On the Tearing Down of Statues

https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/richmond.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/b/2b/b2bac06c-1fa0-11e5-b450-afa000347411/55935db439e57.image.jpgSo apparently tearing down statues of historical figures with controversial pasts is in vogue now. In case you haven’t heard, the secular cleansing has caused quite the stir. This latest uproar was caused by the removal of a General Robert E. Lee statue in Virginia. Lee, of course, was the greatest general of the Civil War who led the Conferderate Army, who also owned slaves. As we all know, since slavery is wicked, slave owners must be evil to their core. And according to secular logic, any statue or historic artifact or marker recognizing a slave owner must be torn down.

To say this stirred the natives would be an understatement. Before long, Charlotsville civilians grabbed their torch and pitchforks and went to the streets. The scene was nothing short of wicked however you slice it. Once the Nazi’s show up in common cause of your protest, it is time to go home and reevaluate your values.

Since then, however, the move to tear down statues has only increased. In the heat of the protests, the mayor of Louisville (not far from where I live) ordered the city to evaluate their historical markers with the intention of removing all slave owners from their city. Years ago they did just that with one statue which now resides on the edge of the Ohio River in nearby Brandenburg.  The immediate problem with the mayor’s policy should be obvious. The city is after King Louis VVI of France who was no abolitionist. Must the name of the city be damned too?

Other statues are threatened too. Demonstrators in Detroit are protesting a Christopher Columbus bust because he, as the narrative goes, committed genocide against the Native Americans. Interestingly, the linked article notes:

Organizers said they were unaware of any Confederate monuments in the city, so were focusing on memorials to other historical figures tied to a white supremacy mind-set.

There is. When your a hammer, everything is a nail.

Kansas City is removing one confederate monument. Just before its excommunication, it was vandalized forcing the city to box it up. Lexington, KY is “relocating” statues of John Hunt Morgan and John C. Brackenridge. There is also much hubub about removing Jefferson Davis from the Kentucky capital retunda where he, Abraham Lincoln, and the “Great Compromiser,” Henry Clay hang out. New York is removing busts of both Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Other memorials in numerous states have either been removed in recent years or are at threat.

Most delicious, however, comes from Al Shapen who believes that tax dollars should not go for the upkeep of the Thomas Jefferson memorial in Washington DC. The irony is that Sharpen owes millions of dollars in back taxes.

This leads to the natural question, what should we think about all of this? The logic is simple. Slavery is the original sin of America and it seems reasonable that any hope of healing from the evil of slavery should include never glorifying those who have profited from the use and trade of slaves. Yet at the same time, outside of the obvious loons and wicked souls soluting Hitler at the foot of these statutes, most understand these individuals were flawed and slavery is wicked, yet they still played an important role in American history.

Let us ask this basic question: can we honor imperfect, flawed individuals who reflected their times? If the answer is no (and progressives increasingly do not want us to), then let there be no statutes nor any building or streets named after any historical figures. There is no one in history worthy of progressive venuration by this unreasonable secular pharaisaical expectation.

Consider the evidence. In 2016, Princton chose to remove a number of Woodrow Wilson memorbilia due to his racist stances and policies. The irony, of course, is that Wilson served both as the President of the United States during World War I and has been viewed as a progressive icon. He also served as the thirteenth president of Princeton University. He remains as the only Ph.D to occupy the White House. Yet due to his clear racist stances, he must be torn down.

Or consider someone like Abraham Lincoln. Though largely beloved by most Americans, he was no saint. He might have saved the Union, but Lincoln and his bereaved wife held multiple seances in the White Houses. Also  consider the following from the great emancipator from his 4th debate with Douglas:

While I was at the hotel to-day, an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the negroes and white people. [Great Laughter.] While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied every thing. I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter.] My understanding is that I can just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes. I will add to this that I have never seen, to my knowledge, a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men. … I will also add to the remarks I have made (for I am not going to enter at large upon this subject,) that I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, [laughter] but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, [roars of laughter] I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes. [Continued laughter and applause.]” (emphasis mine)

Grab your torch and pitchforks college kids.

