I am not a history buff. Read that as a confession, not an assertion. I am not proud of this. If I have learned one thing as of late, it is the importance of knowing history. Whether it is personal history, church history, national history, or world history, knowledge of the past is more important than I used to recognize. This severe lack proficiency in me is why I have been so hesitant to write about the statue conundrum.

I have avoided this conversation because I feel so ill-equipped to speak into that issue. I openly admit, I know next to nothing about Robert E. Lee. To engage myself in a debate about who he was and what potential merits he has to defend is argumentative suicide. Others have tried, but I am out of my league in that conversation. I never learned much about him, and to be honest, I doubt the public education portrayal would be historically worth defending regardless. My lack of awareness about the history of the war between the States, and the men involved, leaves me indifferent in regards to these monuments. I could live with them or without them. In fact, I had no idea so many were still around. I think reasonable people exist on both sides of that debate, and strong points are made respectively.

However, Douglas Wilson recently wrote a blog which inspired me, because he articulated exactly what I have been feeling. Douglas Wilson is masterful with words. His writing is as an epic battle between wit and words, and if you are wanting commentary on this topic worthwhile, this ought to be the last sentence of this blog you read.

For those who stick around, I would like to make what was a final point of Wilson’s post the central focus of mine.

When it comes to all of the hysteria of the toppling statue movement, there seems to be three responses among those who are not joining in on the parade. One is to defend the statues themselves. The arguments are being made as to why these statues should be standing, whether or not the men portrayed owned slaves.

The second position to take is to bypass presenting a specific stance on the civil war monuments, and express grievance with the process of how they are being removed. Perhaps the statues should come down, but not like this. The anarchist, rule-of-the-mob style of government being witnessed on the news is a slippery slope. Soon enough the things we cherish far more than busts are coming down. The precedent established in these events is, to put it lightly, haunting.

However, I would like to dedicate my commentary to an even different issue: the worldviews fueling the statue-topplers. What I would like to address is what Wilson refers to as faux-righteousness,

“One of the reasons we should resist toppling these statues is because it is being done in a frenzy of faux-righteousness, with people trying to gin up a sense of purity.”

The difference between a statue and an idol is what we do with it. The Robert E. Lee monument was a statue, but had groups of people bowed down before it, paid homage to the old general, and worshiped him, rather than remove him, then it would be much more than a statue, it would be an idol. And were it an idol, nothing would have delighted me more than to witness its total destruction.

Exodus 34: 12-16, “Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.”

The taking down of idols is a game I am happy to cheer on. It is a game I am willing to take part in. But we need to focus and pursue the right ones. Namely, the self-righteous personal busts mounted up within our own hearts. Those are the statues that must come down.

What has bothered me most in all of this is not that I think Robert E. Lee deserves to live long through a public dedication of his image. What has bothered me is not the objective reality of his moral character being honored. What has bothered me is that we think we are in any place to pretend that even the grossest caricature of Robert E. Lee is something our culture has risen above. Wilson exposes that this way,

“One of the central reasons why our generation has gone off on this binge-like moral crusade is that we are trying to compensate for all the guilt. We are sinking further and further into that demented state where we rebel against God’s standards, one after another, and are accumulating guilt because of it. But because we are created in the image of God, we still have a need to feel righteous. We have a deep need to feel more righteous than some other group. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, and we want to be that king. We desperately want to feel like we are moral beings, but since we are not, we have resorted to grading on a curve.”

Recognizing there are Christians who provide meaningful argumentation for pursuing the removal of civil war memorabilia, most of the angry mobs who are vandalizing and destroying these monuments, on their own, without a vote, are simply those whose vested interest is in the continued virtue-signaling of the progressive movement. Unfortunately, Progressivism offers our country anything but progress, and their acts of force will continue to misidentify the trajectory of our culture as long as the kowtowing of civil magistrates persists.

This nation has hardly progressed in the slightest. Apparently progress means boys are girls, girls are boys, and we have no means of actually defining either of those terms.

Apparently, progress is introducing more than a handful of new genders into the pot of genders without objective definition.

Apparently, progress is Donald Trump competing with Hillary Clinton for the office of the presidency.

