The chapter Let My People Go by David Kling centers on the author's thoughts on the African American Christians with regards to the biblical exodus. He refers to the Book of Exodus and does a comparison with regard to those above. This chapter contemplates upon the Biblical exodus of Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land Canaan. Subsequently, this chapter focuses on African American Christians comprehension and expressions of the term exodus. This with regards to migration, civil rights movement, emancipation, black liberation theology and slavery of African American Christians.
The author starts by narrating his childhood ordeals and how racism against African American Christians played out. He narrates about how racial segregation used to be the order of the day back then in his Hope community. He gives an account of how public amenities for example parks, restaurants, rest rooms, etc. were classified according to race. He explains how the white race in America ruled and disregarded the people of color as their subordinates. Furthermore, he puts in words how the whites controlled and dominated the political and economic arenas. He describes the African American Christians from his Hope Community as a comfortable faction that accepted their southern way of life and their position as second-class citizens. On the contrary, he terms the whites as oppressors of the African American Christians. To support his claims, he relates how whites denied African American Christians from accessing public utilities and educational opportunities that were meant only for the former. In addition to that, he faults the Ku Klux Klan for the frequent intimidation of African American Christian believers then (Kling 194). The author cites two famous African American, who grew up near his hometown of Hope that changed his childhood perceptions with regards to racism. The first African American he mentions was the award-winning poet Maya Angelou. He cites a section of Maya Angelous 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The autobiography highlighted the degree of racial segregation to the point that some African American children did not have any clue as to how white people looked like. The second African American in question was theologian James Cone. Kling explains how James Cone discovered is an identity as a black person. He recounts how James Cone lived in a society where whites could practically not mix or share anything with their black counterparts. In such society, whites were ruthless and dished out harsh judicial penalties to any black person that dare challenged their authority. James Cone recalls how there was racial segregation even in places of worship during his childhood days (Kling 195).
This chapter also outlines the origin of African Americans Christians comparison of their oppression with that of the biblical Israelites in Egypt. Africans were shipped from their native African land to be used as slaves. In the hands of their white masters, they experienced brutality, oppression, slavery and discrimination (Kling 195). This shaped their way of thinking with regards to the scripture. African American Christians identified themselves with the biblical Israelite slaves in Egypt, who were in captivity, but God sent Moses to rescue them to the Promised Land. They developed an interest in the Book of Exodus with the belief that a day would come when they would be liberated and free just like God did to Israelites. Henceforth the biblical exodus became their story.
As the chapter progresses, the author states instances in which the historical exodus was divided into two movements. The first case involved the physical movements of the Afrikaners of South Africa, the Mormons, New England Puritans and the Jews of America. He goes further and states that these were physical migrations believed to be an exodus to the Promised Land (Kling 196). Their beliefs were based on Gods deliverance of slaves from the hands of their masters. Subsequently, they believed God would guide them through their journey in the alleged Wilderness and finally settle them in their lands. The second instance involved black liberation theology. The author asserts that people in North and Latin America believed in the theological exodus. This included the liberation of ones opinion and playing an activist role in demanding freedom of the oppressed or less fortunate.
This chapter also explains that no other faction identified themselves with the exodus as the African American did. The extent to which African American Christians viewed themselves as the Israelites in bondage is inexplicable. Just as the Israelites turned to Yahweh to deliver them, African Americans converted to Christianity as their only hope of salvation and freedom. With all this new identity, this chapter highlights the comparison of various African Americans with the characters and songs sung by Israelites in the biblical exodus. Civil rights activist cum spy in the civil war Harriet Tubman was referred to as The Moses of her people. This was due to her actions of freeing more than three hundred slaves in the nineteen trips she made to the enslaved South. Similarly, when Abraham Lincoln abolished the slave trade and signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freed blacks referred to him as their Moses. Black nationalists of the years succeeding 1875 are as nicknamed Black Exodus (Kling 197). This was just to mention but a few.
Towards the middle of the chapter, Kling goes deeper into the Bible and explains the story of the exodus. He states that the exodus story focused primarily on the life of the biblical Moses and his relationship with Yahweh. In addition to that, he gives the true meaning of the Book of Exodus and that it accurately defines the relationship between Yahweh and Israelite slaves in Egypt (Kling 199). Moreover, Kling claims that Exodus is the epicenter of Israelite religion. He asserts that ethical commands and theology all revolve around the book of Exodus. This chapter also states that all information in the book of Exodus was taken as factual till late nineteenth century. However, Biblical Scholars and archeologists began to question the authenticity of the historical account of events in the book. They argued that non-biblical sources never mentioned Israel in Egypt hence there was no concrete evidence to support this. Furthermore, the precise location where Israelites crossed the Red Sea is not accurately known save for speculative areas Kadesh-Barnea. On the contrary, more recent scholars have argued that lack of biblical information and facts are not enough to question the exodus as it happened
The author equates the chronology of events leading to the settlement and enslavement of Israelites in Egypt to the enslavement of Africans in America. He narrates the sale of Joseph by his brothers and him forgiving them by offering them a settlement in Egypt where he had risen through the ranks to second in command. He narrates how the after almost one hundred years in Egypt, descendants of Moses had multiplied and the pharaoh at the time took affirmative action to reduce their number and in turn their power. In effect, he enslaved them and subjected Israelites to forced labour (Kling 201). Similarly, he describes how Africans came to being slaves in America. The author gives account on how a group of twenty negars arrived in Virginia aboard a Dutch Warship (Kling 205). The chapter also looks at how the law allowed black people to be bought, sold and had a market price. The blacks were subjects to their masters who would weep them at their discretion. This prompted the blacks to turn to the people and specifically the book of Exodus. The author states that the suffering of the African slaves in the hands of their masters made them believe that they were in biblical Egypt where Israelites were treated in the same manner.
Kling introduces a sub-topic dubbed Anticipating Exodus. In the sub-topic, he discusses how Africans were able to merge their communal consciousness and African beliefs with Christian theology (Kling 208). Towards the end of the chapter Kling gives reasons as to why Christianization of Africans took the time to materialize. First, he claims that the white masters were obstacles who feared that Christianity would guarantee Africans equality in the eyes of one God they would be worshipping. Secondly, Africans were reluctant to this idea and stuck to their old African beliefs of worshipping. He attributes the African conversion to Christianity to the Southern Awakening. The latter was characterized by experienced Christians who had faith and offered blacks emotional comfort with the aim of converting them to Christianity. The black slaves are described to have relied on spirituals, not because of the word of God they contained but because they felt that the spirituals in one way or another touched on their social encounters as slaves.
The chapter closes with a section of the Let My people Go hymn that African Americans were and are still conversant with. The hymn relates to the suffering of descendants of Jacob, their deliverance by Moses and their long awaited reach to the promised land of Canaan (Kling 211). In conclusion, this chapter compares the suffering of African Americans as slaves with the Israelites in the biblical Book of Exodus hence the chapters title Let My People Go.
Kling, David. W. "'Let My People Go'." David.W.Kling. The Bible in History. Oxford Publishers, 2004. 193-213.
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