George Armstrong Custer: A Media Lesson

“Do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them.” – Jeremiah 45:4 (NKJV)

george armstrong CusterGeorge Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) had a devout Christian father. He was named after a minister of the gospel. But I doubt Custer ever read the Bible. So he never learned this heavenly advice. Instead, Custer was a megalomaniac. He wanted glory, honor, and fame for himself – preferably in battle. Custer wanted to be a celebrity and a star.

Finishing at the bottom of his class at West Point Military Academy, Custer performed reckless deeds in the Civil War and in the western Indian wars. He wanted a great victory at the Little Bighorn River in Montana, timed with the American Centennial celebration back East, so that he could run for the office of President that fall. Custer also manipulated the media through photo shoots and newspaper and magazine articles. America hasn’t changed much.

Custer didn’t care about his spiritual state or his relationship with God. He just wanted the world to adore his reputation and public image and they responded. After his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, America gave Custer the glory he desperately craved. He couldn’t run for office in November 1876, but in his death Custer achieved fame that President Rutherford Hayes (1822-1893, 1877-1881) could only dream about.

Sadly, Custer deserved none of the glory that he received. He wasn’t a Christian. Custer never gave glory to God, sought and obeyed his will, or shared the gospel of Jesus Christ. He thought of Native Americans as vermin who should be exterminated in order to make room for American imperialism rather than as human beings. Custer was foolish and rebellious too. A wiser person wouldn’t have led a reckless charge at Gettysburg in July 1863, even though it succeeded. Nor would he have killed innocent Cheyenne women, children, the elderly, and a peace chief at the “Battle of Washita River.” This is how the media painted it, but the event was really a massacre. Some Cheyenne warriors were guilty of rape and murder, but not these people! Finally, a wiser person than Custer wouldn’t have died at the Little Bighorn. Outnumbered 10-to-1, he would have known that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” The media mislabeled this event as well, calling it “Custer’s Last Stand.” It was really the Cheyenne and Lakota’s.

The American media was none the wiser. Why would anyone glorify a megalomaniac and make him a celebrity? The media doesn’t look at character, only reputation. It doesn’t focus on the heart and soul either, just the external image. Private responsibility doesn’t matter, just public conformity. Trying to please the media through image and PR usually leads to hypocrisy.

Paula Deen PortraitsThe media can turn a saint into a sinner and a sinner into a saint. The 1925 Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, was a snow job. If you want the real story, click here. Thanks to the admitted use of racial slurs, albeit 25 years ago, during the deposition of a lawsuit, Southern chef Paula Deen was crucified in the media this summer. She won the suit but lost her Food Network contract, as well as contracts with grocery store chains. Yet in the last five years, the media has glorified and deified President Obama to the point of absurdity. Does he deserve it? Most people with sense, Christian and otherwise, say “no.”

The media today could be a force for good. They could be a good moral influence on the people they claim to serve. They could use their power to share the gospel of Christ and lead people to him. The media doesn’t want to do any of this. It’s full of sinners who unknowingly serve Satan, the prince of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11).

Jesus-christ phariseesNo wonder Jesus warned his disciples not to be like the Pharisees and do their “good” deeds before men (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)! Private giving, fasting, and prayer lead to honest worship before God. Doing such deeds publicly leads to hypocrisy. It also turns good into evil.

No wonder God said, “Don’t carve an image and bow down to it” (Exodus 20:4-5)! During the Great Tribulation, condemned sinners will worship an image (2 Thessalonians 2:9-13, Revelation 13:14-15). However, God is a spirit and we must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Jesus’ 3.5-year ministry was very public. But he hated PR. Jesus often told people he had healed to keep it quiet. They didn’t. They spread his fame everywhere they went. We too should spread Jesus’ name and deeds everywhere we go. But let’s make sure that he receives the glory, not ourselves. Jesus prefers to work behind the scenes, through people. He does not receive honor from men because he knows what’s in their hearts (John 2:24-25, 5:41). Jesus is in the shadows. That’s where we must go if we want salvation and healing.

Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus,
He’s the Friend who always cares and understands.
Standing somewhere in the shadows you will find Him,
And you’ll know Him by the nail prints in His hands.
— Words and music by E. J. Rollings (YouTube)

Who are we daily conforming to and trying to please – Jesus Christ or this world? Are we consumed with our public image and reputation, or our private character? Do we want to influence people for good and lead them to God, or merely impress them? In our hearts, how many of us are like George Armstrong Custer? Let us not be conformed to this world but rather transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Let us say “no” to media publicity and “yes” to the private work of God’s grace.


12 thoughts on “George Armstrong Custer: A Media Lesson

  1. You need to read some serious books about Custer. You article shows your glaring ignorance on the subject.

    • Funny. Last night, I watched a 2-hour “American Experience” episode on DVD called “Custer’s Last Stand” (2012). I also skimmed a lengthy Wikipedia article on him today while writing. Wiki isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad!

