Civil War remembrances after 150 years

Military conflict and theological contest?

A Bible from 1861.

Today, April 12, marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, as Confederates fired upon Fort Sumter outside Charleston, S.C.

As scholar Mark Noll wrote, the Civil War was not only a military conflict but also a theological contest, one that still smolders, this USA Today op-ed argues.

In the piece, Henry G. Brinton, pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church in Virginia, writes: “As a minister, I am fascinated to reflect on how the Bible was used—and misused—to fuel the Civil War…It makes me wonder whether we are making many of the same mistakes today, with issues such as gay marriage, the environmental movement or even the death penalty.”

Brinton points to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which synthesizes Union beliefs: In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me: As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on.

As president Abraham Lincoln, who was elected shortly after the South seceded, said, “My concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God’s side.” Read this newly surfaced letter that describes Lincoln’s religious beliefs.

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