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Christianity, Slavery and Colonialism Paradox Essay

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Updated: Mar 29th, 2020

One of the challenges historians experience while attempting to discuss the origin and development of democracy in institutions is discussing Christianity as having originated from America, yet, they practiced slavery and colonialism. It is a paradox to discuss Christianity, slavery, and colonialism.

The paradox is evident in many areas in the American history. For example, an American stressing for sovereignty of the seas. In this sense, they argued that liberated ships make free goods. It is ironic for Americans to ask for freedom, yet they relied on slave labor.

Du Bois argued that Americans achieved their sovereignty through utilizing slave labor. The development of democracy was accompanied by the development of slavery. This paper focuses on discussing various issues related to the paradox of Christianity, slavery, and colonialism.

Many historians who have attempted to examine the issue have identified W.E.B Du Bois as an important figure in promoting human rights and democracy. As an activist, historian, civil rights campaigner, and a Pan-Africanist, he agitated for equality of blacks with the whites (Du Bois 43). He is prominent in opposing the Atlanta Compromise Treaty that advocated for the subjection of the southern blacks to the whites’ political rule.

During his campaigns, he criticized Booker T. Washington, and insisted on freedom of the blacks and an increased representation in political affairs. At that time, racism was widespread, especially in social institutions. Du Bois objected inequality that was in education and employment sectors by including the affected groups, particularly the Africans and Asians (Du Bois 43).

As a key figure in the Pan-African movement, he wrote a letter to European leaders demanding for the rights and freedoms of blacks across the world. He denounced racism and advocated for self-government (Du Bois 45). To him, “the problem of the twentieth century was the problem of the color-line” (Du Bois 47). This phrase was found in his book that he wrote to address the problems the blacks were facing.

He was at the forefront in Niagara Movement that was formed by the civil rights advocates to oppose the Atlanta Compromise. They aimed at publicizing the ideas to other African-Americans. The black Americans were subjected to forced labor in the whites’ farms. He used racial violence after peaceful methods failed. The racial violence that the black activists adopted was effective and made the Atlanta Compromise to be termed as a failure.

This was for the reason that racial violence resulted into two calamities that shed light in blacks’ democracy. Those who had adhered to its rules were replaced by violent businessmen who willingly supported the black people against the white people. The two events that took place in1906 were a turning point in African-American history. For example, the dishonorable discharge of 167 black fighters by the then president gave confidence to the black activists.

The second event, i.e., an uprising that broke in Atlanta, was triggered by undisclosed accusations that the black men had assaulted the white women led to the withdrawal of the blacks from the republican party, which weakened the party. This resulted in the defeat of the Republican Party. The struggles of Du Bois demonstrated how African Americans were enslaved by people who believed that Christianity was important.

It becomes a paradox to develop a devotion to human freedom and dignity, and retain slavery that denied human free will and dignity. A paradox is a statement that is contradicting, but could be having some truth or validity in it. Arguably, it is difficult to practice the two, at the same time and in the same respect.

Despite the fact that many historians have been tempted to exclude slavery in their discussions about the history of exploitation and racism. While Christianity taught about equality of all human beings, colonialism and slavery denied people freedoms (Du Bois 98).

The paradox began in England when the population rapidly increased. The increase did not grow to any corresponding increase of the nation’s economy to sustain its population. This resulted in misery, which was characterized by high rates of unemployment and poverty.

The authority tried to adopt efforts to ensure that citizens got jobs. In addition, it uses measures against their movements and the increasing cases theft. Population increase threatened the Englishmen freedom, and this made the ‘gentle government’ as it was referred send the population of the New world where there were job opportunities (Du Bois 298). Most of the citizens went to Virginia, which was referred to as “England’s sufferings of poor” (Du Bois 124).

In addition, it was brought about the many slaves that were found in the US at the time when Americans were demanding for democracy. For instance, during the 1790 census, Virginia had 40% of the slaves, yet, it the state had outspoken advocates of freedom and equality in the US (Du Bois 123). It is evident that an advocate, such as Jefferson favored republican liberty, and was in the forefront in denying liberty benefits to the blacks. As a result, historians have dismissed Jefferson and Virginia State as hypocrites.

