Daily Riches: The Religion of Women, Children and Slaves (Kathleen Norris)

“Political power seems to corrupt religions, corroding them from within. It may be that as they age, and gain respectability in the social sphere, religions need to be brought back to the essentials of their faith and practice. It may even be that religions are at their best when they are being oppressed, or when their followers are marginalized in the culture. A new book Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt, provides a glimpse into the history of the Baptist and Methodist churches at a critical time when a choice was made between marginalization and acceptance into the mainstream. The rabble-rousing Baptist and Methodist preachers who roamed the American south in the eighteenth century were radical … [in that they had] a vision of the church as a place where the distinctions of race, gender, and class were all but obliterated by the Holy Spirit. Many prevailed upon slave owners to free their slaves, and they defended the right of any person, black or white, male or female, educated or illiterate, to give public witness to their faith by speaking in church. By the early nineteenth century, however, these socially unpopular positions had provoked considerable tension and even scandal within Southern culture, and the churches faced a drop in membership. One churchman of the era is quoted by Christine Heyrman, the book’s author, as saying that ‘they could not rest content with a religion that was the faith of women, children, and slaves.” Kathleen Norris

“Preach the word … correct, rebuke and encourage –
with great patience and careful instruction.”
2 Timothy 4:2

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Does your church take positions that are “socially unpopular?” If so, is it in a “radical” sense, insisting on Biblical values in spite of popular political or sacred religious convictions to the contrary?
  • Does a desire to be “respectable” prevent this? Can your church be “marginalized” and still effective for God?
  • Would church leadership speak out in this way even if it might mean “a drop in membership?” …or some form of “oppression?” Would the people tolerate it? Would you?
  • In many ways the church of Jesus is one of “women, children, and slaves.” Can you “rest content” with this, not only in theory, but as it manifests itself in your church?

Jesus, deliver us from the need for respectability.


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

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