What is an Abolitionist?

Abolitionists are those who adopt an uncompromising spirit in the face of prevailing injustices and boldly declare that they will not go with the multitude to permit evil (Exodus 23:2). They are those who refuse to sit idly by while oppression, violence, and vice run rampant in their culture (Isaiah 10:1-4).

Abolitionists are driven by a desire to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God (Micah 6:8). Abolitionists are not interested in merely abstaining from evil themselves, but are committed to exposing evil and bringing it into conflict with the truth of Christianity (Ephesians 5:11). Abolitionists seek to bring justice to the fatherless and help to the helpless (Isaiah 1: 16-17).

ABOLITIONISTS “TAKE NO PART IN THE UNFRUITFUL WORKS OF DARKNESS, BUT INSTEAD EXPOSE THEM.”

At the root of all abolitionist movements you will find the presence  of two interrelated theological propositions. The first is that human beings are created in the image of God and created to reflect that image. The second is that the Creator himself became a man in order to rescue mankind from sin, self-destruction, death, and eternal separation from God.

The work of abolition has been carried out over the centuries in obedience to the Biblical command to love one’s neighbor as themselves and glorify God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind. Abolitionism is the expression of vital Christianity in a culture that enslaves and murders image bearers of God and the neighbors we are commanded to love (Matthew 22:37-39). Abolitionists have attempted to “rescue those who are being taken away to death” and “hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11-12). Abolitionists have been committed to the practice of “true religion”: caring for the fatherless, assisting widows, and keeping themselves unstained by the world (James 1:27). Abolitionists boldly engage in the work of fighting evil head-on, but they also commit to helping those caught up in the injustices they seek to remove from the culture.

THE GOAL OF ALL ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENTS IS THE REDEMPTION OF MAN FROM THE DOMINION OF MAN.

THE FIRST ABOLITIONISTS
Community early Christians

The first Abolitionists were the first Christians. Though they did not employ the term “Abolitionist,” the earliest followers of Christ certainly engaged in the work of “removing grave evils.” As they spread out in the ancient world proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, they consistently set themselves in bold opposition to their culture’s widespread practices of bloodsport, infanticide, child-abandonment, and abortion.

They rescued discarded babies from the trash heaps and river ways of Rome. They set up orphanages and hospitals. They tore down infanticide shrines and drove out abortionist guilds. They petitioned their rulers to outlaw their culture’s acceptable forms of child-sacrifice. And they succeeded.

Everywhere they went they brought the light of the Gospel to those dwelling in darkness. From the brothels to slave-markets, to  demonic killing-centers and to the high-places which protected these practices, these “abolitionists” replaced their culture’s “way of death” with the “way of life” they were instructed to walk in by their risen Lord. Everywhere these Christians went, they did not cease from teaching that Jesus had risen from the dead and that he had the power to forgive sinners (Acts 5:42). And in everything these Christians did, they demonstrated the new life they found in Him, and lived according to His teachings before the watching world.

They focused on teaching people to love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds, and to love their neighbors as themselves. They brought the Gospel of Life into Conflict with the Culture of Death.

We see this in the oldest known Christian catechism, the Didache (2nd century A.D.). As the Didache begins, “there are two ways, one of life and one of death; and between the two ways there is a great difference.” The document contrasts the world’s system of morality and its treatment of human beings with the teachings of the Apostles, and demonstrates how a man-centered way of life leads to death, and a Christ-centered way of life leads to life and joy eternal.

As history records, these Christians spread their message and its corresponding way of life so thoroughly that it led to the abolition of abortion, infanticide, child-abandonment, gladiator games, and many other dehumanizing practices engrained in ancient pagan culture.

THE ABOLITIONISTS OF SLAVERY
British Abolitionists in the House

The British abolitionist movement against slavery began in the late 18th century, when a small group of men and women were awakened to the horrific injustice of slavery embedded in their culture. The vast majority of these people were devout, evangelical, Bible-believing Christians, products of the First Great Awakening and revival of “Vital Christianity.” Identifying themselves as “Abolitionists,” these brave men and women stood up in a vice-laden, morally apathetic culture and declared that any nation practicing slavery, and any church turning a blind eye to it, was in blatant violation of the laws of God, and the  commandment of Christ to love one’s neighbor!

They decried slavery as an offense to the Dignity of man and AN abominable sin against God

Abolitionists considered themselves guilty for living among a people that practiced such iniquity. They believed Britain’s participation in the African Slave Trade was a “national sin” leading to the moral degeneracy of their entire culture. Most Britons, even those who “personally” opposed slavery, just wanted to live out their comfortable lives and ignore the fact that their neighbors and fellow image bearers of God were being stolen from their land, traded like property, and worked to death like animals.

In order to wake up their culture to the horrors of the slave trade, they established local societies, and tirelessly engaged in the work of exposing evils and helping those caught up in its oppression. They warred against the “slave power” on a daily basis. They petitioned their leaders, boycotted slave-produced products, and called on the citizens of their country, especially those who professed to follow Christ, to denounce the sin of slavery and join in the work of abolition. If Christians held a belief to be true, such as the belief that Africans were men and brothers, and made in the image of God, they needed to be encouraged to act upon that belief. As William Wilberforce, the leader of the Parliamentary assault upon the slave trade said,
“A private faith that did not act in the face of oppression was no faith at all.”

