I wish I could say that Kevin is representative of the way most of my students, and most Americans, approach the past. But his case reveals that real transformation is possible when we are exposed to opinions that we naturally find uncomfortable. Students of the past do not have to agree with slaveholders to learn something from them, even if their encounter with them only reminds them that we, like the authors of these texts, are flawed, imperfect creatures in need of improvement and redemption.
If students of the past can display the kind of self-denial and discipline necessary to understand and empathize with a slaveholder, then they might be able to display the same virtues with their spouses. Christians believe that marriages can be saved through the power of prayer, the work of the Holy Spirit, and a commitment to loving one another as Christ loved the church. But perhaps the study of history might help, too.