Are you familiar with the history surrounding Joshua Glover? If not, please allow me to summarize it for you here. Joshua was an African who was sold into slavery in St. Louis in 1850, about 10 years before the Civil War and 15 years before slavery was outlawed in America. 2 years after being sold as a slave, yearning for freedom, he ran away from his owner and found his way to Racine, Wisconsin (where he took Glover as his last name). Unfortunately, for a $200 reward, another ex-slave and friend of Joshua contacted Joshua’s legal owner and told him of Joshua’s whereabouts. Late one night in 1854 Joshua’s owner and 2 deputy U.S. Marshalls knocked on the door to Joshua’s shanty, forced their way in and he was captured, badly beaten, and thrown in jail, pending his return to his owner’s property in St Louis. You see, although slavery was not legal in Wisconsin at the time, the federal statute known as the “Fugitive Slave Law” required the reporting of a runaway slave to authorities and allowed for the arrest and return of the slave to his/her “legal owner”. Joshua had been “lawfully detained” and was about to be transported back to St. Louis.
But the next day approximately 5000 outraged citizens, the vast majority of whom were biblical Christians, gathered outside the jail and demanded that Joshua be set free. When the jailer refused to free Joshua, the crowd broke down the doors to the jail, released Joshua from his cell, and whisked him away to Canada, where he lived the remainder of his life free from the cruel and inhumane treatment of slavery and his slave owner.
Now, my question for you, dear reader, is which variety of Christian would you have chosen to be, if you lived at that time? Would you have steered clear of the protest, activism, and social issue of the day? Or would you have taken our Lord’s commands (to be salt and light, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to stand against injustice, to rescue those being lead to the slaughter, to care for “the least of them”) as a requirement to participate in the “rescue”, as the 5000 did in Racine that day in 1854? Would you have felt called to act on behalf of your neighbor who was being treated cruelly and unjustly, despite the law at the time?
In upcoming blogs I hope to share other events from recent history and ask you to ponder the question, “which variety of Christian would you have chosen to be, if you lived at the time?” There is a reason I am asking you to consider this question. Stay with me through the next few blog posts and the reason will become apparent.
To be continued…