In The Atlantic Community
and be thankful
February 1 marks the 153rd anniversary of Abraham Lincoln signing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment abolished slavery. February 1 is also the first day of Black History Month.
The first time I remember learning about slavery in the United States was when I was eight years old. I thought “Annie” was in our VCR. When I hit the play button, the image of a handsome, but clearly ill, man lying on a cot in a dark room met my eyes. I later discovered he was a Union general in a Confederate prison camp.
The movie was “North and South, Book II,” based on John Jake’s novel, “Love and War.” It was about two-thirds of the way through when I started watching it. But once I saw the entire movie I began to understand why slavery was so terrible and why men fought and died in the Civil War to free slaves. I realize not every Union soldier was an abolitionist. Some didn’t care about slavery. But by war’s end, slavery was abolished, and I praise God for that.
When I was in fifth and sixth grade I read a lot of novels and short stories about the Underground Railroad. I wished I lived during that time so I could’ve helped runaway slaves get to Canada and freedom. I couldn’t think of anything worse than life as a slave.
I watched many other movies besides “North and South” and “North and South, Book II” that dealt with slavery. I had nightmares about some of those movies. Seeing photos of slaves’ scarred backs on Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” still sickens me.
I can’t understand how masters could treat slaves that way. I know part of it is because slave owners, as a general rule, didn’t view slaves as human. Their ideological inconsistencies blow my mind. Masters sold slave children away from their parents, but had black women breastfeed their white babies.
The worst part of it is that so many slave owners considered themselves Christians. How they could go to church on Sunday and read their Bibles while keeping blacks in bondage baffles me. The Bible mentions slavery. Some Israelites had slaves in the Old Testament. Some of their slaves were fellow Israelites. Isn’t that ironic? God freed them from the Egyptians, but they owned some of their brothers and sisters.
Slavery was common during the Roman Empire, when the New Testament was written. Paul told slaves to obey their masters, but also told masters to be kind to their slaves (Ephesians 6:6-9). The letter of Philemon is a personal note from Paul to Philemon asking him to receive his runaway slave, Onesimus, not as a slave, but as a brother.
One very ironic thing about slavery that I’ve thought about often is how many slaves became Christians while in bondage. It’s terrible and befuddling to think that many enslaved blacks received Christ when they might not have even heard His name if they were free and living in Africa. I don’t know how to reconcile that, but there it is.
I don’t think white southerners should be blamed for their ancestors’ actions any more than I believe the British should be blamed for the Revolutionary War. But I do think it’s important this month to remember how terrible slavery was and to thank God for the countless people who worked, and in some cases, died to make abolition possible.
This reminds me of a few missionaries we support at Fallowfield United Methodist Church. Lowell and Claudia Wertz are missionaries in Tanzania. We also support Charlene Turner, who works with Solar Light for Africa in Uganda, and Jerry and Christy Shannon, of Embracing Hope in Ethiopia. We’ll be raising funds for these and other missionaries on February 3 and 17 while making and selling chicken pies. Fallowfield United Methodist Women have made chicken pies for around 50 years. They donate all net profits to missionaries. Last year they distributed roughly $5,000.
I’m always amazed by God’s goodness. He blesses this project by giving us enough willing volunteers to cook and pick chicken, and make the pies. He also sends us customers, whose financial help enables us to give to these missionaries.
I hope you have a wonderful week. Blessings!