Tag Archives: neo-confederate

Insurrection in Oregon

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Ammon Bundy (Photo the Oregonian) 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It is seldom now that I get this spun up, but I have had it with violent conspiracy theorists using the cover of patriotism to mount an insurrection. Let’s be honest and call what is happening in Oregon what it is. It is armed insurrection and terrorism being perpetrated by extreme right wing, pseudo-Christian, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis. The list of extreme supporters has exploded on the Internet today, and frankly if you actually bother to read something about them even their own materials, they are a violent and dangerous bunch.

Led by Cliven Bundy’s sons Ammon, and Ryan Bundy, and former Army sergeant Ryan Payne who threatened to kill Federal agents during the standoff at the Bundy Ranch in 2014, these people are a threat, not just to society in general, but to the causes that they purport to support. Payne fits the profile of a sociopath and is a bona-fide conspiracy theorist.

The Missoula News profiled Payne and the Bundys in a very detailed article in June of 2014. They noted of Payne:

Payne came to believe the latter, that the government uses regulations to deliberately undermine the average American, “that they are purposely destroying industry, they are purposely taking this land from people.” The more he looked, the more he saw a deliberate and nefarious plan being orchestrated by a small number of people wielding enormous power. He saw a pervasive conspiracy to control all aspects of the media, the financial system, the entertainment industry, the military and the government.

More specifically, he came to believe that slavery never really existed in the United States and that African Americans in the antebellum South “didn’t view themselves as slaves.” He came to believe in “an effort by some Jews to control the world.” He came to believe the founders of the United States intended for the states to act as sovereign countries. He came to believe taxes are a form of “legal plunder.” He came to believe names are spelled in all-caps on driver’s licenses because U.S. citizens are actually “corporate entities.” He came to believe U.S. courts are actually foreign admiralty courts. He came to believe that “in most states you have the lawful authority to kill a police officer that is unlawfully trying to arrest you.” He came to believe when a newborn child’s footprint is made on a birth certificate, that child is effectively entering a life of servitude to the U.S. government, which borrows money from China based on that child’s estimated lifetime earning potential. (The article can be viewed in its entirety here http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/missoula/freedom-fighter/Content?oid=2054145 )

The Bundy’s and Payne came uninvited to Burns Oregon, and trampled on the desires of the people in that town who were conducting peaceful protests the day that they went out and seized by force the administrative building of the U.S. Forrest Service in one of the oldest national wildlife preserves in the nation.

Map locates Burns, Oregon, where protestors occupied a national wildlife refuge building; 1c x 2 1/2 inches; 46.5 mm x 63 mm;

Since the takeover, neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, as well as other anti-government and anti-liberty groups are taking up their cause. The leader of anti-Muslim protests that have targets Mosques in many cities, Jon Ritzheimer, has called on his followers to take up arms and fight alongside the Bundy clan, Payne and their confederates.

Ritzheimer, a former Marine, whose anti-Muslim acts have given him plenty of headlines, has been spoiling for a fight for a long time. He wrote, “I am 100 percent willing to lay my life down to defend against tyranny in this country… We need real men here… Americans who have the intestinal fortitude to come here and take a stand and say enough is enough…. To my family, just know that I stood for something. Don’t let it be in vain. I love you.”

The leader of this rag tag bunch of pseudo-patriots, Ammon Bundy posted this on his Facebook page:

“We have basically taken over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. And this will become a base place for patriots from all over the country to come and be housed here and to live here. And we’re planning on staying here for several years.” Bundy called his band the “the point of the spear,” and called other like-minded extremist thugs to “bring your arms.”

Of course Bundy’s brother Ryan, in a statement to the Oregonian clothed the militant’s aims as being constitutional. “The best possible outcome is that the ranchers that have been kicked out of the area… will come back and reclaim their land, and the wildlife refuge will be shut down forever and the federal government will relinquish such control.”

But that is a lie, none of the ranchers have been kicked out, in fact none ever owned any part of the land. The land federal lands that the Bundys and their compatriots argue should be “returned” to the local, overwhelmingly white population were once part of a reservation established by President Ulysses S. Grant for the Northern Paiute, an American Indian tribe. That tribe now is located on a smaller reservation north of Burns.

