James P. Byrd: Was the American Revolution a Holy War?Roundup: Talking About History
tags: American Revolution, Washington Post, James P. Byrd, Vanderbilt
James P. Byrd is an associate dean at Vanderbilt University and the author of “Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution.”
Holy war can seem like something that happened long ago or that happens far away — the Crusades of medieval Europe, for example, or jihadists fighting secular forces today. But since their country’s founding, Americans have often thought of their wars as sacred, even when the primary objectives have been political.
This began with the American Revolution. When colonists declared their independence on July 4, 1776, religious conviction inspired them. Because they believed that their cause had divine support, many patriots’ ardor was both political and religious. They saw the conflict as a just, secular war, but they fought it with religious resolve, believing that God endorsed the cause. As Connecticut minister Samuel Sherwood preached in 1776: “God Almighty, with all the powers of heaven, are on our side. Great numbers of angels, no doubt, are encamping round our coast, for our defense and protection.”
Several founding fathers were more theologically liberal than the typical evangelical Protestant of their day. Still, few were anti-religious, and the nation’s architects often stated that religion supported virtue, which was essential to patriotism. “A true patriot must be a religious man,” wrote Abigail Adams, wife of America’s second president....
comments powered by Disqus
- Can the President Be Indicted?
- Oxford students to get exam on non-white, non-European history
- This is why presidents want back channels and how it can go wrong
- Few in St. Louis Knew Confederate Memorial Existed. Now, Many Want It Gone.
- This is why presidents want backchannels and how it can go wrong
- Ken Burns argues that Vietnam is to be blame for much of our current alienation and polarization
- No, Israel Is Not a Democracy
- Drew Gilpin Faust discusses free speech in Harvard commencement address (video)
- General McMaster, Step Down—and Let Trump Be Trump
- Historian David Kaiser says the most exciting day of his life was JFK’s election