Students are required to watch the PBS one-hour film. The transcript with additional notes is provided. Then the following worksheet is to be completed.
God in America: How Religious Liberty Shaped America
Hour 3: How Religion suffused the Civil War
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In the 19th century, many Americans believed their country had been chosen by God. You’d be hard-pressed to find a White American who did not believe that the Lord had a special destiny for America and that the Lord wanted America to be an example to the world.
What was this thinking based on?
Abraham Lincoln had always kept his beliefs about God to himself…Card-carrying Christians made him nervous. He had a deep and abiding suspicion of and hostility to that notion that “there’s no possibility that I am wrong. I’m absolutely right and therefore I’m righteous.”
In what way(s) is this attitude still with us? Find a parallel example or two in our contemporary society.
What was the significance of the Methodist denomination’s Convention in 1844 and the issue involving Methodist Bishop James Osgood Andrew?
What did the Northern Methodist Abolitionists think of slavery? What were the consequences of slavery for the nation as a whole?
Who was Frederick Douglass?
What were some of the inconsistencies between slavery and Christianity that Frederick Douglass discovered?
Which book of the New Testament (an epistle written by Paul) did pro-slavery advocates point to as the Apostle Paul’s “justification” of the practice of holding slaves?
Slavery is a divine institution, say the people in the South. Slavery is a satanic, evil institution say many in the North…If neither side has the sense that God is backing that up it just becomes a human argument. But if both sides have a sense that God is backing that up (that claim/position), it becomes a sort of cosmic conflagration. What do you think is meant by the phrase a sort of cosmic conflagration ?
Initially what religious assertion about God might Lincoln have affirmed? First, explain his conceptualization of God and how God “operated” in the universe. Second, what was Lincoln’s notion of humans and human behavior?
A House Divided. In the spring of 1861, Lincoln faced the greatest crisis in the nation’s history with at least seven southern states seceding. Lincoln believed that democracy should trump self-righteous, religious conviction. While he opposed slavery, he was willing to accommodate it to save what was most sacred to him. What was most sacred to him, and what was his resolve in the face of civil war?
Match the events to the following dates:
____April 12, 1861 a. the death of Lincoln’s 11-year old son Willie
____January 1, 1863 b. Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Speech
____March 4, 1865 c. The Gettysburg Address
____February 1862 d. the Civil War starts
____November 1863 e. Lincoln is assassinated in the Ford Theatre
____April 14, 1865 f. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation
____April 9, 1865 g. the Civil War ends; the North wins
What is a pivotal moment in Lincoln’s life that causes him to re-examine his relationship with God? What does he hear and read that profoundly affects him? Who was the person who wrote it?
Lincoln agonizes over the ultimate question, “What is the will of God in this crisis?” What does he conclude, and as a result, what does he do? (hint: this act might qualify him as a type of “Moses” to slaves.)
We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
What is this text called?
Lincoln makes an astounding statement in that he states that he had been told by God to do something. What was it? After the war, Lincoln made another astonishing statement that the war was God’s punishment of the entire nation. For what?
Many Americans considered the war an apocalyptic event unleashed by God, a belief embodied in a new hymn that became a northern anthem. Read the following by Julia Ward Howe. Then refer to the Think Piece questions that follow this text.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
(Chorus)—Glory, glory, hallelujah! X2
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on. (Chorus)
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;”
[scorners; obstructers of justice; God’s “enemies”?]
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, [reference to Christ]
His truth is marching on. (Chorus)
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,[comfort]
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Battle Hymn THINK PIECE Questions:
1. What motivational function was served by the Battle Hymn’s constant reference to biblical themes and images?
· How does the hymn function as a justification for the Civil War?
· How might the hymn be understood in terms of “end time” judgment or an apocalyptic event?
2. Was Jesus a pacifist?
· What verses in the New Testament would support such a viewpoint?
· If this were the case, then in what way is the Battle Hymn an illegitimate use of scripture and a misrepresentation of the person of Christ?
3. Although outside the American prevue of this course, can you come up with another example of religious themes and poetry being used as a justification for war?
· For instance, would the conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna in the Hindu Bhagavad Gita serve the same function as the Battle Hymn in the history of India’s external conflicts?
· What about Hitler’s speeches?
· How did he harness the Protestant religion in Germany as a motivation for going to war?
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