Uncle Tom's Cabin: Christianity Supported Slavery

1038 words - 4 pages

Since the 17th century when African slaves were brought over by Dutch slavers, Christianity has been used to justify the act of enslavment. Missionaries sailed with slavers and tried to convert the Africans sold into slavery many times. During the 19th century Christianity was a great factor in helping institutionalize and even justify the suffering of the slaves. Slaves were made to believe through verses of the Bible that if they suffered in their current lives, they would have a better existence after they passed on. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, puts forth the lives of many different slaves and their masters in a way that was one of the contributing factors to igniting the civil war. The book focuses on the tension between the morality of religion and how religion was used to institutionalize slavery, particularly for the main character, Tom. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin presents the interpretative tension between religion and how it was used by the white slaveholders to rationalize Tom’s bondage and servitude for him and themselves.
The white institution of Christianity has been forced upon Tom since childhood to make him believe in the Puritanical tenet that individual suffering in life, guarantees a good tidings in death. Tom has been taught to read the Bible and believes that God will be with him everywhere he goes, even after he has been sold and separated from Aunt Chloe and the rest of his family. “I’m in the Lord’s hands,” said Tom; “nothin’ can go no furder than he lets it;--and thar’s one thing I can thank him for. It’s me that’s sold and going down, and you nur the chil’en. Here you’re safe; ---what comes will come only on me; and the Lord, he’ll help me,--I know he will,” (Stowe 81). This quote illustrates the dividing power of certain biblical passages, and their interpretation by the slaves. Tom believes that he is in God’s hands, and that everything is controlled by a higher power. Clearly his faith in religion is very strong, but he also separates himself from his family by saying that nothing will happen to them. Tom is certain that since none of his family has been sold yet, nothing bad will happen to them. The process of being sold turns him into an item, and he simply looks back into his old life as if through a window, certain that everyone else will be fine. Tom believes that he is a slave by God’s will, not because a white master bought a slave who gave birth to him. He also begins to see himself as separate from his family unit because the process of being sold broke apart families, and biblical passages were used as a rationale for it being necessary. According to Tom’s interpretation of scripture, he is in God’s hands and not part of the family, and that he deserved to be sold. He believes that suffering as a slave will lead to discovering salvation in the afterlife.

Tom’s master, seeing him as property, decided to impose a hypocritical brand of Christianity upon him....

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