True Power

True Power

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Enemies Praying to the same God for Victory

HAS EVERYTHING TURNED INTO A TEST OF CHRISTIANITY? SHOULD EVERYTHING BE TURNED INTO A TEST OF CHRISTIANITY? AND IF SO, WHO IS THE TESTER GIVING THE SCORE OF PASSING?

If you haven't heard there is a clarion call for all Christians to head to Texas for a day of fasting and prayer by Govenor Rick Perry on August 6, 2011. Christian radio commentator Brian fisher has said lawsuits filed by atheists against a governor calling for a day of prayer (because they believe it infringes on separation of church and state) is just another case proving liberals hate God.

With so much verbal animosity going on in the public sphere (cable news and radio) between Republicans and Democrats; my mind can not help but think about the Civil War.

Clear lines were drawn between the North and the South during the Civil War. The president was caught between a rock and a hard place and the one sure person each side could aim their venom and feel a sense they were comrades against a common enemy (a scapegoat for all anger and frustration; relevent or not).

One question historians have posed since the Civil War was the CLAIM OF GOD BY BOTH FACTIONS. How could this be possible? Could God be on the side of both the North and the South? And I wonder now, with Brian Fisher's assumption that all democrats hate God aside - can both Republicans and Democrats have a CLAIM OF GOD while being vicious enemies each fighting for victory in politics?

I address this very point in my book, in chapter two of "The Politics of Prayer." Here is an exerpt from the chapter dedicated to the topic (the book sites references for qoutes and other material):

"Involvement in politics is part of being a citizen of the United States. It is a privilege to participate in the Democratic process and I encourage every American citizen to become active in local and national elections and affect policy changes. The point I want to stress in this chapter is we are not on one side or another of politics, but we are on God’s side. Stanley Hauerwas reminds the Christian that there is a temptation, once the Christian becomes involved in politics, for leaders and people in general to convince one another that they alone are on God’s side, while those that disagree with them are completely evil. Christians can confuse political power with faithful witness.


Last year, while watching a program about the Civil War on the History Channel, I was amazed to realize both generals of the North and the South prayed to God for victory. Both of the generals were earnest and persistent in their religious request to be the victor of God for a cause they each believed in their souls. If God answered the prayers of the general of the South would that mean all of the participants of the opposition were evil and deserved to die? If God answered the prayers of the general of the North would that mean all of the participants of the opposition were evil and deserved death? Was one group Christian and the other group sinners? How could two groups with differing views on slavery both pray to God and both claim to be Christian?

Terrie D. Aamodt, in Righteous Armies, Holy Causes: Apocalyptic Imagery in the Civil War (2002), demonstrates how the theme of cosmic struggle, good verses evil, was accepted by both the North and South. The apocalyptic theme was a necessary key to legitimize their perspective cause-for and against slavery. Aamodt states, “Thanks to the aesthetic power of apocalyptic imagery Americans were able to tiptoe on the deliciously dangerous edge between the sublime and the terrible as they contemplated the glorious future awaiting them beyond the dreadful suffering of the battlefield.” Apocalyptic images were attached to the war’s horrors in song, poem, oral history, tracts and sermons.


In “The Bible and Slavery” (Religion and the American Civil War), Mark Noll asserts that the availability and widespread access and limitless use of the Bible in a society where each individual was concerned with their own growth and prosperity; framed by the conflict of slavery – ultimately led to war. Both North and South would turn to the Bible as the ultimate source in answering the dilemma of slavery, but in radically opposite manners. Northerners appealed to the spirit of the Bible (liberalism) in opposing slavery, whereas southerners appealed to the letter of the Bible (literalism) in defending slavery. These competing biblical claims helped shape public perceptions that led to secession and war.


Robert McKenzie said that Mark Noll’s views on the Civil War were those believing there to be a theological crisis and referred to Abraham Lincoln’s observation in his second inaugural address. Lincoln stated that both the North and the South had read the same Bible in which America had relied upon to build America’s Republican civilization. Noll would assert that the Bible was not as unifying for an overwhelmingly Christian people as they had believed.

Most of the Civil War Generals were Christians and very devout. The list of generals upholding religious values during the Civil War include: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Leonidas Polk, George B. McClellan, Oliver O. Howard, and William Rosecrans. Stonewall Jackson was very religious. In the heat of battle he would stand calm and assert. "Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave."

