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The STARS and BARS: A "Civil" Debate
A five-part discussion by Michael Aubrecht and El Veasey


Quick Links: - INTRO - PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5
El Veasey (E.V.-BLUE) - Michael Aubrecht (M.A.-GRAY)

PART 4
M.A.
As usual, your responses were very insightful, but one really struck me - so I'll respond to that first. You stated in your closing statement: "So it appears that the moral and Christian values issues involved with what one decides to fight for doesn't seem to carry much importance with you or Stonewall does it? Just the glory!" You mention Stonewall specifically and the theory of a soldier's "decision making" process - so I'll respond to that.

E.V. You're points were well made and well taken! Firstly, let me explain what I mean by "the glory" as in "you and Stonewall" only seem concern about the glory instead of the morality". By "the glory" I mean your consistent focus on the heroism of "Stonewall' and the other Confederate heroes and the great praise you seem so fond of lavishing on them for it no matter how contradictory that heroism was with Christian ideals and moral values.(as if the morality of their acts is of minor importance compared to the heroism of their acts.)

M.A. When you look at the life of Thomas Jackson, you see that he was a passionate Christian as well as a fierce warrior. I'll try to briefly paraphrase part of that. He personally did not own any slaves and willfully practiced civil disobedience by establishing one of the first Sunday Schools in Lexington, VA for slave children. He was a devout Presbyterian Deacon and dedicated himself (in part) to what he referred to as "assisting the souls of those held in bondage." This was an ongoing mission that he funded until the day he died. He felt that slavery was according to the Will of God and would "die of natural causes" when God ordained it. As Presbyterians, we believe that everything - everywhere - happens for a specific reason that is already ordained and predestined by the Lord. It is not our place to fully understand it, but we must submit to His Will as He is in control of everything. The Civil War and slavery served a purpose higher than we (as men) can know. Perhaps the country needed to be divided - in order to later become truly united?

E.V. In your praise of Stonewall you say, "He was a devout Presbyterian Deacon and dedicated himself (in part) to what he referred to as "assisting the souls of those held in bondage." But he fought for his "state's right" to keep them in bondage. You added, "This was an ongoing mission that he funded until the day he died. He felt that slavery was according to the Will of God and would "die of natural causes" when God ordained it." This is a psychological rationalization for a professed Christian to avoid feeling guilty or responsible for supporting a system he knew was against Christians values and what Jesus taught, "Love God with all your heart and soul and you're neighbor as yourself". Or as Paul said, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28.) The idea that slavery "was according to Will of God" and would "die of natural causes when God ordained it" doesn't make sense. If something "dies of natural causes" that means no one influenced the outcome, but if God ordained the outcome, the outcome was caused by God, not natural causes.

E.V. As Jesus said, " The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:" (John 5:22 King James Version) (Spiritually) Each one of us is this son, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" Galatians 3:26). we do the judging and can't transfer the responsibility for our acts or the consequences to God, because as Jesus said "The Father Judges no man". The "Father" isn't judging or deciding the consequences of our acts whether we label them "duty" or otherwise, "Duty is ours" and the consequences too, is more like it.

E.V. You continue, "As Presbyterians, we believe that everything - everywhere - happens for a specific reason that is already ordained and predestined by the Lord." Are you saying that you have no freedom of choice or free will? And "It is not our place to fully understand it, but we must submit to His Will as He is in control of everything." If "he is in control of everything" how can anyone be held responsible for anything they do? These aren't rhetorical questions.

E.V. You say, "The Civil War and slavery served a purpose higher than we (as men) can know. Perhaps the country needed to be divided - in order to later become truly united?" Perhaps none of that's true, if "The Civil War and slavery served a purpose higher than we (as men) can know" how can you be sure that "it served a higher purpose" if you can't know that purpose?

M.A. By 1861, Jackson had already served in the army, and was teaching at the Virginia Military Institute (as a Major) when Virginia's secession took place. As a result, he was given an immediate commission (to Colonel) by Robert E. Lee and was tasked with training the newly founded Army of Northern Virginia (which was made up of VA soldiers, volunteers and VMI cadets). He was not happy with the declaration of war, but he followed his orders as a sense of duty to his fellow Virginians. (On a side note: General Lee - then Colonel Lee - was originally offered the supreme command of the Union Army by Abe Lincoln - but he refused to march against his own people.) I firmly believe that both Jackson and Lee were men of great moral conviction and I also believe that they did not fight for glory.

