Backyard Abolitionism


N ear the end of the Not For Sale Campaign’s recent Backyard Abolitionist Tour event, a young woman approached the campaign’s founder, David Batstone, for post-graduation guidance. Not For Sale is a movement directed toward fighting human trafficking, and Batstone’s inspiring talk encouraged students to use whatever skills they have to combat slavery. The woman expressed her struggle to find a way to both do justice on a sociological level and spread the gospel. Batstone explained that he chose to live the gospel by fighting human trafficking.

Despite good intentions, the desire to do justice can be as much of a fetish as the seemingly more worldly desires for money, comfort, and success. Justice is glorious. But is it the glory of God we seek, or our own? On a campus laden with theories on what’s wrong with the world and swirling with causes meant to fix it, a passion for setting things right reflects a deep desire for meaning and direction, especially for privileged students.

But really, injustice is dirty, ugly, or even tediously boring, and addressing it doesn’t guarantee worldly glory. Doing justice is a matter of humility and surrender instead of personal grandeur because our sin is part of the very injustice we seek to dismantle.

Modern slavery is shocking. It reduces humans to their bodies, often as sex workers or house slaves, and the profit those bodies can produce. It is one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet. Among the 27 million slaves around the globe, most are women and children – trapped, voiceless, and powerless. There are thousands of slaves in the United States too. The Bay Area, in fact, is a major hub in the global trade of human beings.

How can we make change? Batstone proposed that each one of us can find ways to use our skills, interests, and mere membership in the global economy to fight human trafficking. As Batstone put it, trafficking is “a global problem that starts right here in Berkeley.”

As students and Christians, we are located in two of what Batstone calls society’s six main spheres of influence: the faith community and academia. We can use academic research to provide data necessary for real-world interventions.We can advocate for legislation that provides protection for slaves already trafficked into the U. S. Already, Not For Sale has had major successes in changing federal legislation.

Closer to home, we can change our consumption patterns to promote justice. We can buy products made by companies that pledge not to use slave labor and demand that companies promise to monitor their supply chains. With a few mouse clicks, at, we can identify which corporations offer freely-made products, and which don’t. Responsible consumerist practices proved revolutionary in “green” branding over the past few years, and Batstone contends that “freely-made” products can be the next revolution. Companies have already started changing their practices to meet consumer demands.

Being part of the movement may not be glorious; it may simply mean buying a different brand of chocolate. But fighting slavery is an immediate, real way to do justice in the world. It requires discernment, conscious decision-making, and even sacrifice. It is not our egos that are at stake in saving the world, but the lives and well-being of God’s children. And there is nothing more glorious in this world than status as a child of God.

Sites to visit:

  1. Not For Sale Campaign
  2. SlaveryMap
  3. Free2Work

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