A guest post by Dr. Angelle M. Jones
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
–Psalm 82:3-4 (NIV)
The scripture above calls for the weak, the fatherless, the poor, oppressed and needy to be delivered from the hand of wicked oppressors. Although the psalmist knew that God could deliver, he also knew that God often uses those in authority to deliver.
Thousands of years later, God’s cry for deliverance continues. The question is, who will answer?
In the case of enslaved Africans, this cry was heard by a group of Christians called Abolitionists. It would be understandable that slaves couldn’t imagine there being one White person genuinely reflecting the tenets of the Christian faith. All the slaves could probably envision were their masters with a whip in one hand and a Bible in another. Could it be that any would be willing to take an interest in delivering the enslaved? Could it be that there might be one White person, much less more than one, willing to risk their reputation to set slaves free? As the psalmist cried out in behalf of the oppressed, would there not be one who would do the same for the slaves?
The Quakers heard the voice of the Lord. In response, they were very instrumental in becoming anti-slavery activists. They clearly understood that slavery as it existed in the minds of the oppressor, was not the heart of God. Because of their stance against slavery, they stood on scriptures such as Genesis 1:27 that says humankind was created in the Imago Dei (the image of God). They believed if everyone was created in God’s image, then everyone – including slaves –had the same right to be free.
In the year 1754, the British Quakers led the way in starting to dismantle the prevailing attitudes toward the slave trade and the institution of slavery. After several years of changing thought instituted by the power of the gospel, British and American theologians worked to abolish slavery. The power of the Gospel was evident during what was called the Great Awakening. In a time when Christians were complacently building wealth from the owning of slaves, God brought revival to the hearts of many. History has it that during this time, more and more White Christians began to embrace the belief that it was a sin to purchase or own slaves.
As the southern White Christians used their authority to initiate and organize the movement, the Abolitionists became the modern-day answer to the psalmist’s cry for God’s people to be a delivering people in Psalm 82. In southern states where slavery was clearly accepted as the norm by most White people, there were those whose views were slowly transforming.
As some began openly opposing slavery, many of them lost position and privileges in society. Privileged because of the color of their skin, for thirty years these White men and women answered God’s call to sacrifice their own lives to deliver the oppressed. A White and Black brigade! They were brave, bold and resilient. Hidden from the slave masters, the White Abolitionists became the secret friends of slaves escaping to freedom on foot from the South to the North. With an intersection of bravery and unwavering faith, an estimated 100,000 slaves escaped on the path to freedom called the Underground Railroad.
Following a God-inspired pathway of routes while moving on foot, slaves journeyed through the woods, dangerous hidden roads, waded across rivers and swamps. They also hid in covered wagons, homes, church buildings and businesses often operated by the Abolitionists. Sometimes they rode on horses at night to reach the shore where they were loaded onto boats, crossing over into the promised land of the northern states. Only by the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Underground Railroad was woven together by Christian Abolitionists who helped to create this divinely orchestrated path of deliverance. Although not all safely escaped, by God’s grace, many survived to tell of their victorious journeys from slavery to freedom.
The presumption might be that because of the resources needed to help with such an undertaking, only wealthy White men or only those in the dominate culture could take part in the movement against slavery. On the other hand, because of the socio-economic implications, others could not understand why any White person would take the risk of participating in the costly movement against slavery.
I believe as with today’s White ally anti-racist movement, the beauty of the Abolitionist movement was the assembling together of Black and White Christians who willingly sacrificed their lives while portraying the very similar role of the anti-slavery activists. It was through this movement that White people and Black people learned how to step across the invisible, socially constructed racialized lines drawn to keep them separate.
As the Abolitionist movement continued to grow, it took a willingness in the heart of God’s people to allow the transformative work of the Holy Spirit to break the invisible barriers dividing them. These barriers had separated them for almost a century. Even though I am sure there were always those individuals who felt slavery was wrong, because the institution was so deeply embedded in their hearts and so ingrained in the foundation of American capitalism, it was difficult to let go of the ideology. This made the work of the Abolitionists even more profound as Black people and White people worked together tirelessly to end an institution that fed the economy the way slavery did. I often refer to the Abolitionist movement as a depiction of today’s ideal model of the multicultural church.
Historically just as scripture was used to justify slavery, the Abolitionist’s written materials were laced with the teachings of Jesus to call for the deliverance of slaves. As the Holy Spirit-led writers declared the truth written in the Torah, God’s Word always has, and always will deliver.
Let’s Pray: Lord, may we your people defend the weak and fatherless, may we uphold justice for the poor and may we deliver the oppressed. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
“Inspiring and Motivating With the Power of Words”
Dr. Angelle M. Jones believes that the power of words inspires, and motivate to bring about transformative change individually and collectively.
Angelle originally hails from Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in African-American studies from the University of Cincinnati. Angelle has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia and an earned Doctorate in Ministry on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, and his philosophy of The Beloved Community from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
Her ministry career began as a staff member of the Northeastern Ohio Billy Graham Crusade in 1994. For twenty years, as founder and director of In The Spirit Ministries, Inc., she led teams on mission outreaches throughout the world. From 2007-2012, Angelle served as Missions Director of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio where she currently resides. Angelle is founder and director of GlobaLife Coaching and Consulting serving as a Life and Transformation Coach and Church Consultant.
In 2016, Angelle authored and self-published her first book, Happily Never After. Along with sharing words of hope by sharing her writings on her social media platforms, she has been published in Vantage Magazine which is a literary source for faculty, students and alumni of Columbia Theological Seminary, and Ready, which is a cutting-edge online magazine addressing current events and trending socially relevant topics for women.
Angelle is the mother of an adult daughter. She is a grandmother and great-grandmother.
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