The ongoing debate on Charlottesville has been heavy on my heart, and I will be the first to say I don’t have all the answers, but I do hope to bring perhaps a different perspective on a couple areas : the argument regarding the appropriateness of removing Confederate statues and the Christian’s need for equality in press coverage.
There is a voice that says history is history- the Confederate statues simply reflect that there was a war against tyrannical federal government and slavery was a small part of the war- almost an afterthought. I would simply ask that one review the historical context of the Civil War. For myself, my family, and the students I work with, statues of Confederate generals do not remind us of States Rights but rather slavery.
To say that we should simply accept history, and move on, sounds logical, but isn’t. Obviously we can’t change history, but as Christians, we continually weigh if it was right or not. If we should simply accept history, then why are Christians still fighting to end abortion in this country? Roe v Wade made it part of our history, but we don’t accept that neutrally (nor should we). We also cannot deny the impact that (now) years of the sin of abortion has brought on our country from morality, to economy, to missed contributions by the millions aborted, etc.… we are living in the effects of the sin. The same is true for slavery- yes, it’s part of our past, but as Christians, we must understand the effects of that sin on our nation and that it still affects us (all of us) today.
In my experience, if a town has a stand-alone statue of a historical figure it is because they are honoring that figure. I understand that General Lee exhibited great leadership qualities, but he also led the fight for a grave sin. How are we really learning from our past if we honor the man who championed the war to continue one of America’s greatest sins? I think most conservative Christians do not support abortion nor do they want a statue of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) in their town. I know if a statue of Margaret Sanger was raised in my town, I would not go visit it as a chance to learn about history- even though she could also be considered a great leader considering what she accomplished (even if one disagrees with it). Why is it different for those who fought for slavery? Personally, I find it hard to defend one but not the other.
In my opinion, removing a statue that serves to honor a man who fought for slavery is not erasing history rather it’s acknowledging that there is a deep rooted sin of hatred and arrogance derived from slavery (also when you take into consideration many of the monuments of the Confederate Generals were erected years later as the Jim Crow era in our country was beginning). Our monuments if constructed correctly, will acknowledge the past and the sin of our past, so we can learn from it without honoring the sin.
In regards to the second issue- something my husband and I learned early on in our relationship is that a sincere apology means owning what we did wrong. It means nothing to my husband if I treated him like dirt all day, and then at the end of the day, he says to me, “I don’t appreciate how you spoke with me today” but my response is “I’m sorry you’re in a bad mood and didn’t like how I treated you. We both are at fault for today.”
Actually, no, we are not. I am, and it matters that I acknowledge that. Obviously, my right to disagree with my husband’s opinion hasn’t been taken away, but if my right is my focus, then I have failed in my relationship with my husband.
On an infinitely grander scale with grave consequences, the same is true for Christians unwillingness to admit when there’s an issue but rather to be so consumed with how our rights are being preserved. I can’t count the number of blogs, articles, and posts I have seen where the point was to discuss media bias, improper coverage, or real causes of Charlottesville rather than to simply join hands with our brothers and sisters, mourn the loss of life, the devaluing of humanity, and the open hatred for people made in the image of God. I fear we are losing a great battle to show our nation Christians care more for people than the press.
In conclusion, John 13:35 says the world will know us by our love- but can we say that is true of us in the recent past? If someone has read everything I’ve posted, heard every conversation I have had, and watched every action I’ve taken, will they walk away knowing that more than anything else I love Jesus and love people? Because, if there is any other perception, I am not living the life Jesus asks of me.
I think we have all noticed the sudden uptake in positive reinforcement when someone tells it like it is. I have caught myself saying or thinking, “Well they can just deal with it,” believing in that moment that my statement carries enough value to warrant a total disregard for the people who are on the receiving end of it. I add to this argument with the old manifesto of “truth hurts.” After all, the Bible declares God’s Word, the ultimate source of Truth, to be a sharp sword, (Eph 6:17 & Heb 4:12) able to pierce the joint and marrow. I don’t know about you, but when I think about being pierced, yes, I do believe that would hurt. Furthermore, as many Christians (myself included) have pointed out, Jesus spoke boldly and truthfully - he even referred to the Pharisees as a brood of vipers! (Matthew 23:33)
Then, as only God can, He turned this all around and pierced me with the Truth that I have been wielding against others. First, God reminded me that piercing is different from bludgeoning. How many times have I, as a Christian, picked up my “sword” and proceeded to bludgeon someone with my words rather than letting God’s Word slice through to their spirit? More than I care to think about. Ephesians 6:17 tells us only to take the Sword of the Spirit (the Word of God). That is it. Hebrews 4:12 does not tell us, the sword-holder, to pierce the person; rather it says that the sword itself will do the piercing. The Word of God itself will do the piercing- not me. So I actually have no part in the piercing at all. It’s all God… which is not actually not at all satisfying to my pride if I’m being honest. There are days that I enjoy wielding my words into a sword and attacking those on the opposing side. Recently, I have been studying the Gospels in my devotions, and yes, there are many times that Jesus spoke the truth with great boldness and in a way that was probably painful to the hearers. But, as I read and re-read the accounts, there is one fundamental difference between when Jesus speaks and when I do.
Jesus is love, and I am not.
Oh how that hits me like a ton of bricks.
If I am being authentic, I must admit that I have maybe never spoken to someone I love with a perfectly pure motivation and affection, much less someone that I have determined is in need of a lesson in reality. Yet, every single word that was uttered from Christ’s mouth was completely enveloped in a perfect love without an ounce of malice, bitterness, pride or selfishness. Every single conversation that Jesus engaged in that was boldly harsh was just as loving and righteous as every single conversation that Jesus held that gave supernatural peace. Jesus is love. Love is Jesus. You cannot separate the two.
So, perhaps in the future, before we start to tell it like it is and boldly yet flippantly announce the truth the world needs, instead, we beg God for His heart, ask Him for His discernment, and pray for His words to be spoken. Maybe we start kneeling in prayer, asking for our words to be enveloped with the love of Christ that we are called to reflect to all people at all time.
Only then will we be in the proper position to tell it like it is.
Only then can we trust that the pain truth brings is caused by the Sword of the Spirit and holds a heavenly purpose of salvation for the hearer.
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