The South Carolina secession celebration ball held December 20 in Charleston, SC, with 400 attendees at $100 each, might have given a little boost to the local economy and might have been a lot of fun for the attendees and it might have fed the news beast for a few hours, but I don’t see any value in it beyond that. Events leading up to a war that took the lives of 600,000 should be remembered and studied but not celebrated.
It makes me think of the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It was in 1517 that Father Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and catalyzed the rebellion against certain practices of, and departure of many from, the Catholic Church. You can be sure we will be hearing a lot about that as 2017 approaches. I know it is still six years away, but 500th anniversary celebrations take a lot of planning. Luther is probably given too much credit, or blame, for changes that were sure to come with the advent of the printing press, expansion of literacy, and replacement of feudalism with a hint of free enterprise, but, once his theses were noticed and brought to the attention of the authorities, he certainly took center stage for a while.
Of course secession didn’t have to cause a war. Lincoln could have said, “Good Riddance.” And today we would be living with an uneasy truce and ongoing negotiation between two countries, much like North and South Korea. And the end of legally sanctioned slavery was as certain, given world socioeconomic trends, as the eventual ceding of temporal power by the Roman Catholic Church. So, South Carolina was wrong in leaving the Union and Lincoln was right in seeing the value of the Union and in fighting to preserve it. Luther was right in protesting the exploitation of the people by the Church’s sale of indulgences, but Pope Leo X was wrong in throwing Luther out of the Church. He should have appointed him leader of a task force to clean up the problems. Maybe such an expression of wisdom could have avoided The Thirty Years War with Lutherans, Protestants, and Catholics robbing, exiling, and killing each other.
So, in the 21st century we have a united United States of America, still the envy of the world, refuge for many, and bastion of freedom. And we have a divided Christian church with hundreds of denominations and theologies to choose from. Some may argue that theological diversity is good news, but I am no more likely to celebrate the Protestant Reformation than I was to celebrate the secession of South Carolina.
And, lest you think I am just a total Grinch, Christmas, Easter, and the American Declaration of Independence are still on my celebration list.