Monday, January 21, 2012, DAY 4: Walking towards freedom
Today we are invited to celebrate the efforts of communities across our world that are oppressed, like the Dalits in India, as they protest against all that enslaves human beings. As Christians committed to greater unity, we learn that the removal of all that separates people from one another is an essential part of fullness of life, freedom in the Spirit.
What is it, in our time and place, that enslaves people as the Hebrew children were enslaved by Pharaoh? What factors curtail the freedoms that are ours by the gift of God through the Holy Spirit? A list might include poverty, violence, addiction and injustice.
There are many instances of each of these terrible, freedom-denying situations in our Greater Seattle community. The “working poor” are all around us – men and women, some with children, struggling to make ends meet on their earnings from one or more minimum-wage, part-time jobs. A young teacher who is part of my congregation works with kids from farm-worker families, some of whom hurry out after school or miss school for weeks at a time to go to the fields to help support their families. The cycle of poverty experienced by these families drastically curtails their freedom to improve their lives, locking them into a form of modern slavery.
A more obvious form of modern slavery widespread in 2013 Seattle is human trafficking. Law enforcement agencies have identified our area as a hub of this scourge due to our international ports, the nearby border with Canada, and the easy travel along the I-5 corridor. Victims, usually young and usually female, are brought into the country from the Pacific Rim or Central and South America and then fanned out across the U.S. They often come of their own free will, seeking a better life, but soon find that they are violently compelled into work (usually in the sex industry) that leaves them unable to earn their freedom or escape.
In our society, addiction is a double-edged sword against freedom. Not only do sufferers of this dreadful disease experience the unwilling compulsions for the drug that has enslaved them and the loss of dignity and integrity that often result but they are condemned as criminals rather than being compassionately treated as those with a life-long and debilitating disease. In America, once one has been convicted of even small possession of an illegal drug, the penalties can ultimately include the inability to receive normal government benefits or housing and the loss of the right to vote, sometimes for life. The “War on Drugs” has created a permanent underclass in the United States, yet another freedom-denying form of slavery.
As the Body of Christ, even still groping towards unity as we are, we are called not just to preach good news to the poor and release to the captives but to work with them towards freedom and abundant life. We are called to DO justice not just to wish for it. Each of us must be willing to speak truth to power and to find ways to hold our elected officials and business leaders accountable for ending these forms of modern slavery. As the Body of Christ, we must work together to bring transformation to all.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Rev. M. Christopher Boyer
President of the Board of Directors
The Church Council of Greater Seattle
Liberating God, we thank you for the resilience and hopeful faith of those who struggle for dignity and fullness of life. We know that you raise up those who are cast down, and free those who are bound. Your Son Jesus walks with us to show us the path to authentic freedom. May we appreciate what has been given to us, and be strengthened to overcome all within us that enslaves. Send us your Spirit so that the truth shall set us free, so that with voices united we can proclaim your love to the world. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.
- Are there times, even in our own Christian communities, when the prejudices and judgments of the world, – with regard to caste, age, gender, race, educational background – stop us seeing each other clearly in the light of God‘s glory?
- What small, practical steps can we take, as Christians together, towards the freedom of the Children of God (Romans 8.21) for our churches, and for wider society?