Frederick Douglass

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What is the role of the church in slavery according to The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass?

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In Douglass' mind, if the church does not speak out in an active and defiant way about slavery, then it is as responsible as those who profit from it.  Douglass is quick to point out that there is a difference between "true" Christianity and a more "false" view of it.  The "true" essence of Christianity, of which he is a believer, is one that would denounce the practice of slavery in the strongest of terms.  There is little that can be reconciled between a valid expression of Christianity and the enslavement of another.  At the same time, Douglass suggests that there is a "false" Christianity, which he ascribes to many of the slave-owning families.  These individuals go to Sunday Mass, listen intently to a preacher rail on about sin and the need to minimize it, and then they come back to their plantations and break up families, abuse slaves, rape women, and commit the most repugnant of crimes against humanity all the while quoting the Bible at convenience and going to bed believing that they are following the words of Jesus and his teachings.  In the end, Douglass suggests that there is some contradiction apparent:  Either the parishioners who are slave owners are not listening, or someone in the pulpit is not speaking a truth that needs to be heard.  In either case, it seems that some aspect of the religion is not being fully practiced when slavery continues to exist in a land the professes its religious zeal as being quite high.  It is in this light where Douglass argues that the "auction bell" and the "church bell" are one in the same.

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