In this theme, Fredrick Douglass contrasts the both forms of Christianity to show the underlying hypocrisy in slavery. The results show that slavery is not religious as it exposes the evils in human bondage. These ideals however can be distorted so as to fit in the society.
Slavery, a word described as the state of one bound in servitude as the property of a household. This description, along with sadness and disbelief gets brought into peoples’ minds as the chilling sensation of the explanations begins to be sought out. The New Testament brings us many different views on how we percept our personal beliefs upon Slavery, and different problems arising as aspects on this topic are perceived by Paul the Apostle in Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
The violence slaves endured was the most vivid representation in Douglass’ portrayal of slavery in the South. No emotion or rage was held back by slaveholders and no pity or sympathy was put forth either. Cruelty and abuse were the only means of control the slaveholders believed would keep order. The pain inflicted upon these individuals, even to the point of death in some cases, fueled the typical master’s obsession with domination and power. However, throughout Douglass’s turmoil, his religious faith remained exceptionally strong. At times he found himself questioning how might his God allow him to endure such grueling circumstances, but he never let his curiosity hinder his faith. He also questioned how a man could call himself a Christian and yet treat another human being in such a humane manner. Douglass could never comprehend how the slaveholders were able to justify slavery through their faith and church as some of his “owners” did.
Any knowledgeable man of the bible realizes that it does indeed refer to slavery and the justification of it numerous times. Jacobs writes that the “[plantation owners] seem to satisfy their consciences with the doctrine that God created the Africans to be slaves” (44). She continues by quoting the Bible, stating “What a libel upon the heavenly Father, who ‘made of one blood all nations of men!’” (44). This statement says that all men are equal, although other verses directly contest it.
In many occassions people have used the Bible as a support for slavery. Slavery refers to individuals that are owned by others, whom have full control of their excistance. As time passed by, slavery developed and was the cause of many conflicts. In the movie "Twelve Years of Slave" we can see how slavery builds the inferno everyone burns. In an analysis of the movie for Commmonweal magazine, Richard Alleva said," To suggest that slave owners suffered as much as slaves would be obscene." In the other hand, Frederick Douglass wrote, "Slavery proved as injurious to her as it did to me." Douglass knows what it is to be a slave, and that is the reason why his statement can never be wrong. In his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, he proves that there is nothing inferior about slaves, and that is why slavery is just an injustice for the world since it ruins its people. He knows the damage is for both, slaves and slave owners.
Fredrick Douglass and Henry Melville both critique Christianity as it was practiced in 19th-century America. Douglass illuminates the aspect of Christianity in relation to the way Christians also uphold the institution of slavery. He views it has ironic that those who claim the Christian faith also believe that there is nothing wrong in the practice of slavery. Douglass questions how one can be a true Christian and still not see that slavery in morally and religiously wrong. He ultimately critiques the way people practice the faith and still uphold slavery. Douglass goes as far to say that the slave master’s even become crueler when they find religion, because then they feel as if they can do no wrong. As Douglass states in relation to slavery and religion, “Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other – devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.”
Since before the time of Jesus Christ, religious hypocrisy has run rampant throughout those who held power. Countless lives have been affected by others twisting religious interpretation in order to fit their own needs. Slaveholders used religion and scripture to their advantage when disciplining slaves, sometimes even if they did no wrong. Religious hypocrisy is especially relevant in the life of Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass’s life story depicts how religious hypocrisy committed by both slaves and slaveholders diminished the rights of slaves, while at the same time allowing injustice to endure.
Therefore, he appears quite compelling when he attempts to bring out the connection between religion and slavery. Looking at what Douglass went through as a slave, it is unfortunate that his act of reading the Bible was considered a violation of the law. At one point, Douglass narrated that his master’s wife offered Douglass with help to read and write. However, due to “advice” given by her husband and the connection between the Bible and slavery, Douglass’s master’s wife turned against him and was now cruel and bitter towards him.
