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, June 22, 2015

One Nation Under God, Indivisible: Great Granddaddies, Slave Non-ownership and "Southern Heritage"

Boy, this series of FRO’s ended up taking a lot more space than anticipated. Here are some more Frequently Raised Objections:

My Great-Great-[include lots of “Great’s here] Grandpappy fought for the South, and he hated slavery. 

I have to take your word for it, since I know nothing about your ancestor. But I can’t help noticing something: Apparently every Confederate war hero with modern descendants hated slavery and wanted it abolished. You don’t hear too many people say “Yes, my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandpappy was a proud slave owner, and he told his slaves that he’d sooner see them dead than free! And that’s why I’m laying a wreath on his grave and planting another Confederate flag at his tomb.” I guess if your ancestor was like that, you’d probably keep quiet about him.

OK, I get it. Your Great-whoever hated slavery.

Has absolutely nothing to do with what we’re discussing here.

I do have to caution you not to conflate two things here, though. See the next objection.

The vast majority of Southerners never owned a slave, so therefore the War had little to nothing to do with slavery. 

The premise is absolutely true.  I’ll readily concede that the vast majority of Southerners never owned any slaves. Slave owners—especially owners of multiple slaves--took up just a tiny proportion of the population. Once again--I have to confess that I'm a little frustrated that this doesn't sink in with some folks--the individual beliefs and motivations of individual soldiers don't determine "why" a war was fought. What matters are the stated goals and actions of the governments and government leaders of each side.

Can I just express some frustration here? In just about any war, you can find individual soldiers fighting for a host of reasons besides the official ones. In the American Revolutionary War for example, you could find soldiers on both sides fighting for all types of different reasons. Lots of black slaves fought in the hope of emancipation after the War. Some Patriots fought for their own homes. Some fought because they just flat-out wanted to kill them some Brits. Some undoubtedly fought because they didn't have any other likely prospects. A lot of Hessians fought because they were drafted in the service of their German leader who leased them out to the British. And a lot of British and Patriot soldiers fought because they honestly believed in the rightness of their respective causes: Loyalty to the British Empire vs. what we stated in the Declaration. But when it comes to causes of the War, we talk about the stated goals of the Declaration of Independence vs. the stated intentions of the British government to bring the "Rebels" to heel. We don't pretend that the War was fought over black slavery or Hessian draftees or anything other than the stated goals of the respective governments and government leaders. 

So why is it in this one War that we're supposed to be so concerned about what the individual soldiers fought for?

Well, to be brutally frank, it's a whitewashing. Confederates and their Neo heirs after the War couldn't justify their secession in terms of slavery, even though that's mostly what they talked about before and during the War. Once slavery was thoroughly discredited, they had to come up with the "anything but slavery" paradigm as a justification for shooting at their fellow Americans. So they came up with the "Tariff" myth, and along with this they focused on the individual soldier. In stark contrast to every single other war in the history of mankind, we're supposed to look at the motivations of the individual soldier in the Civil War and use that individual soldier as our benchmark as to why the War was fought. X number of soldiers fought for some other reason than slavery and thus the War wasn't fought over slavery, although--once again--the leaders of the South--in formal speeches and in their Constitution--said they were fighting over slavery over and over and over and over and over. The North didn't fight in order to end slavery--at least not at first: Lincoln sent troops--and openly said he did so--in order to preserve the United States and rule of law under the Constitution. But the War was fought over slavery insofar that the South was absolutely paranoid that someone somewhere somehow might free their slaves and started firing upon their fellow Americans when a presidential election didn't go their way.

However, aside from all that. . .

Just because someone didn’t own slaves didn’t mean they were actually against slavery. The mobs of thugs who destroyed printing presses and murdered abolitionists weren’t mostly made up of wealthy plantation owners.

I’m a huge defendant of the Free Market System, in which a person can become as wealthy as his talent, ambition, self-discipline and inclinations take him. I’m an advocate of the FMS completely regardless of how much I directly benefit from it, no matter how wealthy I get (or don’t get) later in life. In the same way, a lot (I’d venture a huge majority) of non-slaveholding Southerners were hoping to eventually become wealthy enough to own other human beings. It was a status symbol, announcing to the world that you’d “arrived.”

As a side-note, I do need to point out in all fairness that about 100,000 Southerners joined the Union Army, and about 103,400 Confederates deserted, so apparently there were quite a few who either were loyal to the Union or at the very least didn’t believe in the Confederate cause for some reason. I’d rank every single one of the first group as a hero; the other group at least stopped aiding a thoroughly misguided (to put it charitably) cause. As we discussed earlier, the very birth of the state of West Virginia was based upon Virginians who opposed secession. More on this in the next posting.

