In the antebellum South, slavery existed not only as an economic staple, but also was seen by many as a key component of the Christian religion. African-American slaves were subject to the will of their owners who believed the Bible supported their every action. As a slave himself, Frederick Douglass quickly realized that the ideals of Christianity strictly opposed the practice of slavery. The false form of this religion, explained as “The hypocritical Christianity of [the] land,” is practiced by whites, most notably Mr. Covey, and is a complete mockery of the true ideals behind genuine Christian thought (Douglass, 95).
Douglass refutes Covey among others to expose the underlying hypocrisy of the slaveholding South while revealing his version of true Christianity. Early in his life Douglass did what any young boy would do and followed what he was told to do. However, as he matured he quickly became more opinionated and identified the difference between true Christianity and the blasphemous Southern Christianity. Although he criticizes the religion for being undermined and used as an instrument of power for slavery, Douglass holds prototypical Christian views and doesn’t shun nor blame the religion for being improperly represented by people like Mr.
Don’t waste your time!
Order your assignment!
Covey and other members of the Southern churches. In Douglass’ eyes, worshiping God and recognizing good deeds and moral behavior is essential and in turn defines the true form of Christianity opposed to the flawed and hypocritical view brought on by slave-owning whites. Throughout the narrative, Frederick Douglass makes references to the bible and Christian teachings. In doing this he is solidifying his beliefs and demonstrating his position on what true Christianity is, word from the bible and an inherent knowledge between right and wrong.
However, Douglass wasn’t fortunate enough to live in a place where Christianity was seen in this sense. He connects religious and Biblical knowledge to his feelings about the horrific nature of slavery and considers the way the children of the South will grow up with “fathers most frequently their own masters” (24). An instance that furthermore demonstrates how far separated the two types of Christianity are comes about in an altercation between a slave and her owner, Thomas Auld.
As Auld whipped a “disobedient” owner, he quoted the bible saying “He that knoweth his master’s will and doeth it not shall be beaten with many stripes” (Douglass, 68). This misinterpretation of the Bible is evident and Douglass refers to “the religion of the South [as] a mere covering for the most horrid crimes???a justifier of the most appalling barbarity…a shelter under…which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection” (Douglass, 86).
He explains how any Biblical teaching can be contorted and changed to satisfy the wants of the people. In the midst of the appalling representation of Slavery in the South, Douglass goes out of his way to identify his own sense of Christian righteousness and morality and to place himself within it. He has formed his own view of true Christianity based on what he knows it is not; that it is not that which is practiced by corrupted white slave-owning church leaders, and he uses this knowledge to drive home the true Christian ideals. Word Count: 545