Reason for latest repost: This comment:
Note: I originally published this post April 8, 2014. Due to current events, the post has been getting quite a few hits. So, to make it easy, here it is.
A Book Review
I just finished reading A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman. The book ended up being far more fascinating than I anticipated. I read it, and then I immediately read it again.
Why was Foreman’s book so interesting?
- I saw that the problems that Britain encountered during the American Civil War remain relevant to America today. As a great power, Britain confronted and stumbled over the same problems this country now faces. Whenever people start fighting thousands of miles away, both the combatants and many Americans often insist that America must take sides. Yet, like us, when they tried to figure out what the fight was about, the Brits encountered real difficulties. And, just like ours, their news media was too biased to be of much help.
- I learned, perhaps even things she had not intended, more about the history of the war. Conventional wisdom says the South had the better generals. Yet I saw that when the South chose to attack the North, the South lost. Generally, Southern generals had the advantage of fighting a defensive war. In addition to the ability to being able to fight from prepared positions, the defense has more subtle advantages. Because defenders are on their home turf, they know the territory, they can gain better intelligence from the locals, and they can rouse the ferocity that comes from defending ones homeland.
- What made General Ulysses S. Grant successful? He did not attack tentatively. His predecessors had seen the huge causalities and grown fearful. Is that not what any ordinary man would do? Yet the sooner a war ends the sooner people stop dying. Therefore, even though he grew somber and sad because so many died, Abraham Lincoln had to find generals who could withstand watching thousands die frightful deaths and still order their armies to attack without relenting.
- After so many years we forget the implications of Americans fighting Americans, but Abraham Lincoln understood. His wife, Mary, had a several half-brothers who served in the Confederate Army, and these were killed in action. Another brother served the Confederacy as a surgeon, and that must have been nightmarish.
- I swiftly grew interested in the characters Foreman describes in her book. Through the lives of many people, Foreman describes the diplomacy, the South’s struggles for supplies, and the battle scenes in sufficient detail that we can begin to appreciate how even those on the other side of an ocean could be so affected by that great war.
- With an extraordinarily long (and interesting) epilogue, Foreman continues the story, describing how America and Britain finally resolved the conflicts between them stirred up by the war. In addition, she describes what each of the characters she mentions in her book did after the war.
So why did the Brits choose to stay out of the American Civil War. The British decision to stay out of the war hinged on the moral issue of slavery. Even though they desperately wanted the South’s cotton for their textile mills, the Brits condemned slavery. Therefore, because the Brits could easily have broken the North’s embargo of the South, it may not be an overstatement to say that the United States owes it present unity to William Wilberforce, the man who led the battle to end the slave trade.
So what do the word “gay” and the Rebel Flag have in common with heresy? Let’s consider one thing at a time.
That New Meaning For The Word “gay”
For the sake of propaganda, homosexual “rights” activists have succeeded in replacing the word “homosexual” with the term “gay” (See the etymology here.). Yet few seem to appreciate just how inappropriate this word swap has been. I suspect those most aware this problem have the word “Gay” as their surname (see here and here).
Think about that. How would you like to be called Gay?
The Distorted Meaning Of The Rebel Flag
When I reblogged Southern History Month 2014, I did not anticipate a positive response. In their unending effort to peddle political correctness, race baiters have transformed the once proud Confederate battle flag into a symbol of racism.
Was the Civil War ultimately about slavery? Yes. Without the issue of slavery, the United States may still have had a Civil War, but then the country would have divided along entirely different lines and for entirely different reasons.
Look at the picture above, at the beginning of this post. In the version of PowerPoint I use, Microsoft did not provide a picture of the “Rebel Flag.” However, they did provide a picture of the Stars and Bars. Look it up if you must (here), but that is a picture of what actually was the Confederate Flag. What we call the Rebel Flag is shown in the picture below.
The painting above depicts the remains of Army of Northern Virginia as it surrendered at Appomattox Court House. And yes, that picture shows what we now call the Rebel Flag. That flag was actually Army of Northern Virginia battle flag.
What the picture shows is the Union troops honoring the Confederate troops as they surrendered their arms and their battle flags. Whatever we may think of that flag now, the men who fought the Confederate soldiers respected them and their flag as one soldier honors another.
The South paid a frightful price for the Civil War. The Union troops at Appomattox Court House saw that price. They saw the thousands of hatless, shoeless, famishing Confederate soldiers before them, and they knew those Confederate soldiers had surrendered only because they had no other choice. Under the flag they carried, those Union soldiers had killed a quarter of Southern manhood, burned and pillaged the South, and left those who survived half starved. Such is war.
