Evangelical Godly living

A friend of mine sent me a New Year’s greeting email letting me know he was thinking of me. That’s nice, I thought. He said that what brought me to mind was listening to an online broadcast of a very popular evangelical preacher who was talking about the importance of, and means of, living a godly life. The friend went on to offer some encouraging words for the year ahead and to muse on the past year’s transitions.

Yes, it is nice to be thought of. So, though I had some hunches, I decided to go listen to the broadcasts mentioned to see if I could determine what particularly had prompted his reflection.

I want to say at the outset that I went in knowing I’m not a fan of this particular teacher. You’ll soon learn why. And, though I disagree with him substantively, I also claim the label evangelical, though I do not mean by that word what many others mean.

The word evangelical (lower case e) comes from a Greek word meaning “related to the sharing of good news”. In common Greek, it can be used about any telling of any good news – if you just got a raise, or got engaged, or learned you are going to have a baby, then you might become evangelical about that.

From a Christian and Biblical perspective, the word relates to the good news, Good News, or Gospel, of/from/about/regarding Jesus. (Prepositions in Greek are somewhat ambiguous when being translated over into English.) The Gospel gets articulated in multiple ways in the New Testament (and often those are with allusion to the Hebrew Scriptures – First or Old Testament). In its essence, I believe, the Gospel is that in and through Jesus of Nazareth, the one called the Christ, humankind encounters God’s restoring and reconciling love. This love is described as proclaimed by Jesus (Luke 4:16-30, quoting Isaiah 61), embodied in Jesus (John 1), and accomplished through Jesus. The Christian Bible, as we have it today, is a human record of the faith experiences, blessings and struggles prompted by encountering Jesus. John 10 records Jesus saying these words, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

The Good News is a rich, full, abundant life that is revealed and accomplished in/through Jesus and received/ experienced by believing in him. An abundant life as described in Luke & Isaiah (the Hebrew word is “shalom”) means freedom from captivities, the ability to provide for one’s family and participate in the community, and the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25) which is like setting an economic and social reset button – debts canceled and the lost restored. Jesus consistently named this incoming reality the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God. It often brought a reversal of fortunes – those who were rich and powerful were brought low, and those who were poor and lowly were elevated. I think this is a vision worth giving one’s life for – it is the vision that Jesus gave his life for – the restoring and reconciling of humanity to one another and to God in creation.

Now, to be fair, our unnamed preacher was working from Paul’s writing, not the Gospels. In particular, he focused on Romans 12:1-2 – “1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Said preacher then proceeded to spend an hour talking about how the sinfulness and debauchery in our country is increasing compared to his memory of days gone by. His almost exclusive illustration of this was sexual immorality. Though he did not identify any particular incident, to my ear he was stirring the crowd in response to recent news and pop culture stories.  I don’t know this for sure, but that’s how it felt to me.

Either way, I think his viewpoint is unfortunate and in error. I am a proponent of sexual morality, and even of the church teaching people how to think about what it means to live out our sexuality in healthy, God honoring ways. That said, using the bible as our ONLY source of information and guidance is naive at best. The vast majority of marriages described in the bible were polygamous, and were understood as economic exchanges rather than a loving covenant between equals. I’m not sure that’s the foundation upon which we want to build today’s marriages or families. And I agree with him that the more crass illustrations of sexuality in our popular culture do have a negative effect on relationships – I am well aware of their impact on me as an adolescent, and we work hard to help our children live thoughtfully in this regard.

Here are my concerns, though, with his message as I heard it (not in priority order, necessarily).

1)      Misreading scripture, or more accurately misspeaking for scripture. Paul describes explicitly what he means in Romans 12:1-2, and he does not mention sexuality at all. Instead, he says this:

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. 9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

He sounds to me like he is talking about how we live in community, in relationship with one another, and using our talents, abilities and spiritual gifts to be a blessing and work together. Paul calls us to not exalt ourselves above others, but rather to live out what the prophet Micah says in 6:88 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

2)      Circumscribing a narrow circle of ‘truth’ around only a portion of what concerns and interests God as revealed in the Bible.  He speaks as though “a Godly and pure life” were only about sexuality and private moral failings like, “spending too much time at the bar,” which he says at one point. While healthy sexuality and avoiding destructive and addictive personal behaviors (like alcohol or other chemical additions) are important, they are by no means the only or even the primary concerns of scripture. Simply read the prophets, the Psalms, Proverbs, the Mosaic law, and the four Gospels. The primary concern is Justice. Rightousness – i.e. right-relationship-ness, is about living a humble, honest and just life in community. You can be pure as the new-fallen snow sexually and still be as wicked and corrupt and ungodly as any of the worst kings in Israel.

