In the April 13 weekend Rutland Herald, John Nassivera had a piece titled “The religious shall inherit the earth.” The article starts off by saying that New England is the least religious area in the entire United States, and I have heard from other sources also that Vermont is probably No. 1. No doubt, church attendance is higher through the Midwest, and then there is the “Bible Belt” consisting of southern states. I’ve often wondered just what these Bible people do with their Bibles — sit on them, maybe?
These “Holy Folks” had, and promoted, slavery even to the point of trying to secede from the Union, thus causing the Civil War. After the war, it was 100 years of discrimination, segregation, Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. Where in the Bible did they learn all of this?
Meanwhile, back in the “non-religious” Vermont, we wrote, in 1777, the Constitution for what would become the Republic of Vermont, the first ever written to exclude slavery. Years later, Vermont sent more men per capita to fight in the Civil War than any other state.
Horace Greeley grew up in Poultney learning the printers’ trade. Years later, he moved to New York City and established the New York Tribune, which became the most widely read paper in the United States. He pushed for freedom of the slaves and women’s suffrage.
In the mid-1850s, he helped form the New Republican Party. In 1860, it anxiously promoted the popular William Seward, of New York, to be their presidential candidate. However, Greeley had other ideas. He had heard of a “hick politician” out in Illinois by the name of Abraham Lincoln. Greeley went on to get him nominated and elected 16th president of the United States. In 1859, Greeley wrote a forerunner to the “Emancipation Proclamation,” which contained eight points as to why slaves should be free.
In 1861, the Civil War broke out. It went badly for the North. In July 1862, Greeley wrote in the Tribune “The Plight of Twenty Million,” pushing Lincoln to free the slaves. Lincoln’s famous letter fired back he would save the Union at all costs, even if it meant keeping slavery or not. In early August (1862), Greeley fired back: “Free the slaves. It has to happen, you can’t keep kicking the can down the road.” Twenty-six days later, in September 1862, Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation.
Vermont lost more soldiers per capita than any other state. They led the charge at Cedar Creek, Gettysburg and so many other places. I’ve read enough history to know that if Vermont had not been in the Civil War, the South would have won.
Now, back to the debate about religion. Maybe we need a definition of what the word means. It probably means different things to different people.
Two thousand years ago, another fellow got into trouble with religion. His name was Jesus Christ. The Jewish hierarchy of the day pretty much disowned him. Seems he was always traveling with the wrong crowd. He wasn’t with them, the high and mighty who always followed the letter of the law. Nope, you could always find this Jesus usually with sinners, the poor, the sick, the lepers and the down-trodden. You all know how he came out.
In recent years, “non-religious” Vermont has led this country in carrying out humanitarian efforts for all sorts of folks. So if Vermont is so non-religious, then maybe we’re worrying about the wrong word. Over the years, we’ve led the way with humanitarianism. Seems like that was a word Jesus may have been using. Maybe humanitarianism isn’t religion, but it sure helps a lot of struggling people. I think God kind of likes that effort.
Treat folks with love and care, be a Good Samaritan, respect other folks’ lifestyles and help them all achieve that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Read that other verse in the Bible that you have missed: “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Bill Clark lives in Pawlet.