Striking the Waters: Racism, Independence, and Cruciformity — Where the Two Groups Become One 

On July 4, 1776, South Carolina Gov. Charles Pinckney and future Gov. Edward Rutledge were among the 56 delegates to the Constitutional Congress who became signatories on the Declaration of Independence. Their bodies still rest in the St. Philips churchyard in Charleston, S.C., today. It is no secret that Pinckney and Rutledge were slave owners, like most prominent Southern politicians and businessmen in the 18th and 19th centuries. I often wonder how they reconciled slave ownership with the second sentence of the declaration they signed, which reads, in iron resolution, “that all men were created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I cannot pretend to either understand or excuse the enslavement of black men and women in that day, especially by many who claimed the name of Christ. Every human being is created in the image of God, full of dignity and worthy of respect. How could our founding fathers not see the error of their day? I also cannot comprehend why God was so merciful in the establishment of this great nation, even through the godless evils of slavery that evaded the blinded ignorance of well-meaning, courageous men. But He was.

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