by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America
Apostasy was most definitely on the up-swing in the middle of 19th century America. Most people don’t want to deal with the thought that it started that early. It makes them uncomfortable to think the apostates and heretics were here and quite active before they were even born. However, if we don’t learn to deal with the truth about the past we will never be able to deal with it in the future and we will just end up burying our heads in the sand (again) and pretending it’s not there.
That’s why it is so important for us to come to grips with it, and the apostates that supported terrorist John Brown are as good a place as any to start. They represent a cross section of the apostasy that rampaged across our history in the 1800s–the apostasy our “history” books gloss over by not calling it what it really was.
All of terrorist/abolitionist John Brown’s Secret Six supporters were controversial individuals. Most all have been theologically radical as well as politically radical–people that, today, should be considered way over on the Leftist fringe of society. Although with today’s fluctuating morays they might be considered mainstream. In a normal society you would have to classify these people as far Leftists, but then today’s cultural Marxist society is far from normal. Look at what the electorate did in 2008 and again in 2012. The heretic this article is about, Theodore Parker, would today probably be considered as middle of the road.
Parker was a Unitarian, but then, many John Brown supporters leaned in that direction. Of those that supported John Brown’s terrorism in the name of freeing the slaves, of those that upheld and financed his terrorism, few would be classified as orthodox Christians.
Interestingly enough, Theodore Parker started out orthodox. He was undoubtedly a highly intelligent man, speaking four languages besides English, one of them being Latin. Wikipedia noted that “His belief in God’s mercy made his reject Calvinist theology as cruel and unreasonable.” At this point, Parker and I would part company. Either Parker didn’t understand real Calvinism or he didn’t want to. Parker didn’t like “religious dogmatism.” Another example of Parker’s apostate mindset was Horace Mann, the “father of the common schools” (public schools). Mann, like Parker, rejected the Calvinism of his day in favor of his own personal creed and view of God.
That Parker’s “god” was not the God of Holy Scripture was evident, given his Unitarian rejection of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Observable is the fact that most participants in the Abolitionist Movement, the Feminist Movement, and other 19th century movements had rejected Jesus’ divinity and the truths of Scripture.
Author Dean Grodzins has written a book about Theodore Parker called American Heretic. Having not read Mr. Grodzin’s book I can’t authoritatively comment on his take on Theodore Parker, but, seeing his book won a “2003 Choice Outstanding Academic Title” I will hazard a guess and say that Grodzins may well be in favor of Parker’s apostasy, or at least not overly opposed to it.
Parker seems to have been introduced to the Unitarian faith by one Convers Francis, a Unitarian minister, biographer, and historian. Francis studied at Harvard Divinity School and was ordained in 1819. Shows you how far down the road Harvard had slithered by the early 1800s.
Parker, it seems, went through a gradual descent into apostasy. I’ve been told by pastors that this is how apostasy works usually. It doesn’t just happen all at once. You don’t just wake up one fine morning and decide you don’t believe any of the theology you believed when you went to bed. In Parker’s case, he was exposed to some of the “higher criticism” of the Scriptures then growing in Germany, which led him to question. Lots of questionable ideas, and questionable people, came out of Germany in the 1840s. Parker gradually came to where he denied his orthodox views. His denial of the Biblical miracles and the authority of the Scriptures brought him some criticism, even in Massachusetts, and some pulpits, even in the Boston area, were closed to him.
By 1842 Parker had openly broken with the orthodox Christian faith and found, in his own estimation, that the Scriptures were chock-full of errors and contradictions. He now felt that people should concentrate their religious faith on “individual experience.” Again, does that sound familiar? There is lots of that mindset around even today and it leads to all manner of “interesting” and bizarre deviations.
By 1846 Parker had finally found a congregation of like-minded souls to preach to. Among those in his congregation were William Lloyd Garrison, the abolitionist (and internationalist); Julia Ward Howe, author(ess) of the well-known Unitarian hymn The Battle Hymn of the Republic; Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women; and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the founders of the Women’s Movement in 1848. The Women’s Movement also had Spiritualist connections. What an august little group!
Some estimates have put Parker’s congregation at as many as 7,000 people. Apostasy was gaining traction in Boston.
While Parker was not a Spiritualist, he was nonetheless popular with them and he gave credence to their views. At one point he said: “I have not had time in the midst of my busy life, while solving the problems of human freedom, to investigate the phenomena of Spiritualism, nevertheless, I believe that its philosophy and phenomena are true, and that Spiritualism will be the religion of the future.” Interesting statement. It almost makes it sound like Rev. Parker is all alone out there “solving the problems of human freedom” while no one else bothers to do anything. It’s interesting that few of our “history” books reveal the fact that there were also many abolitionists in the South trying to deal with the problem of human freedom too. But, then, they were not the radical, Leftist type of abolitionist–and hence not worthy of mention.
Of slave insurrections Parker said: “I should like, of all things, to see an insurrection of the slaves…It would do good even if it failed.” Maybe he should have read about Nat Turner’s slave revolt in Virginia in 1831. It was a bloody excess and it failed. I wonder how much good it did. On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t bloody enough for Parker!
J. C. Furness, author of The Road to Harper’s Ferry said of Parker’s statement “Such grim willingness to tempt young Abolitionists and thousands of Negro slaves to go and get massacred in a softening-up operation sounds more like the general staff of a Communist committee than like a professed disciple of a God of Love.” And this was the man who departed from the Calvinist faith because it wasn’t “loving” enough!
Parker was yet another of those self-appointed “experts” on slavery who had seldom, if ever, been south of Washington. The perfect person to become a member of the Secret Six and to support John Brown. Parker was really a man who knew almost nothing about his subject, but was content because he thought he did.
Parker had tuberculosis and went to Italy to try to ward it off. He was over there when John Brown committed his last terrorist act at Harpers Ferry. Though physically on his last legs, Parker had a parting word of Unitarian love for the South. He stated: “The South must reap as she sows…a pretty crop…The Fire of Vengeance may be waked up even in an African’s heart, especially when it is fanned by the wickedness of a white man; then it runs from man to man, town to town. What shall put it out? The white man’s blood.”
All I can say is that it’s a good thing Theodore Parker was such a nice, caring, compassionate and loving Unitarian. Otherwise he might have told us how he really felt. Parker never, to my knowledge, addressed the fact of blacks who owned slaves in the South. Maybe that was the white man’s fault, too.
Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of our former Marxist-in-Chief in the White House would really have loved Theodore Parker!