Why was it important to make black people Christian?


Christianity was imposed upon black people because it served the interests of white people more than it did those of black people. During the early period of slavery in America, enslaved Africans were often prohibited from practicing their own religions or being exposed to Christianity. Slaveholders feared that religious gatherings could serve as a cover for plotting insurrections.

Early Prohibitions and Restrictions: Initially, black people were not even allowed to be exposed to the message of Christianity. Slaveholders were concerned that Christian teachings, which emphasized equality and brotherhood, could inspire slaves to seek freedom and rebel against their masters. In many colonies, laws were enacted to restrict the religious activities of enslaved Africans.

The Shift to Religious Indoctrination: However, the attitude of slaveholders began to change. One slave master started sharing the message of Jesus with his slaves. During this time, slaves would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, kill all the white people on the plantations, burn their houses, and run away, knowing they would be caught and killed. More than 400 slave insurrections are recorded in America.

The Role of Religion in Control: This slave master noticed that the more he taught them the Bible, the more tamed, docile, and humble they became. The Bible was used selectively, emphasizing passages that promoted obedience and submission. For example, verses like Ephesians 6:5 ("Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ") were highlighted, while those advocating for freedom and equality were downplayed.

The Spread of Religious Indoctrination: He realized that teaching the Bible made the slaves less of a threat to the slave owners. He then encouraged other white people to teach their slaves the Bible because, based on his experience, the more the black man learned the Bible, the less militant and more controllable he became. This led to the widespread practice of Christianizing enslaved Africans, often through missionary work supported by the slaveholding elite.

Impact on Slave Insurrections: While some enslaved Africans used Christian teachings as a source of hope and resistance (such as Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831), many were subdued by the religious indoctrination that emphasized obedience to their earthly masters. The religion offered a double-edged sword; it provided a sense of community and hope but was also a tool of control.

Conclusion: Can one therefore conclude that the Bible was used to tame black people and make them docile? Historical evidence suggests that Christianity was indeed used as a tool to control and pacify enslaved Africans. By focusing on selective teachings, slaveholders were able to use religion to reinforce the institution of slavery and reduce the likelihood of insurrections. The imposition of Christianity on black people during slavery served primarily to maintain the social and economic order that benefited white slaveholders.

Desmond John Beddy