The Battle of Bull Run: Daddy, who are the Bad Guys?
Earlier this summer I took my family to check out the Battle of the Wilderness in VA and other sites. This weekend we went to the sites of both battles of Bull Run. I love actually going to the historical sites and seeing where things happened. It is amazing to stand on a hill and think that just 150 years or so this was the site were so much history (horrible and violent) took place. I stood where Stonewall Jackson got his nickname and looked at the markings of a dying soldiers who carved his name in the floorboard of a house. My daughter and I took a charge up a hill where other Virginians long ago charged. We made it with much greater ease. It’s easier when no one is shooting at you.
When we got home my little son (age 3) was playing with plastic soldiers and setting up the Union and Confederacy. I did the same thing as a kid. I still remember having a huge set of soldiers that even included Abraham Lincoln and Jeff Davis. Will set it up and then asked me, “Daddy which ones are the bad guys?”
I didn’t know how to answer. Three year old children do not understand that there are no ‘bad’ guys in this war but rather Americans who at times might even be related or old friends but now were shooting at one another and dying in fields far from home. The debates about the Civil War abound but for a child there are bad guys and good guys. Captain America fought the Red Skull. The Avengers took on Loki. But what about these guys in blue and gray?
Some folks want to defend the South and talk about state rights and the invasion from the north. Others point out the ugly reality of slavery and just how it was tied to southern economics. Even though most soldiers had no slaves this was a part of their economy and those in charge were afraid to lose slavery. The Confederacy did not hide its support of human bondage at all. The nation was divided sharply after the election of Abraham Lincoln.
And this was a terrible time in our history. Had the south left the United States would be a foreign nation to many who are very patriotic today. I’m glad the USA is the USA and there is not a USA and CSA. I am thankful we are one nation. And if the division had happened slavery would have continued longer before it finally fell but in that time more abuse and hurt would have been done. Slavery had to go.
I didn’t tell my son all this. Because the soldiers who died at Bull Run, Gettysburg, Shiloh, and fields and farms all over were just sons who loved their parents, homes, and neighbors. They were just kids and they died in horrible ways. They wore blue and they wore gray. There were those on both sides who did some ‘bad’ things but mostly they were just wanting to go home.
This is something we as believers need to consider in every war. The powers in charge of our ‘enemies’ may be guilty of great evil. But the soldier dying in a ditch loves his kids, wants to go home, and doesn’t want to die either. There are some guilty of great evil but most just want the war to end.
War is nasty, brutal and evidence that we live in a fallen world. Jesus came to offer peace and a peace that really lasts.
May we be peace makers that Christ called us to be.