Religious Justifications Of Slavery In The Caribbean Essay

Essay, Research Paper

The philosophy of Christianity grants ageless life to all individuals who accept that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and take to follow him. Such a statement leaves small room for reading of the Bible itself. However, the 19th century Christian churches of the Caribbean Islands created a racial differentiation between worlds which determined who could and who could non be granted ageless life through the Christian religion. This construct of race was based on the belief that Africans were intellectually unable to do an educated determination sing personal faith. Planters supported this favoritism against their workers because so they did non hold to be cruel to fellow Christians. Two sorts of Christianity existed in the Caribbean during the 19th century. Planters and the church of the elite, chiefly the Anglican church upheld a Christian religion that served chiefly to warrant the wealth of the opinion category, and the subjugation of the enslaved peoples. The other side of the Christian faith served to advance the spiritual instruction of the slaves by runing under the non-traditional belief that all work forces were worthy of hearing the Gospel, and doing a pick for or against Christianity. This belowground signifier of Christianity more closely represents the true ideals of the Christian religion, and grossly illuminates the corruptness of Christianity at the custodies of the plantation owners.

During slavery many households were separated: male parents, female parents and kids were attached to different plantations with the consequence that some ne’er saw their household members once more. The duty of conveying up the kids rested chiefly with the female parents and grandmas. This state of affairs gave rise to a matriarchal type of household which is still common in the Caribbean today. Formerly slaves had small or no cognition or chance of legal matrimonies. ( Subsequently they were informed by the missionaries ) . The slave proprietors did non promote the establishment of matrimony. It was felt that the strength and power of the matrimony brotherhood would offer a menace to the Plantation System. Concubinage was encouraged as it was believed that this frail type of brotherhood would maintain the Blacks low and complacent. Despite the rapid societal alterations taking topographic point, common-law matrimonies and concubinage are still present in Caribbean and will possibly be for a long clip.

During the latter portion of the nineteenth and the beginning of the 20th century ( 1890-1910 ) there was a big motion of people from Jamaica to Cuba, Panama, Costa Rica and the United States of America in hunt of occupations. Fathers travelled off from their households go forthing female parents to be entirely responsible for the upbringing of their kids. During the 1950s there was an hegira of Jamaicans to England. These included both male parents and female parents, and so, many kids were left to be cared for by their grandmas and other relations.

Although households differ in signifier harmonizing to the society, they however are responsible for transporting out certain maps. The head of these are:

1. Reproduction or reproduction & # 8211 ; for continuance of the species.

2. Socialization which includes -education, faith, readying for a calling, larning societal relationships, direction of leisure and being a responsible citizen.

3. Supplying the basic demands of nutrient, shelter, vesture, wellness attention and love.

4. Conveying the civilization: that is, go throughing on the linguistic communication, thoughts, beliefs and attitudes, ends and values.

5. Preventing incest, by modulating kinship relationships

6. Confering Status:

Status may be of 2 sorts, viz. :

( a ) derived: that is, inherited like familyname, linguistic communication and address, schooling, relationships and privileges.

( B ) acquired: that is earned by the person from the society based on the single & # 8217 ; s ain public presentation.

Family maps are more or less cosmopolitan, in that households through-out the universe are expected to execute these maps for the Benefit chiefly of their household members and the community. Family functions are determined within the societal scene of the household and are performed by single household members. Families all over the universe execute the maps outlined before, irrespective of the society in which they live. Individual, household members, nevertheless, have different functions which they perform from twenty-four hours to twenty-four hours for the public assistance of the household as a whole and the members in peculiar.

Functions of a generalised nature are attributed to certain household members: for illustration male parent as breadwinner, housekeeper, counselor and caring individual, depending on fortunes and household state of affairs. Other household members like adolescents and grandparents can lend from their net incomes and pensions severally to household income and promote wonts of thrift. Other functions include particular family undertakings like meal readying and service, cleansing, sanitation, coring for pets, some of which con be performed by younger household members. Younger household members besides add to the household & # 8217 ; s aesthetic values by their music, play and other art signifiers.

Parents & # 8217 ; functions include development of religious values, counsel in educational and societal development, every bit good as giving aid in organizing good personal relationships.

In drumhead household functions include: sharing and executing place undertakings pooling resources, pooling resources, presuming back uping functions, run intoing household demands, acknowledging single rights, presuming function of breadwinner, assisting to set up values.

