16 August 2014

Can We Understand The Course Of History?

I read some interesting commentary in a recent issue of North South Trader's Civil War magazine. As I've noted before, it is my favorite WBTS publication. One of the features I look forward to the most is the Publisher's Forum - an editorial which features the observations and insights of the publisher, Stephen W. Sylvia. Sylvia is not only a knowledgeable historian, he is a gifted writer as well. In the most recent issue, his editorial centers around a response to someone who mocked and ridiculed the Christian faith. His reflections regarding that subject reminded me of words spoken by John Adams to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts in 1798: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people."

George Washington said something very similar in his Farewell Address
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. . . . And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.
I was also reminded of something I once heard Professor James I. Robertson, Jr. say about moderns and how they view Robert E. Lee: "Robert E. Lee never existed [in the minds of some] because we don't have a Robert E. Lee today." 

Much of the reason for moderns' misunderstanding of Lee can be explained by Douglas Southall Freeman's observation regarding Lee:
Because he was calm when others were frenzied, loving when they hated, and silent when they spoke with bitter tongue, they shook their heads and said he was a superman or a mysterious man. Beneath that untroubled exterior, they said, deep storms must rage; his dignity, his reserve, and his few words concealed sombre thoughts, repressed ambitions, livid resentments. They were mistaken. Robert Lee was one of the small company of great men in whom there is no inconsistency to be explained, no enigma to be solved. What he seemed, he was — a wholly human gentleman, the essential elements of whose positive character were two and only two, simplicity and spirituality.
My point is that it is impossible to understand the course of history, shaped by human lives, without a firm understanding of morality, religion and spirituality. And, when it comes to American history, that religion is specifically Christianity. 
Would we have been able to sustain the sacrifices and risks of the Revolution if it weren't for our forefather's commonly held Christian beliefs and Christian-oriented cultural traditions? Would we have been able to recover from a horrific civil war if we hadn't held to a time-honored code of morals and ethical behavior?

Can any society persist without a strong moral compass? . . . I don't believe that those without respect for or even and understanding of traditional morals can grasp the character of those ancestors we so admire and commemorate. Without an understanding of the experiences and belief systems that informed their decisions, how can we hope to understand the course of history itself? ~ Stephen W. Sylvia


E.J. DAgrosa said...

A culture arises from the cult. Tolkien always said if you want to understand a people you need to read their myths and beliefs.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

So true.