What the Civil War Can Teach a Small Church Leader

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I am an avid, rabid Civil War history buff. It’s in my blood. I’m grateful to my 2nd grade teacher for taking us on a field trip to Appomattox Court House in Appomattox, VA. I was immediately hooked. (I would go into the fact that, as a souvenir, I bought a Confederate flag hat and an actual Confederate flag, but I digress. I was young, and sure didn’t realize the implications that that flag has in many parts of our country and world.)

The Civil War is unlike any other war in which our country has been involved. For one, it’s our war. It’s not the Americans against the Germans or al Qaida or the Taliban. It was American against American where 700,000 of its citizens died and twice that many were injured.

Background

The division between the North and South did not suddenly come in December 1860 when South Carolinians fired upon Fort Sumter. The division could be traced all the way back to our country’s founding. Two of our founding fathers had very different views of how our country should be structured. Alexander Hamilton held to a strong central government, making use of the new methods developed in the Industrial Revolution. Thomas Jefferson, however, saw an agrarian society. The North favored Hamilton’s view, the South favored Jefferson’s.

As more and more states were added to the Union, more and more compromises were brought forth to try and keep an equality between ‘slave’ and ‘free’ states. In the North, slavery died down not because of some moral leaning (although there were abolitionist movements that were strong), but because the North was moving away from agriculture to industry.

The South was a major grower and exporter of cotton, making the South the fifth richest region in the world. Their riches garnered on their plantations were also acquired on the backs of slave labor. Over 35% of the population in the South were slaves. And only one-third of the entire whites in the South were slave owners. Those with money and land (which worked hand-in-hand) would not only be oppressing those who were of a different skin color, but also those who were in a different financial strata as well.

So what made the South secede in 1860-1861? Lots of things, really. But the population disparity over the previous 30 years grew more and more significant. There were only 9 million voters in the entire South, as opposed to 23 million voters in the North. As a result, in the presidential election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected without securing a single vote from the slave states in the South. Believing that with this, the North would begin to enact anti-Southern legislation and having heard that Lincoln was raising troops against the South, the South met them in what is known as the Civil War (or, to some Southerners, the War of Northern Aggression).

What Does This Have to Do With Small Churches?

At the beginning of the war, the aim of the Lincoln Administration was not to free the slaves but to preserve the Union. As the war went on and public opinion grew against Lincoln with numerous defeats at the hands of the Confederacy which was both self-inflicted as well as due to great strategy by Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson of the Army of Northern Virginia. As a result, they began developing new technologies with the railroad as well as the telegraph (among many others) that enabled them to communicate and provide supplies to the troops. They saw the need out of necessity to advance and move forward in order to survive.

The aim of the Jefferson Davis administration in the South was to defend their homes and defend state sovereignty, which unfortunately meant maintaining that institution of slavery which helped them to prosper. They saw the North as a usurper. Lee turned down command of the entire Union army because he could not reconcile the fact that a President of the United States would raise an army to fight its own country. He could not turn from Virginia, his home. Personally against slavery (as was Jackson), they both saw the need to free the slaves, but those in Richmond (the capital) would not go so far for fear of losing their economic status as well as struggling with giving equality with those whom many felt were an inferior race. They felt they needed to remain the same and hearken back

While not everyone will agree with my interpretation of this, I see a parallel. And this will come tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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