Many religious philosophers have argued that the whites were practicing Christianity of the land and Christianity of Christ. Douglass attempted to destroy the racial inequality that was widespread in the US, and improve the lives of African-Americans. According to him, there is religion as a set of ideal beliefs and behaviors, and religion as a common practice. The religion of the whites is characterized by hypocrisy.

In his time every citizen to be a Christian because it was a sign of respectability. Douglass was against all types of slavery that were evident in the bible. He advocated for equality and used Jesus’ message of impartiality. As an abolitionist, he struggled to abolish slavery by discussing how religion negatively influenced and impacted slavery and the development of Christianity.

Christianity was employed by slave masters to justify their cruel treatment of the blacks. According to Douglass, Christianity is love, peace, and impartiality. However, he differentiates Christianity of Christ from that of land (Du Bois 163).

Thus, Christianity of the whites was typified by corruption, slavery, whipping of women, plunder, and partiality. It is difficult for one to practice the Christianity of Christ and own slaves at the same time. This, to him, implies no innate goodness. The Christianity of the land is used to describe the Christianity of slave dealers and owners. Therefore, it would be hypocritical to put one on labor without food and rest. He continues to say that living among religious people is beneficial because it is possible for one to change his or her life (Du Bois 165).

According to me, Douglass views on religion are right. It is a challenge for one to serve two masters at the same time, and in the same respect. Enslaving an individual without food and rest is not Christ’s Christianity. It is against God’s laws and whoever practices that is a hypocrite. Although some verses in the Bible support slavery, the New Testament is against slavery, and teaches about equality of human beings. His perspectives are also correct because living among Christians makes one change his or her perspectives about others.

Being a Christian is not a simple task. It means being devoted to serving God by following His commandments and being ready to value fellow human beings. Slave owners would always utilize slaves to acquire wealth and benefit themselves. Slaves work for long hours and at times they are beaten if they make errors. Slave owners do no treat slaves as human beings with dignity and love as required by the law in Christianity.

They over-utilize them and do not allow them to rest. It is also evident that the manner of addressing slaves is inhuman. It is important to point out that, despite the fact that slavery has been justified by some verses in the bible, especially in the Old Testament, it is not right to for a human being to enslave another.

It is also clear that some philosophers have supported slavery. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas argued that slavery is natural because some men are naturally slaves of states. He continues to maintain that what belongs to the son is his father’s, and what belongs to the slave is his master’s. However, the New Testament is against slavery and campaigns for equality of all human beings. Thus, it is not possible for a slave owner to be a Christian.

Slavery had adverse effects on the Americans social values. It lowered their dignity as they were treated in inhuman ways. The way they were addressed made them feel inferior. Slavery exposed the Americans to diseases because they were living in overcrowded areas with poor sanitation.

It was hard for the slaves to form trade unions, or even belong to one. Lack of employment and /or poor pay led to malnutrition of the Americans. This is for the reason that they could not afford a balanced diet. The Americans were not offered education (Du Bois 254). This implies that they could not compete for jobs with the whites. They were not taught about their rights, which made them continue working as slaves in white farms. It also promoted social evils, such as prostitution, stealing, and abuse of drugs.

The Europeans’ views on race have been affected by racial oppression and economic exploitation. There have been many human rights activists who have campaigned for equality of all people. Many people, especially the blacks have proved they are better than the Europeans by writing about the history of the blacks.

Economic exploitation has led to an increase in fear among the blacks. The gap between the white and the blacks with regard to increased poverty, making the Europeans believe that their race is more superior than that of the blacks. Many promoters of democracy have tried to indicate that there should be freedom, making Europeans’ perception of race to change.

In conclusion, the paradox of Christianity, slavery, and colonialism has been a challenge to historians. This is because it is difficult to observe Christianity and the same time practice slavery. Americans were in the forefront in demanding for their sovereignty, but they relied on slave labor. They were also fighting for their freedom, yet, they did not give their slaves’ liberty, even to control their own lives. Thus, it is correct to state that there is Christianity of the land, and Christianity of Christ as Douglass argued.

Works Cited

Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt. The World and Africa: Inquiry Into the Part Which Africa Has Played in World History. New York, NY: International Publishers Co, 1979. Print.

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