3)      Misremembering history – While sexuality is more public, and even aspects of it that he and I would agree are destructive to individuals and families and thus society, these things are by no means new. Men objectifying and using women is unfortunately not new, though now it seems more visible, which likely affects its impact. Promiscuity is not new, though it certainly is more acceptable to discuss openly and even admit – again, I would agree that this is a negative thing. These things being true, the world is not going to hell in a hand basket and we are not racing headlong to become Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19). We are increasingly becoming intolerant of sexual relationships that include abuses of power, whether by an abusive spouse, rape by a stranger, or sexual molestation of a child by an acquaintance. We are gaining courage in speaking about these things, shining light in dark places, and empowering victims to become survivors and thrivers.  In addition to all these gains specific to sexuality, vast improvements have been made in the areas of justice – though we arguably still have a long way to go.

4)      Conflating God and Country These two messages from our preacher sounded very much like patriotic concerns as much or more than faith concerns. I am a patriot, and I love my country. I do not believe that we are in any way God’s special nation, nor that the fortunes of the United States or US culture are to be equated with the increase or decrease of God’s “kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Our primary citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) even while we may celebrate and support our earthly nation-state. While one can love both, we are called to love God and God’s kingdom more. Confusing the two leads to dangerous loyalties that can make us blind to the justice claims of our neighbors and the love claims of our enemies (Luke 6).

5)      Using fear to motivate – Fear is a strong motivator, and a powerful rallying cry is built around US versus THEM arguments and harkening back to the good old days. The problem is that this is the same argument used by the Hebrews when they wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt rather than forward into God’s blessings. Would the journey forward be difficult? Yes. Would there be dangers and challenges? Yes. Did Moses or the prophets or Jesus use nostalgic fear as a motivator? No. Honest assessments of the future risks of the current path? Certainly. But always with hope and promise of blessing and peace.

6)      The presumption of exclusive truth – The preacher explicitly said, “They will come to us, because we have the answers.”  The implicit presumption here is, “If you disagree with us, you are wrong, because we are right about everything.” To his credit, he did earlier state, “Many things we may never fully understand…” Why then presume to say that he is right about what he thinks he does understand. Obviously, if I hold strongly to a position it is because I believe it to be true – this is logical. And yet, I can hold to my understandings in such a way that room remains for me to be humble before the truth claims and understandings of others. I heard none of this humility.

Ultimately, Godly living as witnessed to in the Christian Bible is holistic in nature. It will encompass every aspect of life. No one sermon can address all of this. However, any sermon that presumes to address “Godly living” certainly needs to clearly acknowledge the breadth and complexity inherent in the concept. Now that I think about it, perhaps my friend sent me the link because he does not know what I believe about these things – because I have failed to speak clearly and consistently when called upon to speak the truth as I understand it. Or, perhaps he does know, and is concerned for me because I hold these views. Either way, as I said, it is nice to be remembered. And I am grateful for the prompting to think critically about these issues, attempt to articulate my positions clearly, and to enter into conversation about them. I only pray that this energy and effort put forth might serve to edify and build up those who seek the shalom which God has always intended for us. God’s dream is our wholeness, and the entire biblical witness reflects this dream and human encounters with God’s efforts to work with us to bring this dream to fruition. And, finally, that along with our best and in spite of our worst, God will redeem, restore and renew us all. We will dwell together in perfect harmony with self, others, creation and God. And that, my friends, is Good News. See, I’m and evangelical after all. Who knows, I might even reclaim the big E!

“Godly gratitude – treating others as God has treated us”

Deuteronomy 24: 10-22
~ Exodus 23:14-19

Thanksgiving. Cooking turkey and dressing. Visiting family. Watching football. Shopping on Friday. Volunteering. Donating. Giving thanks. This holiday season is overlaid with multiple meanings. It can be difficult to keep them all straight. We are invited to donate at the stores where we are shopping – often by people wearing Santa hats. Spending time with extended family can be both a source of joy and of stress. We may be grateful to have them in our lives, and also grateful that they don’t live any closer.

Exodus 23 briefly summarizes three festivals – the festival of unleavened bread, ending in the celebration of the Passover meal, the Spring harvest of first fruits at Pentecost (the name, 50, representing the number of days after Passover), and the fall harvest festival, the festival of booths or tabernacles. These instructions are presented to Israel in the early days of their journey to the promised land, not long after they left slavery in Egypt. They are people on a journey, not people planting and tending crops. The instruction assumes that a day will come in their future when things will be different, more settled, better. At that time, then, they will be able to look back on this instruction and remember what the Lord had instructed them on how to give thanks for the harvest.

