Seven Things You Should Know about the Civil War

With so much attention focusing on the Confederate flag this week, here are some things you should know about the Civil War:

1. The Civil War was not fought over slavery, at least not directly. When the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, their purpose was to defend their country from an invading force. Southerners fought to protect their homeland. Their war aim was to repulse a foreign invasion.

The war aim of the North was to preserve the Union and render void the secession of the eleven states that had withdrawn from the United States. Secession, not slavery, was the cause of the War. It was not until 1863, two years into the conflict, that the emancipation of some (not all) slaves became a war aim of the federal government. This purely military tactic then evolved into an abolitionist movement by the end of the war. If, however, the Union had won the war prior to 1863, it is almost certain that southern states would have been readmitted to the Union with slavery still intact.

2. Abraham Lincoln was not an abolitionist until the War made him one. Lincoln detested slavery, and he strongly opposed its spread to any new U.S. territories. But his political platform included leaving the institution in place where it was already practiced. Abolitionists were regarded as radical at this time, whereas Lincoln took a more moderate political stance, without which it is doubtful he would have won the election of 1860. Of course, Southerners certainly considered him radical enough to justify their withdrawal from the Union.

Lincoln came to identify with the abolitionist cause after the Emancipation Proclamation made the liberation of some slaves a stated war aim. By the end of the war, he had become the driving political force behind the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.

3. The Emancipation Proclamation did not actually free many slaves. It only applied to states or parts of states that were regarded as in rebellion against the federal government at the time. It left slavery untouched in border states that did not secede (Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri). It also left slavery intact in parts of Confederate states that had come under Union control by 1863, including the entire state of Tennessee. Of course, you can imagine that in most places where it did apply, the citizens did not comply, since they did not regard President Lincoln as having any authority over them.

4. Abraham Lincoln ran for reelection during the War against his former general, George McClellan. There were times, particularly times of Confederate success, prior to the election of 1864, when it seemed that Lincoln would lose his reelection bid. It is interesting to imagine what a President McClellan would have done since, had the vote gone his way, it would have sent a strong message that the citizens of the United States were tired of the War. In my view, the South’s only path to victory lay in a political scenario like that one, where the North simply lost the willpower to fight.

But it was not meant to be. By November of 1864, a string of Union victories (particularly Sherman’s taking of Atlanta) had turned the tide of public opinion in Lincoln’s favor. He was reelected with a mandate to lead the country to victory.

5. The flag that we readily identify with the Confederacy is actually the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. As such, it did not represent the government of the Confederate States of America or its Constitution. It represented Lee’s army and did not, therefore, fly over the institution of slavery per se.

6. Wilmer McLean, a Virginia resident, has one of the most interesting stories of the War. He lived near Manassas, where the first major battle was fought in 1861. He was so close to the fighting that a Union shell exploded in his kitchen. Desiring to move his family to safety, he relocated to a town called Appomattox Courthouse. In 1865, Generals Grant and Lee negotiated the terms of surrender in his front parlor.

7. The Constitution of the Confederate States of America both protected the institution of slavery while outlawing the slave trade. That the Confederacy would seek to protect the institution in writing is no surprise, given that slavery was their primary purpose for seceding. But few people realize that these words are also in the Confederate Constitution in Article I, Section 9.1: “The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.”

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Reflections on the Election

First, I was clearly wrong.  Not only was I wrong, I was wrong in a big, big way.  To all my loyal readers whose hopes I raised only to see them dashed to pieces, please accept my groveling.  I’m not going to quit my day job in order to become a political pundit.

Second, I have been thinking all night about what this election means for America.  If Republicans cannot beat this President during this time of economic stagnation, after a campaign in which the President had no message, no vision for the next four years, no semblance of being presidential about much of anything, then I am beginning to wonder if we can ever win again.  Democrats were, in spite of my predictions, able to replicate a similar turnout to 2008, even after four years of Obama!  I don’t understand this, but it is a reality to be reckoned with.

