When America Went To Hell
“How I wish that you of all people would understand the things that make for peace.”
—Jesus (Luke 19:42)
Whether or not slavery was the direct cause for the first shots fired upon Fort Sumter in April of 1861 is a matter of scholarly debate. What is undeniable is that two and half centuries of slavery was the fuel that caused the American Civil War to ignite into a conflagration that resulted in 623,000 deaths. From its Jamestown beginnings the American colonies and later the United States practiced one of the most brutal forms of slavery the world has ever known. The preservation of an institution that systematically dehumanized millions of people for the sake of economic gain was not a thing that made for peace. Inevitably that kind of cruel exploitation would overflow its cup and unleash death and hell, bringing everything that is the opposite of peace. During the horror of the American Civil War, the “land of the free” became a burning Gehenna. Thirty percent of Southern men of fighting age were slain on battlefields that saw the birth of modern warfare. From now on, war would be totalized and mechanized. The four horseman of the Apocalypse galloped across America leaving a wake of war, disease, famine, and death.
But in tragic irony a spiritual revival had swept through America during the decade before the Civil War. Americans flocked to churches and evangelistic meetings. This was especially true in the more religious South where Christianity was embraced with greater fervency than in the less zealous North. Across the country revival was on, churches grew, conversions multiplied. People got saved, praised Jesus, and talked about heaven. Then they went to hell. Or at least the same kind of hell Jesus had warned Jerusalem about during his final days. Despite a great “revival,” a nation of Christians was thrust into a hell of cannonballs, Gatling guns, field hospitals, and amputation saws. Great cities were set aflame and fields were littered with thousands of rotting corpses. The fires were not quenched and the maggots did not die. What had gone wrong? Millions had “accepted Jesus” and shouted hosanna, but they did not know the things that make for peace. They prayed a sinner’s prayer, “got right with God,” and kept their slaves. They had a faith that would justify the sinner while bringing no justice to the slave. They had faith that gave them a ticket to heaven…and a highway to hell. The religious fervor in the conservative churches of the South only served to convince them that they were blessed by heaven. They were quite certain God smiled upon their deep devotion to their southern-fried Jesus. If they had to go to war to preserve their freedom, so be it — God was on their side. They were sure of it. But there would be hell to pay.