But all I’m doing is honoring my Southern Heritage.

I get that. I really do. Like all my NC friends, I’m a proud Southerner, in that I’m proud of what the South is today. I’ve said this over and over and over in this series. And I join you in your visceral reaction to the rank prejudice and bigotry on open display by people from other regions, particularly by those of the Leftist persuasion.

No matter what (horrible) faults it once had, the South of today is not even close to the South of a hundred years ago or even 50 years ago. The changes we’ve made in just a blink of an eye are amazing and overwhelmingly positive in this regard. We have people alive today who personally remember the Klan riding high and separate drinking fountains.

What exactly is this “Southern Heritage” supposed to be celebrating?

Well, like all good conservatives, we need to make proper distinctions. “Southern Heritage” can mean a lot of things, ranging from purely positive to. . . . .  not so much.

I’ve heard the term used in the sense of a strong and honor-bound legacy of military bravery and patriotism (since the Civil War). Since the War, up to the present day, the South has been hugely disproportional in how many of its sons have volunteered for military service when our nation needed it. And since the War, you won’t find any region of this country in which open and unabashed displays of patriotism are more ubiquitous. Those are some of the main reasons I love it so much.

There’s also a tradition of politeness and civility towards one’s neighbors and new acquaintances, along with a willingness to help them in time of need. We have the reputation of being friendlier with strangers, and that rep is mostly deserved, at least in my experience here and elsewhere in the country.

Although I really haven't heard "Southern Heritage" refer to this, I think there's still a remnant of that "frontier" spirit, a spirit of independence, which expresses itself--even among city folk like myself--in a desire to depend on government just as little as possible and more on yourself (along with family, friends, church, etc.). Out on the frontier, you depended upon yourself, your family, and any neighbors nearby, and very little on the federal government. I think that independent spirit shows up in our voting patterns, and it tends to attract like-minded people from other more Leftist states. On a side-note, I'm convinced that this is the real reason most Neo-Confederates hang onto the flag. I think they're mistaken, but I honestly think that the vast majority of Stars-and-Bars lovers are motivated by this when they put the flag on their wall or truck.

And of course we have a strong tradition of Evangelical churches being relatively strong here in the South, which is nothing but a good thing.

And last but definitely not least, there’s the food. I love me some Chicken-Fried Steak, watermelon, cantaloupe, and biscuits with gravy. Mmmmmm. My mouth starts watering just thinking about it.

Now for the not-so-great permutations of “Southern Heritage". . .

When black people a hundred years ago looked out their windows and saw people in hoods lighting a cross on fire on their front lawns, that probably didn’t seem so civil or polite or friendly.

The South, to our eternal shame, had to have the federal government (mostly Republicans, btw) come in and enforce the laws and court rulings--at the point of a gun--which told us that we couldn’t segregate any longer (those weren’t pop guns those national guardsmen were carrying).

Naturally this in no way justifies racial discrimination in the North, which could be just as pervasive and vicious at certain times and in certain places. But as bad as the North could be, it was much worse in the South, at least as far as open racism was concerned. According to the Wiki article, as bad as the North could be at times, there was never any legally mandated segregation there. American Apartheid--legally mandated, institutionalized racism and discrimination--was completely a Southern thing.

So our “Heritage” is mixed. We live in a fallen world, and the history of no nation or group of people is going to be spot-free. Look long and hard enough and you’ll find something in their history to shame people of any racial or national background.

Theoretically, “Southern Heritage,” can mean that we simply honor the bravery and self-sacrifice of Confederate soldiers who fought for what they believed in. They honestly thought that they were right and Lincoln was wrong, and they saw the North as invading their homeland and attempting to set up a tyranny over them. However, as I’ve made it clear, I think that to only present it as a fight over “State’s Rights” is misleading by omission.

I’m all for honoring the War dead who fought for our nation in the Civil War (including a lot of loyal Southerners), WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf. Like I’ve mentioned, I’m proud of the fact that the South has disproportionately sent her sons to fight in all our wars since 1865.

But I have to confess, I’m a lot less comfortable honoring someone who--for whatever reason--shot at my fellow Americans in some delusion that they had a right to set up their own country. I want to remind you, the leaders of this movement only started this war because they lost a free and fair election, and in their paranoia they thought their beloved Institution was threatened.

So is it a legitimate term? I guess context matters a lot. But to the degree that “Southern Heritage” has anything to do with defending the Confederacy and all the racial oppression which flowed from that after the War, then count me out.

And here's a thought: What if. . . "Southern Heritage" had less to do with the Confederacy than we thought? That's the topic of the next posting on this.

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