Today I read an article about a reporter who has very likely discovered the burnt remains of the last slave ship to America, the Clotilda. When it set sail in 1860 for what is now Benin, West Africa, bringing slaves to America was already illegal. But on a bet that they could do it without being caught, two men purchased the boat, sailed to Africa, and brought back 110 African men and women as slaves. To evade the law, they sailed into Tensaw Delta on Alabama’s Gulf coast under cover of darkness and transferred the slaves to a riverboat on the Mobile River. And then, to hide the evidence of their crime, they burned the ship and sank it there in the delta.
The story fascinates me on several levels:
- One, the depravity of the men who did this is mind-bending. How could two men, already wealthy, capture 110 innocent men and women, take them from their homeland, shackle them for weeks as they crossed the Atlantic, and then sell them into slavery in America?
- Two, the men were careful to destroy the evidence of their evil deed. But evil cannot be hidden forever. And the recent storms along the east coast, called the “bomb cyclone” caused extremely low tides, exposing the remains.
- Three, there are still vestiges of the ship that had been buried so long. The men who burned it probably thought they would never be discovered, but here we are, almost 160 years later, and experts are now discovering the details of this infamous journey through the artifacts on the ship.
The parallels to our spiritual life are striking:
- We all “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) I said that the slave traders were depraved, but so is each one of us, without Christ.
- Material slavery (men and women in shackles forced to do uncompensated labor) is deplorable. But spiritual slavery is no less so.
- We may try, in our own strength, to rid ourselves of whatever enslaves us in our sinful state. But unless we repent and return to the author of our freedom, we will never be able to remove the last vestiges of our slavery. In Christ alone are we freed from bondage. (Romans 6:6)
February in the U.S. is Black History Month. As we remember the oppression of our black brothers and sisters and continue to advocate for their justice and freedom, let us also seek to be freed from whatever oppresses us, spiritually, through Jesus Christ!