Friday, September 29, 2017


(First published 2/27/09. Some links were updated and a few typos corrected.)

February 12th marked the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. While most Americans are proud to have such a figure as their own, and many across the world wish to produce statesmen of his caliber, Lincoln does have his detractors. These detractors include some of my fellow conservatives and some of my fellow conservative Christians. The next post will deal with the nature of their negative view towards Lincoln. In the meantime, I have tried to highlight Lincoln's greatness by providing eyewitness testimony to the evil that American slavery was and which Lincoln and the Northern army overthrew. We have been hearing from Frederick Douglass, who wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, a chronicle of his life as a slave before he escaped. The last excerpt detailed his experiences being under the control of a master who professed to follow Christ. In this excerpt, he contrasts true Christianity with the false Christianity many slave masters professed and practiced:

"I find, since reading the foregoing Narrative that I have, in several instances, spoken in such a tone and manner, respecting religion, as may possibly lead those unacquainted with my religious views to suppose me an opponent of all religion. To remove the liability of such misapprehension, I deem it proper to append the following brief explanation. What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slave holding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; 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 be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slave holding, woman-whipping, cradle plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of 'stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.' I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies , which everywhere surround me. We have man stealer's as ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cow skin during the week fills the pulpit Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as class leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He who claims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of God who made me. He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution. The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same who scatters whole families, --sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brother,--leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate. We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls!...The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other--devils dressed in angel's robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise...

"Such is, very briefly, my view of the religion of this land; and to avoid any misunderstanding, growing out of the use of general terms, I mean, by the religion of this land, this is revealed in the words, deeds, and actions, of those bodies, north and south, calling themselves Christian churches, yet in union with slaveholders. It is against religion, as presented by these bodies, that I have felt it my duty to testify."

Frederick Douglass was not the only former slave to contrast the religion of America that sanctioned slavery with the true Gospel. Another one to do so was Linda Brent. Linda Brent hid herself from her master and the law for years before she escaped to the North. She wrote of her experiences in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Her real name was Harriet Jacobs, but because she escaped in the 1850's, the "Fugitive Slave Act" made it a crime for a Northerner to give aid and shelter to escaped slaves, she had to write under a pseudonym. Like Douglass, Brent was able to distinguish the true Gospel from what her masters proclaimed. Here is a portion of her observations contrasting the two:

"There are thousands, who...for the water of life, but the law forbids it, and the churches withhold it. They send the Bible to the heathen abroad, and neglect the heathen at home. I am glad that the missionaries go out to the dark corners of the earth; but I ask them not to overlook the dark corners of home. Talk to American slaveholders, as you talk to savages in Africa. Tell them it was wrong to traffic in men. Tell them it is sinful to sell their own children, and atrocious to violate their own daughters. Tell them that all men are brethren, and that man has no right to shut out the light of knowledge from his brother. Tell them they are answerable to God for sealing up the Fountain of Life from souls that are thirsting for it.

"There are men who would gladly undertake such missionary work as this; but, alas! their number is small. They are hated by the south, and would be driven from its soil, or dragged to prison to die, as others have been before them. The field is ripe for the harvest, and awaits the reapers...

"Are doctors of divinity blind, or are they hypocrites? I suppose some are the one, and some the other; but I think if they felt the interest in the poor and the lowly, that they ought to feel, they would not be so easily blinded. A clergyman who goes to the south, for the first time, has usually some feeling, however vague, that slavery is wrong. The slaveholder suspects this, and plays his game accordingly. He makes himself as agreeable as possible; talks on theology, and other kindred topics. The reverend gentleman is asked to invoke a blessing on a table loaded with luxuries. After dinner he walks around the premises, and sees the beautiful groves and flowering vines, and the comfortable huts of favored household slaves. The southerner invites him to talk with those slaves. He asks them if they want to be free, and they say, 'O, no massa.' This is sufficient to satisfy him. He comes home to publish a 'South Side View of Slavery,' and to complain of the exaggerations of abolitionists. He assures people that he has been to the south, and seen slavery for himself; that it is a beautiful 'patriarchal institution;' that the slaves don't want their freedom; that they have hallelujah meetings, and other religious privileges.

