Why the enslaved adopted the religion of their masters – and transformed it

Feb 19, 2018 by

by Dante Stewart, Christianity Today.

[…] The “Jesus” they met in the Middle Passage and on the plantations was firmly on the side of the oppressor and opposing their freedom. This experience was not a neutral one. He clearly was used by the slavers and planters to pacify the slaves and to justify their enslavement. He clearly anointed and appointed the oppressors, not for the ministry of reconciliation but for their “ministry of subjugation.” He was the “White Man’s Jesus.”

…many African Americans, though not all, became Christians and attributed authority to the Bible. The question that remains is why. Why did enslaved Africans embrace the religion of their captors, who used the Bible to justify the brutal trans-Atlantic slave trade?

Powery and Sadler’s simple answer is that “they fell in love with the God of Scripture.…In Christ they found salvation from their sins and reconciliation.” They conclude that though this was certainly enough, there was more to the answer. They write: In these texts they found not just an otherworldly God offering spiritual blessings, but a here-and-now God who cared principally for the oppressed, acting historically and eschatologically to deliver the down trodden from their abusers. They also found Jesus, a suffering Savior whose life and struggles paralleled their own struggles.

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