Who was right?

During my weekly sermon preparation, I have gleaned much from John A. Broadus’ commentary on Matthew. Before recommending it to another pastor, I decided to look up information about the author. According to SBTS, Broadus (1889-1895) was a Baptist pastor who later served the soldiers of the Confederate army.

For some, his involvement with the southern army should be an instant disqualification of his opinions about anything. It is too easy for us to look back on the Civil War and to declare how we would have handled things differently. We recognize the evils of slavery and are glad for the war that ended it. However, things were not so clear in the 1860’s. Good men on both sides saw other issues—besides slavery—that necessitated fighting the Civil War. Broadus spoke about this in an address some 21 years after the war.

“It is useless now to raise the question who was right. Perhaps in some respects, each side would now acknowledge that the other was nearest right; perhaps in some respects both sides were wrong. … Of one thing I feel certain, neither side can claim any monopoly of good intentions, of patriotic aims, nor even of wisdom. … But this much is plain — the war had to come.”

Address at Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, May 22, 1886

Today, many take strong positions about the Civil War. Some have even pulled down statues of Confederate war heroes. I wonder, though, how many know enough about these soldiers and the Civil War to truly understand why good men chose to fight on one side or the other. Perhaps we ought to listen more to those who experienced the war and seek to learn from them. Perhaps, then, we will be able to understand the conflict and avoid similar problems in the future.