Saturday, February 25, 2012

cinema response: Conspiracy 2001

I was telling a new acquaintance of mine, a professor of history at Connecticut College, that I've been reading Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder and learned something new about the Holocaust from it. The new thing for me was learning that Hitler's Final Solution went through several iterations before it ended up as execution. I'll get into that more on this blog when I start posting my responses to that depressing book. He recommended the HBO movie, Conspiracy (2001), for a compelling dramatization of the 1942 Wannsee Conference outside Berlin where Heydrich and Eichmann sought consensus from several Nazi government and martial leaders.

The notes of the meeting were supposed to have been destroyed, but one copy, that of, I'm not kidding, Martin Luther, was found, after the war by the Allies. Screenwriter Loring Mandel wrote a dramatization based on those notes, adding the dimension of what the pressure must have been like on those who still held onto shreds of their humanity and were repulsed by this decision from Hitler. The job of SS General Hydrich, portrayed wickedly by Kenneth Branagh, was to get everyone's approval, whether they had reservations or not. The earlier versions of Hitler's "solution" was to exile the Jews to Madagascar, not too different from Stalin's methods of exile which had a byproduct of high mortality. Then it was just exile to the Soviet Union, when it was an ally against Poland. Then it was evacuation out of Poland, but no one would take them, not even the United States, to our shame. At this conference, evacuation became a euphemism for elimination for execution.

This movie is a ninety minute board room meeting. This may sound boring, but it is the subject matter, the potential execution of 10 - 20 million Jews in contrast with the tedium of such a meeting that provides the drama. You watch aghast as Himmler goes over the latest methods developed to execute more humans in less time, as if he he were discussing widget production. It is a terror of the sublime. I empathize with the cast who were able to inhabit the world of the Nazis so fully that they can maintain no sense of the horror in their lines, just business. I almost wish they didn't do such a good job, they won Emmys and Golden Globes. If you are a fan of Downton Abbey as my wife and I are, you'll be delighted to see Mr. Bates, Brendan Coyle, as SS Maj. Gen. Heinrich Muller, but then you are disgusted with Muller, and wish you never associated him with Bates. Conspiracy is a devastating movie to watch, and, thus, I highly recommend it.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

A Christian dilemma at Slate: Incestuous twin brothers

Incestuous twin brothers wonder if they should reveal their secret relationship. - Slate Magazine
I remember some floor mates of mine in college getting very excited when Dear Abby published their fake letter seeking advice on some particularly salacious issue, the details of which I can't recall. This issue in Emily Yoffe's advice column in Slate might very well be cut from the same cloth, yet she chose to publish it and deal with it seriously. I read Ms.Yoffe irregularly and have found, with some regularity, concordance between her opinions and mine. This time, not so much. But I'm more interested in pushing the narrative further, into the church realm. What pastoral advice would a Christian have to give to someone in this situation who has become born again?

I'd say start with Jesus.

Jesus loves you. He has an abundant life for you that begins now and is fulfilled in heaven. He loves you where you are. Period. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16 When you begin your journey of faith it's like finding the golden ticket to get into Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory. But having the ticket and using the ticket are big differences. What's the point of having the ticket if you won't start out towards the heavenly kingdom?

You've written about your intimate relationship.
He affirms marriage as something instituted by God our Father between one man and one woman in Matthew 19:4-6. We also find out that marriage is a metaphor, instituted by God to demonstrate the relationship between Jesus and the church, his bride. John 3:28-31; Matthew 9:15; Matt. 25:1-13; Ephesians 5:23-27; Revelation 19:7-9; Revelation 22:17.

However, not all intimate relationships reflect that relationship, but, rather, corrupt it. There was a fellow in the Corinthian church who had taken up with his step mom, see 1 Corinthians 5:1. Before we react and condemn, perhaps his dad had taken up with a young attractive gal, about his son's age or younger, and they were both attracted to her, and she was attracted to the younger version of the guy she married. For whatever reason, they were spiritually attracted to this Christian community who welcomed them with grace. But they had grace beyond what God offers, for which St. Paul rebuked them. It was a non-blood related incestuous relationship. John the Baptist criticized Herod for marrying his brother's wife, Matthew 14:1-6. God forbids incest in the holiness code of Leviticus twice in ch. 18 and 20. Those are the same places where homosexual relationships are also forbidden.

These are difficult words from God for those who want to pursue an erotic love which does not correctly fulfill this metaphor of Jesus and the church, two different, complementary partners. Jesus hates divorce, because that also destroys the metaphor. Jesus is always faithful. He has grace for our sin, when we mess up the metaphor in our relationships. as St. John writes, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 But confessing our sins means we agree with God that we agree with him that the thing he's convicting us of is indeed wrong, a sin, an affront to his holiness, a failure to show our love to him. At the last supper, John records Jesus telling the disciples, If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10 I am not claiming I am always able to not be selfish, to love God with all my being or my neighbors as myself, which is what the commandments boil down to. Daily, and more frequently than that, I'm sinning and confessing and being honest with God, instead of hiding and denying, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when they disobeyed God.

I can assure you that your intimate relationship with your brother is a sin. Some of us experience immediate delivery from some sins, and some of us spend a lifetime in constant battle with some temptations. This might be your besetting sin, and you might have victories and failures, but as long as you stay honest with God, and a group of believers who are in the journey with you, you'll be out the door and on your way to the heavenly kingdom. All of us walk with a limp, some of us crawl, some of us stop, some of us turn around, but the reward is worth the journey.

Welcome to the family. Is there anything I can do to help you keep going?

Great series by Bill Mounce titled "Change is not automatic."

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

from members into leaders. keep it simple

I suggested this in a Bible study at work and saw it embolden co-workers who did not consider themselves Bible study leader material and I'm seeing it work with high school students I'm working with now. The secret is simplicity, the process to get there took me thirty years.