But, since 1908 the Malheur Wildlife Refuge has been Federal government property when President Theodore Roosevelt set aside unclaimed government lands encompassed by Malheur, Mud and Harney Lakes as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds. He did this because of the encroachment of feather merchants who were sending hunters into the area and wiping out the wild bird populations. The newly established Lake Malheur Reservation was the 19th of 51 wildlife refuges created by Roosevelt during his tenure as president. At the time, Malheur was the third refuge in Oregon and one of only six refuges west of the Mississippi.

The land never was and never has been the property of any ranchers. The arguments of the Bundy’s and their confederates have nothing to do with truth; they are a smokescreen to further a goal of attempting to destroy any semblance of government control in such areas and give it to people who have no claim, by right or ownership.

The mainstream corporate media is not challenging the lie of the Bundy’s and their supporters. None of the major networks has yet to call this exactly what it is, insurrection, sedition, and terrorism. Instead it is called a protest, or occupation. But you can be sure had the Bundy clan been a Muslim group, or other American minority group, including Native Americans, they would be calling them criminals, trespassers, and dare I say, terrorists. It is a double standard, if one is white, and claims to be a patriot; they go unchallenged by the mainstream media. You would think that they were Girl Scouts protesting because they could not sell cookies.

There are laws, long standing ones at that that deal with this kind of thuggery. The big one is the Insurrection Act of 1807 under which:

“The President, by using the militia or the armed forces, or both, or by any other means, shall take such measures as he considers necessary to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy, if it— so hinders the execution of the laws of that State, and of the United States within the State, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.”

It is my opinion since this is land and property under Federal jurisdiction in the State of Oregon that the President should activate the Oregon National Guard (the actual legal militia) to work with other Federal law enforcement agencies to end this insurrection. I personally think that surrounding them with real military forces and cutting off power, fuel, food, and water to the Bundy Clan will end this. It should not have to come to violence, unless a sociopath conspiracy theorist like Ryan Payne decides to open fire on men and women who wear the uniform that he once wore.

These people are deranged and dangerous. Ryan Bundy said, they are “willing to kill and be killed if necessary.” These men are not conservatives or even libertarians, and they are certainly not patriots. They are extremist revolutionaries who are delusional and believe the most unbelievable conspiracy theories.

This has to be ended, hopefully peacefully, and these people sent home and their leaders to prison in disgrace. However, the inflammatory statements of the Bundy’s, Payne, and Ritzenheimer are setting the stage for potential violence. The only thing that I can think is that want this to foment a wider revolt of armed militia groups against the government and that they may even be willing to become martyrs, like the Islamic Jihadists of Al Qaeda and DAESH have been doing for some time now. Honestly I see little difference between any of these people.

Like I said, I seldom get really spun up by something, but what is happening in Oregon is dangerous and could get a lot of people killed. If people believe that Bureau of Land Management policies need to be changed, they should use the legislative process or make court challenges. There is no place for armed bands of people attempting force their will on the rest of the population when they are the only ones who will benefit from such an action.

I mentioned yesterday that there would be a crisis every day of the year, well, welcome to the first of many, and I haven’t even mentioned the twin crises brewing between Saudi Arabia and Iran, or India and Pakistan. But that can be dealt with another time.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Time for It to Come Down

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It has been 150 years since the revolt of the Confederate States of America officially ended. However, the flag of that revolt still flies over on the grounds of the South Carolina capitol, remains part of the state flags of a number of former Confederate states, and is displayed in many fashions by people with various motives. Some belief, even genuinely that in displaying it they are honoring the men who fought under it. For others it is a symbol of continued defiance against a government that they hate, while for others it is a potent symbol of their hatred of African Americans and their earnest longing for a racist past that they believe were the good times.

That flag in its various guises, the Confederate Battle Flag, the Confederate Naval Ensign, or the National Flag of the Confederacy, sometimes called the Stars and Bars is an important part of American history. As such it cannot be completely done away with, it should remain as a part of history and as such confined to museums and things like reenactments of the battles. That being said, it has no place being flown over statehouses and should also be removed from the state flags that still retain it.

