This Week on BreakPoint: Christianity and the Civil War

This week, BreakPoint and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview will be commemorating Memorial Day with a series of articles, videos, radio broadcasts and blog posts on perhaps the most painful chapter of American history, the Civil War.

Come back throughout the week for new comentaries and recommended resources to help you view the bloodiest conflict of our nation's history through the lens of a Biblical worldview.

BreakPoint Commentaries:

States' Rights and the Civil War
Chuck Colson | BreakPoint | May 27, 2011

A Terrible Lesson
Chuck Colson | BreakPoint | May 26, 2011

The Sin of Slavery
Chuck Colson | BreakPoint | May 25, 2011


Two-Minute Warning: Memorial Day and the Civil War
Chuck Colson | The Colson Center | May 25, 2011


God and the Civil War
Thomas S. Kidd | Patheos | April 5, 2011

A Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White Christian South
Russell Hittinger | First Things | August/September 1999


The Civil War: A Narrative
Shelby Foote

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
James McPherson

The Civil War as a Theological Crisis

Mark A. Noll

What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
Daniel Walker Howe

Both Prayed to the Same God
Robert J. Miller

God's Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War
George C. Rable

Across Five Aprils
Irene Hunt

Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe

Killer Angels
Michael Shaara

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War
Drew Gilpin Faust

Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory
David W. Blight

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
Eric Foner

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Doris Kearns Goodwin


To answer your question Lee, the basic difference between serfdom and slavery is that slaves could be bought and sold indepedently of the land. Or if you like, legally slaves were livestock and serfs were real estate. Serfs usually had a number of legal rights; theoretically if they could not shed their status, neither could their overlord dispossess they; a number of peasants revolts were about just that(in the late middle ages wool was becoming more profitable and many barons wanted pasturage). On the other hand many examples of slavery had rights given to slaves.

In the case of the South, slavery was more onerous then usual because slaves were used primarily for unskilled labor. While this was true in other cultures, it was not unknown elsewhere for slaves to be bureaucrats or soldiers. It was also common in many places for slaves to be able to purchase their own freedom whereas in many parts of the south it was actually illegal to manumit slaves for fear of encouraging uppitiness.

Russian serfdom was officially abolished in 1857, about 4 years before the Civil War.
Ah Yes, Lee, So You Were
I remember.
Actually Lee, the point was that recognizing a governments sovereignity is not the same as recognizing the morality of all it's institutions. It is only acknowledging that it is competent to keep order within a given territory and to be accepted as representative of said territory in negotiations.

As for the difference between serfdom and slavery, that requires a longer dissertation and I hope to get back to you on that.
I was in Edmonton this past Remembrance Day, Rolley, and I was extremely impressed with how our Canadian brethren wore poppies in solidarity with their famous poet, and unhesitatingly pressed one another to take time to remember.

Jason, I think New Englanders saw Southern rebellion as rebellion against the ideals of the Revolution - whereas Southerners saw rebellion as entirely congruent with it. I'll be pursing that line of thought, also, as I review the materials listed above. But for Yankees to fire the shot heard 'round the world, and then to permit their countrymen to have died in vain, would certainly be unthinkable for them.

To clarify my "legitimacy" remark, I'll add that negotiating a peace settlement with the CSA would mean that the USA had accepted slavery as negotiable. Countries could agree to disagree about it. But if slavery is instead a massive evil, dwarfing the issues raised by the actions of George III, then the CSA could certainly not have their own different-but-equally-valid opinion of it.

But as I said, I'm hardly qualified to argue this with such a skilled historian as yourself. In particular, I had no idea that slavery and serfdom were equivalent. Can you explain?
Remembering Today “the Last Full Measure”
In Flanders Fields
--by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
However I am not sure it follows granting legitimacy to the CSA is granting legitimacy to slavery. We granted legitimacy to Russia at the same time without considering it to grant legitimacy to serfdom.
Myself, Lee, I always thought it more then a little ironic the horror New Englanders had about Rebellion.
So, Jason, the Civil War has a lot in common with the Revolutionary War: One group of people want their independence from another group of people who refuse to grant it. With all the bloodshed, Lincoln must have felt enormous pressure to negotiate a peace treaty which would grant the Confederacy its independence. And the only way he could avoid that and preserve the union was, as Chuck wrote, to agree with Wilberforce that slavery was a great moral evil. Granting the CSA its sovereignty would be to grant legitimacy to slavery. So what began as a war fought over a political issue - the question of the power of the federal government over the states - became (for Lincoln, at least) a war fought over a moral issue. I'm interested to review the material above, finding new drama and new insights by refusing to oversimplify in my mind the motivations of those involved in the war.

When during presidential elections the media post maps of "red states" and "blue states" I feel a horror rising up within me. Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn't be re-arguing the secession question if liberals lived only on one coast, and conservatives on the other. I can see how an issue like abortion or gay marriage, when mingled with regional pride and identity, could inflame passions to the point of civil war.

That's why I'm glad that The Point has usually had at least one blogger and/or commenter who intelligently defends the opinion that's not in the majority. Originally, and brilliantly, Roberto wore that mantle; lately it has passed to Ben W. One of my goals in continuing to comment here is to prove that people can debate very divisive issues without severing a relationship. And if, as Alan has lamented, that makes The Point less like a blog with comments and more like a panel discussion, then so be it. As our much beloved Viking Mother has recently said, other blogs are lacking in civility, grace and wit - all elements of antebellum "Southern charm", come to think of it.

So Chuck's focus on the Civil War is excellent, given that we see our nation on the precipice of fragmenting into warring sides once again. And, once again, we see a distinction between those who focus on policy and power - whether they be liberal or conservative - and those who focus on moral issues, with the latter sometimes being shamelessly and cynically used by the former. It is my fervent prayer that The Point can be one forum where we can respectfully debate and even resolve all kinds of issues, rather than setting brother against brother with weapons.
If(hypothetically) the CSA was a legitimate state then a foreign military facility on it's soil violates it's sovereignity. They would, on said assumption, have the right to order them out and refusal to comply could be interpreted as an act of war. It goes back to the CSAs legitimacy again which in turn goes back to the question of the right of secession.
And even if you did find something, Jason, I'm reasonably certain I'm not qualified to hold up my end of the argument.

But rather than leave my dear brother frustrated, I'll ask a controversial question and maybe you can argue *both* sides: How could it be legitimately called "The War" (or, as Shelby Foote pronounced it, "Wau-ah") "of Northern Aggression" when the first shots were fired by Southerners on Northerners at Ft. Sumter?
Unfortunately I could not find anything in any of those articles with which to start a vigorous argument with Lee over.

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