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In 1850 few families in Kentucky owned slaves and none owned more than 300 enslaved people. Even so, the state was determined to maintain the practice because its economy was largely dependent on slave trading.

White Kentuckians regardless of faith had inherited thousands of years of proslavery thought. This thought can be traced from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, with his teaching about natural rulers and natural slaves, up through the seventeenth century when supremacy came to mean “white people.” Bible verses were studied in detail to prove that Scripture supported American Black chattel slavery. All sides of the Christian faith came to the Bible asking, “Is slavery a sin?”

The three largest white denominations were forced to consider the issue of slavery because many congregants and clerics were slaveholders. When the Baptist and Methodist denominations split in 1845, Kentucky churches joined the Southern conferences. These splits laid the groundwork for the South’s secession and foreshadowed Kentucky’s allegiance with the Confederacy “after the fact.”

This thesis contends that “Is slavery a sin?” was the wrong question to ask of Scripture. Beginning with Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God,” we see that the purpose of Scripture is to reveal a Triune God who simultaneously manifests Unity and Diversity, both in God’s own Self and in creation. We then look at who benefits and who is harmed from the practice of slavery and what the Bible has to say about those outcomes.

It has been difficult but important for me to confront the prejudice and racism in my white culture through this thesis. I have always participated in systems that were established to benefit only white people. It is in this spirit of owning collective sin that I offered my lament, “A lament that being white was all we wanted.”


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