They Used Religion To Fight Back Against The Brutalities Of Enslavement

“Whites not only had no patent on Christianity; they were often its obstacle.” – Toni Morrison. White enslavers used religion to oppress those enslaved – but our clever ancestors realized they could use that same religion to get free.

They Used Religion To Fight Back Against The Brutalities Of Enslavement
Via Wikimedia Commons

The church has played a large role throughout Black history – both for good and bad. Churches were amongst the first Western structures enslaved Africans saw while in bondage.

Weeks before slave ships would set sail, the enslaved were packed into dungeons within slave castles along West Africa’s coastline. Right above them, enslavers attended church.

Some of the churches even had windows built into the floors so enslavers could look into the dungeons while praying.

On plantations, enslavers weaponized Christianity, claiming enslavement was “God’s work” and that “servants must obey their master.”

Over time, many enslaved Africans adopted Christianity, but unlike their enslavers, they knew the truth: despite what enslavers said, THEY were God’s children.

Their “church” consisted of secretly gathering late at night to pray, sing, discuss their interpretations of scripture, and fuse Christianity with traditional spiritual practices that survived the Middle Passage.

Their secret worship was liberating, and is the foundation for strong Black spiritual communities today.

Religion has been used to both oppress and empower. Think about the beliefs and traditions within your faith practice – which of these are empowering and which might work to justify shaming others, even if unintentionally?

Like our ancestors, let’s use faith to foster community, love, and liberation. When we encounter misguided people using religion to spread hate, let’s remind them that honoring God means spreading love!

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