I have been amazed at how much religious oppression has in common with the two ugliest stains in the history of human behavior. I’m currently reading The Narrative of the Life of Henry Bibb. Bibb writes,
The state of Georgia, by an act of 1770, declared, “that it shall not be lawful for any number of free negroes, molattoes or mestinos, or even slaves in company with white persons, to meet together for the purpose of mental instruction, either before the rising of the sun or after the going down of the same.” 2d Brevard’s Digest, 254-5. Similar laws exist in most of the slave States, and patrols are sent out after night and on the Sabbath day to enforce them. They go through their respective towns to prevent slaves from meeting for religious worship or mental instruction.
This is the regulation and law of American Slavery, as sanctioned by the Government of the United States, and without which it could not exist. And almost the whole moral, political, and religious power of the nation are in favor of slavery and aggression, and against liberty and justice. I only judge by their actions, which speak louder than words. Slaveholders are put into the highest offices in the gift of the people in both Church and State, thereby making slaveholding popular and reputable.
I believe that the reason that religious “authority” is so popular and reputable among believers is that people who are naturally inclined to believe in the “authority” of the system are, to borrow Bibb’s words, “put into the highest offices in the gift of the people… thereby making [spiritual oppression] popular and reputable.” Even if these new leaders are not spiritually oppressive to begin with, the system eventually makes them so. This is not readily evident, though, unless someone comes along who seems “threatening” or “dangerous” to the system.
For example, they keep an eye on Facebook notes/comments and blog posts and ask questions about unofficial (not church-approved) spiritual-purpose meetings, looking for signs of heresy. If they find it, the instigator is reported and subjected to various levels of discipline, depending on the amount of influence that person has, anything from a polite chat about being careful with words to outright opposition in the forms of shunning, public denunciations, name-calling, revoking privileges within the institution, and in more extreme cases, outright slander or defamation of character. This is just one example, and I haven’t even expounded on the details.
Slaveholding, in its most overt form, has (thank God) been removed from the physical realm in the United States, but it most definitely NOT been removed from the spiritual realm.
This is the beginning of a new age, one in which the system is being overturned. We experienced a small taste of it in the 1500’s. The structure held, because it was not the God-appointed time for it to be dismantled. Now, it’s time. The regulations and laws that have kept the system in place, “without which it could not exist” (Bibb), are being stripped away, very slowly, one layer at a time.
Ending a church-government marriage from hell that dated back to the marriage proposal by Constantine and the full blown wedding with Justinian, the U.S. government declared “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The institution only complied where it HAD to comply, but resisted in every other way. With the exception of Quakers and few Pentecostal movements, the Reformation (which was largely a step in the right direction) actually solidified women as spiritually irrelevant outside the home. The A.M.E. church (African Methodist Episcopal) was founded because of segregation and racism in the Christian churches. To this day, churches are still largely segregated (90+%).
Then came the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and equal rights for people of color.
And I have so much more to say, but I’ll save it for later.
Swallowed in Victory. I suspect that some readers may think that as a member of the de-churched ecclesia, an abolitionist-type blog series about religious institutions ought to be considered the biased ramblings of a disgruntled heretic that should be promptly dismissed. That’s why I invite questions or comments prior to the blog series, to give such readers an opportunity to present their objections – to defend the religious system or religious institutions as good, necessary, approved/appointed by God, to name the reasons why it ought to remain, to justify the good outweighing the bad, etc.
I must warn you, though, that I do plan to address each objection thoroughly, and that in naming your objections, you will have unintentionally become part of the glorious Good News of the Reign of God that is even now, transforming everything. How so? Go dig up some early 1800s pro-slavery arguments. See how ridiculous those arguments sound, now that the slavery system has been abolished. Go look at some sexist advertisements from the 1950s intended for a male audience. Notice how your skin crawls, when you consider that such views were considered normal, good, and right at the time.
That’s exactly how your objections will look to an audience 50-100 years from now.
You may have recently heard of “rebranding” services for one’s “online image.” There’s a reason for that. What information goes online, from what I understand, stays available even if you delete it. Your arguments in defense of the religious system will serve the same purpose to future generations as pro-slavery or sexist arguments now serve our generation.