The Divine Meaning of the War in the South

ForeverFree

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This is an interesting except from a book by historian Matthew Harper. It discusses the religious meaning of the war to Southerners. I will put half of the excerpt here, and the rest in the next post:

On February 22, 1865, the 4th and the 37th U.S. Colored Troops, among others, occupied the port city of Wilmington, North Carolina. As the soldiers marched through the streets, they sang, “Christ died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.” Slaves and free blacks lined the streets to cheer, dance, and celebrate. One African-American woman spotted her son among the soldiers. Young men who had left home as slaves now returned as liberators. Their presence meant the end of slavery.

White civilians stood aghast as black soldiers secured the city. For local whites, the control of Wilmington by armed black men was apocalyptic, a doomsday. One elderly white man heard a “shouting mass of ex-slaves” marching behind the lines a black Union soldiers, and in disgust, he called out,"Blow Gabriel, blow, for God’s sake blow.” He thought the world was ending, and he wanted it over quickly.

For local blacks, too, this day held eschatological meaning, though in a much different sense. Emancipation was the key moment in African American eschatology. That eschatology was on display the following Sunday when local African Americans gathered, as they usually did, for a sunrise prayer meeting at the Methodist church on Front Street. The church, a congregation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, had white and black members; it had a white pastor, even though the 800 black members easily outnumbered the 200 white members. Many of the church’s services were biracial with segregated seating, but the sunrise prayer service, a long-standing tradition, was attended only by the church’s African American members. On that Sunday it was no ordinary prayer service.

“The whole congregation was wild with excitement,” observed the church’s white pastor, “with shouts, groans, amens, and unseemly demonstrations.” A black leader named Charles chose the scripture lesson from the ninth Psalm: “Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou has put out their name for ever and ever.” Charles told the people to “study over this morning lesson on this day of Jubilee.”​

- cont -

Alan
 
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ForeverFree

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This is the second half of the excerpt:

After the scripture reading, a black US Army chaplain, Rev. William H Hunter, stood up to speak. Born a slave in North Carolina, Hunter was freed at an early age and moved to New York. He later attended Wilberforce University and was ordained an African Methodist Episcopal minister. Chaplin Hunter had arrived with his regiment only days before, and he brought with him news that the world now looked very different. When he spoke, an observer noted Hunter stretching “himself to his full-size and displaying to the best advantage for a profound impression his fine uniform.”

[Hunter] proclaimed, “One week ago you were all slaves; now you are all free.” The congregation responded with “uproarious screamings.” Hunter continued, “Thank God the armies of the Lord and Gideon has triumphed and the Rebels have been driven back in confusion and scattered like chaff before the wind.”​

This is from the book The End of Days: African American Religion and Politics in the Age of Emancipation by Matthew Harper. The book is about the eschatology of Southern African Americans during and after the Civil War. Eschatology is
the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.

Harper makes the point that the War was seen as an act of divinity by many Southerners. Black and enslaved Southerners saw emancipation as the Jubilee which was spoken about in the Old Testament. The War, the various aspects of it, and freedom were seen as acts of God which ushered in a new time.

- Alan
 

ForeverFree

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Charles Royster's 1991 book The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans, talks about the fall of Columbia, SC, to the Union, and how various residents reacted:

War had changed Columbia. The city had never been large, numbering about 8,000 people in peacetime; but the war had more than tripled its population. Some people were forced into Columbia: slaveholders moved their human property. The number of black people in Columbia, usually about one third of the population, swelled with the influx of slaves. Some blacks had escaped during the relocation, had hidden in swamps, and were greeting the approaching Federal soldiers with the descriptions of the roads ahead. Blacks in the city felt sure of Sherman's destination sooner than his own men did. On January 29, a white man who heard them noted: “The n****rs sing hallelujah's for him every day."

Some of the slaves concentrated in Columbia grew restive, and white people reacted harshly. They set up a whipping post near the market in the Assembly Street. A black man caught smuggling News to Federal prisoners in the city received 100 lashes and a promise that if he repeated the offense, he would be killed. Afterward, he told the prisoners, “Dey may kill dis n****r, but dey cain’t make him hate de Yankees.” The daily whippings aroused bitter resentment among young Black men. Some of them called the Market post “Hell" and agreed among themselves to make a hell of the city once the Yankees came.​

The book goes on to note that the slaves communicated with and aided Federal prisoners held in Columbia and also Union soldiers who came into the city and the surrounding area; and also how the slaves used the Union occupation to enact acts of revenge against whites whom they believed had mistreated them.

