Dr. Rufus Fears and Notes For The History Challenged Among Us

Dr. Rufus Fears, Emma and Meg

I Never Liked History In School

It consisted of memorizing meaningless dates and reading boring textbooks.  “Who cared,” I thought.  Nor do I remember a history teacher that brought it to life.  (Thank goodness I married a college history major)

But for a week last fall and also, this summer, my two daughters, 11 & 8, and I were blessed to learn more about how our country was founded and what freedom and liberty really mean by listening to a great orator from Oklahoma University who visited our small city.  This second session was summer camp for us, and we were all on the “edge of our seats” listening to this speaker for 5 days in a row.

So here are just a few notes that stood out to me during the last day of the lecture series given by Professor J. Rufus Fears titled “A Legacy Of Freedom.”  Click on his name in that last sentence and see all of his DVD’s from The Teaching Company.  Definitely worth buying if you are so inclined.

The Civil War

During the Civil War, General Lee (head guy leading the South) chose to lead the South because he believed that the North was oppressing his freedom by wanting to abolish slavery;  the exact freedom that his forefathers fought for in the Revolutionary War just a few generations earlier.  It was the principal of freedom that he was fighting for, not so much the ability to keep slaves.  He said to the North, “Cicero of Rome and Aristotle of Greece, Moses and St. Paul all spoke about slavery being part of life.  None of them said it was wrong.  They just told you how to handle it.  Even the Bible did not say it was wrong.”

I did not realize the motivation of many from the South was more about freedom and less about slavery, though they certainly needed slaves to continue with their lives the way they’d set things up.

But Lee lost the war.

Abraham Lincoln Was A Religious Man

He knew slavery was morally wrong.  Yes, it was written into the Constitution, but only because breaking free from England was hard enough for the 13 states to agree on.  Getting the South to also agree on abolishing slavery would have been impossible. Lincoln argued that even though slavery was in the Constitution, it was still morally wrong based on one thing Jesus said:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Even the Declaration of Independence said “All men are created equal.”  And our country was founded on Biblical principals as much as some people would like to tell you it was not.

So Lincoln Fought For The Morality Of It

His wife said he understood why the South was fighting for their freedoms in this country founded on liberty.  But this country was founded on God and morality too, and slavery was evil.   Morality and God would have to come before Freedom.  And truthfully, freedom is found within those two things.

More Men Died In The Civil War…

than any other war combined.  Finally, one day Lincoln’s son died as a boy.  And now, he knew how all the parents of those fallen soldiers felt.  Lincoln believed that God had taken his son for a reason.  He was compelled to figure out why and he pondered that reason for the 10 months before he gave the very short

Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate…we can not consecrate…we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln Believed The North Must Continue…

to fight on to victory and to end this evil, or his son and all the other sons would have died in vain.  And so they did.

Finally, one night, he went to the Ford Theater.  He had previously told his wife he’d had dreams that he would be killed.  He was shot that night.  It was Good Friday.  His wife later said that Lincoln knew he would have to atone for the deaths of all those soldiers.  What a statesman he was.

And that was the question our lecturer, Dr. Rufus Fears kept asking the class.  Do we still have statesmen today?  Or do we have politicians?  An interesting question.

Godspeed Friends!

 

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8 thoughts on “Dr. Rufus Fears and Notes For The History Challenged Among Us

  1. We will be attending the series in the fall…looks like an awesome line-up!
    History came alive for me as I began homeschooling 20 years ago!

  2. As a PhD student in American History myself, and one who focused on Southern History and the Coming of the Civil Way period . . . that may be what Lee’s words convey, and how he justified his decision to abandon his officer commission in the US Army — did you know Lincoln offered him the command of the Union Army as his first choice after the firing on Fort Sumter when Union Troops were being mobilized? However, it is quite a leap from Lee’s words to say that a defense of the institution of slavery (aka known as the “freedom” to economically make a living as they chose on the backs of enslaved people) is not central to the cause of the Civil War. That being said, I have great admiration and compassion for Lee and the heartbreaking choices he was faced with — shared by many on both sides of the conflict. Another FYI — the Officer Corps (many who had studied together at West Point and served their entire careers with one another in various conflicts throughout the early 19th century) was the LAST institution to “split” over the issue of slavery — preceeded by many, many other national institutions and organizations including most mainstream religious denominations. Some of those splits still survive to this day in mainstream denomiations

    • Jeannine – Ah, my resident history expert. So glad you chimed in here. Yes, I did also learn from that class that Lee was offered command of the Union Army. Fascinating. I agree with you. Compassion for all those people. What a time it was! So very complicated, emotional and core, core issues for people. Thank you for continuing this education for those of us not as studied as you. Like Catherine, history has just now come alive for me too as we have started homeschooling 8 years ago. Why aren’t you teaching this stuff, girl? Love ya!

  3. Just now reading this, and I have to tell you, I have said MANY times to Gordon that I am not teaching my children. Rather, I am learning with them! And it is not because I did not pay attention in school (I got straight A’s and was class valedictorian!) but because true history was not taught! Maddening, really, and it is much worse now. It saddens me to think how much “indoctrination” and how little “education” I experienced all those years. Praise God, though, that I get to experience true education with my children!