Christianity’s Bloody White Reformed Legacy: My Thoughts on President Obama’s 2015 National Prayer Breakfast Speech

Obama Speaks At National Prayer BreakfastEveryone is reacting whether in a positive fashion or negative regarding Remarks by the President at National Prayer Breakfast. There he said:

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.  Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs—acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

So this is not unique to one group or one religion.  There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.  In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try.  And in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe.”

Now out of all that was said above “Conscious” Negroes want to zero in on the aspect where he says “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ” to denigrate Christianity once again. What I am going to do here is set the record straight regarding this matter.

Let’s begin by getting the Crusades and the Inquisition out of the way off top, they all was just politics and power plays with religious trappings regardless of which group was involved. Now what I want to do is focus on the actions of “Christianity” after the onset of White Supremacy initiated around the 14-1500s and in the United States of America. It is here where we get the best expression of the ideology and theology behind chattel slavery which eventually led to Jim Crow and other social ills affecting Black people today. My argument is that it was not Christianity proper that justified slavery and Jim Crow “in the name of Christ” but a form of it. This form is called Reformed theology or Calvinism.

refortheoIn essence Reformed theology or Calvinism has a unique way of looking at God and His actions. To them God maximally controls everything. He decides our fates and He micromanages every aspect of creation. When someone suffers it is God, he guides the whole universe. God is even responsible for the actions of the villain of the Bible Satan. One celebrated Reformed theologian said “that foundational to the Christian faith is the affirmation that God is sovereign over evil and over all pain. It will not do to dismiss the problem of pain to the realm of Satan. Satan can do nothing except under the sovereign authority of God. He cannot throw a single fiery dart our way without the sovereign will of our heavenly Father.” Now let’s see how that played out in the context of the country now known as the United States of America.

alexander-h-stephens2On March 21, 1861 the Vice President of the Confederate States of America Alexander Hamilton Stephens gave the “Corner Stone” speech which said:

“Our new government . . . foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day . . . Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics . . . They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics . . . That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against . . . a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that . . . we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was  . . . he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.”

Besides Stephens seeing anyone that view the Negro as being of equal stature to the White man as being in possession of a form of insanity and that to try to establish a differing principle to the one that Blacks was unequal was effectively “attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal”. Further on he says regarding the Confederate States of America:

“It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them. For His own purposes, He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from another star in glory.” The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws. This stone which was rejected by the first builders “is become the chief of the corner” the real “corner-stone” in our new edifice”

The former Vice president unloads a lot in this portion theologically speaking. Off top he obviously felt that the subordination of the White man was wrong yet the suppression of the Negro was natural or normal. He employs strong Reformed theological language. In his understanding all that has took place was “the ordination of Providence”. Providence was another means of saying the “Creator” or God. As mentioned earlier in Reformed thought God is sovereignly in control of every aspect of the physical and immaterial planes of existence.  No one can do a single thing on their own, every action is God. Alexander Hamilton Stephens also appeals to a popular misinterpretation of a biblical passage to justify his White Supremacist rhetoric. To top it off he even applies a text reserved for Jesus to their racist government as if to solidify the fact that their actions was the will of God.

Thus what President Obama said is not further justification for the condemnation of Christianity it just proves that like with all things humans tend to abuse them to justify their ill intentions. The type of Christianity that was employed to create and justify the actions of  White Supremacists is not the Christianity taught in scripture.

Christianity’s Bloody White Reformed Legacy: My Thoughts on President Obama’s 2015 National Prayer Breakfast Speech

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