Have you ever received or given instructions that would only be useful sometime in the future? Did your parents ever say to you, “Now, when you get there… remember…”? Moses repeatedly told the people on God’s behalf, “When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you… remember…” (NUM15; DEUT26) “When you get to school, remember…” “When you get to camp, remember…” “When you get to that party, remember who you are…” “When you get to college, remember what we taught you…” Most of our education is precisely this – equipping us with knowledge, skills, understanding and wisdom for a future day when we will need it. We know how important this is. We also know how easy it is to ignore, to tune out, to think, “When am I ever going to need this…?” I wonder if that happened to the Israelites.

Our other text from Deuteronomy 24 specifically discusses how to harvest. By the time this teaching is given, the original generation of adults has died in the wilderness because they refused to trust God and go forward into an uncertain and scary future. The people wandered aimlessly for 40 years in the wilderness, gathering manna and eating quail and livestock and whatever wild plants they could gather. Now, finally, they have again come to the Jordan River and are given another opportunity by God to step into the dream and promise of their blessed future. All the instructions in Deuteronomy are presented as a single monologue by Moses, rehearsing and reinforcing the teachings of the past 40 years. They are close to being able to plant and reap their first harvests, so it becomes more important to give specific instructions.

Moses gives a wide variety of instructions here on how to establish a settled community that is peaceful, righteous and just. In the midst of these rules on worship, marriage and divorce, punishment, handling a corpse… We have this refrain: Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.  The instructions on how to harvest have embedded within them provision for the poor, the stranger, and the foreigner in our midst, because we were once as they are. In our harvesting, and in our thanksgiving, we must remember those who are where we have been. And this we is generational. It is not just where you personally have been. It is about where we as a people have been. We were slaves in Egypt, and foreigners in a strange land. We were the poor and downtrodden. We were the vulnerable and the oppressed. And because this is true, we must treat with honor and respect those who are currently so.

“What does it mean for us to leave gleanings in the field?”

Are you someone who has financial resources? You are commanded by God to share with those who do not, as an act of thanksgiving in your own receiving. This shows that you realize that what you have is not only by your own making or doing.

How else might we apply this principle?

Consider Sandra, who has healthy relationships? How might she bless others who are less fortunate? What would it mean for her to leave a gleaning in the field of relationships? Sandra gives others the benefit of the doubt if they offend her or act foolishly. She is quick to forgive and refuses to harbor resentment. She offers offer mercy and grace because she at one time needed mercy and grace from another.

What about Jack, who has real talent and ability? How might he leave sheaves in the field? He has extra patience with those less competent? He gives some of his time to teach others what he knows. He donates his ability to those who cannot afford to pay and are not able to learn and do what comes easily to him.

Jackie is someone with a deep and humble faith. The grace of God flow through her so that she have an abiding faith and trust that guards her heart and mind from anxiety and worry and fear? How can she leave some fruit of the Spirit on the vine of her life so that others may take and eat and be nourished? She is praying for others to also find the peace that passes understanding? She is offering encouragement to others so that they might hear God’s voice? She is not busy trying to convince others that she is right about what God wants them to do. Rather, she allows room for the Holy Spirit to work in them as it does in her. She is not impatient to fix others, for God is patient with her.

Sarah is someone who has a good head for numbers and is skilled at managing finances. At the same time that she is prospering she seeks to bless those who do not have the same innate talent or learned abilities? Sarah mentors others in business and family finances. She teaches budgeting classes and makes micro venture loans to people trying to start small businesses. She guides young adults and those recently divorced or widowed who have never learned financial management.

Again, the question is: “What does it mean for us to leave gleanings in the field?” Few of us actually have fields or vineyards or olive trees that produce a livelihood.  We are being asked to leave a gleaning from our life’s work. What labor supports your household? What skills and abilities enable you to earn a living and support yourself and those who depend upon you? The commandment we receive is to leave the gleaning from our labors so that those who lack access to skill, knowledge, training or the means of production may feed themselves.

