Monday, November 26, 2018

The Catholic Church is the best and most fitting home for the American South

Gaither Gospel Quartet Tenor, David Phelps with his daughter Maggie Beth sing Agnus Dei

Such perfect intensity! Not bad for Bible belt 'tent revivalists'!

I think Pius IX signaled the South's Catholic potential during the American Civil War when he very warmly corresponded with the Confederacy's President, Jefferson Davis.  The  Abolitionist cause was being spearheaded by Transcendentalists and Unitarians who vacillated between indifference and ecstasy over the idea of fomenting race war in the South. That is why The John Brown song was a popular recruiting tool in New England. Who was John Brown?  An apocalyptic preacher who died trying to foment a race war in the American South in 1859. New England elites had met with John Brown and helped him. They  lionized Nat Turner and Toussaint*.

The South by contrast was led by overtly Christian men  who expressed love for God and tradition and home and family and chivalry and patriotism . These virtues were being questioned by self-righteous, fire-breathing  Abolitionists up north, many prominent being anti-christian Unitarians. Maybe Pius IX saw that, despite  the Church's open condemnation of slavery,  the South's inner values harmonized with those of a Catholic society better than those of the puritanical New England ideologues. (At least the South had NEVER made war on Christmas and Easter, nor even burned down any convents, as had the New England Yankees)

But what about slavery? What of the 'racist South'? Perhaps we forget that NO southerner then alive had personally chosen slavery.  They were all born into it. It's brutality did hurt their Christian consciences, but they also had the horrible reminder of the recent Armageddon race war in Haiti to steel their minds against wholesale, chaotic emancipation. Southerners, as goes the old Roman saying, were ' riding the wolf by hanging on to its ears.'  If they suddenly dismounted the wolf of slavery, there was a good reason to expect a dismal end for most southerners, white AND black.

In short, the South hated the imminent threat of rivers of blood more than it hated slavery. Long before the war, a peaceful, gradual emancipation had been on the minds of a good number of Southern elites. Such plans evaporated as northern preaching and threats of war increased.  However, even during the war, at its eleventh hour,** southern leaders enacted General Cleburne's plan for enlisting slaves and EMANCIPATING all those enlisted. This plan was backed by General Robert E. Lee AND JEFFERSON DAVIS. What would have happened if those freed slaves had saved the day for the Confederacy? Certainly a more dignified status for southern blacks than the Union 'paradise' they got after Reconstruction.***

Conversely, the Northern Abolitionists simply hated slavery more than they feared drowning Dixie in rivers of blood. Indeed many hoped that the slaves would rise up and slay their masters as the war advanced.  Thousands of Nat Turners murdering the families**** of the Southern troops on the front would have immediately dissolved the Confederate Army. To many's surprise, that scenario never quite materialized! There were many voices in Europe and even in the Northern States, who feared Lincolns first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation was intended to catalyze a race war in Dixie. President Lincoln relented and softened the most incendiary portion in its final edition. and Southern blacks' personal loyalty and patriotism and Christian decency kept them from fulfilling the dreams of the likes of Thaddeus Steven and William Lloyd Garrison.

The Abolitionists didn't get their race war, but they did get their rivers of blood.  It is a less well-known fact, but a fact nevertheless, that adding to the Civil War's 600,000+ dead soldiers were about a hundred thousand wandering, displaced slaves who perished from small pox, exposure, starvation, etc. The Abolitionists' war to free slaves killed a hundred thousand slaves in short order. But like true revolutionaries, the Abolitionists and their modern-day apologists shrug off the monumental blood sacrifice.  'No sacrifice is too great when we are building heaven on earth!'

But what about the heaven they built us? If it is fair to laud the northern Abolitionists for the war's benefits, like black emancipation and enfranchisement and integrated schools, might it also be fair to credit them for its tragedies? All told, having killed the better part of a million people, the war has then been followed by 150 years of racial hatred and injustice. Our prisons and our abortion clinic dumpsters overflow with black lives wasted.

The Abolitionists got their war and won it. We live in their dream.

* Toussaint oversaw Haitian independence where almost all white women and children and men were slain

** some might argue, too little too which I respond: We only know it was the eleventh hour because we have hindsight.  General Lee was smart but he didn't know the future.

***Some may doubt that southern blacks would have fared better in a Confederacy for which they had fought , than blacks did in a conquered nation where they were seen as the conqueror's tools to humiliate the defeated. To such doubters I would say they are underestimating the cohesion forged among brothers in arms. Such doubters are most likely to have  never been in the military.

**** Nat Turner only murdered one person.  He beat the brains out of a teenage girl with a fence post

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