Christianity had an essential role in the abolition of slave trade in American Society. American Christianity impressively contributed to American Revolution (1775-1783) as well as Civil War (1861-1865) (Parfait 47). Even though, the role of Christianity in slavery remained abstruse as some Christians, especially from the Southern America supported slavery, its importance in anti-slavery struggle remained noteworthy. Slavery was generally a great evil that overwhelmed the American society since the early colonial era.
In the Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), there is a comprehensive demonstration of the role of Christianity, especially in setting pace for the Anti-Slavery Revolutions, Abolitionism and Civil War in American society. Stowe illustrates the austere practice of Christianity through her characters, mainly Uncle Tom, who undergoes a prolonged suffering as a slave until his vicious death. Through him, Stowe manages to indicate moral codes of the Christian religion such as honesty, humility, forgiveness, endurance, faithfulness and suffering.
In comparison to the vices, brutality and corruption that the slaves undergo, Stowe manages to establish the relationship between the slavery trade system and the religion, especially the Christianity, where they antagonize each other. Therefore, throughout the book, Stowe tries to explain that the incorporation of the moral or pious ciphers endorsed by a proper religious system is very essential in wiping out social injustices and evils from a society. In doing so, she demonstrates the importance of religion in shaping the American society.
Generally, from reading the book, it is very clear that Stowe dominates it with anti-slavery ideas and feelings. Therefore, it is agreeable to say that Stowe objectively and purposefully wrote the book because of the foundation of abolitionism (Ryan 84). However, from her actual narration and choice of setting, it is also vibrant that the spirit of anti-slavery is harmonious with Christianity spirit. Actually, according to the novel with a further analysis of the Stowe’s demonstration, the spirit of anti-slavery and that of Christianity co-exist amicably.
However, for the antebellum Americans, there was no conclusive agreement that Christianity and slavery were incompatible. For instance, the religious leaders from the South agreed that the bible approved slavery, and used this literal biblical elucidation to encourage slavery. Still, there were many other Christians including both Catholics and Protestants from the Northern America, Europe and Canada, who were perceptibly against slavery and its institutions. This promoted the Christianity spirit against slavery.
This is the spirit that Stowe inclined to in her novel, being that she is from a steadfast Christian background (Weinstein 112). Stowe, being considered as one of the staunch anti-slavery activists and abolitionists (Posner 19), this person writes the sentimental novel by exploring the unwavering Christian perception, ideally to reinforce how the practice of Christianity can be integrated in the fight of the immoral societal phenomenon such as slavery. She uses religious sentimentalism to supports role of Christianity in the anti-slavery.
Her viewpoint on Christianity and slavery is considered resulted because of how she demonstrates the practice of Christianity among the African slaves in America at that specific period. For instance, Uncle Tom, a black slave, demonstrates the inflexible and obstinate Christian credence and stand such as honesty and intelligence. Tom relents to hopelessness despite the severe tests to his Christian faith as he works in hardship on a Louisiana plantation (Stowe 41).
This validates Stowe’s message about the power of practicing stringent religion, especially Christianity, to the society. It has to overcome supremacy of the individual feelings to eliminate the supposed social iniquities. Uncle Tom gains his master’s trust. Stowe’s character Mrs. Shelby entrusts him with her monitory transactions. Stowe tries to explain that even the blacks can ideally change if the society is favorable for that change. For instance, treating the slave and the oppressed in a diligent manner as Mrs. Shelby did, then this may promote the change of the slaves.
This Stowe’s demonstration was very essentially in justifying the harsh treatment of the blacks and the violent reaction of the blacks to the whites may not actually eliminate slavery. For instance, the Nat Turner rebellion (1831) only intensified the harsh treatment of the blacks and inculcated fear among the Americans leading to greater distrust among them. Stowe’s tries to counter this distrust by presenting characters that have really reformed under Christianity. The novel essentially integrates political arguments and emotional logic.
This is mainly to make presentation of moral and religious sense of her book to be fervently alluring (Posner 92). This kind of presentation demonstrates the common sense philosophy that understanding of moral sense operations requires spectator’s sympathy. The suffering that the morally upright characters receives in the novel is what Stowe believes would evoke benevolence sentiment from readers, to reconsider the morality of Christian religion. In other words, incorporation of Christian suffering in the novel makes audience to develop imaginative identification with the slaves (Parfait 56).
Stowe describes the terrible survival situation that the slaves are suffering, which provides a vivid scene for the audiences to understand and recognize the identification with the slaves. This was very critical in persuading people to participate in abolitionism. People, who are mainly identified as Christian, only would participate in fighting against the slave trade after they completely knew the truth of slavery’s story. From the novel, Mrs. Shelby shows secretly the feeling against slavery that originates from her Christian promise and her rigorous moral sense (Stowe 76).
It highlighted the sense of need to end slavery as well as demonstrated the power of Christianity love in promoting the abolitionism. Stowe’s description of Christianity in the novel is therefore a teaching to counter the kind of Christianity in the South that tried to support slavery. She aimed at inspiring a kind of Christianity that promote love and respect to every human being. Politically, through the exposition of Christian religion in an emotional manner, Stowe intended to provoke compassion and sympathy from the white readers during the era of slave trade.
She aims to stop the slavery trade in the south by evoking the white readers’ soft part inside. She presents her main character, Uncle Tom, similarly as Jesus is presented in the New Testament as dying not because of his evil but because of his good work (Weinstein 82). This was mainly to inform the oppressors (such as slave masters in the south) that such a virtuous and religious man died bound under slavery. Her hope perhaps was to make the Christians in the south realize the wrong side and negative influences of the result on evil, such as slavery in the society.
