Friday, November 18, 2005

Church business

I just read a review of a new play at Marin Theatre Company called “Splittin’ the Raft”. The SF Chronicle calendar section lists it as: “The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass' descriptions of slavery are interwoven with Huck and Jim's trip on the raft from Mark Twain's “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in Scott Kaiser's curiously confounding and compelling new play.”

The paper gave it a fairly good review. I’m not sure if we have the time to go see it. But it did pique my interest in Frederick Douglass. I have not thought about him since high school history class. I spent a few minutes yesterday looking him up on the internet. I read through a lengthy but inspiring speech of his.

Later I saw an anit-gay news story about an ecumenical meeting of Catholic priests who support a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. It reinforced for me that American churches have changed very little in the last 140 years. The same arguments and justifications against gays and same-sex marriage were used by most American churches (particularly what are today “Red State” ones) to justify slavery. It is in the Bible. It is part of God’s plan. Blah, blah, blah.

Here are two separate paragraphs from Frederick Douglass’ speech that he gave on July 5th 1852. I feel the same outrage and anger at today’s American churches for their lack of support of gay rights or their hostile attack of them. They are still bigoted organizations that have never learned from history.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines. who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...