What about Martin Luther King, Jr. who bravely fought for civil rights and is rightly considered an American hero? The martyred Baptist pastor was certainly no saint. He was a serial womanizer and adulterer. In an ironic scene, President John F. Kennedy told MLK he would join him in his fight for civil rights but first he must cease fornicating. Please disregard JFK’s affairs.

George Washington owned slaves. So . . . there goes Washington D. C.? Elvis Pressley was a drug addict. Joseph Smith was . . .well, where do I begin. Or what about Theodore Roosevelt who was anything but a saint? Should we tear down Mount Rushmore now?

Is it not possible to honor someone with an understanding that this individual was flawed and held views morally repugnant? Let us not forget that we are standing on their shoulders able to see the world more clearly. Though Lincoln was flawed, we live in a nation without slavery. Though King was sexually broken, civil rights was a just fight. And though Washington, Jefferson, and many of the founding fathers participated in a wicked institution, they established a nation rooted in the fundamental belief that all people were created by God with equal rights. It is that American creed that allowed both Lincoln and King (sinners themselves) to stand before the American people and promote equal justice regardless of race and nationality. Our righteous anger slavery and racism is an inherited anger forged by generations of work by men and women who have gone before us all of who were imperfect souls.

The self-righteous tearing down of statues does concern me. Although it might be too strong to say it is an erasing of history, it is a sanitation of it. The chronological snobbery of postmodern secularism will soon make the French blush. We are at the point where the humanists have already torn every institution down, they are turning to our memorials. Hard telling where they will turn to next.

It also misses another important point. The Sadduccees demanding these statues be removed do so with their phylacteries ever present for the world to see. They are no saints and the new, secular-approved statues that

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All Around the Web – August 24, 2017

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Desiring God – What “One Little Word” Will Fell Satan?

Chuck Lawless – 10 Eclipses in the Church

Tim Challies – One Way To Make Sure You’re Preaching a Sermon, Not Leading a Bible Study

Reformation21 – Feeling Forsaken, But Not Forgotten: An Infertility Story

Evangelical History – How To Survive Graduate School

Fred Sanders – Readings in Luther and Calvin

Babylon Bee –  Lakewood Church Issues Eclipse Glasses For Gazing At Joel Osteen’s Teeth

From Bonhoeffer’s Pen: On Confession and Counseling

From Life Together:

It is not experience of life but experience of the Cross that makes one a worthy hearer of confessions. The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ. (118-119)

All Around the Web – August 23, 2017

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George Will – Listen up, millennials. There’s sequence to success.

Zondervan – What Are the Top 10 Problems People Have with God?

Sam Storms – 10 Things You Should Know about Angels

Chuck Lawless – 10 Reasons Church Members Don’t Trust Pastors

Crossway – An Open Letter to Those Debilitated by Their Sexual Sin

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Open Doors USA –  God’s Surprising Solution for Evangelizing Muslims in the Middle EastGod’s Surprising Solution for Evangelizing Muslims in the Middle East

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Babylon Bee –  Atheist Produces Random Neurochemicals Mimicking Sense Of Awe And Wonder During Solar Eclipse

“A Theology for the Social Gospel”: Blogging Through Rauschenbusch – The Challenge of the Social Gospel to Theology 2

“A Theology for the Social Gospel”: Blogging Through Rauschenbusch – Introduction
“A Theology for the Social Gospel”: Blogging Through Rauschenbusch – The Challenge of the Social Gospel to Theology 1
“A Theology for the Social Gospel”: Blogging Through Rauschenbusch – The Challenge of the Social Gospel to Theology 2
“A Theology for the Social Gospel”: Blogging Through Rauschenbusch – The Difficulties of Theological Readjustment 1

 

Still in the opening chapter of Walter Rauschenbusch’s 1917 book A Theology for the Social Gospel, he now turns to some of the root differences that will be explored in more detail later in the book.

First, he notes the pessimism from the fallout of World War 1 should heighten the need for the social gospel, not lessen it. The irony of the two Great Wars of the 20th century is that they are an indictment on the vainity of modernism. The modern experiment was the haughty belief that man had arrived because of advancements in medicine, science, and the rest. Yet what it produced, along with the wicked secular ideology that came with it, was the bloodiest century in human history.

