Is Savage's Slavery Our Own?
Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin."
- St. John 8:34
Recently, some man, a self-proclaimed activist named Daniel Savage, recently attacked the Bible as "bullshit" in front of an audience of high school students. Then, Daniel savaged those students who left in a courageous exercise of the same constitutional rights for which he claims to be an activist. The sweet irony in the story is that Daniel Savage, this administration's choice to lead the campaign against bullying, bullied Christian students in an address designed to highlight the evils of bullying. Really. Who writes this stuff?
Based on some of what has been related about him, Daniel Savage is, in a way, this country's bully laureate. From licking door knobs to wishing entire swathes of the population dead, what Daniel lacks in originality, he surely makes up in an arid vehemence. Committed as Daniel is to living out his patronymic, it's a shame he isn't Daniel Baker. What wonders could he have conjured, if he had applied his fondness for reinterpreting Sacred Scripture according to his tastes to cake and pie recipes? Based on past performance, his genius may have been reduced to switching the names of these two desserts.
A key ingredient in the exegetical hash Daniel did serve up at this recent talk was the idea that the Bible endorses slavery, "an obvious moral evil". The Bible, therefore, cannot be used as a reliable source for determining an individual's or a society's morality. Bonchamps, in a rebuttal, covers slavery as an institution and both the Bible's and the Church's position on slavery. One comment to this article pointed out that Christianity is the force that has brought about the end of slavery throughout history and how true that is. As Bonchamps points out, Daniel's tirade is a cold serving of old tripe.
What Daniel either misses or avoids is that the Bible does endorse, even encourages, slavery. In fact, St. Paul teaches that slavery is required for salvation. Without being enslaved and working solely for your master's will, St. Paul makes the audacious claim that no one can get to Heaven. That slavery, of course, is slavery to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Master. Daniel misses this point because he is enslaved to the sin in his life and either does not wish to see it or cannot.
Later in the same chapter cited above, "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God...Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires...[B]ecause I tell the truth, you do not believe me.'"
In Romans, St. Paul teaches, "But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves to sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you are committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
"When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
It's clear that Daniel Savage can be either a slave to the devil and sin or to God. For the time being, it seems that he freely chooses to remain a slave to his sins and in so doing, wishes to deprive as many people as he can of their slavery to God. What a pitiful way to live your life, but he doesn't understand that. While he may see himself as free of the constraints of a false morality, he has actually put himself in the chains of a horrible slavery to a heartlessly cruel and unyielding master. Nothing drives us more relentlessly and gives us no peace than our hatreds born out of our hatred of ourselves. That's where Daniel is right now and may remain for the rest of his life. After all, it is hard to see your master, when your face is in the ground.
But that's the way of it, isn't it? We all work to spread one kingdom or another. This isn't about only Daniel Savage. It's about each one of us. How many stones can any one of us legitimately throw at Daniel? No, I, as a grown man in my forties, am not spending my time bullying teenagers more than half my age with cliched sarcasm, but what am I trying to build up with my life? To whose message am I trying to attract people? Most importantly, whom am I serving, when I am all alone in my room? As it is for Daniel now, it is easier for all of us to point to others' sins and hypocrisies rather than convert our lives to slavery to Jesus Christ. Before we do too much more clucking over Daniel Savage, let's turn our criticisms to prayers for his conversion and salvation and to ours.