Why in the world would God allow Black people to be enslaved? To be lynched and killed with impunity? How could a good and loving God allow such a thing?
That’s what we started answering this past Sunday:
I know we often respond to that by saying that God didn’t allow it. It was wicked humanity in disobedience to God.
Never mind that an All Powerful God still has to allow such a thing…
Let’s start there tho…with the wicked humanity…
Why would our African Sisters and Brothers sell us into slavery?
What is the single greatest question you have about our being sold by our African brothers & sisters selling us, like Joseph sold by his brothers?
Well, Joseph was sold because his brothers had abandoned the Way. They had betrayed the Word and turned their backs on God. They isolated themselves, hoping to hide from God. They were determined to hold on to their godless disposition.
Only from a place of enmity toward God – of disdain for the Way, can one even consider killing one’s own brother or selling a sister into bondage.
So, it would follow that our African sisters and brothers (well, their foreparents) sold our ancestors into slavery because they were in a place of enmity toward God – however that particular people related to God.
I ain’t saying they sold us because they were not Christian and didn’t know Jesus. I’m saying that however their people related to God, to the Creator, to a Higher Spirit…however their ancestors understood the Way of Life: they had betrayed that way and were able to turn other humans into commodities for trade.
None of the ways that I’ve studied or come across have ever seen life as something that could be commoditized. This is why we can see slavery in Africa and speak to the humane treatment of the enslaved, in many African civilizations: east and west, north and south, Muslim and Christian and other Indigenous.
Yet, the system of slavery brought to them by Europeans was not humane. And not in the sense that, “we didn’t know how brutal they were going to treat you…”
The system of slavery brought to African Empires by Europeans turned humanity into a tradable commodity. And African Empires that were accustomed to humane systems of slavery, abandoned the regard they had for the life of the enslaved and converted people into commodities.
Now…I understand that “Africans” didn’t exist in that time. There were no Africans. There were no Nigerians. No Ghanaians. There were Akan. Yoroba. Ibo. Fulani.
They saw each other as different people. They weren’t selling their own people. I’m not saying they were.
I’m saying they sold people. They found a way to turn people into a commodity. Slavery not as a condition of punishment for a crime #13thAmendment. But, slavery as a means of enriching self by stealing life from another.
They saw themselves as different people. But they still saw each other as people.
You actually make it worse, when you can sell an “other” people. Not like you as a tribe determined you wanted to get in on the “slave trade game,” and started selling your own to enrich your own. But, that you feel entitled to sell a people that do not belong to you.
That is the abandonment of the Way…
With all we’ve read of the great civilizations and cultures of the Continent of Africa…the humanity of their ideas and ideals. We must at least admit a betrayal of the Way as it had been revealed to them. That is why they sold our ancestors. That is their identity. Can you agree?
ALL OF THAT TO SAY, that has nothing to do with the identity of those who were sold. No real judgment can be made about the psychology of the one who was sold, only about the evil one who was able to sell.
So holding the condition of the African foreparents who sold our ancestors in context, we still are faced with the question:
Why would a loving God allow for us to be sold – especially into such a dehumanizing system of slavery and racial tyranny?
As we continue to journey with the Revised Common Lectionary through the Old Testament, we hit Genesis 45. This passage shows the culminating vision for the answer to the question on the mattering of Black lives.
In Genesis 45:5, Joseph says: “Now therefore, do not be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to save life.” In the Story of Joseph, we find out why God would allow us to be sold.
But what does that mean for how we should interact with those who sold…and those who purchased?
I’m thinking on that for this Sunday. We’ll see what the Lord reveals. But what are your thoughts?