150 Years Later
"April 12 ... The heavy booming of cannon -- I sprang out of bed, and on my knees, I prayed as I have never prayed before." -- Mary Chestnut (1823 - 1886)
|George S. Chase|
Over 600,000 Americans died in the war (with some estimates putting the number closer to 700,000) -- more than in all other American conflicts combined.
I've long held mixed feelings about the Civil War. I sympathize with the Southern position on states' rights. While the U.S. Constitution is clear about the requirements for joining the union, it is oddly silent about the a state's ability to withdraw from that same union. It lists no procedures for such a course, but on the other hand, it doesn't forbid such an action. Would the same founders who so eloquently stated their reasons "to dissolve the political bands" which connected them to England have refused the same right to themselves and their heirs in perpetuity when they formed a new union? I hardly think so.
Unfortunately, I also think the Southern states chose the wrong reasons for making their states' rights stand. There is no getting around the tie between states' rights and slavery in 1860. Even the Confederate Constitution forbade member states from outlawing slavery (Article I, Section IX), a rather strange provision for a people willing to die for the right of their individual states to govern themselves.
Next week, Jews will observe the Passover Feast to commemorate their escape from slavery in Egypt nearly 4,000 years ago. The very words on the Liberty Bell -- "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto the inhabitants thereof" -- come to us from Mosaic law (Leviticus 25:10) pertaining to the freeing of slaves during the year of jubilee.
|Abolitionist William Wilberforce (played by Ioan Gruffudd) from the movie Amazing Grace|
Physical, bodily slavery (often called "chattel slavery") continues across the world. Estimates for the number of humans in bondage range from a low of 10 million to a high of 30 million. While laws often exist on the books, they are seldom enforced in many third-world countries. Even in Western, "enlightened" countries, human traffickers smuggle in their victims to work in sweat shops and brothels.
Another, less blatant but more insidious, form of slavery is an enslavement of the mind -- people conditioned to a mental dependency that finds freedom frightening. This mental slavery affects more people than chattel slavery. I first became aware of this phenomenon in the 1980's when I read a survey of attitudes among Soviet young people. An overwhelming percentage of these young "adults" claimed it was their government's duty to care for them, even to the point of finding them jobs. Benjamin Franklin once said, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
However, the most common form of slavery on the planet today is the slavery of the soul. In the book of Romans, Paul writes about our bondage to sin, a condition we all inherit by virtue of being human. It is this sinful nature that leads to so many other sorrows -- addictions, abuse, conflicts, etc. -- and to eternal death. But Paul gives us hope for escaping this form of slavery "because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8: 2). "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." But how few in our world experience true spiritual freedom!
The Civil War began 150 year ago today. Like Mary Chestnut, we need to spring out of our slumber and pray as we have never prayed before. And then we need to get busy. Sadly, we have more work than ever to do if we are to preach deliverance to the captives.
C.J. Chase writes for Love Inspired Historicals. Her debut novel, the winner of RWA's 2010 Golden Heart award for best inspirational romance, will be available in August under the title Redeeming the Rogue. C.J. lives in the swamps of Southeastern Virginia with her handsome husband, active sons, one kinetic sheltie, and an ever-increasing number of chickens. When she is not writing, you will find her gardening, watching old movies, playing classical piano (badly) or teaching a special needs Sunday School class. You can read an excerpt of her book at: http://www.cjchasebooks.com/