This past weekend I preached on the meaning of memorials in our lives and the need to choose wisely what memorials we make in our hearts, our homes and in our communities.
Memorials have 4 functions:
1. Mark time
2. Remember people who have gone before us
3. Remember how God was at work in those persons lives
4. A visual reminder to tell our children the story of our history and values
I talked briefly about one memorial that I am very glad came down. The Battle of Liberty Place monument celebrated the White League that carried out a coup of the state government, attacking the integrated Metropolitan police force and the state's militia that was primarily black. The White League won the battle killing 13 police officers and disarming the state militia. They controlled the state and began to set up an alternate government until President Grant sent federal troops to regain control.
In America, we respect elections. We don't do coups of our state or federal government. We don't celebrate the killing of police officers and we don't set up alternative governments. If we lose an election, we work peaceably with our fellow Americans and try to win the next election. The Battle of Liberty Place monument stood for everything that is anti-American and I am glad it has now been taken down.
Two other monuments were also taken down, one a statue of General Robert E. Lee. Lee led the Confederate army against the United States of America. That is treason. There is a long-standing romancing of Southern history, one that makes the Confederacy seem noble. But there was nothing noble about it - these men committed treason against their country because they wanted the right to keep human beings as slaves. Over time, as public opinion on slavery changed, the reasons for the south succeeding has been cloaked under the words "states rights" and "way of life" referring to "the Cause" rather than slavery specifically. You only have to read the speeches and documents of the leaders of southern succession from that time to get the truth.
In the Cornerstone Speech, C.S. Vice President Alexander Stephens declared that the "cornerstone" of the new government "rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery – subordination to the superior race – is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth"
The declaration of succession drafted by the state of South Carolina outlines their "right" to keep slaves and makes clear why at that moment, just after the election of Abraham Lincoln as president, that they were succeeding: "A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction."
It is time that Christians in America (particularly white ones) rise up and declare once and for all that what the south did was morally wrong and anti-Christ. Memorials to any leaders of the Confederacy should be taken down. The memory of the Confederacy should not be sanitized but exposed for what it truly was: a treasonous moral failing of racism and greed. Confederate flags represent treason and the promotion of slavery. The Confederate flag has been used as a terrorist tool to bring fear to African-Americans, it has no place in our society.
Our national memorials should point to the unity of our United States of America and our belief that all are created equal. Our memorials should only lift up our highest ideals of one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Our flags should only be the flag that stand for all of us.