Answer by Steve Stranghoener
Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1863 but Americans are still consumed by race. Racial divisions are deeper than ever, as evidenced by recent protests and riots, with endless wrangling over the amorphous concept of social justice where some have called for Civil War reparations 155 years after the fact. Simply put, the key reasons are two-fold. First, race has become the main cudgel in America’s political arsenal. Identity politics have driven bitter wedges between every type of group imaginable: black-white, male-female, rich-poor, straight-homosexual, etc. In this poisonous climate, truth has been replaced by destructive narratives aimed solely at achieving the desired end of seizing power.
Slavery in the USA has been taken out of context to the point where it’s almost treated as if this despicable practice occurred nowhere else on the planet. America has been painted as the world’s great villain on the basis of the enslavement of blacks and mistreatment of “Native” Americans. As we know from the Bible, slavery has existed in one form or another since civilization began. Even in ancient Greece, the fount of Western democracy, and in ancient Rome, the model for our great republic, the scourge of slavery resided alongside with the great ideals they passed down. Slavery was not always race-based. The Egyptians had the same or perhaps a darker skin color than the Hebrews they enslaved. The American Colonies were certainly not the first to introduce slavery, race-based or otherwise. The Arab Slave Trade preceded the Atlantic Slave Trade that involved the English Colonies in America. Slavery was worldwide. Even in the Colonies, white slaves or indentured servants from Ireland preceded the African slaves. Black Africans participated in the Atlantic Slave Trade by capturing fellow Africans and selling them to the slave traders.
Speaking of “Native” Americans, there’s no doubt that they received a raw deal from the European settlers. Please note that I have refused to call them indigenous people since they migrated from Babylon and were probably descendants of Japheth or perhaps Shem. Today they have been romanticized as peaceful, spiritual and environmentally friendly icons of what could have and should have been. However, they were not a monolithic people peacefully roaming the forests and prairies. There were over 300 tribes that warred against each other sometimes and made slaves of their captives long before the European settlers arrived. This was also true in Central and South America where the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans ruled well before whites arrived. They were brutal in their treatment of captives, not only enslaving some but also sacrificing others to their false gods in bloody rituals. While the treatment of “Native” Americans was a travesty, it should be seen in the context of the truth that there isn’t a land on earth that wasn’t taken over by force at some point and usually many times over. The redeeming feature is that the European settlers brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to the New World; a blessing to all.
Another popular misconception is that the United States stubbornly clung to slavery long after it had been abolished elsewhere in the world. This simply is not true. Russia didn’t end serfdom until 1861. Bulgaria, Cuba, Brazil, Korea and Egypt didn’t abolish slavery until 1879, 1886, 1888, 1894 and 1895 respectively. Yet, the social justice warriors have not descended upon them. Portugal ended slavery relatively early at home but not in their colonies until 1869. France eliminated slavery in most of their colonies in 1848 but not in French West Africa until 1905. The UK ended domestic slavery in 1833 but then took many years to stop it elsewhere through numerous bilateral treaties, one as late as 1927. The UK and many other nations entered into a multilateral agreement to suppress the international slave trade that was still quite active in 1904. In spite of all these efforts, slavery still exists today in many forms throughout the world, including sex trafficking.
In the formative years of the United States, during the Continental Congresses of 1774-1776, northern Colonies argued for an end to slavery at the very beginning. However, the agrarian economies of the southern Colonies were too wedded to cheap slave labor. This was not a minor tiff but rather became a major point of contention when the 3rd Continental Congress debated whether to separate from England. At that time, in 1776, the Colonists were faced with a stark, difficult choice. They could end the tyranny under King George and continue with slavery or forfeit any hope of independence. While the battle for independence necessarily ruled the day, the debate over slavery remained in the American conscience until 1861. Even then, it took a monumental conflict to resolve the issue with great sacrifices in blood and treasure. Nearly 700,000 Americans died in the Civil War; more than any other U. S. war including World War II.
A better knowledge of history would be very helpful but not quite enough to overcome the problem of racial tension and conflict in the USA. That’s because the notion of race itself has become terribly confused. Evolution, which is taught as gospel in American schools, totally disregards the biblical truth of creation. Humankind has been gobbled up by artificial divisions according to genetic characteristics like skin color. The “races” are treated as competing species or subspecies. No wonder there is such conflict along racial lines. As John Mackay has rightly pointed out, even the concept of one race is a modern misconception that ignores the fact we’re all one KIND.
We are all descended from the same gene pool that originated with Adam and Eve. We can all trace ourselves back to one of three families that departed from Noah’s Ark: Shem, Ham or Japheth. We’re literally all part of the one family of man: God’s children.
Science and history are not enough though. The final answer is to turn to God’s word of truth to see race and slavery in its full biblical context. Some have argued erroneously that God sanctioned slavery because He didn’t condemn it in the Bible. They’re missing the point. The Bible contains many historical references, including slavery, that are neither sanctioned nor prohibited. The historicity of the Bible is a wonderful blessing, lending to the inerrancy of God’s inspired word. God recorded the enslavement of His people in Egypt, not to endorse it but declare it as a fact of history. God’s purpose in the Bible is not to prescribe economic or political solutions to our problems. His primary aim is to point the way to salvation in Jesus Christ and encourage us to see things through spiritual eyes with an eternal perspective.
Paul provided a great example in his letter to Philemon.The Apostle benefitted from the services of an escaped slave, Onesimus, when he was under house arrest in Rome. When Paul learned of Onesimus’ circumstances, he did not rage against the system. He understood the law of the land and encouraged Onesimus to return to his owner, Philemon. Paul did not write to his friend, Philemon, and ask him to free Onesimus. Paul was properly fitted with spiritual lenses and took a Godly approach. His letter to Philemon urged his friend to see Onesimus as more than just property. Paul explained that Onesimus had been brought to faith in Jesus Christ and, thus,he encouraged Philemon to see Onesimus as a brother in Christ and treat him accordingly. Seeing things in such a spiritual context could help many of us in the United States today when it comes to issues of race. For all of us, of every skin colour and trait, we should be focused on true freedom, the kind of spiritual freedom expressed by our Lord in John 8:31-32, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Steve Stranghoener is an American author of numerous works including ‘Uncle Sam’s White Hat’ and ‘The Seven Deadliest Lies’, available through Amazon.
Feature Image: Family of enslaved black Americans in a field in Georgia, circa 1850, Public Domain
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