William Rosecrans was a very devout Catholic. It has been said he would never fight on Sunday. Oliver O. Howard is best known as the commander who after the Civil War led the pursuit of Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce in the high plains and mountains of the west in 1877. Howard’s men called him the Praying General because he insisted they observe the Sabbath and he attempted to introduce chaplains into the military during the war. Howard also made his men observe some form of temperance, which they detested, but he also saw to their needs far better then many Union commanders.

Below are religious themes that had a major impact on the North during the Civil War.

• Belief that America was preparing the way for the kingdom of God on earth helped to inspire the loyalty of both the Union soldiers and those on the home front.

• The conviction that blood needed to be shed in order for the nation to be reborn undoubtedly stiffened the resolve of bluecoats and civilians alike to endure unprecedented

• Staggering losses.

• Without the churches' growing conviction that the hand of Providence was indicating the need to end slavery, it is unlikely that the government would eventually have embraced full emancipation as a war aim.

Protestant churches, in particular helped in the effort of Reconstruction in the years following the war. Reconstruction was based on the ideals of the so-called Radical Republicans. This was a Reconstruction in which the vote would be available (in the language of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution) to all regardless of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Drew Gilpin Faust, in The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South (1988), argues that religion played a central role in the shaping of a southern nationalism which both defended and criticized the South. It is clear that Southerners were certain God was on their side and they would be victorious because they were His chosen people.

As early Confederate victories on the battlefield gave way to a pattern of defeats, Southerners were forced to ask why God was punishing them. Perhaps the essence of southern religion’s fears in relation to the institution of slavery is summed up by Daniel Stowell in, “‘We Have Sinned and God Has Smitten Us!’

There is no doubt the average Confederate soldier was devoutly Christian. They came from families strongly influenced by the camp meetings of the Great Revival that had swept thru Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Carolinas in the early parts of the nineteenth century. Most were of Methodist, Baptist, or Presbyterian heritage. Many carried their Bibles from home into battle as well as a Soldier's Prayer Book.

Union soldiers carried a Soldier's Prayer Book, containing 58 pages of an abbreviated form of Morning Prayer, several Collects and prayers (many of which do not appear in the BCP, Book of Common Prayers), Selections of Psalms different from that in the BCP, and a number of hymns. It was published in 1861 by the Protestant Episcopal Book Society in Philadelphia, and was authorized by the Bishop of Pennsylvania in much the same way as were BCP's of the day.

For the Confederate soldier the basis of their faith can be found collectively as The Roman Road printed in 1861:

The Roman Road To Salvation:

Romans 3:23 (KJV) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
Romans 6:23 (KJV) For the wages of sin is death; But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:8 (KJV) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 10:9 (KJV) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Romans 10:13 (KJV) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Romans 10:10 (KJV) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. The Soldier's Prayer Book was a pocket sized book that contained a collection of prayers for different occasions as well as assorted hymns and psalms.

When people begin to choose political sides and equate Christianity with those choices, there is the danger or temptation of turning a cause, as righteous as it may be, into a test of Christianity by man. God has given the criterion for who is and is not a Christian. Christianity can not be judged by deeds alone even though actions are good indicators of one’s religious belief. I have heard many Christians state “I am a die-hard-Republican” or “I am a die-hard-Democrat” or “I am a die-hard-Patriot.” It would be music to God’s ears if they would say “I am a die-hard-Christian.”

Reverend Jim Walls affirms the belief that God is for all of His creation. He is against sin, but he awaits every person turn or return to salvation. “God is not partisan: God is not a Republican or a Democrat. When either party tries to politicize God, or co-opt religious communities for their political agendas, they make a terrible mistake. The best contribution of religion is precisely not to be ideologically predictable nor loyally partisan. Both parties, and the nation, must let the prophetic voice of religion be heard. Faith must be free to challenge both right and left from a consistent moral ground.”

So, as the country becomes more divided between political parties, we must remember, this is nothing new. Our nation fought brother against brother and believed in their cause, philosophy, moral conviction or whatever label they wanted to use to justify the battle. And sadly, each decided God was on their side and GOD became the ultimate weapon in the man made war. I encourage people to learn history because it has a tendency to repeat itself.

In the case of the Civil War, was it ever declared, without a shadow of a doubt who's side God was on? The Bible makes it clear WHO God stands with. He has encouraged His children to have a personal relationship with Him. That personal relationship will be seen by others, thus being a light to draw others to Him. Is this the message echoing throughout the United States? Will the August 6, 2011 call for fasting and prayer be a beacon of light turning all eyes to God? I hope it will and that it is more than a CLAIM ON GOD.

My book is available on amazon.com for those interested in reading more on the subject of prayer, wisdom, politics, and God.

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This Could Be Me At Your Next Event
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