“How can Christians justify slavery?” That’s a question I’ve always asked myself and others since learning these slave masters and traders were of the Christian faith. I got the answer during my tour at the Freedom Center…… White Jesus.
In very early Christianity there were paintings of Jesus as a bearded, curly-haired white man. Basically, making Jesus the image bearer of man. This has even been done to God, as well. In patriarchal theology, God has become a Santa-like figure, sitting on a cloud passing out gifts or blessings to people of similar lifestyles and coal and tragedies to all those that are different, in any way. So through centuries of believing God and Jesus are made up of white skin slavery was justified by misusing one of the most cherished messages in Scripture.
“So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them”
Genesis 1:27 ( NLT )
Here is where bad religion and theology enter. These people saw the Africans and classed them as sub-human. After all, how can you say you follow Christ and enslave, torture, starve, and kidnap millions of other humans? How else could you justify putting a chain on a 12-year-old child and hold him in a slave pen until he was purchased? It was made possible because of some seriously bad theology. If we’re made in the image of God, and Jesus was white, then of course the slaves weren’t human. They were items to create an immense amount of money. I guess they didn’t read the Scripture about the rich man and the eye of a needle.
This narrow and ill-considered way of seeing God and His dearly beloved still happens today. In white supremacy, we have what they call “God’s chosen race”. White, or my favorite term “European American”, ‘Christians’ here in America are the superior race and America needs cleansed of all the dirty “others”. This bad religion has justified the way America treats non-white immigrants, especially in the most recent debates on immigration.
This theology has done harm to the LGBTQ community all over the world, as well. They can’t possibly be an image bearer. They don’t resemble that straight male god on the clouds above. So, in turn, they’ve become one of the biggest enemies to extreme conservative religious zealots. You see, in slavery, it was a he/she/it factor that justified the atrocities committed towards the African people. In sexual orientation and gender identity it has become us/them.
In my experiences with the our Creator, I just cannot accept this. This dualistic thinking minimizes the true and infinite size of the Creator of the whole and ever-expanding universe. We can’t make Him in our image and expect anything less than pain and suffering on a deep, internal level.
God is Love
If I find this to be true, then I have to believe that God has no gender, sexual preference, race, or religion. He just is. He is the great I AM. Period. Hard stop. If the entire Being is Love, then that’s what it means to me to be an image bearer. If I am not doing something with true unfiltered love, then I am not doing a very good job at being an image bearer, am I ?
So, let’s stop all this nonsense of who’s in or out, who’s superior or inferior, who’s good or bad. Slavery is one of the ultimate examples of how bad religion and theology can destroy God’s beloveds. Let’s find God in each other and love so radically that others see God in us!