As an eager Bible student myself, I started out in Emmaus Correspondence Bible courses, which were fill in the blank or prompted writing responses. Then in high school my youth pastor, a former Intervarsity staffer, introduced me to manuscript study in the epistle to the Philippians. I loved it. The bare text and many colors of pens and pencils. It was inductive Bible study on steroids. My youth group small group leader facilitated a great study format, which I liked but didn't appreciate. Our discussion meandered all over the place and did not have any pre-determined take home points. Then I started leading studies in college and after college. I loved studying the Bible and I started buying commentaries and Bible software so I could learn as much as possible to teach to others. I led an inductive study through Mark's gospel, but I noticed that when I started expounding, no one else talked, nor seemed as engaged. I didn't want a mini-sermon, because when that happened, the life seemed to get sucked out of the room. I wanted new people to share leadership responsibilities with, but no one else was wired like I was, and felt intimidated in trying to initiate me, even in the simple inductive method of Observation (who? what when? why? where? how?), Interpretation, and Application. I loved the inductive method so much I even bought a Kay Arthur Inductive Study Bible and marked it all up. As I led other studies, I couldn't find a confidence building way to encourage new leaders. Every time, I was a hub, necessary for the wheel to turn, and I felt that was not how it should be. I also used a Serendipity Bible, with it's inductive questions, but, again, the study depended on the supplemental material.

I encountered the house church/organic church movement and their anti-clerical, priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9) ethic. I'm not anti-clerical, but I liked how the advocates aspired to help all believers embrace their title of priesthood. As I read and learned our work Bible study was encouraged by the visiting clergy to lead it ourselves. I came across, somewhere, in the midst of my reading on organic churches, a method that I think was credited to the Navigators, a Bible reading group instead of a study group, in which the facilitator's job is to make sure the chapter(s) are read aloud, then ask if anyone had a lightbulb moment, a question, or a personal response. That's it; three topics to launch discussions, and launched they were. Because the format was the same every week, those who had the most questions and difficulties in understanding were also able to have a turn in the monthly rotation of facilitators. The facilitators were not responsible for the answers. Instead their job was to make sure the passage was read and the opportunities were given for everyone to respond to the passage.

After a couple years of this at work, I had the opportunity to lead high schoolers at church through the Bible for a year. So I picked John's gospel, and I contextualized the questions to the age group. I told the kids that each verse was like a Facebook update and I wanted to know which verses would they click the "Like" button. After everyone had an opportunity to say what they liked and why they liked it, I told them there was also a "Dislike" button. Each kid was free to not like verses in the Bible. It was also the opportunity to tell us what they didn't understand. Finally, I point to John's purpose for writing the gospel in John 20:30-31 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. So then I asked them what did they learn tonight that helps them believe that Jesus is the Son of God. After everyone had their turn, we broke into smaller groups to pray for each other. From September to January, I usually facilitated. But this month, I asked the kids if anyone else would like to try it. A brave fellow volunteered and I haven't facilitated since. My role is to help the group keep the passage in focus. Adolescents have a hard time not being distracted and posturing and making jokes. But we have a great time.

We are reading the Word of God together and talking about it, and now several of the kids have taken on the simple role of facilitator. I am encouraging them to bring this to their schools and their friends. It is so simple. It also gets out of the Holy Spirit's way. I no longer bring an agenda to the room. Everyone who engages the text with us, leaves with something from God to ponder on. We also have a common experience with the Word to refer back to, especially in our prayer time. It's really exciting and I'm thrilled to pieces with how it's going. May the Lord bless you as well who attempt to get out of His way.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

book response: Harriet Tubman - The Moses of Her People

How does an illiterate escaped slave, Harriet Tubman, help 200 fellow slaves escape their plight from the antebellum southern United States? After reading this biography by her friend Sarah Bradford, I'd say she gives God all the credit. Her Christian faith is very prominent and unashamed, which is a shock to this reader 150 years later, but much appreciated. Bradford wrote the book to raise funds for Harriet's ministry in her old age, providing a rest home for aged former slaves. Regarding Tubman's faith, Bradford writes,

Harriet's religious character I have not yet touched upon. Brought up by parents possessed of strong faith in God, she had never known the time, I imagine, when she did not trust Him, and cling to Him, with an all-abiding confidence. She seemed ever to feel the Divine Presence near, and she talked with God "as a man talketh with his friend." Hers was not the religion of a morning and evening prayer at stated times, but when she felt a need, she simply told God of it, and trusted Him to set the matter right. p. 14

Tubman's faith is real and gritty. She doesn't stop at letting us know that not only did she pray for her owner's conversion but also for his death, so that his wickedness against here and her family would end. God responded to the latter prayer!

...all I could say was, 'Oh, Lord, convert ole master.' Den I heard dat as soon as I was able to move I was to be sent with my brudders, in the chain-gang to de far South. Then I changed my prayer, and I said, 'Lord, if you ain't never going to change dat man's heart, -kill him-, Lord, and take him out of de way, so he won't do no more mischief.' Next ting I heard ole master was dead; and he died just as he had lived, a wicked, bad man. p.14

The genocidal cancer of slavery was malignant and could not be confined to slave states, which resulted in the federal law, the Fugitive Slave Act which allowed slave catchers to head into free states to reclaim escaped human beings. Tubman had to conduct her escapees a couple hundred miles farther north into Canada to assure their freedom.

...she brought her people to what was then their land of Canaan; the State of New York. But alas! this State did not continue to be their refuge. For in 1850, I think, the Fugitive Slave Law was put in force, which bound the people north of Mason and Dixon's line, to return to bondage any fugitive found in their territories. "After that," said Harriet, "I wouldn't trust Uncle Sam wid my people no longer, but I brought 'em all clar off to Canada." p.22

Life in southern slave states was not the libertarian ideal some people I know claim it to be. The examples are abundant, but I keep finding new ones. One man was condemned to prison for possessing the most popular work of fiction in those times.

They met at the house of Sam Green, the man who was afterwards sent to prison for ten years for having a copy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in his house. p. 23

Slaves had no right to privacy, so their letters were previewed by whites to protect their "property".

Jacob was not allowed to have his letters in those days, until the self-elected inspectors of correspondence had had the perusal of them, and consulted over their secret meaning. These wise-acres therefore assembled, wiped their glasses carefully, put them on, and proceeded to examine this suspicious document. What it meant they could not imagine. p. 34

This mindset of slaves as property and not as fellow humans led to ridiculous assumptions about their fellow creatures, such as they did not care about the separation of their families.

