The American Civil War and The Spanish Civil Warby Rit Nosotro
Contrast the biblical justification that both sides claimed during the US Civil War and the Spanish Civil War. What different arguments did a Protestant nation or a Catholic nation use defend its position. Provide the justifications claimed from pulpits, and rationalizations of the religious interpretations offered by the defeated.
The US Civil War (1861-65) had greater biblical justification than the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
During the US Civil War, Union soldiers fought for biblically justifiable causes such as keeping the union (based on Mat. 12:25) and both sides were convinced to obey their governments (as per Rom. 13:1-2). Abolishing slavery was a secondary issue for the north but one that also found support in the Bible. In contrast, the causes of the Spanish Civil War included political greed between leaders, and twisted corruption of the Roman Catholic church as an arm of the state.
Although both the American Civil War (1861 - 1865) and Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) were extremely bloody, the wars were radically different in their causes and results upon on the world.
Many legitimate causes have been offered for the US Civil War. Preserving the union and abolishing slavery were reasons which motivated the Northern states. Southerners entered the war to preserve their traditional institutions which were authenticated by the strength of state's rights. The spark that led to the succession of Southern States from the Union of the United States was the election of Abraham Lincoln. The Union army responded with expectations of a quick and nearly bloodless war. However, the rebel army stopped them in their tracks with the costly battle of Manassas (Bull Run). From then on battles raged killing thousands. Finally the war torn and devastated South surrendered and rejoined with the union of states.
About seventy five years later a civil war irrupted in Spain. The state supported Catholic Church held extremely strong bonds all over Spain, and things such as divorce were outlawed. The common working man protested against the power and wealth of the Catholic Church officials by electing a new Republican government. In turn, the Catholic state military rose up to resist the new Republican government. On July the 18th, 1936 the threatened old guard began a siege their own country in effect to protect the corrupted power of the Catholic Church.
Like the Union forces of the USA, the old guard expected an instantaneous victory requiring only a show of force. Yet, all across Spain civilians took up arms against the military which would not recognize the new Republican government. Massive slaughter occurred, but the barricaded civilians would not budge. Franco, the leader of the military rebellion, decided he would need help from outside sources. Unfortunately he got that help from three fascist dictators. To his call came men and equipment from Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Antonio Salazar. The boldness of the fascist’s power was demonstrated on April 26, 1937 when Hitler bombed the Spanish village of Guernica on behalf of Gen. Francisco Franco. (The German Parliament formally apologized on April 27, 1998.)
To the support of the Republican army came America, Britain, Mexico, France, and even the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, their support was limited and late and Spain's Civil War finally ended on the 1st of April, 1939 with Franco's victory. Franco proceeded to bring mass executions to the already devastated and bombed country. Through fascism the Catholic Church was exploited for it's power base while true Christianity was severely attacked.
Conversely, the civil war in the States did not dampen the spread of the gospel. Many of the Southern generals were strong Christians. Their faith in the providence of God did not waver through their many honorable defeats and astounding victories. The Union also had its Christian generals, yet most did not proclaim it so strongly through their actions and words. Although both sides struggled with ideas of state's rights and slavery, neither side doubted God's severe mercy in dealing with the United States.
The long term consequencese on the world from both devastating wars were tremendous and radically different. The Union victory of the American Civil war united the United States, ended slavery, and gave rise to the most powerful nation in the world. Conversely, Franco's exploitation of Catholicism resulted in a weak cultural Christianity and a general distaste for the influence of religion in politics that has influenced all of post Christian Europe. Mussolini's support for Catholicism resulted in a similar distaste in Italy. The Spanish Civil war brought fascism to Spain, demonstrated the rising power of Germany and Italy, and accelerated the massive exterminations of World War II.
Overall, both wars resulted in totally different scenarios, one basically for good, and the other for evil.
Within a Judeo/Christian ethic, war can have biblical justification. The US Civil War seemed to have legitimate biblical justification. The Union fought in the US Civil War because it believed in the Biblical principle of "a nation divided will fall:" (Matthew 12:25) and because of the evils of slavery. Though the ideas they fought for may not have been necessarily Christian, many southern generals fought because they believed they should obey their (local) government (Romans 13). The Spanish Civil War did not appear to have very legitimate biblical justification. Though the Catholic Church believed that God intended it to rule over Spain, it did not really have any biblical justification especially since Jesus said, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." (John 17:16). And of course, Franco and his rebels did not have biblical legitimacy because they were trying to rid the country of true Christianity.
Cary Nelson, “The Spanish Civil War: An Overview” Modern American Poetry. October 15, 2004. http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/scw/overview.htm
Shogun, “The American Civil War Overview” Shogun’s home of the American Civil War. October 15, 2004. http://www.civilwarhome.com/overview.htm
Jewett, Leah, “Overview of the Civil War” Beyond Face Value. October 15, 2004. http://www.lib.lsu.edu/cwc/BeyondFaceValue/overview/overview.htm
“Spanish Civil War” Si Spain. October 15, 2004.
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