Specifically in regards to slavery, where have we come? We once enslaved 388,000 people. Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and many other American icons participated in this atrocity. But how many Americans participate in the new national sin, whereby 50 million babies have not only been enslaved, but also slaughtered? Some of them are sold, but unlike the slaves of the South, they are not being sold in one piece. How does a country claim progress when our slaves have increased numerically from the thousands to the millions, and are treated unimaginably more barbarically? Remember, a bust of Margaret Sanger still stands in a public place in this nation. That woman is responsible for far more African-American deaths than general Lee was capable of. Wilson articulated it this way,

“So the real problem, and the real shock in all of this, is that by any number of metrics we might use, we are not better than the sinners whose statues are being scrubbed. Adultery is worse than racial bigotry, and we are a nation of adulterers. Abortion is worse than slavery—the slavers when they sold you at least allowed you to live. They didn’t chop you up and sell your parts. They didn’t elect congressmen who gave major amounts of money to the choppers… America has more blood guilt than the Nazis, by a factor of millions, and we disguise this from ourselves by not having our soldiers march goosestep. But if we are comparing the blood of innocents, apples to apples, we are worse. America has far more sexual confusion and perversion than did the Old South. There used to be a huge slave market in Charleston. Before we take spiritual pride in the fact that it is gone (and thank God it is gone), remind yourself what isn’t gone. Black children are still being executed in Charleston and elsewhere, and on a grand scale… ‘I thank thee, God, that I am not like this white supremacist. I thank thee, God, that I am not like those slave-owners. I thank thee, God, that I am not like those Germans during the war.’ Beg pardon, but our generation is exactly like them. We are a people with lust in our hearts, pride in our brains, and blood on our hands. We are not anywhere near as good as we want to think we are.”

So, you’re superior to those white-supremacists, huh? You’re better than Robert E. Lee, huh? Christopher Columbus cannot hold a candle to your holiness, right? By what standard? By whose standard?

The bad news is that we are not moral; we are not righteous. Hatred is not a problem reserved for and unique to Confederate soldiers, slave-owners, and neo-Nazis. As Pastor Wilson puts it,

“This generation may not want to hear more gospel, but they most certainly need to hear more gospel. Jesus Christ died to save sinners, and we most certainly qualify. And by we, I mean all of us, white and black, men and women. We are in a wretched state.”

And that is the real issue here. Let Robert stay, let Robert fall, but what is going to happen to you? All of the men involved in the Civil War, all those involved in southern slavery have died and will give an account, but they will give an account of themselves. What will happen to you on judgment day? I promise you, boasting of a resume replete with statue removals will not cover your sin before a holy God, no matter whose faces were engraved therein.

There is good news. Because of the cross, we can be forgiven; we can be saved. Our faux-righteousness can become real righteousness (Phil. 3: 9). Our self-righteousness can instead become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5: 21). However, this only comes through faith and repentance. Jesus will share the throne with no one. The idols we currently serve must come down, even if we idolize ourselves. We must bear our own cross (Luke 9:23), we must come to Christ and die. The Holy Spirit of God must wreck us, regenerate us, and make us new.

Speaking for myself, I am eternally thankful to the Holy Spirit of God who has toppled my idols, for He is truly righteous, much more so than any angry American mob.

 

6 thoughts on “Take Down the Statues

  1. Quite right we cannot find a totally moral man or woman but what is the reason? It is our natures we are a mixture of moral with ambitious selfishness. Freud put it best ‘we are at war with ourselves ‘ that is where guilt comes from . The Christian Religion supplies a solution but is it honest and is it useful. It supplies a scapegoat taking the responsibility off our shoulders, not only that we can carry on being at war with ourselves and not feel guilty. At the very least it’s a dangerous doctrine because it takes away our moral sensitivity.
    We can knock down a few statutes , become indignant about what others do, March for what we call freedom , isolate ourselves into a holy huddles and all manner of activities, but the most difficult of choices is to listen and obey our moral conscience.

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    • “It is our natures we are a mixture of moral with ambitious selfishness.”

      Apart from the Christian worldview, where do you get the idea that selfishness is immoral? You agreed that there is no moral person, but how does your worldview even account for such a thing as objective morality?

