An Apology for “Seven Notes from ‘Lincoln’”

I wrote the post originally while wrestling with the raw emotions I felt after viewing such a powerful film

In no way did I mean to imply that the Civil War was not about slavery. In fact I believe that it was primarily over the slavery issue. My point was that the war was complicated—and tragic. I should have stated that more clearly.

 

Dear Reader,

Please allow me to sincerely apologize to those whom I offended in my previous post. At the outset, let me state that in no way did I mean to condone the evil of slavery or render an argument for causes of the Civil War. I wrote the post originally while wrestling with the raw emotions I felt after viewing such a powerful film. I received some feedback from Christian brothers and sisters when The Aquila Report ran what I posted on Facebook, and seeing it in the light of day—and from their perspective—I was startled to see how it could be perceived. I would like to share with you the gist of what I shared with those who wrote. I also want to thank these brothers and sisters publicly for having graciously accepted my explanation and apology.

Their initial responses argued that I was too naïve in saying that the war was not about slavery. In no way did I mean to imply that the Civil War was not about slavery. In fact I believe that it was primarily over the slavery issue. My point was that the war was complicated—and tragic. I should have stated that more clearly. The background of my comparison to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was an editorial I recently read in which the author argued that the Gulf wars were about the USA wanting to get access to the oil over there pure and simple, which struck me as too simplistic. I have observed that wars are complex and always involve more than one problem.

More than that, what I was struck with most when viewing the film was a certain sadness that the President I revered so much was depicted participating in the kind of politics we see today in bringing about the good and glorious passage of such an important amendment. That said, I am not a politician, and I would do well to remember that in a fallen world politics is often messy. In the film I was saddened to be reminded of so much death, division, and bloodshed. I wondered if there could not have been any other way to win freedom for everyone. I admit my naiveté about that; obviously I am not a historian either. My Facebook post was simply meant to be a few reflections on my angst and emotion as I processed the movie.

As I read Kenneth Pierce’s well-reasoned and well-written response to my reflections I found myself nodding in agreement so often that I was startled and grieved with how significantly I must have miscommunicated my beliefs, especially as it dawned on me that he was responding to what he thought I had intended to say.

As I said, I am not a politician or a historian; I am a missiologist. I try to teach my classes to love and engage all cultures all over the world. I give them tools for sharing the gospel, planting churches, and intercultural interaction that enable and enhance their ministries among all peoples. I have spent my own missionary career ministering to the Highland Quichua people in the Andes who were enslaved from the 1500s up to very recent decades. I have written books about the Quichuas, defended their cause to the government, become godparent to their children, and loved them. I still seek to serve them and marginalized indigenous peoples everywhere. As one who has devoted his entire Christian life to missions, I would be devastated at the prospect of anything I say being a hindrance to gospel.

As such, I am deeply sorry that my spontaneous, momentary reflections caused offense. I meant it not as an apologetic for the war, slavery, or anything of the sort. Let me be clear: in no way do I or did I mean to defend slavery or racism—both are evil, as is all hatred, prejudice, racism, and discrimination. I was not arguing the cause of the war, nor slavery issues, I was simply saddened at the kinds of politics involved in such a momentous event in our country’s history, and being struck afresh with the startling reality of almost three quarters of a million dead.

The Facebook post was an emotional overflow that was trying to make sense of the tragedy, and naively expressing a continuing desire that a better way could have been found to end the evil of slavery. Again, I sincerely apologize and humbly ask the forgiveness of those whom I offended, eager to labor with them to take the gospel and its message of redemption and restoration to the ends of the earth.

M. David Sills serves as Associate Dean and Professor of Christian Missions at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as well as President of Reaching and Teaching International Ministries.