Because the Confederate Army had fought bravely and honorably, the Union troops answered honor with honor. That’s what that picture shows.
Just as we have twisted the meaning of the word “gay” and rendered a once proud battleflag into a symbol of racism, we have turned heresy into something almost opposite, something to be proud of.
Consider how G. K. Chesterton began his book, Heretics.
Nothing more strangely indicates an enormous and silent evil of modern society than the extraordinary use which is made nowadays of the word “orthodox.” In former days the heretic was proud of not being a heretic. It was the kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who were heretics. He was orthodox. He had no pride in having rebelled against them; they had rebelled against him. The armies with their cruel security, the kings with their cold faces, the decorous processes of State, the reasonable processes of law—all these like sheep had gone astray. The man was proud of being orthodox, was proud of being right. If he stood alone in a howling wilderness he was more than a man; he was a church. He was the centre of the universe; it was round him that the stars swung. All the tortures torn out of forgotten hells could not make him admit that he was heretical. But a few modern phrases have made him boast of it. He says, with a conscious laugh, “I suppose I am very heretical,” and looks round for applause. The word “heresy” not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous. The word “orthodoxy” not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong. All this can mean one thing, and one thing only. It means that people care less for whether they are philosophically right. For obviously a man ought to confess himself crazy before he confesses himself heretical. The Bohemian, with a red tie, ought to pique himself on his orthodoxy. The dynamiter, laying a bomb, ought to feel that, whatever else he is, at least he is orthodox. (from here)
Civil War References
How have we twisted the word “secular?” Well, according to the dictionary the word secular pertains “to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred.” However, as the examples given in BECOMING SECULAR demonstrate, “becoming secular” is a religious choice. When we hear so and so is “becoming more secular,” don’t we know that means?
Fortunately, two commenters wanted to debate. So they gave me an excuse to add the word “secular” to the OF TWISTED WORDS series.
- He takes issue with the fact that I supposedly called him a fool.
- As an atheist, he does not believe the Bible. That is, there is no God, and the Bible is not His Word.
Did I Call A Fool?
Did I call a fool? No. What I said in BECOMING SECULAR is that becoming secular through indifference, ignoring God, is foolish. says he has studied the matter carefully and determined that God does not exist. That is not the same thing as “becoming secular.” Instead of ignoring God, has deliberately turned his back to God, saying He does not exist. calls himself an atheist, and an atheist is someone who has made a conscious decision that God does not exist. God, not me, calls atheists fools.
Psalm 14:1 New King James Version (NKJV)
14 The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.
In fact, both Psalms 14 and 53 make it quite clear that God has a low opinion of those who turn away from Him. Nevertheless, I have no idea what is in ‘s heart, and it is not my place to judge anyone. I can only look at a man’s deeds, and I know next to nothing of ‘s deeds.
Does God Exist?
Can I prove the Bible is the Word of God? To some people? Maybe. To ? That depends upon him.
As a practical matter, we each allow the Bible either prove or disprove itself. If we study the Bible carefully and objectively, I think most of us will accept the Bible as true. Nothing else besides the Bible provides an explanation for why we exist and why we are as we are that makes any real sense. Unfortunately, we are lazy. Relative few actively study the Bible, and no one who has studied the Bible remains objective.
In this comment, lists some of his objections. They illustrate some knowledge of the Bible, enough knowledge that he has lost his objectivity.
- wants independent proof, a report from somebody who is neither christian/jewish nor roman (stipulated in a latter comment). That sounds reasonable, but it is not. Luke was a Greek. He wrote one of the four Gospels and Acts, and he believed. So he became a Christian. Thus, because Luke believed, disqualifies him.
- does not find it odd that people converted to Christianity. He compares Christians to the Jewish Zealots. Yet any historian, which claims to be, should able to observe just how unique Jewish history is and that there is something incredible about the spread of Christianity. In spite every attempt to destroy the Jewish people, they remain, and Christianity spreads through the blood of martyrs, not the sword.
- offers as argument that morality existed long before the Bible (and he considers the subject further on his blog, Do We Require Religion to be Moral?). It is true that morality existed before the Bible. God existed long before the Bible. As the Apostle Paul observed:
Romans 2:14-15 English Standard Version (ESV)
14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
What is relevant about Christianity is how much people’s morality improves when they become devout Christians. Consider, for example, that it was in Christian lands that governments first abolished slavery. In the 1850’s who other than a Christian writer could have written this paragraph and been taken seriously by millions?
