Saturday, December 25, 2004


by Al Benson Jr.

In 1860 your average Southerner did not have, by far, the same world view as his Northern counterpart. He was, thanks to sound preaching in Southern pulpits, extremely doubtful of the "goodness" of human nature. He believed in the sovereignty of God and the sinfulness and depravity of man. He knew enough of man's fallen nature to realize that secular political solutions would not solve the problems of that day, or of any other day. Southern Christians sat up and took notice when Northern Unitarian clergyman Theodore Parker echoed the sentiments of many of his Northern brethren that each man was his own Christ and that true faith was independent of Biblical revelation. As if that wasn't bad enough, Southern Christians reeled in shock when Unitarian minister Ralph Waldo Emerson stated that when abolitionist/terrorist John Brown was hanged he would "Make the gallows as the Cross." The rank apostasy in these statements and sentiments from the North made most astute Southerners aware that what they were up against was more than a political adversary. They were, ultimately, up against a force that sought to gut their Christian faith as it had gutted the Christian faith in the North decades earlier.

Francis Butler Simkins in "A History Of The South" noted many of the problems between churches that surfaced after the War of Northern Aggression was over and that shameful pogram called "Reconstruction" had begun. The various Southern denominations ended up having many of the same problems that were evident in the political realm.

Simkins wrote that: "To Southerners the attitude of Northern churchmen toward the problems of Reconstruction seemed to promote the bitterest feelings. Northern churchmen reasoned that since slavery and Southern nationalism had brought about the organization of separate churches, the destruction of these causes by the war would effect immediate ecclesiastical reunion. Most Northern churchmen insisted that the expected reconciliation must take place under terms stipulated by the 'loyal' or Northern churches; that the Negro must come under 'loyal' church direction; that ex-Confederate 'sinners' must confess the enomity of their crimes before they could again be received in Christian fellowship. In other words, they demanded that the same destruction, reordering, and rebuilding that Lee's surrender had necessitated in the field of government must take place in the sphere of religion."

Such attitudes among Northern churchmen display the effect that apostasy had had in the Northern churches for decades. There was this Yankee determination to dominate, to force everyone to yield to their position as the only right position--a sort of "be reasonable--do it MY way" attitude. We might note the paralell of this mindset among the New England Unitarians, who were going to make sure all the children in their states were mandated to be educated their way.

The attitude of Northern churchmen that they were coming South to eradicate the barbarism and theological darkness of that region did not sit too well with Southern folks. Simkins noted that: "An Alabamian expressed the opinion of most white Southerners when he said 'Perhaps the greatest liars and most malignant slanderers that the North has spewed out upon the South since the close of the war, are the reverend blackguards that have been sent among us as ministers of religion."

Simkins observed that a tendency toward reunion among the Presbyterians was countered by "Northern insolence." Thereafter, the Southern Presbyterians got together to form a stronger Southern church. And Southern Methodists also rejected Northern overtures at unity because they felt that the Northern Methodists had gotten to be 'incurably radical' and were involving themselves too much in politics. Let's face it--the Southerners were right. Due to the influences of apostasy in the North, many churchmen had become increasingly radical. Even those who did not openly partake of the heady "new" doctrines of the Unitarians were somewhat influenced by them in their attitudes.

And now the Unitarian-influenced Northern clergymen came south as Simkins noted: "Teacher-missionaries came South imbued with the idea that education would dispel the 'ignorance and barbarism' that allegedly enveloped the region, elevate the Negro to the white man's level, and perhaps apply the historic mission of the American common schools of ironing out class distinctions...President Thomas Hill of Harvard spoke of the 'new work of spreading knowledge and intellectual culture over the regions that sat in darkness'." Simkins, along with many others, tells us that the government school system--a real fruit of Northern apostasy--was brought south as part of the Yankee's "Reconstruction" program, and that it stayed on.

We can also see, in the attitudes of some of the Yankee schoolteachers in the South, the seeds of the social gospel. Simkins has noted that one teacher said "We are convinced that plenty to eat would harmonize and Christianize them faster than hymns and sermons; and that needle and thread and soap and decent clothing were the best educators and would civilize them sooner than book learning."

Certainly no sane person should have any problem with ministering to the physical needs of others, but doing this alone, with no adequate Christian instruction somewhere along the line will never "Christianize" most people, black or white.

The whole attitude of Northern preachers that they were going to minister in a land "that sat in darkness" was indicative of a mentality that had been tainted with apostasy. While the fathers of many of these same men were being influenced by the strange doctrines of Unitarianism and Transcendentalism, the South had undergone a religious revival that had cemented that region of the country firmly in place as the center of orthodox and Reformed Christianity in North Americal.

"Reconstruction" finally ended in 1877, but within a few short years of that time the South ended up encountering major problems with new doctrines that it has yet, to this day, to fully begin to deal with.

But that is another story.

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