The church acted as the moral authority of society during the period of slavery. Its role was creating an environment for spiritual growth and people could seek its advice when faced with issues in their lives (Titus 23). In addition, it acted as a source of comfort making it a haven for persons to find sanity amidst confusion and problems they faced on a daily basis. The church pointed out evils taking place in a society they served and advised the nation on what they should do to avoid conflicts with their Creator (Turner 119). This meant that leaders in the political scene and the general society looked up to the church. Despite the great expectations people had in the role played by the church, they were disappointed due to its position and relations during the period of slavery. Church relations during the period of slavery were strained due to the division among the leaders towards the acts of suppression of people serving others.
Christianity beliefs as taught by the church in the slavery era argued that slavery was a sin. This is because people in a superior position were taking advantage of the rest in the society making it hard for them to enjoy their freedom (Titus 71). Masters overworked their slaves and did not offer them any form of payment. This meant that slaves welfare and wellness depended on their bosses. According to the church, one major argument that supported the idea of slavery as a sin is that in a working relationship, both the master and a worker benefit from the arrangement as one receives services while the other party gets payment in kind. However, in the slavery activities that took place in the society, only the master gained from the free labor extended to them on their farms.
The church also stated that according to biblical teachings, all people, irrespective of their color or social position were equal before God (Turner 57). This meant that no individual had the right to use another one wrongfully as long as people held the same position before God. The White race used its superiority in development as a tool to take advantage of the rest. This was an unfair decision as it affected families where slaves come from. For instance, when Whites bought slaves, they did not consider their family setup and argued they wanted those that would work as long as they were healthy.
The church relations during the period of slavery were strained due to the contradicting position leaders took (Titus 28). In spite of the fight leaders presented in the public that they did not support acts of slavery, it was the opposite when it came to actualizing the arguments. Some of the leaders in the church were the richest people in the society that owned large tracts of land necessitating them to demand slaves to work for them (Titus 29). Hence, they engaged with slaves but protected their image in the public forum as they gained from them. Despite working for church leaders, slaves did not receive any form of special treatment, unlike their counterparts who worked for heathens. Slaves working for leaders were not allowed to leave the farms in fear that they would communicate with others about their masters treatment. Their working conditions were severe as they were with other landowners and slaves were denied the right of association. The churches, as institutions, in the society also owned large tracts of land, which needed cheap labor from slaves (Turner 23). Managers of church employed slaves but were cautious to keep the information private as it would destabilize their stand against the trade and would lose their employees.
Apart from the provision of cheap labor in farms, slaves had an active role in the industrial development phase (Turner 65). They were used in factories to run different errands while their White masters took up the light work of decision-making. At this time, the country was going through different developments like industrialization and revolutions, which came with a demand for labor. Slaves were readily available and they did not demand payments. It was also easy to control and manipulate them due to the social condition they lived in their countries. With this concept of development, then the church was silent when it came to the abolishment of the slave trade. Their perception and arguments in relation to this were that the nation needed slaves at this time more than the moral obligation of equalizing people (Titus 38). Hence, some of the church leaders that held influential positions in the society were used as channels to bring slaves into the country.
Weighed down by guilt and betrayal to a society that expected them to act otherwise, the church introduced a new concept of teaching slaves about religion (Titus 17). For instance, the Anglican Church prioritized on converting slaves into Christianity and teaching them the ways of God. Their idea was that if slaves gained a little education, they would be in a position to respond positively to the teachings of the Bible, as they would be in a position to read and understand the Scripture on their own. More slaves became interested in religion as they viewed that as an opportunity where they would end their illiteracy and use the knowledge gained to bargain their way out of oppression from their masters. However, the church did not have honest opinions and motivation of introducing religion to slaves (Titus 37). Their idea was to suppress conformity among all slaves. The church would capture their attention and encourage slaves using biblical teachings on why they should continue working. In support of their arguments, the church argued that slaves brought into the country through legal means were right. This meant that their masters had the authority over them as they parted with an amount of money so that they can possess them.
In conclusion, with the increase of slaves in the society who were getting the education, it became evident that they wanted to end the oppression they had faced under the hands of their masters for a long time. The church needed to change tactic and act right. It now advocated for an end to slavery with honest reasons claiming that inflicting pain and suffering on others was prohibited in the Bible. A church like the Anglican Church was vocal in their demands. With time, slaves accepted religion and did not view it as oppression, rather than a channel of hope for freedom. Slaves were willing to convert to Christianity and adhere to the teachings. It is evident that the church played an active role during the period of slavery.
Titus, Noel F. Conflicts and Contradictions: The Introduction of Christianity to the Sixteenth-century Caribbean. Minerva, 1998.Titus, Noel. Development of Methodism in Barbados, 1823-1883. Diss. 2009.Titus, Noel. The Church and Slavery in the English-speaking Caribbean. No. 2. Caribbean Group for Social and Religious Studies, 1983.Turner, Mary. "Slaves and Missionaries." The Disintegration of Jamaican Slave Society (1998).
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