I think it means the American landscape has now changed for good.  We are, probably irreversibly, on our way toward a European style of life.  We have reached the tipping point where the number of takers in our country has reached a critical mass large enough to vote government benefits to themselves indefinitely.  This means, in the long run, that we are looking at more dependence and less prosperity over the long haul.

I lament this tragedy.  America may never be again what it once was.  I fear for the society that my children will inherit.  What kind of opportunities will be available for them?  What kind of life will they have to adapt to in order to survive in the new America that is coming?  It can be scary if you think of it that way.

On the other hand, I could look at it this way: how much more will they be able to treasure Christ if the god of mammon does not loom so large over them as it has over previous generations of Americans, including myself?  How much more loosely will they hold on to the fading wealth of this world and demonstrate a willingness to give up their lives in service to the gospel?  How much more treasure will they be able to lay up in Heaven because God has chosen to take away some of it from them on earth?

I have absolutely no confidence that Barack Obama will lead us out of the mess we are in as a country.  He is not capable of that kind of leadership.  Our decline will continue, and I have no clue where this ends, though I can imagine that what we see happening in Greece is a fair approximation.  And, as a country, we have voted for this, so we deserve every bit of what is coming.

But if this is the path God has chosen for us to walk, then I know that in the end it is for the good of his children.  A billion years from now, perhaps we will be able to see clearly how today’s historic event enabled us to treasure Christ more than we otherwise would have.  And that is worth far more than any political victory.

Don’t be too invested in this world or in the future of America.  There’s not much there now.  The present form of this world is passing away.  Tonight was a good solid reminder of that biblical truth.  May we rest, now more than ever, in the hope of the age to come.

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My Prediction for Tuesday

On September 16, 2011, when the Republican primaries were still in full swing, I predicted that Mitt Romney would be the next President of the United States.  I continue to stand by my prediction.  I am now going to predict, not only a Romney win, but a very convincing one.  My guess is that Romney wins with 52% of the popular vote and 331 electoral votes compared to 48% for Obama and 207 electoral votes.

Furthermore, I predict that Republicans will expand their majority in the House and gain a slight majority in the Senate, expanding from their current 47 seats to 51 or 52.  We are going to see an extension of the 2010 bloodbath that left the Democratic Party in shambles.  And not a moment too soon.

If, throughout the day on Tuesday, you hear a contrary prediction based on exit polls, don’t buy it for a second.  The election of 2004 demonstrated that exit polls can be hopelessly flawed.  I don’t know what the exit polls will suggest throughout the day, but I predict that, once the vote totals start coming in, Romney will be on his way to such a convincing win that Obama will be forced to concede on Tuesday night.

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Subversion At Its Best

Now this is subversive.  Katie Pavlich has drawn attention to Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s benediction at the Democratic National Convention for its explicitly pro-life stance.  The relevant portion reads as follows:


Thus do we praise you for the gift of life. Grant us the courage to defend it. Life without which no other rights are secure. We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected.

But if you listen to the whole prayer, there is actually more.  Around the 2:50–3:10 mark, Dolan prays:

Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God.  Empower us with your grace, so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making or to remake those institutions you’ve given us for the nurturing of life and community.

I can’t imagine what else Dolan is referring to here except marriage, the primary institution given to us by God for the nurture of life and community, and the very one that the Democratic Party is seeking to remake, contrary to the laws of nature.

The man who was asked to deliver the benediction at the Democratic National Convention delivers a benediction that runs directly contrary to the Democratic Party platform on the two most significant moral issues of our day: the protection of human life and the definition of marriage.  This is subversion at its best.

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Election 2012: My Prediction

It was about a year ago that I predicted that Mitt Romney would win the Republican nomination and ultimately the presidency.  (I also made a similar prediction on my Facebook account around the same time, which is no longer active).  I was right about the nomination, and I remain confident about my prediction for the general election.

