Stephen Hunter, one of my favorite authors, defines the narrative as “the set of assumptions the press believes in, possibly without even knowing that it believes in them. It’s so powerful because it’s unconscious. It’s not like they get together every morning and decide “These are the lies we tell today.” No, that would be too crude and honest. Rather, it’s a set of casual, non-rigorous assumptions about a reality they’ve never really experienced that’s arranged in such a way as to reinforce their best and most ideal presumptions about themselves and their importance to the system and the way they have chosen to live their lives.”
The particular narrative I want to dissect is the NYT “1619 Project”, described by the pseudo-journalistic “paper of record” as “the reframing of the history of the United States.” What exactly is reframing in this case? According to Erick Erickson, “The Times does not seek to tell the story of the United States. Nor does it seek to add to the story. Instead, the New York Times has a conclusion and is working backwards to twist and contort facts to fit the conclusion. This is activism. The Times is not reporting, but building narratives where they must ignore or fabricate facts.”
Before the majority of Americans became ignorant of our true history and brainwashed by the public educational establishment, the national media and self-seeking politicians, before emotions became the default measure of truth, as our nation was trying to recover from the inconceivable (to today’s pampered drones) sacrifice of the Civil War, how did key figures of the time understand that war and it’s connection to slavery? The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was first published in February, 1862, in the Atlantic Monthly.
It was written by Julia Ward Howe and is included in many hymnals used by Bible-believing churches. Christian congregations sing this song, feeling very patriotic, without knowing what the song means, why it was written, or anything about Julia Howe. The fact is that this song was not written to praise God or Jesus. It was not even written within the framework of historical Christianity. Julia Howe was a social activist and an ardent Abolitionist. Together with her husband, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, they edited the Boston Commonwealth, a prominent anti-slavery paper, to which she also contributed articles, essays, and poems.
In November of 1861, Samuel and Julia Howe were invited to Washington by President Lincoln, where they toured a number of Union Army camps along the Potomac. While visiting these camps, they heard the soldiers singing a song well-known in both the North and the South, “John Brown’s Body Lies a’Mouldering in His Grave.” James Freeman Clarke, a Unitarian minister and fellow Abolitionist, was another member of the tour. He urged her to write a new song fitting that tune for the War effort to replace “John Brown’s Body.” She did so that very night. Staying at the Willard Hotel in Washington on the night of November 18, 1861, Howe awoke with the words of the song in her mind and in near darkness wrote down the verses. She called the result “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Therefore, the purpose of this song was not to praise God or to give testimony to his great works or the blessings he bestows on Christians. It was written to stir the emotions of the Union troops and support the War Against the Southern Confederacy. In this regard, the song was quite successful and immediately became popular with the soldiers.
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword: His truth is marching on.”
Mrs. Howe’s eyes saw nothing of “the coming of the Lord” because the Lord had not come. This was her “interpretation” of the second advent: the Union army pouring out divine grapes of wrath on the Confederacy.
“I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps, They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps; I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps: His day is marching on.”
The “hundred circling camps” were the Union Army camps that Mrs. Howe toured at President Lincoln’s invitation. She actually imagined the watch-fires of the camps to be altars built to God! “By the dim and flaring lamps” in the camps, she was able to read God’s “righteous sentence” on the South.
“I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal; Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel, Since God is marching on.“
According to Mrs. Howe, the “fiery gospel” is written and spread by “burnished rows of steel”–by rifles and bayonets. What “gospel” is it to which she refers? Not the New Testament Gospel. The word “contemner” is not often used today. It means one who commits contempt. The verb “contemn” means to view or regard with disdain, scorn, or contempt; to despise. The Southern Confederacy is here viewed as having contempt for God. Therefore, to the extent that the Union Army deals with God’s contemners in the South, to that same extent, according Mrs. Howe, God will shed his grace on the Northern soldiers. Here the Southern Confederacy is actually cast in the roll of Satan himself. The prediction of Christ crushing Satan in Genesis 3:15 thus finds its fulfillment in the North crushing the South!
Her interpretation of the Civil War is strictly from the Abolitionist perspective. There is another way to interpret those words. The progressive rhetoric of the day and calls for reparations from Democrat politicians are poured out into a void of willful ignorance as they ignore the body count of mostly white Union soldiers who died that slavery might end. They paid reparations with their lives, The nation lost 2% of its male population.
“He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat; He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat: Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet! Our God is marching on.“
Here Mrs. Howe depicts the choice made by her contemporaries between the cause of the North and the cause of the South as God “sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat.” Of course, God was not then, and is not now, sitting on his judgment seat “sifting” anyone. The judgment seat of God, like the bodily return of Christ to this earth, is an eschatological event. But even apart from that, the fact is that the Southern Army, not the Northern Army, had devout and Godly men such as Lee and Jackson as its leaders. They did not allow their soldiers to curse, they held Sunday services, and they held prayer meetings in their camps.
“In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.”
Here we see the true purpose of this song: “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was written to inspire the Union soldiers who were facing death in their effort to prosecute the war against the Southern Confederacy. Abolitionism, of course, comes out in the phrase, “make men free.” That is the way Mrs. Howe, as an Abolitionist, wanted to portray the goal of the War–to end slavery. However, if anyone thinks the North waged war on the South in order to end slavery and that the South was fighting to preserve slavery, then he knows nothing of the real issues that caused the Southern states to secede from the Union. More about that later.
Erickson sees both the Hymn and the 1619 Project of the New York Times as “an exercise in religious indoctrination. The 1619 is a systematic theology for wokeness. It is also a confession of faith by which heretics can be determined, outed, and marginalized. Should one take any issue with the claims made, no matter how fictitious or devoid of historic accuracy, that person can be labeled a white supremacist. Should one agree with the revisionist reframing, but disagree on the solutions, that person too can be cast out for not doing their fair share to make a heaven on earth. To accomplish all of this, what the left and the Times must do is ignore, downplay, or rewrite the history of 1861 to 1865. They must minimize, downplay, or ignore the deaths of 620,000 men, the majority of whom died, as the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ declares, ‘to make men free’.” Many modern hymnals change this line to, “Let us live to make men free.” That is not how survivors of the Civil War understood the deaths, but indicates the detached from reality sensibilities of moderns.
Erickson: “The United States very literally paid an atoning sacrifice for the sin of slavery. Union preachers of the day and the President of the United States came to see the war in that light. Prior to the Civil War, more and more prominent Americans began discussing it in that light. The war was divine wrath poured out on the nation for enslaving a population.” How did President Lincoln understand the War? I will end by quoting Lincoln’s 2nd inaugural address: “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether‘.”
The Civil War was fought primarily, at least in the visible realm of politics, to preserve the Union (prevent succession of the slave-holding states). But in the invisible, spiritual realm, was it fought to atone for the sin of slavery? Does it matter? Slavery was ended and the Union was preserved, at a terrible cost, which is sneered at and distorted by the New York Times for the sake of preserving their precious narrative. FOR SHAME! Their reckoning will also come. As slavery stored up God’s wrath, perhaps something like that is in store for the lovers of that revisionist narrative.