So What's This All About?

In case you didn't know, I'm in the multi-year-long process of posting a Christian devotional at the TAWG Blog. The TAWG Blog is, and always will be, mostly apolitical. For the most part, Bible-believing Christians will find little to disagree with there. But I also firmly believe that God's word can--and should--inform everything in life, and this should include politics and popular culture. How should we vote? How should we respond to hot topics such as abortion, capital punishment, taxes, and other issues? Which party, if either, is closer to the Biblical ideal? Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, Evangelicals whose political leanings are on the Left, have made the case in several of their writings that God wants his followers to vote politically on the Left more than on the Right. At times, some of them have gone so far as to equate voting on the Left with obedience to Christ, either subtly or not-so-subtly contending that the converse is true as well: If you vote Republican, you're sinning against the Savior.
I don't agree. I think that to the degree they actually resort to the Bible, they're misinterpreting it. With a whole bunch of caveats, I think politically conservative positions are a lot more compatible with the Scriptures than the Leftist positions.
Just to clarify, I would never accuse people who disagree with me--especially siblings in Christ--of what they accuse me of. I don't judge my own heart, much less anyone else's, and I don't equate political disagreement with theological fidelity to God. I have no reason to doubt their love for the Lord and "for the least of these," but I believe that they're sincerely wrong.
So there are two main purposes for this blog. One is to make a case for my political beliefs based on Scripture. The other is a bit more vague, basically to work out my political beliefs and figure out what's based on Scripture and what's based on my own biases. I certainly don't have all the answers. Some of this stuff I'm still figuring out. And I'm certainly open to correction. As long as you make your case civilly and based on Scripture, feel free to make a comment, and I promise I'll post it and consider your arguments thoughtfully and prayerfully. Who knows? Maybe we'll learn a little something from each other.
May God bless our common striving together towards both the "little t" truth and "Big T" Truth. Our watchword here is a line from C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle: "Further up and further in!"

P.S. -- Below on the left is "Topics I've Covered" which lists everything I've posted topically. It's come to my attention that some people would like to see everything just listed for them. If that's you, you can get it here. Thanks to my friend Stephen Young for the tip!

Friday, October 24, 2014

One Nation Under God, Indivisible: Some Definitions

            If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I love to start out by defining what we’re talking about. So today I want to—as best I can—define what the Neo-Confederate* movement is and what it’s not.
            I know that Wikipedia has a bad rap at times, but after reading their article on the movement, I have to confess that they seem to do a fairly decent job of defining its major tenets:

·         Honor of the Confederacy and its veterans — Much of the Neo-Confederate movement is concerned with giving honor to the Confederacy itself, to the veterans of the Confederacy and Confederate veterans' cemeteries, to the various flags of the Confederacy, and to Southern cultural identity.
·         Economics — neo-Confederates usually advocate a free market economy which engages in significantly less taxation than currently found in the United States, and which does not revolve around fiat currencies such as the United States Dollar.
·         History — many neo-Confederates are openly critical of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln to varied degrees, and of the history of Reconstruction. Various authors have written critiques of Lincoln and the Union. Slavery is almost never defended, but it is usually denied as a primary cause of the American Civil War. Critics often accuse Neo-Confederates of "revisionism" and of acting as "apologists".
·         The Civil Rights Movement — Historian Nancy MacLean states that Neo-Confederates used the history of the Confederacy to justify their opposition to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Historian David Blight writes that current neo-Confederates are "driven largely by the desire of current white supremacists to re-legitimize the Confederacy, while they tacitly reject the victories of the modern civil rights movement".
·         Black Confederates — The book The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader notes that toward the end of the Twentieth Century, in order to support the idea that the Civil War was not about slavery, Neo-Confederates began to claim that “thousands of African Americans had served in the Confederate army.” A Neo-Confederate publication, Confederate Veteran, said in 1992 that “the overwhelming majority of blacks during the War Between the States supported and defended, with armed resistance, the Cause of Southern Independence.” Historian Bruce Levine says that "their ["neo-Confederates"] insistent celebration these days of 'Black Confederates' ... seeks to legitimate that claim" that the war "had never [italics in original] been fought on behalf of slavery; loyalty to the South, southern self-government, southern culture, or states rights -- rather than to slavery and white supremacy -- fueled the southern war effort."
·         Culture — many neo-Confederates promote an unabashed Christian culture. They support, for example, public displays of Christianity, such as "Ten Commandments" monuments and displays of the Christian cross. Almost all Neo-Confederates strongly support the right to keep and bear arms, present in both the United States Constitution and the Confederate States Constitution. Generally they oppose unmitigated illegal immigration of foreign nationals into Southern states. Some Neo-Confederates view the Civil War as a conflict between a secular North and a Christian South. Certain Neo-Confederates believe in an Anglo-Celtic identity theory for residents of the South.
·         Secession — many neo-Confederates openly advocate the resecession of the Southern states and territories which comprised the old Confederate States of America. The League of the South, for example, promotes the "independence of the Southern people" from the "American empire".
·         Most neo-Confederate groups do not seek violent revolution, but rather an orderly separation, such as was done in the division of Czechoslovakia. With Constitution Act 542, passed on 25 November, they agreed to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia as of 31 December 1992. Many Neo-Confederate groups have prepared for what they view as a possible collapse of the federal United States into its 50 separate states, much like the Soviet Union collapsed, and believe the Confederacy can be resurrected at that time.

