Harriet Beecher Stowe Has Set The Model For Christian Activism For Our Times
July 11, 2010
“I should pay my fine,” said Simeon quietly.
“But what if they put thee in prison?”
“Couldn’t thee and mother manage the farm?” said Simeon smiling.
“Mother can do almost everything,” said the boy. “But isn’t it a shame to make such laws?”
“Thee mustn’t speak evil of thy rulers, Simeon,” Said his father gravely. “The Lord only gives us our worldly goods that we may do justice and mercy; if our rulers require a price of us for it, we must deliver it up.”
“Well, I hate those old slaveholders!” said the boy, who felt as unchristian as became any modern reformer.
“I am surprised at thee, son,” said Simeon; “thy mother never taught thee so. I would do even the same for the slaveholder as for the slave, if the Lord brought him to my door in affliction.” Interchange between Simeon Halliday and his son of the same name from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, in the midst of the turmoil of Eliza’s barefoot escape across the frozen Ohio River to rescue her son from being sold to a slave trader, nestled us warmly and comfortably into the home of 19th century Quakers.
These Quakers carved out their own existence and worked to provide their needs—whether it was crafting homes and their furnishings or weaving the cloth to make their humble clothes. They were self sufficient, caring and decent.
They were also living in defiance of the laws of the U.S. government.
Quakers harbored escaped slaves and federal law made such an act a felony.
They didn’t go out protesting or getting involved in elections or political parties. They simply took in slaves escaping to freedom and kept them safely until they knew the way was clear to transport them to Canada where American federal laws could not touch them.
While they were willing to act quietly and peacefully against the laws of slavery, they were also willing to face the consequences of the law of the land while the settlement acted under its own law. “I should pay my fine,” said Simeon quietly—even if it meant going to prison. This was the war that brought down slavery in this country. Not the horrible destruction thrust upon a country by central government that would not tolerate the idea that the union of states formed under the U.S. Constitution was voluntary.
The Quakers of Uncle Tom’s Cabin challenged the institutionalized injustice sanctioned by the Government of the United States of America by offering up their resources and personal freedom. Current American Christians have the opportunity to confront similar injustice. Do our principles cause us to revile the control the government and international economic system are causing to the value of our property, labor, and self-sufficiency? If the American government can use its ability to manipulate the value of the currency to serve its political goals domestically and internationally, at the expense of the citizenry, can it “establish justice” according to its constitutional standards?
If the president can commit the nation to war almost at will, without obeying the constitutional system for declaring such, can he be trusted to justly enforce any law? If unelected bureaucrats can, through regulations, dictate the social make-up of a business and how much a property owner must pay for the work he needs done, can they restrict other freedoms as well? Are they restricting freedom? What does this mean of our elected government that empowers such bureaucrats? What does it mean of the claim that the soldiers who have been dispatched around the world fighting unconstitutional wars are, “Fighting for our freedom?”
More importantly, who is really in the position of providing for the needs and protecting the freedom of our friends and neighbors? Mrs. Stowe used her Quakers to contrast against the pious Christians who were willing to tolerate slavery while they gave lip service to their revulsion to certain aspects of the slave trade. Mrs. Stowe’s characterization takes an even deeper meaning when it is added to the context of Tomas J. DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln. In the first chapter of this historical critique of the manufactured image of Abraham Lincoln, DiLorenzo documents the white supremacist beliefs that ruled the northern states of Lincoln’s day and how Lincoln embraced these beliefs as he moved up the political ladder. Do modern American Christians even have the courage to embrace the idea that what we think about the 15th president is government-serving propaganda?
Clearly as Mrs. Stowe gave life to her Quakers in the 1850’s, she was sounding a call that ran counter to popular opinions and put her at odds with the social and economic elite of her day. Does God expect less of those who claim his name in this day? Which do we value more, freedom as God gives it to all humans or social acceptance of the rich and powerful? Truth or political correctness, whether it be in the secular world or our churches? Which would give our faith more authority in our homes and communities?
Later Mrs. Stowe details how the very same Quakers, who put their liberty and property at jeopardy by caring for slaves escaping to Canada for freedom, nursed back to health a slave trader who was shot and nearly killed by a fugitive slave he was pursuing. The Christian love of her characters was not politically motivated nor should that of Christians today. Do we possess the type of compassion that would lead us to care for those that would enslave or imprison us?
America is facing some serious challenges ahead and your friends and neighbors are going to need someone to trust and care for them when the real difficulties come. We have already seen that the government is preparing to take further control of every aspect of our lives as times become more difficult. Consider what the government will do if there is a violent outburst such as Greece had should the dollar become valueless.
It might be Christians, acting the in the model of Mrs. Stowe’s Quakers, that lead all of us to liberty.
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