“And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more—cargoes of … slaves and human lives” (Revelation 18:11,13)
Today, as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, I have been reflecting on a text in the Book of Revelation that highlights some of the issues for which he gave his life.
Babylon, the spiritual entity in league with the beast and the dragon to dominate the world is about to face divine judgment. Among the most egregious of her long list of sins is the evil of slave trading, the trafficking in human lives.
It is interesting that in the middle of this biblical prophecy describing the heinous acts of the Babylonian prostitute for which she will face the wrath of God is trafficking in human lives. It is even more interesting that those who enriched themselves from the Atlantic slave trade justified their demonic practice by quoting scripture. Clergyman, supporting the barbaric behavior developed a theology of slavery. This enabled slave traders, owners and all others benefiting from it to countenance the worst atrocities against the enslaved in the name of God. In the theology of slavery, God created black people to be slaves; indeed, they were not even fully human and therefore could not be Christians. At the same time, slaves were taught that their purpose was to obey their masters and be content with their fate as this would please God.
The Bible gets at the heart of the real reason for slavery. It is the merchants of the world who weep and mourn over the harlot because no one buys their cargoes anymore. Their cargo includes the trafficking of human bodies as slaves. Slavery is about wealth and power. It is the brutal exploitation of a people for the enrichment and narcissistic glorification of another.
God is against the enslavement of his creation. He used 10 terrible plagues to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage; slavery in the New Testament is a metaphor for sin’s cruel, destructive, and degrading rule, and Satan is the task master. Spiritually, the merchants of Revelation are those who sell a gospel that enslaves those who follow it, the theology of slavery. They sell a false hope of salvation through human effort, a monument to the ingenuity of our superhumans. They are merchants of death in alliance with the great harlot.
Today, human trafficking is a booming multibillion dollar business. The prostitutes and her merchants of death rule in the hearts of those perpetuating this abomination. Our passage prophesies God will take vengeance upon them.
Martin Luther King lifted up his voice against the tyranny of those who would deprive others of the right to live free, and to exercise their freedom to the glory of God and the good of their fellow men and women. His work should encourage us to recommit ourselves today to do whatever we can, in whatever way we can, and wherever we can, to strike a blow against tyranny, and in support of Justice, equality, and fairness for all.