Baptists and the American Civil War: July 7, 1862

Civil War States Map from the Library of CongressAn editorial in this week’s Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index addresses the primary of family and the moral foundations of the Confederacy, explaining that the future of the nation rests upon the shoulders of today’s Caucasian parents, who must train up their white, male children in the (Southern) ways of God.

Religion, to exhibit its loveliest features and its grandest results, must be carried into all the positions and pursuits of life. Especially must it leven the mass of family-life.–Here it displays its Divine beauty, and here it is, that it wields its most potent influence.–The most attractive exhibition of English and American civilization, is a well-regulated family. Family-life, as we have it, is rarely found in Pagan or Catholic States. It is the fruit of Protestant Christianity. Pious parents, if faithful to their trust, fulfill the very highest functions of humanity….

….let us look for a moment at the importance of family religion.–Politically the family is the state. The State is no better than the families which constitute it. Here is laid the foundations of good citizenship–such as reverence for authority–obedience to law–self-reliance–self-sacrifice, and love of country. If free institutions are capable of long continuance, it will be, because correct moral sentiments pervade the people….

….The example of pious parents is of more value than the gold of Ophir, or the cattle upon a thousand hills. It operates through life as a restraining, guiding power. They die, but they continue to speak. Whilst in life, they point to God and lead the way. The memory of their example, when dead; is to survivors, as the pillars of cloud and of fire, which led the pilgrimage of the Israelites.

There is no safeguard against infidel theologies and philosophic speculation like the implantation of sacred truth in the young mind. It is as a break water, which turns off the swelling tide of error. It grows stronger as years accumulate. The man is protected by the child. He may wander far-off from truth and virtue, but sooner or later, he returns to the feelings and opinions of the nursery.–In old age, he is often found as a little child sitting at the feet of his first, wisest, most unselfish teacher.

Upon the assumption that we have an early peace, and the the Confederate Government will be established upon the foundation of our admirable constitution, its continuance for any length of time, will depend upon the men of the next generation. Christian parents, know the fact, that the character of that generation depends under God, upon you. And these things beings so, you hold in your hands the destinies of our country. Would to God that we could all realise how eventful are the times, and the prodigious weight of responsibilities to God and man, that rests upon us.

Few white Baptists, however, concern themselves with African slave families. Slaves are allowed to marry only with the permission of their masters, and slave marriage carries no legal or moral weight in the Confederacy; slaveholders are allowed to break up families by selling a spouse and/or children to another owner. The widespread disrespect and disdain for family and of marriage among African slaves is a result of a yet-common belief among many white southerners that Africans are not fully human–if human at all.

Sources: “Family Religion,” Christian Index, July 8, 1862; map image from the Library of Congress