Many African-Americans have an aversion to Jesus and to the Bible claiming that Christianity is the “white man’s religion”. They also have beef with the Bible saying that it supports or condones slavery. The slavery aspect is an interesting one because every civilization had slaves in some form or fashion. The Egyptians, who many African-Americans turn to as their alternative when seeking to discredit Christianity, enslaved the Israelites! Many turn to Egyptology or other mystery religions because of this perception that the Bible condoned slavery and that whites used it to keep Africans in America enslaved.
That is partially true. Whites did indeed use the Bible, fear and intimidation and violence to keep slaves subservient. But what no one seems to mention is that they were wrong. As a Christian, I have no problem in honestly saying that many of those men who owned slaves were not real Christians nor did they use the Bible for its intended purpose. Rather than being transformed by it, they manipulated its words and played on the fact that many slaves were illiterate.
As for the Bible condoning slavery, as I mentioned before every civilization held slaves. Slavery is a reality that existed throughout the history of mankind. What we need to understand is this: The Bible HUMANIZED slaves and their treatment. Those who were enslaved to the Israelites were not treated as animals. God mandated in the book of Leviticus that they must be treated fairly and not harmed or abused. The American concept of slavery was ghastly. Lynching, beating, rape, torture and death were all components of the American system of slavery. Freedom was not a reality for most slaves. However, the Bible in the Old Testament pronounces that every 50th year was considered the year of Jubilee and all slaves, whether indentured or not had to be set free (Leviticus 25:10). Many sold themselves into slavery to pay off debts. American slaves were captured in Africa or sold from Africa, often against their will. No one could have predicted the horrors of American slavery and the utter dehumanization of the African people when the first slave ships landed here.
Even in the New Testament, although slavery still existed, the humanity of slaves was evident. Paul writes the following in his epistles:
1. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven (Colossians 4:1).
2. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:22-24).
Paul writes these things with the understanding that the slaves would be treated fairly by their masters. He also warns those who own slaves to provide them with what is right and fair. In American slavery, there was no such thing as right and fair because masters did not regard their slaves as human beings but as chattel. They did not heed this warning because of the racism and the hatred in their hearts for the slaves that they owned. It’s appalling but we cannot blame the Bible for their misdeeds. I blame them. The instructions in the Bible are clear.
In another place, Paul tells those who are enslaved- who were probably more indentured servants than slaves because many sold themselves into slavery to cover debts- to be free if you are able to be free.
1 Corinthians 7:17-24 “Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.”
Clearly, the Bible is not advocating for slavery or even condoning the harsh treatment of slaves while it does recognize the existence of slavery. Paul is telling slaves here that if they could gain their freedom they should absolutely do so. He is also, in the same thought, telling men to be content with their standing in life. How is that possible? Because Paul understood that God can work through our situations but there are also some situations that warrant release i.e. slavery. This does not sound like a justification of inhumane treatment to me. What is sounds like is a secret that American slaves were not privy to because of their inability to access true Christianity. What they experienced was a tainted version of the truth and therefore many are turned off by it. The same thing happens all the time in the church. People get turned off by inauthenticity! I don’t like it. But much credit belongs to those slaves who endured the horrors of slavery and still believed in God because they did indeed find the TRUE God and He brought them through! They sang about Him, they prayed to Him and they knew that massa’ was not in the least bit representative of Him.
I don’t subscribe to the notion that because of the evil inflicted by slavery that Christianity somehow should be discredited. What men do in the name of God is not always what God has called them to do. God did not call for Africans in America to be brutalized and dehumanized. Men chose to do that and use God as a cover. Christianity did not start in America! There were Christian churches in Ethiopia long before colonial times (Ethiopia). There were Christians all over the world before whites got into the slave trade. Christianity is not the "white man's religion". It can't be because it was started by a Jew named Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, hid out in Egypt, raised in Nazareth and was the Light of the WORLD, not just a select few. Don't be snowed over by these claims of Christianity being white. Do your research. Those images of a milky skinned Jesus are not accurate [What did Jesus look like?]. Those depictions are just that, depictions. No one has an accurate depiction of Jesus but the Bible says that his feet were like burnished bronze (Revelation 1:15) and his hair was white like wool not His skin.
We must also understand that regardless of what color Jesus was (not race because he was clearly not African nor was He Caucasian), the main issue is that His blood ran red! It is His blood that breaks down every dividing wall of race or class. His blood ensures that we understand that both male and female are equal in His sight. He broke down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile (See Galatians 3). Here is where our focus should be, not on the color of His skin! What is most important is that Jesus died for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD! Every race, color, creed, ethnicity or whatever box you want to check. That's more important than someone's perceived superiority complex. I thank God that He is not as shortsighted as men are! Grace and peace be with you all.