"What does he know of the half-starved wretches toiling from dawn till dark on the plantation? of mothers shrieking for their children, torn from their arms by slave traders? of young girls dragged down into moral filth? of pools of blood around the whipping post? of hounds trained to tear human flesh? of men screwed into cotton gins to die? The slaveholder showed him none of these things, and the slaves dared not tell of them if he had asked them.

"There is a great difference between Christianity and the religion of the south. If a man goes to the communion table, and pays money into the treasury of the church, no matter if it be the price of blood, he is called religious. If a pastor has offspring by a woman not his wife, the church dismisses him, if she is a white woman; but if she is colored, it does not hinder his continuing to be their good shepherd."

This closes our examination of the personal testimony of former slaves regarding their own experiences and their contrast of true Christianity with what passed for it , North and South. Again, this examination was necessary because there are Christians who have a benign view of slavery because of the current status of the South as the Bible belt. This misapprehension causes them to view Lincoln in a negative light. In the next post, I will examine the case against Lincoln as advocated by some conservatives and some conservative Christians.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


(This Post originally appeared on 2/20/09 when the U.S. was observing the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Some links have been updated and a few typos corrected.)

No doubt there were slaveholders in the Old South who were genuine Christians. This was acknowledged by Frederick Douglass who mentioned a few in his memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. However, some Christians today have been led to believe that because the modern South is the location of America's "Bible Belt", that the Old South was predominantly a Christian land fighting to preserve its religious heritage of true Christianity from the dominance of the "Godless" North. Many Christians view American slavery in a benign light because many slaveholders claimed to be disciples of Christ. Yet the testimony of former slaves, many of them who were Christians themselves, paints a far different picture. The main purpose behind most religious instruction given to slaves was to make them accept their slave status, to do their assigned tasks without complaining (even though their labor and living conditions reduced a male slave's lifespan to 29 years), and to think that to disobey an order or to desire freedom was sin. It is interesting that when slaves were allowed to marry, the charge by the preacher that "...those whom God has joined together, let no man split asunder..." was omitted. This made it more convenient for masters to split families apart to make a profit. When the slaves wished to worship as they felt led, they had to do so secretly, often in wooded areas surrounding the plantations. It was in these secret worship meetings where many of the African American Spirituals came to be.

The following is an excerpt from Douglas's "Narrative" which paints a more accurate picture of religion in the Old South:

"In August, 1832, my master attended a Methodist camp-meeting held in the Bayside, Talbot county, and there experienced religion. I indulged in a faint hope that his conversion would lead him to emancipate his slaves, and that, if he did not do this, it would at any rate, make him more kind and humane. I was disappointed in both these respects. It neither made him humane to his slaves, nor to emancipate them. If it had any effect on his character, it made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways; for I believe him to have been a much worse man after his conversion than before. Prior to his conversion, he relied on his own depravity to shield and sustain him in his savage barbarity; but after his conversion, he found religious sanction and support for his slave holding cruelty. He made the greatest pretensions to piety. His house was the house of prayer. He prayed morning, noon, and night. He very soon distinguished himself among his brethren, and was soon made a class-leader and exhorter. His activity in revivals was great, and he proved himself an instrument in the hands of the church in converting many souls. His house was the preachers' home. They used to take great pleasure in coming there to put up; for while he starved us, he stuffed them. We have had three or four preachers there at a time. The names of those who used to come most frequently while I lived there, were Mr. Storks, Mr. Ewery, Mr. Humphrey, and Mr. Hickey. I have also seen Mr. George Cookman at our house. We slaves loved Mr. Cookman. We believed him to be a good man. We thought him instrumental in getting Mr. Samuel Harrison, a very rich slaveholder, to emancipate his slaves; and by some means got the impression that he was laboring to effect the emancipation of all slaves. When he was at our house, we were called into prayers. When the others were there, we were sometimes called in and sometimes not. Mr. Cookman took more notice of us than either of the other ministers. He could not come among us without betraying his sympathy for us, and stupid as we were, we had the sagacity to see it.

