Millions of people around the world have seen the stunning and horrifying images of whipping and torture in the movie The Passion of The Christ produced by Mel Gibson. It is deeply moving to see what Jesus was put through in Jerusalem–even though Pilate declared “I find no fault in him.”
It is heart rending to see an innocent person viciously whipped. Jesus said: “What you do to the least of these, my brothers, you do unto Me.” Who are “the least” in American history? Wouldn’t that be the slaves who had no legal rights and were bought and sold like animals? According to Jesus, what was done to the slaves, was done to the Christ. Jesus was whipped in America.
In 1848 Frederick Douglas, a runaway slave, said: “I am afraid you do not understand the awful character of the lashes given to slaves. A human being in a perfect state of nudity, tied hand and foot to a stake, and a strong man standing behind with a heavy whip, knotted at the end, each blow cutting into the flesh, and leaving the warm blood dripping to the feet.” Jesus was whipped in America.
John Fee, a white Kentuckian, wrote: “Let me say, the torture of the body is terribly cruel, and yet it is the smallest part of the crime of human slavery. I have seen women tied to a tree or timber and whipped with cow-hides on their bare bodies until their shrieks would seem to rend the very heavens.” Jesus was whipped in America.
Absalom Jones, a founder of the AME Church, said in the late 1700’s: “Our God has seen masters, and mistresses, educated in fashionable life, sometimes take the instruments of torture into their own hands, and deaf to the cries and shrieks of their agonizing slaves, exceed even their overseers in cruelty.” Jesus was whipped in America.
American poet, John Greenleaf Whittier, wrote about slavery in 1845: “Woe to him who crushes the soul with chain and rod, and herds with lower natures, the awesome form of God.” Jesus was whipped in America.
Francis Fredric, himself once given 107 lashes, wrote in 1863. “I saw a slave flogged (for running away) in the presence of all the slaves assembled from the neighboring plantations. His body was frightfully lacerated. I went to see him two or three weeks after the flogging. When they were anointing his back, his screams were awful. He died soon afterwards–a tall, fine young fellow, six feet high, in the prime of life, thus brutally murdered.” Jesus was whipped in America.
Solomon Northup, author of Twelve Years a Slave, wrote: “I thought I must die beneath the lashes of the accursed brute. Even now the flesh crawls upon my bones, as I recall the scene. I was all on fire. My sufferings I can compare to nothing else than the burning agonies of hell.” Jesus was whipped in America.
Many want the story of the American Passion (of both black Americans and the original Americans) left untold. The violence we have done to Jesus–“to the least of these”–to those who have done us no wrong–is easier denied than faced. It is very humbling to realize the evil and the cruelty that was committed by our forefathers right here on American soil as they proclaimed “liberty and justice for all“. Lord, have mercy on us.