12 Years a Slave and Christianity

Disturbing, thought-provoking, heartrending, and powerful … that’s how I would describe the movie, 12 Years a Slave.

I recently sat down to the watch the film—after it reached box office success and won Oscars and Golden Globes. I’m not sure why it took me so long to view the movie, but I’m glad I finally did.

The story is based on the validated autobiography of Solomon Northup. He was a free black man who was abducted in New York State and sold into slavery in the mid-1800s—before the Civil War. Solomon was forced to work on plantations in Louisiana for twelve years before meeting a Canadian abolitionist who came to his rescue.

Solomon experienced kindness from several plantation owners, but he also suffered severe cruelty from others.  I think what was most unsettling for me were the men who professed to be Christians  and preached the Gospel to their slaves, but felt justified in raping women and whipping  to shreds anyone who even just looked at them wrong.

Their actions reminded me of the Pharisees and Jesus being struck until bleeding for doing nothing wrong …

Yet, these slaves who were held against their will and made to suffer such atrocities still clung to their faith and sang songs of praise to the Lord. Amazing.

I don’t understand—and I will never understand—how those who profess to be Christians have over the course of history been so evil and violent—torturing and killing their fellowman. The Crusades. The Holocaust. 

But I guess the truth is that they’re not who they claim to be. They’re not led by Christ but by those evil entities in the spiritual realm who want to do humankind harm.

I’m thankful for movies like 12 Years a Slave because they remind us of the realities of what people have endured and continue to endure around the world today.

Perhaps we can’t physically help those in other countries who are being enslaved and treated with brutality. But we can raise our voices. We can refuse to close our eyes to what is happening.  We can refuse to participate. And we pray …

Have you seen 12 Years a Slave? What were your thoughts? If you haven’t seen this film, do you think you’d like to?



  1. I saw the movie in theaters, and thought first how much the story needed told. Then I began to see moments of utter brilliance in storytelling. When he was hanging, barely able to touch the ground with his toe, while others went about their chores after a bit...heartrending.

    1. I agree, Peter! The scene of him hanging, struggling to breathe ... and how long he had to endure really tugged at my heartstrings.


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