Wars are not Civil.

By jreighley - Last updated: Friday, January 21, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Nathan and I watched most of Ken Burn’s Civil War Documentary a week or two ago.  There where a couple of things that really amazed me.

First was the comfort that the country felt with the war being the providence of God.   Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugeral address had the following passage for example:

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” 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.”

Somehow, I don’t think such a contention would pass muster if it where to pass through any one of the recent president’s lips.   God’s wrath is seen as evil in today’s world, but Lincoln used it to comfort the nation.   “If we all die,  we had it coming.”

The other thing that struck me was just how powerful the lyrics of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” where.  I believe that the Civil War was the beginning of the decline of the Postmillinial Eschatology in America.   I wonder how much that theme’s prominence in the  Battle Hymn soured America’s appetite for hopeful eschatology?   Could that have been a factor?  When you pair a song of great hope with hundreds of thousands of casualties, something is likely to give.

I know I am a few days late,  but It is obvious that the song’s legacy was still powerful 100 years later.  Martin Luther King Jr. plagiarized it pretty heavily as you can see here.  One lady’s words are still changing America more that 100 years later.

The truth IS marching on.   At God’s pace, not ours.

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