Occasionally, there are comments on Political Jesus that always seem to make me giggle inside because they seem to bare out accusations which go unfounded, and say more about the attitudes of the commenter, than myself. This was the case with Mitchell’s comment Wednesday. Let’s examine this quote, yes?:
“Finally, since you’re so confident that your reading of Ephesians 6:6-9 is superior to that of some imaginary CEO’s, why not share with us how you read it? Or is this one more part of the Bible that you don’t read anymore since the time you “rejected linear logic” and “white Calvinist interpretations” of the Bible? My suspicion is that your real beef is with Ephesians 6:6-9 itself, not with some alleged misinterpretation of it.”
I just love these accusations, because they give me ample opportunity to show just how wrong the accuser is, but also to clarify where I stand on my romantic relationship with the Bible. Notice how Mitchell put race into, without race being mentioned in the post: “white Calvinist” oh, yes, and the goody of adding “linear logic” to it to make his irrational argument come off as reasonable. This is hardly the case. First, rather than ask me how do I read Ephesians 6:6-9, which would have been the appropriate path, Mitchell went straight towards the “Me and my fellow Calvinists love the Bible more than you” argument. That is not an argument from reason. That is making a through and through emotional appeal, and one without knowledge of where I come down on. Is Mitchell assuming that just because I am black, I do not read the pro-slavery passages in the Bible, let alone the rest of the household codes? What, only white male Calvinists can truly understand these passages using their “linear logic” (code word for European, Euro-centric rationality). If this is what Mitchell is saying, he may need to “check himself before he wrecks himself.”
On to the passages in question, starting with my spoof of Ephesians 6:6-9, as read by modern day CEOs:
““And wage slaves, obey your corporate masters with fear and respect, giving up your right to organize and negotiate. Submit yourselves to them not only to move up on the ladder of meritocracy, but obey the laws of Big Business just as you were loving god.
And corporate overlords, be mindful to undermine any call for economic justice, and remain diligent in firing black people first, and hiring them last.”
Now I have already said earlier on this blog that I learned to re-interpret Ephesians 6 as being staunchly anti-union:
“The very first verse I learned from Ephesians was Ephesians 4:32, from the Jesus Alphabet that my mother taught. The second verse I learned from it came at a Christian camp for teens, as a teenager, Ephesians 6:5-9. The camp counselor, a white, 20-something male and Wesleyan-leaning evangelical, taught us that these passages about slavery had new meaning for today: presto-chango this was a command from God to not join unions when you go to work, to not complain or strike and to do everything that your boss told you to do. At the time, I was quite impressionable, and I never questioned interpretation.”
You can find that post here: Why I agree with Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann on Ephesians 5
There are several things wrong with replacing unions with slaves, for the obvious reasons. The modern day laborer is not a prisoner of war or a colonized subject from ancient Rome, I mean, unless you want to argue otherwise, go right ahead and try me. This represents an anachronistic approach to Scripture, prioritizing our contemporary concerns over the audiences’ and authors’ concerns at that time in the text. I did not learn this reading from a white male Calvinist, but a white male Wesleyan who thought he was doing the group a favor (the group consisted of 2 African Americans, me and a guy from Rose High in Memphis– I still remember and that was almost a decade ago).
Remember, I did not bring race into my presentation of Ephesians 6, that was all Mitchell, and so the following is a proportional response.
Dominionists like Gary North are fine with slavery. In fact, in his commentary on Leviticus, Gary North calls all abolitionists who do not agree with his interpretation of Scripture “humanists”;
“The humanist abolitionist tries to put God in the dock. He tries to put the State on the judgment throne of God. What he hates is the Bible, not slavery as such. The question is never slavery vs. no slavery. The question is: Who will be the slave-master, and who will be the slave?”
Notice how North appeals to emotion–those who disagree with his hermeneutic “hate the Bible” just like when Mitchell accused me of hating the Bible in so many words.
So, unlike some bloggers who believe that dominionism is a false myth, I do believe dominionists exist, and dominionism is the appropriate term. Not every conservative evangelical politician is a dominionist, there isn’t a dominionist under each church parking lot. Rick Perry is a friend of dominionists, but he is not one, given his immigration policy and his crony capitalist economics. Pat Robertson is not a dominionist since he believes that the Bible inspired the ideals of a democratic-republic. Michele Bachmann, without a doubt, is a dominionist; she is well read in the literature, and her “gaffes” on the Founding Fathers & slavery are real truths to her and her camp–they want to prove so much that the Founders were blameless, without sin, our Saviors. Dominionism, as such, if one understands Gary North, is about Christians being masters and non-Christians being slaves (in economic and political terms). All challenges to Gary North’s anachronistic readings of scripture are the moral equivalent to hating God Himself. For all of his talk of believing in small government, North’s pro-capital punishment position betrays his faithfulness to small government principles: “that God requires human judges to turn murderers over to Him for His immediate judgment, once the earthly courts have declared them guilty as charged.”
