Tuesday, July 07, 2015
Disposing of the Past
Forgiveness, restoration and healing most often involves letting things go.
KOMO News in Seattle carried a story yesterday titled, "To Remove or Not: Institutions Reconsider Honors for Racists."
Following the massacre of 9 blacks during a prayer meeting and Bible study in the church in Charleston, many have been re-evaluating, revising and removing those icons and images from the past that represent and remind us all of the oppression of slavery.
From Charleston to Yale to Minneapolis to New York City to Helena to Massachusetts to Alaska, monuments and names of schools and counties are being disposed of.
The Democratic Party in Connecticut will decide this month whether to strip from their identity the names of 2 former US Presidents---Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson for the same reason.
Hillary and other progressives, in the same spirit, have been advocating we dispose of certain old religious and theological beliefs that are offensive and discriminatory toward abortion and so called gay rights.
Americans are generally good people. Most are not racist or bigots.
But how far is too far in the "Removing?"
The KOMO story quotes David Glassberg, A University of Massachusetts professor who has researched public memorials, saying, "The naming or renaming of buildings, monuments and even dinners is always political."
He says, "These traditions represent the traditions of past people."
In Connecticut, the revisionist sentiment has extended to non-Confederate figures. The State Democratic Party will decide whether to strip the names of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from their 67 year-old annual fundraising dinner because both owned slaves.
Should Washington State also consider changing it's name? George Washington owned slaves.
In fact, when Washington was 11 years of age he inherited 10 slaves from his father, at the time of his death, 316 slaves lived at Mount Vernon, including 123 owned by Washington, 40 leased from a neighbor and an additional 153 "dower slaves."
George Washington was a slave owner for 56 years.
Should Washington State be renamed "Lincoln?" Or "Evergreen?" Or "Wonderland?"
How far is too far with all this?
Temple University professor Christopher Rabb is a black man. He is a graduate of Yale. He lived in Calhoun College when it still had a stained glass window depicting Calhoun standing over an enslaved black man. He remembers the image.
But he says, "Removing a name, removing a symbol is easy and we can say 'problem solved'." But, "we're dealing with a symbol and we're not dealing with the root cause."
Too many on the progressive left are unwilling to face the reality of root causes---in fact are unwilling to face the fact that "roots" even exist, or that there are such things as "consequences."
Disposing of icons and images in hope of changing reality is akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic hoping to save it.
Rabb is right.
I'm not suggesting the removal of certain icons and images cannot bring some solace, however, it is not the solution.
The solution is found much deeper than symbols or names.
Kevin Williamson, writing for the National Review speaks to the importance of "roots"---causes, and consequences. I have drawn some of the following from his article.
He says, "The American proposition is a theological proposition."
Therein is the root system that has caused America to flourish. The problems in America----all problems, are ultimately spiritual not political.
All cultural problems are moral and spiritual problems. Social issues are not the marginal "divisive issues" some Republican leaders would have us believe.
They are the main event.
The belief that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights" is sometimes difficult to grasp. It is rejected by some because it is theological, not political. It is absolute, not progressive or evolving.
Theological solutions involve transformation. Political solutions often focus on the deck chairs.
America was birthed on spiritual transformation, not furniture arrangement and window dressing.
For the entirety of the human experience, most men had been subjects---the ruled living their lives at the dictate of the rulers.
The American ideal inverts that concept, proclaiming that we are citizens, not subjects, because we are created in the likeness and image of God our Creator.
With our obsession of disposing of the past, particularly our religious heritage, we are undermining the actual basis of our freedom.
Religion, specifically Christianity, is why America is so free and blessed.
Christianity is about restoration and forgiveness, not merely removing symbols.
That's why America is often seen as a "City on a Hill". The gospel in Matthew speaks of a city on a hill. That ideal captured the minds and hearts of those who first settled the New World, like Bradford and others. It also captured the heart and mind of President Ronald Reagan.
He said, "I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind swept, God blessed, and teaming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls and doors were open to anyone who had the heart to get here." Legally, of course.
Last week at the funeral of Pastor and State Representative Clementa Pinckney in Charleston, President Obama broke from his scripted comments and began singing Amazing Grace---those in attendance stood and joined him.
Most of us know the story behind the song, the personal story of John Newton. His story reflects the kind of transformation that causes a nation to be a "City on a Hill." And causes an individual to be a light in the darkness.
John Newton was a slaver, who after his conversion to Christianity became an abolitionist who celebrated Britain's abolition of the African slave trade and who left posterity with the hymn Amazing Grace.
In times of sorrow and times of loss, many Americans turn to the words of the hymn. In times of gratefulness and testimony to God's transforming power, we sing it in public and privately.
Like Newton, America came up from bondage, liberating ourselves as we liberated the slaves.
"Through many dangers toils and snares I have already come; tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home."
America's freedom is based on grace, grace that is greater than all our sins. We are blessed with a blessing none of us earned or even deserve. We have liberty, not because we have earned it---although we have fought to preserve it, but because we believe freedom is a gift from God---endowed to us by the Creator with certain unalienable rights.
We have proclaimed that throughout the land. We have opened our hearts to God's gift.
This is why America also sings, "Glory, Glory Hallelujah, His Truth is marching on."
We have now seen 239 years of liberty and prosperity unprecedented in all human history, a longer span of time than that which separated the Year of the Six Emperors from the fall of the Roman Empire.
There are rightly some things that should be left behind. However, the list must not include the Faith of our Fathers and an abiding belief in the unearned, unmerited grace of Almighty God.
Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.