I have often heard it said by Southern people that "niggers had no feeling; they did not care when their children were taken from them." I have seen enough of them to know that their love for their offspring is quite equal to that of the "superior race," and it is enough to hear the tale of Harriet's endurance and self-sacrifice to rescue her brothers and sisters, to convince one that a heart, truer and more loving than that of many a white woman, dwelt in her bosom. p. 37

Everyone Tubman liberated remained liberated and were never recaptured.

... of the three hundred and more fugitives whom Harriet piloted from slavery, not one was ever recaptured, though all the cunning and skill of white men, backed by offered rewards of large sums of money, were brought into requisition for their recovery. p. 25

Harriet Tubman later volunteered for the federal forces in the American Civil War as a nurse, a liaison to slaves bewildered by the invading forces, and as a spy. This 2nd hand account Bradford records while trying to retain the flavor of the local dialect

...Den I heard 'twas de Yankee ship[D] firin' out de big eggs, an dey had come to set us free. Den I praise de Lord. He come an' put he little finger in de work, an de Sesh Buckra all go; and de birds stop flyin', and de rabens stop cryin', an' when I go to catch a fish to eat wid my rice, dey's no fish dar. De Lord A'mighty 'd come and frightened 'em all out of de waters. Oh! Praise de Lord! I'd prayed seventy-three years, an' now he's come an' we's all free." p. 56

The irony of Tubman's life is that she should have been born free, but since slaves had no rights the neglect of their owner's wills was not uncommon, see the earlier book response to Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

In 1849 the young man died, and the slaves were to be sold, though previously set free by an old will. p. 58

Some Christian writers in today's dialogs over human rights claim that there is nothing in the Bible to use to argue against slavery. I don't think that is true, but I also like to hear about the Christians who found plenty in their faith to risk their lives and livelihoods to rescue slaves and oppose slavery. One person I haven't hear of before is Thomas Garrett, and what a mighty work he did. "She became known to Thomas Garrett, the large-hearted Quaker of Wilmington, who has aided the escape of three thousand fugitives..." p. 59

Recently, on Facebook, I was telling a pro-choice friend that my heros are the abolitionists, because they helped convince their nation that darker skin nor African genes did not affect the humanity, nor the human rights, of their neighbor, the slave. Slavery is still an awful issue today, please learn more from Love146, it's an agreed upon evil by most of society but still perpetuated.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

rammed earth walls around strawbales

I read about this rammed earth house in Ontario, In rural Ontario, a high-tech home built of low-tech dirt, and I got thinking about insulation for this kind of construction. It is built as a sandwich 6 inches of polyisocyanurate between 6 inches of compressed earth on each side, in and out. The walls look gorgeous. At a R-7 per inch, polyiso is good insulation, 6'" x 7 =R 42, but to me, couldn't something more natural be used? How about a rammed earth sandwich that surrounds a strawbale? Strawbales have a range of R-values, but let's say 1.5. An 18" thick bale has an R value of 27, but at a much lower price than all that polyiso. Of course the wall nearly doubles in thickness, but those deep window seats would be awesome.

close up of a bedroom wall from the article

exterior shot

in this construction shot you can see the polyiso between the earth walls

I think this looks gorgeous.
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Monday, February 13, 2012

cinema response: Chosin (2010)

The documentary, Chosin, about the escape of UN (mostly US) soldiers from an encirclement by Chinese forces forces us to remember and respect the "Forgotten War." General MacArthur wanted the UN forces to push the communists all the way to the Yellow River on the border with China. But Communist China did not want that to happen so they sent 12 divisions into North Korea. The high command on the defenders side did not want to believe that the Chinese were joining the fight. But then 15,000 soldiers were surrounded around the Chosin reservoir in North Korea. The US took 9,000 casualties. But they fought their way out of the encirclement.

This movie consists of some archival footage as well as clips from the 1952 Hollywood movie, Retreat Hell. I thought the dramatized footage was actually helpful in showing what these former Marines were described. The bulk of the movie consisted of interviews with these survivors. They all encountered hell, and some encountered God as well. It's always fascinating to me how, in the face of such terror and inhumanity, soldiers lean into God, open their Gideon New Testaments, pray for the first time, and sing songs from their childhood Sunday school classes.

I watched this documentary on Netflix. I recommend it to anyone who knows nothing of what our soldiers did preserve freedom for South Koreans, and the 98,000 North Koreans they helped evacuate.

The official site is here. Below is the introduction to the movie.

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book response: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself

February is Black History Month in the United States, which I want to use to read the accounts of those whose experience so different from mine. Many historical texts are now freely available and are starting to fill up my Kindle. This story broke my heart as I read it, and I encourage all Americans to read the accounts, like this, of our own practice of inhumanity. While I get justifiably upset when I read the wicked inhumanity of the Japanese, I tend to forget that their behavior was not unique to their culture. We Americans have committed many inhumane horrors throughout our history, especially in our slave-owning period. Anyone who refers to the American Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression have no idea of the degree wickedness the Confederacy was trying to protect. This account by escaped slave Harriet Ann Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself (1861) should be enough for any modern defender of the Confederacy to be ashamed. The book is long, thorough and demands a response from us her readers. What will we do when presented with these accounts? I will quote abundantly, to a fault, from this book so that her point is loud and clear, slavery dehumanizes both slave and owners, even the church going owners. As the afterward writer says, Her story, as written by herself, cannot fail to interest the reader. It is a sad illustration of the condition of this country, which boasts of its civilization, while it sanctions laws and customs which make the experiences of the present more strange than any fictions of the past.

Regarding her father's desire to free his children, His strongest wish was to purchase his children; but, though he several times offered his hard earnings for that purpose, he never succeeded. p. 15

Money did not allow re-humanization, nor did love, because slaves meant wealth in hard times. A slave could always be sold to pay an owner's bill. These Africans were not humans, they were investments, and, thus, were not treated as humans.

