The slave girl and systemic oppression

I am walking through a study of Acts because our men’s Bible study is there. In working ahead, I am in Acts 16 and Paul at Philippi. This time through the story I was directed by the Spirit to look at the story through the view of the slave girl.

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

(Acts 16:16–18)

She was exploited by men. Possessed by a demon. She had absolutely no control over her life. Because of the demonic presence it became a way to exploit her and make money for her owners. It was a lucrative business.

Even as she followed Paul around it was the demon in her that was calling out. It had to have been a mocking tone. It was clear that though what she said was true something about the communication was disturbing.

Paul finally became so annoyed that he commanded the spirit to come out of her. With the spirit gone out of the girl, she became useless to her owners. Their profits were gone.

I am left with this question: What happened to that girl?

Maybe she was released and the church took her in. Possibly, the owners still used her. Did they kill her? Did they pimp her out?

What happened to that girl?

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

(Acts 16:19–21)

The owners were annoyed because their revenue was gone. They seized Paul and Silas and threw them into court. Here is where we can understand systemic issues if we will keep our eyes open.

They didn’t bring Paul and Silas to the court and say, “We were making a boatload of money off this slave girl and now because of these two we’ve lost her talent, we’re out of revenue, and we want them punished.”

That’s not how power systems work. Those in power never bring up their fear of loss. They bring up patriotism (in a false way) or religiosity (in a false way). This time it’s the patriotism route:

“These men are advocating ways that our counter to our Roman way of life!”

Those in power don’t want to lose power. When that power or privilege is threatened, we cloak our outrage and fear with false piety or false patriotism.

We want our power… our control. But we don’t want to sound crass about it. We need to sound “righteous.”

So, it’s not about black football players kneeling to protest police violence. It is: “They don’t respect the flag.”

It’s not about the hundreds of peaceful protests that have continually taken place since the death of George Floyd. It’s about the violence on property (which then gets to trump the violence done on a black man or woman) and it becomes: “LAW AND ORDER!”

This is how systemic evil stays in power.

We can look to the Church as well. Whether it’s the excuses made in the Roman Catholic Church for decades or some conservative branch of American Christianity trying to find ways for the old power structures to stay in place as they cover up systemic abuse… systems can be corrupted and then all that is left to be able to stay in power is yell in a way that is simply false piety.

What happened to that slave girl?

She was totally captive to a corrupt system, then had nothing to bring them profit. She was expendable.

The story through her eyes has left me deeply disturbed… and sitting in prayer.

We need to open our eyes to systemic injustice. | Open Educational ...

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