Since the beginning of civilization humankind has been willing to delegate their responsibilities to one small portion of the community. That small group became the “elites” who in time thought nothing of using the majority for their own ends, including enslaving them. The elites discovered the best way to further their ends was to use religion (priests were part of that elite group) to control the majority by justifying cruelty, abuse, and war.
Constantine followed the pattern when he realized the potential of Christianity to control and manipulate the population. He and those who followed him used the young catholic church to take the teachings of Jesus, twisting them until they became unrecognizable. The Catholic Church destroyed the simple commandments of the Carpenter from Nazareth to keep their place in the government. For 2000 years the church has taken scripture out of context to justify slavery and other acts of abuse and violence. All because it benefited them by keeping them in power and providing the church, and those they served, with a workforce they didn’t have to care about. They twisted, and simply ignored, the teachings of the Carpenter of Nazareth to define those who were weaker, of different color, or from a culture who didn’t believe as they did as less than human. The Carpenter never taught such rubbish.
When the white Slavic (that’s where we get word slave) peoples was depleted the ruling elites turned to others they could demonize. In 1441 the Portuguese began the African slave trade and it was the Portuguese who developed the idea of racism. In 1492 it was the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere who were enslaved. In 1619 the first African slaves were brought into the Western Hemisphere. All to further the elitist, privileged, so called rights, of white Europeans.
Human slaves were cheap and therefore even a poor white person could “own” a human being and feel superior. Yet those same poor whites abdicated their own rights and privileges to others and so ‘enslaved’ themselves, they just didn’t know it. The sad part is even peoples of color owned slaves, people of their own ethnic groups or groups from other cultures. Slavery has always been part of the culture of human history. This is history, this is the reason we must read history. Without history we can’t understand today or change tomorrow.
The only way to change, and repent, is to change our culture of one group ruling, dominating, lording it over other groups. Until we begin to see each person as valuable for who they are, not what they can produce for a small group of human’s changes will not happen. Many have tried to change us, to awaken us but we humans don’t listen. Maybe it’s in our DNA now, maybe we will be unable to change.
But unless we figure out how to be a community where the worth of each person is not based on a bottom-line that benefits only a small number of people nothing will change. You can throw all you want at social programs or try to change all kinds of political and social groups all will fail, it always has, and always will. Our culture of elitism must change and until it does nothing will change.
Humanity has been given many opportunities to be the best we can be. Moses told the Hebrews “Choose Life” (Deuteronomy 30:19); Zechariah said not to oppress the widow, the orphan, and the stranger (Zechariah 7:10); Jesus taught what we do to the oppressed we do to him (Matthew 25:35-40); The Prophet Muhammad tells us to care for the strangers, the needy, and our neighbors (Quran Sura 4:36); and the principle of treating others as you want to be treated is part of many other faiths traditions, Buddha and Confucius both taught we are to treat others as we want to be treated. The Indigenous peoples of this Hemisphere also taught how to behave in society. For example the Shawnees taught “Do not kill or injure your neighbor, for it is not him that you injure, you injure yourself. But do good to him, therefore add to his days of happiness as you add to your own. Do not wrong or hate your neighbor, for it is not him that you wrong, you wrong yourself.”
Humanity rarely listens to those who come to off a way towards change. We are stubborn and believe only we are right. We are wrong. It is time to change. Civilization will not survive if we do not learn to listen to those who have called us to change. It doesn’t matter if it was 8000, 3000, 2000 years ago, or yesterday we need to listen to them. If we do not learn from those who speak wisdom, those who came to teach us how to treat each other as we each want to be treated. If we do not learn to value each person for who they are regardless of their gifts, their skin color, their social economic status, or their culture then we are a lost people, our civilization will fall, and rightly so. We will not deserve to survive. I only pray we do not take the rest of creation with us.
Ruth Jewell, ©June 15, 2020