Friday, March 15, 2013

Historical Judgments: Part 2

“What does the Syrian war look like?"

From “What the Syrian War Looks Like” by Rania Abouzeid, The New Yorker

“…A man, bloodied and beaten, hands tied behind his back, is dragged along the gritty asphalt by uniformed, armed government soldiers. He’s wearing nothing but his white underwear. He cannot even lift his head, which scrapes along the street. He turns onto his back. “Where are your wife and children?” one of his tormentors asks, stepping on the man’s face with his black boot. Somebody asks for a piece of glass to cut the man’s tongue out. They curse him, mock him, and laugh as they torment him.

“For God’s sake, please, just let me say goodbye to my children,” the man says, knowing that his end is near. His face is swollen, bloodied. “Will you let me *** your wife?” one of his tormentors asks, mockingly. “If you let me, you can see your children.” “No,” the man says, “my wife is my soul, my children are my soul. My wife is the crown on my head.”

“The crown on your head?” He kicks the man’s head. Others laugh as they continue dragging him along the street, trying to decide where to dump him

…who was once their neighbor—is no longer a person.

…Some men may become what they are fighting.

What is the Syrian war like?" Rania Abouseid

Like nearly every other war in history, especially the American War Between the States.

So here we go with an historical judgment—on the American War Between the States--which will then hopefully lead to the Holy Spirit’s guidance on how we ought to act as followers of Jesus today.

Like the current Syrian War both sides in the American War were of the same monotheistic religion, both sides called on God to judge and defeat their enemies, both sides slaughtered their neighbors, and both sides behaved totally contrary to the central tenets of their faith. Most of the soldiers were considerate people doing their duty for honor and country and God—so they killed and killed and killed.

All’s fair in love and war especially when your side is right (sarcasm).

In the American War not only was the nation divided, friends fought for opposite sides, even loving families were rent asunder, one brother going off to fight for the Union, another one for the Confederacy. Stonewall Jackson who dearly loved his sister discovered how faint family and kinship are when righteous religious wrath consumes and poisons everything and nearly everyone; his loving sister Laura refused to ever see him again for as long as he lived because he joined the Confederacy rather than fight for the Union. She emphasized she “would rather know that he was dead.”

But the tragic story gets even worse—while Laura was outspokenly pro-Union, her husband Jonathan Arnold was a Confederate sympathizer so their marriage ended in a scandalous divorce. Many families were so torn apart by their contrary interpretations of the Christian faith.

When devout Christians disparage each other, then take up weapons against each other and slaughter in each other in the name of God and Jesus, this is more than a misjudgment, more than horrifically wrong, it’s flagrant evil. Consider that millions of Americans did just that—in the name of Jesus slaughtered almost a million human beings in only 4 years of war (over 600,000 soldiers died, hundreds of thousands of civilians died, and who knows how many were injured for life), and how many millions of infants-to-be were never conceived, never born! A whole generation gone with the wind…

But this wasn't the Wind/Spirit of God like in the book of Genesis creating good, no not at all, no matter how much Christians claimed otherwise. This was an evil wind…

But why?!

Where were the needed sermons on I John 7-21? ESV “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love…11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…20If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Instead, brothers in Christian faith murdered each other for God, burned towns, stole the enemies’ supplies and personal stuff, lied, cursed, etc.—violated nearly all of the Ten Commandments in the name of doing God’s will.

However, no doubt, readers will ask, but wasn't the war necessary to end slavery in the South--a horrific evil that needed to be ended?

NO, the war wasn't needed, but yes, slavery needed to be ended--just like the even worse evil of abortion needs to be ended now, with over 50 million murdered pre-born babies in 40 years! But thank God very few Christians are suggesting we slaughter a ½ million pro-choice people in order to end abortion. Two evils never make a right.

Also, tragically, the Union and President Lincoln who called for the end of slavery in the Confederacy yet contrarily continued to allow slavery in the Union during the war! What hypocrisy!

When one Union officer freed slaves, President Lincoln had the Negroes re-enslaved and fired the officer. Lincoln did such actions so as not to offend pro-slavery racist Northerners. In fact he said of one Union slave state, “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”

Yet even most of the President’s in-laws sided with the Confederacy. His wife’s brother was a Confederate surgeon. Such tragedy, so many divided families—this didn't have to be. If only Americans on both sides had followed the ethical guidance of Jesus. If only they hadn't been so self-righteous and murderous.

