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!

Monday, November 3, 2014

One Nation Under God, Indivisible: The Emancipation Proclamation

            Before we leave the subject of Lincoln’s administration as President and conduct as Commander-in-Chief, I think it’d behoove us to take a posting to examine one of the most famous and misunderstood actions of the time. As you can guess from the title, I’m referring to the Emancipation Proclamation, which Lincoln called “the central act of [his] administration, and the great event of the nineteenth century.”
            It was a really dark time for the Union in its struggle to bring the Confederate States back under the authority of the United States government and Constitution. The War against the CSA had too few clear-cut victories and too many battles which were losses or bloody stalemates. Popularity for the Union cause was waning in the North, and there were forces in Europe which wanted to recognize the CSA as a legitimate government, mostly due to economic interests in their exports.
            Please keep in mind that Lincoln did not believe that he had Constitutional authority to free the slaves. He didn’t even believe that Congress had the authority to outlaw slavery in the states where it already existed except by one means: A Constitutional Amendment. Despite all the pressure he received from radical abolitionists who wanted slavery eliminated yesterday, he stood firm on the principle of rule of law.
            Also please note that there were four states which still had legal slavery but which hadn’t joined the Confederacy: Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky. This is a theme we’re going to see again and again in examining this topic: Due to Lincoln’s scrupulous adherence to the rule of law and the Constitution, he resisted calls from abolitionists to end slavery in the Union states where it still existed. Not only did he not consider himself not authorized to do so, but he was rightfully fearful that any such move would strongly push the remaining slave states towards the Confederacy.
            Another factor which we can’t forget, however, is that Lincoln hated slavery with a passion. He considered it a blight on what this country was founded upon and an egregious betrayal of the principles found in the Declaration of Independence.
            So what was his solution which comported with his concern for the rule of law, his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution, his hatred of slavery, and his determination to win the War and uphold the Union?
            The Emancipation Proclamation.
            First, we need to understand what it did and didn’t do.
            On September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued a proclamation that he’d order the emancipation of all slaves in any state that did not end their rebellion against the Union by January 1, 1863. As expected, none of the Confederate States returned to the Union, so the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863 as he threatened.*** Per the proclamation, basically this meant that as the Union army took over formerly Confederate-held territory, the slaves within that area were to be freed. If any state or area within a state proclaimed itself loyal to the Union and submitted to Constitutional authority once more, it could keep its slaves.
            Let’s be clear here. It did not free the slaves in the loyal Union states. Therefore, some critics have pointed out that “where he has no power Mr. Lincoln will set the Negroes free,” while “where he retains power he will consider them as slaves.”
            This caused earthquake-sized repercussions all over the U.S. and around the world:

·         White Southerners, especially slave-holders, were horrified that this would precipitate race-riots.
·         Despite some (mostly later) criticisms, this totally energized abolitionists world-wide. It incredibly increased the morale of free and slave blacks all over the country. Several slaves did take the opportunity to flee their masters for Union lines. Furthermore, many ex-slaves and free blacks were highly motivated now to put on the Union uniform and take up arms for the Union cause (for a great example of their courage, see here). 
·         Also, despite some snarky critiques that the Proclamation didn’t free a single slave, it eventually freed tens of thousands of slaves as the Union forces gained more and more territory from the Confederates. 
·         Per the Wiki article, “As Lincoln had hoped, the Proclamation turned foreign popular opinion in favor of the Union by gaining the support of anti-slavery countries and countries that had already abolished slavery (especially the developed countries in Europe). This shift ended the Confederacy's hopes of gaining official recognition.”
·         Keeping in mind the complexity of the situation which we’ve discussed, this is the first time Lincoln became known as “the Great Emancipator” and sealed his reputation in later generations as an opponent of slavery.

            Now I realize that there are some critics who dismiss this as a cynical war maneuver. And they have a kernel of a point: It was a war maneuver, and a very successful one. Keep in mind: Lincoln had repeatedly made it clear that his goal was first and foremost the preservation of the Union and upholding of the rule of law. The anti-slavery effects were a side-benefit, albeit one in which Lincoln the slavery-hater was certainly happy to enjoy.
            Let’s talk about the legal legitimacy of it. The reaction to the Proclamation is a nice picture-in-miniature of Lincoln’s critics. Some say it didn’t go far enough, since it left slavery intact in the loyal states, and even theoretically offered the Confederate states the chance to keep their slaves if they rejoined the Union. Some said it went too far, since they claim he didn’t have the authority to do this. The amazing thing to me is that sometimes it's the very same critics who say that 1) Lincoln was a would-be tyrant who abandoned Constitutional rule of law, and in the same breath that 2) he didn't do enough to end slavery in the loyal slave states before the end of the War. Apparently in the eyes of some people, Lincoln can do no right! 
            What we have to remember is that we were in state of war against rebellious states. Lincoln couldn’t just proclaim the slaves free no matter what he personally desired, but he could claim the private property of rebellious states as war booty. As long as the states were in rebellion against proper legal authority, they forfeited the right to keep their property (or their lives).
            Once again Krannawitter puts it so well:

Lincoln understood that, absent extraordinary conditions of national emergency, one that threatened the existence of the constitutional union itself, a president did not possess the constitutional authority to interfere with a citizen’s slave property. But those who chose to make war upon the government of the Constitution forfeited the Constitution’s protection of civil rights. The Emancipation Proclamation was justified by the war powers of a president attempting to save the Union, and nothing else: “And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”
           
            Critics of Lincoln today condemn it as a political stunt and a meaningless gesture because it didn’t accomplish what supposedly it set out to accomplish: The absolute abolition of slavery in the U.S. What we must understand is that it worked nigh-perfectly because that was never its stated purpose. Abolitionists and blacks sometimes took it to mean that, but that was never its stated purpose. Its stated purpose was to undermine the Confederacy’s rebellion and rejection of the Constitutional government of the U.S. As Lincoln saw it, the preservation of the Union was the only legitimate means of eventually getting rid of slavery, and this was one of his means to accomplish that.
            And as far as that’s concerned, it did work. It did undermine the Confederacy’s legitimacy in the eyes of a watching world, prevented other countries from recognizing it as a sovereign nation (which was indispensable for the CSA), and gave a huge morale boost to antislavery forces and at the same time didn’t push the loyal slave-states into joining the CSA. Thus it weakened the CSA's fighting ability, which shortened the war, which sped the day in which it was brought back under the authority of the Constitution. And that same Constitution would shortly have three new amendments, one of which would officially kill slavery in the U.S. So in that sense, it did keep us on the road to eventual permanent emancipation and the extinction of slavery.
            Once again, the more you carefully examine his reasoning behind his actions, the better Lincoln looks. At least to me.  

***On a complete side-note, the utter (albeit totally anticipated) failure of the E.P. to bring the Confederate states back into the Union gives one more piece of evidence that the Confederate states left over slavery. If they didn't--if they left over any other reason--then why didn't they take him up on his offer?  The E.P officially stated (and this is a source of criticism) that if a CSA state came back into the Union, they could keep their slaves. As pointed out before, four states stayed loyal to the Union, and Lincoln never tried to unilaterally free their slaves. So why would they--other than fanatical paranoia--have reason to think that Lincoln was going to go back on his word on that issue? 

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