Pull Question: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick DouglassPull Questions — By J.F. Arnold on January 11, 2013 at 7:00 am
How do real religion and God play into slavery?
In the preface, WM. Lloyd Garrison says that any “country in the hands of a righteous God, who is ever on the side of the oppressed, and whose arm is not shortened that it cannot save” is a country that must abhor slavery. Any heart that disagrees with this must be a “flinty heart, and be qualified to act the part of a trafficker ‘in slaves and souls of men.’” God is clearly involved in the affairs of nations. But when God is involved, slavery should cease, by this line of thinking. What did this actually mean in times of slavery? Is God not involved?
Frederick Douglass offers some unique views on the effects of religion on something as oppressive and evil as slavery. Douglass points out (painfully to those of us that are religious) that religious slaveholders are far, far worse than non-religious ones. Religious slaveholders routinely use the Bible as a means of justifying their evils. What seems most interesting to me is that Frederick Douglass does not seem to dislike Christianity. The primary reason for this is his peculiar understanding that there is a difference between what Christ taught and how Christianity was applied in southern American at the time. Douglass arrived at these conclusions without having access to a copy of the Bible, in part or in whole.
The difference between what Frederick Douglas saw and what he knew is the primary difference between False Religion and Real Religion. Frederick Douglass gives us a clear and brutal picture of what false religion and a misunderstanding of God does to something as evil as slavery: it escalates the evil of slavery to heights nearly unfathomable. How then can we discern how real religion and God play into slavery?
For starters, it seems that God had a significant impact on Frederick Douglass himself. In his own words, “To be the friend of one [of the two forms of Christianity], is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.” Throughout this passage, Douglass explains that the “Christianity of Christ” is the Real Religion, and is a good thing by its very nature. This “Christianity of Christ” does not seem to play into the slavery of the south, except insofar as it plays into the emancipation of the slaves. Every person we see who adheres to the Christianity of Christ is at the very least suspected of being involved with encouraging slaveholders to emancipate.
In short: how do real religion and God play into slavery? In emancipation.