The Christian faith’s complicity in American slavery

Friends, allow me to take us back in time to three years ago when President Barack Obama, a man who many Republicans and even some Democrats (Hillary Clinton) questioned whether he secretly was/is a Muslim, ignited a firestorm when during a National Prayer Breakfast, he reminded his audience that so-called Christians through the ages were responsible for the Crusades and American Slavery, both of which were as barbaric and arguably far worse than any atrocities committed by so-called Radical Islamists and members of ISIS.

There was much weeping and wailing by Christian conservatives but deep down, they knew the president’s words to be true. Social media meltdown aside, we cannot hide the fact that there are many American Christians of all races who are either ignorant about or deliberately indifferent to the fact that Jesus Christ has been used as the basis for not just the Crusades and Slavery, but also the underpinnings of Manifest Destiny, a concept that early white Americans believed endowed them with the “divine right” to conquer territories belonging to Native Americans from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The same is also true for the Holocaust, where the root of much anti-Semitism that led to the climate in which a raised Christian turned atheist like Adolf Hitler could justify and find support among German Christians for the annihilation of over ten million Jews based in part upon the multi-generational beliefs that Jews rejected Jesus as the Christ or “anointed one” and that by so doing, they were “Christ killers.”

Further evidence of Christians behaving un-Christ-like through history includes the Inquisition, where heretics were often burned alive for lacking the “true faith.” (See also the Salem witch trials and more recently, “Christians” burning American black men for allegedly raping white women).

When considering these well-known but seldom discussed facts about Christianity, what I find the most offensive are the many thousands of comments from purported Christians who wish to pretend as if the rise of slavery in the Americas was not directly linked to misguided religious beliefs that good white Christian folks were charged by their Lord to “save” the “heathen” people on the “dark continent of Africa” by introducing them to the “Protestant work ethic” (a term coined later by Max Weber) and the “Good Book” where scriptures were used to demand “submission to one’s masters.”

With deference and homage to the Christian philosopher Peter Abelard and his classic “Sic et Non,” translated from the Latin into “yes and no,” let us consider certain theories as to how those in the name of Christ were truly doing the bidding of Satan by promulgating or tacitly supporting slavery:

Theory 1: “Christians were not responsible for slavery in the Americas.” No, not true, as Christians were DIRECTLY responsible for slavery and its attendant horrors in America! The men who raided Africa on behalf of England, Holland, Portugal and other European powers from the 1600’s until well in the 1800’s did so for “Crown and Country” as well as personal profit. Many of the corporations that either promulgated trade in the “New World” or provided ships for transport of people and goods to the same were chartered with the blessing of the crown, which during this period of time had fealty either to the Catholic Church or with respect to England, the Anglican Church.

Theory 2: “Christian thrift or enterprise was not the center-point of American slavery.” No, not true! The truth is that slavery was THE business from the early 1600s until the 1880’s, when Brazil finally manumitted its vast slave population. Slavery was the vehicle by which much of what would become the “global economy” was based and by participating in such, those “Christian nations” that benefitted the most, as well as those who were “fleeing religious persecution” by immigrating to the Americas soon developed a mechanism within which the very foundation of nations in the Western Hemisphere and the growing of their economies were directly attributable to the work of enslaved Africans.

How it worked was simple, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was more accurately a “Triangular Trade” with three lines: European slave traders (line 1) provided money and goods to many African leaders and profiteers who captured members of neighboring tribes or sold off some of their own people (line 2) for shipment to the Americas, where they worked for wealthy planters to provide commodities that would be exported back to Europe (line 3).

Theory 3: “European settlers worked just as hard as enslaved Africans to develop what would become the United States’ economy.” While it is true that European immigrants worked in various trades and factories with the emergence of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800’s, the major distinction of this period, one that requires a “no” response, is that the areas fecund for the most profitable trade between Europe and the Americas were agrarian based, including coffee, rum, sugar, tobacco and the most profitable of all, “King” Cotton. These commodities were planted and harvested by enslaved Africans, men and women who saw no share of the profits from their newly converted “Protestant (or Catholic) work ethic” that they were introduced to by malevolently industrious, physically lazy European plantation owners.

By 1860, on the eve of the American Civil War, cotton was responsible for 40% of US exports to Great Britain and between 1803 and 1937–during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt— cotton as still harvested by mostly black sharecroppers was America’s leading export on an annual basis–period!

Not to mention that by the late 17th Century, Great Britain was churning out the largest and fastest ships that were specially designed to hold vast numbers of Africans in their bellies in its ship-yards in Liverpool, and Lloyd’s of London, established in the late 17th Century, by the early 18th Century was raking in exorbitant profits by insuring both slave ships and slave cargo. Further, while still in the pre-Industrial Revolution stages, much of the exports in the form of textiles, molasses and sugar that were shipped from the Americas often made its way to Britain for further trade and distribution throughout Europe and Africa.

As such, there were many whites in Britain and America who either became the nouvea riche from the slave trade and its related industries, or many others who were able to be comfortably employed in attendant industries, as plantation overseers, or as slave catchers who hunted down runaways.

Therefore, when some suggest that “not all whites in America benefitted from slavery,” such is an “alternative fact” or mendacity that ignores the truth that there would be NO United States of America as we know it had the newly minted nation not been able to rapidly grow its economy by having millions of Africans toiling for free to help create the trade advantages, clear the fields, drain the swamps by hand, and build the railroads–back breaking and life stealing “work,” all so that this “new” nation that was stolen from Native tribes could stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Neither “building the wall” between Mexico and the US nor orders preventing Muslims from entering today, the ghosts of white supremacy present, will exorcise the ghosts of white supremacy past regarding the pilfering of Native lands and the bartering and enslavement of African Muslims and deists.

Lest we forget…