“Older forms of indentured servanthood and the bond-service of biblical times had often been harsh, but Christian abolitionists concluded that race-based, life-long chattel slavery, established through kidnapping, could not be squared with biblical teaching either in the Old Testament or the New.”
― Timothy J. Keller,
“A small group of committed people can do great things.”
-Pat, my tour guide at the Freedom Center
Last time, I discussed how bad religion and theology justified the enslavement of humans. I’d like to discuss how a much more “true to God” theology helped spark the abolition movement. It is important to see the greatness that occurs when the Body of Christ understands God’s will.
Quakers, Methodists ( also Methodist Episcopal or AME), Presbyterians, and Baptists joined forces, some laid their lives on the line, and called slavery what it is. Slavery is sin. Repentance shall come in the form of freeing slaves. In the Methodist Church, in order to become a member you had to denounce slavery. John Wesley, one of the Methodists founders, denounced human bondage and wrote about it in Thoughts Upon Slavery. These Christians understood that all were created equal and wanted to free those enslaved once and for all.
Different groups involved different tactics. Some used violence and some were ministers of peace. All had one goal. “Let my people go.” Some even gave their lives for this. Eventually, chattel slavery would be made illegal, but not without much resistance. Slavery was a booming business after all, and not just for those in the south.
Let’s fast forward to 2017. We have the poor, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, people of different religions, and women that are being excluded from equality, liberty, and freedom of the pursuit of happiness. I believe those using theology and religion to justify exclusion and mistreatment of others have not yet reached a place or experience with God that would allow them to see all as worthy of grace. They’ve put God on a cloud in the sky smiting those who are different and blessing those that have the same qualities. Some have even turned God into this transactional character, instead of the Being that gives grace freely. I catch myself doing this at times. “There’s no way I’ll be seeing such and such in the Kingdom,” I find myself saying. The truth of it is, how would I know?
When we enslave others with our chains of hate, exclusion, or judgement we are no better than the slave traders and masters. As Jesus was pointing to in the Sermon on the Mount, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. We are to not even have hate for our enemy. For me, that includes those hurting one another with exclusive and hateful beliefs.
We chain ourselves, as well, with thinking we are always right and everyone else is wrong, less than us, or just plain bad. We aren’t in the Flow of loving, living and learning with one another. We aren’t fully in the Dance with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How sad is it that we chain ourselves to the ground, never allowing growth or restricting much-needed love in our lives? As I work on this for myself, I encourage everyone to practice agape love and free grace and mercy. You never know, you might free someone.
In closing the series I’d like to explain why I went to the Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia brought in me a rage I’ve not felt in a very long time. I watched it all unfold from the comfort of my couch. I watched a black man, DeAndre Harris, get savagely beaten by 6 white supremacists, not that far from the police station. I watched as men beat on women and many other atrocities against God’s beloveds. I saw young clean-cut boys carry tiki torches screaming anti-semantic phrases. I watched the KKK replace their hoods with red MAGA hats. I watched as a terrorist ran their car into a group of protesters, killing one beautiful soul. Her name was Heather Heyer. I watched people I thought I knew praise these people committing these horrible acts of violence and hate. I also watched someone tweet out, “If you’ve wondered what you would’ve done during slavery, the Holocaust, or Civil Rights Movement…you’re doing it now. #Charlottesville”. So, I took my concerns to my church, and planned a trip to the Freedom Center to get conversation going. It’s something I am still very much invested in and the Holy Spirit is guiding me every step of the way. I hope you notice what the Burning Bush is telling you to do and act upon it. Whatever it may be. Grace be to you.