The church of the elites struggled to warrant the function of bondage in modern-day Caribbean life. This church, chiefly of the Anglican denomination sought merely to supplicate its fiscal protagonists, so that its hereafter being would be insured. The justification of bondage went back far into scriptural history. Mentions to slavery litter the Old Testament of the Bible, making statements for the support of bondage. Many work forces of the Old Testament such as Abraham, David, and Moses referred to themselves as slaves of the Lord. However, these work forces referred to slavery as a voluntary status, which one entered into by understanding and belief that the Lord would harvest benefits upon those who bowed to Him. These definitions of bondage besides focus more at the religious being than the physical being. However, the Israelites twisted this impression of bondage into the subjection of other peoples, because they had been named the Lord & # 8217 ; s chosen people. Moses wrote in the book of Leviticus:

& # 8220 ; As for your male and female slaves whom you may hold & # 8211 ; you may get male and female slaves from the heathen states that are around you. `Then, excessively, it is out of the boies of sojourners who live as foreigners among you that you may derive acquisition, and out of their households who are with you, whom they will hold produced in your land ; they besides may go your ownership. `You may even will them to your boies after you, to have as a ownership ; you can utilize them as lasting slaves. But in regard to your countrymen, the boies of Israel, you shall non govern with badness over one another. & # 8221 ; ( Bible, Leviticus 25:44-46 )

The Jews interpreted this transition as a licence to ain slaves and a reassertion of their high quality over other states ( and races ) . The Old Testament offered small to belie the establishment of bondage as it became an sanctioned fixture within society. ( Davis, 1966, p.63-65 ) Ancient scriptural divinity interpreted the bondage of the Jews in Egypt as a necessary period of bondage in readying for freedom. Slavery, hence, was a measure towards redemption and freedom, non a lasting bondage. However freedom was non easy to come by for the slaves. Many slave adult females wanted their freedom and the freedom of their kids. They wanted besides to make housekeeping and be free from the labors of field labor every bit good as to get away the economic adversity of bondage. So they submitted to the sexual progresss of the plantation owners and slave Masterss, and tire them kids outside of marriage. A similar form exists today ( even though to a lesser extent ) where places and particular considerations are exchanged for sexual favor. This transition in Leviticus represented one of the earliest justifications of the bondage of another people. Because the Jews had suffered under bondage, now others were destined to follow the same way, to one twenty-four hours accomplish their freedom. The New Testament, incorporating the instructions of Jesus Christ discredited this earlier justification of bondage by redefining the Jews & # 8217 ; definition of bondage. Jesus used the term in a much broader context. The Apostle John wrote:

& # 8220 ; Jesus therefore was stating to those Hebrews who had believed Him, & # 8220 ; If you abide in My word, so you are truly adherents of Mine ; and you shall cognize the truth, and the truth shall do you free. & # 8221 ; They answered Him, & # 8220 ; We are Abraham & # 8217 ; s progeny, and have ne’er yet been enslaved to anyone ; how is it that You say, `You shall go free & # 8217 ; ? & # 8221 ; Jesus answered them, & # 8220 ; Truly, genuinely, I say to you, everyone who commits wickedness is the slave of wickedness. And the slave does non stay in the house forever ; the boy does stay forever. & # 8221 ; ( Bible, John 8:31-35 )

Jesus here extended the definition of bondage to widen beyond physical bondage. The Jews, holding lived with the righteous belief that they were the chosen people, ne’er considered themselves to be in bondage to anything. Jesus, and his follower Paul, taught that there existed two forces over work forces, God and Satan, and that worlds lay in a ageless province of bondage to either of these two forces. Therefore, from the Christian position, true freedom came merely when one pledged oneself to the full to the will of God, going in kernel a slave or retainer to God & # 8217 ; s Word. The option to this bondage was bondage to transgress, which deceived persons because it allowed people to make whatever they wished to make. Such free pick usually denotes freedom, non a bondage. Therefore, bondage became inevitable, the lone issue was to what would an single choose to enslave him or herself.

This divinity came as a double-edged blade to both pro-slavery and anti-slavery motions. Jesus & # 8217 ; learning inferred that all work forces were equal before the Lord, and capable to both God and Satan. This held proprietors and plantation owners as peers, a strong point for anti-slavery motions. For bondage advocators, the fact that Christian slaves were to accept their status as ordained by God discouraged slave rebellion, and encouraged the peaceable continuation of the slave society. Human being on Earth should non count to Christians, holding been assured ageless life after decease. If Christians fought for emancipation, either for themselves, or for others, they took duty off from God and placed it with themselves, denying their religion in their rescue.

