At some recent point, I was encouraged to read Frederick Douglass’ Fourth of July speech, “What to the slave is the Fourth of July?” It is long, but like reading Owen, profoundly worth the effort.
In addition to highlighting the wickedness of American slavery, he indicts the American church in its complicity. How, having the ability to overturn the institution, instead, looked away and tacitly gave it support. These are my religious forbears: Southern Presbyterians and others.
By God’s grace, a long path has been traveled and we aren’t who we once were. At least not when it comes to slavery. I’ve highlighted a portion of his speech that in our day applies directly to our inability and unwillingness to abolish the wickedness of abortion. I do make the comparison between the utterly inhuman slavery of men to the unfathomable wickedness of the murder of the unborn.
Just as common sense and decency (to say nothing of our Constitution) did not support the enslavement of blacks, nor does it support the murder of the unborn (Roe v. Wade, notwithstanding). Slavery resides in the conscience of this country as an indelible stain; perhaps faded from what it was, it remains nonetheless. It remains to remind us of our potential for wickedness – for the church’s potential for ungodliness. Oh how I wish we would’ve looked to that mark before we legally endorsed the partiality of man and woman upon those will cause us no inconvenience.
Read on, church, and search your soul.
Fellow-citizens! I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretence, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing, and a bye-word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement, the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet, you cling to it, as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!