Profit: the Defiler of Christianity

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Profit, the Defiler of Christianity:
a comparison of religion in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Letter from Birmingham Jail

In the year 313 AD, Emperor Constantine I adopted the Edict of Milan, allowing Christians to practice their faith without persecution. Although Christianity had been around for more than three hundred years by then, this was a foundational building block of the institution known as the “Church”. When we look back at the history of Europe we can see that the church played an important role in shaping social ideals such as tolerance, beliefs and morals. These concepts were shipped across the Atlantic during the colonial era and long after the American Revolution, remained fixed in the minds of the people. By comparing the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave Written by Himself and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, we can see the injustices in which the Church displays towards coloured people in American in order to gain wealth. We also, get a sense that the churches influence over society has changed from the original revolutionary concepts of peace and love, to the totalitarian concepts of domination and control. Both men shared a vision of a pure Christianity. Both men shared the condemnation of the church’s position on equality and justice. Both men shared the feelings of societal manipulation inflicted by the church. Both men shared their talents with the world in order to cure prejudice and demand equality. King showed us his vision of true Christianity by redefining Christ as an extremist. “Was not Jesus an extremist for love: ‘ Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’” (King, p. 7) His idea of Jesus being a radical allowed for two major points to be made: 1 that true Christians should be full of love and acceptance not hatred and ignorance and; 2 that he himself was emulating Christ as a non-violent extremist. Douglass also compares his vision of Christianity with the “American Christianity” that he describes in his narrative. “…between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference – so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked.” (Douglass p. 75) It is not only these two men who have witnessed the corruption of Christianity: Mahatma Gandhi once said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” (Gandhi) Each preacher had his arguments and examples for how the Church did not reflect the ideals laid out by Jesus of Nazareth; how the church manipulated society. Douglass explains that some of his masters who were considered by the community to be more righteous were most often the ones who whipped the hardest. In the appendix, he states: “The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sundays, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus.”(Douglass p.75) In chapter ten, he mentions that Mr. Freeland, a former master “…made no pretensions to, or profession of, religion…” and continued to said that this “…was truly a great advantage.” (Douglass p.53) Later on in the chapter he acknowledges that Mr. Freeland was “…the best master I ever had, till I became my own master.” (Douglass p.56) This testimony is quite opposite to Douglass’s description of Mr. Covey, a reputable slave-breaker. (Douglass p.42) Frederick Douglass’s witness of the church preaching one thing and doing the opposite is why he describes the church as practicing “…partial and hypocritical Christianity…” (Douglass p.75) Martin Luther King Jr. expresses his discontent with two groups in particular. Firstly, he spoke out against the white moderate saying that it “… is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white...
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