In the wake of recent events Charlottesville, I found myself nodding in agreement with the National Review’s Rich Lowry when he wrote:
I’ve been skeptical of the rush to pull up Confederate monuments, and Robert E. Lee—the focus in Charlottesville—is not Nathan Bedford Forrest. But if the monuments are going to become rallying points for neo-Nazis, maybe they really do need to go.
Lowry has subsequently written a handy guide for disposal of Confederate monuments. By disposition, I’m a federalist who would rather not come down from on high and tell every other area of the country how they ought to micromanage their affairs. Given the craziness in Charlottesville, however, I couldn’t help but feel that Lowry was right and it was time to be done with the Confederacy once and for all.
And then in the cool light of reason, I realized that Mr. Lowry’s push was as pointless as it was well-meaning. The idea of targeting Confederate monuments goes back to the decision to remove the Confederate Flag from the State House grounds in Charleston, South Carolina two years ago.
Before proceeding further with this crusade, we should ask what exactly we’re trying to accomplish. If there’s any goal, it would seem to be the easing of racial divisions, a greater sense of national unity and peace. More than two years after, it’s time for our nation to have collective Doctor Phil moment and ask, “How’s that working for you?”
I identified one of the big problems with this approach in an article I wrote at the time:
At the end of the day, if efforts to remove the flag succeed, politicians can proudly proclaim they helped remove the awful totem from the great building, thus exorcising the evil spirits . Apparently, that’s the best one can expect in the twenty-first century.
It is far easier exorcise the demons associated with the Confederate flag than face the real problems of South Carolina and America. They’re spiritual problems that are addressed through prayer and repentance, not through bloviating politicians and Internet mobs. I’m concerned we’re cleansing the outside of the cup and platter rather than looking at what needs cleansed within.
And so we’ve spent the last two years furiously scrubbing the outside of that cup and platter and find ourselves astonished at all the poison that’s still within it and that somehow more potent than ever. The call for a renewed war against the old Confederate symbols says that if only we scrub the outside a little bit harder, we’ll make some progress in getting all that poison out of the inside of the cup.
There are dangers for Christians becoming involved on either side of the great monument debate. Those defending the Confederate symbols do so by pretending that those who feel distressed at them are irrelevant “snowflakes” whose feelings about a nation founded to ensure they remained enslaved and illiterate are irrelevant. The danger for those who fight to remove monuments is that they may unwittingly end up perpetrating a fraud by suggesting that somehow the removal of a statue is going to make our nation or even a small city more peaceful, loving, or just.
The truth is that our nation is in serious spiritual trouble. The tragedy in Charlottesville and across America reflects our nation’s hard heart towards God playing out in hard hearts towards each other. This violent event shows there is a problem where there’s no political solution, only national repentance, and spiritual renewal.