Dignity through work: An equally important principle within this commandment is that those receiving must be given an opportunity to labor as a way to maintain their dignity. The story of Ruth is a wonderful example of how this teaching was lived out. Ruth was a poor young widow, and a non-Jewish foreigner. Her mother-in-law Naomi, also a widow, sent her to the fields of Boaz to glean. Boaz was a kinsman, so Naomi hoped that they would receive some extra measure of grace in his eyes. The fact that this was even necessary may indicate that the commandments from Deuteronomy 24 were not uniformly obeyed. Regardless, Ruth did find favor in Boaz’s sight. She had shown herself faithful, and so he extended extra favor on her beyond the commandment as a reward for her goodness.

Limited control: Another principle embedded in this commandment is that who receives and how much they receive is our of our control, even though the resources are under our stewardship. At times this may be difficult for us to understand or accept. There is no guidance given for setting exclusionary limits on the gleaners – i.e. to curtail people from taking advantage. We might want there to be some. We might even decide to implement some. But God did not see fit to suggest any such boundaries. Remember the underlying premise – we do this because we were once also slaves, poor, vulnerable, oppressed. We also once had no control over the means of production. Those who own the land and the resources and the tools control who gets what. To be poor is to lack sufficient access and control over the resources of production.

This is the very definition of a “company town”. An area is so isolated that one family, group or company controls the entire economy. When this happens, others are excluded by this very structure. The Israelites were about to take over land and distribute it among tribes and families, according to the people in each tribe as described in the book of Numbers. But not all people are skilled farmers. Not all people are financially responsible. Not all people stay healthy so that they can work. Not all people _________. Fill in the blank. Some people need a helping hand – just as the Israelites did when they were slaves in Egypt. They had not become slaves by some inadequacy, fault or failure. It happened subtly, slowly, over time – similar to the Nazi pogroms against the Jews leading up to the Holocaust.  But once they were in that situation, they needed rescuing. Once the Jews were slaves, they needed rescuing. When people lack the basic resources for life, they need help. And we are commanded to help them because we once needed help.

Initiative AND Assistance: Now, I don’t want to get deeply into the “We built this,” “You didn’t build that,” political debate. I will simply say this, “YES.” Yes, people built businesses, and Yes they had help from lots of other people, including societal resources like public infrastructure and education. Great. The same would have been true for Israel. They had some resources to start with, and some people made better use of them than others. Jesus taught that this would be so, “Some yielded thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred fold.” (MK4) Some are apparently naturally better at business and finance: “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, each according to their ability.” (MT25) Acknowledging this is true, we still return to the command that those who have are to share with those who have not. This rests on the fact that at some point each of us needed help from others.

A human baby cannot raise itself to healthy adulthood. It will starve unless another being cares for it, feeds it, cleans it, protects it from harm. We have heard rare stories of wild children being raised by wolves or apes. Even these usually got through their early years with humans supporting them. And when they returned to civilization they required a great deal of assistance. We cannot learn language on our own. We do not learn survival skills on our own. We do not learn the math we need for financial management on our own.  We were once slaves to ignorance and weakness and someone provided for us and instructed us and led us out. As children and adolescents (and sometimes as adults) we have been aliens in the adult world of society. The behaviors and attitudes and customs, the expectations and assumptions of others are strange and unknown to us. We are foreigners, aliens, strangers in a strange land. Every one of us who live in North America came from somewhere else, or our ancestors did. All of us are immigrants here, just as the Israelites were. So might we still be under the same commandment to treat the alien among us with compassion and justice, for we were once like them?

Saved by grace: Finally, and most importantly, we were once enslaved to sin (RM7; GAL4) but now have been set free (RM6:18) as Pauls says: 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. 20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Remember again our teaching from Deuteronomy – we are to leave gleanings from our abundant harvest so that those without the benefits we have may take their fill and be nourished. “What does it mean for us to leave gleanings in the field?” What does this mean spiritually? It means that we who have found peace with God through Jesus Christ are to treat those who lack such peace with overwhelming compassion and tender mercy. Remember that you were once slaves to sin and aliens to God. Your salvation is entirely the work of God. (EPH2). Christ restores the relationship between God and Humanity. With the coming of Jesus the reign of God was ushered into human history in a new way. This is the Gospel for which we are to prepare ourselves through repentance and in which we are to live here and now. Not all have heard or received this Good News. Ours is not to judge why. Ours is simply to go and share what we have received.

The Commandment we have been given is to show compassion, justice and love to those who are as we were. We should live our faith so that others are nourished. Does your spiritual life with God produce enough good, rich, nourishing fruit of righteousness (HEB12) so that you can feast and also provide for others? Or is your field, your vineyard barely giving enough for you to eek out a meal now and then. Are you spiritually malnourished because you have not been tending your spiritual gardens? How can you let your spiritual life nourish and feed others? If you are dwelling with Christ in prayer and study, if you are serving others in humility, if you are loving neighbor and enemy as you love yourself and God with all you are and have, then your life will bear the Fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (GAL5). When these are abundantly present in your life, then others can glean and be nourished until their own spiritual gardens and vineyards begin producing the fruit of righteousness.