      Your understanding that Christianity takes away moral conscience and is dangerous demonstrates you don’t understand Christian doctrine. However, let’s assume that’s true. Where does your worldview provide you with a basis to make an objective moral charge like Christian truth being “dangerous”?

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  2. I don’t mind accepting the Christian morality we are all moral beings as most intelligent people recognise. Even the outspoken atheist Sam Harris knows this, he was worried about morals and wrote the moral landscape . Sam would agree as would many religious folk that selfishness is immoral he suggested we judge our actions by how they affect the well being of others.
    Don’t you see that salvation is the problem? it leads to complacency in millions , absolution the Catholics called it but Luther did not eliminate it , it still relieves many of the essential guilt which will lead us to repent our actions.
    The ideal man or woman is one who lives to help others I have had the privilege of meeting such people and we read about them quite often in the news. The person without morals is the psychopath , they have no conscience . One of the experts on this type of person is Robert Hare.

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    • 1) You define morality as how it affects the well being of others. Why though? Why should any person be obligated to care about the well-being of others?

      2) Who gets to define “well-being”? This is completely circular. Going to hell is not for good of a persons wellbeing. So you must agree with me that believing in Jesus to be saved is the most moral thing a person can do. But you reject that because you don’t believe in Hell it Christ. So which worldview gets to define well being and why?

      3) your understanding of heaven making us complacent completely ignored very basic Christian doctrine. Namely, sanctification. Romans, Ephesians, and James all teach on this with much clarification. The work of Christ to save us, and the indwrelling of the Spirit provides the motivation and transformation for Godly, selfless, living. Salvation not only does not make us complacent, it’s actually the most sufficient means for action.

      4) You are consistently misunderstanding the difference between “having morals” and “justifying morals”. Of course we all have morals. But when those immoral opinions clash, why does your worldview get to decide the issue?

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      • I don’t know why we have morals, or how they arose, there is no scientific explanation. In Genesis they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before we developed morals we were innocent as the animals are now. A crocodile or a tiger cannot murder or commit an evil act but a person can. Well-being as a yardstick was Sam’s suggestion others use the Golden rule do to others as you would be done by.
        You probably use the New Testament mixed in with the old ‘ an eye for an eye. Every religion or philosophy has some set of rules or laws to run their society. I respect your views and your entitlement to hold them but I must give you my opinion of them without any malice. I’m not trying to disprove those things you hold dear but I have different opinions.

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      • “I don’t know why we have morals, or how they arose”
        — That’s the problem. This admission is why you’re borrowing from the Christian worldview when you say things like “there are no totally moral people” or Christian teachings are “dangerous.”

        “there is no scientific explanation”
        — This is your ultimate problem. You are a naturalist. You have just revealed your ultimate authority, Science. You reject having epestemic warrant to know morality unless there is a “scientific explanation.” But we have something better than that, a revealed explanation. But because you presuppose naturalism, you bar yourself from the realm of knowledge you need.

        The further issue is that there is no scientific explanantion for science itself. You cannot validate the principle of induction used in science with science, that would be circular reasoning. Thus, you find yourself accepting science without a scientific warrant, but then rejecting other claims without scientific warrant.

        ” A crocodile or a tiger cannot murder or commit an evil act but a person can.”
        — Right, and my worldview can account for this. Humans are created in the Image of God. They are unique and distinct creatures created by God differently, for different purposes. According to your worldview, how can you account for this inconsistency? If we are ALL just evolved animals, why hold some animals to a standard you do not hold other animals too?

        “Well-being as a yardstick was Sam’s suggestion others use the Golden rule do to others as you would be done by.
        You probably use the New Testament mixed in with the old ‘ an eye for an eye.”
        — All of God’s revelation, in a consistent reading with itself, is used for determining how God has revealed mankind is to obey and love Him.

        “Every religion or philosophy has some set of rules or laws to run their society.”
        — Yes, this is true. You do, I do, the Muslim does, etc. There is no neutrality. Every nation and every government are all Theocratic. That is inescapable. I am glad we agree that religious theocratic societies are inevitable and inescapable.

        ” I respect your views and your entitlement to hold them but I must give you my opinion of them without any malice. I’m not trying to disprove those things you hold dear but I have different opinions.”
        — Yes you have been very respectful and kind and I appreciate that very much.

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