A Woman of God

Last summer the name of a radical Christian woman was bounced all over the network news. No, the TV anchors were not talking about some hard-core prolifer who was bombing abortion clinics. The radical Christian I'm talking about is a nineteenth-century former slave. Every time you heard about the Mars Pathfinder probe, you heard this woman's name, because the Pathfinder was named after her: Sojourner Truth. Reporters invariably identified Sojourner Truth as a woman's rights advocate and abolitionist. But they completely overlooked the source of Sojourner's fiery devotion to human rights: her strong commitment to Jesus Christ. While Sojourner was still a young woman, a devout Quaker abolitionist named Isaac Van Wagenen bought her freedom. Van Wagenen changed Sojourner's view of slavery forever. "God is no respecter of persons," Van Wagenen told her. "Before God, all of us are equal." Sojourner spent the rest of her life marching under the banner of those words. She believed God directed her to change her name from Isabella to Sojourner Truth. "The Lord gave me the name Sojourner," she declared, "because I was to travel up and down the land, showing people their sins, and being a sign unto them." She chose "Truth" for her last name because, as she explained, "God's name is Truth." Before she took up social causes, Sojourner traveled across America as an itinerant evangelist. She was a passionate orator, speaking at abolitionist meetings. During the Civil War, Sojourner collected food and clothing for black volunteer soldiers, and raised their spirits with her singing. During Reconstruction, Sojourner petitioned the government on behalf of former slaves. Eighty years before anyone had heard of Rosa Parks, Sojourner insisted on her right to ride the streetcars designated for "Whites Only" in Washington, D.C. At age 88, her dying words were, "Follow the Lord Jesus." Today Sojourner Truth has become something of a latter-day celebrity because educators are searching for historical figures—especially women and minorities—to hold up as cultural heroes. But multiculturalists have tried to remake Sojourner in their own image, ignoring her devout Christian faith. A typical example is the portrayal of Sojourner Truth in the London Guardian, which went out of its way to conceal her faith. According to the Guardian, Sojourner traveled "up and down the land," not to show people their sins, as Sojourner put it, but to "tell people about slavery and the oppression of women." It portrayed Sojourner not as a committed believer seeking the truth, but as an enlightened feminist upbraiding the religious bigots of her day. As Christians, we need to reclaim our cultural heritage from the peddlers of political correctness. It's Black History Month, and your children may be learning about Sojourner Truth in school. If they are, help them locate materials that reveal Sojourner's true motivation and then they can share what they’ve learned with their classmates. Our children deserve to know that Sojourner Truth fought for civil rights because of her faith in Jesus Christ. Multiculturalists might not like to hear that, but it happens to be the gospel truth.


Chuck Colson


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