In African American history throughout the Americas, they have been through a lot from being taken away from their native homelands, brought up as slave workers, treated badly based on their skin color, and given unfair opportunities in many occasions. Yet they have overcome and kept on living even with adopting a several religions taught by their slave owners and making it their own. The main realign they adopted was the Christian religion which they followed throughout their lives. Following the teachings given to them, African American didn’t question it. Sooner or later, there are even contradictory pictures of the Christian churches in America that appeared during the antebellum period. Several former slaves like Mrs. Jarena Lee, Frederick Douglass, Peter Randolph, and a former slave talked about their experience with the religion an how it differs from their expected view of the Christian church in America.Order now
In the story from Fredrick Douglass, he recalls his experience as slave and how he viewed religion. From moving from one slave master to another, he finally got one that was different from the rest. Since his new master, Mr. William Freeland, didn’t have much for religion, he saw it as an advantage because he saw religion from the south as a way to covering for the most horrid crimes (The African American Religious Experience 48). He saw it that way because of the way the slave was treated because it was in the right of the religion. He also viewed it as where it’s filled with so much hate. According to Fredrick Douglas experience and other slaves he had talked to, He saw slaveholders who are religious as the worst because of they view themselves as having the higher moral ground or self-righteous while they have no disregard for their slaves. So basically he saw every slaveholder with religious background as bad person but that doesn’t mean he viewed the religion like Christianity in that same regard. He saw it as a respectable religion with a lot of good values and teachings. He loves the teachings of Christianity where it gives ideas that are pure, peaceful, and impartial Christianity of Christ. On the flip side, he dislikes how it turned corrupted and hypocritical to those slaveholders who are supposed to be good Christians (The African American Religious Experience 58). So in the view of Fredrick Douglass, his positive outlook of religion is the religion itself while the negative outlook is the slaveholders of the south who uses it as a tool to uphold their power and control the slaves.
The stories from Mrs. Jarena Lee account her religious experience from her life. In the beginning when she was exposed to religion, she saw herself as a sinner and wanted to change her lifestyle for the better. Throughout her life she has face many challenges like thoughts of suicide or personal illness. Once she found a way to justify it through prayer, she began work. Given the right to go out and preach by Richard Allen, she became very religious and traveled place to place converting non-believers to the Christian fate. During her time of preaching the gospel, she met people who belittled her for being color and also being a woman as well. It was hard getting the word out her when people didn’t even see you worthy of preaching in the first based on those factors. So in the view of Jarena Lee, her positive outlook of religion is the way it transformed her to become a massager of god and preach the good word. The negative is not being taken serious of because of being a woman and color in a white male dominance religion.
In the story from Peter Randolph, this is called Religious Instruction. It tells events where preachers are telling slaves what to do for the good for your soul. The first preacher taught the slaves that slavery was a good thing. It was supposed to be a way to help African American save them from sin (The African American Religious Experience 92). There were other preachers that taught slaves the basics like the commandments. They should not lie and steal but there were more rules that make things more dishearten for the slaves. Regardless of being slaves and being forced to work against your own will, they should appreciate what was given to them and not make a fuss about it.
They were told to be kind to their masters because without them, you wouldn’t have a roof over your head, something to eat, something to wear, and wouldn’t have protection. Another preacher says it bad to run away from your master because you’ll be running away from the church. And if you returned, you need to repent for your sins and ask your master for forgiveness. Even in the extreme, slave was not even allowed to pray to God. These were some of the examples that slaves were taught when they went to church. It was a way to keep them in check and control their lives. It limits a lot of what can a slave can do and feel very defeated because of it. The positive for this view of religion is that the slave has all these benefits but the negative is it’s not that good compared to the whole being control by using the fear of religion as a means to control them.
In conclusion, these different stories have a common theme of the use of religion to for their own benefit. In the terms of Fredrick Douglass and Peter Randolph, it used to put down slaves and have them believe that this is how the world works and that it’s common to have a master and slave. On the flip side, Jarena Lee saw it as a way to live a better life and be a force for good. Even though, these three stories had conflicting views about religion because Fredrick may have hated the slaveholder’s use of religion, he had a lot of respect for it. While Jarena was part of the Holy Spirit, Peter saw it more as a way to control the slaves. These experiences for these slaves had different impact of them even though it was through the same religion of Christianity.