“Christianity and the Abolitionist Movement”

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Randy Hardaman presents a brief yet extensively footnoted outline of Christianity’s place in the American abolition movement. His central point is,

The abolitionist movement itself was essentially a movement to reinstate Christian morality in the South. If it were not for Christianity and, with that, Christian morality there would have been no abolitionist movement and slavery would not have ended when it did.

His analysis comes in three parts, One, Two, and Three. He takes scrupulous care in presenting the other side of the story: that southern Christians used Scripture to support slavery. His argument may be summarized:

A. There was an historical connection between Christianity and slavery in the South, in that there were those who believed in Christianity and also supported slavery. Those persons attempted to show that the connection was a properly theological one, but their attempts were demonstrably misguided and wrong. There is no theological basis upon which chattel slavery could be supported.

B. There was a more-than-historical connection between Christianity and abolitionism, however: Christian belief was at the core of anti-slavery activism.

B is based on two lines of evidence. First, the abolitionists themselves clearly testified that they were motivated by their Christian understanding of morality and the brotherhood of all humanity. Second, prior to and including the ending of slavery in America, there were no abolition movements in the world that were not founded on Christian convictions. (Whether that is still the case, I do not know. If it is not, one could still argue that the example set by Christian Europe and North America has led the way for all subsequent anti-slavery action.)

Hardaman does not deal comprehensively with “What about the Bible’s condoning of slavery?” Timothy Keller works out that issue in an excellent talk titled “Injustice: Hasn’t Christianity been an instrument for oppression?”