BY AL BENSON JR.
Because it is almost never discussed, most people do not even begin to realize that Southern secession also had a spiritual side as well as a political one, and often the spiritual affected the political. The idea that the South only seceded so she could keep her slaves is a ludicrous fabrication of the government "education" system. The South could have preserved the institution of slavery had her states remained part of the Union. After all, Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri, for one reason or another all remained in the Union and they all got to keep their slaves.
The apostle Paul, in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, in what we call chapter 6, tells us the following: ""Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness; and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?...Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you: (2 Cor 6:14, 15, & 17)" Paul was telling the Corinthian Christians, God's Israel in Corinth, to separate themselves from the taint of the world system, from its anti-Christ worldview and lifestyle. Sound advice in any age.
Starting in the early 1830s, there was a revival of Reformed Christianity in the South, and due to the galloping apostasy in much of the North, many serious Southerners began to look at secession as the political equivalent of biblical separation. In this they were not wrong. With a strengthening political worldview, a growing number of Southern Christians viewed the rampant unitarianism and transcendentalism in many Northern churches and decided they did not want such a spiritual abberation working its way into their assemblies.
The late Dr. C. Gregg Singer, Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Greenville Presbyterian Seminary when he was alive, has written: "The South was even more articulate in its opposition to democratic liberalism of all kinds. Here again, we must distinguish between that opposition that was directed against abolitionism and the anti-slavery movement simply because they threatened a Southern institution, and the opposition which arose because of a very deep insight into the meaning of abolitionism as an expression of basic radicalism which had far greater implications than a mere crusade against slavery as such." In other words, Singer pointed out that many insightful Southern folks opposed the abolitionists not merely because of the slavery issue, but because of what they represented philosophically and theologically.
Singer continued: "As a result there was in the South a far greater consciousness of the theological radicalism lurking behind the anti-slavery crusade, and also a much keener insight into the growing radicalism in Northern thought in its many and varied implications for constitutional government in this country, and its effect on the American way of life." Singer has noted that: "after 1830 there was a growing philosophical and theological cleavage between the North and the South. While the North was becoming increasingly subject to radical influences, the South was becoming increasingly conservative in its outlook."
Theologian James Henley Thornwell stated the situation even more clearly than that. Of course he was right there on hand at the time and so could observe firsthand what whas happening. He said: "The parties in this conflict are not merely Abolitionists and slaveholders--they are Atheists, Socialists, Communists, Red Republicans, Jacobins on the one side and friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is the battleground--Christianity and atheism the combatants, and the progress of humanity is at stake." Folks, I submit that's pretty straightforward. Thornwell was no theological novice. He saw the issue clearly. Note his mention of socialists and communists. He was ahead of his time.
Sheldon Vanauken once observed that, during the Nineteenth century "the North was for empire; the South for independence."It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which was the Biblical position. It should be clear that, for many Southerners, the issue of secession was not only political, but also theological.
*For those interested in reading more about secession I have published a booklet entitled "A Theological and Political View of the Doctrine of Secession." It sells for $4.00 plus .50 for shipping. Send requests to The Copperhead Chronicle P O Box 55 Sterlington, Louisiana 71280.