Saturday, August 19, 2017

When Is a Statue a Gospel Problem?

After the horrific violence and hatred that was displayed in Charlottesville, Virginia last week, I was originally encouraged to see many of my Facebook friends denouncing white supremacy, as all of us should, especially those of us who hold to a Christian worldview. However, with their next breath, many of these same people began to post rhetoric about how Confederate statues should continue to stand in public spaces in the interest of 'preserving history'. This viewpoint is problematic and hurtful to many in our country, especially many people of color. To begin, I want to share some words from a wise Christian woman that articulate perfectly my thoughts on keeping Confederate statues in public places:

T. R. writes: "It is extremely important to remember our collective past. But let's be honest. We erect statues as a form of veneration. There are certain historical figures, events and epochs that should not be venerated or celebrated though they SHOULD be remembered so that we never repeat them. We should remember through discussing, informing and educating. But we should not maintain statues to them. We give honor when we erect statues. That is their purpose.

Saying that Robert E. Lee had many good, redeeming qualities such as being a solid Christian (which, honestly, should have been enough to encourage him to resist, not violently uphold the institution of slavery) is not reason enough to maintain a statue in his honor. In Emancipation Square no less. Do we not see the horrible irony in this? I can never hold this man up as an example to my children of a great Christian. He behaved in a patently unChristian manner through his fight to maintain a system that enforced the brutal subjugation of others. When my Christian peers advocate so strongly for this it hurts my heart."

Keeping this viewpoint and the reminder of my friends' and neighbors' pain at the forefront of my mind, I have been thinking and praying about what my response should be to this subject. As I prayed, my mind was drawn to the thought, "What is my purpose in this life? Why was I created by God? Why was I called by Him and gifted this incredible grace for salvation? What is my purpose as it relates to statues, politics, and racial reconciliation?" Jesus answered this question in Matthew 28:19, when he tells Christ-followers that our purpose is to "Go and make disciples of all nations." It's all about helping human beings see that they have a need to be reconciled to God, and He desires to draw us all to Himself. Sharing the Gospel with my words and with my actions, THAT is my purpose. THAT is the reason for my existence. 

In light of that purpose and calling in Christ, how should I feel about a Confederate statue? As Tanya stated, her heart (and many other hearts in our country today) are being broken over and over while Christians choose to place more value on statues than on the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. How would this represent Christ to my unsaved neighbor of color if I were to advocate for a statue of a Confederate leader who wanted their ancestors to remain enslaved? Would my neighbor then be willing to listen to me, in the next breath, tell them how much Jesus loves and values them? Could this be a stumbling block to my neighbor coming to salvation? If a statue is standing in the way of my neighbor hearing the Gospel that I'm speaking about Jesus, there is no other option than to tear the statue down! 

One more thought - If a statue, which is not eternal, has become more important to me than the eternal lives of the human beings around me, if I am finding myself more passionate about advocating for a statue than I am in advocating for human lives, then that statue has become an idol in my life. Lord, let me be willing to tear down every idol in my heart, to be willing to tear down a thousand statues in order to reach my neighbors, who are made in Your image, with the Good News that Your Son died for them because their lives matter infinitely to You! 

--1 Corinthians 9:19-23--


Emily said...

Beautifully written, and a great reminder!

Anonymous said...

Nice post