While I lived with my master in St. Michael's, there was a white young man, a Mr. Wilson, who proposed to keep a Sabbath school for the instruction of such slaves as might be disposed to learn to read the New Testament. We met but three times, when Mr. West and Mr. Fairbanks, both class-leaders, with many others, came upon us with sticks and other missiles, drove us off, and forbade us to meet again. Thus ended our little Sabbath school in the pious town of St. Michael's.

I have said my Master found religious sanction for his cruelty. As an example, I will state one of many facts going to prove the charge. I have seen him tie up a lame young woman, and whip her with a heavy cow skin upon her naked shoulders, causing the warm blood to drip; and in justification of the bloody deed, he would quote this passage of Scripture--"He that knoweth his master's will, and does it not, shall be beaten with many stripes."

Master would keep this lacerated young woman tied up in this horrid situation, four or five hours at a time. I have known him to tie her up early in the morning, and whip her before breakfast; leave her, go to his store, return at dinner, and whip her again, cutting her in the places already made raw with his cruel lash. The secret of the master's cruelty toward 'Henny' is found in the fact of her being almost helpless. When quite a child, she fell into the fire, and burned herself horribly. Her hands were so burnt that she never got the use of them. She could do very little but bear heavy burdens. She was to the master a bill of expense; and as he was a mean man, she was a constant offense to him. He seemed desirous of getting the poor girl out of existence. He gave her away once to his sister; but, being a poor gift, she was not disposed to keep her. Finally, my benevolent master, to use his own words, 'set her adrift to take care of herself.' here was a recently converted man, holding on upon the mother, and at the same time turning out her helpless child, to starve and die! Master Thomas was one of the many pious slaveholders who hold slaves for the very charitable purpose of taking care of them."

Douglass had escaped slavery nearly thirty years before it ended. During this time, if his old master, or a bounty hunter, had captured him, he could have been returned to slavery. After 1850, it was the law of the land that any northerner who gave shelter to an escaped slave was subject to fines and imprisonment. Douglass has already been quoted asking whether or not God will visit a land (judge it) for these things. The fact that Abraham Lincoln was not orthodox in his religious views, or the fact that many in the North were racist, does not alter the fact that they were used as divine instruments of deliverance. The Christianity of the old South was by in large a false one, an institution used as a pillar supporting the South's "Peculiar Institution." Most slaves were not treated any better because a master claimed to follow Christ. Here is more of Frederick Douglass on the subject:

"...Another advantage I gained in my new master was, he made no pretensions to, or profession of, religion; and this, in my opinion, was truly a great advantage. I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the South is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes,--a justifier of the most appalling barbarity,--a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds,--and a dark shelter under which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection. Were I to be again reduced to the chains of slavery, next to that enslavement, I should regard being the slave of a religious master the greatest calamity that could befall me. For all the slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst. I have even found the meanest and basest, the most cruel and cowardly, of all others. It was my unhappy lot not only to belong to a religious slaveholder, but to live in a community of such religionists. Very near Mr. Freeland lived the Rev. Daniel Weeden, and in the same neighborhood lived the Rev. Rigby Hopkins. They were members and ministers in the Reformed Methodist Church. Mr. Weeden owned, among others, a woman slave, whose name I have forgotten. This woman's back, for weeks, was kept literally raw, made so by the lash of this merciless, religious wretch. He used to hire hands. His maxim was, Behave well or behave ill, it is the duty of a master occasionally to whip a slave, to remind him of his master's authority. Such was his theory, and such was his practice."

It is my purpose in sharing this testimony with you to highlight the greatness of Lincoln by examining the evil institution which he and those under his authority overthrew. Yes, Lincoln was slow in realizing that the North must act to free the slaves; it was two years into the war when he issued The Emancipation Proclamation. But once Lincoln decided on this course, he never wavered, even in the face of vehement opposition from some sections of the North. He imperiled his own reelection by standing firm on the issue of Emancipation.