“My view of Christianity is such,” he added, “that I think no man can consistently profess it without throwing the whole weight of his being against this monstrous system of injustice that lies at the foundation of all our society; and, if need be, sacrificing himself in the battle. That is, I mean that I could not be a Christian otherwise, though I have certainly had intercourse with a great many enlightened and Christian people who did no such thing; and I confess that the apathy of religious people on this subject, their want of perception of wrongs that filled me with horror, have engendered in me more skepticism than any other thing.” (from UNCLE TOM’S CABIN or Life among the Lowly by Harriet Beecher Stowe)
Because we live in a large nation where almost everyone has a Christian heritage, we don’t understand the significance of that heritage. Because those people are far away, few appreciate the reason for the relative lawlessness in other lands. Those people don’t share our Christian heritage. And fewer still have studied our ancestors well enough to appreciate the civilizing influence of Jesus Christ’s teachings. Through Jesus, we learned just how much God loves us.
scout objected to my observation that we have twisted the meaning of the word “secular.” Instead, he said the dictionary definition of the word remains true. He also said that we can easily distinguish the religious from the secular (his relevant comments are here, here, here, and here). The second paragraph in ‘s first comment probably best summarizes his argument.
But the post seems to go off the rails (for me, at any rate), where it equates secular content with an active decision to ignore religious issues (or God Himself, as you appear to say). At that point, I think you begin to mis-use the term “secular” and are confusing it with concepts such as atheism or agnosticism. There are many religious people (I count myself among them) who view the religious/secular distinction as an extremely important protection of religious life. Keep the base and the worldly in their appropriate context. Let spiritual issues, issues that are not of this world prosper in their appropriate sphere. I view this distinction as important, as a practical matter, to protect religion and religious expression. In this country, it was part of the great genius of the Founders that they permitted that distinction to take root and thrive, thus avoiding the debasement of religion by political leaders such as had occurred in Europe in their times and continues in many places today. The distinction also has strong Scriptural foundation for Christians, although other religions also benefit from observing clear distinctions between secular and religious activities.
Did I misused the term “secular?” Read the post BECOMING SECULAR, and judge for yourself. Let’s consider here ‘s effort to divide Creation into distinct secular and religious spheres or compartments. To the Christian, that should make no sense. As a practical matter, we do not even have what the dictionary would describe as a secular government. We have a government that is suppose to recognize the fact that our rights are God-given. Unfortunately, due to the fact that our parents allowed politicians to supervise our education, we have forgotten the intent behind the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof “(from here). That means no one should use the power of the government to either to establish a religion or stop anybody from practicing their religion.
Why such an attitude towards government power? Why such a deliberate effort to keep government from interfering with religion? Christians believe in glorifying God in all things. Depending upon the translation, that phrase “all things” occurs often, 201 times in the Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV). Sometimes that phrase says we should glorify God in “all things.”
1 Peter 4:11 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
What do numerous passages tell us what should be our primary occupation? Consider this one.
Matthew 6:19-21 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Hence, the Founders structured our government to prevent it from interfering with religion, not to use secularism or some other excuse to suppress it.
Why would someone want to suppress Christianity? The Bible reminds us of just how awful we can be. In one of his complaints about the Bible, observed that God seems to approve of some very bad things. Oddly, considering he says he is a historian, forgets that the Bible records quite a bit of history, often just saying what happened. Much of the Bible is also a Book of Law. Making laws appropriate for the ancient Jews, trying to civilize a stiff-necked people — like us — sometimes forced God to compensate for our hard hearts. So He allowed the Jews to divorce their wives, keep slaves, and have a king to rule over them, but He did not approve of any of these things. He simply made laws that softened the affects of our sins.
Civilizing human beings is very difficult. We too often want to do very bad things, and sometime we revert to savagery. Consider how far back to our savage nature we have already gone.
In the following passage, G.K. Chesterton talks about the religion practice by the ancient Carthaginians. Carthage was a a Phoenician colony. The Phoenicians, the folks who gave us our alphabet, are apparently one of the Canaanite Peoples the Hebrews should have destroyed when they took over the Holy Land.
