The Bible and the American Civil War

The decades leading up to 1861 included extensive and ever more heated debates about the meaning of the Bible with respect to slavery. Public debates were held, articles were written in periodicals, tracts were distributed, all to shape public opinion for or against slavery. Even secular writers were inclined to support their arguments by referring to the Bible. Mark Noll summarized the issues in his book, America’s God, “Despite the protests of many at the time, the question was never just the nature of the Bible as such but always and everywhere the nature of the Bible-as-read in the history of a Protestant (and white) America, where during the previous century a massively democratized effort had been carried out to convert the new nation for Christ.” (395) Though the issues have changed this continues to be the nature of America. We are a religious nation that wants to justify our social and political positions with sanctions from the Bible. The current culture wars over abortion and homosexual marriage, for example, are heavily involved with the “Bible-as-read” by people deeply concerned about these and like issues.