“Hang them on Mason’s and Dixon’s line”: Brown & Brevard (1980) on Methodist holy war against slavery

methodist 2The other week, I began reading the 1980 official history of the Church of Christ in Christian Union by Rev. Kenneth Brown and P. Lewis Brevard , which is a holiness-Wesleyan denomination that primarily resides in the Midwest. It is one of the several denominations that evolved out of the Methodism once Methodism was combined with Restorationism. Brown and Brevard’s chapter on Methodism and the American Civil War accurately points out that the Methodist Church was against slavery and believed that supporting the South made one eligible for excommunication, especially Methodist churches in Ohio (aka Methodist stomping ground). To most Ohio Methodists, slavery was such a despicable evil that armed force had God’s blessing and anyone supporting the South in the war was an enabler of manifest evil, possibly even meriting damnation. Such language was common from Methodist/Wesleyan pulpits during the time period:

 

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This led to tough times for many Methodist congregations in pro-southern parts of the country and led to their persecution. Supporting the institution of slavery is one in the same as supporting murder, rape, and theft. It is to spit in God’s face by denying that all human beings bear His image and it suspends the moral order of the universe, creating a Tower Babel. I’m not the most violent person (I jokingly refer to myself as a peacenik) and I would be taken back by hearing this in a church, but I find it appropriate in some poetic way. We shouldn’t be afraid of calling evil people evil because of political correctness. One can debate the efficiency or ethicality of the North’s approach to struggle, but, as Methodists during the Civil War officially believed, to be an apologist for the South was to be an apologist for beings from the lowest pit of Hell. If there is a God (and believe there is), the South deserved His wrath.