M.A. (IMO), Jackson's motivation was the exact opposite and he often quoted scripture in his required battle reports (Kings and Timothy), as he did not want to glorify the act of war. He was also a brilliant commander in the field and remained thoroughly focused on winning the fight. He preached of the total annihilation and swift destruction of the enemy (a theory referred to as The Black Flag) in order to bring a quick conclusion to the conflict. In other words, the sooner you are able to cripple your opponent's ability to fight - the more lives can ultimately be saved (on both sides). This is a philosophy we could certainly use today.

M.A. Still, in regards to your statement on what "one decides" to fight for. I don't think "deciding" has anything to do with it. Soldiers follow orders regardless of the underlying political causes. Granted many were volunteers - but the overall armies were made up of native citizens - fighting to protect their native lands from an invading army. Jackson had no political or vested interests in the C.S.A.'s governmental agenda. He was both a soldier and a Virginian. That is where he (and many others) felt their loyalty and sense of duty belonged - with their family, friends and neighbors - not a governmental institution. In the 1800's - the country was "much smaller" in the eyes of it's citizens. Your town and your state were more relative to your daily life - not some "far off" government. At the time, your loyalty would lie with them as how could anyone take up arms against their own neighbors? Also - it was with a heavy heart that many made this decision.

M.A. Jackson was a commanding officer and commanders follow orders from their superiors, the troops obey them and so on. I'm not sure if you have had any experience with the military, but I worked as a defense contractor for over 6 years at the Naval Surface Warfare Center. One of the many things that I learned during my time there was that in the military world, you do what you are told. In other words, your statement of "doesn't seem to carry much importance" is true. For many, it doesn't. It can't. The military has to operate under a single prerogative defined by whatever administration they are currently serving under. The Confederacy established its own military made up of Southern men (many who were already soldiers - like Jackson) whose duty was then shifted from President Lincoln and the U.S.A. to Jefferson Davis and the C.S.A.. What were they to do? Move? Fight against their relatives? No, they had to stay the course.

M.A. In the military, especially when it is at war - there are no "individual rights" or "opinions" (at the troop level). What a soldier feels (morally or religiously) is ultimately meaningless and incidental. Soldiers are warm bodies trained to execute a mission and the Pentagon and Joint Chiefs of Staff do not consider their beliefs when trying to wage a winning campaign. There are "international rules of engagement" that they are supposed to follow, but what I am referring to is the personal convictions of a lone soldier. IE. U.S. soldiers who practice Islam are now fighting other Muslims in Iraq. This has to be a tremendous conflict both morally and religiously to each individual - but they still have to do their duty. In it's most simplistic form, doing a "tour of duty" means that you go where they tell you to go and you shoot what they tell you to shoot. You don't have to like it, believe in it, or even support it, but you do have to fulfill your oath to follow your commander and chief - and to disobey or practice insubordination is a criminal offense.

E.V. Of course soldiers are supposed to do what they're told to do but they're not robots or children (though the military wants them to respond that way) and some don't. Duty doesn't relieve one of one's moral responsibilities. You seem to think that duty to one's country's political policies, no matter how immoral, is more honorable than standing by one's moral convictions when one's country's political policies are wrong (except when it comes to the slave holding states secession from the United States of America).

E.V. Was it more honorable for soldiers who saw participating in the Vietnam War as immoral but fought anyway, than it was for those who stood by their conviction that it was wrong, refused to go to Vietnam or deserted once they were there in support of that conviction? Military personnel are sometimes held responsible for their conduct during war, for example, the Nuremberg Trials (war crimes against humanity). So just because someone is a soldier doesn't mean that he or she can put their morals on hold. The military wants soldiers who don't think independently or question the morality of what they're doing, because it would be difficult to get them to kill or to risk their lives in war, indiscriminately, if they did, don't you agree?

M.A. So I guess what I'm trying to convey is that in a time of war - not all - but many bets are off in regards to recognizing the principals of moral and Christian values (at the troop level). You speak in your statement as if soldiers have a choice in deciding whether to fight or not. The essence of duty is doing what you are told regardless if you agree with it or not. During the Civil War, they executed dozens of deserters (on both sides), as that was what the established Court Martial called for. I'm sure that they didn't like shooting their own guys - but it had to be done in order to set an example to prevent future desertion and also to maintain a sense of law and order.

