As I think about the upcoming holiday of Juneteenth, I hear Solomon Burke singing in my head: “None of us are free, one of us are chained.” Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and emancipation, but looking at our world today, the celebration seems premature.
But God desires freedom for all and an end to all slavery and oppression.
Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Galatians 4:6–7 (NIV).
A Short History of Slavery
The long history of slavery began in the ancient world. It includes far too many dates to catalog here. But the short history of slavery in the United States I can tackle. I know I’m leaving out some details and dates others would find important. The links I’ve provided give more detail than I can provide here.
- The 1500s, first African slaves brought to America.
- 1787, slaves counted as three-fifths of a person in the Three-Fifths Compromise at the United State Constitutional Convention.
- 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393, 15 L. Ed. 691, 19 HOW 393 (1857), that slaves were property and therefore not citizens.
- April 12, 1861, the U.S. Civil War began.
- January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which “applied only to states that had seceded from the United States, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states.”
- April 9, 1865, the U.S. Civil War ended.
- June 19, 1965, referred to as Juneteenth and now a federal holiday, is the date on which enslaved African Americans were proclaimed free by executive order in the state of Texas.
And then everyone was free and all was right with the world, right?
Yeah, not so much.
Poverty Is a Form of Slavery
Although legally, slavery was abolished in the United States, many people here and across the world are not free. And where one person is a victim of slavery, none of us are free.
I remember when the book Same Kind of Different as Me came out in 2006. A friend gave me a copy with the stipulation that I pass it along to someone else when I was done reading it, which I did. As I read this story of a homeless black man name Denver Moore, the scene in which he returns to his sharecropping childhood home in Louisiana shocked me. Trying to piece together the timeline, I realized he had grown up poor, uneducated, and unable to escape the chains of his poverty sometime in the 1960s. Although he and his family weren’t technically slaves, their sharecropping existence didn’t offer much in the way of freedom.
It looks a little different, but poverty enslaves many even today, as they live paycheck to paycheck, barely able to pay rent. One setback, and rent no longer is an issue as homelessness engulfs them.
Sex Trafficking Is a Form of Slavery
Hidden from the view of those who don’t want to see it, sex trafficking is big business in the United States. But it’s not just about the numbers. Individual lives are enslaved and forced into having nonconsensual sex for the gain of the trafficker. You can read the stories of some individuals on The Exodus Road, an organization dedicated to fighting sex trafficking around the world, including in the United States.
Abortion Is a Tool to Support Sex Trafficking
Those who support a right to abortion claim that it is necessary for women to be free. But freely accessible abortion is used as a tool forced upon women trapped in sex trafficking so that they can continue to “work.” Focus on the Family calls the link between these two evils “the silent public health crisis.”
It can also be a tool to cover up incest and the sexual abuse of children. If an abuser can take their child in for an abortion without being questioned, what freedom does that provide to the child? Abortion availability allows the abuser to be free of the consequences of their heinous actions.
Abortion because of Fear Isn’t Freedom
When I was seventeen, a friend’s older brother drugged and raped me. I ended up pregnant and scared. I didn’t know what to do, so I asked my older sister for help. We agreed that my only option was to have an abortion. I was afraid to tell my parents and I wasn’t in a position to raise a child. The circumstances served as a trap with only one way out as far as I could see.
After making the biggest mistake of my life, I lived as a slave to regret, shame, and fear. Tears served as my shackles. Depression almost killed me. I felt trapped at the bottom of a deep, dark pit with no way out.
No one held my rapist accountable for what he did. The “nice” folks at Planned Parenthood didn’t care. They don’t care about individuals or the statistics of abortion:
- 75% of abortion patients are poor or low income
- 28% are Black
- 25% are Hispanic
- 60% are in their twenties
- 12% are teens
- 4% are minors
All of these women and children deserve better options. They deserve to not be slaves to fear and poverty.
None of Us Are Truly Free
It is a good thing to celebrate milestones that move us closer to a world where all are free. Juneteenth is such a milestone and we should, indeed, celebrate. But in our triumph, let us not allow the pain of those still in chains to be drowned out by the hoopla. Let us remember the words sung by Solomon Burke as he reminds us that none of us are free.
And there are people still in darkness,And they just can’t see the light. If you don’t say it’s wrong then that says it right.
“None of Us Are Free” by songwriters: Barry Mann, Brenda Russell, Cynthia Weil
God calls us to work to free the oppressed, to stand for truth and justice.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27 (NIV).
Closing Prayer for Freedom
Heavenly Father, You long for all to be free. I pray that You would show each soul reading this post today how they can do their part to help free our brothers and sisters from the many forms of slavery that still exist in this broken world. Break our hearts for the oppression, poverty, hatred, and bondage that breaks Yours. May Your justice and mercy reign in our hearts. In Jesus’ name, amen.