Baptists and the American Civil War: October 24, 1864

Army ChaplainThe waning of Confederate fortunes is paralleled by decreasing enthusiasm among white Southern Baptists in relation to army revivals.

While reports of army revivals yet dot Southern Baptist newspapers, the amount of copy space has shrunk and the editorial ebullition is diminished. Part of the reason is the simple fact that there is too much fighting to allow for the prolonged revivals witnessed in the previous winter’s army camps. Some services are taking places behind the siege lines in Petersburg, but not of the magnitude previously.

In addition, concerns about the state of the Confederacy weigh ever more heavily upon editors and other Baptist elites. Numerous are the charges of a lack of piety in the army camps as a cause — perhaps THE cause — of Southern military reversals. Not infrequent are the calls for new revival fires as a prescription for saving the Confederacy.

Southern Episcopalians, meanwhile, seemingly characterize the backward nature of Baptists and other evangelicals (elites? what elites?) as a problem within the Confederate Army, as a brief commentary in this week’s North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder observes, with no little puzzlement.

A correspondent of the [Episcopalian] Church Intelligencer says, of our army chaplains: “Some of them, it must be said, are very ignorant, and some, without question, are morally unfit for their position; while even of those who are the best qualified, intellectually, morally, and religiously, there can be little doubt that the majority are either young men without families, or such as have been, by the war, stripped of employment as parochial ministers.” Does the correspondent know of the Intelligencer whereof he affirms, or has he largely given his opinion?

Southern Baptists have come a long ways in terms of cultural and social respectability in the South, but obviously not far enough for the more respectable Episcopalian denomination.

Source: “Army Chaplains,” Biblical Recorder, October 19, 2014 (link)