3 Quotes From Frederick Douglass on the Cruelty of Christianity in America
In this crazy political season, I've been pondering the political stance of America's Christian Right toward LGBT citizens and was reminded of The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, a book we used to cover in a community college Early American Lit. class I taught. If you haven't read it, it's a remarkable book, brief but comprehensive, concerning Douglass's time in slavery. You definitely get the picture. Douglass was, to say the least, appalled at American Christians' complicity and involvement in the slave trade. He makes a compelling case that the worst kind of master to have as a slave was one who claimed to be religious, as these were usually the cruelest. I may be wrong in this, but I can't help but see an analogy between the atitudes of the religious toward slavery in Douglass's time and the persecution of America's LGBT citizens today. All the cruelty Douglass denotes toward slaves is still alive, just tarted up sometimes, made more subliminal, for a 21st century audience. A lot of times it isn't though, it's just straight up, unfettered ignorance and hatred. Interesting how that original "Puritan" legacy has played itself out in this country and has become such a force in politics. My point here is not to equate the plight of slaves and the LGBT community of today -- the differences and details are important to consider separately -- but I do see a direct connection between America's Christian Right today and its capacity for self-righteous cruelty, ignorance, fear and hatred as Douglass describes it in his time. Here are a few quotes from Douglass on the topic --
I can see no reason, but the most decietful one, for calling the religion of this land Chritianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, the grossest of all libels.
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. Where 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...I...hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.
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 slave auctioneer's bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the relgious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave trade go hand in hand.