Later in chapter 1, Royster writes

[Sometime after Union soldiers had entered the city, and there had been fires and some looting] ...in Main Street, crowded with hurrying people and lit by burning stores, a [Union] lieutenant asked an old black man: “What do you think of the night, sir?” The man replied; ‘Wall I'll tell you what I dinks I dinks de day of Jubilee for me hab come.'
Amid the chaos, this enslaved man saw in it all a dawn of personal freedom. There are many many references to the Jubilee by enslaved people during the War.

Note the religious language in the above: “The n****rs sing hallelujah's for him (Sherman) every day"; a whipping post is called “Hell."

- Alan
 
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ForeverFree

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The Jubilee (Hebrew: יובל‎ yoooooooonateraḇāl; Yiddish: yoyvl) year is the year at the end of seven cycles of shmita (Sabbatical years), and according to Biblical regulations had a special impact on the ownership and management of land in the Land of Israel; there is some debate whether it was the 49th year (the last year of seven sabbatical cycles, referred to as the Sabbath's Sabbath), or whether it was the following (50th) year.

Jubilee deals largely with land, property, and property rights. According to Leviticus, slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest. Leviticus 25:8-13 states:

You shall count off seven Sabbaths of years, seven times seven years; and there shall be to you the days of seven Sabbaths of years, even forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. You shall make the fiftieth year holy, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.

It shall be a jubilee to you; and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee to you. In it you shall not sow, neither reap that which grows of itself, nor gather from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat of its increase out of the field. In this Year of Jubilee each of you shall return to his property.​

- Alan
 

ForeverFree

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The following is from the website Legacy of Slavery in Maryland. The text, titled Slaves and Religion, and written by Desiree Lee, talks about enslaved people's religious beliefs. Although this is about enslaved people in Maryland, it provides a general understanding of what religion meant to enslaved people throughout the United States. This is an excerpt; the entire text is here:

In antebellum Maryland, many enslaved persons looked to God as a source of comfort, and used religion as a spiritual foundation through which they based their life's purpose. The primary religion during the early 1900s was Methodism, which was formed in England by the creative devotion of Anglican priest, John Wesley, and his itinerants.

The master's position on church was very simple, but internally inconsistent. Most slave owners separated their faith from slavery. The average slave owner carried out the rules of the church when it concerned their private family relationships. They loved and cherished the word of God within their household. On the other hand, outside the household was beyond the injunctions of the church. To most masters, slaves were property and therefore could be treated any way. In some circumstances, they were treated worse than the livestock. Slave owners often felt that the rules and obligations of being a good humanitarian did not apply to slaves, which in turn justified their cruelty. However, many masters had some sense that poor treatment of slaves was contradictory to their religion. When persons of the clergy would visit, slaves would be instructed to hide the fact that they had been abused, neglected, or treated unfairly. This allows one to think that the master's knew that their actions were not only unethical but also unchristian.

Slaves themselves did not have the opportunity to separate their religious beliefs between personal life and their work. Slaves took the context of the Bible into everyday life and it supported their belief that slavery was unjust and inhuman. Slaves praised and worshiped the Lord throughout the good times and the. The power of the slave's religion was so strong that often masters despised their devotion to God and sometimes resulted in more brutal acts of hatred towards slaves known to have strong religions convictions. As described by Elizabeth, a black minister: "I lived in a place where there was no preaching, and no religious instruction; but every day I went out amongst the haystacks, where the presence of the Lord overshadowed me, and I was filled with sweetness and joy, and was as a vessel filled with holy oil. In this way I continued for about a year; many times while my hands were at my work, my spirit was carried away to spiritual things."...

Slaves found hope and the escape form the brutalities of life in the daily practices of religion. The slaves gained most of their knowledge about religion at camp meetings which they attended with their masters. Slaves enjoyed these social gatherings, and often sold food and whisky to both the black and white communities. Many slaves imitated their master's shouting at both the camp meetings and at their own religious services. Slave preachers could often reproduce the emotional sermons delivered by the white ministers. The slave's services were similar to the whites in many ways. They served as a meeting place for friends and sweethearts, furnished ways for exercising power and leadership, and were times for socializing. Most slaves recognized the brand of religion their masters taught included racial inequalities. Constrained by those limitations, the bondsman formulated new religious ideas and practices in the relative privacy of their own quarters...

