Baptists and the American Civil War: April 17, 1862

Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis

Recent Confederate battlefield reversals, in addition to President Jefferson Davis’ declaration of martial law in Richmond, have led some Southerners to grumble about military and political leadership. Southern Baptist newspaper editors, however, are determined to clamp down on dissent. Christians, they believe, have no right to question the leaders of God’s chosen nation. An editorial, originally published in Virginia Baptists’ Religious Herald and reprinted this week in North Carolina Baptists’ Biblical Recorder, notes:

Rulers and generals, to [w]it, are only instruments, who can perform nothing for the country’s welfare except as power is given from above; and it feels that instead of lifting up the heel against them by distrust and suspicion, the function of true Christian patriot lies in the fervent, effectual prayer which may win to their aid this gift of power.

“A. M.” also comments in this week’s Biblical Recorder:

The success of our country then may, and perhaps will depend more upon christians of the Confederacy than upon our rulers.–As it is our duty to pray for our rulers, it is also our duty to believe that God in answer to our prayers will guide them aright, or at least guide them as to secure the object of our prayers. Hence it does not become christians to join with others in censuring our rulers for the failures that sometimes occur in the success of their measures. Nor does it become them to regard failures necessarily as disasters. They may be links, and indispensable links too, in the chain of events by which a wise and gracious Providence is leading on to our ultimate and triumphant success….

Let us then sustain the rulers whom God has given us with our influence and our prayers, and with an unwavering faith that all will be right in the end.

Hence in Southern Baptist life freedom of the press clashes with Christian nationalism.

For the sake of the Kingdom of God, freedom loses.

Sources: “Harsh Criticism of our Leaders” and A. M., “Thou Shalt Not Speak Evil of the Rulers of thy People,” Biblical Recorder, April 16, 1862 (link)