In fact, I want to take things one step further and predict a convincing Romney victory as part of an overall Democrat bloodbath.  The Republicans will maintain a strong majority in the House, they will gain control of the Senate with 55-57 seats, and they will win the White House by a comfortable margin (perhaps even by a landslide).

All of the signs are pointing in this direction.  The Obama campaign has become unhinged.  It has no unifying message, other than the claim that Mitt Romney is the antichrist who murders innocent women, refuses to pay taxes, and abuses animals.  And the only reason he chose Paul Ryan is because he enjoys watching the young congressman torture grandmothers.  These dirty tactics will backfire.

Romney’s base is energized.  His VP pick was brilliant.  Swing voters will break his way. The Tea Party won round 1 in 2010.  This year, they will take round 2 as well.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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Thoughts on Chick-Fil-A

1. When it comes to deciding where to eat, I am a capitalist first and foremost.  I will go to the business that leads its competitors in providing me the best food and dining experience.  That, and not a culture war, is my number one concern.

2. If a news report comes out tomorrow saying that Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy tortures puppies in his spare time, I would still eat there.  See number 1 above.

3. Nevertheless, I didn’t go to Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday.  I went Tuesday evening.  I am more concerned about finding a good parking spot and not having to wait in a line that snakes its way out of the building and into the West Tennessee August heat than I am about making a clear political statement.  Again, see number 1 above.

4. The most delicious thing (pun intended) about Chick-Fil-A’s record sales Wednesday, in my opinion, has little to do with gay marriage.  If you take note of what Dan Cathy actually said, instead of relying on skewed media reports, you would notice that his words were remarkably subdued on that issue.  From all appearances, he did not intend to throw down the gauntlet, although now that it has been mistakenly perceived to have been thrown down, he has discovered a new winning business strategy.

5. So then, what is the most delicious thing about Wednesday?  It is the fact that Tom Menino, mayor of Boston, and Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago (and former chief of staff for President Obama), have been utterly repudiated by the mainstream of the American public.  The cultural issue itself (gay marriage), I think, is of little consequence in this case.  What matters more is that two mayors of major American cities attempted to use the power of their offices to hinder the advance of a business, not because that business had violated any law whatsoever, but merely because the mayors disagreed with the personal opinion of the president of the business.  No matter where you stand on gay marriage, every American should repudiate that kind of statism.  To their credit, the left-wing ACLU agrees with me on that one.

6. Now there is talk of a same-sex “kiss in” to be held at Chick-Fil-A restaurants today.  If any readers out there are planning to participate in that event, let me remind you that, if your ultimate goal is for society to recognize your sexual behavior as normal, then you should start acting in a more normal way about it by keeping it private, especially in a setting that attracts large numbers of families with children.  Our society has (at least the remnants of) some standards of decency.  Even heterosexual couples who do that sort of thing in public are frowned upon.  What is motivating you here?  A desire to advance what you perceive to be the cause of justice or sheer outrage that Chick-Fil-A is laughing all the way to the bank?

7. But if I know Chick-Fil-A owners (and I do know one), I can imagine that many of them have prepared their employees for this “kiss in” with the utmost concern that they address all of their customers today with the same kind of courtesy that has earned Chick-Fil-A its well-deserved reputation as the friendliest fast food business around.  And that is a major reason why I will be back there again, and probably sooner rather than later.  See number 1 above.

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Why Same-Sex Marriage will Affect Marriage in General

Imagine a conversation between a cultural progressive and your average evangelical Christian on the issue of same-sex marriage.

PROGRESSIVE: What do you think of same-sex marriage?

CHRISTIAN: I am against it.  The Bible condemns homosexuality and affirms that God has designed marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

PROGRESSIVE: Okay, you have a right to your own religious belief.  But why should your religious belief affect the lives of other people who do not share it?  If two gay people want to get married, why should that affect your marriage at all?

