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THE CHURCHES AND THE CONFEDERATE CAUSE Willard E. Wight any understanding of the attitude of the churches of the South toward the Confederate government must proceed from the basic principle which motivated their conduct throughout the war. According to this principle slavery was an institution sanctioned by God and given to the South as a sacred trust; therefore, those who opposed it, as the abolitionists did, were against the Almighty. Disruption of the Union was necessary in order to preserve slavery, God's work on earth; hence, the creation of the Confederate States of America was the work of Providence. All institutions ordained by God demand the unswerving allegiance of Christians; ergo, all Christians must support the Confederate government with unfaltering loyalty. This attitude was clearly enunciated by a Virginia Baptist congregation when it adopted the foUowing resolutions: Man is a moral, social and reUgious being. He is responsible for his example to the society in which he lives, as well as to the Creator for his social influence ; for all government is ordained by God; and if as a subject of government , he does what is injurious to the interests of that government, he is acting in violation of the laws of God, which require that all men be "subject to the powers that be." If therefore it is a Christian duty to obey a government which the subject had no power to form, or change, it is doubly a duty for aU Christian subjects of this government not only to yield a cheerful obedience to the constituted authorities, but to aid and encourage them in every effort to secure our social and religious freedom. Therefore Be it Resolved 1. That the war which the U.S. government has forced upon us, involving as it does, our social and religious freedom, must be met with unfaltering determination and an earnest cooperation of every Christian. 2. That all efforts to evade the operations of laws for the support of the war or to shun our lawful duty, are in violation of the Scriptures and manifest an unworthiness of our social and religious fellowship.1 A doctoral graduate of Emory University Dr. Wight is now on the history faculty of the Georgia Institute of Technology. 1 Minute Book, Elon Baptist Church, Dover Association, 1857-1866, Meeting of July 6, 1863, Virginia Baptist Historical Society. 361 362WILLARD E. WIGHT Convinced that the new nation was the result of divine interposition, the churches were quick to give their blessing to the Confederacy. The Methodist Rio Grande Conference in Texas resolved in 1861 that "the government of the Confederate States of America is right; to it we owe allegiance and its fortunes we will share invoking Almighty God to uphold it in equity and Wisdom."2 The South Carolina Lutheran Synod recognized "the hand of God in the wisdom of its councils and the heroism of our brave defenders, which have enabled us to form a Government of our choice."3 The Goshen Baptist Association of Virginia resolved to "give whatever aid we can to the Confederate Government in carrying forward a war contemplating our deliverance."4 Because they realized that, in the eyes of many, war per se was not wholly consistent with the principles of Christianity, the churches took pains to proclaim the cause of tbe South a just cause. The declaration of the North Carolina Christian Conference that "the Southern Confederacy is not at all responsible for the war that is going on" was lukewarm when compared with the resolution of the Virginia Lutheran Synod that the "defensive war maintained by us against an invading foe, is just and righteous."5 With similar conviction the Middle District Baptist Association of the same state declared that "if ever a people drew the sword in behalf of a just cause, we are that people."6 Further endorsement of the cause of the Confederacy was made in 1863 by eighty-four ministers of the Gospel who issued an Address to Christians Throughout the World, published in Richmond in 1863. A non-political document, it was not promulgated in the name of any denomination , although signed by leading clergymen of the Baptist, Old School Presbyterian...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 361-373
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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