Faith and the Civil War

Walt Whitman, one fine "Chaplain" of the Un-Civil War
Walt Whitman, one forgotten “Chaplain” of the American Civil War

Liberty University (let that sink in) is opening its “National Civil War Chaplains Museum” on campus.  Now, when a powerful and wealthy fundamentalist/evangelical organization or school opens a “National” anything, a little alarm bell should go off in the brain.  Something’s afoot in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Now, I honor the service of Chaplains (the ones who are Not Preachers wearing a Chaplain’s Mask).  And I think the 3000 Chaplains in the American Civil War deserve respectful recognition by the nation.

But some healthy skepticism and a little investigating may be called for. . .

My first thought was:  I’ll bet only Christian Chaplains are recognized (I was wrong:  Rabbis are included. . .though I couldn’t see any involved, and most of the language describing Chaplains was evangelical).

My second thought was:  Follow the Money (looks like the massive wealthy of Liberty U is covering our “National” museum; thanks guys).

My third thought was:  What’s the Purpose of this “historical” museum?

I have a pretty good Reason Radar for these things, so I looked around their website, watched the intro video and came away with a couple “revelations”:

1)  It’s not that bad, really, in revealing the part Religion played in that disastrous war (though it’s clear Liberty is most concerned about the important role Christian Faith plays in America.  What is Not clear is whether this museum will show the True Causes of the War especially the Masses of Christian Slave Owners defending their “Religious Liberty” to enslave other human beings).

2)  Yes, the focus is on Christian soldiers (“God’s Warriors”) and the “church services and revivals” led by Christian Chaplains (lots of converts, of course).

3)  The Mission Statement includes a Profound Mis-Understanding of what Chaplaincy means (to promote study of “the methods of dissemination of religious doctrine and moral teachings” and of course to “show the influence of religion on the lives of political and military personnel.”)

4)  The Director/Chaplain is head of something called “Re-enactors Missions for Jesus Christ.”  (does that make you wonder if there is any bias in his historical “re-enactments”?).

But, seriously, check it out.  Read and watch the videos and see what you think.

Lingering Questions:  I was left wondering about the Jewish Chaplains.  Who were they?  Were there any Women?  And, were there Other Chaplains of Other Faiths?  Were there Secular Chaplains (of course, I would vote for Walt Whitman, who is, I’m guessing, probably not included in the “National Museum”)

Last Note:  At least Liberty University is putting some effort into honoring the forgotten Chaplains in one of the greatest Religious Wars ever fought.


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