On Attempting to Justify The Unjustifiable With Scripture:
Debt Slavery

by Evan Augustine Peterson III, J.D., March 6, 2005


Congressional Republicans are currently attempting to pass their harsh, deceptively-named "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act" (S. 256/H.R. 685).  To justify it, the bill's proponents have cited certain

cherry-picked scriptural passages like Thessalonians 3: 6-15, but have inexplicably ignored more directly-applicable contrary passages like Deuteronomy 15: 1-11.

Therefore, please consider Bob Rostow's letter, "Dear President Bush, can I buy a Canadian Slave and other questions..."  In the humorous tradition of Mark Twain and Will Rogers, it provides an important warning about politicians who resort to scriptural literalism in the misbegotten attempt to justify an otherwise-unjustifiable public policy.

"Dear President Bush,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's law.  I have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.  As you said, "In the eyes of God, marriage is based between a man and a woman."  I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.  When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination.  End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them:

  1. Lev. 25:44 clearly states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations.  A friend of mind claims this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians.  Can you clarify?  Why can't I own Canadians?

  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7.  In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

  3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness (Lev. 15:19-24).  The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking but most women take offense.

  4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it created a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9).  The problem is my neighbors.  They claim the odor is not pleasing to them.  Should I smite them?

  5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

  6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there degrees of abomination?

  7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight.  I have to admit that I wear reading glasses.  Does my vision have to be 20/20 or is there some wiggle room here?

  8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

  9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

  10. My uncle has a farm.  He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/poly blend).  He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot.  Is it really necessary that we to all the trouble of getting the town to stone them? (Lev. 24: 10-16)  Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studies these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.  Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Joe Public"

Of course, Mr. Rostow is making the excellent point that a politician's literalistic use of scriptural passages can make a poor guide to public policy!  In the twenty-first century Western world, one first must consider their historical and cultural context, and then debate one's scriptural sources rationally on their merits, before one can seriously contend that they should be implemented as public policy.

Now let's return to our consideration of the Republicans' misguided "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act" (S. 256/H.R. 685).  This onerous bill was written by the credit industry's fat-cat lobbyists, who hoped the American people would never know about its onerous provisions until it was too late.  Realistically, it should have been titled the "Debt Slavery Act," because the lobbyists' deceptive "bankruptcy reform" rhetoric hides the harsh Social-Darwinist reality that's buried in its technical language, as two knowledgeable authors have pointed out in the following essays:

  1. Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren's 2-12-05 CD/MH essay, "Sick and Broke" [Explains why the so-called "bankruptcy reform" bill is nothing more than draconian bushwhackery that's being imposed on unsuspecting Americans by stealth.]:  http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0212-10.htm

  2. Molly Ivins' 3-3-05 CD/WFC essay, "Bad To Worse: Republicans Vote Down Military Exemption To Bankruptcy Bill, Add Loopholes For Rich" [Cites a recent study to prove that this is a reverse-Robin Hood bill which unfairly targets our society's most vulnerable people: the impoverished; the sick; the elderly; recently-divorced single mothers; and military families.  But guess whose assets are exempted?  That's right -- the GOP's wealthy clientele!]:

What can we, the people, do to protect ourselves and our families from financial disaster and the imposition of debt slavery?

First, we can tell our Congresspersons to STOP persecuting "the little people" who are suffering the unfortunate financial symptoms, and to START turning their attention to the underlying causes, of our nation-wide economic insecurity: (A) stagnant wages; (B) high unemployment, noting that large numbers of long-term unemployed people are going unrecorded in the government's official statistics; (C) massive outsourcing of US jobs to cheap-labor markets overseas;

(D) massive replacements of US jobs with technology; (E) skyrocketing costs of living, such as exorbitant costs for housing, gasoline, and health care; and (F) massive over-investment of federal revenues in Mr. Bush's unnecessary and illegal war-profiteering military adventures, rather than in the basic social-services sector of our economy.

Second, you can take action.  It's easy!  Tell your Congresspersons to OPPOSE this terrible "bankruptcy reform" bill by sending them a letter that's already been written -- "as is" or with your own words added -- from this website:

Finally, thank you very much, good citizen, for taking that important action right now!

This Action Alert Was Prepared For You By:
Evan Augustine Peterson III, J.D.,
the Executive Director of the
American Center for International Law ("ACIL").

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