To me, it is a miracle that these slaves who had an impossible task of learning the entire Word of God from masters who did not want them to know the whole Gospel, who were forbidden from learning to read God's Word, who had to worship in secret to worship freely, who underwent unspeakable cruelty in the name of the Gospel, these same slaves knew that their masters were not telling them what the Bible really said, and that their masters did not really live up to its commands. For them to be able to know there was a true Gospel, and a God that would hear and one day deliver them, is truly a miracle. In Part IV, Frederick Douglass contrasts real Christianity with the false one their master's proclaimed.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


(First published on 2/13/09 during the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Some links have been updated and a few typos were edited.)

While it is true that Abraham Lincoln always was morally opposed to slavery, he was slow to come to the realization that political action was required to bring about its demise. (It was two years into his presidency that he issued the Emancipation Proclamation.) He was convinced that if slavery was limited to the territory allotted to it by the MissouriCompromise (below the Mason Dixon Line), then the institution would slowly die out. This was the view of many of the original Founding Fathers such asThomas Jefferson. In the early days of this country, slavery was on the defensive. Many of those who held slaves publicly declared that slavery was not to be actively defended and hoped for its demise. However, the terms of the debate changed so that by the 1850's, the South and its defenders argued that slavery was a positive good. Southern politicians and writers made an all-out assault on the Declaration of Independence which declared that all were created in the image of God and therefore possessed the inalienable rights of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Southerners denied this proposition, stating that black people were not as equal as whites and therefore had no such rights the Declaration declared as belonging to all men. The Chief Justice of the United States, Roger B. Tanney, expressed these sentiments in his opinion in the Dred Scott case. This case involved a slaveholder moving to a free territory with his slave, Scott, who soon died. Scott contended that as his master was dead and he was a resident of a free-soil state, he was free. The Supreme Court, under Tanney, declared otherwise, that as a slave he was considered to be property and his fate was to be decided by the laws of property. This assault on the Declaration is what drove Lincoln back into politics. By his actions, and the actions of his supporters, the rights spoken of in the Declaration were preserved in this nation and have been won in other parts of the world. Without Lincoln and company fighting to preserve them, modern day Christians would not have these rights to refer to when fighting for the unborn.

The following is one man's view, Frederick Doulass's, of daily life endured by American slaves in the Old South. His view is by no means unique, as there is abundant supporting testimony from former slaves available. In fact, according to Ken Burn's "The Civil War," the average lifespan for a male slave was 29 years. The following is from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave:

"Mr. Gore was a grave man, and, though a young man, he indulged in no jokes, and said no funny words, seldomed smiled. His words were in perfect keeping with his looks, and his looks were in perfect keeping with his words. Overseers will sometimes indulge in a witty word, even with the slaves; not so with Mr. Gore. He spoke but to command, and commanded but to be obeyed; he dealt sparingly with his words, and bountifully with his whip, never using the former where the later would answer as well. When he whipped, he seemed to do so from a sense of duty, and feared no consequences. He did nothing reluctantly, no matter how disagreeable; always at his post, never inconsistent. He never promised but to fulfill. He was, in a word, a man of the most inflexible firmness and stone-like coolness.

"His savage barbarity was equaled only by the consummate coolness with which he committed the grossest and most savage deeds upon the slaves under his charge. Mr. Gore once undertook to whip one of Colonel Lloyd's slaves, by the name of Demby. He had given Denby but few stripes, when, to get rid of the scourging, he ran and plunged himself into a creek, and stood there at the depth of his shoulders, refusing to come out. Mr. Gore told him he would give him three calls, and that, if he did not come out at the end of the third call, he would shoot him. The first call was given. Demby made no response, but stood his ground. The second and third calls were given with the same result. Mr. Gore then, without consultation or deliberation with anyone, not even giving Demby an additional call, raised his musket to his face, taking deadly aim at his standing victim, and in an instant Demby was no more. His mangled body sank out of sight, and blood and brains marked the water where he had stood.

