Since the publication of my new book, Trouble the Water, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about why I decided to write it. It’s geared primarily toward middle grade readers (roughly ages 10-14) but I have had adults tell me they have enjoyed it as well. It takes place in the pre-Civil War south and tackles the issue of slavery. The deeper issue the main character wrestles with is, “Just because my society says something is OK, does that mean that God approves of it?” My hope is that kids (and adults) will apply that question to the issues of our own modern society.
So why did I write it? I originally started with the question, “How could a Bible believing Christian in the 1800s condone and participate in enslaving other human beings, made in God’s image? How could a true follower of Jesus justify that with their faith?
I did a lot of research, but wasn’t really able to answer that question. I suppose only God knows what went on in believers’ hearts who owned slaves. Some denominations tried to refuse communion to slaveholders, but the outcry of the southern members of those denominations was so great that the leadership gave in. The issue of slavery eventually split the Baptist denomination and the Southern Baptist denomination (which supported slavery saying that the races were meant to be separate) became a distinct group.
The Methodists in the north also condemned slavery but ended up splitting over the issue because the southern members supported it.
The Quakers were really the only denomination as a whole that denounced slavery from the start and remained united in that belief as a group. They were actively involved with the Underground Railroad and helped many slaves escape to freedom.
In spite of the general consensus within southern churches that slavery was ok with God, I believe God kept a remnant of believers who rebelled against this evil institution and sought to do what they could to help the slaves. There were many individual churches and Christians who were an active part of the Underground Railroad, risking their lives to help slaves to freedom. Hence my story of a boy who just couldn’t believe that God who loves all people would accept one group of people enslaving another.