Frederick Douglass

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Frederick Douglass was an American reformer, author, orator and statesman who fought against slavery in America and the whole world. He wrote some autobiographical books in which he described events of the Civil War and the life of slaves. The essence of religion, in particular, Christianity was very important theme in America before the Civil War. It was part of the Southern culture and the life of ordinary people. In his autobiographical book “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”, Frederick Douglass showed his life as a slave, described the issue of Christianity and its role in a society. His book revealed thrilling facts of the times, showed inhuman cruelty of slaveholders and immorality of slavery.

Frederick Douglass was the author, who deeply studied Christianity during his life and, in conclusion, he viewed Christianity in two ways. In his autobiographical book “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”, the writer described the difference between so called “true” Christianity and “false” Christianity. He called the past Christianity – “the Christianity of Christ” (Douglass, 2004) and the later – “the Christianity of this land” (Douglass, 2004). When Frederick Douglass was a young boy, he considered Christianity to be a false religion. He was a slave and did not know anything about the life of Christ and his mission in this life. His masters justified slavery and, at the same time, believed in Christ, took part in different religious activities and worships. Those slaveholders were not true Christians, and their behavior was violent and immoral. Thus, the author considered Christianity of the South to be untrue and corrupt religion. The church of that time benefited from money, earned by means of slaves’ hard work. Slave owners did not care of human feelings and values; they had thirst for money and self-determination. “False” religion was popular in that society with inhuman brutality of slavery. The slavery and the church stood near each other.

When Frederick grew up, he began to read and study the Bible. The writer realized that there was another side of Christianity, true Christianity. The Bible revealed good moral issues, taught to believe in God and how to be good Christians. Frederick Douglass created his own Christianity, different from the one that was popular in that society. He fought against slavery, anti-Christian traditions in the South and became dedicated to Christianity. In Appendix to his book, the author clarified negative representation of church and Christianity of the South. In his book, he wrote: “Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference – so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked (Douglass, 2004).” The Christianity of that land greatly differed from the one that twelve apostles preached with the Christ. Slaveholders supposed they had “God-given” right to sell people. In such a way, they misinterpreted the study of Christ. The Christ taught to be true, sincere Christians. In this book charitable, generous, honest principles of Christianity of Christ are opposed to brutality, corrupt and violent actions of slaveholders.

To sum up, Frederick Douglass viewed Christianity as a good thing, though he realized that it could have a negative effect when people misinterpreted it to suit their own wishes and hopes. The author fought against the deceitfulness of religious slaveholders, but he did not mean to fight against Christianity. He considered religion and Christianity of the South to be corrupt, women-whipping and slaveholding. This was Christianity of this land, and these were Christians who said one thing and, in practice, did another. Douglass showed the main distinction between American slavery and American Christianity when he said about the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ. Nowadays little has changed. Slavery has ended, but the Christianity of this land does not correspond to such religion like Christianity that the Christ taught two thousand years ago.

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