08 October 2008

Who's Odd?

Some comments on another CW blog recently suggested that anyone who could admire a slave owner who, (despite the contradictions and inherent evil associated with slavery), introduced slaves to Christianity was "very odd." Of course, this opinion is not, despite what some suggest, at all out of the mainstream of modern historiography:

"It is inspiring . . . Jackson's faith led him to show kindness to those around him, including the slaves." -- Steven E. Woodworth, Ph.D., author - While God is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers (Commenting on my book about Stonewall Jackson and his black Sunday school class.)

Other comments on this same post referred to "the inherent equality of every man, woman, and child on Earth and of all other life forms, too."

Wow. Ok, maybe I've been abducted by aliens, but I think most Americans would find that equating "all other life forms" with human life is very odd indeed. Equality of human life, yes, but "all other life forms too?" So a rat is "inherently equal" to a child? A cockroach should have the same rights and considerations as your mother? This utter silliness drew not a single rebuke, disagreement, or question. Amazing.

6 comments:

Michael Hardy said...

Richard – the “equalty” statements sounds like something from a college class that I once took, and dropped, for that very reason.

Did you have a chance to read the Cousins piece?

Regards,
Michael
www.michaelchardy.com

Kevin said...

Richard, -- I don't think you are referring to one of my comments, but I do admit to agreeing with it. It is odd, however, not as a historigraphical claim (frankly, I have no idea what you mean by that), but as an ethical position. The notion that the introduction of Christianity alleviates any moral responsibility on the part of the slaveowner seems strange given that religion served as a justification for the institution itself.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hey Michael. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I suppose if you embrace that belief, you have to be careful when you blow your nose - you certainly would not want to kill your fellow "life forms."

I started reading the Cousins piece, but got distracted and did not finish it. Thanks for the reminder. I will read it tonight in its entirety and send you my thoughts.

Best,
RGW

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hey Kevin, thanks for your comments. You write:

"The notion that the introduction of Christianity alleviates any moral responsibility on the part of the slaveowner seems strange given that religion served as a justification for the institution itself."

Yes, that is strange, but I've never said that. As a matter of fact, I've said the exact opposite. I've said repeatedly that there are obvious contradictions and ironies in that relationship, especially as it relates to a slaveowner who embraced the Christian faith. I address that issue in great detail in my book, stating specifically that these actions did not in any way justify slavery. It's all in my book.

Kevin said...

But the point is that they believed it justified slavery.

I was simply responding to the quote in your post, which seems to me to be an understatement. It's not just odd, its's downright bizarre, IMHO. When I was a little boy my parents taught me that it is wrong for one person to own another. They told me, therefore, to look elsewhere for moral leaders.

I think they were right.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

You were not responding to my quote Kevin because I never said that introducing slaves to the Gospel "alleviates any moral responsibility on the part of the slaveowner." I don't know where you got that from, but it wasn't here - nor from my book.

Many 19th century Christians believed--as Jackson did--that God had ordained slavery for reasons beyond his control and his goal was to make the best of the situation at the time, given the political and economic realities of his day.