1. White masters emphasized Jesus’ love for all
2. That they must obey their masters, just like they were supposed to obey God
3. Toil in this lifetime to be rewarded in the afterlife
4. They generally allowed the slaves to practice religion in any way they pleased
The real answer is “All the above”. Charles Gilmer explains:
In his book, “The Early Church in Africa”, Dr. John Mbiti outlines the fact that the message of Jesus penetrated Africa before it ever reached Europe. “Christianity in Africa is so old that it can be rightly described as an indigenous, traditional and African religion,” says Dr. Mbiti. The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch described in the Book of Acts predates the apostle Paul’s first missionary journey into Europe by a number of years. There is clear, historical documentation of the church in Africa by the third century. Christianity was the dominant religion in North Africa and most notably Egypt.
Egyptian and North African scholars such as Clement, Origen, Tertullian, and Athanasius are widely recognized as fathers of the church. By the year 300, Egypt had more than a million Christians. In the sixth century, Christianity spread to the Nubian Kingdoms, soon becoming the dominant religion. The Christian Nubian Kingdoms survived for 700 years, resisting attempted domination by Muslim conquerors for 600 of those years.
The Egyptian Coptic Church in the Sudan and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church still exist today. Though persecuted, their presence is testimony to the historicity of Christianity in Africa. There is growing evidence that the long-standing presence of Christianity in the Nile Valley and in present-day Ethiopia provided a base for the introduction of Christianity in Southern and Western Africa. In summary, the assertion that Christianity is the “white man’s religion” is neither historically accurate nor currently true. The first African Christians were not American slaves. The Christian heritage in Africa goes all the way back to the days of the Bible itself.
In the United States, there was vocal Christian protest against the slave trade and much of the abolitionist movement was spear-headed by Christian people. There were also many Christians who defended slavery. The issue of slavery grew more divisive, and eventually most of the major Protestant denominations divided over the issue. This actually set the stage for the Civil War.
Part of the rationalization of the slave trade was to “civilize” and “Christianize” the Africans. Missionary efforts among the slaves were allowed because owners assumed that Christianity would make slaves better workers. In the course of this instruction, the slaves discovered something. While the Bible did teach, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear,” it also said, “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both your Master and theirs is in heaven and there is no favoritism with him.” They discovered that the slavery alluded to in the Bible was substantially different from what they were experiencing. Too many masters wanted their slaves to submit to the commands of Scripture but were unwilling to live by those commands themselves.
The slaves discovered this contradiction but did not allow that to interfere with receiving the transcendent truth of the Bible. In its pages they found hope, courage, strength and comfort. The old black spirituals are the legacy of the faith of those who, from an earthly standpoint, had cause for despair. This faith enabled our forefathers to endure trials and hardships that we can only imagine. This faith inspired leaders to respond courageously to the problems. These leaders were the likes of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and the thousands of former slaves who enlisted in the Union Army to fight for their freedom. The liberating dynamic of the Bible caused the Southern states to place restrictions on missionary activities among the slaves, forbidding reading instruction and limiting preaching by slave preachers. They also began to put restrictions on slave worship services.
The spiritual “Steal Away” signaled the calling of a worship service to be held in the “hush arbors” outside of the scrutiny of the master or his overseers. In these hush arbors (gathering places in the seclusion of the woods) our forefathers and mothers could revel in the truth that they were not brute beasts with no more value than an ox. No, the Bible taught them that they were children of the Most High God, citizens of His heavenly kingdom, and that they had inherent value as humans. When they entered into prayer and worship, they experienced a fleeting but galvanizing foretaste of an eventual eternal reward.
The slaves who turned to Jesus knew the difference between some of the versions of Christianity they were seeing practiced and the Christianity they were hearing described in the Bible. Hence the line in the spiritual, “Everybody talkin’ ’bout heaven ain’t goin’ there.” They chose to follow the Jesus they saw in the Bible. Jesus provided the hope and power they needed to survive slavery.
See the links and resources below for a more extensive explanation:
I cannot see how anyone now alive can really know the answer, why you would ask if you were just going to answer it yourself, what is the point to this question and why it is posted in this section. If there’s anything we should know about slavery by now, it is that there is not one universally shared experience. Individuals were treated according to the individual practices of those who “owned” them.
mook, the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt. I’d hardly say that was religious people inventing slavery. Even people who do not believe in the Biblical account do not deny that slaves would have been used to build the pyramids. Fast forward to the US, and white slave traders profited from exploiting the slavery already in existence in Africa. Slave traders were not known for their “religiosity.”
A better question is, what elements of tribal religions, did the black abductors, who abducted the other blacks in Africa, to be sold on the West coast of Africa, to the slave traders, choose to present to their slaves?
I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of the misrepresentation of the facts, by the exclusion of the whole truthful process of HOW blacks became slaves in the new world.
By almost exclusively pointing out the ‘white’ slave owners, and not the blacks in Africa, that tore the communities apart of their own brothers, we continue to promote the LIE, that whitey single handed-ly oppressed the blacks.
Actually, it was religion that created the “belief” that people of African descent were inferior, and therefore suited to slavery.
It used to be against the law for Christians to enslave Christians. When the slaves began converting, it was like, “oh crap, they can’t be slaves anymore.” So they changed their tune and turned it into a “race” issue.
Edit: So Tralfaz, you’re saying that because black people also had slavery, that it was “okay” for white people to own slaves? Give me a break.
Ruth: I’m talking about modern slavery as we had it here in the U.S. You are quite right about ancient slavery. I’m not implying that slave traders were religious, however, there were many religious people who owned slaves, and they justified it through the means that I described. I’m not trying to impune religion, and I apologize if it sounded that way, I’m simply stating how religion and racism were intertwined in the formation of our modern racist conceptions.
Um, the true Christians were the ones openly seeking to have slavery abolished. They were the ones educating and elevating the slaves. Just had to tell you. Are we not brothers? was the slogan they used, check into it.
This is a great question! I don’t know that how you phrased #2 is right though. I don’t think they expected the slaves to treat them as a God. Most black people are Baptist aren’t they? Is this because Baptist demonination was predominantly in the south?
white slave owners were loved by God but did not know the true meaning of spreading his love becuase if they did they would not have slaves
the false, European version altogether