That flag is a part of my family’s history. If I wanted to I could join the Son’s of Confederate Veterans in a heartbeat. I have ancestors on both sides of my family who volunteered to serve the Confederacy even as their neighbors were declaring for the Union in what was then the western part of Virginia, what is now West Virginia. They were small time slave owners as well as yeoman farmers and they chose to serve a regime that despised them almost as much as it did the blacks. As members of the 8th Virginia Cavalry they fought until 1865 and following the war, some were reconciled to the Union while others refused to be and continued their revolt in other ways. Only one thing could have caused them to fight for a flag that offered them so little and that was they, like so many Southerners of similar means believed that keeping the black down ensured that they were superior to someone. If that meant enslaving blacks and fighting for a regime that did so, so be it. In fact after the war the patriarch of my paternal side refused to sign the loyalty oath to the United States and lost his family’s lands and plantation in addition to the slaves that he had already lost.

There was a time when I was young and desiring some kind of American military heritage to be proud of took a type of pride in the purely military side of the family, no matter what it was, Revolutionary War, Civil War (North and South), the World Wars as well as the service of my own father in Vietnam. As such I turned a blind eye to the cause that my ancestors who served the South fought and in some cases died to not only defend but to expand, if need be by the overthrow of the Union through force of arms. That cause was slavery, and while so many want to clothe secession and the term “states rights” the one right for which the South seceded was the right to enslave blacks and to expand that institution to non-slave territories, and even force anti-slavery Northerners to cooperate with through laws such as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott Decision.

But this is not surprising, the revisionist historians of the Lost Cause triumphed in telling the story of the Civil War where force of arms failed. These people, including some historians managed to shift the focus of the war to the stories of the great soldiers who fought in the war, and to the lie that the war was about “constitutional” issues when in fact the South was winning almost every court and congressional battle regarding slavery in the decade and a half before secession. The South’s over-reaction to the election of Abraham Lincoln, an election that they sabotaged for their cause by splitting their electoral votes between the candidacies of Stephen Douglas and John C. Breckenridge is to this day lost on them.

The fact is that the Confederate Flag in all of its forms is not a symbol of freedom, it is not a symbol of a heritage that any person, even descendants of Southern veterans should take pride in.

Instead it is a symbol of treason. It is the symbol of men who sworn to uphold the Constitution that Senators, Congressmen, military officers, and other Federal officers and officials callously abandoned when their side did not win an election.

It is a flag of a republic which Alexander Stephens its Vice President described in his Cornerstone Speech:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

It is the symbol of a rebellion that brought about a war that cost between 650,000 and 750,000 military deaths, many more wounded and billions of dollars of damage to the country.

It is the symbol of men who after they regained control of their states passed innumerable laws to prescribe slavery in all but name through “Black” and “Jim Crow” laws.

It is the symbol of the original American terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan that used violence and murder to oppress and kill blacks and their supporters for a hundred years after Appomattox.

It is the symbol that neo-Confederates, White Supremacists, neo-Nazis and other racist and hate-groups rally around.

It has also found a home in some parts of the Tea Party Movement and the current Republican Party.

Some Southerners and others have defended it and fought to keep it flying on various state capitol grounds, war memorials and state parks. It is flown or displayed by individuals over homes and on vehicles, even in states that shed thousands of lives to end the Confederate rebellion.

As for me, a career military officer and descendent of Confederate veterans I find the Confederate flags in all of its forms hateful, divisive and treasonous. When I see it displayed outside of museums and reenactments my blood boils, especially when I see it displayed as a political statement against a government and Constitution that I have committed my life to defend.

I believe that all Americans should oppose its display, especially on the grounds of government facilities. I find it little different in substance than the Swastika banner of the Nazi Party, which became the national flag of Germany. Both flags were the symbols of regimes that were based on the belief in a superior “master race” and which desired to expand their racial views to other lands. While there was a difference that the Nazis believed in exterminating as well as enslaving those that they deemed to be “sub-human” the ultimate goal of the Confederacy was to perpetuate slavery and expand it over a people that they also believed to be sub-human.

Now I do believe that the Confederate flag does have a place, and the proper place for it is in museums and historical reenactments. I think that it also can be legitimately displayed on the graves of men who fought under it. As for the men who died for that flag, despite their cause I have a measure of sympathy as one who has served in war. They were valiant and brave soldiers even if the cause that they served was evil. I agree with Ulysses S. Grant who at Appomattox stopped the cheers of his soldiers noting:

I felt…sad and depressed, at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people has fought.” He later noted: “The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall.”

Apart from that I believe that displays of this flag only serve to show either historical ignorance or to display racist or anti-government attitudes that serve no constructive purpose and which only serve to encourage totalitarian enemies of freedom.