The sentimental presentation of the situation was mainly to strike the emotions of her white audience (Ryan 108). Christianity in the north, according to Stowe’s novel, is mainly based on the belief of universal love. Such a Christianity perspective is conducted based on the general concepts recognized by the Christians in the northern regions. The message that she tried to transmit across to the society can be described by an if-then assumption, if this love principle can be fully practiced in the society, then there would be of possibility of a section of humanity to tyrannize and dominate another.
Therefore, the lesson, that Stowe wanted both slaves and masters that support for the slavery to learn is that Christianity based on universal love can be used eliminate and eradicate slavery and other social injustices (Posner 113). This is very evident in the relation of Uncle Tom and his master, Shelby. Due to his honest, Uncle Tom gains more freedom compared to other slaves. The respect that Mr. Shelby accords to Uncle Tom’s Christian’s principles and values makes him to enjoy the comfort and freedom such as having time with the members of his family that other slaves who do not demonstrate Christian values have.
She tried to portray a harmonious scene in which the African slaveries gain the certain freedom and loves under Christianity background in the North, which illustrates her supports for Christianity in the North fighting against the humans’ inequalities policy. The discussion of Christian religion in the novel is also very essential in understanding the evangelistic concept surrounded the religion between the North and the South during that era.
The decision of Stowe to demonstrate her arguments against slavery in American society in the novel, epitomize the magnitude the book had become an opportunity for the discussion of both moral and religious problems for an evangelical principles (Parfait 129). For instance, the novel purposefully locates the religious discussion in the talks within the laity. She uses nonprofessionals such as Uncle Tom, Little Eva, and ideal Christian Mothers such as Legree’s forgiving mother, and Mary Bird.
In other words, she wanted to validate that spirituality not only exist in clericals but it is also inherent in individual such as slaves, women, and Quakers. It is like what Christianity perception in the North: in In Christianity world, everyone should be equal. It fights against the Christians in the South and counters the unequal relationship between slaves and their masters. Through this the audience is engaged in a close discussion and understanding the role of religion and evangelistic culture within a society with ethical problems such as slavery and racial prejudice.
The novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, clearly illustrates that reshaping and changing the public involves a spiritual force that is directed towards a religious duty. She tends to set up an obvious comparison on the slaves’ survival conditions in both the South and the North. Through the book she clarifies that a perfect state without issues such as slavery can be somewhat achieved by a renewal of interior life attention which is mainly possible through adherence to religion such as Christianity (Ryan 211).
It is very possible through the reconsideration of Christian’s values that she depicted in the book through her characters such as humility, trust, honesty, faith and forgiveness. Through this, it is worthy to note that Stowe mainly hoped to challenge the people with otherwise ideas such as Senator Bird who view public interest more important than private feelings. Unifying Christians’ thoughts in both North and South is the cornerstone to unifying entire American Society, a society mainly dominated by Christianity principles at that time.
In detailed words, unifying at that era means spreading the supports for anti-slavery to cover the whole society. By looking at the perspective of Stowe in the novel, her realization is that she needs to convince the evangelical or Christian public that the eradication of slavery was a domineering religious agenda for Christians. This is because the Abolitionism in 1850 was just a movement for the minority and was taken as fanatics (Parfait 65). It was a radical movement that composed mainly of non-religious people whom people thought was Christians.
However, through representing dedicated Christian’s characters such as Uncle Tom in her novel, she tried to persuade the public, especially the southern, that abolitionism should be based on sanctification of humanity. This perspective has been viewed a critical in the development of the north Christian religion in history. It is also very essential to note that Stowe tried to prove that universality of Christian religion that was also shaped for a period in the North. This book objectively demonstrated the capability of African to be unfaltering Christians (Posner 62).
In the book, the main character Tom being educated with Christianity faiths in the North has a surprising spiritual journey, which has great significance in the life of a true Christian. For instance, Tom kept his faith while in Kentucky under the oppression of Legree earns him religious leadership amongst others. In conclusion, it can be inferred that Stowe’s, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a public exhibition of secretive, religious feeling formed to create change and shape the individual or group feelings and public policy. It can also be perceived as a comprehensive rational argument about Christian theology and beliefs.
Stowe intelligently deals with the ambiguity of the role of American Christianity in slavery. This was a challenging issue even among various groups of Christians and theologian. The controversies that existed between the two common rivaling Christian groups, the northerners and the southerners, was understanding what the bible really teaches about slavery, and the providence of God in slavery. The southerner supported slavery as suffering was identical to Christian principles, and it was a means of evangelism, since converted slaves were to preach to other slaves.
However, Stowe tries to address this by explaining that suffering is only a Christian virtue when it is a righteous suffering. Again, in her illustrations, she identified that abusing others is not God’s principle. The book has achieved its religious and political purpose. One of the most popular anecdotes in American literary history is when Harriet Beecher Stowe was introduced to President Abraham Lincoln, our president greeted her with some memorable words: “so you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war! ” (Weinstein 1).
Parfait, Claire. The Publishing History of Uncle's Tom's Cabin, 1852–2002. Aldershot: Ashgate, ????2007. Posner, R. : Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, page 239, USA: Harvard University Press, ????2002 Ryan, Tim. Calls and Responses: The American Novel of Slavery since Gone with the Wind. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008. Stowe, Harriet. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. USA: National Era & John P. Jewett and Company, 1852 Weinstein, Cindy. The Cambridge Companion to Harriet Beecher Stowe, Cambridge University ????Press, 2004.