The Response of the Christian Orthodox Church to Freethinkers and Unitarians.
In the early 1840’s the main orthodox churches of the country were indifferent to the institution of slavery and slavery was an acceptable social practice. The church actually took the side of the slaveholders when the issue of slavery became a matter of public discourse.
The orthodox Christian church with its various congregations made itself the bulwark of American slavery and the shield of American slaveholders. And may I say as an aside, the churches were generally opposed to women having the same rights and privileges as men.
In my day, (1840 – 1860) Doctors of Divinities in the leading congregations taught that man may properly be a slave, and that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God.
Further these Doctors of Divinities insisted that to send back an escaped slave to his master, as required by the Fugitive Slave Act was clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In my day, Doctors of Divinities taught that the woman should be silent in the church, and should yield or be submissive to the will of her husband, or she should temper her behavior as one who is subservient, when she is in the presence of men.
And thus in my day, both the Freethinkers and the Unitarians expressed opinions that challenged the moral authority of the established church in matters pertaining to Slavery and later on, in matters related to Woman’s rights.
Therefore, during my time, it is not surprising that the orthodox or conservative churches considered the Freethinkers and the Unitarians as just another species of infidelity.
For my part, I would say if the Freethinkers and the Unitarians were just another species of infidels, then “Welcome Infidelity. Welcome anything in preference to the teachings being preached by those Doctors of Divinity. You see, in my time, Christianity had become a religion for oppressors, tyrants, man stealers, thugs, and Indian Dispossesors. And very quickly I learned to reject teachings that favored the rich against the poor.
I stepped away from a doctrine that exalted the proud above the humble.
I ran from a philosophy that divided mankind into two classes: tyrants and slaves, and said to the man in chains, stay there; and said to the oppressor, oppress on!
So I say Thank God for the Freethinkers and thank God for those outspoken Unitarians, and atheist, and agnostics and Deists and other Infidels who worked to help abolitionists like me.
What did abolitionists do?
Abolitionists gave of their time, their wealth and their energies to seek means and methods to abolish America’s chattel Negro Slavery. You see, for me and for other abolitionists, slavery was a human plague that had been conceived in greed, born in sin, cradled in shame, and worthy of utter and relentless condemnation.
However to attack slavery in my time was as unpopular as to attack private property in your time.
We abolitionists argued, exhorted, and tried to convince the general public in many public forums and discussion groups that slavery was evil.
Yes, often we wiped bad eggs off our clothes and dodged bricks, and sometimes ran for our lives from mob violence. But we stirred up men’s minds and thoughts so that never again could they rest in their old ways of thinking about slavery. We flooded the country with thousands of pamphlets and newsletter containing penetrating arguments and stories designed to gather a freedman’s sympathy to our cause.
We knew that the cause of freedom had to be imprinted as “Holy” on men’s minds. It was our task to fire men souls with the cause of freedom. We communicated with men so that they could lift their hearts toward freedom. We converted the general public to the cause of freedom for everyone and not just for themselves.
We had to show that those Doctors of Divinity were wrong in what they taught and that slavery was not ordained of God.
Several abolitionists lost their lives and livelihood as they pressed to change the conscious of the nation. And the majority of these abolitionists were White people.
Never was the Anti-slavery struggle a sure win. There were many bleak moments when we thought the successes of the Slavery forces would overwhelm us. I remember that from 1853 to 1860 the forces of the Slave power seemed to be divinely inspired.
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