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Friday, February 14, 2014

Frederick Douglass: Told it like it was

(Frederick Douglass, c. 1860s) 
When Frederick Douglass was invited to speak at an 1852 Fourth of July celebration, he did not mince words.  Like the prophets of old, he told it like it was – and reserved some of his harshest comments for those who defended slavery in the name of Christianity.

Douglass' famous speech, What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?, contains elements of Paul's famous exhortation to the Corinthians.  In I Corinthians 3:1-2, Paul pretty much calls that congregation a bunch of babies.  He tells them:  Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly – mere infants in Christ.  I
gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.

Douglass mirrored this sentiment when he pointed out that, at the time, America was a mere "76 years old."  He followed with these
double-edged words:  I am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young.  Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation…  According to this fact, you are, even now… still lingering in the period of childhood.

Having established that America was also in its infancy, Douglass went on to scathingly expose its childish morality.  In the name of religion, America's "Me first!" mentality had not only embraced slavery, but also condoned it.

Because of that, Douglass concluded that he would "welcome anything! In preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines!  They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny, and barbarous cruelty…"


Copyright February 14, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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