Commonplace Book #163

On December 23, 1845, [Frederick] Douglass delivered a bravura effort about slavery and religious corruption to a mixed Belfast audience of Catholics and Protestants. In an oration that included at least ten direct uses or paraphrases of scriptural passages and parables, Douglass turned Christian principles into weapons against proslavery religion–in his own country and in the British Isles. This forceful performance offended some of his auditors, while others all be fell over laughing and cheering. Caustic and sneering, Douglass demolished the very idea of a Christian slaveholder. They could “not serve God and Mammon, and they blasphemed in claiming any “fellowship with the meek and lowly Jesus.” He lifted Matthew 23:15 to condemn Christian “man-stealers” and “cradle-plunderers” as “Christ denounced the Scribes and Pharisees, when he said that they would compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and after they had made him, he was ten times the Child of Hell.” And he challenged the antislavery consciences of his audience. Would they be the “priest” who would not even see the suffering man by the side of the road,’ the “Levite” who looked and felt sympathy but chose a “middle course” and moved on, or would they be the “Samaritan” of compassion who bound the wounds of the victim? Or would they make Daniel’s choice to break the law, never worship an earthly king’s false gods, and risk death in the lion’s den? With memory still swirling with revenge against Thomas Auld, Douglass assured his well-churched Irish crowds that “a man becomes the more cruel the more the religious element is perverted in him. It was so with my master.” 

David Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, 150.