Slave Religion: the “Invisible Institution”

In: Religion Topics

Submitted By bluefirefly
Words 684
Pages 3
This essay was submitted via Moodle - if you plagiarize it you will be caught

The “invisible institution” refers to the religious experience of black slaves in the American South which grew out of their desire for meaningful Christian worship that reflected their own perception and interpretation of the gospel. It encompasses both the concealed religious practice of slaves as well as the public way in which slaves experienced religion. Furthermore “invisible institution” indicates the neglect by historians of the spiritual journey embarked upon by slaves in the American South; particularly the omission of slave’s own written and oral history of their religious experience. While the “invisible institution” includes an amalgamation of these two distinctive religious realties of slave life, the “invisible institution” is truly the privately organized religious practice of slaves where they could assert their own beliefs and be masters of their own faith.

Evangelical worship services in the South were used to reinforce the concept of mastery; white ministers continually sermonized that in order to reach heaven, slaves must obey their masters and even black preachers regurgitated this notion for fear of what would happen if they did not. Resultantly, slaves yearned for genuine Christian preaching that connected to their own lives, thus they held clandestine prayer meetings of their own. Retribution was brutal for slaves who dared to arrange or attend these covert meetings, accordingly slaves developed methods to circumvent their master’s knowledge of these happenings.

These secret prayer meetings were often held in wooded areas or some other heavily concealed wilderness location; they labeled these places “hush harbors.” Slave cabins were also utilized as locations for meetings. Generally, someone would be appointed as a “look out” to warn of the impending…...

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