The Theology of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Every Monday is the Sabbath day for our family. We try to make it an extra fun day for the kids by going to parks and having dinner with grandpa and grandma Kopp. In addition, I try to read as much as I can, from books that have nothing to do with theology!

I love a great mystery/suspense novel and have recently read books by John Grisham, David Baldacci, and Michael Connelly. Yet, even though these books are New York Times bestsellers, most of them will be out-of-print in a few years. That’s why in addition to reading the popular books of our day, I have always wanted to read the classics, books that have been in print for decades, books that have stood the test of time.

So a few weeks back I went to Barnes and Noble and picked up Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Even though this book focuses on the life of slaves in pre-Civil War America, there is a lot of theology in it. For example, there are numerous examples how preachers from the South attempt to show how the enslavement of Africans is God’s will. So, by extension, if you were trying to free slaves, you were doing the devil’s work.

One of the main arguments in the book surrounds their (mis)quotation of the Apostle Paul: . . . each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. (1 Corinthians 7:17).

Their argument: if you are a slave, well, that is the “situation” the Lord has assigned to you. Being enslaved and all that goes with it (rape for the female slaves, beatings for the men, separating children from their mothers, etc.) is all part of God’s will for you.

A slave named George is challenging this theology as he says:

I wonder, Mr. Wilson, if the Indians should come and take you a prisoner away from your wife and children, and want to keep you all your life hoeing corn for them if you’d think it your duty to abide in the condition in which you were called. I rather think that you’d think the first stray horse you could find [was] an indication of Providence – shouldn’t you? (p. 109)

I love that quote. How true! If you were a white man living in the South and you owned slaves, you would use 1 Corinthians 7:17 to justify why you were free and why they were not. But if the tables were turned and you were enslaved, you would probably quickly come to the realization that Paul is speaking against divorce in 1 Corinthians and not commanding you to accept your new “situation” as coming from the hand of God.

***Have your 4th of July BBQ on Monday so you can come to The Eastside Vineyard Church on Sunday night! We’ll be continuing our series – The Kingdom on Earth – as I unpack Matthew 5:31-32, verses that are about much more than marriage and remarriage. Sunday. July 3. 6pm. More info at***

About Dan Kopp

In 2010 Dan and Kellie felt the call by God to plant a church somewhere in Macomb County, Michigan. Several months later The Eastside Vineyard Church launched and currently meets inside Shelby Jr. High in Shelby Township. This blog began in the pre-launch phase of the church and has exceeded 50,000 hits. Thanks for reading!
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