      • Just about everything you wrote about George Custer is wrong. He was a great admirer and student of American Indians. He did not kill innocent Cheyenne women and children at the the Battle of the Washita. In fact, he stopped his Osage Indian scouts from killing women and children, which was customary for all Indian tribes to do in battle. Black Kettle was a peace chief but that doesn’t mean his band was peaceful or followed a policy of peace. The warriors in his band had participated in the war earlier that summer and fall and the proof was found in the village after the battle. There were also white captives who were murdered by the Cheyenne when the battle started.

        Custer’s charge at Gettysburg quite possibly saved the Union and changed the course of history. When outnumbered 5 to 1 he executed a brilliant maneuver with the 1st Michigan Cavalry regiment that stopped JEB Stuart’s Cavalry dead in their tracks, preventing them from getting in the rear of the main Union army while Pickett’s charge was happening.

      • I’m not a military strategist so I’ll take your word on that. But for the rest of it, where did you get your information? You’re clearly contradicting “The American Experience” historical experts.

        I don’t doubt the ‘admirer’ bit, since they mentioned that, but you don’t seem to understand the imperialist mindset of admiring a culture while also wanting to exterminate parts of it for national glory and expansion. Custer’s mindset was no different from the British in India after the 1857 Mutiny! They thought that whites can go ‘native’ but natives can’t go ‘white.’ They didn’t believe in self-governance either.

  2. Watching a documentary and reading a Wiki article are not serious research. There are plenty of primary sources that are readily available.

    As to his charge at Gettysburg, it likely saved the battle for the Union. It probably also saved the Union.

    President Lincoln and General Phil Sheridan both spoke highly of the Boy General. I would trust their opinions over a Wiki article.

    • My mother read a biography of Sheridan. He didn’t like Custer much – just humored him in public and to his wife…

      Gettysburg – caution is not cowardice and courage is not recklessness. Motives are just as important as deeds.

  3. I would be glad to backup everything Mr. Hayes has said. I also invite you to visit Little Big Horn Associates page on FB or the .com forum. We are a group highly dedicated to the Generals story. If anything, the media has done what it could do portray this great American soldier into a monster. His actions at Gettysburg alone are self evident. The surrender table at Appomattox was bought by Sheridan and presented to Libbie, a very devout Christian herself, stating “No other man has done so much to bring about a desirable end.” She has written three books and George one. I am also a Christian and a retired Marine. Remember. Custer did not write policy. He simply acted as a cavalry officer should. Bold, daring and well planned. Custer himself refuted the reckless charge. Proof is in the pudding, ma’am. The only battle he ever lost was the last one. But no one studies any thing much about him but takes the media at their word. TY. Leigh W Cole.

    • Well I tend to disagree with that part of admiration of indians. G.A.C didnt admire or loved the indians making atrocities. Thats the fact. He wanted them to be killed or captured. He admired them in battles and waging war like they did. After all, G.A.C was an officer and all officers…if not love, then approve the state of war as a fact and admire great warriors in battles. But to state G.A.C. loved ALL hostile indians is simple bull. Read “My Life on the Plains”. There he gives very detailed picture of atrocities made by hostile indians and there he simple lows them. Really. There were no admirers of those terrorists among officers of USArmy, of course not!! Any of them would kill those “braves” so fast they would fall like a ton of iron to the ground dead. And G.A.C was no exception. Only good (hostile) indians are the dead ones. Thats the opinion of the USArmy officers, all of them, including C.A.C. Since any person committing war crimes like those made by hostile indians are ought to be severely punished by death. Its as simple as that. And I agree, I am like Colonel Chivington,who hated hostile indians. He made this “Peace Chief” letting his warriors commit war crimes to pay and to pay dearly. I would have done the same. The only good indian is the dead one. Indeed. Carry on!!

      • This was Kipling’s general view on Indians (India). He didn’t like anyone who made war on the British Empire, whether through military warfare or diplomacy, i.e. the Indian National Congress. Yet he admired Indians of the past and of his literary making, especially the Muslims. He admired anyone submissive to the Empire. See the difference? I think Custer was the same way, as you describe him.

    • Lily, I invite you to join a serious discussion group, filled with authors, historians, etc. Little Big Horn Associates is dedicated to such. Join us on facebook or

      • Thanks for the posts. But I’d rather do more research first. Have any of you seen the American Experience episode on Custer (last stand)? I want your thoughts on their research and opinions.

  4. You seem to know a lot about GAC after having seen “The American Experience”. I have studied him and the times he lived in for many years and find your comments strange to say the least. Yes indeed he finished bottom of his class (of those who finished) over half his class mates failed to complete the course. And where do you presume to know if he ever read the Bible or not?

    Why is it that we are all to eager to believe Indian accounts of battles about numbers of “Innocents” killed by the brutal cavalry and so quick to condemn?

    I am a Born again Christian and my advice to you 220lily is leave the history to others and judge not!!!

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