Friday, January 20, 2017
Did Christianity create slavery?
Did Christianity create slavery? No.
Might it have been used to condone slavery in the American south? No doubt.
How are we to think about it?
1) Slavery was universal in the ancient world and not racially based. Typically slaves were the spoils of war. The first nations in the world to outlaw slavery were Christian nations including Catholic Spain as the movement gathered steam through the Catholic middle ages. Much of the slavery of Africans was by Africans who sold conquered members of other African tribes to Moslem slave traders who then sold them into the international slave trade. Moslem nations were among the very last to abolish slavery. That Christian nations participated in that slave trade was more the evidence to the power of sin rather than to the triumph of Christianity. And it was Christian nations that abolished the slave trade.
2) Britain used its power and influence to eliminate the slave trade worldwide in the first half of the nineteenth century led by Christian principles rather than political or economic interests (British slavers made as much money as other slavers and they were opposed to the reforms that threatened their profits.)
3) Presentations of Christianity as the ideology used to hold slaves down strike me as propaganda. If Christianity was used by some in the south, consciously or unconsciously, to subject Black slaves, it also pricked the consciences of others to treat slaves as children of God. The reason we in the West believe "that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" is because Christianity taught us in the west that we are made in the image and likeness of God and what we do to the least of our brethren, we do to Me (Christ.) Christianity converted both the barbarians and the cultured Greeks and Romans, neither of whom believe in such an idea, through stories, by the courageous evangelization by monks and priests, and by martyrs. Belief in such a counter-intuitive view was only spread to Black Africa with the spread of Christianity where it is now the fastest growing region of the Christian faith in the world and is producing new martyrs every day.
4) Christian churches have done much to build Black communities and support the Back family. The government and the ideologues have done much to destroy the Black family finishing the job slavery started. Rebel against them not the Church.
5) The temptation is to blame something outside us not ourselves. I know this from my own shameful experience. That is sin talking not the Holy Spirit. The easy way out is blaming the Other rather than rallying yourself and pulling yourself up by your efforts and your friends' help. That is the culture talking whether Trump to the Hillbillies or the ideologues to Blacks. They are not our friends. They make money by shilling sin to our weakness.
6) I just got finished reading (actually listening to) J.D. Vance's book Hillbilly Elegy. Read it. It is not just the Black family the culture is destroying. I come from neither a Black nor a hillbilly family and yet I found much to identify with and shed more than one tear. Don't give in to the easy path that the culture portrays, the excuses it gives you or the enemies it lets you wallow in. Rather take charge of yourself and triumph!