Society’s systematic dehumanization of slaves claims that their lives are not their own, but rather belong to their oppressors. For instance, Jacobs’s cousin Benjamin decides to escape from his masters who equate him and his people to “dogs, […] foot-balls, cattle, [and] everything that [is] mean” and taunts them by saying, “Let them bring me back. We don’t die but once” (27). By metaphorically comparing slaves to dogs and pieces of property, he reveals how little slave owners care about their charges. Rather than remaining under the control of such oppression, Benjamin decides to live and die on his own terms at the risk of capture and punishment, because
During the final years of legal slave ownership in the United States, the slave narrative became a popular way for literate enslaved people to express their anti-slavery stance through their own testimony. Two of the most influential writers on the slave narrative topic were the autobiographical authors Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs. Since Douglas and Jacobs were both born in a similar time period, there are many similarities found in their works. Douglass’s Narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave is closely comparable to Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl when analyzing how they represented their enslavement in their autobiographies. The two authors have similar ideas when portraying their struggles with forced ignorance. Their writing also contains parallels with the corrupting power of slavery for the slave owners, as well as the parallels in pointing out the hypocrisies of using the bible to defend slavery. These similarities can be explained in part due to Douglass and Jacobs following the same basic slave narrative outline to maintain the shared goal of abolishing slavery in the United States.
In “Domestic Slavery,” Francis Wayland makes the case for the theological prohibition, and so general abolition, of racial slavery. His particular thesis is most apparent in his conclusion, where he claims that “the Christian religion not only forbids slavery, but that it also provides the only method in which, after it has been established, it may be abolished, and that with the entire safety and benefit to both parties” (197). Wayland’s argument therefore has two burdens: first, to show how Christianity establishes a prohibition against slavery; and second, to show how Christianity provides the peaceful means of abolishing the already existing and entrenched system of racial slavery. The innovation of Wayland’s argument is how the first claim is linked to the second.
The brutality that slaves endured form their masters and from the institution of slavery caused slaves to be denied their god given rights. In the "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," Douglass has the ability to show the psychological battle between the white slave holders and their black slaves, which is shown by Douglass' own intellectual struggles against his white slave holders. I will focus my attention on how education allowed Douglass to understand how slavery was wrong, and how the Americans saw the blacks as not equal, and only suitable for slave work. I will also contrast how Douglass' view was very similar to that of the women in antebellum America, and the role that Christianity played in his life as a slave and then
Through out the entire time period of slavery, religion remained a high priority and a way in which to label different social groups. The lack or complete non-existence of religion among Africans led to them being viewed as somewhat inferior. Later in the second chapter Jordan talks about how during the slave era religion distinguished whites from blacks. Also how classification changed once Africans began to enter the Christian church. He himself viewed this type of labeling somewhat ridiculous, in that many of the Africans were baptized before the came to the New World. Thus they in many circles would be identified as Christians. This important information helps show the reader how the justifications for slavery evolved. Jordan captures the utter and blatant hypocrisy that the colonies exuded with regards to the slave situation. Jordan also sees religious injustice within the treatment of Indians and Africans. The English made attempts to convert the Indians and had little desire or intention to do the same for Africans. This again shows to what lengths early Americans went in creating a subculture for the purpose of slavery.
By the middle of the 1700’s, a significant organization took place. From New England to Georgia, different groups of Baptists began to form churches. They had only one doctrinal requirement that united them, i.e., the believer’s baptism by full immersion in water; also, Baptists then had different theological doctrinal beliefs. Notwithstanding, in the 1700’s, Baptist leaders sought to unify and homogenize the Baptist theology; they founded colleges and formed associations. However, the cause of “religious liberty,” was also a unanimous and significant characteristic that united the majority of Baptists. Their participation within their communities distinguished from other denominations. The Baptists were not contending for tolerance but for absolute “religious liberty.” Theirs demand was not for their right only but for the right of all dissenters and non-conformists as well. Some historians affirm that religious liberty in America was accomplished due to the diligence of the American Baptist, which now is proven to be the greatest contribution to American science and statecraft.”11
“Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man”. Two men may follow the same religion but their beliefs and values will differentiate them from being a relentless man or a compassionate man. Although a man’s religious principles may follow what they believe their God wants, it doesn’t justify any crimes or villainous acts. In Thomas Paine’s essay African Slavery in America, he builds several strong arguments in order to convey the message that slavery is unjust and to persuade the Americans that we should not continue the horrid practice. Paine uses his knowledge of religion, humanity and law to strengthen his claim that slavery is immoral.