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  • Writer's picturecliff carbone

Meet Phillis Wheatley

If you have yet to meet this woman here is a quick review.

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) is celebrated today as the first African-American author of a published book of poetry.

Having been sold into slavery in West Africa and transported to America via a slave ship, Phillis was purchased for enslavement by the Wheatley family of Boston. (Incidentally the slave-ship that she was on was said to be named: "The Phillis" so that is where she got her name "Phillis Wheatley.")

Showing unexpected signs of some nature of brilliance, the Wheatley family went against the norm of oppression and decided to educate Phillis, teaching her to read and write in English. Not too long after, it was quite clear that Phillis was of a remarkably brilliant mind and, taking pen to paper, became world-renowned (during her lifetime) for her eloquent poetry.

She is best known for her book of poems titled: Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773).

While Phillis is celebrated today as a talented mind of historical significance, her writings reveal a dark truth that simply cannot be ignored.

To put it simply - Phillis had been brainwashed, as many slaves were, into believing that the color of her skin proved herself to be inferior down here on earth which set her gaze towards heaven and the afterlife.

Now, some may struggle to believe this based solely on the fact that Phillis was an accomplished writer in her day; but some of her words suggest otherwise:

Consider the following two passages:

To the University of Cambridge, in New England

While an intrinsic ardor prompts to write,

The muses promise to assist my pen;

’Twas not long since I left my native shore

The land of errors, and Egyptian gloom:

Father of mercy, ’twas thy gracious hand

Brought me in safety from those dark abodes.

On Being Brought from Africa to America

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,

Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:

Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

"Their colour is a diabolic die."

Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,

May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

Though Phillis expresses her thoughts in beautiful poetic prose, what cannot be ignored is the very essence of what she is suggesting in these two writings:

First of all, to fully appreciate the weight of what Phillis is suggesting one needs to understand how common the argument was among southern Evangelical Slave holders that rescuing Africans from their foreign pagan lands to be slaves was all the justification they needed to prove that the institution of slavery was a moral and righteous act since it helped to 'Christianize the heathen.'

Consider these passages from a couple of 19th century Southern Evangelical Christian Slave-holding authors:

Do you believe," said Mr. T., "that the negro is less a man in his southern bondage, than he is in his African idolatry and superstition? Do you believe his contact with the social and religious elements of southern society, though restricted by slavery, has degraded him beneath the Bushman, the Hottentot, the Cannibal, or even below the somewhat more elevated Central Africans, who bow down daily to their household gods, and who in their superstition, lay on the funeral pile, the surviving widow to be consumed with the body of her deceased husband? Do you think the enlightened and christian slave, is less happy, less contented, less elevated in the scale of moral existence, than his ancestors were in the dark land of Ham? Your familiarity with ethmology, has long since taught you that southern slaves are the happiest of all their race, and approximate more nearly the great object for which God has created man.

This being undeniably true, then where is the injustice of which you speak? Is it doing a man injustice to enlighten his ignorance, to teach him how to enjoy the social relations of life, to deliver him out of barbarism and introduce him into civilized life, to break the fetters of idolatry and superstition, and teach him the knowledge of the true God, to take his being and fill it with all those holier purposes, desires and aspirations, which have been so long exiled by the reigning demon of darkness? If this be injustice, then sir, do we plead guilty to the charge, not otherwise...

...that these poor Ethiopians were ever brought from the superstition and idolatry of their fathers, to know and worship the only living and true God; and that as they had been torn away from their native homes, their lots had been cast among those who "cared for their souls," and that though they were in physical bondage, they were spiritually free; and that though they were servants of an earthly master, they were the children of God.

These passages taken from the 19th century book titled: Nellie Norton; Southern Slavery and the Bible. A Scriptural Refutation of the Principal Arguments Upon Which the Abolitionists Rely. A Vindication of Southern Slavery from the Old and New Testaments. (1820) Here we have the author's (a southern slave-holding Evangelical Christian) response to a northern Christian Abolitionist who presents the challenge that participating in the act of the slave trade and slavery itself is an act of immorality and injustice on behalf of the slave holder.

Or consider this passage from Mary Clunie's The Bible and Slavery: A Brief Examination of the Old and New Testaments on Servitude. (1867)

The transfer of such persons from lands of darkness and cruelty to one of light and mercy, could scarcely fail to be a blessing, both to body and soul.

Here the author is adding a helpful context to the justification of Biblical Slavery as endorsed in the Bible.