The British abolitionists focused on waking up the church and people of good will. They sough to converting the masses to what Wilberforce called “True Christianity.” A reformation of biblical Christianity and ethics was key to abolishing any evil, in any society. This is why Wilberforce wrote a book at the height of the campaign against slavery exposing and admonishing the fake Christianity so prevalent in British culture. Indeed! the men and women who made the word “Abolitionist” famous understood themselves as “true” Christians who lived out their faith consistently in a culture that treated God’s image bearers, and their neighbors, like animals instead of men.

THE AMERICAN ABOLITIONISTS

American Abolitionists

Though the British Abolitionists succeeded in removing the evil of slavery from their nation in 1833, their inability to abolish it completely before the Revolutionary War with America left “chattel slavery” alive and well in the new nation.

ABOLITIONISTS IN AMERICA AROSE AS PROPHETS OF PROTEST IN THE NEW NATION DEMANDING THAT THE ABOMINABLE SIN OF SLAVERY MUST BE ABOLISHED.

Like the British, they formed numerous local Abolitionist Societies that spread across the North and the South, engaging in “tract warfare” against the pro-slavery misinformation created by the  “peculiar institution’s” apologists. The conversion of the churches to the cause of abolition was the first and most persistently pursued goal of their movement.

EVEN MORE BOLDLY than their British Counterparts, the American Abolitionists denounced Southern slavery, and the North’s complicity in it, as “the epitome of SIN!” They condemned the act of “turning a man into a chattel” as entirely contradictory to the Old Testament’s prescriptions regarding human servitude, and to the New Testament’s spiritual instruction to both masters and slaves. They declared every slave holder to be a “man-stealer” and argued that every man-stealer was guilty of a “capital crime” according to the Law of God (Ex 21:16). They charged every church that did not discipline slave holders in their congregations to be “recreant to their posts,” and warned the nation that the preservation of human slavery would lead the nation into Civil War.

The cry of these reformers was that Slavery was A NATIONAL SIN and that THEIR ENTIRE culture WAS GUILTY of it.

The Abolitionists demonstrated the utter inconsistency of the slave system in America with the teachings of Christ. They believed the Bible’s claim that all men possessed the image of God was “a death-blow to all claims of superiority, to all charges of inferiority, to all usurpation, to all oppressive dominion.” Slavery turned men into beasts of one kind, and slave-owners into beasts of another. It ripped families into pieces, and fostered all manner of licentiousness, violence, and vice. Slavery was a product of the “way of death,” and the American Abolitionists were determined to bring it into conflict with true, “practical Christianity.” In doing this, they turned their world upside down.

TODAY’S ABOLITIONISTS

Photography by John Walker. www.jdwphotostudios.com

The principal focus of abolitionists today is the legalized practice of human abortion. Believing that abortion is the most vicious act of dehumanization, spiritual oppression, and physical destruction being carried out in our world today, we are once again seeking to provoke a clash of world-views between the Gospel of Christ and the worldly wisdom of man. By bringing today’s culture of death into conflict with vital Christianity, we are seeking to create a broad culture of dissent which will lead to the abolition of legalized child-sacrifice in America.

We do not believe that the planned-and-paid-for-murder of any unborn human being is ever morally justified.

Abortion is never the right choice, never the only option, and never the best solution to any situation. Every abortion that occurs ends the life of a child who has been abandoned by their father, betrayed by their mother, and forsaken by our society. In this way, abortion is an affront to God and a violation of his law. To do nothing about it is a failure to obey Christ’s command that we love our neighbors.

EVERY ABORTION THAT OCCURS IN OUR NATION SHEDS THE BLOOD OF AN IMAGE BEARER OF OUR AND MURDERS OUR NEIGHBOR 

Jesus Christ called us to care for the weakest members of our society, not abandon them to destruction. Undoubtedly, this includes the children killed by abortion. Children conceived in rape and incest deserve our protection and adoption. Children diagnosed with serious developmental abnormalities deserve our compassion and assistance. We are to care for the fatherless and the infirm, not abandon them to violence at the hands of well-paid strangers.

We are once again seeking the redemption of man from the dominion of man.

Mothers and fathers do not own their pre-born children like property, and have no right to determine whether they live or die. In the manner of earlier abolitionists, we are calling on our culture to Repent! Abortion is sin and we are all guilty of participating in its continued cultural prevalence.

BRINGING TRUE CHRISTIANITY INTO CONFLICT WITH THE CULTURE OF DEATH HAS ALWAYS PROVIDED THE DRIVING MECHANISM FOR THE WORK OF ABOLITION. EVERY AGE HAS ITS EVILS, EVERY AGE HAS ITS ABOLITIONISTS.

Abolitionist Society of Memphis:mid south

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