Monday, January 7, 2013

Passion, Human Trafficking and the hope of a post-liberal/conservative church

 Slavery is a loaded word, especially for American Christians who have had a less than stellar past in regards to this issue. Which is why I’ve been excited to see and hear about the over 60,000 young people at this year’s passion conference in Atlanta that have made a clear statement that modern systems of slavery and especially human trafficking need to be confronted.

I’m excited because young  evangelicals are making a definitive move away from the hyper-individualistic, hyper-spiritual ideology that plagued the faith experience of my conservative, evangelical childhood. These young people are waking up to the reality that the Christian faith is not solely concerned with ‘my heart’ and ‘my personal relationship with God’. It’s a move towards a more materialistic* faith that understands that the community of Christ has a responsibility to oppose the systems of violence and oppression, the principalities of darkness of the world.

I’m excited because of my friends who are proclaiming that in Jesus, God was not just offering us (spiritual) freedom from (spiritual) sin; God was proclaiming freedom, in the fullest sense of the word, from the sinful systems that enslave and exploit people.

I’m excited because American Christians (as well as Christians all around the world) have a desire to own up to the failures of our past and are committed to not making the same mistakes.**

I’m excited about the possibility of a world in which human trafficking is no longer tolerated, and where the captive are set free.

I’m excited because these young evangelicals are bringing energy and passion (see what I did there?) to the conversation that the occasionally jaded churches on the left have not had in a long time. I’m excited because people on both sides of the aisle are getting excited about ending human trafficking.

And I’m excited about the way in which this issue transcends the old conservative/liberal divide. Human trafficking is the one issue where we agree that something has got to change, and we can be a part of that change. This is an issue that has the potential to bring all of us together.

I’m not saying that our doctrinal differences should be minimalized or ignored, and I’m certainly not saying that our differences and disagreements don’t matter.  However, I do think that for the sake of our future and for the sake of the world we need to come together in spite of these differences and  be united by the reconciling, redeeming, restoring, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ movement of Jesus.

 Grace and Peace

*When I say materialistic I do not mean one of the common uses of the word that means something like “greed for material riches”. I’m also not referring to the materialism of philosophy which says that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena. When I say “more materialistic” I mean a faith that is not only concerned with hyper-spiritual matters, but rather a holistic faith that sees the physical and spiritual as deeply intertwined.

** To be certain there were many Christians in our history that also spoke out against slavery and we would do well to not be so arrogant as to think that we finally got it all right when our ancestors couldn’t. Like them, we are haunted by the ghosts of our colonialist past and we run the risk of having an attitude of ‘We are from America and we’ve come to solve all your problems for you’ that reflects our colonial arrogance and sense of superiority. This attitude does not reflect Christ and usually does more harm than good.

If you are interested in getting involved with countering human trafficking I suggest checking out Slave Free Earth.

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