Check out the Vast Public Indifference blog for an excellent post on the question of whether colonial slaves were Christians. While the post is worth reading, I was struck by her referencing of a recent syndicated column by Pat Buchanan in which he espouses what I assumed to be an extinct justification for slavery within intellectual circles (Yes, even though I rarely agree with Buchanan I consider him to be an intellectual.):
First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It
was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships,
grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian
salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity
blacks have ever known.
As Caitlin points out in the post, it is not at all clear that the first few generations of slaves subscribed to Christianity in large numbers. For now, however, let's assume that all "600,000" were indeed introduced and accepted Christianity and ignore serious history as Buchanan does. Does anyone really believe that their being introduced to a new religion outweighs the moral calculus surrounding the trauma of being separated from loved ones, community, and one's very identity? Would Pat Buchanan accept this as a price for salvation for his own family and friends? How could anyone justify the suffering and death that accompanied slavery with salvation? If this bizarre picture of how our moral universe operates is true than God does indeed work in mysterious ways.