Why Some Christians Supported Slavery
MANY SOUTHERN CHRISTIANS felt that slavery, in one Baptist minister’s words, “stands as an institution of God.” Here’s why.
• Abraham, the “father of faith,” and all the patriarchs held slaves without God’s disapproval (Gen. 21:9–10).
• Canaan, Ham’s son, was made a slave to his brothers (Gen. 9:24–27).
• The Ten Commandments mention slavery twice, showing God’s implicit acceptance of it (Ex. 20:10, 17).
• Slavery was widespread throughout the Roman world, and yet Jesus never spoke against it.
• The apostle Paul specifically commanded slaves to obey their masters (Eph. 6:5–8).
• Paul returned a runaway slave, Philemon, to his master (Philem. 12).
Charitable and Evangelistic Reasons
• Slavery removes people from a culture that “worshipped the devil, practiced witchcraft, and sorcery” and other evils.
• Slavery brings heathens to a Christian land where they can hear the gospel. Christian masters provide religious instruction for their slaves.
• Under slavery, people are treated with kindness, as many northern visitors can attest.
• It is in slaveholders’ own interest to treat their slaves well.
• Slaves are treated more benevolently than are workers in oppressive northern factories.
• Just as women are called to play a subordinate role (Eph. 5:22; 1 Tim. 2:11–15), so slaves are stationed by God in their place.
• Slavery is God’s means of protecting and providing for an inferior race (suffering the “curse of Ham” in Gen. 9:25 or even the punishment of Cain in Gen. 4:12).
• Abolition would lead to slave uprisings, bloodshed, and anarchy. Consider the mob’s “rule of terror” during the French Revolution.
• Christians are to obey civil authorities, and those authorities permit and protect slavery.
• The church should concentrate on spiritual matters, not political ones.
• Those who support abolition are, in James H. Thornwell’s words, “atheists, socialists, communists [and] red republicans.”
By the Editors
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #33 in 1992]
Broken Churches, Broken Nation
When slavery divided America’s churches, what could hold the nation together?the Editors
Revivals in the Camp
At first, most Civil War soldiers cared little for religion. But as the bloody war dragged on, hundreds of thousands converted to Christ.Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr.
Reports of the Revival
The Confederate camp became “a school of Christ.”Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr.
Behind Enemy Lines
While carrying tracts to Union troops, one preacher was seized by Confederates as a spy.Perry Brown - American Tract Society
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