The Civil War and the Bible

Visiting professor lectures about the impact the Bible had on the Civil War.

By Melissa Peerless
Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 03, 2014) — One of the leading scholars of religious history was at the University of Miami Thursday to discuss the Bible’s important impact on the Civil War.

“In a society with a thin federal government, no mass communication or mass merchandising, the Bible was the most pervasive influence on society,” said Mark Noll, the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.

Noll’s lecture – attended by faculty, local religious leaders, history buffs and students from the College of Arts and Sciences – included three sections.

“Controversy” addressed the role of religion in the pre-war period, including the use of Biblical passages to justify slavery. In the “Combatants” section, he spoke about the soldiers’ study of Bible passages during their combat experiences, including reading many letters that included quotations from the scriptures. “Consequences” focused on the time after the war, and especially the disputed 1876 Presidential election between Rutherford Hayes and Samuel Tilden.

The lecture, part of the Department of History Speaker Series, was co-sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies.

Professor Karl Gunther, an Assistant Professor of History who serves on the Department’s Speakers Committee, said, “It was a real privilege to have a scholar of Professor Noll’s caliber come to UM and share his work with us. He had lunch with graduate students from the Department of History and it was a great opportunity for them to talk with him about their research and to interact with such a prominent historian. He gave a memorable and really fascinating lecture and I think everyone learned a lot about an important topic in American history.”

Noll’s research focuses on the history of Christianity in the United States and Canada. He has authored more than two dozen books on religion and politics, the evolving view of God in America, and how the American experience reflects Christianity across the world.

Noll’s 2002 book America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln is widely viewed as the authoritative text on the role of religion in America during the antebellum period.

Professor Noll is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, He received the National Endowment for the Humanities medal in 2006. He earned his Ph.D. in the History of Christianity from Vanderbilt University, M.A. degrees from the University of Iowa and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a B.A. from Wheaton College, Illinois. He served on the faculty at Wheaton, where he co-founded and directed the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, for 27 years before moving to Notre Dame in 2006.

Each year, the Department of History's Speaker Series brings several of the world’s leading historians to campus to share their work with members of the UM community and the broader public. This year’s series covers a diverse range of topics, including the Haitian Revolution, the Bible in the American Civil War, and the global history of marijuana.

Melissa Peerless can be reached at 305-284-2485.

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From left to right, UM Professor Mary Lindemann, guest speaker Mark Noll, UM Professor Karl Gunther, UM Professor Michael Bernath, and UM Professor David Kling.

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