In his sermons the slaves often saw the invisible hand of God working for their freedom and retribution against the whites." The slave preacher had special verbal skills and his sermons excited the emotions of the slave people. Josiah Henson recalled "When I arrived at the place of meeting, the services were so far advanced that the speaker was just beginning his discourse, from the text, Hebrews chapter 9; 'That he, by the grace of God, should taste of death for every man.' This was the first text of the Bible to which I had ever listened, knowing it to be such. I have never forgotten it, and scarce a day has passed since, in which I have not recalled it, and the sermon that was preached from it."

The sermons of the black preacher were singular performances, marked by call and response. His allusions to earthy trials and heavenly rewards were followed by groans and acceptance phases. Since the black preacher himself was enslaved he had to make some painful compromises in order to minister to all the needs of his people.

While often in a position to aid slaves, black preachers sometimes ended up supporting the institution of slavery. Black ministers were often trained by white clergy who were continually suspicious of insurrection Under the surveillance of whites, black ministers often joined their masters in preaching obedience and submissiveness to slaves, because they did not want to get flogged themselves. Others did so because whites rewarded them with money, relief from labor, or with manumission. Most black ministers believed that they were giving real advice on how to avoid the lash in their world. Other black preachers valued the rewards and the respect white masters gave them for voluntarily advising the slaves to be obedient.

The slaves' religious principles were colored by their own longings for freedom. They were often based on half-understood sermons in the white churches, passages from the Old Testament describing the struggles of the Jews, beautiful dreams of a future life of freedom, enchantment and fear, and condemnation of sin. The deepest emphasis in the slave's religion was on change in their earthly situation and divine retribution for the cruelty of their masters. James Penningotn explained "the only harm I wish to slaveholders is, that they may be speedily delivered from the guilt of a sin, which, if not repented of, must bring down the judgment of Almighty God upon their devoted heads. The least I desire for the slave is, that he may be speedily released from the pain of drinking a cup whose bitterness I have sufficiently tasted, to know that it is insufferable.15

Slaves believed they had a special relationship with the Lord both individually and universally. They often expressed their love for the lord through music, church sermons and private sessions of prayer. Slaves had a emotional involvement with God every week. In contrast to most white churches, a meeting in the quarters was the scene of constant motion and singing. While singing, the congregation and the choir kept to the time of the music by swaying their bodies or by patting their hand or tapping their feet. Their singing was accompanied by a certain ecstasy of motion, clapping of the hands and the tossing of the heads, which would continue without interruption for about thirty minutes. One would lead off in a recitative style, others joining in the chorus.

Often combining secular and sacred themes, narrating personal experiences and uplifting the personal spirit, spirituals often served as accompaniments to labor or with the details of life. Spirituals also developed from the search of loved ones that were either sold or killed, and could also be a secret form of communication. Whenever the slaves would decide to meet for a dance, prayer meeting, or any unauthorized social event they would sing songs with hidden meanings that the average white man would not understand.18 For example:

I take my text in Matthew, and by Revelation,
I know you by your garment.
Dere's a meeting here tonight.
Dere's a meeting here tonight.

Despite their weakness as individuals, religion helped slaves feel stronger and safer as a group, and protected under the eyes of God.
- Alan
 

ForeverFree

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Spottwood Rice was an enslaved Missourian who enlisted in the Union army. Because it was a Union slave slate, Missouri was exempted from the Emancipation Proclamation. However, the Union needed men for its army, and eventually it allowed enslaved men from the Border slave states to join the army. Slaves who enlisted were emancipated, but it did not free family members. It was not uncommon for a male from the Border states to enlist, and be forced to leave his enslaved wife, children and other family behind.

When Spottwood Rice joined the army he was forced to leave his children behind. But he was determined to get them. Here, Rice writes to his children, telling them "Dont be uneasy my children I expect to have you." In the letter, he talks about the woman who owns his children, a Miss Kaitty Diggs. Rice says "as for her cristianantty I expect the Devil has Such in hell." Rice, whom I understand became a preacher after the war, says that Diggs will go to Hell for her actions.

