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African american religion interpretive essays



Christians traditionally believed that Canaan had settled in Africa. The dark skin of Africans became associated with this "curse of Ham. " Thus slavery of Africans became religiously justifiable. Author Anthony Pagden wrote:

"This reading of the Book of Genesis merged easily into a medieval iconographic tradition in which devils were always depicted as black. Later pseudo-scientific theories would be built around African skull shapes, dental structure, and body postures, in an attempt to find an unassailable argument--rooted in whatever the most persuasive contemporary idiom happened to be: law, theology, genealogy, or natural science -- why one part of the human race should live in perpetual indebtedness to another." 1

cursing all of an individual's innocent descendents into perpetual slavery because of an inappropriate act by an ancestor is immoral.

laying a curse on the innocent son of the person who committed the act is immoral.

But in ancient times, cursing a whole race into slavery was considered acceptable because it was in the Bible. American slave owners, almost all of whom were Christians, felt that they were carrying out God's plan by buying and using slaves.

Slavery was also condoned and regulated in many passages of the in the Bible. There is no record of Jesus having commented on it. Paul had every opportunity to condemn slavery, particularly in his Epistle to Philemon. But he remained silent, except to urge slaves to be content with their lot and to obey their owners. More on slavery in the Bible .

Slavery was sanctioned and carefully regulated by many passages in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) largely in the Pentateuch - its first 5 books. Although slavery was widespread in Palestine during Jesus' ministry, he is not recorded as having expressed any opinion on it. Slavery was casually mentioned without criticism in the various books of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). The authors appeared to accept slavery as a natural condition -- as a universal institution that was not particularly immoral.

Many of the early Christians were slaves. They were treated as equals within the church. Perhaps because of their close contacts with slaves, the early Christian movement appears to have opposed slavery as an immoral institution:

30 to 330 CE : Many of the early Church fathers promoted the abolition of slavery:

The Christians in Asia Minor "decried the lawfulness of it, denounced slaveholding as a sin, a violation of the law of nature and religion. They gave fugitive slaves asylum, and openly offered them protection. " 2

According to a 19th century author Edward C. Rodgers: 3

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