John Wesley and human rights / Stephen Barry
Wesley's "Thoughts upon Slavery" written in 1774 reveal not only his attitude to this gross violation of human dignity and rights but also to such issues as human freedom in general, colonialism, the right to resist oppression and racism. It seems therefore fitting that this subject should conclude the examination of Wesley's theology of the state. Without reservation Wesley condemns slavery and refuses to admit to the bar in its defence any argument that appeals to existing legislation, economic advancement, colonial (or imperial) prestige or racial superiority. He seems to accept statistics that show that the American Negro - or African American - is proportionately more active in crime. But he questions the interpretation of the statistics. He does not condone crime or violence but is well aware that these are oflen symptoms of deeper problems of social inequality and injustice. The successful campaign for the abolition of slavery really belonged to the next generation but Wesley actively encouraged his followers to support the campaign. Sadly some of them motivated by the financial implications of slavery were its keenest supporters, both in America and in Britain. But to his credit and the credit of many Methodists one of the consequences of the Revival was the abolition of slavery. In this, Wesley the self-confessed High Church Tory, was a man ahead of his time. In the mid-20~ century the American Black Civil Rights, and Christian activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr, looked to Mahatma Ghandi to inform his methodology in that struggle to win freedom, not only for the oppressed, but also for the oppressor. He could equally have looked to John Wesley for a methodology for effecting political and social change, or for a Spirituality of Social Transformation. This the general summary will attempt to do.
- ETD@PUK