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Carney ENGL 227 Project- The Hypocrisy of Christianity in Slavery

Karen Carney

Texas A&M University

In my project, I will be discussing the hypocrisy of Christianity in slavery. Slavery within itself is not a very "Christian" thing to do of a "Christian" people in a "Christian" country. Throughout my project, I will discuss how slaveowners used and manipulated the bible to their advantage, misinterpretated biblical passages and used the bible to justify actions and behaviors of slaveowners. And overall, I will point out how the actions of slaveowners are hypocritical to Christian beliefs and core values and basis of Christianity and how believing that slavery is right is also a hypocritical belief of those who claim to be Christians.

Religion, Race, Literature, and Eighteenth-Century America
Religion, Race, Literature, and Eighteenth-Century America

This text discusses that there is a persistent pattern of racisim in Christianity. And that at this time of slavery in America, Christianity perceived to be a religion based on exclusion rather than inclusion, and developed an ideaological prejudice against outsiders; African-Americans and slaves being the outsiders. This also led to a hatred of the "outsiders" or slaves and African-Americans. This text also points out how slaveowners hated the idea of slaves learning to read or being preached too. They did not want slaves to read the bible or be preached to about the bible, in fear that then the slaves would discover the truth of Christianity and in turn realize the hypocrisy of the slaveowners. Within this text, it states that "the record through the 18th century is one of brutal represion and deliberate misreading of biblical passages as sanctioning racism." Therefore, as I have stated before, slaveowners deliberately misread and misinterpreted biblical passages in order to justify their actions and the existence of slavery.

Christian Violence and the Slave Narrative
Christian Violence and the Slave Narrative

This text discusses a "striking paradox in the portrayal of slave-narrative violence and its frequent association with Christianity." In the slave-narratives of Douglass and Equiano, and Harriet Jacobs, there is a constant in each and that is the violence each witnessed or was succumbed to by that of a Christian master. Within each narrative, the slaves' masters would go to be converted into the Christian religion, and each slave assumed that once their master was converted, they would be nicer and more kind, however, they all came to the conclusion that a religious master was the worst kind of master of all. Each narrative seems to demonstrate "how their devout Christian master used the theological concepts of original sin, blood sacrifice, and spiritual atonement to rationalize the moral contradictions and brutality that attended the practice of Christian slavery." This, once again, ties back to my statement about how Christian slaveowners were manipulating the bible by deliberately mistinterpreting biblical passages in order to use the bible to their advantage and justify their violent acts and existence of slavery.

This text also discusses how Christian slaveowners used a misinterpretation of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ to establish a "religious duality that liberates humanity from an enslavement to the creator caused by original sin." This original sin was supposedly "being born black". Therefore, the slaveowners justified the beatings and violence because they were "beating the sin" out of the slaves.

"Eye-Witness to the Cruelty": Southern Violence and Northern Testimony in Frederick Douglass`s 1845 Narrative

This text discusses Frederick Douglass's own eye-witness accounts of the violence, brutality and cruelty of slavery: "Aunt Hester’s whipping by Colonel Lloyd, the slave Demby’s shooting by Mr. Gore, and Frederick Bailey’s own beating by white shipyard workers." The reason I attached the image of the scarred back of a slave is because this text states that "Douglass’s Narrative marshals the visual power of the injured black body to convey the brutality of the South’s peculiar institution."
This violence shows in full the hypocrisy of Christianty within slavery. The men and women commiting such acts of violence also call themselves Christians; hypocrites is what they are!

Frederick Douglass

To continue on this discussion of Frederick Douglass, I posted this image because Frederick Douglass's "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave," relates to my topic on the behalf that so much of his narrative depicts the hypocrisy of slavery. Within the appendix of this narrative, Douglass declares that "for between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference- so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked." Within this statement right here, is a clear revelation that there is hypocrisy within the Christianity of slaveowners, because their interpretation of Christianity is so far from the truth of the Christianity of Christ. The lives they lead are so separate from the lives that Christians are supposed to lead that slaveowners should not even be called Christians! There is so much proof of the hypocrisy of Christianity within the instution of salvery in Douglass's narrative.

David Walker's Appeal

This is the image of David Walker's Appeal, which also contributes to my argument. Walker, like Douglass, also made the hypocrisy of Christianity in slavery a very valid point in his " the Coloured Citizens of the World".  He goes so far as to claim "those heathen nations of antiquity, had but little more among them than the name and form of slavery, while wretchedness and endless miseries were reserved, apparently in a phial, to be poured out upon our fathers, ourselves, and our children by Christian Americans!" How ironic that slavery is worse in a Christian nation then it is in a heathen nation. That can only be because those who considered themselves Christian Americans were hypocritical and not truly Christians! He continues to call Christians out on their hypocrisy by stating that those who are acquainted with history, particularly the Bible should know that "God made man to serve Him alone, and that man should have no other Lord or Lords but Himself- that God Almighty is the sole proprietor or master of the WHOLE human family!" Therefore, slaveowners claiming to be Christian, should be denouncing slavery in it's entirety! But since they clearly did not, they are hypocrites!

The Holy Bible

Before I conclude, I would like to discuss my own beliefs and the core values of Christianity, in order to help my argument, by clearing up why such acts of slaveowners and simply why the existence of slavery is a hypocritical institution practiced among Christians. The two greatest commandments of the Bible are to love God and to love your neighbor. The violence and cruelty within slavery is no act of love, the Bible condemns such brutality. We are supposed to love one another as Christians, help one another, tend and care for one another, no matter how different we are from each other because we are all children of God, no matter what  color our skin is. And also like Walker stated, we are not to serve anyone other than the Lord, Himself. The Bible also states that salvation is open to all through redemption. It is not up to us as Christians to choose who can or cannot be Christian, but we should be encouraging the religion, and spreading the Word! This is so opposite of what slaveowners did! There is so much hypocrisy among Christian slaveowners, they acted as though they were God themselves, having the slaves serve them and determining the slaves destiny, but that is up to God to decide and no one else! The entire existence of slavery is wrong within the religion of Christianity.

In conclusion, these texts and images have helped me to argue that within the existence of slavery there was hypocrisy of Christianity. Christians Americans were slaveowners and that within itself is hypocritical of the basis of the Christian faith. There is inconsistency with the institution of slavery and the beliefs of Christianity. It's as simple as the fact that those who claimed to be Christian, if they truly believed and knew what the faith stands for, then they should have opposed slavery all together. However, we have learned otherwise through these texts and images, because together they have shown how Christian men and women acted inconsistently with their Christian beliefs by "reducing fellow children of God to the wretched state of slavery." Thus, creating such men and women to be hypocrites.