In The Press
Also online at:
The Free Lance-Star
would bet that he would have wanted to take Baghdad
in 21 hours--not 21 days."
- Michael Aubrecht
Religion, war can be a risky
By Michael Zitz, The Free
Date published: 6/25/2005 TOWN &
Faith and fearlessness are
admirable traits. But they also can be dangerous.
Both Osama bin Laden and President Bush believe
they have been chosen by God to carry out his will
Spotsylvania County man who is the author of a book
about spirituality and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
says religious conviction can become a double-edged
sword in time of war.
Michael Aubrecht is the author of
the 2005 book, "Onward Christian Soldier: The
Spiritual Journey of Stonewall" (Pinstripe Press,
75 pages, $11.95 online).
companion volume, titled "Christian Cavalier,"
about Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, will be released this
fall. Aubrecht is currently working on a fictional
Civil War book, "Battlefield Believers," that's
being illustrated by Christian artist Vicki Talley
lives in the Massaponax area and attends
Spotsylvania Presbyterian Church.
"Religion has always played a part
in every major conflict, whether for good or evil,"
Aubrecht said. "Faith in one's God can provide a
great sense of strength and comfort to soldiers and
civilians, but it can also be distorted for the
justification of aggression and atrocity. It can be
a blessing as well as a danger.
like to think that our leaders have the best of
intentions and believe they are doing the right
thing at the time. Sometimes this proves to be true
and sometimes it doesn't."
Aubrecht said most believers feel
they have a purpose, and that the meaning of life
is to discover and fulfill that purpose.
"This should always be done for the
betterment of mankind, but sometimes it backfires,"
Aubrecht said. "My own definition of 'human nature'
includes mankind's innate ability to foul things
up. I think one of our most important tasks is to
learn from our own mistakes."
Jackson was fearless on the
battlefield because he believed God had
predetermined his fate.
religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in
battle as in bed," Jackson once said. "God has
fixed the time of my death."
Aubrecht said: "On one hand, the
belief that his time of death was already
determined, enabled him to stand, unflinchingly,
amid the chaos on the battlefield. Often, it
inspired his troops to achieve victory against all
some, Aubrecht said, believe his "divine
inspiration" was self-destructive and contributed
greatly to Jackson's untimely demise.
consider Jackson as similar to George Patton in
some respects," he said. "He was a ferocious
warrior who preached the swift and total
destruction of the enemy. Although he took no
pleasure in waging war, he believed that the
quickest way to end a conflict was to give no
quarter to the enemy. He urged his superiors to
attack when at all possible and his intentions were
to cripple the opposition into surrender. Faith
made him cautious, as he often depended on prayer
when making decisions, but it also made him
careless, as it gave him a sense of
Jackson was mortally wounded by his
own men on May 2, 1863, in the confusion at
Jackson continues to fascinate
people. His story seems to have captured the
public's imagination as much as any figure during
the war, aside from Lincoln and Lee.
"Throughout the course of history,
those that we remember are usually ordinary people
who only become noteworthy due to extraordinary
circumstances," Aubrecht said. "These are normal,
everyday folks like you and me, who simply chose to
seize a moment or rise to the occasion."
said Jackson inspired the writing of so many books
not because of his battlefield heroics but because
of his complex background and personality.
had experienced a depressing childhood due to the
unexpected deaths of his father, sister, mother and
brother," Aubrecht said. "He was raised
predominantly by his relatives and struggled as a
young man, both academically and socially, while
attending West Point."
later lost his first wife and child.
That, combined with religious
devotion, turned him into a serious and
strait-laced man, and "very unpopular with his
students at the Virginia Military Institute,"
Aubrecht said. "He was obsessive, compulsive and
eccentric, but ultimately a good man."
the battlefield, Aubrecht said, "Jackson was
probably a bit of a bore, but on it he was a
Aubrecht began to become fascinated
with the Civil War in 1978, at age 6, when his
family visited the National Military Park at
recalls, "feeling so small while looking up at
these giant monuments of bearded men on horses."
Later, while working as an essayist for
BaseballAlmanac.com, he was inspired by the film
"Gods and Generals" that featured what Aubrecht
characterized as "a breathtaking performance of
Jackson by Stephen Lang."
"Jackson was a devout Presbyterian,
and I was personally inspired by the strength of
his faith," Aubrecht said. "Religion, in my
opinion, was the foundation for what made him such
a brilliant and fearless leader."
Aubrecht said he believes Jackson
would be a far less effective general today because
of 21st-century politics and political
"Let's put it this way I would bet
that he would have wanted to take Baghdad in 21
hours--not 21 days," Aubrecht said.
"Much more than just a general,
Thomas Jackson was a true believer," he said. "He
lived every day for the fulfillment of his duty. In
the end, perhaps this Christian soldier's biggest
victory was not in defeating his foes on the
battlefield, but in convincing others to serve both
God and country.
"His is a story that reminds us
what it means to be an American. More importantly,
his is a story that should never be
more information on Jackson and Aubrecht, visit
Michael Zitz is a staff writer with
The Free Lance-Star. Contact him at 540/374-5408,
or mikez@freelance star.com.