‘Christianity Today’ Editor-in-Chief Mark Galli Says He Doesn’t Make a Big Deal About Commemoration Events, But Makes an Exception for Black History Month Because He Is Amazed How an Oppressed People Adopted the Religion of Their Oppressors and Changed It

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I’m not much for commemoration days, weeks, or months (they usually seem forced), but I do make exceptions. One is Black History Month, because it’s about one of the most fascinating of histories. Note my article from Christian History, for example, “Defeating the Conspiracy.” It never ceases to amaze me that an oppressed people adopted the religion of their oppressors.

Defeating the Conspiracy

Why slaves adopted the religion of their masters–and transformed it.

Peter Randolph, a slave in Prince George County, Virginia, until he was freed in 1847, described the secret prayer meetings he had attended as a slave. “Not being allowed to hold meetings on the plantation,” he wrote, “the slaves assemble in the swamp, out of reach of the patrols. They have an understanding among themselves as to the time and place. … This is often done by the first one arriving breaking boughs from the trees and bending them in the direction of the selected spot.

“After arriving and greeting one another, men and women sat in groups together. Then there was “preaching … by the brethren, then praying and singing all around until they generally feel quite happy.”

The speaker rises “and talks very slowly, until feeling the spirit, he grows excited, and in a short time there fall to the ground 20 or 30 men and women under its influence.

“The slave forgets all his sufferings,” Randolph summed up, “except to remind others of the trials during the past week, exclaiming, ‘Thank God, I shall not live here always!’ “

It is a remarkable event not merely because of the risks incurred (200 lashes of the whip often awaited those caught at such a meeting) but because of the hurdles overcome merely to arrive at this moment. For decades all manner of people and circumstances conspired against African Americans even hearing the gospel, let alone responding to it in freedom and joy.

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SOURCE: The Galli Report, Christianity Today