Tuesday, April 12, 2011

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
67th Pennsylvania
The American Civil War officially began at 4:30 a.m., April 12, 1861. Fort Sumter's defending officer, USA Major Robert Anderson, had previously taught artillery at West Point. His former student, CSA General P.G.T. Beauregard, gave the order to fire. After 34 hours of bombardment, Anderson surrendered, and the first battle of the war war ended without a single loss of life -- an ironic opening to the horrific carnage yet to come.

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.

Americans did not invent slavery. It has existed for thousands of years, and both sides of the slavery-abolition divide freely quoted the Bible to justify their positions. But eventually, Christians reached a consensus that Paul's words about there being "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free" (Galatians 3:28) suggested that the ideal Christian society should not promote the enslavement other humans, but rather they should be a society where we "are all one in Christ Jesus."

Abolitionist William Wilberforce (played by Ioan Gruffudd) from the movie Amazing Grace

Officially, slavery ended in America with the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865. But slavery, in all its various forms, still exists.

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." I had never realized how frightening, how very insecure, freedom must seem to those indoctrinated into dependency and mental bondage.

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/


  1. Thought provoking post, CJ. Bondage comes in so many forms. I remember how... contained the Russian people were when was there. On the one hand they were desperate for the Word of Truth. They soaked it up. But when they got it they were fearful of responding. It was so foreign to the nature to show public emotion, that tears would brim, you could tell that they ached to raise their hands, but instead they would clasp them tightly in front of them.

    Like the old saying I guess, Freedom isn't free. It costs sacrifice and it comes with the possibility of personal failure. But it is so worth it!

  2. Wonderful post, CJ! I have always been fascinated with the Civil War in the U.S. but slavery still exists in many ways around the world.

    Thank you for this beautiful reminder of the true freedom we find in Christ.

    Oh - I love Amazing Grace--own it and re-watch it often.

  3. It's so sad that slavery still exists in our world, but very true that it comes in more forms than we tend to think of.

  4. I agree, Dina. I actually read some disturbing info on the subject of child slavery just this weekend. It tore my heart up.

    Great post, CJ.

  5. Thanks, Lisa. When I read that survey years ago, I was rather shocked at first. I was probably late teens or so, and I couldn't believe people my age thought it was the government's responsibility to find them jobs. I mean, I know getting a job can be tough (especially these days), but you're going to spend a lot of your life with those people and doing those tasks. Not something I would want to leave to someone else to choose for me. I hadn't realized how fortunate I was.

    It was rather eye-opening to me because I'd never realized until then how much communism took from people.

  6. Deb, about, oh, probably 5 years ago (before Amazing Grace came out), I was with my eldest in the children's section of the library. I was looking for a kid's biography of Wilberforce for school. (He's homeschooled.) I found almost an entire shelf of biographies of Oprah Winfrey, but not a single one for Wilberforce. And yet, without a Wilberforce, there may well have never been a Oprah.

    Do I need to admit we went to see Amazing Grace the day it came out in theaters? (And yep, I too have my own copy now.)

  7. Dina, I knew Paul used the slavery example as a metaphore for sin until I wrote the post -- but I hadn't realized how often he used it until I wrote the post.

    How sad that it is more applicable than ever.

  8. Suzie, I had originally intended a simple Civil War history post but found myself being led in a slightly different direction. The research was unpleasant. But sometimes we need a nudge out of our comfort zones if we are to make a difference.

    I hadn't thought of it until now, but for the time being, I'm writing books set in the early 1800's. I did drop Wilberforce's name into a sentence in my LIH Regency, but you know, I'm now in a position where I could go deeper into the abolitionist movement of the early 1800's. Hmmm. Something for me to really think about for my future work.

  9. Your post so eloquently delivers a message against slavery--at every level--and so thoughtfully presented the south's position. I'm a southern girl and have struggled with this. It is sad that the south felt that state's rights had to be coupled with slavery, but thankfully, the war did do away with physical slavery in the legal sense. Some day we will be free from it in every sense.