In a previous chapter I have hinted at something of the psychology that lies behind a certain type of religion. There was a tendency in those hungry for practical results, apart from poetical results, to call upon spirits of terror and compulsion; to move Acheron in despair of bending the Gods. There is always a sort of dim idea that these darker powers will really do things, with no nonsense about it. In the interior psychology of the Punic peoples this strange sort of pessimistic practicality had grown to great proportions. In the New Town, which the Romans called Carthage, as in the parent cities of Phoenicia, the god who got things done bore the name of Moloch, who was perhaps identical with the other deity whom we know as Baal, the Lord. The Romans did not at first quite know what to call him or what to make of him; they had to go back to the grossest myth of Greek or Roman origins and compare him to Saturn devouring his children. But the worshippers of Moloch were not gross or primitive. They were members of a mature and polished civilisation, abounding in refinements and luxuries; they were probably far more civilised than the Romans. And Moloch was not a myth; or at any rate his meal was not a myth. These highly civilised people really met together to invoke the blessing of heaven on their empire by throwing hundreds of their infants into a large furnace. We can only realise the combination by imagining a number of Manchester merchants with chimney-pot hats and mutton-chop whiskers, going to church every Sunday at eleven o’clock to see a baby roasted alive. (from Everlasting Man (1925) by Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (1874-1936))
The ancient Romans utterly destroyed Carthage.
Referring to it as a secular practice, denying the humanity of the unborn, we sacrifice infants today. We don’t overtly call an abortion a sacrificial offering; we deny the practice might have any entertainment value. Nonetheless, trying to elevate the practice — making every taxpayer an accomplice — abortion supporters fight tooth and nail for public funding. Hence, to satisfy the demands of our “secular” government, abortion supporters deny the possibility that an unborn baby — a miracle of life — has any religious significance.
Last year, in A Memorial Day Devotion for Christians, we considered why we celebrate Memorial Day. We considered the sacrifice made by those who have fought for our freedom. This year, let’s consider just how precious is the gift of freedom. Let’s consider an old novel. That novel approaches being nearly 200 years old. Few people people think to read it now, and yet when it was written, it stirred a firestorm of controversy. Why? It spoke thrillingly of freedom.
Imagine how it must have been. All of your life you have been property, something to be bought and sold. You were born with your body and soul at the complete disposal of your master, disciplined like a dog. Finally, you escape.
What if in the years before the American Civil War you and your small family traveled the Underground Railroad? When you finally arrived in Canada, without a cent to your name, how would you feel?
George and his wife stood arm in arm, as the boat neared the small town of Amherstberg, in Canada. His breath grew thick and short; a mist gathered before his eyes; he silently pressed the little hand that lay trembling on his arm. The bell rang; the boat stopped. Scarcely seeing what he did, he looked out his baggage, and gathered his little party. The little company were landed on the shore. They stood still till the boat had cleared; and then, with tears and embracings, the husband and wife, with their wondering child in their arms, knelt down and lifted up their hearts to God!
“‘T was something like the burst from death to life;
From the grave’s cerements to the robes of heaven;
From sin’s dominion, and from passion’s strife,
To the pure freedom of a soul forgiven;
Where all the bonds of death and hell are riven,
And mortal puts on immortality,
When Mercy’s hand hath turned the golden key,
And Mercy’s voice hath said, Rejoice, thy soul is free.”
The little party were soon guided, by Mrs. Smyth, to the hospitable abode of a good missionary, whom Christian charity has placed here as a shepherd to the outcast and wandering, who are constantly finding an asylum on this shore.
Who can speak the blessedness of that first day of freedom? Is not the sense of liberty a higher and a finer one than any of the five? To move, speak and breathe,—go out and come in unwatched, and free from danger! Who can speak the blessings of that rest which comes down on the free man’s pillow, under laws which insure to him the rights that God has given to man? How fair and precious to that mother was that sleeping child’s face, endeared by the memory of a thousand dangers! How impossible was it to sleep, in the exuberant possession of such blessedness! And yet, these two had not one acre of ground,—not a roof that they could call their own,—they had spent their all, to the last dollar. They had nothing more than the birds of the air, or the flowers of the field,—yet they could not sleep for joy. “O, ye who take freedom from man, with what words shall ye answer it to God?”
Is it true? Is how George Harris felt how you would feel?
Is there anything in it glorious and dear for a nation, that is not also glorious and dear for a man? What is freedom to a nation, but freedom to the individuals in it? What is freedom to that young man, who sits there, with his arms folded over his broad chest, the tint of African blood in his cheek, its dark fires in his eyes,—what is freedom to George Harris? To your fathers, freedom was the right of a nation to be a nation. To him, it is the right of a man to be a man, and not a brute; the right to call the wife of his bosom his wife, and to protect her from lawless violence; the right to protect and educate his child; the right to have a home of his own, a religion of his own, a character of his own, unsubject to the will of another.