These wars produced a clear pessimism about modernism. Rauschenbusch notes that instead of ditching Christianity in the debris of the first great war, we should embrace his understanding of it. After all:

The ultimate cause of the war was the same lust for easy and unearned gain which has created the internal social evils under which every nation has suffered. (4)

This leads to a second discussion: the difference between individualistic salvation and social salvation. He writes:

The social gospel is the old message of salvation, but enlarged and intensified. The social gospel is the old message of salvation, but enlarged and intensified. The individualistic gospel has taught us to see the sinfulness of every human heart and has inspired us with faith in the willingness and power of God to save every soul that comes to him. But it has not given us an adequate understanding of the sinfulness of the social order and its share in the sins of all individuals within it. It has not evoked faith in the will and power of God to redeem the permanent institutions of human society from their inherited guilt of oppression and extortion. Both our sense of sin and our faith in salvation have fallen short of the realities under its teaching. The social gospel seeks to bring men under repentance for their collective sins and to create a more sensitive and more modern conscience. It calls on us for the faith of the old prophets who believed in the salvation of nations. (5-6)

This theme will be explored in greater detail in later chapters. Yet one of the benefits of exploring Rauschenbusch’s heterodoxy is that moments like this force us to consider the gospel we do preach. I confess having grown up with an individualistic gospel and surely we can confess the privatization of faith is a serious challenge for the church. Rauschenbusch challenges that narrative here. Clearly there is a communal aspect of the gospel that should never be ignored or dismissed. However, Rauschenbusch ends up committing the opposite sin as those who only preach an individualistic gospel. He narrows the gospel only to its social elements. Thus modern adherents confuse the Sermon on the Mount with the Democratic National Convention platform. To be a Christian, then, is to adopt certain social and political policies, yet that thinking is found nowhere in Scripture.

One more comment needs to be made here. This collective understanding of sin, though it has some biblical precedence, is dangerous when stripped from personal accountability. CS Lewis addresses this in his essay, ” Dangers of National Repentance”  (written in 1940)

If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happening) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society. When we speak of England’s actions we mean the actions of the British Government. The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbour; for a Foreign Secretary or a Cabinet Minister is certainly a neighbour. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing but, first, of denouncing the conduct of others. If it were clear to the young that this is what he is doing, no doubt he would remember the law of charity. Unfortunately the very terms in which national repentance is recommended to him conceal its true nature. By a dangerous figure of speech, he calls the Government not ‘they’ but ‘we’. And since, as penitents, we are not encouraged to be charitable to our own sins, nor to give ourselves the benefit of any doubt, a Government which is called ‘we’ is ipso facto placed beyond the sphere of charity or even of justice. You can say anything you please about it. You can indulge in the popular vice of detraction without restraint, and yet feel all the time that you are practising contrition. A group of such young penitents will say, ‘Let us repent our national sins’; what they mean is, ‘Let us attribute to our neighbour (even our Christian neighbour) in the Cabinet. whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.’

I am in agreement with Lewis here. This mentality is common today where people are constantly apologizing (and not really repenting) of the sins of others as a means of self-justification and self-righteousness. It is rampant on college campuses. It is a tremendous way of pointing out the sins of your neighbor while ignoring your own. If I recall, Jesus illustrated this thinking well in a parable regarding a Pharisee and a tax collector in Luke 18.

 

For more:
“A Simple Way to Pray”: Blogging Through Luther
“Baptists Through the Centuries”: Blogging Through Bebbington – Complete Series
“Seeking the City”: Blogging Through Brand and Pratt – Entire Series
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf –  Conclusion
“Collected Writings on Scripture”: Blogging Through Carson – Complete Series
“Whosoever Will”: Blogging Through Allen and Lemke – Concluding Thoughts
“The Deity of Christ”: Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson – The Deity of Jesus for Missions and Pluralism

 

All Around the Web – August 22, 2017

Joe Carter – The Country Where Children with Down Syndrome Are Disappearing

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Ecosophia – Hate is the New Sex

