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Exodus And The Ethics Of Labor

1560 words - 6 pages

Oppression is something that has been repeated throughout history all over the world. Whether it was the oppression of Black Americans during the Jim Crow period or the oppression of Jews in Nazi Germany during World War II, oppression is an unethical act that humanity has not yet moved past. Looking to the Bible as a source of Christian ethics in terms of how to fight oppression and promote equality brings to attention how God intended His people to be treated, especially the poor and the helpless. The book of Exodus is a primary guide for what the ethics of labor ought to be in the work force to avoid oppression. One might reference the story of the Israelites in the book of Exodus. The Israelites are under the thumb of the Pharaoh and the Egyptians that force them into slave labor. The grueling and overly strenuous labor conditions in which the Israelites are put under is comparable to the labor conditions that the employees of slaughterhouses are forced to endure today, as illustrated by Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. By comparing these two labor conditions, the reader is able to apply the Biblical ethics found in Exodus to modern times.
“Knocker, Sticker, Shackler, Rumper, First Legger, Knuckle Dropper,” these are just a few of the positions the workers at a slaughterhouse get assigned to. Simply reading the names of the above job positions induces a sense of nausea and hints at the inherent brutality that these positions demand (Schlosser, 172). Because the weight and size of cows is unpredictable, most of the labor in the slaughterhouse must be done by hand. On the kill floor of a slaughterhouse, workers are forced to slice cattle into halves with a power saw “as though they were two-by-fours,” (Schlosser, 170). Workers also use their own knives to do this gruesome job. They sharpen the knives themselves after their eight-hour shifts to absolve the knife from becoming too dull, which would cause the job to be much more strenuous and would slow down production. Workers make a knife cut every two or three seconds, totaling to about 10,000 cuts in an eight hour shift (Schlosser, 173). This is considered to be one of the better jobs at the slaughterhouse, especially compared to the workers who must reach inside the cattle and pull out their kidneys with their bare hands. Or the workers who wade around in knee-high blood and guts to drag the unconscious cattle to the production line. These unethical working conditions can be easily compared to the working conditions that the Israelites endured in Exodus. In Exodus 1:13, it states that the Egyptians “became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labour.” From this passage the reader can infer that the Israelites were forced to endure hours upon hours of harsh physical labor, building supply cities for the Pharaoh under the hot Egyptian sun. The Israelites were even forced to drag and...

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