The Origins of Proslavery Christianity: White and Black by Charles F. Irons

By Charles F. Irons

Within the colonial and antebellum South, black and white evangelicals often prayed, sang, and worshipped jointly. even supposing white evangelicals claimed non secular fellowship with these of African descent, they still emerged because the top-rated defenders of race-based slavery.

As Charles Irons persuasively argues, white evangelicals' rules approximately slavery grew at once out in their interactions with black evangelicals. Set in Virginia, the most important slaveholding nation and the fireplace of the southern evangelical move, this e-book attracts from church documents, denominational newspapers, slave narratives, and personal letters and diaries to light up the dynamic courting among whites and blacks in the evangelical fold. Irons finds that once whites theorized approximately their ethical duties towards slaves, they suggestion first in their relationships with bondmen of their personal church buildings. therefore, African American evangelicals inadvertently formed the character of the proslavery argument. once they selected which church buildings to affix, used the methods manage for church self-discipline, rejected colonization, or equipped quasi-independent congregations, for instance, black churchgoers spurred their white coreligionists to extra increase the non secular safeguard of slavery.

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Extra info for The Origins of Proslavery Christianity: White and Black Evangelicals in Colonial and Antebellum Virginia

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In late 1667, Virginia’s General Assembly, which created the laws governing the establishment of religion, passed a statute denying that baptism implied manumission and closing such a route to freedom. Black Christians, even at this early stage, were already forcing whites to explain how Christianity and slavery were compatible. Within the text of the statute, the burgesses offered a novel explanation for why they accepted the enslavement of their fellow Christians. It was important for converted Africans to remain in slavery, they argued, because the liberation of those such as Elizabeth Key created a powerful disincentive for planters to allow their slaves access to the Gospel.

Before experience revealed its awful limitations, even African American evangelicals in the commonwealth—but not in the North—supported colonization as a biblical response to slavery. Virginia blacks actually worked alongside whites to equip and to send the first colonists. Indeed, unity was the watchword of this period. Even as black and white evangelicals cooperated, Presbyterians and Episcopalians united with Baptists and Methodists to form what one scholar called an ‘‘evangelical united front’’ in the 1820s.

Virginia evangelicals left other rich resources beyond these records of day-to-day events. Some among them published denominational newspapers, for example. The first of any duration, the Baptist Religious Herald, began publication in 1822. ≥∂ Still other white evangelicals published catechisms explicitly for the use of enslaved men and women, sermons or pamphlets on the peculiar institution, or manuals on how most effectively to minister to bondmen. Black Virginians, too, left their mark in the documentary record, most often in the form of narratives published after their escape from slavery.

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