We should all be crazy like Harriet

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 6, 2019

Throughout the year in the Episcopal Church we remember people who were witnesses to Christ’s love – in service, in holiness, and in their challenge to the Church and society with the radical call of Christ.  On July 1st, we commemorated a woman who challenged our nation, because she took her faith in Christ seriously.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in 1811 in Connecticut.  Her father was a leading Congregationalist preacher, and her mother was an advocate for women’s education. All seven of her brothers became ministers.  Her older sister pioneered education for women, and her younger sister was a leader for women’s suffrage.

Harriet was a student and then a teacher at her sister’s school for young women, where they followed the course of study typically reserved for men.  She married a young theology professor, named Calvin Ellis Stowe. The couple shared a love of literature and a strong belief in abolition.

As Harriet cared for their seven children, she wrote and spoke against slavery.  In 1851, the first installment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin appeared.  It was a story about slavery that told the truth about its brutality and injustice.  In 1852, it was published as a two-volume book, became an international best-seller, and was translated into more than 60 languages. 

Harriet said she felt in inspired by God to write the book.  “I wrote it because as a woman, a mother, I was oppressed and broken-hearted with the sorrows and injustice I saw; because as a Christian, I felt the dishonor to Christianity; because as a lover of my country, I trembled at the day of wrath.”  The book no doubt played a part in the conflicts that led to the Civil War, bringing an end to slavery in the United Sates.

After the War began, Harriet met President Lincoln.  One possibly apocryphal, but enduring, story credits the President with greeting Harriet, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” 

Bishop Michael Curry has called Stowe a “crazy Christian,” someone crazy enough to believe the radical teachings of Jesus Christ and to put those teachings into action.  Like Bishop Curry, I think our world needs more crazy Christians like Harriet Beecher Stowe – Christians crazy enough to believe that God is real and that Jesus lives, to follow the radical way of the Gospel, and to believe that the love of God is greater than all the powers of evil and death.