traded for the value of the product. Exchange value and sign-exchange value are held to specific arenas in a barter system, i.e. traders/merchants, and the government leadership, respectively exchange value and sign-exchange value.

From here you can easily make the logical leap to the difference between biblical slavery and more adverse forms of slavery. Trans-Atlantic slave trade, modern day slavery, and even Egyptian slavery of the Hebrew people. You can see that in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and in modern day slavery, the major value of a slave was and is in exchange value. There is a deep rooted connection to the commodification of a person as slave. Specifically the sex industry, the person has become a commodity to be bought or sold for hope of profit, or personal gratification, a touch on sign-exchange value. Beside this is the possible connection between the alienated worker and the type of work a modern slave is forced to perform. An alienated worker is someone who works to create a product that has no individual connection to the worker, therefore the worker has lost individuality and has become a commodity, the only value assigned is in exchange value, or possibly sign-exchange value. I do believe that any type of slave trade could be considered adverse, at least when applied to this formula. However, when looking at Exodus 21:7 specifically you have to look at cultural norms as well. In "The Two Princes of Calabar" by Randy Sparks, there is a cultural norm where if a male slave was let go, allowed his freedom, it was because he was untrustworthy or lazy as a worker. When this happens the male slave is then unable to find work and is reduced to becoming a beggar, because it is considered a disgrace to be 'let go'. This may seem strange, yet in this culture a slave is considered almost as if they were family. If this was also a practice in the middle east, which I am unsure of, it would make sense that God would command that a female slave is not to be let go, it would be for her protection instead of her oppression.

Well this is what I have currently as far as biblical slavery. I'll let you know what else I come up with. It would be good to collaborate on an article sometime, or write articles to compliment.


p.s. I am not saying that capitalism is at fault for the commodification of people, what I'm saying is that like many ideologies that may have had a strong chance to produce a lot of good, it has been corrupted in the past and sometimes currently, into creating pain and evil.
Thank you for reading!


The place for the poems and the intrigue of a man's fight to end slavery, big and small.


All written in this place is for me. I have a deep longing to share everything. To never hold any thought for myself. If you stumble upon this and enjoy, I'm glad. If you stumble upon this and dislike, I'm sorry.


His purpose was to save us not from pain and suffering, but from meaninglessness. -Erwin Raphael McManus

Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell. -C.T. Studd

Religion exists not because God loves too little, but because we need love so much. In the end, all religions misrepresent God. They either dictate requirements for love or simply become a requiem for love. -Erwin Raphael McManus