This is the letter Rice wrote to his children in September 1863:

[Benton Barracks Hospital, St. Louis, Mo. September 3, 1864]

My Children I take my pen in hand to rite you A few lines to let you know that I have not forgot you and that I want to see you as bad as ever now my Dear Children I want you to be contented with whatever may be your lots be assured that I will have you if it cost me my life on the 28th of the mounth. 8 hundred White and 8 hundred blacke solders expects to start up the rivore to Glasgow and above there thats to be jeneraled by a jeneral that will give me both of you when they Come I expect to be with, them and expect to get you both in return.

Dont be uneasy my children I expect to have you. If Diggs dont give you up this Government will and I feel confident that I will get you Your Miss Kaitty said that I tried to steal you But I'll let her know that god never intended for man to steal his own flesh and blood. If I had no cofidence in God I could have confidence in her But as it is If I ever had any Confidence in her I have none now and never expect to have And I want her to remember if she meets me with ten thousand soldiers she [will?] meet her enemy I once [thought] that I had some respect for them but now my respects is worn out and have no sympathy for Slaveholders.

And as for her cristianantty I expect the Devil has Such in hell You tell her from me that She is the frist Christian that I ever hard say that aman could Steal his own child especially out of human bondage

You can tell her that She can hold to you as long as she can I never would expect to ask her again to let you come to me because I know that the devil has got her hot set againsts that that is write now my Dear children I am a going to close my letter to you Give my love to all enquiring friends tell them all that we are well and want to see them very much and Corra and Mary receive the greater part of it you sefves and dont think hard of us not sending you any thing I you father have a plenty for you when I see you Spott & Noah sends their love to both of you Oh! My Dear children how I do want to see you

[Spotswood Rice]

{Spotswood Rice} to My Children, {3 Sept. 1864}, enclosed in F. W. Diggs to Genl. Rosecrans, 10 Sept. 1864, D-296 1864, Letters Received, ser. 2593, Department of the MO, U.S. Army Continental Commands, Record Group 393 Pt. 1, National Archives. The first fourteen lines of the letter appear to be in Private Rice's handwriting, but the remainder is in another hand. Rice, a tobacco roller and the slave of Benjamin Lewis, had enlisted in early February 1864 at Glasgow, Missouri. On the date of this letter, he was hospitalized with chronic rheumatism. (Service record of Spottswood Rice, 67th USCI, Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations: Civil War, ser. 519, Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94, National Archives.)

- Alan
 

ForeverFree

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Spottwood Rice also wrote a letter to the legal owner of his children, a Miss Kaitty Diggs. In the letter, he says his daughter Mary is "a God given rite of my own", and that he will "execute vengeance" on those who hold his children:

I received a leteter from Cariline telling me that you say I tried to steal to plunder my child away from you now I want you to understand that mary is my Child and she is a God given rite of my own...

you may hold on to hear as long as you can but I want you to remembor this one thing that the longor you keep my Child from me the longor you will have to burn in hell and the qwicer youll get their

for we are now makeing up a bout one thoughsand blacke troops to Come up tharough and wont to come through Glasgow (MO) and when we come wo be to Copperhood rabbels and to the Slaveholding rebbels for we dont expect to leave them there root neor branch

but we thinke how ever that we that have Children in the hands of you devels we will trie your [vertues?] the day that we enter Glasgow

I want you to understand kittey diggs that where ever you and I meets we are enmays to each orthere I offered once to pay you forty dollers for my own Child but I am glad now that you did not accept it Just hold on now as long as you can and the worse it will be for you

...now you call my children your pro[per]ty not so with me my Children is my own and I expect to get them and when I get ready to come after mary I will have bout a powrer and autherity to bring hear away and to exacute vengencens on them that holds my Child

...I have no fears about geting mary out of your hands this whole Government gives chear to me and you cannot help your self

Spotswood Rice

Spotswood Rice to Kittey diggs, [3 Sept. 1864], enclosed in F. W. Diggs to Genl. Rosecrans, 10 Sept. 1864, D-296 1864, Letters Received, series 2593, Department of the Missouri, U.S. Army Continental Commands, Record Group 393 Pt. 1, National Archives.