Tim Keller – Race, the Gospel, and the Moment

Timothy Paul Jones – History: How We Got the Bible in Six Minutes or Less

Chuck Lawless – If I Were a Spy at Your Church This Weekend

Tim Challies – 10 Common but Illegitimate Reasons to Divorce

Kevin DeYoung – A Word for Imperfect, But Persistent Pastors

Thom Rainer – Why It Takes Five to Seven Years to Become the Pastor of a Church

Baptist Press – Iceland Down syndrome abortions called ‘a tragedy’

Babylon Bee – Angry Arminian Mob Pulls Down Statue Of John Calvin

Free Speech vs. Abusive Speech: Richard Dawkins Experience Secular Hypocrisy

All one needs to find examples of secular moral hypocrisy is a daily newspaper. Everyday we are inundated with the open-minded humanists demand for toleration while simultaneously shouting down and threatening (even with litigation and legislation) anyone who dares stand against them. Likewise, how many times have conservative Christians been criticized for their obsession with sex, yet it is not our magazines filled with vulgar “how-to” articles of the extreme aimed at the youngest among us.

One glaring example of secular hypocrisy comes from Berkeley’s KPFA Radio disinviting Richard Dawkins because of his “insensitive” and inflammatory rhetoric regarding Islam. For the uninitiated, Dawkins has long been a leading voice for the so-called New Atheist movement which has not only denied the existence of God (hence the atheism) but has radically sought to remove God from the public square (hence the “new”). Dawkins and company’s rhetoric has always been strong and offensive. Though clouded in the rhetoric of science, it is nothing short of a regurgitation of the French Revolution.

Richard Dawkins is in the business of selling books and to do so his rhetoric has always been over the top. I have no doubt he actually believes what he says and I find no reason to question his sincerity. The man loathes religion.  Religion, to him, is a parasite, an evil forced on society that lies behind every evil in the world. If we excommunicated all religion, society would finally be liberated from backward thinking and bigotry.

And by “religion,” Dawkins means all religion, especially Christianity which has dominated the West for centuries. Yet Christianity is not the only aim of his pen. Islam is included on that list and it is his rhetoric against Islam that has offended the California-based public radio. His recent book event was cancelled because Dawkins has verbally “offended and hurt . . . so many people.” More:

“We had booked this event based entirely on his excellent new book on science, when we didn’t know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam – so many people. KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech

To be clear, Dawkins has said a number of incendiary things about Islam. Give him and the New Atheists credit, they loath every religion and spare not the tongue regardless of faith or tradition.

Later, KPFA added in a statement on their website:

“While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech. We apologise for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins’s views much earlier. We also apologise to all those inconvenienced by this cancellation.”

The hypocrisy ought to be immediately apparent. While claiming to “emphatically” support “serious” (whatever that means) free speech they do not support abusive free speech. Apparently KPFA, without any authority but their own mind and will, get to define the terms.

To be clear, Dawkins’ rhetoric is not “abusive” (to borrow their term) exclusively toward Islam. His diatribe against Christianitt is much stronger than against the religion of Mohammed. Yet no one cares. What one says and does to and about Christianity is of little concern to the secular left, but dare hurt the feelings of Islam and suddenly one has crossed the line. Not even the venerable Richard Dawkins is exempt from such hypocritical standards.

In response, Dawkins has stated:

“I have criticised the appalling misogyny and homophobia of Islam, I have criticised the murdering of apostates for no crime other than their disbelief. Far from attacking Muslims, I understand – as perhaps you do not – that Muslims themselves are the prime victims of the oppressive cruelties of Islamism, especially Muslim women,” wrote the author in his response. “I am known as a frequent critic of Christianity and have never been de-platformed for that. Why do you give Islam a free pass? Why is it fine to criticise Christianity but not Islam?”

I am afraid drawing a distinction between Islam and Islamism will not help him nor should it. Christians are never allowed to set themselves apart from those who abuse their religion. Any extremists with an ability to recite John 3:16 is immediately labeled an evangelical – and we all know that all evangelicals are dangerous bigots.

At the end of the day, we must see that the secular left, with its prophets like Dawkins, is a religion itself full of doctrines and moral law. To dare go against their religion is to be branded a heretic and now Dawkins is risking being an outsider, not for his hatred of Christianity (that is orthodox) but for his harsh criticism of Islam (that is heterodox).

I call that hypocrisy.