Round Table with Oscar
September 6, 2011
Emancipation 4

Emancipation is an act of God. That is how Christians faith sees it. Putting it a more strategic way, God has always been on the side of the poor, and the underclass. In other words, God represents good news to the poor.{{more}} Now all of this is nice ole talk, but when we face colonial slavery with the Christian God, was God on holiday during that time or even worse, was God a part of the slavery machine? That is what we have to ask.

Faith and Emancipation:  A believer’s view

Let us be clear. Those who established colonial slavery, who wiped out all but a few Caribbean people, who invented the plantation system to extort wealth and crush lives; those who built glowing cities, mansions, factories and fortunes out of Africa’s broken bodies and Caribbean agro industry, they were Christians. They had the Christian Church, the gospel and the Christian God on their side and even in their hands. Colonial slavery was a Christian institution from its beginning. In Britain, the king was the head of the Church and of slavery!

But while kings and ruling classes carry out their policies as if God is committed to their class and made in their image, there is another side to the story of God that throbs throughout Hebrew Christian Scripture. Look at a few high profile examples of the other God story.

In one account of the origins of the Hebrew people, God picks out or calls out a footloose migrant refugee clan in the shadow of Great empires for world mission. Gen 12:1-3, Deuteronomy 26:15

Then there is the underclass Egyptian rabble whose ease God takes up for them to be the basis of a people and nation. (Exodus 3). Don’t forget the young village girl who said “Ah hafu big up the Almighty which choose me, the Miriam ya…me heart a bus wid praise”. (Luke 1:48-55)

It was the Hebrew Christian God too whom the High Priests and temple leaders in Jerusalem represented, who had the ordinary, colonized Galileans and others take over the city streets in a critical challenge to the Temple coalition.

In the 1st Generation years of the Church in the New Testament, the Hebrew Christian God emancipated those believers who were not Hebrews, from taking Abraham as their ritual Father, although the Hebrew Church leaders-James, Peter and others were against emancipation. (Galatians 5:1-3).

Yes, God emancipates.

This verse has the metaphor and the message of slave faith:

When the cruel slaveship
retched me weak and bold
in the scorching canefield

I saw your face in the lonely cloud
And Damballah’s God raised his rod

and a plaque fell on
sugar and Africaribia’s children rose
that night over masa.

Today’s Christian church is not strong in emancipation faith. Still rooted in European and North American biblical views, we question God at our side. In a recent book which Adrian Fraser has released on our Spiritual Baptists, we need a community still bonded to colonial slavery, trying to imprison black faith. The signs of our calling, emancipating God in Christ Jesus are there for Faith to embrace. It came back to me recently from a “Global Highlights” programme dedicated to Philip Potter. How easily we miss God’s signs. For more than a decade this courageous apostle, an Afrocaribbean Pastor from Dominica, led an assembly of colonial Christian Churches to provide moral and material support to those people in Africa who were struggling for Independence and against Racism. Led by Apostle Philip Potter, the World Council of Churches stood side by side with PAIGC in Guinea Bissau, ANC in Namibia, ANC in South Africa, ZANU in Zimbabwe and many other sections of God’s poor people in Malaysia, Australia and elsewhere. It was God emancipator bringing colonial faith to its knees before Christ Jesus.

It is for us to say “The Right hand of God is why we sing Calypso”.