I have been studying the War Between the States for 53 years. In all those years, the one quotation I have read which summarizes the true reason for the differences between the North and the South which led to that war was stated by James Henley Thornwell (1812-1862). He was the President of Columbia Theological Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, founder of the Southern Presbyterian Review, and editor of the Southern Quarterly Review. This is what he said in the Southern Literary Messenger for July 1851:

“The parties in this conflict are not merely Abolitionists and Slaveholders; they are Atheists, Socialists, Communists, Red Republicans, Jacobins on the one side, and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is the battle ground, Christianity and Atheism the combatants, and the progress of humanity the stake. One party seems to regard society, with all its complicated interests, its divisions and subdivisions, as the machinery of man, which, as it has been invented and arranged by his ingenuity and skill, may be taken to pieces, reconstructed, altered or repaired, as experience shall indicate defects or confusion in the original plan. The other party beholds in it the ordinance of God; and contemplates ‘this little scene of human life’ as placed in the middle of a scheme, whose beginnings must be traced to the unfathomable depths of the past, and whose development and completion must be sought in the still more unfathomable depths of the future – a scheme, as Butler expresses it, ‘not fixed, but progressive, in every way incomprehensible;’ in which, consequently, irregularity is the confession of our ignorance, disorder the proof of our blindness, and with which it is as awful temerity to tamper as to sport with the name of God.”

Thornwell was referring to Joseph Butler, an English Anglican Bishop of Durham and theologian.

In his article entitled “A Henhouse Full of Foxes” which accompanied the June 18, 2021 Lively Letter, Dr. Scott D. Lively further expounded on what Thornwell was referencing when he wrote:

“The surest way to destroy America’s world-blessing system of ‘ordered liberty’ is to allow bad people to act with impunity. Impunity means exemption or immunity from punishment, harm, or loss. Impunity is doing whatever bad thing you want without suffering the consequences that would normally follow. It is ’liberty’ without order, which breeds anarchy, which produces social chaos, which has been the goal of every Marxist enemy we have ever faced from the time of Marxism’s emergence to today’s partnership of American Cultural Marxist elites with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“Another way to describe ‘ordered liberty’ is ‘the rule of law,’ but not just the ruled-law of man, since that can be (and has been) corrupted by bad actors in the legislative process, but the true ‘Law of Nature and Nature’s God’ invoked by America’s founders in the Declaration of Independence. ‘Ordered liberty’ is more accurately ‘the rule of the law of human society when it is aligned with the natural law of right and wrong, cause and effect, blessing and cursing.’

Ordered liberty is God’s Holy Grail of true civilization.”

Lively shows how what Thornwell spoke of in the Nineteenth Century is still being played out in the Twenty First Century, with the players in the game today being very similar to the ones then. Lively further substantiated this when he stated:

“The most obvious example of this is the George Soros brigade of District Attorneys in deep-blue cities who refused to prosecute their BLM and Antifa allies in the streets who were being arrested for a months-long, hugely destructive campaign of rioting, looting and arson, while the co-conspirators in the media spun a narrative of ‘mostly peaceful’ protesters justifiably enraged by ‘out-of-control White Supremacy-driven police brutality.’ News and social media suppressed all truthful dissent from that narrative, while co-conspirators in the government, academia, and NGOs formed a virtual human chain of solidarity to reinforce the false narrative and de-fund the police. The goal and end result was pervasive lawlessness without consequences that continues today.”

When I see the Confederate flag, it means to me what Thornwell said, “order and regulated freedom.” It also means Christianity to me. The cross of Saint Andrew, which it bears, is a Christian cross. The Confederate army was the most Christian army since Cromwell’s army. The facts about this were recorded by two former Confederate army chaplains, J. William Jones and William W. Bennett, in books they wrote after the war. It was because of the results of what Bennett called the Great Revival in the Southern Armies that the South later became known as the Bible Belt.

Modern “social justice” is simply a hatred of Christianity because it is in Western Civilization that Christianity has historically had the strongest influence, although in a mixture of pure and adulterated forms. As Robert E. Lee wrote in a letter to his wife in 1856, “The doctrines and miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years to convert but a small part of the human race, and even among Christian nations what gross errors still exist!” When the Marxists and other leftists today extoll non-Western cultures over Western ones, they show an affinity for non-Christian cultures over Christian ones. Today’s Marxists are also following the path which Thornwell described. They are attempting to remake the social order in the image of man and not the image of God, which they are rebelling against. And there is now doubt that the godly character of such Confederate leaders as Robert E. Lee, Thomas J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson, and others would make these atheists feel intimidated by their example. Jones has three chapters on this subject under the heading “Influence of Christian Officers.”

The Foundation for American Christian Education in Chesapeake, Virginia has been putting out scholarship for decades which shows the Christian foundations of the United States. What happened in the Nineteenth Century is that the North departed from these foundations while the South continued to hold to them. This has been dealt with in more detail by Jonathan Harris.

This is still the battleground today. If our foundations are destroyed, our nation will be destroyed.


Benjamin M. Palmer, ed., The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell, 4 vols. Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974 [1875], vol. IV, pp. 405-406.

William Jones, Christ in the Camp; or, Religion in Lee’s Army. Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1986 [1887], passim.

William W. Bennett, A Narrative of the Great Revival Which Prevailed in the Southern Armies During the Late Civil War Between the States of the Federal Union. Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1976 [1876], passim.

William Jones, The Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee: Soldier and Man. Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1978 [1906], p. 83.

Also Recommended:

Traci Nichols-Belt with Gordon T. Belt, Onward Southern Soldiers: Religion and the Army of Tennessee in the Civil War. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.

Henry Lee Curry III, God’s Rebels: Confederate Clergy in the Civil War. Lafayette, LA: Huntington House, 1990.

Charles F. Pitts, Chaplains in Gray: The Confederate Chaplains’ Story. Concord, VA: R.M.J.C. Publications, 2003 [1957].

Timothy A. Duskin

Timothy A. Duskin is from Northern Virginia. He has a B.A. degree in history from American Christian College, Tulsa, Oklahoma and a M.A. degree in international relations from the University of Oklahoma. He worked for 22 years as an Archives Technician at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. He has also worked as a Writer for the U.S. Taxpayers’ Alliance in Vienna, Virginia and as a Research Assistant for the Plymouth Rock Foundation in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He has a strong interest in and devotion to history and is active in a number of historical organizations.

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