We give thanks for what we have, whether material, relational, emotional, mental or spiritual, by sharing with those who lack. This is not about handouts – it is about giving free access to what we have received so that others might work out their own salvation. God commands us to do this while we enjoy the fruit of our lives and the bounty we have received. Godly gratitude includes allowing others to be nourished by our lives and not to assume that everything we have is for our own enjoyment. Freely you have received. Freely give. (MT10)


Gilkes’ need to find a place for the four loves

In perusing FB today I came across a post by an acquaintance who has one Anglo parent and one Indian parent. She speaks and writes about the experience of being bi-racial. Her post comments on a blog post by A Breeze Harper  On Buddhist Sanghas, Divesting in Post-racial Whiteness, and Nina Simone. Harper describes…  “what Katherine McKittrick refers to as a black female socio-spatial epistemology. See her book Demonic Grounds and she will break down how we develop our knowledge-base (epistemology) through our embodied experiences in racialized-sexualized spaces in the USA.” Later she asks: After spending the whole day there, I realized how ridiculous it is that I have spent so much time in largely white dominated spaces in which I physically and emotionally exhaust myself trying to explain what “racism is”, how “whiteness operates”, and that, “No, I’m not making this sh*t up in the head.” I have been depriving myself from these types of healing space my nearly entire life. At the end of the day of that retreat, I really asked myself, “What would happen if I stopped participating in certain spaces in which I can never just be ‘me’? What would happened if I shifted and just focused on spaces like the ones today?”

I was struck by how this connected with my experience reading Cheryl Townsend Gilkes’ “The ‘Loves’ and ‘Troubles’ of African-American Women’s Bodies (p81). Gilkes makes liberal use of Alice Walkers advocacy of the “four loves” as “ethical positions associated with a good womanist.” (89) These loves have to do with affirmations of self, embodied experience, and overcoming racial/sexual violence and the external valuing according to white essentialist norms. What Jha and Harper describe is the exhaustion they feel when trying to explain white privilege and the experience of being “colored” (to borrow the term Mary Church Terrell advocates) and the freedom found in a place where one does not need to explain or advocate for self. Yet Gilkes suggests that African-American women in particular often have to justify their existence and work even in their own community partly because of this very diversity in skin color, hair and body type. Given these tensions, how do we work together to create safe space, and what if any role does a middle class straight white male play in that formation? How can I use, sublimate, or relinquish my privileges for the sake of this formation? Can we all embrace the four loves or are they the explicit gift of the Womanists?

A thought about the state of politics in Collin County

(This is actually drawn from a thread of my Facebook posts)
Why does it seem as though every politician in Collin County claims to be the most conservative and have the most conservative endorsements? Is that really the best credential for an office, that you have the most rigid, narrow view on everything, and that all your friends do too?
The opposite would be just as bad, but isn’t it sad that we’ve been reduced (again) to a short-hand nomenclature that really doesn’t say anything of substance.
Aside from meeting the candidates (check) and listening to them at a forum (check) and reading their policy statements on their websites (check) and reading what the local papers have to say about them (check) what else can you do but follow knee-jerk labels?
Some say: Run for office.
I say: Don’t tempt me.
And we ask: What does it say about the state/communities we live in?
I think it says that only reactionary arch-conservatives are vocal enough to get the attention of candidates. The candidates conclude that all voters are Tea Party toadies.
Alongside the Tea Party, we should have the Coffee Party, which would focus on a fair wage and ownership for labor; and the Lemonade Party, which would empower entrepreneurs the way parents underwrite their kids’ lemonade stands; and the Milk Party, which would recognize that we are mutually dependent on the natural non-human world
And the Eucharist Party, which would live out the tenets of Jesus’ teachings, regardless of the impact they might have on our notions of capitalism, property rights, individuality, democratic process or any other notion of what’s “American” in the context of a post-modern, post-colonial era of global community, 24/7 information media and economy. What if the Kingdom of God were our focus rather than protecting our small fiefdoms that we have deceived ourselves into believing that we built on our own strength and cleverness alone, rather than on the good will of our ancestors and on the backs of underpaid and unpaid labor of generations of indentured servants, company town “employees” and slaves.
OK, rant over…. for now.