Tag Archives: civil war

William and Mary, Confederate Memory, Faith, and the Power of Symbols

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16 ESV)

The College of William and Mary will replace a plaque commemorating Confederate soldiers, formerly on display at the Wren Building, with a new plaque remembered W&M students who fought on both sides of the Civil War.

The College of William and Mary will replace a plaque commemorating Confederate soldiers, formerly on display at the Wren Building, with a new plaque remembering W&M students and faculty who fought on both sides of the Civil War.

W. Taylor Reveley III, president of the College of William and Mary, announced recently, that a plaque remembering Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War, and Confederate emblems on the school’s mace, will be removed, placed in the school’s library, and replaced by a new plaque and emblems, respectively. For a full FAQ on what the school has done, read the official press release and FAQ.

If you visit various news websites, you will find a number of heated discussions in the comments sections, ranging from why the Civil War was fought (was it about slavery or states rights?) to our American racist past (are we burying our history, or are we moving on from a terrible blot on our past?). I know that many people find history “boring,” which is something I do not understand. The importance of history is bound up in how we are to remember the past, informing how we understand the power of symbols, in how we live day to day today, as well as the type of values we carry with us into the future.

I do not want to focus on these historical debates here, but I do want to back up a bit and address a general theme as a Christian: symbols matter to people, their meanings change, and these symbols do not always mean the same thing to everyone. Continue reading


The Civil War as a Theological Crisis

A steep, dugout embankment defending Redoubt #1, off of Quarterpath Road, where Confederate troops waited for advancing Federal soldiers to attack from Tutter's Mill Pond below, during the Battle of Williamsburg. Sadly, relatively very few of my fellow Williamsburg neighbors even know that this place even exists.

A steep, dugout embankment defending Redoubt #1, off of Quarterpath Road, where Confederate troops waited for advancing Federal soldiers to attack from Tutter’s Mill Pond below, during the Battle of Williamsburg. Sadly, relatively very few of my fellow Williamsburg neighbors even know that this place even exists.

Does the American national tragedy over the Civil War have something to teach us about how we are to read the Bible?

As a kid, I grew up near the remains of an oft-forgotten, Civil War battlefield. Whenever I ran among the dugout, redoubt embankments, I always kept in mind the warnings of neighbors to be careful, as there was likely to be found unexploded ordinance somewhere underneath my feet.

On the same day, hundreds of miles away, when Mexico was resisting the French on May 5, 1862, remembered now as Cinco de Mayo, Federal forces met Confederate forces just east of my town, for the Battle of Williamsburg, with nearly 4,000 casualties among both sides. Within a couple of years, the significance of that battle faded, displaced in memory by placenames like Antietam and Gettysburg.

Efforts to preserve the battlefield from being run over by suburban housing developments have been somewhat, moderately successful, though the land, as well as the intellectual debates that the led up to the war, have sometimes been forgotten. I often wonder myself, if such a national crisis could have been averted, without such terrible bloodshed.
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