Sunday, June 19, 2005

Fathers and Forefathers

I read a very interesting attack on those of us that revere our Southern heritage recently. It seems that some equate our dedication to the heroes of our cause and to our prominent forefathers as nothing any less sinister than pagan "warrior-god" worship.

Ah, before we turn off all consideration of this apparently ridiculous viewpoint let us consider for a moment the real facts.

It is undeniably true that Southern culture was primarily influenced by the Scots-Irish that settled the backcountry. It is also true that The Scots-Irish retained many qualities and attributes - centuries old customs really - and carried these customs with them from Scotland to Ireland and then to America. Among these traits include, rugged individualism, disdain for authority outside of the local community, a warrior spirit, love for home and hearth, a dedication to kin and a reverence for the past - not to mention a personal relationship with God.

The argument that our reverence for the great leaders of our past is based upon Pagan traditions is only partly true. It is only as true as stating that if a group of people enjoyed certain meals before their conversion to Christianity then for that culture to still enjoy that meal after conversion must certainly be a Pagan tradition. That may be an over simplification but I think it is fair to state that God created man and the differences in man and our various cultures. The Celtic peoples certainly were not the first to receive the revelation of Christianity, nor did they readily accept foreigners preaching to them but receive and accept the word they eventually did.

In fact, it may be stated with a lot of voracity that it was within Scotland that the revival of simple Christianity found the most fertile ground. The Reformation had many contributors and many points of significant action but it was within the Kirks and the Presbyterian church in Scotland that much was accomplished. The historic Christianity of the South owes much more to the theology and practice of Scotland than it does to the radical doctrines of the Puritans and the other sects that settled in the North.

The rugged peoples that settled in the upcountry regions of the South came primarily from Scotland (via a brief stay in Ulster Ireland). The migration became around 1670 and continued until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. My own family made this trip in 1690.

I have read various figures that place the total population of Scots-Irish in the backcountry areas of the South as high as 80% prior to the Revolutionary War. Furthermore these were prolific people, working simple farms. Large families were the order of the day. The smattering of other ethnic groups settling in these areas were ultimately assimilated into the cultural mores of the Scots-Irish.

Certainly the lowcounrty and tidewater plantation owners were not of Scots-Irish stock, they were English in origin and Anglican in religious persuasion. They were aristocratic in world-view. There is much that these people added to our collective culture but they are the minority and did not shape us as a people nearly as much as Hollywood would portray.

It is fair enough to state that the South is a Scots-Irish culture at our foundation. I could go on and on with the justification that this is so but I believe it is undeniable. Our music, our traditions, our religious beliefs, our warrior spirit, our individualism, love of home and kin - all of this are in our blood and a result of the very people that came before us.

So if we admit that many of our traditions are essentially Scottish it seems we might naturally be a target for attack by misguided "religious people". The Celts were the last major people in Europe to receive and accept Christianity. This is due to many facts, not the least of which this hardy, individualistic people looked askance and any intrusion coming north of Hadrian's wall. The Romans tried and failed to convert us to their way of life, the Saxons and then the Normans tried as well. The English succeeded where other failed.

It is important to note that nobody conquered and converted the Scots. Scotland was first evangelized by as Celt known as Ninian around 370 AD. The Scottish people accepted and embraced Christianity within the confines of their culture. There was never the possibility of an episcopalian type organization taking hold in Scotland. The Scots were loyal to strong leaders and to their families but completely unwilling to submit to a top down organizational structure.

Is it really pagan that we retain a healthy respect for our forefathers? I say no and I challenge any "religious"(I say religious because this argument seems to me very un-Christian) person to show me where my God tells me otherwise. Is not honoring the memory of the father of your father a natural extension of the commandment to honor your father and mother? Is the Old Testament not filled with genealogies? If folks that attack our ties to our history are truly fundamental in their interpretation f the Bible they surely must realize these genealogies serve more than one purpose. They are not provided merely to show a progression of time. They show the linkage of a people with their past.

Call me a Pagan if you will, I find this to be a baseless straw-man argument. I am proud to have within me the blood of people that have fought for their freedom for over 2000 years. We were pushed to the northern reaches of Europe in an attempt to escape the tyranny of Rome, We fought the British in an effort top maintain our freedom. We traveled across a great ocean to settle in backcountry areas that only Indians occupied. We fought the British when they refused to recognize our rights and we answered the call of our sovereign States when the Yankee empire made war upon us.

No, I will not forget my ancestors, I am blessed by God to be fortunate enough to have not only an earthy father worthy of respect and honor but also a line of sturdy men that lived, loved, fought and died for simple principles that are my inheritance.

On this fathers day I look to my earthly father with love and also remember all of the fathers in my line that came before.

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