Religion And Sarah Grimke Essay, Research Paper
The concept of religion is something that is widely used but frequently misunderstood. During the 19th century religious ideologies were widely practiced, and had subsequent influences on nearly every facet of society. Sadly, religion was used particularly in the form of Christianity to keep certain groups oppressed; these groups included (but not limited to) both women and Blacks. Christianity despite its teachings of kindness, love and equality was somehow twisted and instead of focusing on doctrines that promote liberty, White Americans used it to keep minority groups marginalized.
The writings of Sarah Grimke, Prince Hall The Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions each contend with issues of oppression surrounding each author s individual minority group. Yet it can easily be noted that religion seems to be a reoccurring theme in each of the writings. Therefore, because the 19th century man had a sacrilegious mindset, he imposed various social oppressions on both women and Blacks. It could be understood that the common thread throughout each of the responses made by Grimke, Hall, and the Seneca Falls piece is that of religion.
Prince Hall, in the Petition to Massachusetts Legislature makes many bold assertions regarding the role of Blacks in American society. Hall contends that because America has labeled herself as a free country granting everyone the natural and unalienable right to freedom, it only seems fair for Blacks to enjoy this right also. The basis of his argument is the fact that the great parent of the universe , has bestowed the right of freedom upon man, and because these rights have never been forfeited, it is only fair for Blacks enjoy their unalienable rights likewise. In support of this idea, Hall employs the comparison of America s struggle with Britain. America felt as if it was her natural right to be freed of Britain’s hold, yet she won t administer this same concept of natural liberty to Black America. After all, Blacks were in a very similar position to that of America in relation to Britain.
Furthermore, Hall contends that the American society is full of religious hypocrisy. By professing the mild religion of Jesus , yet blatantly refusing to do her Christian duty of treating everyone as equals, America has abused the concept of Christianity. Hall supports this idea with the assertion that Americans are Christians, which is a belief system based on the concept of love, kindness, and the equal treatment of others. It is therefore impossible to believe that Americans are blind as to how people are supposed to be treated, yet knowing this, they still choose to ignore their Christian principles, and subject Blacks to the degradation of slavery. Hall says that slavery is far worse than nonexistence this is understood because America made certain to rape Blacks of every possible comfort that makes life tolerable. Yet how Americans, a people professing the mild religion of Jesus do such a heinous act? In posing questions such as this, Hall shows the irony of America s religious stance and the reality of her actions against Blacks. Hall therefore mocks America, by saying that it is in imitation of the laudable example of the good people of these states [Americans] that he decides to petition the government. After all, judging by the precedence that America has set, It only seems FAIR for him to do so!
In Legal Disabilities of Women , Sarah Grimke sheds new light on the position of women in American society. She compares the position of women to that of slaves in the sense that women weren t afforded political existence, and they appeared to be deemed as nothing more than a number to help the government. She goes further to assert that much like a slave, the very being of a woman is absorbed in her master , and all of her rights have basically been legislated away.
Grimke further asserts that woman have been deemed as very emotional beings, and because of this they have been stripped of the right to hold leadership positions. And because they are seen as helpmeets, who are called to submit fully to their husband, women face many economic abuses.
Because most of the ideas enforced by men were on the basis of a twisted biblical example of woman s place in society, the underlying theme of Grimke s argument is that of religion. Yet Grimke uses the Bible in her defense by asserting that because the Bible says that woman is to be a helpmeet to a man then she should be his equal. Grimke cleverly counters the misinterpretation of this scripture by offering a different spin on it, and in doing so she also exposes the hypocrisy of the religious influence of the time.
Yet instead of only accusing men of being hypocrites for using religion for means of oppression, Grimke calls upon the same religion for justice. She states; … our brethren are called upon in this enlightened age, by every sentiment of honor, religion and justice to repeal these unjust and unequal laws, and restore to woman those rights which they have wrested from her This is compelling, because it shows how even though, religion was used to keep certain groups in social bondage, it can also be used as a means to liberate them. The irony is that this liberation may be granted by the same doctrine that was used to limit freedom.
In The Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions many of the same concepts of the misuse of religion are widely implied. Much like Grimke, and Hall this piece also calls upon religion- the same devise that was use to oppress them. This offers both a compelling and a innovative response for each of them. Using very powerful language, and by offering a clearer understanding of woman s position in society, the Seneca Falls piece noticeably shows the misfortune of women in the 19th century society in relation to sacrilege.
He [man] has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God. The language in this quote is uncanny. It is illustrative of how religion has been manipulated to the extent of man placing himself in the position of God, yet it also offers another glance at the natural equal position of women in relation to men.
The Seneca Falls piece does exactly what both Hall and Grimke did, and that is to call upon religion for justice. Being invested by the Creator with the same capabilities, and the same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise…. and especially in regard to the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother… As noted before, religion is being used as the basis for their defense.
It is evident that the influence of sacrilege has played a key role in each author s response. Yet, the common thread running through the responses of Hall, Grimke, and The Seneca Falls piece is more than just responding to the hypocrisy that sacrilege brings to the forefront, it is using the same devise and flipping it to be used as a defense mechanism. This is genus at its best, because it offers a very eloquent response to something so awful such as sacrilege.
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