The Civil War and Its Aftermath
I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I have read his righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel, writ in burnished rows of steel,
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;”
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.
Julia Ward Howe, 1861
“…a song that transformed an idea of freedom into a vision of divine purpose….” David Hackett Fischer[i]
If the War for
We will probably never sort out all of the ramifications of such a world-altering event. Nevertheless, some things do seem clear. One important ramification was that the Northern idea of democracy became the national idea after the war. The preservation of the Union meant that the
Of course, one of the primary issues at stake in the Civil War was the issue of slavery. If it was not the only cause of the war, it was at least the most prominent battleground in the clash of visions between the North and the South. It provided the most tangible example of the ideologies which were used to justify war on such a massive scale. Many Christians today are not aware of what a theological battle American slavery was. Godly, brilliant Southern theologians and preachers, such as James Henry Thornwell and R. L. Dabney, supported slavery, while Northern theologians decried it. Ironically, southern expressions of Christianity were often more orthodox than northern Christianity. The slavery conflict was an impasse that only a war would put to rest.
In this theological conflict, both sides made mistakes which have had a degrading effect in
On the other hand, Northern Christians picked up and used democratic ideas about equality that were not necessarily biblical, either. Unlike ideas about racism, which today are roundly denounced on all sides (even though implicitly practiced by some of the loudest of their detractors), these ideas are not challenged in our society. Rather, they are considered perfectly normal and right. The error often espoused by Northerners was a natural one, given
This unbiblical (and unworkable) idea has born bitter fruit in our country. It was expressed in the women’s rights movements from the 1840’s to the present. The same logic was picked up and used in the civil rights movement. Most recently, the same idea has been successfully used in the movement for homosexual rights.
One other effect of the Civil War, both North and South, was to forge a kind of civil religion in which the aims and goals of