Monday Ministerial Musings
By Rev. Mark William Ennis
2022 Blog #27
July 11, 2022
Summer Cinema Scenes in 10 parts
Part 2 “Gettysburg”
“Into Yours hands I commend my spirit.”
Each Independence Day weekend I enjoy watching the movie “1776” but I also enjoy watching the movie “Gettysburg.” Historically this makes sense as the Civil War battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1-July 3. The following day, July 4, Vicksburg fell to General Grant and the fate of the confederacy was sealed. Events of these dates in 1863 are as relevant to our history as these dates in 1776.
I believe that there are too many magnificent parts of this movie to even begin to discuss it with intelligence but one particular scene stands out in my mind and is a snapshot of the battle, the war, as well as the culture of the nation at that time. This scene shows the prayer of brigadier general Lewis Armistead.
Armistead, like many southerners, considered themselves to be Christian and believed that the war to maintain their way of life was the act of faithful Christians. It seems incomprehensible to us that a Christian would be fighting to maintain slavery, yet we must evaluate people based on their cultural context, not ours.
Armistead believed that he was doing God’s work in defending his state against federal intrusion and in upholding slavery and the culture that supported it. He knew that there was a good chance that he would die but he was willing to face death for causes that he believed were Godly.
Armistead’s brigade was part of Pickett’s division. Armistead, who well understood the risks of this desperate attack which has become known as “Pickett’s Charge” began to lead his brigade out of the woods and toward the federal positions. He knew that he faced a good chance of being wounded or dying. Just before his march began he removed his hat looked upward and prayed, “into your hands, I commend my spirit.” He believed that he was doing God’s will and was willing to die for it.
Do we have so much commitment? Are we willing to die for what we believe God is calling us to do? Does our faithful commitment to Jesus end at our own safety or our own comfort? I disagree with Armistead that fighting for the confederacy was God’s will. Nevertheless, I appreciate his faithful commitment. He is a role model for all of us who claim the mantle of Christianity.
Armistead was indeed shot during the charge. He died a few days later in a federal prison hospital. I believe that he was wrong, but I cannot fault his dedication and faithfulness.