Here are my person notes on each point:

o   There were a whole lot of very brave people on the Confederate side, people who fought on the front lines for what they thought was right. It’s conventional wisdom that the South had the best generals, especially General Lee, and I have no reason to disagree with that notion. Lee had a lot of wonderful personal qualities, and I have no reason to doubt the contention that he personally hated slavery. General Grant, the commanding general of the Union forces, at the end of the war said “I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.” So I’m in favor of honoring their bravery and the sacrifices they made for their beliefs. As for honoring “Southern cultural identity,” that depends on what you mean, and I’ll have to explore that at a later time. For now let me just say that I love the present South, and as long as I live in the U.S. I have no desire to move anywhere else. I’m a huge supporter and defender of the South as it is today, and I think it’s the closest modern representation of what this country was designed to be by the Founders.
o   Regarding the point about its economic beliefs? I absolutely agree. As I hope I’ve made clear in other postings, I’m an economic conservative bordering on libertarianism (in the economic sphere). 
o   On the Neo-Confederate view on Lincoln, this is one of the major differences I have with them. I believe that Lincoln was one of our best Presidents we’ve ever had, second only to Washington, and depending on which day of the week it is, Lincoln comes in first by a nose. And I heartily disagree with them in their assertion that the main cause of secession was anything but slavery. My reasons for these points will be the topic of other postings.
o   When it comes to equality before the law, of course I’m in favor of civil rights for minorities. And of the few people in my circle of friends who defend the Confederacy, none of them would disagree with that notion. We tend to be against such notions as Affirmative Action, since that’s opposed to the color-blind society we want to see, and which the Bible supports.
o   I’m not really qualified to comment on how many blacks volunteered to serve in the Confederate Army. I do know that there was a last-ditch proposal—never acted upon-- by some quarters to offer slaves freedom if they took up arms in defense of the CSA. It was vehemently opposed and never gained much traction.
o   On the note on Christian culture, I suppose that’s true. The Neo-Confederates I’ve known were all strong Christians and were pretty supportive of displays of their faith such as “public displays of Christianity, such as ‘Ten Commandments’ monuments and displays of the Christian cross.” I definitely am strongly opposed to illegal immigration, and wholeheartedly support enforcing laws against it.
o   Since I strongly believe that secession was a very very bad idea for the South in the 1860’s, I certainly don’t support it now. It’s never going to happen, and the only effect of even talking about it (or defending the Confederacy) is to undermine support for the conservative cause. More on this in a later posting.

            Here’s my summary of my understanding of the movement, based on what I’ve read:

1) I don’t for a moment believe that all—or even most—Neo-Confederates are racist. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’ve known people who believed that the South was right, and I count some of them as close friends. I know they’re not racist at all. Dr. Walter Williams is one of my favorite conservative pundits of all time. He’s one of the main reasons I believe what I do about economics and host of other issues. He’s black, and he’s strongly defended the Neo-Confederate viewpoint multiple times in his writings. Obviously he’s not racist or a self-hating black; he just happens to think the South had a right to secede and that defending its secession and hating slavery are compatible with each other. So the movement is not—or at least the followers I’ve met aren’t—racist. It’s entirely possible for someone to not have a racist bone in their bodies and be a Neo-Confederate.

2) However, if someone really was a racist, if they really did believe that slavery wasn’t all that bad, or they really do long for the days of Jim Crow and segregation, then there’s only one place they’re going to find political expression: in this movement. So if you read white supremacist blogs and websites, then of course they’re going to be favorable to this way of thinking. So not every Neo-Confederate is a racist (or even most of them), but every racist is going to be a Neo-Confederate.

            I think in the next posting I’m going to address the first note, that there were plenty of brave souls who took up arms for the South, and their self-sacrifice for their cause deserves respect. Also I’ll briefly address the question of black defenders of the Confederacy. Hope you’ll join me. 

*I realize that there are some people out there who wouldn't identify themselves as "Neo-Confederates." However, I don't really have a really handy shorthand term for the philosophical interpretation of history and those who follow it. I promise I don't mean it in a pejorative way, but it's the best one I could find which is fairly neutral and descriptive. If you have a  better term, let me know in the comments section and I'll consider it. 

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