Journal #6 Frederick Douglass
October 13, 2009
"Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels...We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation." (Douglass 2125)
At one time Mr. Douglass was travelling in the state of Pennsylvania, and was forced, on account of his colour, to ride in the baggage-car, in spite of the fact that he had paid the same price for his passage that the other passengers had paid. When some of the white passengers went into the baggage-car to console Mr. Douglass, and one of them said to him: "I am sorry, Mr. Douglass, that you have been degraded in this manner," Mr. Douglass straightened himself up on the box upon which he was sitting, and replied: "They cannot degrade Frederick Douglass. The soul that is within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me..." (Booker T. Washington, Wikipedia)
Frederick Douglass notes in the appendix of his autobiography Narrative of the Life that he himself holds no grudge towards the religion Christianity itself. Rather, he detests his white masters in being hypocritical, and claims that they practice slaveholding religion. He then states the irony of the "Christian" white masters, thus showing the contradictions between the principles of the religion and the actions in which they were taking at that time against the slaves.
Religion has always been used as a powerful tool of control in history. Christianity, and the Bible in particular, are always molded to suit the intentions of invaders, aristocrats, or in the case of Douglass, slaveowners. The British practiced the very same thing during their period of colonization in the past, when they literally forced Indians to slavery while at the same time emphasizing a strong belief and adherence to Christianity. Douglass' experience speaks for itself: to break a slave both physical and mental tortures have to be put to use. It is brutal and at the same time pathetic to see how white slaveowners mutilate the intended good principles of Christianity in order to suit their evil deeds and doings.
"I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me." Was this what a majority of white people were doing at that time? In being hypocritical and cruel, but at the same time claiming themselves Christian, they degrade themselves as a result. It is the master, ironically, but not the slave, that was degraded. Sadly realization of such truth often proves to be slow in manifestation. Native Americans, the Aborigines, the Jews...to cast a forlorn forecast on the future of mankind based on past histories could be said, in a way, logical. Douglass' statement is the universal truth and factual accusation to all of the groups of "masters" throughout history. Will the degradation ever cease? Will the masters get to realize their mistake that what they are doing is essentially dragging themselves in mud? The naive answer would be one could but only hope that such heinous acts of atrocities would not happen in the future. The answer based on reality, however, is much darker.