(Rome) So-called “apostle” Paul, after meeting with a runaway slave named Onesimus has refused to directly challenge the criminal institution of slavery and has instead sent him back to his owner with a weakly-worded letter that nowhere directly and forcefully condemns the institution of slavery.
Critics of the apostle reported that they are “hugely disappointed” by the “apostle’s” failure to directly and forcefully confront slavery. They question the wisdom of affirming a CINO in his heretical dissent by writing him, “I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (Phm 7).
“This kind of kumbayah nonsense only tells slaveowners that they have nothing to repent” complained one anonymous combox commenter. “Paul is soft. I’ve never trusted him and this is why.”
Still others are critical of Paul’s refusal to “drop the hammer” and excommunicate Philemon, citing the numerous times in the Old Testament people are killed or suffer a grisly fate for disagreeing with authority figures. Paul, failing to invoke his alleged “apostolic power” has instead written to Philemon “I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will” (Phm 14).
“Consent? Free will?” said another anonymous combox critic. “What is this? Anarchy? The Church is supposed to be about Obeying the Rules, not doing whatever the hell you feel like! Paul is taking the Church in a very dangerous direction. We have to resist him to his face.” Paul’s defenders have noted that he does, in fact, make a thinly veiled plea to Philemon for Onesimus’ freedom, writing
Perhaps this is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand, I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. (Phm 15–21).
“He’s just so unclear. That could mean anything. At a time when slavery is rampant in the world, we get this sort of milquetoast appeal to “conscience” instead of a direct, hard-line challenge to slaveowners to repent or be kicked out of the Church. Calling such people “brothers” and truckling to their vanity is just feeding their dissent. What Paul should have done is issue an ultimatum. It was a tragic missed opportunity,” declared still another anonymous combox expert on church discipline.
In addition, critics note that Paul has found time to write numerous letters to the Churches all over the Mediterranean, but has never once found time to mention the sins of abortion, infanticide, or the gladiatorial blood sport that has claimed the lives of numerous Christians.
“He just seems soft and weak on the life issues to me,” said yet another anonymous commenter. “And he doesn’t seem to care about Christian persecution but has no problem cozying up to pagans. Why won’t he tackle these things? And why does he pal around with those, like Philemon or his friends in the notoriously dissenting Corinthian Church, while not addressing these matters? It just sends the wrong message, you know?”