Raboteau also delves into some of the contradictions inherent in American Christianity which uses religious conversion as a justification to enslave other people. In recent times such practices are very rare, but the primary reason for allowing the enslavement of certain communities was to make them subordinate to the faith of convenience (which in the case of African Americans was Christianity). Furthermore, there was this conception that “there were not only spiritual benefits to the slaves, but also the contact of the slaves with Western civilization was by itself a better state than that in which the people had lived as free persons”. There were hindrances for a short while in allowing slaves to convert to Christianity, for it would allow them to expect just, fair and equal treatment.
The author’s depiction of the governing institutions and the way the “invisible institution” is run is quite interesting. The public churches of the day were always surrounded by controversies as a result of their exclusive nature. The ‘invisible institution’, as the author refers to it, “existed often as a forbidden aspect”. African American slaves were allowed to participate in both black churches (the congregations of which also contained members of other racial and ethnic minorities). According to Raboteau, these congregations usually see more number of slaves, many of whom risk punishment when they join other worshippers in secluded locations.
Close to the end of the Civil War, the culture of slavery prevailing in America was to a great extent associated with Christianity, especially in the southern states. The author asserts that “the secular/sacred clash often present in the modern-day culture was present even in the slave cabins, where secular music that provided antecedents to rhythm and blues would sometimes compete with the more religious-oriented calls to worship”.
The only criticism that could be attributed to Raboteau is it emphasis on Christianity alone, while not taking into consideration other religions. Also, the author can also be criticized for not representing the viewpoints of women, especially given their significance in “the preservation of slave culture and religion”. Although these criticism in them don’t take away the many merits of the book, more revisionist history is required in this field before a complete picture of this controversial aspect of the country’s past is understood properly. In the final analysis, the book is a landmark in the quest for the true history of American minorities in general and African American Christians in particular. In this sense, it is one of the most important pieces of literature, pertaining to the political, religious and sociological evolution of America.