Notwithstanding my grandmother's long and faithful service to her owners, not one of her children escaped the auction block. These God-breathing machines are no more, in the sight of their masters, than the cotton they plant, or the horses they tend.  p.18

Wickedly, the owners felt free to sexually abuse these "investments." When the mother was delivered into the trader's hands, she said. "You promised to treat me well." To which he replied, "You have let your tongue run too far; damn you!" She had forgotten that it was a crime for a slave to tell who was the father of her child. p.23

This past summer, some Republican presidential candidates signed a conservative statement on the sad state of marriage among black Americans, falsely claiming that children of slaves were more likely to live with both their parents than children of today's black families are. This is revisionist history, because slave families had no legal standing and were often broken up, unless the document is referring to slave children born to the owner of the mother... On one of these sale days, I saw a mother lead seven children to the auction-block. She knew that some of them would be taken from her; but they took all. The children were sold to a slave-trader, and their mother was brought by a man in her own town. Before night her children were all far away. p. 26

The tacit concubinage dehumanized the slave owner's wife as well. This contributes to a cycle of dehumanzation that flows from owner to slave, and wife to innocent children.
To what disappointments are they destined! The young wife soon learns that the husband in whose hands she has placed her happiness pays no regard to his marriage vows. Children of every shade of complexion play with her own fair babies, and too well she knows that they are born unto him of his own household. Jealousy and hatred enter the flowery home, and it is ravaged of its loveliness. Southern women often marry a man knowing that he is the father of many little slaves. They do not trouble themselves about it. They regard such children as property, as marketable as the pigs on the plantation; and it is seldom that they do not make them aware of this by passing them into the slave-trader's hands as soon as possible, and thus getting them out of their sight. p.45

Dehumanization does produce an inferiority, but one of disposition, not of capability. What would you be, if you had been born and brought up a slave, with generations of slaves for ancestors? I admit that the black man is inferior. But what is it that makes him so? It is the ignorance in which white men compel him to live; it is the torturing whip that lashes manhood out of him; it is the fierce bloodhounds of the South, and the scarcely less cruel human bloodhounds of the north, who enforce the Fugitive Slave Law. They do the work. p.54

Jacobs honestly struggles with faith in God and Jesus Christ, but her theological understanding greatly exceeds that of the owners in southern culture.
They seem to satisfy their consciences with the doctrine that God created the Africans to be slaves. What a libel upon the heavenly Father, who "made of one blood all nations of men!" And then who are Africans? Who can measure the amount of Anglo-Saxon blood coursing in the veins of American slaves? p. 54

I recently read the on-line comments section of a southern paper about a racial incident, that brought the white racists out in droves of support for the old days. One claimed that owners never would abuse their slaves because they were too valuable. It's easy enough for any of us to look around and see others abusing the valuable things in our lives, wives, children, privileges, but this cluelss person does not appreciate the devastation one does to one's soul as the rot of dehumanization sets in. Consequently, murder of slaves was not uncommon.
Murder was so common on his plantation that he feared to be alone after nightfall. He might have believed in ghosts. His brother, if not equal in wealth, was at least equal in cruelty. His bloodhounds were well trained. Their pen was spacious, and a terror to the slaves. They were let loose on a runway, and, if they tracked him, they literally tore the flesh from his bones. When this slaveholder died, his shrieks and groans were so frightful that they appalled his own friends. His last words were, "I am going to hell; bury my money with me." p.58
This same master shot a woman through the head, who had run away and been brought back to him. No one called him to account for it. If a slave resisted being whipped, the bloodhounds were unpacked, and set upon him, to tear his flesh from his bones. The master who did these things was highly educated, and styled a perfect gentleman. He also boasted the name and standing of a Christian, though Satan never had a truer follower... I do not say there are no humane slaveholders. Such characters do exist, notwithstanding the hardening influences around them. But they are "like angels' visits--few and far between." p. 60 

Sexual abuse of slaves was not only rampant, it was normal. No pen can give an adequate description of the all-pervading corruption produced by slavery. The slave girl is reared in an atmosphere of licentiousness and fear. The lash and the foul talk of her master and his sons are her teachers. When she is fourteen or fifteen, her owner, or his sons, or the overseer, or perhaps all of them, begin to bribe her with presents. If these fail to accomplish their purpose, she is whipped or starved into submission to their will. p.62

Not only were women abused but men were as well. When this resulted in pregnancy for the white woman, the infant was often killed immediately after birth. Since the law of the land was "as the child so the mother," concerning slavery or freedom, perhaps it was too threatening to have a free born half-black child growing up on the estate. Perhaps they might actually fulfill the oft-broken promise to free slaves.
In such cases the infant is smothered, or sent where it is never seen by any who know its history. But if the white parent is the father, instead of the mother, the offspring are unblushingly reared for the market. If they are girls, I have indicated plainly enough what will be their inevitable destiny. p.62

No one escapes the corrosion of dehumanization.
I can testify, from my own experience and observation, that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks. It makes white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched. And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation. p.62

It's ironic that people still write and declare that slavery done by those wonderfully honorable southerners of faith produced happy slaves, content with their lot. The owners response to slave rebellions is one contrary example.
Not far from this time Nat Turner's insurrection broke out; and the news threw our town into great commotion. Strange that they should be alarmed, when their slaves were so "contented and happy"! But so it was. p. 77

In fact, in Jacob's North Carolingian area, whites destroyed the simple black church, contrary to any claim that they cared for their eternal souls.
 The slaves begged the privilege of again meeting at their little church in the woods, with their burying ground around it. It was built by the colored people, and they had no higher happiness than to meet there and sing hymns together, and pour out their hearts in spontaneous prayer. Their request was denied, and the church was demolished. p. 81
The church was their place of hope and respite.
They never seem so happy as when shouting and singing at religious meetings. Many of them are sincere, and nearer to the gate of heaven than sanctimonious Mr. Pike, and other long-faced Christians, who see wounded Samaritans, and pass by on the other side. p. 84
She tells a story of secretly teaching an old-slave how to read because he wanted to read the Bible on his own. It was agains the law for her to teach another human being to read. She points out the inability of those owners to read themselves.
There are thousands, who, like good uncle Fred, are thirsting for the water of life; but the law forbids it, and the churches withhold it. They send the Bible to heathen abroad, and neglect the heathen at home. I am glad that missionaries go out to the dark corners of the earth; but I ask them not to overlook the dark corners at home. Talk to American slaveholders as you talk to savages in Africa. Tell them it was wrong to traffic in men. Tell them it is sinful to sell their own children, and atrocious to violate their own daughters. Tell them that all men are brethren, and that man has no right to shut out the light of knowledge from his brother. Tell them they are answerable to God for sealing up the Fountain of Life from souls that are thirsting for it. There are men who would gladly undertake such missionary work as this; but, alas! their number is small. They are hated by the south, and would be driven from its soil, or dragged to prison to die, as others have been before them...There is a great difference between Christianity and religion at the south. If a man goes to the communion table, and pays money into the treasury of the church, no matter if it be the price of blood, he is called religious. If a pastor has offspring by a woman not his wife, the church dismiss him, if she is a white woman; but if she is colored, it does not hinder his continuing to be their good shepherd. pp. 88-89