Thankfully, for the first time prominent Republican politicians beginning with Mitt Romney but now including South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham are calling for the removal of the flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol. Others need to as well. It is about time that the Confederate flag, and the racist ideology that it stands for comes down for good.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Call it Terrorism: Massacre at Emmanuel AME

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“You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Dylann Storm Roof

Last night a young man who the Charleston Police have identified as Dylann Storm Roof, walked into the historic Emanuel Africa Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina. He sat next to the pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who also served as a State Senator for an hour before taking out a gun and opening fire as the meeting broke up. According to survivors he stated that he was at the church to kill black people and he did so, killing nine of the 13 people present including Reverend Pinckney. During the attack a survivor noted that he reloaded his gun five times.

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Reverend Clementa Pinckney

Like many people I am shocked by this but I am not surprised. For decades the mainstream Right Wing media have been chumming the water with enough hatred directed against African Americans, other racial minorities, Moslems and Gays. Such people have been blamed by the Right, and not just the nutty fringe for every evil in our society for so long that it was only a matter of time before an act of terror like the one in this church was committed. Some of those people are already on the air today explaining this away not as an act of racially motivate terrorism, but as another attack on Christians.

However, that was not the case. Yes, these men and women killed by Dylann Roof were Christians, but he killed them because they were black. That is the cold hard fact that no one can get around in this case. He murdered these men and women simply because they were black and they represented a threat to the “White America” that he and other White Supremacists and defend.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest AME church in the South. Nine people died in a hate crime shooting on June 17, 2015.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest AME church in the South. Nine people died in a hate crime shooting on June 17, 2015.


Had Roof simply wanted to kill Christians to really make a point he could have gone to any church. There are plenty of the in Charleston, my God it is known as The Holy City because of the vast number of churches. But instead he went to a church which has a long history of standing up for the civil, social and political rights of blacks dating back to 1816. It was the hub of anti-slavery activism and where Denmark Vesey and others plotted a slave revolt which was ruthlessly crushed by South Carolina’s militia. South Carolina’s government burned the church, scattered the congregation and banned blacks from meeting in organized congregations until after South Carolina was liberated by General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union Army.

We don’t know much about Roof, and I’m sure that we will. However, one thing that I noted was that in one picture Roof was wearing a jacket which had the flag of the old Apartheid South African State and the flag of the also the flag apartheid Rhodesia sewn over the right breast pocket. His car had a decorative Confederate States of America license plate in front. A friend from high school said

“I never heard him say anything, but just he had that kind of Southern pride, I guess some would say. Strong conservative beliefs,” he said. “He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that. You don’t really think of it like that.” But now, “the things he said were kind of not joking,”

When Roof was captured he appeared to be headed for the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina of Eastern Tennessee. Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina and Southwestern Virginia are the home of numerous KKK, Neo Nazi and other White Supremacist groups.

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So today even on Fox news, that bastion of balance hosts are scrambling to call this anything but racially motivated terrorism called it a crime against Christians which fits into their ideological content more than the truth that this was racially motivate terrorism. However this was the same kind of terrorism as the notorious KKK sponsored Birmingham Church bombing of September 1963, or the burnings and bombings of black churches in the South before and after that.

Mark my word by this evening some of the more prominent Right Wing radio and internet pundits are going to be blaming this on everything but racism and terrorism. Imagine though if the shooter was a Moslem what they would say. They would have been all over the air labeling all Moslems as jihadist’s intent on killing Christians and demanding action against all Moslems based through guilt by association. That my friends is a fact and it is not in dispute.

In the coming days we are going to find out more about this and it will not be pleasant reading. We are going to find a young man whose heart has been poisoned by hate propagated by both mainstream Right Wing media as well as extremist White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups.

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We want to think that we have progressed, but sadly despite a veneer of progress, there still remains a lot of racism and other hatred that lurk beneath the veneer of the post-racial society. Michael Savage who has one of the most popular right wing radio programs in the country described inner-city children as “ghetto slime,” Ann Coulter said in 2013 “Perhaps, someday, blacks will win the right to be treated like volitional human beings. But not yet.” Rush Limbaugh too many too mention, and sadly there are some who call themselves Christian commentators who say even worse and not just about blacks.

