slavery churchI received an email yesterday concerning an article I wrote some time ago. The person asked me so many interesting questions and I will try my best to answer some of those questions in this follow-up post. What role did the Church play in the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade? What exactly does the Bible say about slavery? Is Christianity a “slave religion”? Why so many Black people love the church and the Bible?

According to Jomo Kenyatta the founding father and first president of Kenya, “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible”.

That was the beginning of the European colonization of Africa. As I said in my other post, the trans-Atlantic slave trade was introduced by the coming of the Europeans and the Europeans came with the Bible the same way the Arab raiders and traders from the Middle East and North Africa introduced Islam through the Trans-Saharan slave trade. So yes the church did play a major role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. In fact, the Church was the backbone of the slave trade. In other words, most of the slave traders and slave ship captains were very “good” Christians. For example, Sir John Hawkins, the first slave-ship captain to bring African slaves to the Americas, was a religious gentleman who insisted that his crew “serve God daily” and “love another”. His ship, ironically called “the good ship Jesus,” left the shores of his native England for Africa in October 1562.

The church, especially the Anglican and the Catholic Church, had plantations with slaves working on them. For example, the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG) – the world's oldest Anglican mission agency, owned several acres of slave plantations. It has been documented that the 800 acre Codrington slave plantation in Barbados, was owned and operated by the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG) during the 18th and 19th centuries.

One may ask, why would the Church condone such barbaric acts as slavery? Well, the answer lies in the Bible the same way the answer for extremist-Islamic terrorism in the world today lies in the Koran. Yes slavery is normal in the Bible and it is perfectly OK. There are several chapters and verses supporting slavery in both the old and new testaments of the Bible. Exodus 21 of the old testament of the Bible for example, gives clear instructions on how to treat a slave. Both Deuteronomy 20:10-14 and Leviticus 25:44-46 also give clear instructions on who should be slaves, how and where to buy slaves, etc. Some Christians argue those chapters and verses are in the old testament and therefore don’t count but that is a big lie because there are several chapters and verses supporting slavery even in the New testament of the Bible. For example, the book of Ephesians 6:5 of the New Testament clearly states “Slaves, Obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ”. Not just that, 1 Timothy 6:1 of the New Testament also clearly states “Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed”. I can go on and on. Slavery existed during the time of Jesus and continued after Jesus. Slavery got abolished nearly 2000 years after the death of Jesus. Jesus had every chance to speak against slavery but the question is; did he do it? And if Jesus did speak against slavery then why did his followers twist his words? If Jesus did speak against slavery then why does the New Testament of the Bible support slavery? And if the Bible got twisted along the way then does it make much sense for us to put our trust in it? Now back to the question, Is Christianity a slave religion? Well, I am not that great with the Bible so I will leave that to the experts to answer.

Reverend Richard Furman, President of the South Carolina Baptist convention, 1823 said, “The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the holy scriptures, both by precepts and by example”. In a letter to the Emancipator in 1839, the Reverend Thomas Witherspoon of the Presbyterian church of Alabama in the USA wrote, “I draw my warrant from the scriptures of the old and new testaments to hold the slave in bondage”.  "The extracts from Holy Writ unequivocally assert the right of property in slaves"--Rev. E.D. Simms, professor, Randolph-Macon College.  I can go on and on. So as we can see, the Church and the early Christians saw nothing wrong with slavery and fully engaged themselves. Most churches and cathedrals owned several acres of slave plantations and owned several slaves. Even when slavery was abolished, most Churches had to be compensated for setting their slaves free. Yes one of the ironies of the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act was that, it was slave owners, not the slaves, who were compensated at the emancipation of slaves. The Anglican Church received 8,823 pound sterling in compensation for its loss of over 400 slaves. The Bishop of Exeter, along with three of his colleagues received some 13,000 pounds in compensation for over 660 slaves. All these have been documented and I can go on and on.

Why so many Black people love the Church and the Bible? Well, that is a question I cannot answer all alone.

Oyinkansola Ladipo
#4 Oyinkansola Ladipo 2018-10-12 06:36
In the Old Testament God's chosen people, the Israelites were slaves. They were slaves, we were slaves, there are still slaves all over this planet. People are slaves to money, power, sex, drugs etc. But in the New Testament, "Christ has set us (you & I) free for freedom . Therefore, stand firm and do not submit to the bondage of slavery again" Galatians 5 v 1 (CEB). God brought his own people out of the land.
Festus Sowah
#3 Festus Sowah 2018-10-07 13:09
Does ministering to poor people mean Christianity supports poverty? Does ministering to the sick mean Christianity supports sickness/illnesses? The example of slaves being ministered to as a sign that Christianity supports slavery is a poor one. The reality was that there were slaves and they needed to be ministered to and some of those words might have made their lives easier. The fact of the matter is humans will twist things for their own good. That's what the so-called Christians did.
#2 Jonas 2018-10-04 12:01
What I never understood why people call themselves Christians when Jesus wasn’t even a Christian nor did he have a religion, if the man was Ever real. I have not seen that one verse in the Bible stating that Jesus was a Christian or his religion of choice
Obaje Manasseh
#1 Obaje Manasseh 2018-09-25 09:48
Well, I must commend the writer of this piece for his historical and intellectual approach towards explaining the concept of the 'christian slavery', well to a great extent you were right but i think some kinds of insight is needed towards understanding and interpreting of what the Bible really says about slavery, the Bible instructed 'servants to obey their masters'. I think you will agree with me that even in our modern contemporary societies today, the servant-master role is still in play for instance you have apprentice under a master in a trade or one expertise or you have people working for some other superior persons to earn a living and so on, so i think as a historian you should know that the address of the Holy Bible was specific to times and ages, in the old testaments owing a menservants, or a maid servant was quite a norm of the time so the Bible only gave an admonition to facilitate quality relationship amongst the parties.

Now talking about Jesus and and the new testament, if you are careful in your search enough, you will find out that Jesus frowned at human slavery, somewhere in Mathew while addressing his disciples, He told them that 'the people of the world like to rule over people and them their benefactors, but it shall not be so with me..... the greatest amongst you must become the servant of all, again somewhere in the new testament you will here him make some assertions like ' if the son shall make thee free, ye shall be free indeed (John 8:36)', ' where there is neither Greek nor jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, bondman or free man, but Christ the all in all (col 3:11)' and so on, so if you take a careful look of the entire ministry of Jesus it was that of freedom and liberty.

Now not to discredit your view of Christianity from the historical perspective, if you follow the history of the christian faith from the time Jesus left you will find out that the early days of Christianity was a perverse one full of oppression and apostasy, all manner of barbaric doctrines that ripped men of their dignity and freedom in Christ, and those moments of apostasy and false doctrine thrived for a long time owing to the fact that the Bible was only available to the priesthood which afforded them the opportunity of preaching lies and overturning the Bible to suit their carnal lost until the bright days of revolutionaries like Martin Luther, john Knox,john Calvin etc. If you drew your inspiration from primitive Christianity then i think you were right in your description of Christianity as a slavish religion, but since you know that knowledge and revelation is progressive i urge you to take a proper look at the true Christianity as it may hold some eternal benefits to your soul. Thank you very much.