Like today, in spite of the evidence, she can't believe the bald-face lying in defense of the slave owning south.
Senator Brown, of Mississippi, could not be ignorant of many such facts as these, for they are of frequent occurrence in every Southern State. Yet he stood up in the Congress of the United States, and declared that slavery was "a great moral, social, and political blessing; a blessing to the master, and a blessing to the slave!"p. 138
When slavery is everything evil and not a blessing, how does any American today hold onto a romantic view of the confederacy that rejected a democratic method of the cessation of slavery and chose secession instead to protect it's inhumanity?

The inhumanity included denying the legality of slave marriages. Nothing can inconvenience slave owners, not even sacred vows before God.
This aunt had been married at twenty years of age; that is, as far as slaves can marry. She had the consent of her master and mistress, and a clergyman performed the ceremony. But it was a mere form, without any legal value. Her master or mistress could annul it any day they pleased. p. 161

Any attempts at treating slaves as fellow humans was socially discouraged.
At the south, a gentleman may have a shoal of colored children without any disgrace; but if he is known to purchase them, with the view of setting them free, the example is thought to be dangerous to their "peculiar institution," and he becomes unpopular. p. 193

After her escape to freedom, she was able to visit England and observe the differences between the poor there and slavery in the south.
I had heard much about the oppression of the poor in Europe. The people I saw around me were, many of them, among the poorest poor. But when I visited them in their little thatched cottages, I felt that the condition of even the meanest and most ignorant among them was vastly superior to the condition of the most favored slaves in America. They labored hard; but they were not ordered out to toil while the stars were in the sky, and driven and slashed by an overseer, through heat and cold, till the stars shone out again. Their homes were very humble; but they were protected by law. No insolent patrols could come, in the dead of night, and flog them at their pleasure. The father, when he closed his cottage door, felt safe with his family around him. No master or overseer could come and take from him his wife, or his daughter. They must separate to earn their living; but the parents knew where their children were going, and could communicate with them by letters. The relations of husband and wife, parent and child, were too sacred for the richest noble in the land to violate with impunity. Much was being done to enlighten these poor people. p. 206
Although her faith was weak, and rightfully so, it was renewed by the expression of it witnessed in England.
My visit to England is a memorable event in my life, from the fact of my having there received strong religious impressions. The contemptuous manner in which the communion had been administered to colored people, in my native place; the church membership of Dr. Flint, and others like him; and the buying and selling of slaves, by professed ministers of the gospel, had given me a prejudice against the Episcopal church. The whole service seemed to me a mockery and a sham. But my home in Steventon was in the family of a clergyman, who was a true disciple of Jesus. The beauty of his daily life inspired me with faith in the genuineness of Christian professions. p. 207
When she returned to the United States, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 had been enacted which put her freedom at risk, even in New York City.
When I took the children out to breathe the air, I closely observed the countenances of all I met. I dreaded the approach of summer, when snakes and slaveholders make their appearance. I was, in fact, a slave in New York, as subject to slave laws as I had been in a Slave State. Strange incongruity in a State called free! p. 216
This same law forced Harriet Tubman to change her final destination on the Underground Railroad from New England and New York to Canada. My next book response is to a biography of Tubman. This book by Harriet Jacobs made my groan out loud sometimes as the insults (physical, emotional, spiritual) piled up. I was ashamed of my country. But that does not mean this isn't an important book to read, nor that it is a poorly written book. I presume she had an amanuensis who was able to craft her story with strong writing. It is a strong story regardless, and is only enhanced by the strong writing. I can't wait to meet her in heaven someday. Meanwhile on this earth, I hope I can live courageously to not treat any human as inhuman.
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Sunday, February 12, 2012

book response: With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge (1981)

I recently finished The War, a Ken Burn's documentary series on World War 2, which was excellent, and my ears pricked up when he mentioned a book by an enlisted Marine, E. B. Sledge, this is my response to that book, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa. In fact, the library offered me a 2007 reprint with the endorsement of Ken Burns. The documentary mentioned that Sledge suffered from PTSD for most of his life after the war, though his book barely mentions his post-war life, excepting a few mentions of nightmares. His book, although highly valuing the esprit de corps of the Marines and the love for his fellow soldiers, wants us to know the depravity of humanity which he witnessed in the Pacific theater in two significant battles in which no quarter was offered by the Japanese and was barely offered by the US, since most Japanese offering to surrender used it as a ruse for suicide missions. Sledge is honest about his hatred for his enemies even though he seems to be a man of faith, and this intrigued me.

After his thorough training as a Marine, in contrast to those later recruits toward the end of the war, he and his squad were settling in for their last night on a rear base before heading out for the invasion of Peleliu. He writes,
It was hard to sleep that night. I though of home, my parents, my friends - and whether I would do my duty, be wounded and disabled, or be killed. I concluded that it was impossible for me to be killed, because God loved me. Then I told myself that God loved us all and that many would die or be ruined physically or mentally or both by the next morning and in the days following. My heart pounded, and I broke out in a cold sweat. Finally, I called myself a damned coward and eventually fell asleep saying the Lord's Prayer to myself. p. 50 
Unlike Louis Zamperini of Unbroken, see my earlier book response. Sledge enters the war with faith and finds it challenged. Throughout his most stressful periods in the two great battles of Peleliu and Okinawa he mentions holding onto his courage and sanity by praying the Lord's Prayer or reciting Psalm 23. He seems to have retained his faith, as "damned" is the dirtiest word used in the book. Even when referencing SNAFU, he defines the acronym as Situation Normal, All Fouled Up. Sledge does not need to enhance the shock and horror of war by quoting the paint blistering expletive tirades of fellow soldiers, in fact, they would distract from the terror that Sledge presents in an almost technical and analytic way.

