16 April 2007

The Confederate Bible Belt

I marvel at how some writers and historians show such disdain and/or skepticism for the religious emphasis in the Confederacy, believing it to be "lost cause revisionism" without basis. Those who hold such opinions are either ignorant of history or promoting an agenda other than the truth. You can almost see the sneers on their faces as they write with such venom when discussing the Christian faith of Southerners. Consider these comments taken from a piece at Christianity Today and written by Dr. Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr.

"The army revivals probably made a more lasting effect on Christianity in the South than in the North.

At the close of the war, the North's religious aspirations for America rose to a peak. The very success the Union enjoyed encouraged northerners to new labors: converting immigrants entering their cities, alleviating oppressive social conditions through a Social Gospel, and bringing the gospel to 'benighted heathen' overseas.

At this time, however, traditional doctrines seemed to be under attack. Liberal Theologians were thought to be cutting away at Christian orthodoxy and rejecting the idea of a changeless faith. Amid the materialism and secularism of the Gilded Age, many ordinary Christians in the North fitfully sought reassurance that their beliefs were still true.

In the South, on the other hand, little seemed to be left except for religion. For many years after Appomattox, southern Christians spoke of the spiritual benefits they had gained through adversity. Temporal prosperity made men and women arrogant and seduced them into believing they did not need God. The South's hardship, on the other hand, taught forbearance and Christian humility."

Dr. Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr., teaches church history in the School for Ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. He is author of A Shield and Hiding Place: The Religious Life of the Civil War Armies (Mercer University Press, 1987).

(Painting image by Dale Gallon)


Blue Bellied Yank said...

I'd like to learn more about religion during the era of the Civil War so I really enjoyed reading this post!
I'd like to know more about how the soldiers observed the Sabbath, or if they did?
Like, Stonewall Jackson was often forced to fight on a Sunday even though it went his faith...

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I would recommend "Christ in the Camp" by J. William Jones to start. Also, "Revival in the Southern Armies" by William W. Bennett and "While God is Marching On" by Steven E. Woodworth.