No other nation on earth which had slavery slaughtered each other in order to free their slaves. In fact most nations ended slavery with no violence. Why was America the exception?

Furthermore, President Lincoln repeatedly stated the war wasn't about freeing slaves. Northern slaves weren't freed in the Union before or during the war! No, the war was mainly fought instead to stop the Southern States from leaving the Union. Many Union soldiers weren't against slavery, but killed to deny others the freedom and right to choose the government of their choice!

The main leader of the Union forces, General George McClellan thought slavery was supported in the Constitution. Even after the war he showed his racism toward Negroes when he wrote, "I confess to a prejudice in favor of my own race, & can’t learn to like the odor of Billy goats or niggers.”

Maybe even more tragic than all that, and the sinful violation of 1 John and the death of hundreds of thousands of humans, is the terrible fact that the War in the end didn't really free the Negroes…

Yes, slaves were freed on paper, and emancipation was enshrined in the Constitution. But within 10 years of Appomattox, by 1875, the situation of the Negro in the South (and strangely in many places in the North too!) was worse than before the war.

Racist Southerners, ‘the Redeemers’, (how’s that for religious irony), got back into power by violence, intimidation, and murder. Then they instituted the Negro Codes, kept former slaves from equality under the law, kept them from voting and from office, kept most of them in poverty and nearly in a slaved dependency. The vast majority of Negroes didn't have new opportunities and yet they were without the security and shelter many of them had under the evil of slavery. So they got the worst of both worlds. The era of Reconstruction really was more on the order of Re-destruction.

And this continued—the violence, the intimidation, and the murder for many, many years, nearly 100 years—until the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950-60’s.

Another shocking fact is that most other nations ended slavery with no violence, certainly no religious slaughter like in America.

Historical Judgment: Who was most responsible for the evil? About 70-80% of the blame goes to the North and the Lincoln Administration for instigating the war, violating the central tenet of the Declaration of Independence, and continuing the war even when anyone could see that it was killing so many, that it violated the Ten Commandments, the words of Jesus, and many other parts of the New Testament such as I John.

The South and the Jefferson Davis Administration also was to blame, though not as clearly because they did have the very words of Scripture to back them up. Not only did the Bible order slaves to be obedient to their masters, it also said that even abusive masters were in their “right” because according to the Old Testament law, if a master beats his slave so that he dies after 3 days, there is no punishment because the slave is his “property”!

We, of course, know better. One can also prove from the Bible that we ought to slaughter babies by bashing their heads against rocks. One must be very careful when quoting Scripture.

Also, the Southerners had the Founding Fathers on their side. Of the first 5 Presidents of the United States, 4 of then owned slaves. A total of 12 Presidents owned slaves!

So while we know, from eternal truth, that slavery is inherently evil, many Southerners were honestly deceived by their trust in the words of Scripture and in the Founding Fathers.

But that is still no excuse.

Besides, many Christian Southerners hid their own pride and selfish attitudes under the cover of their faith like the Pharisees of old. Also, it’s not like they were innocent lambs; they had been instigators only 15 years before in stealing and killing when they invaded Mexico, partially to extend slavery. So much for following Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount or 1 Corinthians 13.

(Now this short article has given only the briefest sketch of this tragic evil of the American War and its aftermath Reconstruction. There are so many tomes which detail the horror in great depth. If anyone would like a bibliography on the American War, send me a brief email and I will send it to you or post the list later.)

Assuming that the American War was such a great evil, a woeful wrong ethical choice by millions of Christians, what is the moral of the story for us now? How do we learn from the past so as not to repeat this immoral action again?

#1 Learn from the New Testament and from religious history that violence, especially the organized slaughter of war, is contrary to the Good News.

“Peter was commanded to sheathe his sword. All Christians are commanded to love their enemies… Tell me, how can a Christian defend Scripturally retaliation, rebellion, war, striking, slaying, torturing, stealing, robbing and plundering and burning cities and conquering countries?”
–Menno Simons 1554

To be continued

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

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