Let us call this crime what it is. Racially motivated terrorism.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Neo-Confederate Christians and the Continued Curse of the Lost Cause

Lost-Cause

“By the time of the [Civil] War, the leadership of the South was conservative, orthodox, and Christian,” and that the leadership of the North had become “radical and Unitarian.” While the Confederates were righteous, “the abolitionists in the North were ‘wicked’ and ‘driven by a zealous hatred for the Word of God.’” Steven Wilkins and Douglas Wilson

A couple of years ago washed up rocker, draft dodger and professional muckraker Ted Nugent made the comment that he wondered if it would have been better that the South had won the Civil War. The statement was met with outrage by many, but it reflected still small, yet growing and troubling trend in some parts of the American Christian Church. The statement above is an example of that thought and shows the revisionism and dishonest “scholarship” of the Christian Neo-Confederates. The dishonesty and lack of truth in this quote, which is typical of the movement finds its genus in the discredited myth of the Lost Cause.

I have written about the Christian Dominionist or Reconstructionist movement and its leaders a number of times. This is a radical and theocratic movement which believes that it is the duty of Christians to claim all of culture, politics and economics for God, and to disenfranchise or even kill those who do not agree. Many times their rhetoric is tinged with violence, racism, xenophobia and frankly paranoid and conspiratorial views of anyone that does not agree with them. Leaders of this movement are closely connected to, and often are advisers to prominent Republican elected officials including Rand and Ron Paul, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal and Sam Brownback.

One of the most troubling things about this movement is its growing ties to and sympathy for neo-Confederate movements and the myth of the Lost Cause which I wrote about in an article on the ideological and religious roots of the American Civil War. While I was researching that article I began to see just who closely the language of this allegedly Christian movement parallels that of those who led the South to disaster in the Civil War and then to cover their crimes and to justify their actions.

These people, those somewhat of a fringe movement often advocate secession, nullification and other ideas espoused by Confederate leaders, including violence and insurrection both before and after the Civil War. They despise Abraham Lincoln; they use state legislatures to pass Jim Crow like voting restrictions that particularly impact the poor, the elderly and minorities. The favor an oligarchy of corporations that hold much in common with the Southern elites and the plantation owners who not only enslaved blacks, but used their economic power to keep poor whites in their place.

They even echo the words of the defenders of slavery, as Douglas Wilson, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church of America in Idaho and apologist for Confederate views wrote: “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War or since.” Wilson also wrote that “There has never been,a multi-racial society that has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” Of course there is no truth in that statement whatsoever as any actual student of the ante-bellum South would know. It is fiction and lies being propertied as truth by a Christian pastor in an established denomination.

The cause of the Civil War to the Christian neo-Confederates was not slavery, not economics or even Constitutional issues or anything else that real historians debate but rather a theological myth, as Steven Wilkins explained: “the cause of the Civil War was theological incompatibility between North and South, the former having ‘rejected Biblical Calvinism…“there was radical hatred of Scripture and the old theology [and] Northern radicals were trying to throw off this Biblical culture and turn the country in a different direction….” 

These thoughts are reiterated in many parts of the Dominionist movement in the writings of its godfather R. J. Rushdoony who through his own writings and the continued work of his son-in-law Gary North influence both Ron and Rand Paul as well as many others in the so called “Christian Right.” I have decided to post just a bit of my research on the Lost Cause here, just to show some of the similarities of thought.

But before that an excerpt from a sermon preached by the Reverend William Leacock of Christ Church, New Orleans declared in his Thanksgiving sermon in December of 1860: “Our enemies…have “defamed” our characters, “lacerated” our feelings, “invaded “our rights, “stolen” our property, and let “murderers…loose upon us, stimulated by weak or designing or infidel preachers. With “the deepest and blackest malice,” they have “proscribed” us “as unworthy members… of the society of men and accursed before God.” Unless we sink to “craven” beginning that they “not disturb us,…nothing is now left us but secession.” [1]

When you read the words of many of the Dominionist and the Christian neo-Confederate leaders you see a similar cry of victimhood. This is only a sample, my research on the Lost Cause, the ante-Bellum South and the contemporary Neo-Confederate Christians connection with the Dominionists continues…

When Edmund Ruffin pulled the lanyard of the cannon that fired the first shot at Fort Sumter it marked the end of an era and despite Ruffin, Stephens and Davis’ plans gave birth to what Lincoln would describe as “a new birth of freedom.”

