Saturday, May 2, 2009

Commander's Call...

This editorial originally published in the Winter, 2006 The Lost Cause

Feb 2006 —  Lately, I’ve been learning New Testament Greek.  I finally got fed up with people telling me what it said “in the original Greek,” and decided that I would learn to read it myself.  It was a good decision, but it didn’t solve very much.

   You see, just knowing the original word doesn’t necessarily explain what that word meant then.  It certainly doesn’t have much to do with what the word may mean now.  Just one example:  In the opening verses of the Gospel according to Matthew, several variations on just one word are used to mean “generations”, “it came to pass”, and “begat”, as in “fathered.”  In other cases, very different words are used to mean, essentially, the same thing, in English.  The bottom line is that, even if I become proficient is ancient Greek, there’ll still be huge holes in my knowledge of what the Church Fathers were trying to tell me.

   The same caution applies today.  Take, for instance, General S.D. Lee’s charge to the SCV.  In it, he said “To you, sons of Confederate veterans (today, we capitalize all that, but in those days, he probably did not), we submit the vindication of… the cause for which he fought.”  Vindication.  That’s our mission.  That’s why we exist as an organization.  To “vindicate the cause for which he fought.”  What does that mean?  What is “vindication”?  Recourse to a dictionary doesn’t help a whole lot.  There are several meanings for the word “vindication”, including “revenge”, which I don’t think many of us can wholeheartedly sign on for.  Perhaps the better definition is “justify”.  Our mission, then, is to “justify” the War, or at least “the cause for which he fought.”

   What was that “cause”?  Many today say it was the maintenance of slavery.  Others respond, “no, it was states rights”.  Others argue that he was simply defending his homeland from invasion by yankee invaders.  I don’t think any of those truly capture the “cause” referred to by General Lee.  I think it was something far bigger.

   I think the “cause” was freedom.  Look:  if you’re in a place that you don’t want to be, you have the freedom to do what?  Leave.  It’s that simple.  If you are not free to leave a place, or a group, or a situation that you’re in, then you are not free.  You are a slave.  That’s how our ancestors saw it, and it’s how some still see it today.  Certainly it’s how we see oppressed minorities in other countries around the world. 

   In 1861, the government of the United States underwent some fundamental changes.  Several states could no longer support that government, so they tried to leave.  They tried to exercise their freedom, as guaranteed by the Constitution, as they read it.  The end result was war and reconstruction, but the Cause was freedom.  I believe it’s our mission to point that out at every opportunity.  After all, if we don’t, who will?

Dr. Tom Hiter

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