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Franklin Graham is Wrong - We Can Not Use the Bible to Justify Confederate Memorials

Updated on August 21, 2017
What the Jordan Memorial Probably Looked Like
What the Jordan Memorial Probably Looked Like | Source

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.

The Censer Incense Plate Might Have Looked Like This
The Censer Incense Plate Might Have Looked Like This | Source

Negative Memorials?

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.

Is This Right or A Sad Way To Deal With History?
Is This Right or A Sad Way To Deal With History? | Source

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.

© 2017 Alexander Silvius

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    • Alexander Mark profile image
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      Alexander Silvius 4 weeks ago from Portland, Oregon

      Rodric, I absolutely agree especially with the last thing you said about majority rule. Honestly I would not be as bothered by the removal of the memorials if the people had decided and as far as I can tell, it was only politicians who made the decisions. I also don't disagree with you about Confederate statues not being the best memorials to grievous errors. Although I don't think the Confederacy was chiefly about slavery, if we are to be reminded, we should, as you wrote, be reminded by statues of slavery instead. I still think knocking down memorials is a huge mistake - better to build new ones alongside the old so people can get an equal view of both sides and make up their own mind rather than have the evidence of truth censored.

      Although we can agree that slavery ended earlier with the victory of the North than it would have if the Confederates had won, I think it would still have ended at some point. I think that we actually traded one slavery for another when the Southern states became a part of the Union.

      Thanks so much for your awesome comment.

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Johnson 4 weeks ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I agree with you contention that the memorials of the Confederacy are not the same as those erected by the House of Israel under commandment from God. I do take exception that they are a reminder of our history in the estimation that you claim. Putting memorials of slaves all over the country would do better to remind us of that shameful past. The generals of the rebelious do nothing but remind us that there a millions of people who would have me, my children and other of African descent as property without the equal protection under Constitutional law. None of the things you describe reflect the America that I love. I will fight for you to have your view and whatever memorial you want to have, however. I do not agree with the memorials as things I want, but I recognize this is a free nation. If I have the opportunity to remove them, I will. But it must be by majority rule, and not by force.

    • Alexander Mark profile image
      Author

      Alexander Silvius 4 weeks ago from Portland, Oregon

      Zulma, thank your for your comment, I appreciate hearing this point of view from a Brit. I have heard that quote before, I did not know who said it until now.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 4 weeks ago from United Kingdom

      'Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' George Santayana

      These statues are a part of history. They should remain as a reminder of that terrible time when a nation was torn apart, neighbour turned on neighbour and brother fought brother. Tearing them down and whitewashing history is no guarantee that something like that will never happen again.

    • Alexander Mark profile image
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      Alexander Silvius 4 weeks ago from Portland, Oregon

      Ronnie, of course my argument doesn't make sense to you - you're all over the place. When you say European Invasion, I think you are trying to use a brainwashing technique to get us to wonder what you mean and then connect the dots to figure out that you mean when the Europeans started colonizing. I am not impressed or swayed.

      Also, you are discounting my argument by bringing up a different argument. My response is: go write your own hub on the matter and no, I am not interested in checking it out if you already have.

      I will respond to one of your statements: I think comparing the cruelty of forced slavery with Hitler's very premeditated plans of genocide through starvation, deliberate fatal abuse (camps) and gas chambers is horrific. No one who uses Hitler as an example of pure evil will ever lose the "who's the worst" game you are making this to be.

      The ONLY reason I am not denying your response is because you did make a comment in the last paragraph that was relevant to this article. I have great sympathy for the suffering of African slaves and their descendants and I think I alluded to that well enough in the article. It is clear that we need to consider how they feel, but it is just as clear that we must not give in to the rewriting of history and as free thinking Americans, we should always allow room for opposite opinions. Taking down memorials is part of shutting down free speech. You say that we can read about it in history books, "the digital cloud" and so on. Books can be and have been rewritten, data can be changed, manipulated or stolen, and if some day all this is done to revision history, then if a statue is all that is left, then at least there is one reminder of the truth.

      But you know, I’m going to stop here. I noticed that there was nothing, zero you agreed with what I wrote. I expected you would have agreed that using the Bible to justify keeping the statues up is wrong, or at least disagreed - this was the first and main point of the article and you chose to attack me on my supposed ignorance about a non-relevant subject instead. From this point on I must insist that you contain your posts to the subject matter of the article - anything else will be removed from these comments. And yes, I censor comments, but I certainly support your right to write on your own Hubpage or blog.

    • wrenchBiscuit profile image

      Ronnie wrenchBiscuit 4 weeks ago

      It appears you are as misguided as Graham. If you had studied the history of the European Invasion you would not have written these words. The Nazi's killed an estimated 6 million Jews over a 12 year period, and all totaled approx 60-70 million people were killed during WW2. However, the responsibility for that total is shared by the Axis and Allied Forces.

      But on this continent the European is solely responsible for over 100 million deaths during a reign of terror that has lasted over 500 years! And that includes 400 years of chattel slavery. It is laughable, and absurd to suggest that Nazi Germany came anywhere close to matching the brutality of the European Invaders, and their American progeny.

      But it is clear that your biblical and historical assessment does not consider the humanity of the Indigenous and the African who suffered, because if that were true you would understand that all of these statues, including those of miscreants like George Washington, are an abomination, and a glorification of evil. We cannot learn history by erecting a statue, nor can we erase it by tearing it down. The historical record is written in books, and today it is also stored in the digital cloud. We learn about history by reading about the past, and through serious study. The only way to erase history is to destroy the documents, the books, and the digital libraries. Consequently, your argument simply does not make sense.