Like Zamperini, who saw angels in the sky and heard a voice from heaven, as he drifted around in the Pacific Ocean, Sledge also heard from God, directly and audibly. After confessing his terror, and the shame of it, to an officer during the Pelelieu campaign, he was reassured.
Fear dwelled in everyone, Hillbilly said. Courage meant overcoming fear and doing one's duty in the presence of danger, not being unafraid....
Suddenly, I heard a loud voice say clearly and distinctly, "You will survive the war!"
I looked first at Hillbilly and then and then at the sergeant. Each returned my glance with a quizzical expression on his face in the gathering darkness. Obviously they hadn't said anything.
"Did y'all hear that?" I asked.
"Hear what?" they both inquired. p. 91
I think it is brave of this modern writer to casually mention his supernatural encounter with God. This heavenly promise did not give him anything extra in the midst of his campaigns, but let us know that his survival, his evasion of the law of averages, was more than skill or luck, it was divine. He never mentions this encounter again, but notes repeatedly the diminishing odds of not getting hurt as he spends more time on the front line.

His faith did not prevent him from becoming the killing machine that his training had prepared him for, physically, but not spiritually. He describes his internal turmoil after killing a Japanese soldier in close range who almost released his grenade at him and his friends before shooting him.
The soldier collapsed in the fusilade, and the grenade went off at his feet.
Even in the midst of these fast-moving events, I looked down at my carbine with sober reflection. I had just killed a man at close range. That I had seen clearly the pain on his face when my bullets hit him came as a jolt. It suddenly made the war a very personal affair. The expression on that man's face filled me with shame and then disgust for the war and all the misery it was causing. p.117
He will not celebrate war, because there is nothing to celebrate. That does not mean he believes the war wrong, but there was nothing good about it either.
I had long become used to the sight of blood, but the idea of sitting in that bloodstained bun pit was a bit too much for me. It seemed almost like leaving our dead unburied to sit on the blood of a fellow Marine spilled out on the coral...As I looked at the stains on the coral, I recalled some of the eloquent phrases of politicians and newsmen about how "gallant" it is for a man to "shed his blood for his country," and "to give his life's blood as a sacrifice," and so on. The words seemed so ridiculous. Only the flies benefited. p. 146
War was brought to the United States by the Japanese and the US responded. What the Japanese lacked in materiel and soldiers it made up for in tenacity and ferocity. Their culture did not tolerate those who surrendered, all were expected to fight to their deaths, and the battles only ended when all the Japanese were dead, which is why the US expected a million casualties if they invaded the main Japanese island and chose the atom bomb instead. Certainly US soldiers who fought on Okinawa welcomed the news of the big bombs being used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Sledge was horrified as the sight of Marine dead who had been desecrated by the Japanese. More than once they found soldiers who had their sexual members cut off and stuffed in their mouths. Of course, he wasn't the only one traumatized. While he channeled his rage into hatred of his enemy and loss of any compassion, others went to further extremes. Speaking of his senior officer in Okinawa,
Mac was a decent, clean-cut man but of those who apparently felt no restraints under the brutalizing influence of war - although he had hardly been in combat at that time. He had one ghoulish, obscene tendency that revolted even the most hardened and callous men I knew...If he could, that "gentleman by the act of Congress" would locate a Japanese corpse, stand over it, and urinate in its mouth. It was the most repulsive thing I ever saw an American do in the war. I was ashamed that he was a Marine officer. pp. 198-199 
How little things have changed in light of recent video from Afghanistan of AMerican soldiers doing similar things to dead Taliban.

Sledge wants to disabuse us from any romance about war. He speaks of the flies that grew so fat on the corpses around them that they couldn't fly. He speaks of the smell of rotting human flesh that filled his nostrils for weeks at a time during stalemates on Okinawa. Although he notes the many acts of courage by his friends he also doesn't want us to remain ignorant of their tragic deaths minutes or days later. Their great deeds did not provide them divine insurance. Their aspirations did not either. As Sledge realized early on, God loves us all and the meat grinder of war gets everyone. In light of what Sledge experienced before and after the war, I wonder if he considers the KIA's the lucky ones.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

book response: The Destructive War by Royster (1993)

I borrowed The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans by Charles Royster from my public library for my Kindle. I learned many things from the book about the Civil War and two of its generals which I will share below. If only Royster's compelling prose filled more of the books pages than the dry, academic and philosophically meandering that predominates. I will also air out my one other grievance before getting to the historical meat of this book. The editor should have asked Royster to avoid the overuse of the two words "repudiate" and "apotheosis" in the book. I forgot to search "repudiate" on the Kindle before I had to return the book, but it seemed like he used the word or it's cognates a hundred times. Of course he wrote this book over 18 years before Sarah Palin brought "refudiate" to our common lexicon, which makes its progenitor grate on my ears.

