Mon, 27 October 2014
In his book, Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican-American War, historian John Pinheiro argues that much of the enthusiasm for the war was tied up with an array of disparate theological and nationalistic convictions. Many Evangelical Protestants (including such celebrated figures as Presbyterian Lyman Beecher, a Temperance activist and father of Harriet Beecher Stowe) believed that God’s purposes for America included the development of and transmission of the virtues of Republican government. These activists and their followers believed that Roman Catholic teaching and practice, in being opposed to republicanism, was thus contrary to God’s purposes in history.
“The religious history of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 is the story of how anti-Catholicism emerged as integral to nineteenth-century American identity as a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant republic. Americans had long wondered whether Providence had blessed them with North America as part of a divine plan to spread republican civilization. In 1846 the overwhelmingly Protestant United States went to war against Mexico, a country that barred all religions save Roman Catholicism. Fighting Mexico forced Americans to negotiate in new ways the deep interconnectedness among race, religion, and republicanism. This process revealed the universality of a peculiarly American anti-Catholicism that heretofore most Americans had unreflectively relegated to an evangelical Protestant subculture. This unifying discourse, which was most fully developed and popularized by Lyman Beecher and thus in this book is called the ‘Beecherite Synthesis,’ transcended section, religious denomination, and political affiliation. It proved to be the most important means of extracting transcendent meaning from the experience of the war.”
This issue of AUDITION features a portion on an interview with John Pinheiro, the full version of which will be heard in a future edition of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.