There were absolute atrocities on both sides in the American Civil War. As Christians who study it we could easily admit “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
The conquering “winning side” was in truth, often harsh and corrupt in it’s treatment of the South and Southerners, not all of whom supported the Confederacy or all of it’s “ideals” including “the peculiar institution” of slavery.
Germany and the German people suffered greatly under the policies of the Allies after World War I. In part, their literal hunger and other miseries gave rise to one of the most horrible despots and Wars the world has ever known. Most in the churches were silent. The few who spoke out were ostracized, often beaten, eventually rounded up, tortured and many murdered or died in the camps.
It took decades and generations before the bulk of the German people as a whole were able to face the shame and publicly acknowledge complicity in their actions toward “undesirables” who had been deemed “threats” to the National Socialists and the Fatherland.
In full or partial support of our government/s at the time- and the military personnel during the Vietnam War -we must admit without many thousands in the streets protesting and at times sadly and I would agree wrongly destroying property, enough votes, finances and the unity of the American people were brought to bear as issues that would not end until the War ended. Regardless of your view/s it ended at the behest of a clear majority of the American people.
To this very day there are Southerners who cannot face a horror, a shame, cannot bring themselves to admit moral, spiritual and human failure for the Civil War. To do so would mean thousands died needlessly, brought their cause -no- “glory”, and died –in vain-. For many that is a bridge too far, a horror they can never face.
The souls of the German people had to reckon with crimes against humanity they had in too many ways been complicit. Public confession, repentance and desire for forgiveness have been expressed by German Christians and non-Christians alike many times. I was present having been invited to bring music sets to one such amazing, huge and heart-rending gathering of German Evangelical Christians and Jews. There were few dry eyes that night!
In my view, the exact same issues arise in regard to our actions as well as “total support” for the thousands of dead in Vietnam, both U.S., allies and Vietnamese -armed as well as citizens caught in the crossfire. Thankful some Americans have stepped up and done so. Peacemakers, regardless of political agreement/disagreement then and now.
In all three wars the last vestiges of “honor”, “glory” and total support of actions or in-actions are core to accounting for the tragic and needless brutality and loss of life.
Personally, in my lifetime I’ve made a long list of mistakes and indeed have sinned and repented and fully embrace and expect this is part of life as a Christian (or not) on planet earth. I’ve faced true, partly true and on occasion untrue accusations of wrongdoing, inaction, complicity in pain toward others.
Repenting for what you are honestly convinced you were/are not responsible for is understandable to me- and so is the integrity of confession, acknowledging mistakes or outright sin you are guilty of. It’s a two-way street and ALL of us live on it.
Here’s the punchline for the moment as I write in June, 2020:
More than one entire tribe of people have suffered, live in a continuum of injustice, fear or rage due to white folk, unjust laws and at times outright violence, even murder by those in authority. Racism is a reality and nobody chose their skin color or place of birth. We each DO choose how we think about, talk about and treat others.
When we choose to focus only on our own lives – away from the cross of Jesus and our personal crosses due to “the glory of the Republic and it’s fallen heroes”, yes, ancestors, sons, daughters and other loved ones… more blood, injustice, racism and a propping up of a nation in dire need of repentance, reconciliation, restoration and healing will not happen.
Change WILL come as the majority of the people demand it. The work is absolutely painful even above what some of us will ever be willing to do -but it is essential for healing, grace and a witness to the love of God so many of us profess to be the most important light worth shining.
I noticed in one march yesterday they sang “This Little Light of Mine”. I’m still singing it, sing it I must!
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn