Why Racism is a Sin, and Why Confederate Monuments in the United States Need to be Removed

A post that looks at why racism is a sin and why Confederate monuments should be removed in the United States. This also compares and contrasts issues of Confederate statues in public squares vs. Civil War battlefields such as Gettysburg. Plus what did Robert E Lee believe about having statues of himself erected in the years after the Civil War? 

“As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated; my conviction is, that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment; & of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour.”

Robert E Lee on why he was opposed to erecting statues of himself.

“We can learn from history, but we can also deceive ourselves when we selectively take evidence from the past to justify what we have already made up our minds to do.”

Margaret MacMillan 

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Genesis 1:26 NIV 

Stonewall Jackson at Manassas National Park Battlefield 

I want to do a couple of more posts about race as that is hot right now. I live in Virginia and what happened in Charlottesville is big news. Today I want to look at why I believe racism is sinful and look at the issue of Confederate statues. This blog writes a lot about the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) and I want to look at the role that the EFCA can play in tackling the issue of racism in the United States. I believe the EFCA can play a profound role in healing and tackling a difficult issue due to its unique history. They can do it in a way that he Southern Baptists I believe will be unable to do. But that is for an upcoming post. First let’s look at the issue as to why racism is a sin. 

 

Why Racism is a Sin 

I believe that many evangelicals are in denial about how much of a sin racism is, plus I believe many have come to the conclusion that we have conquered the topic. I think we are all foolish if we think that racism has solved itself. It has not, and remains a major issue that has boiled under the surface. Racism I believe has been a long and difficult issue throughout both the nation’s and church history. I am not going to get into it but if you want to read the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, you can do so in “An Open Letter to Russell Moore.” 

Christians should believe racism is a sin for many reasons. In Genesis 1:26 it says that God created man in his image. That means that God created diversity and ethnicity in his own unique way. Racism is a sin because out of pride a person rejects God’s creation. Each person of each race is created by God, and when people reject or hate, what they are ultimately doing is hating God. Racism also is a problem in that it encourages favoritism which goes against what is written in James 2:1-13. When you show favoritism of one race over another you are engaging in discrimination. A classic example could be a person who avoids making friends with people of opposing or differing ethnic backgrounds. Plus the level of egregiousness can vary from a simple thing from ignoring or turning away from someone who you don’t want to eat with to the extreme of participating in a killing, as that took place with lynching of blacks in the south or Jim Crow era. 

In Matthew 22:39-40 Jesus says that we are to love our neighbor as ourself. Can we love out neighbor if we have hate for them because of the color of their skin or their ethnicity? Are we being a neighbor when we engage in discriminatory practices? Another compelling reason why the church needs to address racism is found in the book of Revelation. In Revelation it talks about how people in heaven are from every tribe, tongue or nation. If that is how heaven is supposed to be then hating or discriminating against people in the flesh only fails in that it is not the way differing tribes and tongues should be treated. Racism needs to be rejected in all forms. It should be eradicated for the health of the church and the  betterment of society of which we live. Racism has no place in our society or culture and it is a difficult and uncomfortable topic that needs to be confronted. 

I am not into Neo-Calvinism as I have written quite a bit about. However there are a number of resources that I think hit the nail on the head. When the Neo-Calvinists get an issue right they should be congratulated and encouraged. On the issue of racism the Neo-Calvinists do a better job at addressing this topic than the regular Christians. But there are a couple of posts that I think should be promoted in this area of racism.

  1. ERLC “The Sin of Racism.”
  2.  Kevin DeYoung’s “10 Reasons Racism is Offensive to God.” 
  3. Timothy Thomas The Village Church “Is Racism Really a Sin?” 
  4. Atlantic “Southern Baptists and the Sin of Racism.”

 

Tearing down Saddam Hussein’s statue in April of 2003. 

Why Confederate Monuments Need to be Removed, and Robert E. Lee’s Thoughts  

For most of my life I have lived out west or the upper Midwest. Prior to living in Virginia I have not spent time in the south of the mid-Atlantic region. I recall an incident that happened in the Washington, D.C. area a few days after I arrived in 2005. I was trying to get involved in a church and I was hanging out in a restaurant with another individual. This individual who I believe came from the rural area of the state took out a $5.00 bill (that has the picture of Abraham Lincoln) and put Lincoln face down on the table. He remarked “that’s the way Lincoln should be treated.” Was this individual pleased that Lincoln was assassinated? I was taken back, after all in California, Montana and Wisconsin I had never heard such talk.  As I wrote in another post I learned that there are many people in the South who never accepted the final outcome of the Civil War. For many they are still fighting it. That is something that I have encountered a few times when I venture out into the rural areas of Virginia. History is important, and history should be one of the most important topics that people learn. If people learned history some of these issues, like the one we are discussing today would no longer be issue. I am a history major and studied history both in undergrad and grad. Choosing that path became one of the better decisions of my life because I had to wrestle with difficult topics and situations. It taught me how to think and have a deep respect for history and to question. Having said that let’s look at how many of these Confederate monuments came to be. 

When the Civil War ended monuments were not erected to the Confederacy. The nation focused on rebuilding and what became known as a period of Reconstruction which lasted until 1877. The end of Reconstruction gave way to the Jim Crow era which took place in the late 1800’s. There was a surge of erecting monuments to the Confederacy and its leaders . The monuments came in two periods, one during the Jim Crow era where the belief was that of “separate but equal” as it came about in Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896. During this time there was also waves of immigration and some of these monuments were a reaction to that movement as well. When de-segregation started as a result of Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 there was another round of erecting Confederate monuments. As the 1964 Civil Right Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act passed and were signed into law, many in the South resisted by erecting monuments that honored Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, Roger Taney and so many more.  For many in the south these monuments became a means to resist federal laws and Civil Right legislation. They allowed for many in the south to fight the Civil War and continue the battle. While the war physically ended at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865 for many the war had to continue. That is the driving factors behind many of these monuments. They are not about history, but instead about perpetuating Confederate ideology. 

In history when regimes change the greatest indicator of a fallen regime is the tearing down of statues. When the United States colonies rose up and broke away from Great Britain after declaring independence one of the acts that took place is the destruction of statues of King George III. You can read about one such incident in New York city in July of 1776. There are many other examples in history. When World War II ended part of helping to bring Germany around was a de-nazifaction program which erased all Nazi symbols and statues. When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 and the members of the Warsaw Pact gained their independence those countries faced the same issue. Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Romania, Hungary and the Baltics removed and destroyed or are still destroying statues of Vladimir Lenin or reminders of communism. The Ukraine was doing so as of recently and Estonia was moving a Soviet World War II when the cyber attacks against them began in 2007. To remove the statues of despised or fallen regimes is healthy and good for the psychology of a nation state. 

But the question remains, what did Robert E Lee think of statues of himself? After the Civil War Lee accepted a position to serve as president of Washington college, (today Washington & Lee). Lee became a figure for national reconciliation as he wanted to help heal the wounds of the Civil War. When Lee was contacted about erecting a statue of himself but Lee resisted and was opposed to the idea. Lee believed that it would be contrary to national healing and that they would “anger the victorious federals.” This is what Robert E Lee wrote in a letter in 1866 about the matter:

 “As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated; my conviction is, that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment; & of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour.”

In 1866 Robert E Lee objected to building a statues of Stonewall Jackson saying it would be unfair to ask Confederate veterans to give money when they struggled to take care of their families. Lee rejected to appear at Gettysburg and erect statues on the prominent battlefield. Here is what Lee said:

“I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”

Lee when he was dying also stated that he did not want to be buried in his Confederate uniform and he wanted no Confederate garb to appear. Lee wanted to help heal the nation and bring the south back into harmony with the United States. 

This is why you learn and study history. The issue of Confederate statues is a non-issue, and people who have erected them have gone against the wishes and desires of the man who led the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. In the process those who have erected statues of Lee or other Confederate leaders have disrespected Robert E Lee himself. This is why many of these Confederate statues need to be removed. When removing these statues lets remove them in a legal fashion, not all all what happened in Durham, North Carolina. Lets follow the law. Personally I think the best way to remove Confederate statues was handled by the city of Baltimore. But let’s take them down, and put them in a museum. Let them teach about the days of Jim Crow and racial segregation. Let’s take these statues down and put them in a place where they will do no harm. If you want to read a good article about the issue I would recommend Politico’s “Regime Change in Charlottesville.” But that also leaves us with another question that is raised, what about statues on battlefields such as Manassas, Gettysburg or Antietam? 

 

Addressing the Issue of Battlefield Monuments 

First of all let me state in this section that I took a lot of classes dealing with history as a history major and I have a grad degree in history. I am a historian and have been trained as such and it flows within me. I love the Civil War and find its history to be deeply fascinating. I remember when I was moving to Washington, D.C. from Wisconsin and driving past Gettysburg and Antietam. I was blown away as those two names mean so much if you have studied history. Up above I explained the problem with Confederate monuments and I also explain why they need to be removed. Some people may expect monuments on battlefields to also be removed. First let me say that I don’t believe that will be an issue. But second the battlefields are very different in that they are sacred ground.

Battlefields which can be found from Virginia, to Pennsylvania down to Mississippi are unique in that they tell a story. They also preserve a location as it was. For example I have been to battlefields in Antietam, Gettysburg, Manassas, and Fredericksburg. Battlefields are different in that they are history and they preserve it. To have a Confederate statue marking the key location of a part of the battle is good and needed. In these situations this is about history. Let me give you an example to make my point. At the Battle of Bulls Run in Manassas, Virginia there is a statue of Stonewall Jackson on the spot where on July 21, 1861 Jackson was rallying crumbling Confederate lines and General Barnard Elliot Bee Jr proclaimedThere is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians!That is history, in that you deal with facts and place them in context,  and monuments such as those mark events like that. Have you noticed that it is the Confederate statues in parks and other locations that are creating the problems? After all to the best of my knowledge Neo-Nazis and others aren’t going to Civil War battlefields. They are not interested in history, if they were then they would have to change their positions and their views of hate. But I raise this issue because some are falsely claiming that if you take down a statue of Robert E Lee in Charlottesville, then its the battlefield statues that are next. That is fear driven mongering which is driving some of these reactions. Again these are thoughts to consider and these are my beliefs. Racism needs to be dealt with and many of the Confederate need to be removed. Wouldn’t if be neat if Evangelical Christians who are mostly known for their hate are known for their love, and for the first time in history they are on the right side of history instead of the wrong side. However, that is where I am going to pick up the discussion because the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) can do that in a very unique way. That’s it for the day guys, know that I love you. 

6 thoughts on “Why Racism is a Sin, and Why Confederate Monuments in the United States Need to be Removed

  1. I wanted to get this up last night but I was going to be in Manassas running some errands and I wanted to take a picture of the Stonewall Jackson statue. I have been to Manassas National Battlefield many times.

    Like

    • Eagle, I think the battlefield statues are protected because the battlefields hold more of a ‘museum’ status than other entities . . . . . . they are ‘sacred ground’ so to speak, where blood soaked in and is forever a part of the Earth, and this is recognized even among people who disagree about most things (at least I hope so).

      The statue at Charlottesville proved to be an ‘excuse’ for a gathering of the clan, if you will, and you ended up with more of a band of white supremacists on site than citizens peacefully supporting keeping the statue as an historical monument. In a way, by showing up there, and conducting the neo-Nazi torch rally and the killing of Heather Heyer, that group sealed the fate of that statue as a ‘lightning rod’ for their ilk. And sadly, the ACLU, which supports all things free speech, may have also inadvertently (or maybe not inadvertently) furthered the revelation of just who is in the ‘Alt Right’ and what the new coalition of the white supremacists looks like. People in our country were SHOCKED at seeing that neo-Nazi torch rally and hearing old Nazi battle cries only now voiced in our land and in a place that is far from uncivilized.

      I think the Civil War battlefields will be kept as they are. They should never be scenes for something like what went down in Charlotteville.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I did a little research on one of those Nazi battle cries used by the neo-Nazis at the Charlottesville riot — “Blood and Soil” (“Blut und Boden” auf Deustch). And what I found was interesting, echoing through America’s current Culture War Without End.

        Turns out the Nazis didn’t originate it. “Blood and Soil” was the name of a popular fiction genre of the time, a “pastoral utopia” about simple traditional rural/small town life, harking back to an idealized past, a simpler time. Sort of a German equivalent of Little House on the Prairie seen through rose-tinted glasses. Or Amish “bonnet books” in Christian fiction.

        At which point, a LOT of unrelated items in my mental database all came together as aspects/echoes of this original definition of Blood and Soil:

        1) A long-ago documentary titled “Art and the Third Reich”. Specifically, a portion about how before the Nazis pulled their 1933 coup from within (and didn’t need to appeal to an electorate any more), they originally positioned themselves as the Guardians/Restorers of Traditional German Family Values. (Under threat from Weimar decadence.) A clip from a propaganda film of the time looked like a German version of “Motherhood & Apple Pie”, again set in a sentimentalized past.

        2) The Eco-Utopia of environmental activism, which paints a non-technological Utopia where we’re all happy peasants, singing as we walk out to work in the fields each morning.

        3) One of Slacktivist’s comments on Left Behind, about the attitude of Rural Righteousness vs Urban Sinfulness. How what kicks off the Rapture/Armageddon clock is discovery of a magical super-fertilizer that turns harsh desert into lush cropland literally overnight (no rainfall/irrigation needed). How this tied into a mythic cycle of Righteous Rural vs Wicked City, and how this Super-Miracle-Grow would shift the balance of power from the city back to the rural areas, who deserve it because of their Superior Morality and Righteousness.

        3.1) Someone pointed out when hearing (3) about how this sounded like nomads painting settled townsfolk as Sodom & Gomorrah to keep their children from fleeing the sheep dip to the towns.

        3.2) And in Volume 13 of Left Behind (set AFTER the Second Coming/End of the World), the “New Heavens & New Earth” is entirely covered by an eternal American Midwest, no mountains, no oceans, only endless prairies and plains dotted with immortal Mayberries and Pleasantvilles. White picket fences and all. (Triumph of the Rural?)

        I’m not sure how all this ties together, just that I noticed the parallels in the Zeitgeist. That there was a popular longing for a mythic simpler time, and both the NSDAP and Left Behind provided fanservice for their own reasons.

        Like

  2. Up above I explained the problem with Confederate monuments and I also explain why they need to be removed.

    Well, if “Marse Robert” (E Lee) didn’t want statues of himself or General Jackson erected, that changes things. Let’s take his wishes into account.

    Some people may expect monuments on battlefields to also be removed.

    Eagle, never underestimate the black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking of a Righteous Activist.

    A couple days ago, KFI morning drive-time reported on some blacktivist preacher from Chicago who took Trump’s tweet at his word and called for removal of Chicago’s statues of Racist Slaveowners Washington & Jefferson. (There was also a claim that he wanted them replaced with Malcolm X, but this might have been the radio staff editorializing. That morning drive-time host is known for outrageous one-liners.)

    Like

  3. A couple of weeks ago, very few people cared about civil war monuments.

    Now, all of a sudden, seemingly the whole world needs to have all of them eradicated.

    Colour me as a skeptic, but something feels just a little disingenuous about the whole thing, sorry.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s