> Source: Published in The Black Military Experience, pp. 689–90, in Free at Last, pp. 480–82, in Families and Freedom, pp. 195–97, and in Freedom's Soldiers, pp. 131–33.
Rice positions himself as imbued with a God given right to have his own children, and characterizes slave owning (which in his mind is man stealing) as an act which must ultimately lead to dam*ation. Rice is not merely a soldier for the Union; in his mind he is a combatant in a holy war that will free enslaved children who are in the hands of devils.

- Alan
 
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WJC

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Spottwood Rice was an enslaved Missourian who enlisted in the Union army. Because it was a Union slave slate, Missouri was exempted from the Emancipation Proclamation. However, the Union needed men for its army, and eventually it allowed enslaved men from the Border slave states to join the army. Slaves who enlisted were emancipated, but it did not free family members. It was not uncommon for a male from the Border states to enlist, and be forced to leave his enslaved wife, children and other family behind.

When Spottwood Rice joined the army he was forced to leave his children behind. But he was determined to get them. Here, Rice writes to his children, telling them "Dont be uneasy my children I expect to have you." In the letter, he talks about the woman who owns his children, a Miss Kaitty Diggs. Rice says "as for her cristianantty I expect the Devil has Such in hell." Rice, whom I understand became a preacher after the war, says that Diggs will go to Hell for her actions.

This is the letter Rice wrote to his children in September 1863:

[Benton Barracks Hospital, St. Louis, Mo. September 3, 1864]

My Children I take my pen in hand to rite you A few lines to let you know that I have not forgot you and that I want to see you as bad as ever now my Dear Children I want you to be contented with whatever may be your lots be assured that I will have you if it cost me my life on the 28th of the mounth. 8 hundred White and 8 hundred blacke solders expects to start up the rivore to Glasgow and above there thats to be jeneraled by a jeneral that will give me both of you when they Come I expect to be with, them and expect to get you both in return.

Dont be uneasy my children I expect to have you. If Diggs dont give you up this Government will and I feel confident that I will get you Your Miss Kaitty said that I tried to steal you But I'll let her know that god never intended for man to steal his own flesh and blood. If I had no cofidence in God I could have confidence in her But as it is If I ever had any Confidence in her I have none now and never expect to have And I want her to remember if she meets me with ten thousand soldiers she [will?] meet her enemy I once [thought] that I had some respect for them but now my respects is worn out and have no sympathy for Slaveholders.

And as for her cristianantty I expect the Devil has Such in hell You tell her from me that She is the frist Christian that I ever hard say that aman could Steal his own child especially out of human bondage

You can tell her that She can hold to you as long as she can I never would expect to ask her again to let you come to me because I know that the devil has got her hot set againsts that that is write now my Dear children I am a going to close my letter to you Give my love to all enquiring friends tell them all that we are well and want to see them very much and Corra and Mary receive the greater part of it you sefves and dont think hard of us not sending you any thing I you father have a plenty for you when I see you Spott & Noah sends their love to both of you Oh! My Dear children how I do want to see you

[Spotswood Rice]

{Spotswood Rice} to My Children, {3 Sept. 1864}, enclosed in F. W. Diggs to Genl. Rosecrans, 10 Sept. 1864, D-296 1864, Letters Received, ser. 2593, Department of the MO, U.S. Army Continental Commands, Record Group 393 Pt. 1, National Archives. The first fourteen lines of the letter appear to be in Private Rice's handwriting, but the remainder is in another hand. Rice, a tobacco roller and the slave of Benjamin Lewis, had enlisted in early February 1864 at Glasgow, Missouri. On the date of this letter, he was hospitalized with chronic rheumatism. (Service record of Spottswood Rice, 67th USCI, Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations: Civil War, ser. 519, Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94, National Archives.)

- Alan
Thanks for posting these touching excerpts.
 

ForeverFree

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Alan,

Appreciate you posting these sources.

It has long been said on this forum that slavery was legal.

Your posts show, in spite of that fact, it was never right.

Sincerely,
Unionblue

A key thing is, not everybody had the same idea of what was right.

Often we will hear that Southerners believed that slavery was right. But that's not what all Southerners believed. These sources give us pause to consider that the South was not a free white monolith; that free white Southerners did not speak for all the people of the section; and that we need to understand what black Southerners thought and believed to have a full/real understanding of the Southern world view.