Or this passage from John Richter Jones' Slavery Sanctioned By the Bible (1861)

I am not the advocate of slavery. I regard it as a great evil, and so I do despotism: both are evils, but both under certain circumstances preferable to worse....the slavery of South Carolina is better than the freedom of Dahomey or St. Domingo; better for the present happiness of the negro, better for his progress in civilization, better for his religious hopes, and moral condition.

Or this from Slavery Ordained of God (1857) by Rev. Fred A. Ross

Let us then, North and South, bring our minds to comprehend two ideas, and submit to their irresistible power. Let the Northern philanthropist learn from the Bible that the relation of master and slave is not sin-per-se. Let him learn that God says nowhere it is sin. Let him learn that sin is the transgression of the law; and where there is no law there is no sin, and that the Golden Rule may exist in the relations of slavery. Let him learn that slavery is simply an evil in certain circumstances. Let him learn that equality is only the highest form of social life; that subjection to authority, even slavery, may, in given conditions, be for a time better than freedom to the slave of any complexion. Let him learn that slavery, like all evils, has its corresponding and greater good; that the Southern slave, though degraded ---compared with his master, is elevated and ennobled compared with his brethren in Africa. Let the Northern man learn these things, and be wise to cultivate the spirit that will harmonize with his brethren of the South, who are lovers of liberty as truly as himself.

As you can see, the concept that Southern slavery - which placed the African in a perpetual life of bondage - was preferable to what his circumstances would have been if still in the land of pagans (Africa), was widely taught.

In fact, almost every written argument you will find penned by Christian slave-holding apologists will make this argument (along with others) in a convincing effort to defend the American institution of slavery as it was.

It was clear that this teaching among society had the added benefit of justifying the practice towards those whose conscience may have been leaning in a different direction; a conscience that, on some level, understood that the human-trafficking and ownership of another human being had NO JUSTIFICATION that placed it in harmony with what is Good and moral. (These, what we call today 'Christian abolitionists,' were mockingly known then as 'enlightened Christians' as one would refer to a 'Progressive Christian' today.)

But the target of this teaching wasn't just for the white southern slave-holder or the northern Christian abolitionists. No - it was for the slave himself.

Indeed, many slave-holders used this talking-point (along with a plethora of Biblical references that sought to remind the slave of his God-ordained position and that in order to be a good Christian and reap the reward of Heaven they must submit themselves fully to their masters) as a way to control the inevitable emotions that might overflow from an intrinsic understanding that being owned by another human being is unjust and immoral.

We see this brainwashing technique used in other occurrences of our human history.

During the medieval times, the Catholic Church used the fear that comes from the knowledge that one could burn in hell for eternity if one did not submit to the power of the church's (man-made) authority to control the masses.

We see that this brand of brainwashing worked for, at least, a thousand years - until the birth of enlightenment began to lead some to start asking some tough questions.

The evidence suggest that those in American society, including those enslaved, were not immune to this same brand of brainwashing.

After years of oppressive teachings and lies, many slaves began to actually believe that their God-ordained position in life, while here on earth, was that of perpetual servitude and that their earthly gaze would be on that of eternal life in heaven hereafter where they would join th' angelic train.

1 Peter 2:18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.

Many slaves would accept this 'truth' as preferable to what their lot might be had they not been 'mercifully rescued' from their native pagan land of Africa.

As hard as it may be for us to admit, we see evidence of this indoctrination alive-and-well in the writings of Phyllis Wheatley who seems to have found peace with her earthly status as she had been brainwashed into believing.

’Twas not long since I left my native shore

The land of errors, and Egyptian gloom:

Father of mercy, ’twas thy gracious hand

Brought me in safety from those dark abodes.

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,

Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:

Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

"Their colour is a diabolic die."

*Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,

May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

*Another common teaching was that the African's dark complexion was a modern manifestation of God's curse, or "mark of Cain" (Genesis 4:15).

This Biblical understanding and teaching would then lend way to the understanding and teaching that Africans, having been proven descendants of Ham through his son Canaan, were the fulfillment of God's curse on Ham's son Canaan:

“Cursed be Canaan!

The lowest of slaves

will he be to his brothers.” (Genesis 9:25)

Though her writings be astoundingly beautiful, it is more than evident to me that this world-renowned and historic composer was yet another victim of the indoctrination and brainwashing of a Biblically-based lie.

