Baptists and the American Civil War: December 24, 1862

While not a national holiday nor widely celebrated as a religious holiday, Christmas eve has nonetheless arrived, signaling an occasion for many soldiers North and South to relax and, hopefully, look forward to better food on the morrow than on most days. Many, but not all: Christmas celebrations will vary from camp to camp and regiment to regiment, and for some, military movements and drills will continue as usual.

Regardless of the time of year, however, Baptists of the South remain concerned about the moral and spiritual condition of the Confederate Army. Yet another editorial–published, in this instance, in this week’s Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index (which makes no mention of Christmas)–calls upon home front Baptists to support the evangelization of Confederate soldiers.

…. At least half of our regiments have no chaplains, and hence if they have no religious reading, are entirely destitute of moral instruction. This destitution leaves all their leisure time for habits and practices which are sadly demoralizing in their influence. To permit this state of things to exist is unphilanthropic, unpatriotic and unchristian for the following reasons:

1. Love to man demands the promotion of his happiness but sin and misery are inseparably connected, hence love to man demands the resistance of sin by every possible means.

2. It is unpatriotic, because when the war shall end, the soldier who stood between us and danger, will be the most popular character in the land, and has only to ask for an office to get it. This has been the history of the past. Then if this demoralization should continue, the civil offices are to be filled by many of those now without religious restraints; and whose moral character will, if no effort is made to improve them, wholly unfit them to discharge the high civil functions committed to them. “When the wicked rule a nation mourns. Sin is a reproach to any people.”

3. Unchristian, because the love of souls demands of us to rescue them from the awful consequences of sin. The soldier is bravely and patriotically presenting his body between us and danger, ready to fall on the gory field at any moment, if the emergency demands it, whether he is prepared for the Judgment or not. Shall we not love his soul and care for it enough to send him the religious reading which he may desire? Many of them will fall on the field of battle–will never again hear the Word of Life from the sanctuary. The only opportunity to do them good is now to send the messenger of salvation to them in some way.

They read religious papers more readily than anything else. The articles are short, new and racy.

Now, reader, how much do you love the soldier, how much your country, how much the souls of your fearless and patriotic defenders? Measure your contribution for sending Tracts, Testaments and the Index to them, by this love.

Source: “Index for Soldiers,” Christian Index, December 23, 1862