Paul & # 8217 ; s Epistle to Philemon discusses the issue of bondage straight. This missive instructs Philemon to take back Onesimus, a former slave of Philemon, whom Paul had converted to Christianity. Paul asked Philemon to handle Onesimus as a religious brother, non as a bondservant. By obeying Paul & # 8217 ; s direction, Onesimus & # 8217 ; bondage to Philemon would non hold carried the intensions that slavery carry today. While Onesimus would stay capable to Philemon for employment, an ambiance of development would non hold existed. This theory relied on both the maestro and break one’s back keeping a solid spiritual footing in Christianity. For plantation owners and slaves in the 19th century Caribbean, a common apprehension of Christian beliefs did non be, and was prevented from bing by subdivisions of the Christian church. Therefore, the construct that the Christian church condoned bondage is merely partly right. While the Christian religion does let for bondage, it does non let for bondage under the conditions that existed in the Caribbean. The Anglican church nevertheless, ignored the New Testament instructions in order to back up their frequenters, the plantation owner category. The church, though charged by the European monarchies with teaching the slaves in Christian patterns, took an uninterested attack to missions work with the Africans. The plantation owners wished to avoid the Christianization of their slaves, therefore going guilty of mistreating fellow Christians in the eyes of God. This tailoring of Christianity to suit a certain preset set of fortunes, and self-satisfied attitude towards the spiritual duties to the slaves marked the deep corruptness of the Christian church.

As bondage established itself in the part, a difference between Protestant and Catholic divinities developed on the spiritual intervention of slaves. The Catholic states of Spain and Portugal employed priests to execute fundamental baptisms on the slaves, normally before they departed from the African continent. This pattern ensured that the Catholics had completed their duty of `Christianizing & # 8217 ; their slaves. In fact, the slaves received no direction in the Christian religion, and surely did non understand the rites performed by the Catholic priests. The Protestants, on the other manus, discouraged spiritual instruction of slaves because of legislative acts within the Protestant church prohibiting the ownership and development of fellow Christians. They besides felt that their safety and security rested upon the ignorance of their workers. If slaves were educated and given cognition, the slave proprietors worried that their justifications of bondage would fall under onslaught from the laden category, precisely what had already happened on mainland Europe during the political revolutions of the late 18th century. This belief ran straight against true Christian instruction, which said that the slaves, upon good Christian instruction would recognize their place within society and would work in return for just intervention as described above.

Even if the slaves had been granted a Christian instruction by the Protestants, it is improbable they would hold received better intervention. Most plantations focused on the production of

sugar, necessitating grueling fieldwork by slave packs. To change over this labour to a more civilised agenda, leting workers free clip, and proper nutrient and shelter would hold raised the costs of plantation operation extortionately for the plantation owners. The proprietors of these plantations, largely absent from the part cared merely for net incomes, and money. Any cost non straight ensuing in more income was deemed unneeded. The ill-treatment of the slaves was farther encouraged by the low monetary values for slaves. It became more economical to work slaves to decease than to care for them. With such conditions, it was non surprising that few slaveowners allowed Christian instruction for the slaves. ( Hart, 1980, pg.119 )

The big institutional faiths of Europe were non the lone Christian influences in the Caribbean at this clip. Other denominations such as the Baptist churchs, Moravians, and Methodist churchs established missions plans throughout the Caribbean Basin to educate the slaves independently. These spiritual groups offered a strong political base to the slaves every bit good, going more of a political establishment than a spiritual one. However, the slaves looked to the Christian religion as agencies to freedom from the subjugation of servitude. Such motions to educate the slaves did non run into with the blessing of the plantation Masterss, fearful of the turning instruction and political individuality that the slaves gained through the church. Slaveowners convinced the Jamaican parliament to go through an regulation in 1807 prohibiting any unaccredited curate to & # 8220 ; preach or Teach, or offer up in public supplication, or sing psalms. & # 8221 ; Punishments for interrupting this regulation ranged from 100 Pounds to six months imprisonment in the workhouse. To farther curtail slave engagement in spiritual ceremonials, parliament farther restricted worship patterns for all island dwellers. This regulation, curtailing worship during the free hours of slaves, attempted to deter engagement among slaves in spiritual assemblages. Such steps against these Christian faiths proved pointless, and finally the slaveowners turned to their ain signifier of instruction to try to take control of their slaves spiritual life. This learning consisted of the basic belief in Jesus, pretermiting any theological survey or background to authorise the slaves into the effects and duties of Christianity. The slaveowners though professing to follow the Christian religion, really were more cultural Christians than spiritual Christians, and alternatively of educating the slaves in the spiritual Christian sense, they preferred to do the slaves cultural Christians, so they would non be inclined to follow the Bible sacredly, and so recognize the full deductions of Jesus & # 8217 ; learning on bondage.