In addition to the stories that we know from those enslaved, we have seen evidence of success with these types of brainwashed techniques for centuries - and even in the following decades of post-slavery leading up to the mid-20th century.

Consider the doll-test psychological experiments of the 1940's where black children were given both a white and black doll and were asked to pick which doll they preferred. And in alarming numbers the black children picked the white doll that showcased a less 'problematic' skin-tone other than the one of which they were created.

Consider the many women who fought on the side of women's ANTI-suffrage movement. These women were literally fighting against their own right to vote along with other basic human rights.

Are these two happenings not evidence of the bad fruits of successful brainwashing? Bad fruits of evil teachings; both of which used specific Biblical references to defend the teachings as moral and ordained by God.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.1 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. 1 Timothy 2:11-15


I am reminded of these brain-washed successes when I consider the many, today, who have an understanding that they were born gay, and yet, use very similar biblical and spiritual arguments to add validity to a teaching of the Christian church in which they have been brainwashed into believing that a party of their very identity that they were created with is 'problematic.'





Some of the same Biblical arguments that were used to advance the teaching that the black race is inferior to the white and destined for perpetual servitude of the white man and that a woman's rightful and God-ordained place in both church and society was to be silent, at home, bearing children as was to be her main purpose in life (because Eve was the first to eat some fruit.)

The parallels are astounding.

Specific scriptures used to defend the teaching that homosexuality is abominable, problematic, evil and sinful.

A biblical and societal understanding that homosexuality, something of which is NOT a choice but rather a part of a person's identity, much like their skin color, ethnicity and gender, is inferior to that of the heterosexual.

That, though they be enslaved here on earth to a 'propensity' for same-sex attraction, if they would only give-in to this Biblically based belief and daily deny this part of their identity, then, like the slave, their eternal award will be in heaven.

Never mind the overwhelming evidence that these teachings have done far more harm than good; in the form of suicides; millions of children, teens and adults being forced into a life of living in a closet of shame and fear; enduring all kinds of emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual and often physical abuse.

I do not want to go as far as to say the treatment of homosexuals today matches that of the treatment that the black population has endured for centuries here in America.

But an evil teaching is an evil teaching.

There is a psychological slavery that takes place when a person is enslaved by a common belief and teaching that a part of who they are, their very God-created being, is abominable and evil.

There is an emotional and spiritual oppression that takes place when a person is on the receiving end of a church doctrine that teaches them that to live as they were created is to live a life divorced from God and anything else that is good and decent.

There is also a physical segregation that takes place when a gay person who is living in the truth of which they were created is turned away from any act of service or is not legislatively protected from discrimination, simply due to an aspect of their created identity.

Just like the evil teachings that lead to the belief that black is inferior to white and women are inferior to men....

there are no good fruits here.

For those who still voice the call of Biblical truth being THE ONLY truth to live by I give you this.

"Let us once permit ourselves to call in question the perfections of Deity, or the plenary inspiration of His word, to doubt His infallible veracity, or to form our opinions on moral subjects from principles independent of the Divine word, and we have no centripetal force attracting us to Truth, but we will be led astray by every ignis fatuus in the religious scientific or social world. Once unsettle the public confidence in the fundamental truths of the Bible, in its reliability and safety as a standard, and you open the door to a flood of evils which no man can number, and the wicked consequences of which the most astute cannot anticipate." Warren, E. W.

This passage is taken from the 19th century book titled: Nellie Norton; Southern Slavery and the Bible. (A Scriptural Refutation of the Principal Arguments Upon Which the Abolitionists Rely. A Vindication of Southern Slavery from the Old and New Testaments.)

This is the author's (a southern Evangelical Christian) response to a northern Christian Abolitionist who presents the challenge that though the institution of slavery is clearly ordained in Scripture (as instituted and spelled out in Genesis, The Mosaic Law, Pentateuch, and the Bible as a whole) that the Spirit of the Law as evidenced in keeping with the Golden Rule, is far more important than the Letter of the Law.

History has proven that using the Bible as your only evidence in advancing ANY specific teaching that proves harmful to an entire portion of the human race is not sufficient.

Further evidence is called for.

Until somebody can convince me that a man loving another man and entering into a joint-life of intimacy and companionship harms either he or the other, or the person reading this, or ANYONE for that matter, then the Bible-based and cultural accepted teaching that homosexuality is evil and inferior will fall on the same side of history as the teachings used to oppress the black and female populations.

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