Confederate sympathizers like to trumpet the wickedness of Sherman's March to the Sea and the destructive swath he cut from Atlanta to Savannah. So if one chooses to forget the genocide on the Africans the Confederacy committed, then it does seem pretty bad, but before Sherman's march there was the raid on Chambersburg,
On the way out of town they set fire to the home of the county superintendent of public schools, telling his family that they did so because “he had taught negroes.” Unlike Atlanta and Columbia, Chambersburg was neither a fortified, defended city nor the site of munitions plants and other military manufacturing. It was just a city the Confederates could reach. Its destruction, for which Early continued to claim credit long after the war, was an act of revenge preceded by an attempt at terror. In Richmond, General Josiah Gorgas noted: “The burning of Chambersburgh by Early gives intense satisfaction.” p. 37
So it seems the Confederate army set a precedent, which they received back in spades from Sherman years later. I believe Royster was trying to develop this theme early on the book, showing the disposition of the Confederate army and Jackson, the devout Presbyterian, in particular. But this "godly" man seemed less merciful than the agnostic Sherman. "He would have preferred that Confederates take no prisoners but kill every Yankee soldier they could reach. In January 1861 he wrote that, if Virginia were invaded, its people should “defend it with a terrific resistance—even to taking no prisoners." p.38 Jackson seems awfully brutal, "He favorably endorsed John D. Imboden’s proposal to form a regiment of rangers to fight a guerrilla war in western Virginia, where, Imboden said, “I shall expect to hunt Yankees as I would wild beasts.” Jackson cautioned Robert L. Dabney [his racist chaplain - JPU] about this partisan warfare: 'The difficulty consists in finding sufficient patriotic nerve in men to join in such service.'” p.39 Royster provides plenty of examples to show Jackson's more human and less angelic side, from his sister's claim that he cheated to get into West Point, p. 45, to repeated observations from those around him with his self-absorption both socially and in the press, 
General Lafayette McLaws believed that Richmond newspapers, with the widest distribution in the South, only grudgingly praised generals from other states, while inflating the deeds of Virginians. He privately complained that Virginia generals engaged in shameless self-promotion. Without naming him, McLaws said that Jackson “panders to the religious zeal of a puritanical Church, and has numerous scribes writing fancy anecdotes of his peculiarities, which never existed. p.67
 A typical general, certainly, but a model for Christian boys even today? American Christians tend to put this man on a platform as a model for Christian men. But I don't get what a slave-owning, humanity denying, war criminal has to offer. Sherman was no saint either, in fact he appreciated Jackson's views, but he was not and never became a Christian. Regarding Sherman's approval of Jackson, Royster writes, 
This emphasis on the primacy of public duty, which could make a soldier execute disarmed prisoners and risk the same fate if he did not die in combat, found some support from William Tecumseh Sherman. In March 1865 a staff officer told Sherman “what Stonewall Jackson said as to not taking prisoners. ‘Perhaps he was right,’ said the General. ‘It seems cruel; but if there were no quarter given, most men would keep out of war. Rebellions would be few and short.’ ” Many Northerners besides Sherman saw in Jackson’s version of patriotic war a model for defeating Jackson’s cause.  p.40

Sherman believed he was merely demanding an eye for an eye in his campaign through Georgia. "Sherman instructed one of his subordinates in November 1863: “It is none of our business to protect a people that has sent all its youth, and arms and horses, and all that is of any account to war against us.… The people have done all the harm they can, so let them reap the consequences.” (p.116) Not a mature Christian sentiment at all, but he was not a Christian. "Sherman was not a Christian and did not have a simple faith in the nation’s success." (p. 139) If the South thought they were the new Israel then Sherman was Nebuchadnezzar, the pagan scourge from God to punish them for their sins. 

Many of the officers on both sides of the Civil War had served together in the Mexican War and saw up close the political machinations in that country, and were not impressed. But only some remembered what they learned.
The Civil War, however, suggested to Northerners a more ominous meaning in the Mexican experience: the United States might soon become as pitiable a failure as Americans held Mexico to be. Losing an election or disliking the government in office, partisans in Mexico resorted to armed resistance and grasped for power in violation of constitutional forms. Governments compromised with revolutionaries; presidents were deposed; and, in the words of one American congressman, “Civil war became the normal condition of the people.” Americans who did not share Sherman’s pessimistic view of democratic politics nevertheless gave signs, in their mentions of Mexico, that they thought their own republic in danger of lapsing into a mockery of their pretensions to have solved the problem of liberty and government. p. 123
The unionists did not want civil war to become the normal condition, which would result in a great weakness and vulnerability to the other world powers. Secession happened almost right away with West Virginia breaking off from Virginia and Jones County in Mississippi acting like a free county within the confederacy. Contrary to some, like the trendy libertarian philosophy of today, the weak federal government resulted in a genocidal society that treated humans as animals in the name of freedom and commerce. The Civil War strengthened the federal government to a good effect for millions of enslaved Africans. In 1887 E. L. Godkin, departing from the contention that war for the union merely enforced the founding fathers’ design, argued, as many historians have done since, that the North’s military victory transformed the Constitution from the founders’ provisional, experimental, ambiguous document to the basis for a nation whose government was for the first time the ultimate authority. (p. 152) But the Confederacy was not at all a libertine utopia, The government of the Confederate States of America had become or would have become as oppressive as that of the United States of America, with the extra disadvantage that things did not work so well in the South. The authorities grew increasingly dictatorial, yet the populace more frequently defied them with impunity. (p. 184)

The straw that broke the camel's back for secession was the victory of a president who promised to prevent any more slave states from entering the union. The writing on the wall told that eventually, democratically, more free states would out-vote slave states and bring a peaceful end to slavery. As soon as Lincoln won the election, Senator Joseph Lane, the Southern Democrats’ vice-presidential candidate, said in private conversation that, if the South failed to resist, “she would have to make up her mind to give up first her honor & then her slaves.” p.172 For some reason, today's Confederate defenders continually try to avoid this fact, out of the mouths and pens of Southerners in 1860 and 1861. The abolitionists had a gradual means of a peaceful end to slavery, to which the South responded in war. Peaceful methods had now come to an end. 
Sherman did not contend that war necessarily would or should grow as violent as the participants could make it. Rather, he meant that in war one side could not rely on peacetime methods and rules—appeals to public opinion, to humanitarianism, to the fundamental law of civil government—as a binding restraint on the other side’s use of force. The belligerents might not do all the harm within their power, usually did not, but they had no guarantee against the possible use of the maximum extremity of violence. p.367
Sherman was not going to resort to halved efforts. Either he would make war or not. “General Sherman does not play at war. ‘War is cruelty,’ he says, ‘and you can not refine it,’ and he believes that they who have brought war upon the country will justly feel its sharpest edge.” (p.373) 

Slavery is nearly the vilest form of greed. And greed was such a cultural milieu, that it helped undo the South. Depending on whom one believed, Richmond or Wilmington or Charleston or Atlanta or Mobile or Vicksburg was the most corrupt city in the Confederacy, its inhabitants given over to profiteering. Looking back on Southerners’ extortion of high prices in order to come out ahead of their currency’s rapid depreciation... (p.181)

