Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hard to believe . . . Frederick Douglass section is finished!

Frederick Douglass

It's hard to believe that I have already finished another section of the book. It's about Frederick Douglass's interpretations of the parables, which will be in Chapter 4. The section is way too long--no surprise there--4200 words, instead of 2000 or under, but Douglass's words are so powerful that it is very difficult to trim anything.

I will write more about him in the future, but his use of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus develops over the years (his last citations are used to advocate for women's suffrage), and here is one interesting example adapted from the book draft:

After the fall of Richmond, Virginia, on April 4, 1865—Abraham Lincoln would be shot on April 14—Douglass delivered an address in Boston that celebrated Richmond’s capture. Douglass begins by noting:
I, for the first time in my life, have the assurance, not only of a country redeemed, of a country regenerated, but of my race free and having a future in this land . . . . I say we have in the fall of Richmond the fall of this terrible rebellion and the upbuilding of liberty through the Southern States (4.71).
Douglass rejoices, because now he and other blacks are citizens (emphasis his; 4.72): “What I want, now that the black men are citizens in war, is, that they shall be made fully and entirely, all over this land, citizens in peace” (4.73). And then Douglass once again evokes the parable of the Rich Man (traditionally called Dives) and Lazarus to explain the current historical situation. This time, the audience definitely responds appropriately to the use of “Abraham”:

I tell you, the negro is coming up—he is rising—rising. Why, only a little while ago we were the Lazaruses if the South; the Dives of the South was the slaveholder; and how singular it is that we have here another illustration of that Scripture! Once there was a certain rich man who fared sumptuously every day, and was arrayed in purple and fine linen. He came North, clothed in silk and in satin, and shining with gold, and his breast sparkling with diamonds—his table loaded with the good things of the world. And a certain Lazarus sat at his gate, desiring the crumbs that fell from his table. Such was the record. But now a change has taken place. That rich man is lifting up his eyes in torments down there, and seeing Lazarus afar off in Abraham’s bosom (tumultuous laughter and applause), is all the time calling on Father Abraham to send Lazarus back. But Father Abraham says, “If they hear not Grant nor Sherman, neither will they be persuaded though I send Lazarus unto them.” (Prolonged and vociferous applause.) I say we are way up yonder now, no mistake (4.73-74).
The audience laughs uproariously because, of course, Douglass equates the Abraham of the Bible/parable with President Abraham Lincoln. 

The book will trace the fascinating trajectory of Douglass's use of this parable and of the parade of the Good Samaritan.

Okay, the next post will resume the series on John Calvin and the parables. 

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