The Fabric of our Lives

This week, I was moved to mourning by news of racial terrorism against the AME Church in Charleston, SC. To learn than 9 of my brothers and sisters in Christ were killed for (what reports seem to indicate) no other reason than the color of their skin has led many of us to cry out, “How long, O Lord?”

Jesus told a parable about farmer planting a mustard seed, the kudzu or crab grass of the Middle East. From one tiny seed, an entire field can be covered with the almost impossible to remove invasion of weeds. So one small action of faith can spread beyond what anyone imagined when the Holy Spirit brings the growth.

Anthony Benezet was a French-born Quaker in Philadelphia who became a loud opponent of slavery. He educated black children and published several tracts at his own expense to try and convince his fellow Quakers that slavery was antithetical to Christian discipleship. In 1772, his Historical Account of Guinea (read it here), became the spark that lit a fire in both America and Europe. Granville Sharp and John Wesley both republished Benezet’s tract in their own words. These two incredibly influential men were moved by Benezet to see the theological arguments against slavery, and used their power to spread his ideas. Benezet’s tract convinced Thomas Clarkson to become a leading British voice for abolition, and a spokesperson for the end of slavery worldwide. Clarkson would then influence Will Wilberforce, the member of Parliament who put the final nail in the coffin of the British slave trade. Wesley’s influence over the American Methodists led to the Methodist movement being known as an abolitionist movement, with many American Methodist societies boycotting slave-owners. John Wesley had always had a distaste for slavery, but Benezet convinced him that abolition was not only possible, it was scripturally crucial.

This Friday, June 19 marks the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, when the last American slaves were set free in Galveston, TX. Benezet, Wesley, and Sharp all died long before abolition became a reality anywhere, but each planted seeds that eventually grew to its demise.

I believe that the abolition movement needs to be reignited. My hope is that enough people will look up and see the ways our society continues to enslave the underprivileged through mass incarceration…that the pipeline from school to prison will be blocked off by people who care…that people will no longer fear those who are different from them…that the love of the Gospel will bring true peace with justice.

To the enemies of the gospel of reconciliation, may you know the true depth of Christ’s love, even for you. And to those who mourn in and with Emanuel AME Church, may the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

–Charlie Baber

Charleston

Charlie Baber

Rev. Charlie Baber is author and illustrator of the weekly web comic: Wesley Bros. When he isn’t finding new ways to mash-up church history with modern culture, he has actual responsibilities as a Deacon serving at Highland UMC in Raleigh, NC. Check out Charlie’s site at www.wesleybros.com.

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