Christian Values vs. Racial Slavery

This week I read the primary sources from Sernett first. Accompanied by Raboteau’s historical explanation of slave conversion, I was attracted to the different interpretations of Christianity and the various accounts depicting how Christianity was manipulated into a tool to ultimately justify (American) racial slavery. The fearful, and careful, conversion of slaves to Christianity, as taught, and permitted, by their masters, did not support the Gospel teachings which encouraged the idea of slaves’ eventual emancipation, or the existence of racial equality.

Raboteau’s citing of historian Jordan Winthrop in “Catechesis and Conversion” grabbed my attention as an anchor quote I ended using to guide my reading and thoughts; “These clergy men had been forced by the circumstance of racial slavery in America into propagating the Gospel by presenting it as an attractive device for slave control” (103). [1]

This reading gave me new insight to the change over time of religious messages used by clergy/missionaries in their attempts to convert slaves. Their teachings initially promoted a strict adherence to upholding all “true” Christian values; the most important being that all people are equal in the eyes of God, no matter their race – so long as they’re a baptized Christian. These convictions proved powerless to America’s nineteenth century economic entrenchment of racial slavery, and brought with it, for me, a “bigger picture” realization, specifically in regards to the biblical interpretations presented in Sernett by the religious men of color. The primary sources for this week were helpful for me in understanding the numerous  possibilities that lead to individual interpretations of the Bible.

[1] In reference to “true” Christian values, the immediate ideals that come to my mind, revolve around the age old notions such as “All Equal in God’s Eyes,” “The Golden Rule,” “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself,” all-in-all, just be a good, caring person to EVERYONE that you meet.

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