The Anglican and Catholic churches, in respect to their desire to stay in the good graces of the governing category did non actively beat up against these Torahs. However, other Christian denominations continued undiscouraged by the Torahs and unfavourable conditions put away by the opinion category. The Moravians were the first missional group to exercise an influence upon the Negros of Jamaica. Establishing themselves every bit early as 1754, these missionaries, did non upset the slaveowners chiefly because they exhibited a really hapless path record in footings of evangelising and transitions. By 1804, the Moravians claimed merely 938 converts in 50 old ages of Christian instruction. ( Patterson, 1967, pg. 209 ) As a consequence, the slaveowners did non actively prosecute the Moravians in the sermon.

The Methodists established a missional unit in 1789 and rapidly made more of an impact among white, free black, and slave population on Jamaica. This involvement exhibited by free inkinesss upset the white landholders because it gave the inkinesss, albeit free, a cardinal organisational unit from which to derive power. The slaveowners operated entirely out of self-defense of their plantations, and because they knew that intervention of the slaves was detestable, they wore disquieted that those exploited might lift up against their power. This admittance looks psychologically into the heads of the slaveowners, demoing their cognition of unjust intervention and coercion, and their guilt at bring downing it upon another human being. Therefore came the undeniably different attitude held by the proprietors towards the Methodist churchs.

The Baptist religion besides established a really strong bridgehead in Jamaica over a period of clip. Their motion began in 1784 with an ex-slave from the United States, George Liele, who received his freedom from his maestro because of his all right sermon ability. He established a church in Kingston, from which he built many folds all over the state. The broad entreaty of the Baptist religion, came from in portion, its black curates who identified with the predicament of the slaves. This involvement within the Baptist church finally led to a great split in the church, with half following the traditional, Orthodox instructions of Liele, and the other half accommodating the message to their ain demands. ( Patterson, 1967, pg. 212 )

Missionaries of these churches faced many hardships in conveying their message to the African peoples. Those clergy who wished to teach the slaves oftentimes could non derive entree to the slaves because plantation owners would non allow the slaves any free clip to analyze faith, or even to till their ain secret plans. ( Russell-Wood, 1982, pg.130 )

The bulk of slaves come from West Africa where polygamy was practiced, i.e. one adult male holding many married womans. They all shared the some compound with their hubby who was the male parent of their kids. Some African folks chose their head because of his virility and physical art. A adult male & # 8217 ; s virility was based on the figure of his progeny, particularly males. In our society today, it is non uncommon to happen work forces who boost about the figure of kids they have to demo off their virility. Not merely these cultural differences was the barrier to an effectual slave instruction. The linguistic communication was another. Newly-arrived slaves were unable to understand the Portuguese, Spanish or English direction. The clergy was loath to utilize experient slaves with cognition of European linguistic communications for fright that as transcribers, they would take advantage of the state of affairs to distribute false philosophy.

These spiritual motions among the slaves took clasp within the younger coevalss of workers. Older people tended to be so browbeaten, that they could non worry themselves with theological and religious issues, and focussed more on the immediate jobs of daily life. Many twosomes & # 8217 ; alibi for bring forthing big households is the cultural pattern of female parents & # 8216 ; holding out their batch & # 8217 ; . This pattern contributes to over-population and inability of a people to develop to their highest potency. It can even take to enduring with kids being the head victims. A big proportion of the Caribbean population is below working age. In Jamaica in 1990, 50 % of the entire population wasbelow the age of 20. In states with such a immature population, there is heavy load on the working group. Age construction besides has an consequence on educational degrees, and accordingly on life style and criterion of life. Keeping a desirable criterion of instruction topographic points heavy load on the state. Communities that have a high ratio of school kids to working grownups experience great economic strain.

Young people are hence frequently urged to interrupt loose from cultural patterns that could be destructive to them. They are encouraged to develop self-esteem, and attitudes and wonts that will better their environment. This will hold a good consequence on their ain lives and that of their households.

Those who became more involved with Christianity and the assorted spiritual religious orders associated the faith with the societal cause for emancipation. This connexion nevertheless was seen merely from the side of the slaves. The church, mostly wished to avoid heavy political state of affairss while trying to distribute the Gospel amongst the confined peoples. ( Turner, 1982, pg.9 )