- Alan
 
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unionblue

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A key thing is, not everybody had the same idea of what was right.

Often we will hear that Southerners believed that slavery was right. But that's not what all Southerners believed. These sources give us pause to consider that the South was not a free white monolith; that free white Southerners did not speak for all the people of the section; and that we need to understand what black Southerners thought and believed to have a full/real understanding of the Southern world view.

- Alan

Alan,

Appreciate your well thought out reply, as always.

And I totally agree with it.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

civilken

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the one thing I take away from this is the peacefulness of it. I am not sure how I might have acted if God forbid I was a slave .I don't know how many plantations I might have spared. or the people on them . If someone ever mistreated me and I had a rifle and the ability to use it what would I do now that's an honest question we should ask ourselves.
 

ForeverFree

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This excerpt from a book by historian Caroline Janney shows how African Americans placed the outcome of the war within a biblical context:

On January 1, 1866, Emancipation Day celebrations unfolded throughout the nation as they had since 1863. Near Fort Monroe, Virginia, where Jefferson Davis remained imprisoned, thousands of African Americans gathered at the schoolhouse for a procession composed of local organizations, men, women, and children. Banners with inscriptions such as "Abraham Lincoln, The Liberator and Friend of Our Race," were are festooned in red, white, and blue along the schoolhouse walls as the crowd listened attentively to the various speakers.

In Petersburg, Virginia, several thousand freed men and women joined in a procession that extended for a nearly a mile before the crowd gathered for songs and general jubilation. In Richmond, 4,000 African Americans Assembled at a local church where the 24th Massachusetts (a regiment of black soldiers) supplied the music. The services opened with the singing of a poem:

Oh! Praise and tanks, the Lord he come
To get the people free,
And massa tink it day of doom
And we of Jubilee

- From Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation, by Caroline E Janney, Page 87– 88
 

White Flint Bill

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Fascinating. Thanks for sharing. How emancipation affected popular theology is a very interesting topic.

Recently I listened to an interview on CivilWarTalk Radio with Professor Mark Noll, author of The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. He made the point that when the War began most Americans, north and south, agreed that the Bible recognized and seemingly approved of slavery. A fundamental premise of the Protestant theology that prevailed at the time was that the words of Scripture should be understandable to all persons of ordinary intelligence. Thus Biblical literalism was dominant. Abraham owned slaves, God gave Moses a list of laws including laws relating to the treatment of slaves, Jesus never condemned slavery, St. Paul specifically approved of it, etc. Ergo, they reasoned, God was OK with slavery. Quakers didn't treat the Bible with the same reverence and they were adamantly abolitionist. Liberation theology and other more sophisticated methods of Biblical interpretation were in their nascence, and wouldn't become widely accepted until much later.

He argues that what changed popular Christian opinion was not so much a rethinking of the Bible as the belief that the outcome of the War and the destruction of slavery that came with it represented God's will being done. This is reflected in Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, for example. The thinking was that God must have desired that slavery be ended, and he used the Civil War to do it.

If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."​
 

ForeverFree

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Fascinating. Thanks for sharing. How emancipation affected popular theology is a very interesting topic.

Recently I listened to an interview on CivilWarTalk Radio with Professor Mark Noll, author of The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. He made the point that when the War began most Americans, north and south, agreed that the Bible recognized and seemingly approved of slavery. A fundamental premise of the Protestant theology that prevailed at the time was that the words of Scripture should be understandable to all persons of ordinary intelligence. Thus Biblical literalism was dominant. Abraham owned slaves, God gave Moses a list of laws including laws relating to the treatment of slaves, Jesus never condemned slavery, St. Paul specifically approved of it, etc. Ergo, they reasoned, God was OK with slavery. Quakers didn't treat the Bible with the same reverence and they were adamantly abolitionist. Liberation theology and other more sophisticated methods of Biblical interpretation were in their nascence, and wouldn't become widely accepted until much later.

He argues that what changed popular Christian opinion was not so much a rethinking of the Bible as the belief that the outcome of the War and the destruction of slavery that came with it represented God's will being done. This is reflected in Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, for example. The thinking was that God must have desired that slavery be ended, and he used the Civil War to do it.

If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."​

The subject of Lincoln's views on slavery and the war are off-topic. But I do offer a comment on this in a new thread.

- Alan
 
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