Baptists and the American Civil War: February 14, 1862

Samuel Boykin

Samuel Boykin, Editor, Christian Index

In much public Baptist discourse in the South, the biblical language of God’s will and Kingdom is superimposed upon the Confederate States of America — literally.

Georgia Baptist’s Christian Index editor Samuel Boykin this week, generously intermingling the cause of Christ and Confederate patriotism, offers a vivid example of such dual imagery:

Hark! The dread car of Bellona [the ancient Roman goddess of war] is thundering over our land. Its wheels drip with gore; the resounding tramp of its fiery steeds mingle with the howls of pain and and the wailings of sorrow; reverberating thunders, but for a moment drown the hoarse shouts of furious combatants; men, wild with rage, or animated with lofty and serene patriotism, are battling to drive back the ruthless invaders, and work out for our country a glorious salvation.

Independence — for themselves and their countrymen — is the great object to be achieved; and those who have entered our army find no time to sleep, nor feel any inclination to repose.

But, alas, how different it is with the soldiers of the cross! They, too, are engaged in a warfare; and that against an enemy more relentless and cruel than those who are seeking to slay us and devastate our fair land; more pitiless than those who would imprison and enslave all our population; and more full of wicked devices than they who, through strategem, by land and by sea, would accomplish our ruin. And, yet, when we cast our eyes over the embattled hosts of Christ; who have arrayed themselves beneath his banner; we are amazed at the apathy visible in their deportment; at the sluggishness apparent in their actions; at the somnolency that lends heaviness to their eyelids.

Christians! At such a time as this, can you sleep? When round about your churches the hosts of Satan are encamped; when they are making fierce assault upon your ranks, is it possible that you can sleep? And, yet, such is the case. For, is it not true that you are neglecting the prayer-meeting, the Sabbath school, the services of the sanctuary? Is it not true that you remiss in your private devotions, in your study of the Bible, in family worship and in your regard for God’s holy day? Is it not most true that by you no tracts are distributed, no Bibles circulated, no visits made to the bedside of sick sufferers….

Warriors of Jesus! can ye sleep in times so perilous to the cause of your master, and dangerous to your own souls and so prostrating to vital christianity?

Awake! awake! shake off your slothfulness, and let our southern Zion, like Samson of old, burst asunder the chords with which our subtle adversary has bound us, and, by our attention to duty, by or holy zeal, by our earnestness in religion, by our stern opposition to all wickedness in ourselves and others, and by our interest in all that pertains to the Kingdom of our blessed Savior, seek to reform the nation, promote vital godliness in all classes, extend the borders of Zion, and draw down upon our churches and our Confederacy the blessings of Almighty God.

Woven into the Christian nationalist narrative is the issue of slavery: the godless Northern invading horde is wicked and pitiless for seeking to enslave Southern whites — yet holy and righteous are Southern whites in their enslavement of Africans.

Source: “The State of the Churches,” Christian Index, February 11, 1862. While dated February 11, the paper was distributed on February 13, two days late, because of “the mere concomitants of a new start.” The “new start” to the paper follows a roughly four months hiatus due to reasons that are no longer known for certain, but that may well have related to complications arising from the war.