Notice the slippery slope in transition: the earthly courts are equal to God’s courts in heaven. As if human beings in power are not sinful (oh, but the powerless and moneyless are as I will show). What about God wanting everyone to come to repentance, as we find in Acts? From the beginning, North rejects the Christian teaching of the Incarnation, of God becoming human and reconciling creation; I argued this in my Nestorian Christology/Tea Party Politics post. The strict separation between God and humanity leads to a politics that emphasizes social division, hierarchy, and domination.
Now, for some reason, North connects earthly slavery as a model for eternal damnation: “Slavery’s negative model is God’s judgment of covenant-breakers throughout eternity.” In the colonial America, this was the exact same argument used to enslave Africans. I am stating this as a poignant fact, no sympathy necessary. Therefore, any abolition minded-Christian, in North’s view, who rejects slavery as God’s Will and Wrath, must logically reject the traditional notion of Hell. Is this true? No, it is not, all the way from White Calvinists such as the saint John Brown to Sojourner Truth to Frederick Douglass to Lemuel Haynes, there is no evidence they rejected Hell. What North is doing here, once again, is appealing to emotion, especially given the fact that he does NOT give any examples of such heretic abolitionists. I hold firmly to the more hopeful vision of the New Creation, with hell being the experience of punishment at the Second Resurrection over and against the twin heresies of annihilation (unforgiveness and disembodiedness) and universalism (liberal empire in disguise). In fact, the pagans who went to “church” and held slaves in bondage in the name of Christ, I fully and joyfully expect Christ with judge them, and in Christ alone I have that hope, not the State.
Back to North and slavery, and Ephesians 6. Representative Steve King suggested that there was nothing regretful about enslaving Africans (or deposing of Native Americans from their land I may add). Historical facts, like North, evade and offend King, for he does not even want to acknowledge the fact that enslaved Africans built the Capitol Building. Newt Gingrich openly confessed to still supporting the Arkansas governor’s decision to repudiate Brown versus the Board of Education, and disallow the Arksansas 9 from attending school. So much for law and order! Whose law? Whose order? Just think about it. Of course, Newt cannot be a dominionist, he’s Catholic, but he can hold their positions. Facts, history, and court case results just fly in the face of Newt’s and Dominionists’ “linear logic.”
Now, Mitchell, the person who inspired this post, failed to mention in his response to my parody post on Corporate Overlordship why I said, “HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA.” I was not laughing because of his position, but rather his FALSE ACCUSATION about me “not loving the Bible as much as him” as if the Bible was a person, and we were able to go on dates with it. As if the “white Calvinist” reading was the only possible reading; as if it were something as black and white, or perhaps gold and silver, like Gary North’s idol thoughts on the gold standard, that gold could ever be the image of God.
What drives the traditional interpretation of Ephesians 6:6-9 is economic interests. You’re conservative, you don’t like unions, let’s find a random passage on ancient slavery, replace slaves with unions, and corporations/businessmen with masters, and abba cadabra, it’s magic! Economics did not work the same way then as it did now; this again, exposes the dominionist tendency toward anachronism once more. I could go into the biblical story and talk about our Gentile place in that story and supersessionism, but I’d like to show where I stand on Ephesians 6, you know, using logic, without appeal to emotion.
Now, I could choose to use a cultural hermeneutic, proclaim how offended I am at all of the pro-slavery passages, and decry how my forebears were enslaved, abused, mistreated, raped, and lynched. But of course, the “white Calvinists” would swoop in and point, see, a ha!, not linear logic. Instead, looking at the overall corpus of Paul (yes I do assume Ephesians is Pauline, recorded by a secretary just like Romans), Paul (and even Peter in his letters) is really concerned with violent overthrows for some reason. For example, check in 1st Timothy about Paul’s warning to women not to VIOLENTLY USURP men’s teaching offices; that is what the Greek literally means. Paul is actually quite intentional. At the conclusion of Romans, chapters 12-16, we are told to love our enemies and obey the authorities. Sub-ordination to authority in some cases is a practice in enemy-love and forgiveness (Paul’s letters intersect with Christ Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount/Plain). Mutual Sub-ordination to our spouses and mutual self-giving/respect to our children are cases of familial love. What Paul is doing here is trying to be consistent, giving everyone in the household one standard, the victorious cross of Jesus the Messiah. By sub-ordination, I join John Howard Yoder in understanding it to mean placing ourselves under the ordering of God, that which we seen in the atonement.
This ordering is not only about God being once more united with humanity, but also humanity being united in oneness under the New Adam, the New Humanity. As such, with the knowledge that human wisdom and practices are always changing and leaving no absolutes (I am referring to politics and economics here in particular), it is the Sophia from God, that confounds the wise and the rich alike in society, dominionists such as Gary North stand completely at odds with both Christian tradition and the entire Good News (the whole of the Christian canon).