The town I grew up in has been in the news over the last few days. They are dealing with the conflict over a Confederate soldier monument in front of the historic courthouse. Prominently displayed as you travel south into town, I often saw the monument but never paid it much thought.
The fight over whether or not to remove the monument has stirred up visceral reactions in many people I have known my whole life. Being from a small town, you tend to know people and share a commonality of proximity and experience. It has been painful to watch friendships and relationships turn bitter and vitriolic because of this monument.
This struck me as I began writing this series of posts because I realized the power of monuments. I once read monuments say something about what people believe, what they value, what they uphold, what they honor and cherish, even what or who they worship.
This particular monument stirs up deep emotions because it says something about what we value. Some see it as an honor of heritage…but that same heritage is a reminder of evil and pain for another group of people.
I have been on this merry go round for a while now. The conversation goes like this:
“Why are you trying to erase history?”
“We’re not trying to erase history. We are trying to help you see why it is hurtful to us. That is a symbol of our racist past.”
“No it’s not, it is honoring the dead soldiers who fought in our bloodiest war. Many of them didn’t even own slaves. It was a war to stop the Union from taking away state’s rights.”
“But you know what right those states were fighting for, don’t you? Owning people.”
“That’s not what it was about. Go study history for yourself and don’t believe what the media/liberals/snowflakes are trying to brainwash you with.”
“Have you read the secession papers from each state? They literally say we want our slaves, that’s why we are leaving.”
“I don’t know why you are making such a big deal out of this. I didn’t own any slaves or lynch anybody. All you are doing is causing more division and problems by keeping bringing this up.”
“But you are the one who started this whole conversation with a question. Why did you ask if you didn’t want to hear the answer?”
Does this sound familiar? I know I feel like it is on repeat every so often in my social media timelines and the collective psyche of these United States.
And it hit me when I thought about that monument and why I notice it now like I never did before.
Monuments are a reminder, or a marker if you will, of our stories. They carry immense power to help us remember and feel what it is they commemorate.
And therein lies our problem.
There are so many monuments that are built in our culture.
Power. Greed. Sex. Religion.
We constantly erect monuments in our lives to help us find meaning, to build altars, and to worship our ideas and ourselves.
As the church of Jesus Christ, if these monuments are not an honor to God, we must never give ourselves over to the defending or worship of them. These monuments threaten to pull us away from God and fall victim to counterfeit worship.
Racism is the great sin of which this nation built itself upon. The roots of that sin run so deep in the very soul of America, it will be incredibly painful to address.
It is a gaping wound that has become infected, yet we are trying to slap a band-aid on it and live our lives as if it isn’t there. We are confronted with the graveness of this wound every time something agitates it.
An unarmed black man gunned down by police. A family of immigrants separated and caged trying to cross the border. Systemic injustices that crush the spirit of entire people groups.
All of these rip that band-aid off and the wound releases its toxic contents into the bloodstream of our country. It is going to lead us to our death if we don’t find healing.
But we, the church, have an intimate knowledge of the One who has the power to heal all things. The One who has the power to transform hearts and heal broken people.
The only way we will find this healing though is to admit the sin, repent of our complicitness whether inaction or silence, and begin to seek reconciliation with God and each other.
If we will begin to build these monuments of peace, these altars of Christ-like love and authentic compassion for one another, I believe we will begin to see God’s desire and design for our lives spring forth.
In my next blog post, I will lay out why all of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus should bring light into this great darkness over our land.