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Failures And Problems Within Slave Owning Religion As Presented By Frederick Douglass And Harriet Jacobs

2016 words - 8 pages

Chase ClarkMay 5th 2014FAILURES AND PROBLEMS WITHIN SLAVE OWNING RELIGION AS PRESENTED BY FREDERICK DOUGLASS AND HARRIET JACOBSIn Frederick Douglass' Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl the theme of Religion is incredibly important. However, it is the interpretation of the slave owner's behavior and mentality by the authors that enlightens us into the problems that existed within southern Christianity. This essay will focus on the similarities between the two narratives that can be found when both authors describe the hypocrisy that existed in Christianity in the south and the oppression that they faced in regards to how they practiced religion as a result of said hypocrisy.One of the truly fascinating things about slaves at this time is the faith that they had in their God, despite all the oppression they faced on a daily basis. It's ironic, when reading Douglass and Jacobs, to realize that Africans were taught Christianity by the same people who enslaved them, yet it seems that it is the slaves who better understand the teachings of Christianity than the owners. One strong similarity between Douglass and Jacobs is their critical views on the hypocrisy present within the southern Christians. Jacobs discusses the double standards of slave owning Christians when she states "There is a great difference between Christianity and religion at the south. If a man goes to the communion table and pays money into the treasury of the church, no matter if it be the price of blood, he is called religious." I interpret this passage as commenting on the corruption that slavery causes to the foundation of religion. Harriet Jacobs is stating that it is impossible to be a good Christian while supporting the franchise of slavery at the same time. She goes on to discuss how in the eyes of the church, a man who has children out of wedlock will be dismissed if she is white, but if she is colored "it does not hinder his continuing to be their good shepherd." The sentiment is shared by Frederick Douglass, who references one of his masters in regards to the hypocrisy presented in religion and slave owning. "He seemed to think himself equal to deceiving the Almighty. He would make a short prayer in the morning and a long prayer at night; and, strange as it may seem, few men would at times appear more devotional than he." This passage is very powerful to me because it showcases how deep the hypocrisy of this slave owning society went. Douglass seems to infer that all this worship and prayer displayed by Mr. Covey is an act. However, a key point to my interpretation is that even Mr. Covey himself is fooled into thinking he is as devout a Christian can get. Douglass presents this idea when he explains "I do verily believe that he sometimes deceived himself into the solemn belief, that he was a sincere worshipper of the most high God". Douglass then applies this example to his view of others like Mr. Covey by...

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