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The Moravian Slave Myth

August 29th, 2017

God Doesn’t Need our Lies

I decided to interrupt this morning’s prayers to write.

Today I supplemented my prayers with some Youtube videos. I looked for Fred Stone, a preacher I admire. Here is a video I watched. His testimony is remarkable, and because he preached for about 60 years and never made much money doing it, it’s credible.

When I searched for Fred Stone, I came across a video featuring audio of preachers talking about the selfishness of modern Christianity and the need for repentance and confession. The video was great, but one of the preachers told a story that caused me to pause and Google. He repeated the Moravian slave myth.

Here is how the story goes. Two young “Moravians” (actually members of a sect that had “Moravian” in the name) heard of a Caribbean island owned by a man who would not permit preachers to talk to his slaves. They decided to sell themselves into slavery and go to the island to preach. When they left their families in Europe, they knew they would never see them again.

Problem: it didn’t happen. It sounded fishy to me, so I checked it out. I knew white men could not sell themselves into slavery.

Here is what really happened. Two men named Dober and Nitschmann offered to sell themselves into slavery so they could work as slaves on St. Thomas and preach the gospel. Because they were white, they couldn’t become slaves. Instead, they traveled as free men. Dober worked as a carpenter, and Nitschmann helped him. Nitschmann left for Europe in a few weeks, and Dober left after less than two years. They did preach, but they didn’t give their lives away in order to do it.

Stories like this are harmful, because people hear them and think they can never serve God. I can’t imagine selling myself into slavery and moving to a bug-infested tropical island where I would be beaten and forced to labor in the sun all day, every day, until I died. If I thought I had to do a thing like that in order to please God, I would be very disturbed, because I know I’m not strong enough to do it. It would discourage me. God gave me a phrase earlier this year: “We discourage people.” It’s true. We try to bury people under burdens God never intended them to carry.

Jesus said his yoke was easy and his burden was light. I assume he told the truth.

As far as we know, Jesus only had one bad day in his entire life. We never read that he was sick, that he was beaten for preaching, that he starved, or that he had to beg. We never read that he had to work as a slave or even an oppressed employee. To me, that suggests that the more aligned you are with the Holy Spirit, the more smoothly your life will go. This has been my experience. I will be rejected, and I may be murdered some day, but I don’t expect to live in pain and frustration as a general rule.

The Bible is full of promises God has made to the obedient, and most of the promises are about his help with life on earth, not in heaven. I’m sure God will deliver you from slavery if you’re a slave when you give your heart to him. I think it would be very unusual for him to tell a person to give up an ordinary life, which is hard enough as it is, and submit to things like forced labor, beatings, incarceration, castration, complete poverty, and separation from loved ones.

We don’t have to pay for heaven. It’s not a vacation you pay for in advance. It’s a gift. God doesn’t say, “Well, Bob sold himself into slavery and died toothless and alone at the age of 76, on a tropical plantation, shivering with malaria, so now I owe him eternity in heaven.” Someone else paid for heaven. We’re supposed to obey and make certain sacrifices, but we don’t trade earthly agony for heavenly bliss. The Bible says sin, not righteousness, has wages. We earn hell. Heaven is provided free of charge. If it wasn’t, the crucifixion would have been pointless. What was Jesus paying for? His own salvation? How would that help us?

Jesus was already saved when he was crucified. He had nothing to pay for, so if he wasn’t paying our bills, what was he doing?

Why would God make serving him so hard, no one would have the strength to try?

I heard something else when I watched the video. A preacher said he went to Africa to teach about salvation and end earthly suffering, but when he arrived, he found that the people already knew about Jesus but wanted no part of him. They loved sin. Isn’t that something? You create a mission for yourself, you sacrifice everything for it, and then you find out it’s a waste of time, because God didn’t tell you to do it.

Didn’t Jesus tell the disciples where to cast their nets? Has he stopped doing that? Has he decided he wants us to fail?

As you get older, if you have any brains, you will find that most people can’t be helped. They choose not to be helped. You can give them assistance, money, and things, but they will squander them and end up worse off than when you showed up, and even then, they will refuse to change. This is not something to marvel at. It’s completely normal. It’s the way the world works. People who can be blessed are in the minority. The world is not like a store full of shiny new things that are full of potential. It’s like a landfill with a few salvageable items in it.

The world is like a filthy, stinking dumpster full of excrement and rotten meat, and we are like cockroaches that live on the outside of it. Hell is inside the earth, and its stink permeates the surface. The earth is really an extension of hell. It’s like the front porch. God has been overwhelmingly rejected, many times, and Satan is, as Jesus said, the god of this world. The earth is very, very far from God. It’s not the focus of his universe, as people tend to believe. It’s like Africa; a distant, lost, screwed-up country God visits as a banned missionary. Human beings are not God’s children, until they choose to become such. By default, we are really just stubborn monkeys on our way to hell, and God manages to turn a few of us into successful projects.

You have to be very careful with charity. You have to ask God whom you should help, because the world is packed with people who will turn you into an enabler and neutralize your very existence. The things you do for them will be nearly worthless, and you will be kept from doing things that are profitable.

I don’t want to get distracted and forget the valuable things I heard in the video. I was reminded how filthy I am. I have nothing I can hold up to God for praise. I have done so many disgusting things, I have no hope of justifying myself. I have hurt a lot of people. I have failed to help people I could have helped. I have been extremely disrespectful and ungrateful to the one who allowed himself to be tortured to death for me. Change requires an end to denial. If I want to continue to grow, I have to admit what I am when I talk to God.

I don’t want to be a Joel Osteen Christian. The burden is light, and the yoke is easy, but God didn’t endure murder in order to make my life a resort stay. I’m supposed to be close to him, and I’m supposed to welcome his criticism and instruction.

Time to finish praying. Hope I have not bored you.

3 Responses to “The Moravian Slave Myth”

  1. Heather P Says:

    Awesome post!

  2. Steve B Says:

    This is great stuff. It makes me think of relationships, too. We “stray” when we allow ourselves into situations where there is a risk that we will allow ourselves to fall in love. That’s the part of our marriage vow, “forsaking all others.” It’s not that it’s impossible for us to love someone/thing else, but we make a conscious choice to make sure it doesn’t happen. We don’t enter that environment, and if we sense it starting to happen, we stop, walk away, and confess it. And work that much harder on making our marriage/relationship strong and healthy so we won’t even be tempted next time.

  3. Mike Says:

    Thank you!