When the war ended with the Confederacy defeated and the south in ruins, Ruffin still could not abide the result. In a carefully crafted suicide note he sent to his son the bitter and hate filled old man wrote on June 14th 1865:

“I here declare my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule- to all political, social and business connections with the Yankees and to the Yankee race. Would that I could impress these sentiments, in their full force, on every living Southerner and bequeath them to every one yet to be born! May such sentiments be held universally in the outraged and down trodden South, though in silence and stillness, until the now far-distant day shall arrive for just retribution for Yankee usurpation, oppression and outrages, and for deliverance and vengeance for the now ruined, subjugated and enslaved Southern States! … And now with my latest writing and utterance, and with what will be near my last breath, I here repeat and would willingly proclaim my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule — to all political, social and business connections with Yankees, and the perfidious, malignant and vile Yankee race.” [2]

Though Ruffin was dead in the coming years the southern states would again find themselves under the governance of former secessionists who were unabashed white supremacists. Former secessionist firebrands who had boldly proclaimed slavery to be the deciding issue when the war changed their story. Instead of slavery being the primary cause of Southern secession and the war, it was “trivialized as the cause of the war in favor of such things as tariff disputes, control of investment banking and the means of wealth, cultural differences, and the conflict between industrial and agricultural societies.” [3]

Alexander Stephens who had authored the infamous1861 Cornerstone Speech that “that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition” argued after the war that the war was not about slavery at all, that it:

“had its origins in opposing principles….It was a strife between the principles of Federation, on the one side, and Centralism, or Consolidation on the other.” He concluded “that the American Civil War “represented a struggle between “the friends of Constitutional liberty” and “the Demon of Centralism, Absolutism, [and] Despotism!” [4]

Jefferson Davis, who had masterfully crafted “moderate” language which radicals in the South used to their advantage regarding the expansion and protection of the rights of slave owners in the late 1850s to mollify Northern Democrats, and who wrote in October 1860 that: “The recent declarations of the Black Republican party…must suffice to convince many who have formerly doubted the purpose to attack the institution of slavery in the states. The undying opposition to slavery in the United States means war upon it where it is, not where it is not.” [5]

After the war a revisionist Davis wrote:

“The Southern States and Southern people have been sedulously represented as “propagandists” of slavery, and the Northern as the champions of universal freedom…” and “the attentive reader…will already found enough evidence to discern the falsehood of these representations, and to perceive that, to whatever extent the question of slavery may have served as an occasion, it was far from being the cause for the conflict.” [6]

Instead of being about slavery the Confederate cause was mythologized by those promoting the false history of the “Lost Cause” a term coined by William Pollard in 1866, which “touching almost every aspect of the struggle, originated in Southern rationalizations of the war.” [7] By 1877 many southerners were taking as much pride in the “Lost Cause” as Northerners took in Appomattox.[8] Alan Nolen notes: “Leaders of such a catastrophe must account for themselves. Justification is necessary. Those who followed their leaders into the catastrophe required similar rationalization.” [9]

The Lost Cause was elevated by some to the level of a religion. In September 1906, Lawrence Griffith speaking to a meeting of the United Confederate Veterans stated that when the Confederates returned home to their devastated lands, “there was born in the South a new religion.” [10] The mentality of the Lost Cause took on “the proportions of a heroic legend, a Southern Götterdämmerung with Robert E. Lee as a latter day Siegfried.” [11]

This new religion that Griffith referenced was replete with signs, symbols and ritual:

“this worship of the Immortal Confederacy, had its foundation in myth of the Lost Cause. Conceived in the ashes of a defeated and broken Dixie, this powerful, pervasive idea claimed the devotion of countless Confederates and their counterparts. When it reached fruition in the 1880s its votaries not only pledged their allegiance to the Lost Cause, but they also elevated it above the realm of common patriotic impulse, making it perform a clearly religious function….The Stars and Bars, “Dixie,” and the army’s gray jacket became religious emblems, symbolic of a holy cause and of the sacrifices made on its behalf. Confederate heroes also functioned as sacred symbols: Lee and Davis emerged as Christ figures, the common soldier attained sainthood, and Southern women became Marys who guarded the tomb of the Confederacy and heralded its resurrection.” [12]

Jefferson Davis became an incarnational figure for the adherents of this new religion. A Christ figure who Confederates believed “was the sacrifice selected-by the North or by Providence- as the price for Southern atonement. Pastors theologized about his “passion” and described Davis as a “vicarious victim”…who stood mute as Northerners “laid on him the falsely alleged iniquities of us all.” [13]

