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