Black Slaves and Religion
One of the first things that attracted the African American slaves to Christianity was a way of obtaining the salvation of theirs souls based on the Christian’s idea of a future reward in heaven or punishment in hell, which did not exist in their primary religion. The religious principles inherited from Africa sought purely physical salvation and excluded the salvation of the soul. However, they did believe in one supreme God, which made it easier for them to assimilate Christianity. Christianity provided African American slaves with hope, because although they were suffering as merely human instruments of work, God was watching them and all of theirs suffering would be rewarded by him. “Slavery, with all its disadvantages, gave the Negro race, by way of recompense, one great consolation, namely, the Christian religion and the hope and belief in a future life. The slave, to whom on this side of the grave the door to heaven, and that made his burden lighter. The hope and aspiration of the race in slavery fixed themselves on the vision of the resurrection.” They believed that by being passive and accepting all the humiliation and beatings from their masters, in the end, God would reward the slaves and punish their masters. The enormous number of conversions to Christianity among slaves during the First and Second Awakenings were important because it gave slaves hope and faith of some kind of divine rescue from all their suffering. At the same time, although this question was never completely solved, many slaves would also get their freedom while getting baptized as Christians, given that many Christian slaveholders would not enslave their religious fellows. Although sometimes conversion would mean freedom, slaves did not tend to convert themselves in a hypocritical way; they did become religious people. John Jea, a slave that acquired his freedom by converting into Christianity became a well known minister in America and Europe....
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Wimberly, Edward P., and Anne Streaty Wimberly. Liberation & Human Wholeness. Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1986.
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