The Civil War: Then and Now

Last weekend I attended a conference on the Civil War, presented by The Raven Foundation and The Center for Applied Christian Ethics (CACE). Like many people, I had always assumed that the Civil War was a war between enlightened abolitionists and racist slave owners. But I should have known that the events of history are never that simple. (Cut me some slack, the Civil War is much more recent than anything I usually study.)

As it turns out, pretty much everyone on both sides was racist. Even most abolitionists were white supremacists, and although they wanted to end slavery in this country, they wanted to do it very gradually, and they wanted to do it by shipping everyone of African descent back to Africa. And these were people who claimed to be Christians. Both sides claimed that the Bible was on their side, and both sides claimed that the other side was a form of heresy.

One of the most interesting parts of the conference was when we heard reenactments of two sermons from about 1862. One sermon from an abolitionist, and one from the other side. In a sermon originally preached by a Rev. Daniel A. Payne, the claim was made that the image of God was imprinted, not only on individuals, but also on this nation. That idea kind of startled me (in case I need to say it, I mean it startled me in the sense that I disagree with it). It’s one thing to strive to be a godly nation. It’s another thing to assume that we already are one. To claim to know what God’s will is, and to claim to know that God is always on our side, is to claim to have God in our pocket. It’s seems like that’s too much to claim. It also seems to me that this was the sin of God’s people at certain points of time in the Old Testament. They relied on the confidence that they were God’s favorites, and figured God would look the other way when they committed idolatry.

All this begs the question: To what extent is history repeating itself? Aren’t we a nation divided, even now? Aren’t we polarized, with two extremes both claiming the allegiance of God – or at least claiming the moral high ground? Does the issue of abortion function in our day the way the issue of slavery functioned 150 years ago? (Discuss…)

Abraham Lincoln said this, in 1862:  In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party

Now, I know I’m taking this quote a bit out of context (it’s really a statement about the providence of God), but could it be that in the present “contest” of American politics, perhaps God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party? Maybe we need to stop assuming God is on our side, and work harder to make sure we’re on God’s side. Maybe we need to stop assuming Christ will follow us, and start following Christ. If I had any political power at all, I would use it to try to convince people that God is not to be found at the extremes. What this country needs is middle ground, and I don’t see either party offering that. Where are my fellow Goldiloxians to give me an Amen!?


Jim Papandrea


About Jim Papandrea

Jim Papandrea is an author, educator, and singer/songwriter. Visit his website at:
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