CHRISTIAN: Um….um…….I have to go.  I’m meeting someone at Chick-Fil-A.

Most evangelical Christians instinctively oppose same-sex marriage, but when it comes to explaining how an expanded definition of marriage might affect marriage in general in our society, I doubt that very many Christians have carefully thought through the social consequences.

If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land (and not just of a few states), the social consequences will extend in multiple directions, but nowhere would it be more troubling than in the increased role of the state in the definition of the family.

Here is why: throughout human history, the legal attachment of children to parents has been, for the most part, simply a matter of nature.  A married woman gives birth to a child, and the government assumes, in unexceptional cases, that her husband is the father.  The child is, as a matter of course, legally bound to the two parents who were responsible for his or her conception.

Of course, this is not a perfect world, so not every birth works this way.  So what happens when parental rights are not self-evident?  The government steps in to assign legal connections.  In other words, where heterosexual marriage is not normative, government necessarily takes on a bigger role to assign parental rights.

I will employ an extreme example to make my point: suppose that two men are married to each other in Massachusetts.  They decide they want a child.  Obviously, two men cannot make a baby, so they have to go outside the marriage, including other adults in the process.  Let’s say they have a female friend who is willing to donate her eggs to the process, but she is not willing to carry the baby, given the physical effects that pregnancy would have on her.  So they have eggs, but they need another woman to serve as a surrogate, and let’s say they find (or perhaps hire) another woman to carry and deliver the baby.  But then, when it comes time to fertilize the egg and implant the embryo into the surrogate, the married men cannot agree on who of the two should become the “natural father”.  They discover, through conversation, that if one of them has the privilege of fertilizing the egg, the other will necessarily feel less of a connection to the child.  Not wanting this to create a rift in their marriage, they decide that the only fair thing to do is to go outside the marriage again and find another man to be their sperm donor.

When this child is born, think of how many adults could claim some kind of legal connection to him or her: the sperm donor, the egg donor, the surrogate, and the two men who started the whole thing.  Needless to say, the kinds of parental rights assigned to each one of these five people are not self-evident in this case, and thus this child’s family arrangements would be determined by a family court.  The government would be forced to step in to make some kind of sense of this mess for the sake of the child.

If heterosexual marriage is de-normalized in our society, the natural connections of parents to children will likewise be de-normalized, and the government will have to expand its role considerably.  Family courts will determine family units on a case-by-case basis, and the family, as we know it, will become something very different.

Don’t take it from me.  Take it from Masha Gessen, a self-identified lesbian who recently had this to say at a Sydney Writers Festival:

It’s a no-brainer that we should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist [cheers from the audience].

That causes my brain some trouble. And part of why it causes me trouble is because fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there—because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie. The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist. And I don’t like taking part in creating fictions about my life. That’s sort of not what I had in mind when I came out thirty years ago. I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally….

[After my divorce,] I met my new partner, and she had just had a baby, and that baby’s biological father is my brother, and my daughter’s biological father is a man who lives in Russia, and my adopted son also considers him his father. So the five parents break down into two groups of three…. And really, I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality. And I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.

Certainly, Gessen’s position is extreme.  Though I could be wrong, I doubt that there are many proponents of same-sex marriage (at least in America) who consciously desire to take things as far as she does.  But that is exactly where the problem lies: once you get this ball rolling, how do you stop it?  If marriage is something that we get to redefine based on the prevailing winds of our culture, what brake mechanism do we have in place to prevent the abolition of marriage itself at some point down the road when that becomes the next cultural preoccupation?  Where does this stop?

Yes, it is true that if a same-sex couple living down the street from me is allowed to marry legally, that in itself will not change the nature of my own marriage.  But it will begin the process of toppling the institution of marriage as we know it, and those who will be affected most will be children of coming generations whose familial identity will be left to the whims of an ever-expanding state.

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