Franklin Graham is Wrong - We Can Not Use the Bible to Justify Confederate Memorials
Confederate Statues Were Not Commissioned By God
Franklin Graham comes out against the tearing down of memorials with a short, nicely written, but misguided argument: https://www.facebook.com/FranklinGraham/posts/1618007648255410. In it he cites the Bible - that God instructed the Israelites to erect memorials of major events - specifically crossing the Jordan. Then he goes on to explain how the cross, (a symbol of suffering and shame), is a memorial that reminds us of Christ's sacrifice and how we are saved by him and therefore we should also keep standing the memorials of the Confederates. There are two things wrong with his reasoning. The memorial he cites in the Old Testament is the memorial directed by God to be built, and it is a positive reminder of God's victory. God's memorials are not related to the pain and suffering as the nails and cross are, but are stones heaped together: simple reminders of God's provision and victory.
There is one event where the object of rebellion against God was used as a part of a memorial God instructed the Israelites to build - the censers of incense and fire. However, it is important to remember that the censers were already holy, and the censers were to be formed into an entirely new shape to cover the altar. Not only that, it was not a memorial of God's victory but rather a warning against those who were not of Aaron's seed to not approach the altar. So in this case, the memorial or reminder were objects that were used as tools of rebellion and God ordered them to be distorted to conform to the alter, and they were a warning to rebels and outsiders. The statues of Confederate generals honor the men who fought against the Union, they in no way warn us of the right of the Union to prevail, but rather honor the memory of those who fought in the battle against the North. God’s memorial of the censers over the altar do not honor or glorify Korah and his men - those who were not qualified to approach God’s altar and rebelled against God and Moses, rather they proclaim the foolishness of those who go against God. Thus the reshaped censers do not encourage us to honor the enemy, but turn our eyes toward right.
The cross was not commissioned by God as a memorial and God in no way glorified the object of pain or rebellion, and therefore to assume that the cross is a God commissioned memorial for us to lift up does not fall in line with God's actions and directives to his people. The cross was never meant to be a memorial for us the way the memorials of the Old Testament were to the Israelites. It IS a prominent feature in New Testament history and it does stand for our redemption through Christ's sacrifice. Blood was shed, and our sins were paid for. But God never told us to memorialize that event - that agony and victory - with the symbol of the cross. It is certainly debatable whether the cross should be displayed in a church as a symbol of Christianity, but we can say it is not the same as the Old Testament memorials God instructed the Israelites to build. Using the cross to connect today's memorials with the Old Testament memorials is illogical. At best, the Confederate statues, busts and plaques remind us of a painful event in American history.
Those memorial statues, for some (and those who have been manipulated to feel this way) are symbols of pain and torture, and on top of that, do not stand for any victory in these people's minds. So the analogy between US memorials and Biblical memorials are infinitely distant and using the Bible this way is an abuse - it only satisfies our need to justify our position to keep the memorials standing.
Erasing History - A Misguided Act
Comparison with the Old Testament Israelite memorials aside, the tearing down of these symbols of history is a misguided and terrible act. We must ask ourselves, would we be as adamant to keep a statue of a victorious Hitler sitting on a tank? Of course not. Although the Confederacy was fighting for right, and those who want to erase history and take down statues are doing it for the wrong reasons, we cannot fight them on their terms. They believe that Confederate memorials are symbols of slavery. We cannot justify keeping up a memorial that reminds someone of pain and suffering. It would be the same as keeping a Hitler statue erected.
However, there are reasons for keeping the memorials up and make it a desecrative act to tear them down. The statues acknowledge the battle fought by the South, they acknowledge the loss of life in the pursuit of freedom (it was not mainly about slavery), they acknowledge the rift between the North and South. They remind us that this country was divided and why. A statue of a Southern general is not the same as a statue of Hitler. Hitler was a terrorizing dictator who fought to destroy an entire people and subject the world to evil. Our Confederate memorials are of people who rose up to defend their way of life, their freedoms against the tyranny of the North. Right or wrong, Lincoln invaded the Southern states to subject them to what he thought was right - and even worse, to take the powers of the states and pull them into one government. The intentions of the South cannot be labeled the same way as the intentions of Nazi Germany. Our memorials acknowledge the political and philosophical divide that existed before the Union and it reminds us that the singular view that the North was right and the South was wrong - are not set in stone. Those of us who believe the North is wrong, do not seek to tear down the statue of Lincoln, we acknowledge his pivotal role in history, and he makes up part of the fabric of American history. The fact that there are memorials to both the aim and philosophies of the North and South speak to American liberty. Remembering the past helps us to keep an eye on the present and the future. When a people start to aggressively erase history, they lay the groundwork for a totalitarian state.
At the very least, tearing down a statue to erase history is devastatingly wrong. When we forget what happened, deliberately or ignorantly, we forget the reasons why it happened, thereby not only allowing ignorance about how we got where we are today, but also allowing liars to come along and tell us their version of the story without anything to compare it to or anything to remain that can contradict the lie.
And this is what this is - an attempt to erase history so people who don't know it can be manipulated - maybe even manipulated to repeat the exact same mistake again.
Using the Bible to justify preserving painful memorials is misguided and does not make sense since the memorials God gave his people were to remind them of his goodness, his power and his justice, The Confederate memorials remind us of history so we can remember what happened and why, so it will affect our decisions and keep us in check or prepare us for change.
Memorials Torn Down
- Confederate Monuments Are Coming Down Across the United States. Here’s a List. - The New York Times
Many government officials have called to remove dozens of controversial statues, markers and other monuments from public grounds.
© 2017 Alexander Silvius