  10. Important post, CJ.

    Today and tomorrow, Ancestry.com is offering free access to their Civil War records. I got on to investigate my great-great grandfather and learned he was a drummer and fought in several battles as well as numerous skirmishes. It's amazing he survived -- his regiment also had a smallpox epidemic. Anyway, I was so excited I wrote a post about it on my blog.

    Human trafficking and slavery is still abundant in numerous countries. I just read about two women who, for $800, managed to rescue dozens of children held in sexual slavery in an Asian country.

    I love Amazing Grace, too. Powerful movie, and timeless message.

    Thanks for the post.

  11. Thanks, Sylvia. I really do think the South was in the right Constitutionally. (Just reading the first line of the Declaration of Indpendence makes me believe the Founders would have agreed that states had a right to secede.) But Lincoln was definitely a smart politician. Most of the Christian world had come to see slavery as morally wrong, so when Lincoln changed the focus of the war to empancipation, I think the end was pretty much inevitable.

    Don't you wonder if cooler head had prevailed (and secession/war avoided), if eventually Southern Christians would have come to believe in the wrongness of slavery in due time (like the rest of the Christian world)? We'll never know, but I wonder how different the late 19th - early 20th century would have been in the South if empancipation had happened organically from an awakening of concerned, Southern Christians.

    Hmm. That last sentence is a little convicting if I think too much about it and how it applies to me as a contemporary Christian American ...

  12. Susie, I may have to check out the site. The picture on the post (no, not Ioan, the soldier ) was my husband's great-grandfather. We also have a diary (in the safe now, I believe) and copies of a couple of letters -- including the one he wrote to his future wife's father asking for permission to marry his daughter. The way they used language back then was so elegant. George Chase was a simple farmer, but he had an incredible vocabulary.

  13. We have a picture of a union soldier relative who looks just like my brother and father.

  14. Wonderful post, CJ. So that's why CNN was talking about the Civil War. I thought it was nice that they're talking about it because it seems to be treated like the Vietnam War - pushed aside and ignored. At least, that's the way it seems to me up here. I suppose if I'd stayed on CNN I would've found out but the blurb on the bottom of the screen didn't explain anything and I wanted to see what was happening in Japan so I switched the channel.

    I hadn't heard of the movie Amazing Grace so thanks for bringing that to my attention as well.

    Another reality is bondage to the welfare system. One of my relatives (let's call him Joe) lived with/possibly married a young woman (let's call her Carol) who'd been raised in the welfare. By that I mean her parents both sat around collecting welfare as had their parents before them. Well, Joe wanted to prove himself so he went out and got himself a great paying job operating heavy machinery because that was his line of work. But Carol complained that he was gone all day. She was lonely... no one in the whole city to talk to... that it was his job to ensure she was looked after... that it was his job to physically see that she was all right. Joe said to do that, he had to work to bring home the paycheck. Carol said, "Oh no, you don't. My parents never worked and my grandparents never worked. That's what welfare is for." Unfortunately, Joe wanted her 'rewards' more than a monetary one and so he quit. Bondage can encompass many things.

    Anita Mae.

  15. Anita, you MUST get Amazing Grace. Don't bother renting it. Just buy it, so you can watch it again and again. It will really inspire you. With God, one man can change the world -- though He doesn't promise us it will be easy. Here's a link to the trailer:

  16. Dina, my husband doesn't look anything like his great-grandfather, who was 6' tall and blue-eyed and blond. Dh takes after his mother's side -- short and dark. But our oldest looks more like the Chase side again -- blond and already taller than his dad.

    Funny how that works.

  17. Great history lesson! Thanks.

  18. CJ, I wished I could have come back today to discuss this more. This was a great post and I love how much research you did for this.

    I haven't seen Amazing Grace, but it's on my list.

    Something funny happened while we were eating dinner tonight. My husband started talking about conflicting statistics he'd heard today about Civil War casualties. He wondered which one was right (or closest to being right). I said, "well let me check for you." I picked up my Blackberry and came back to your post and gave him the figures. Yours most closely matched the ones he agreed with. ;-)


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