Jackson believed personal piety would influence the outcome of the war. But the Confederate army was nowhere near as devout as Jackson was, Devout soldiers often complained that they were surrounded by the irreligious. Revivals in the Confederate army did not touch the great majority of men. And the spread of revivals, especially in the two years after Jackson’s death, did not portend victory for the growing number of the righteous, as Jackson had hoped, but coincided with the Confederate army’s reverses and impending defeat. Jackson, however, believed that revivals presaged and hastened victory. (p. 283) Sherman merely believed that God, in the abstract and not personal sense, did what he wanted to do. 
“Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case, is to deny that there is a God governing the world.” In this comment he [Sherman- JPU] implied, as he had done in the address, that the war, viewed solely as the work of human minds and deeds, had grown incomprehensible. Because the war had thwarted the designs, confuted the explanations, and absorbed rather than obeyed the efforts of those who had made it, to say that it acted out men’s purposes alone was to say that human activity had no ultimate moral meaning, that there was no God, no cosmic design to events. If, instead, the course of the war were God’s doing, He could reconcile its contradictions, explain its surprises, and validate its bloodshed in some cosmic logic or divinely weighed justice whose clarity and consistency were inaccessible to human minds. There was no other way to believe that what had happened made sense. p.306
Were Sherman and Grant butchers? More likely they were realists, who saw the battles were of attrition and the North needed to use the more that they had in materiel as well as men.
Sherman had concluded during the war that “the South would never give up as long as it had an army of any size worth mentioning.” The South contained a certain number of men—he twice mentioned the figure 300,000—who would not stop fighting. If the North wanted to reunite the nation under the federal government, these men would have to be killed. Killing them would unavoidably entail the deaths of many Northerners. The war consisted of this “awful fact,” as Sherman called it. The people who believed that the war could have been won differently were trying to escape this fact, which Grant had faced. p. 352
Sherman's logic was also brutally honest in his response to Southerner's whose property was destroyed under his the wheels of his war machine. In short, one needs a strong government to enforce laws that protect property, welcome to your weak government.
Yet their wealth and security depended more than they had admitted on “the protection and impetus to prosperity given by our hitherto moderate and magnanimous Government.” They had not created the land; they were a tiny, weak, ephemeral proportion of the earth’s population. Their only title to the “use and usufruct” of the land was “the deed of the United States.” If they preferred to base their claim on their strength in war, “they hold their all by a very insecure tenure.” When Southerners protested against destruction of their property, Sherman lectured them: “You must first make a government before you can have property. There is no such thing as property without a government.” By secession and war, Southerners had abjured government and thus cast themselves adrift in a world of power through violence. All that they had was forfeit to anyone stronger than they. The soldiers’ depredations put this doctrine into practice, face to face. Southerners could not secure their property by an appeal to the Confederate government; nor could they secure their property by a claim of rights under the United States government, which they had disavowed.  p.355
Although Sherman seemed to have no sympathy for slaves, in fact, before the war he owned some house slaves, he brought their freedom and restored their human dignity. As soldiers tore up the Georgia Railroad, an old black man said: “Many a dark population has worked on dat R. Rd—contractor for dis section whipped some of ‘em to death—buried one in dose woods.” (p.358) Someone who ends genocide can be forgiven a multitude of sins in my reckoning. Eventually, he had a change of heart, though politically motivated, towards equality of blacks and whites. Belatedly, in the 1880s, Sherman became an advocate of black men’s right to vote. He saw that the ending of slavery had increased Southern power in Congress and in the electoral college by counting blacks fully in apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives while the increasing curtailment of blacks’ voting enabled Democrats to strengthen their control. (p.366) But what to make of the genocide Sherman continued?

I was worried that Royster, who toward the end of the book let his admiration for Sherman flow, would ignore Sherman's post war career as the general of the Indian Wars, a continuation of an earlier genocide, but Royster does not flinch. General Pope tried to defend the Indians when they sought to protect themselves from the privations of white bandits and treaty breakers, 
Pope wrote: “What the white man does to the Indian is never known. It is only what the Indian does to the white man, (nine times out of ten, in the way of retaliation,) which reaches the public. The Indian in truth, has no longer a country. His lands are every where pervaded by white men, his means of subsistence destroyed, and the homes of his tribe violently taken from him. Himself and his family reduced to starvation, or to the necessity of warring to the death upon the white man whose inevitable and destructive progress threatens the total extermination of his race.” p.408
But Sherman was unmoved. He shifted the blame of his army's slaughters on his country.

Sherman told an audience in Connecticut that the extermination of the Pequots in 1637 had been right because it had made possible the Connecticut of 1881. He admonished the crowd to “remember above all things when you criticise sharply and flippantly the Indian policy of the nation, and condemn the army that it was you who first set the example for the Indian policy now pursued, when you drove the Pequots from these very lands almost 250 years ago.” Thus he made his listeners the destroyers of the Pequots. By conflating early colonists and modern residents Sherman meant to link people in the east with western settlers for whom other tribes were being driven aside and decimated. There were only two sides—civilization and barbarism: “The process begun in Massachusetts Pennsylvania and Virginia remains in operation today, and it needs no prophet to foretell the end.” p. 410 
Perhaps if there were a political benefit to seeking the rights of Native Americans Sherman might have had another change of heart. But there wasn't and he didn't. I think Sherman was wickedly wrong in his treatment of the Native Americans. He refused compassion and mercy, continuing in the sins of his ancestors instead of breaking from them. But he wasn't a religious man, but a practical man, to whom respecting the dignity of all people was not practical. 

As an aside, America's boom and bust cycles with the corresponding love and hatred for banks was part of Sherman's experience with a bank in San Francisco shortly after the 1849 gold rush. State-chartered banks, by their high-risk loans and speculative issuing of notes, expanded the credit available for growth of commerce and industry. Many people denounced all banks for profiting from manipulation of the proceeds of productive labor and for facilitating concentration of wealth in fewer hands. (p.128) Sounds like something in today's paper concerning Occupy Wall Street. Greed grips our entire country throughout it's entire history and leads to wickedness over and over again. The Bible warns us that the love of money is the root of all evil. 1 Timothy 6:10 I wonder what a Christian nation would look like that lived by this principle from Hebrews 13? 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you. " 6 So we can confidently say,"The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" 
St. James goes a little deeper, so he gets the last word on this long reflction on the U.S. Civil War. If only the self-proclaimed pious South had learned from their Bibles...
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. 4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5 What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy? 6 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” 7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. James 4