The slaves interpreted this motion right as traveling against the will of their Masterss, and hence good for the slaves and good for their freedom. The slaves hence developed a psychological connexion between the church and their freedom, and used the church to accomplish that end. Once the slaves became free, their connexions to the church fell off drastically, holding used the church to accomplish their coveted end. This represented the fact that the slaves did non attach themselves sacredly to the Christian religion, but became more cultural Christians captive upon utilizing the church to foster their ain terminals. After emancipation many of the ex-slaves deserted the estates to better their life conditions, and to get a sense of independency from their former foremans. With the aid of missionaries, big Numberss of them purchased little secret plans of land, up to five estates, while a few squatted on crown lands or on lands belonging to absentee proprietors. The missionaries encouraged matrimony among these freed people who were by that clip set uping households. Many of the retentions were unaccessible to markets so those husbandmans with donkeys would purchase from other husbandmans. The nutrient would so be transported by the provincials themselves or by higglers. Today, still this form exists, but trucks and coachs are used alternatively of donkeys. This pattern provides fiscal support for the household, but it is non without its effects. Here are two:

? Children are kept from school to care for younger sibling ( s ) or to assist with readying of the green goods for market.

? Children are frequently left to care for themselves while their parents are off selling nutrient or assemblage nutrient for market. Lack of supervising frequently produces negative consequences.

Ironically, the plantation owners achieved the overall end they wished to accomplish, albeit non in the concluding signifier they had planned. By back uping the lax and unenthusiastic attempt by the Anglican clergy to Christianize the slaves, the slaveowners ensured what they thought would be a peaceable work force, unburdened with the fusss of faith. However, this same policy allowed for other missional groups to come in the Caribbean, to make full the nothingness created by the bing churches in functioning the Christian demands of the African peoples. This in bend sparked underground spiritual motions within the slave population, which finally led to big scale organisation and emancipation. Therefore, the issue of the withholding of Christianity from the slaves by the proprietors became a important inquiry in footings of its wisdom. While it solved the short term troubles of supplying the instruction and overall better life and on the job conditions for the slaves, it created a long term, unsurmountable job for the plantation owners, leting the slaves to go organized against their oppressors.

Alternatively of utilizing Christianity as a agency to inform and educate, the plantation owners saw it as an enemy which would forestall the aggregation of net incomes. Clearly, the plantation owners did non function as a good representative of the true spiritual beliefs of Christianity in the enslaved Caribbean. When given a pick between God and money, they made a clear pick, which in hindsight from the point of position of the plantation owners was wrong. Any statements for bondage used by the slaveowners came from as justification for economic addition which violates the really nature of the Bible, a aggregation of books for religious addition. In fact, true Christian missionaries runing in the Caribbean, spurred organisation and mobilisation of the slaves through the instruction, although that was non their purpose. The plantation owners, seeking absolution from wickedness, feigning that their slaves were in some manner non created equal, or were unworthy of Christian instruction, really lay in bondage to their wickedness as Christians in neglecting to distribute the word of Jesus Christ. Some readings of the result might state that God brought down the opinion category and liberated the hapless through emancipation because of the wickedness and inhuman treatment of the plantation owners. Jesus recognized the predicament of the hapless and oppressed, and comforted them specifically in his Sermon on the Mount. Others might indicate to the turning secular indignation at the violation of personal autonomy and freedom which triggered the terminal of bondage. In any respect, the establishment of Christianity found itself on both sides of the slavery issue. It was employed by the slaveowners to warrant the bondage of the slaves, every bit good as by the slaves themselves as a way to freedom. Issues of bondage within the Christian religion merit a close scrutiny, as they neither call for the entire freedom, nor entire physical bondage of the 19th century Caribbean. Christianity refers to slavery for the most portion as a religious issue, non the physical issue created by the exploitationist elites of the 19th century against the guiltless Africans.


1. Davis, David Brion ( 1966 ) . The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

2. Hart, Richard ( 1980 ) . Slaves Who Abolished Slavery: Volume 1 & # 8211 ; Blacks in Bondage. Kingston, Jamaica: Institute of Social and Economic Research.

3. Karasch, Mary C. ( 1987 ) . Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro: 1808-1850. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

4. Patterson, Orlando ( 1969 ) The Sociology of Slavery. Cranbury, New Jersey: Associated University Presses.

5. Phillippo, James M. ( 1971 ) Jamaica. Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press.

6. Russell-Wood, A.J.R. ( 1982 ) The Black Man in Slavery and Freedom in Colonial Brazil. London: The Macmillan Press.

7. Schuler, Monica. ( 1980 ) & # 8220 ; Alas, Alas, Kongo & # 8221 ; : A Social History of Indentured African Immigration into Jamaica, 1841- 1865. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

8. Sells, William ( 1972 ) Remarks on the Condition of Slaves in the Island of Jamaica. Shannon, Ireland: Irish University Press.

9. Turner, Mary ( 1982 ) . Slaves and Missionaries: The Disintegration of Jamaican Slave Society, 1787-1834. Urbana,