Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom

 A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog called The Climax of All Misnomers and a blog called The Soul’s Complaint.  In both of these blogs, I generously quoted from the slave narrative of Frederick Douglass.  My reasoning for doing so is as follows:

Since I’m in the middle of a blog series on Thomas G. Long’s book, What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith, the inclusion of Frederick Douglass’s crisis of faith is worthwhile.  Douglass writes that he is “almost ready to ask” the hard questions, but in writing them, he does ask them, although he doesn’t seek answers to those questions in his writing.  Oh what I wouldn’t give to borrow the pen of Frederick Douglass in this particular blog series!  He was a brilliant man, and like Christ, acquainted with sorrows.

Here I would like to offer a different point of view.  Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom is a slave narrative by William and Ellen Craft.

The narratives of both Douglass and Craft utilize personal testimony and scripture to expose the corrupt nature of the system of slavery by demonstrating how the professed religion of slaveholders differs from true religion.  The former is practiced word only; the latter is practiced in both word and deed. Douglass and Craft differ in their personal interpretation and application of true religion.  For example, in light of suffering and grief, Douglass punctuates his narrative with questions of theodicy, asking, “Does a righteous God govern the universe? and for what does he hold the thunders in his right hand, if not to smite the oppressor, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the spoiler?” Craft, on the other hand, consistently looks toward the justice of God with bold certainty.  He writes, “I must leave [heartless tyrants] in the hands of an all-wise and just God, who will, in his own good time, and in his own way, avenge the wrongs of his oppressed people.”  Craft is more methodical in his response to the religious hypocrisy of proponents of slavery in that he uses their own hate-filled religious rhetoric against them.  He quotes from the sermons of nine reverends who strongly defend the passing of the Fugitive Slave Bill and skillfully responds with both logic and scripture.  Craft politely concludes, “I must now leave the reverend gentlemen in the hands of Him who knows best how to deal with a recreant ministry.”

It is interesting that Douglass and the Crafts, despite their similar experiences, approach the problem of theodicy so differently.  Why do you think this is?  Is one approach better than the other?  Why or why not?  Please feel free to share your thoughts.

*For the purpose of this blog, my focus is theodicy, but I encourage readers to click the link and read Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom in its entirety.  Find out how they pulled off their daring escape by coming up with a very clever plan…

Next blog in this series: David Will Live Again

  • Stephen Helbig October 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    WHAT WE BELIEVE GOD TO BE PLAYS A VITAL ROLE IN WHO WE BECOME. ~ Even our lack of belief produces a crop, for nature itself teaches ~ A REAPING AND SOWING PRICIPLE that exists in HIS PROVIDENCE. ~ One can also see that in the LAND SET BEFORE US and given to us by his grace is a providence in the same path ~ We are all on a this similar PATH and we all will seek THE THOUSAND MILES TO FREEDOM. The true reality of this path lies in our understanding of HIS TRUTH that marches on, and unfolds in His providence set before us.. With the questions of theodicy set before us we must revel in His truth ~ for indeed the truth of our God is reality that will set us free. When one suffers it is a lack and we question the very god before us. Whether this suffering is a result of others makes no difference for it is not the end we seek, and even when we wish to spit nails upon the wrongful indignation of others such as slavery we must eventually come to the understanding of our Lord in saying, “Father forgive them for they know NOT what they do.” In doing this we are able to reside in the inheritance our land and true city of peace that passes all understanding. One must keep our God’s goals before us and His plans for the ages set as our sight, ~ Then we will realize that all things are for our making and the end result speaks and is beautiful indeed. For he truly makes all things beautiful in his time. (Eccl. 3: 9-11) ~ “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Notice the verse before says, I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. To quote ~ “Therefore the more she contemplated her helpless condition, the more anxious she was to escape from it. So she said, “I think it is almost too much for us to undertake; however, I feel that God is on our side, and with his assistance, notwithstanding all the difficulties, we shall be able to succeed.” End quote. ~ So we ask “what shall be done in the end of days;” ~ and I answer ~ Are you dead that you may live? ~ This is the great mystery of our Life and is parallel to the questions set before us, for without death there can be no resurrection.

    Those who are most like Jesus Christ our Lord, ~ in the scenes of humiliation, will also be most like him in the realms of His Glory. This present evil world and sufferings are the very roads ~ the thousand miles to freedom. They are also the paths to our knowledge and the true knowing ~ subjective and not objective of who God is.

    In Jesus the man we see ~ he learned obedience by the things he suffered and with Paul I also can say that I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection AND THE FELLOWSHIP of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead~ (resurrection from the misery of the soul arising from sin),. ~ Yes indeed all these things work together for good. The wrath of our God is Love! The wrath of God is ~ the intense fire of infinite love that burns up that which is not true. Mercy and truth are met together, and righteousness and peace have kissed each other. ________________________________________
    Romans 6:5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
    Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
    2 Corinthians 1:5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
    John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

  • Mary Vanderplas October 1, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    I don’t know that I think that either approach is necessarily better than the other. Both responses are, in my view, legitimate expressions of faith – and legitimate ways of dealing with the reality of senseless suffering in a world created and ruled by a good God. For people of faith, coming to trust in the ultimate good, in the final triumph of God’s purpose eradicating evil and establishing justice, is important. But this doesn’t mean that a “theodicy of protest,” to use Tom Long’s expression, is invalid, or that it is less than faithful. As Long puts it, “Only in expectation that God is good and creation is good, only in a relationship of faith and trust, does the presence of evil prompt us to shake the finger of accusation in God’s face” (p. 126).

    I don’t have a good answer as to why the Crafts responded as they did – i.e., eschewing revenge, trusting in the (final) manifestation of God’s justice – while Douglass openly struggled with the seeming injustice and indifference of God. Perhaps it was because they possessed an inner strength that he lacked, though I doubt it. Coming to trust the power of God to bring about his good purposes despite or through evil isn’t easy for anyone. And such faith and hope are, I think, made possible by the death and resurrection of Christ, wherein is seen, astonishingly, God’s power to redeem evil and turn it to good.

    • admin October 1, 2012 at 11:31 pm

      That’s a great Long quote. So true.

  • Delayed « November 1, 2012 at 3:09 am

    […] Climax of All Misnomers, Road Hazards, The Soul’s Complaint, Awakening, by Asia Samson, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, David Will Live […]

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  • […] narratives, that I developed a fascination with Douglass. I wrote several blogs about his writing: Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, The Soul’s Complaint, and The Climax of All […]

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