"Gods and Generals"

Feb 13, 2003 02:38 PM EST

A prominent Christian media critic urges churchgoers to support the latest Civil War movie, "Gods and Generals," which opens across the Nation on Friday, Feb. 21. A book, "Faith in God and Generals: An Anthology of Faith, Hope, and Love in the American Civil War" was released on Jan. 31 as a companion resource to the upcoming film.

Although countless volumes of books and movies were produced about the Civil War, most have focused on the deaths and violence involved in the battles. "Gods and Generals," however, looks into the faiths and religious beliefs of the patriots who died for their nation.

Many of those fighting for both the Union and Confederacy were devoutly faithful people who trusted Jesus Christ, said Wales, the author of "Faith in God and General." People on both sides prayed for God to bless their cause, but ultimately, God's own purposes prevailed.

There is a scene in the book where Abraham Lincoln cries out to God: "We, on our side, are praying him to give us victory, because we believe we are right; but those on the other side pray him, too, for victory, believing they are right. What must he think of us?"

"Ultimately God's will was done, and the hope that Christ's power brought out of this suffering was that slavery was ultimately abolished," she added. "This was also the beginning of a journey to make all men equal and endow them with the same rights."

Wales said she believes God's will is revealed in historical stages. "Sometimes we just understand a little bit of God's will at a time," she said. "Apparently the fight had to be fought and the blood had to be shed for the slaves to be freed, just as Christ's blood had to be shed on the cross for our spiritual freedom.

Baehr, compiler of the novel and prominent Christian critic noted the juxtaposition of lost dreams and battles that were portrayed in both the book and the movies. Once can see the impressive faith and patriotism of those who hoped to build a better world through struggle, but were placed in a war where friends and family often fought against each others to fulfill this hope, said Baehr.

"We tried to present history as accurately as possible," he said. "This is pretty strong stuff. But I hope people will see how important faith was to those who have gone before them and think how about important faith is today."

The faith of those who fought on both sides of the conflict is a great example to Americans today during a time when fewer people stick to deeply held convictions, Wales said, agreeing with Baehr.

"They were confident of eternal life and a better place and looked forward to their death despite the outcome of the war," she said. "They were willing to die for what they believed in, right or wrong, and trusted that they would find their answers in heaven."

Baehr hopes the three-hour film will prompt the viewers read the book and in turn discover more about Civil war figures and the reader himself.

"We want to reaffirm the faith that's so much a part of our nation's history," Baehr said, "and in doing so, give people insights into the past that can help them understand God's vision for our future."

Baehr, as chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission, wrote a syndicated column about the movie.

"This epic Warner Bros. Pictures/Ted Turner Pictures release is filled with the passion, drama, life and death of our nation's darkest hour, wonderfully acted by Hollywood's finest talent," Baehr said. "Most importantly, it captures the triumph of faith and love in the midst of tragedy - a message we need to hear as the world continues to struggle with war and division."

The Film, directed by Ted Turner, is a prequel to the 1993 film "Gettysburg" featuring much of the same cast. It is intended to be the first film in a trilogy, which would finish with "The Last Full Measure," covering the last two years of the war as a finale. More information on the film is available at http://www.godsandgenerals.com.

By Pauline C.