E.V. You make the point that it was somehow wrong for the U.S. to fight its "own people" leading up to the Civil war, but the C.S. killed or imprisoned it's own people (soldiers) who deserted their cause for moral or other reasons. Yes the U.S. did too, but that's not the point here, because you've already accused the U.S of attacking its "own people". The point is that those who deserted were refusing to support the C.S. just as the C.S. was refusing to support the U.S. and they were killed for it.

M.A. The Lord specifically commands us not to kill, but in war you have to kill. Killing another human being is a sin (outlined in the Ten Commandments) - but it must be done in the harsh realities of this fallen world. So I firmly believe that a soldier (officer or enlisted) can be excused from political and in some regards, moral judgment (with the exception of war crime behavior) when it comes down to fulfilling their duty. You can't hold them strictly to the same value system that they practice when they are following someone else's direction. That is why the quote of "Duty is ours - the consequences are God's." is such an honest and truthful statement. I personally thank God for warriors who are willing to sacrifice their lives to protect their people and I understand that what they do is ugly and disturbing, but ultimately necessary so that you and I (and our family) can sleep in peace at night.

E.V. I think that the idea that duty is more important than doing what's morally right can and has allowed many civilians and soldiers to commit some of the most despicable acts without feeling guilty or pangs of conscience about it. The idea that God has preordained everything that happens is one such idea, because then, (following that reasoning to its logical conclusion), No one can be held responsible for any acts they commit, because God is responsible, because God preordained it. I don't buy that! (Like those who didn't view their enslavement or support of the enslavement of Africans and African-Americans as immoral: Just their God ordained "Manifest Destiny!")

M.A. How many American soldiers have been called upon today to take enemy combatant's lives in the name of a cause? Many of our troops are loyal Democrats and not necessarily "fans" of President Bush or his administration (some Republican's too), yet they answered the call and fulfilled their duty. They don't agree with all of the principals of this fight, but unfortunately that doesn't matter. They, and many Confederates (like Jackson), would fight on behalf of their state regardless of what their cause may or may not have signified.

M.A. So in conclusion, I cannot argue that many C.S.A. troops, who rallied behind the "Stars and Bars" believed in the bondage of African-Americans - of course they did, but not all - and not all for the same reasons. If you think about it, at the time in America, minorities, immigrants, women, and children had no "real" legal rights and the entire country (from border to border) was ultimately dominated and controlled by the white man - all of it: North-South-East-West. Slavery, racism and inequality were sins of America - not just the Southern part.

E.V. You say, "If you think about it, at the time in America, minorities, immigrants, women, and children had no "real" legal rights and the entire country (from border to border) was ultimately dominated and controlled by the white man - all of it: North-South-East-West. Slavery, racism and inequality were sins of America - not just the Southern part." This is true! But as I pointed out in a previous response at least some "white men" enshrined the ideals of freedom and equality in the Bill of Rights, making it possible for neglected groups to gain those rights. Obviously, all "white men" weren't in agreement with slavery. There were always the white abolitionists' efforts to end slavery, which eventually lead to the Civil War. Other "white men" struggled with the hypocrisy of being Christians and owning slaves or supporting slavery but eventually came to their senses and denounced it.

E.V. So if you "think" about, just because "the entire country" was controlled by "white men from border to border", didn't mean they were all in agreement on the issue of slavery or there wouldn't have been a Civil War, now would there? "Duty is ours, the consequences God's" is the epitome of shirking responsibility for one's acts, their consequences and attributing responsibility to someone else. I think the individual is responsible for what he (or she) decides to do.

E.V. Respectfully, this sounds like more psychological rationalizing to diminish Christian guilt and culpability for a practice that you and Stonewall knew, was horribly in conflict with Christian values and what Jesus taught, making it easier to tolerate what one knows is wrong without feeling an overwhelming sense of dread or guilt about it. Thinking and acting independently, in a morally responsible way, is far more honorable (in my eyes), than blindly following one's group's religious or political agendas, because of a hypnotic focus on "doing one's duty" be damn, the immorality of doing that duty. Is it more honorable to die supporting a duty that one sees as immoral, or to die refusing to support that duty, as the early Christians did, when they chose to die in the Coliseum rather than pledge allegiance to Caesar?

PART 5

 

 

 


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