In 1923 a song about Davis repeated this theme:

Jefferson Davis! Still we honor thee! Our Lamb victorious, who for us endur’d A cross of martyrdom, a crown of thorns, soul’s Gethsemane, a nation’s hate, A dungeon’s gloom! Another God in chains.” [14]

The myth also painted another picture, that of slavery being a benevolent institution which has carried forth into our own time. The contention of Southern politicians, teachers, preachers and journalists was that slaves liked their status; they echoed the words of slave owner Hiram Tibbetts to his brother in 1842 “If only the abolitionists could see how happy our people are…..The idea of unhappiness would never enter the mind of any one witnessing their enjoyments” [15] as well as Jefferson Davis who in response to the Emancipation Proclamation called the slaves “peaceful and contented laborers.” [16]

The images of the Lost Cause, was conveyed by numerous writers and Hollywood producers including Thomas Dixon Jr. whose play and novel The Clansman became D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, a groundbreaking part of American cinematography which was released in 1915; Margaret Mitchell who penned the epic Pulitzer Prize winning novel Gone With the Wind which in its 1939 film form won ten academy awards immortalized the good old days of the old South with images of faithful slaves, a theme which found its way into Walt Disney’s famed 1946 animated Song of the South.

The Lost Cause helped buttress the myths that both comforted and inspired many Southerners following the war. “It defended the old order, including slavery (on the grounds of white supremacy), and in Pollard’s case even predicted that the superior virtues of cause it to rise ineluctably from the ashes of its unworthy defeat.” [17] The myth helped pave the way to nearly a hundred more years of effective second class citizenship for now free blacks who were often deprived of the vote and forced into “separate but equal” public and private facilities, schools and recreational activities. The Ku Klux Klan and other violent organizations harassed, intimidated, persecuted and used violence against blacks.

“From the 1880s onward, the post-Reconstruction white governments grew unwilling to rely just on intimidation at the ballot box and themselves in power, and turned instead to systematic legal disenfranchisement.” [18] Lynching was common and even churches were not safe. It would not be until the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s that blacks would finally begin to gain the same rights enjoyed by whites in most of the South.

Ruffin outlived Lincoln who was killed by the assassin John Wilkes Booth on April 14th 1864. However the difference between the two men was marked. In his Second Inaugural Address Lincoln spoke in a different manner than Ruffin. He concluded that address with these thoughts:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” [19]

The fact is this movement is not only disturbing but it contrary to what its leaders say places an abhorrent, racist and truly vile ideology above God or the Christian faith that they supposedly represent.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Notes

[1] Freehling, William The Road to Disunion Volume II p.462

[2] Edmund Ruffin (1794-1865). Diary entry, June 18, 1865. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress Retrieved from http://blogs.loc.gov/civil-war-voices/about/edmund-ruffin/ 24 March 2014

[3] Gallagher, Gary W. and Nolan Alan T. editors The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis 2000 p.15

[4] Dew, Charles Apostles of Disunion p.16

[5] Catton, Bruce The Coming Fury p.104

[6] Davis, Jefferson The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government Volume One of Two, A public Domain Book, Amazon Kindle edition pp.76-77

[7] Gallagher, Gary and Nolan, Alan The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History p.12

[8] Millet Allen R and Maslowski, Peter. For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America The Free Press, a division of McMillan Publishers, New York 1984 p.230

[9] Ibid. Gallagher and Nolan The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History p.12

[10] Hunter, Lloyd The Immortal Confederacy: Another Look at the Lost Cause Religion in Gallagher and Nolan The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War p.185

[11] McPherson, James The Battle Cry of Freedom p.854

[12] Ibid. Hunter The Immortal Confederacy Religion in Gallagher and Nolan The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War p.186

[13] Ibid. Hunter The Immortal Confederacy Religion in Gallagher and Nolan The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War p.198

[14] Ibid. Hunter The Immortal Confederacy Religion in Gallagher and Nolan The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War p.198

[15] Levine, Bruce Half Slave and Half Free p.106

[16] Ibid. Gallagher and Nolan The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History p.16

[17] Guelzo, Allen Fateful Lightening p.525

[18] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.526

[19] Ibid. Lincoln Second Inaugural Address

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