"A thrill of horror flashed through every soul upon the plantation, excepting Mr. Gore. He alone seemed cool and collected. He was asked by Colonel Lloyd and my old master, why he resorted to this extraordinary expedient. His reply was, (as well as I can remember,) that Demby had become unmanageable. He was setting a dangerous example to the other slaves,--one which, if suffered to pass without some demonstration on his part, would finally lead to the subversion of all rule and order on the plantation. He argued that if one slave refused to be corrected, and escaped with his life, the other slaves would soon copy his example; the result of which would be, the freedom of the slaves, and the enslavement of the whites. Mr. Gore's defense was satisfactory. He continued in his status as overseer upon the home plantation. His fame as an overseer went abroad. His horrid crime was not even submitted to judicial investigation. It was committed in the presence of slaves, and they of course could neither institute a suit, nor testify against him; and thus the guilty perpetrator of one of the bloodiest and most foul murders goes unwhipped of justice, and uncensored by the community in which he lives. Mr. Gore lived in St. Michael's, Talbot County, Maryland, when I left there; and if he is still alive, he probably lives there now; and if so, he is now, as he was then, as highly esteemed and as much respected as though his guilty soul had not been stained with his brother's blood.

"I speak advisedly when I say this,--that killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot County, Maryland, is not treated as a crime, either by the Courts or the Community. Mr. Thomas Lanman, of St.Michael's, killed two slaves, one of whom he killed with a hatchet by knocking his brains out. He used to boast of the commission of the awful and bloody deed. I have heard him do so laughingly, saying among other things, that he was the only benefactor of his country in the company, and that when others would do as much as he had done, we should be relieved of the 'd---d n-----s.' "

We need not just take the word of former slaves concerning the cruelty of everyday slavery. There is plenty of evidence from the pens of slaveholders themselves. This quote is from Francis Schaeffer'sHow Should We Then Live?:

"Anyone with a tendency to minimize the brutality of slavery which existed in the United States should read Charles Dickens's (1812-1870) American Notes(1842). He begins this portion of the book saying 'The upholders of slavery in America--of the atrocities of which system I shall not write one word for which I have not ample proof or warrant....' He goes on to quote pages of newspaper ads which speak profoundly for themselves. Here are four examples out of the dozens which Dicken's quotes: 'Ran away, a negro boy about 12 years old. Had round his neck a chain dog-collar with De Lampert on it.' 'Detained at the police jail, the negro wretch, Myra. Has several marks of lashing, and has irons on her feet.' 'One hundred dollar reward for a negro fellow, Pompoy, 40 years old. He was branded on the left jaw.' 'Ran away, a negro woman and two children. A few days before she went off, I burned her with a hot iron, on the left side of her face. I tried to make the letter M.' "

If a slave survived to old age, this is the fate they could look forward to, according to Frederick Douglass:

" grandmother, who was now very old, having outlived my old master and all of his children, having seen the beginning and end of all of them, and her present owners she was of but little value, her frame already racked with the pains of old age, and complete helplessness stealing over her once active limbs, they took her to the woods, built her a little hut, put up a mud chimney, and made her welcome to the privilege of supporting herself there in perfect loneliness; she lives to remember and mourn over the loss of children, the loss of grandchildren, and the loss of great grandchildren...

"The hearth is desolate. The children, the unconscious children, who once sang and danced in her presence, are gone. She gropes her way, in the darkness of age, for a drink of water...She stands--she sits--she staggers--she falls--she groans--she dies--and there are none of her children or grandchildren present, to wipe from her wrinkled brow the cold sweat of death, or to place beneath the sod her fallen remains. Will not a righteous God visit for these things?"

It matters not that Abraham Lincoln was not an orthodox believer in Christianity when one argues that he was a righteous God's instrument for ending "these things." Even the unorthodox Thomas Jefferson, when speaking about a possible Civil War over slavery, said "I tremble when I remember that God is just." It appears that on this point Douglass was a better theologian then those slaveholders who claimed to follow Christ. In Part III, Douglass describes what passed for Christianity in the Old South. It is not a history the Church should be proud to acknowledge.