So, I’m going to say something that may be unpopular: I’m totally okay with taking down all the Confederate monuments.
Why would I say that? It’s not because I’m not proud to be a Southerner. I am. I know that Florida is a hodge-podge of transplants from all over the country, but not where I’m from. Not Central Florida. Not Polk County. Not North Lakeland. We are country boys. We drive trucks and drink sweet tea and say, “Yes ma’am” and “No sir.”
It’s not because I don’t have any ties to the Civil War. I do. On my father’s side, my great-great grandfather Samuel C. Croft fought for the Confederacy and on my mother’s side, my great-great grandfather Francis Alexander Maddox also fought for the Confederacy. Obviously I never knew these men. I never met my paternal great grandfather nor my paternal grandfather. I spent seven short years with my maternal grandfather, but we never mentioned his grandpa or the Civil War. But, I know how to use the internet, and I know how to read, so I know that they fought in the Civil War.
It’s not because I don’t have an affinity for Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson. I do. I like the guys. By all accounts that I have read, they were good guys; God-fearing men. Southern gentlemen. Lee graduated top of his class from West Point without any demerits in his entire academic career. That is nearly unheard of. Jackson wouldn’t send the postal riders out to deliver the mail if he knew they would be working on a Sunday because he believed so deeply in the Christian Sabbath.
My father and I have a running joke about Lee because they share a birthday, January 19. I live in Lee County, for goodness sake. It was named after Robert E. Lee. There is a bust of the man three minutes from my house in Downtown Fort Myers. Fort Myers was named after Abraham Myers, a Confederate Colonel. There’s a portrait of him hanging in our city hall.
So, why am I okay with taking down all the Confederate monuments? Because they are not worth the offense they bring to my brothers and sisters in Christ or my neighbors who need Christ.
Here’s the deal: these men, even though they are considered upstanding humans and fine Christians, were on the wrong side of history. They rebelled against their country and lost. They tried to form a new country, a Confederate States of America. And by God’s sovereignty, they did not succeed. If God wanted them to win, then they would have won! But I get the feeling that if we could do it all over again, the people demanding that we keep up the statues and memorials think the Confederacy would win this time.
Now, I understand, many people will say something like, “Hey, wait a minute! They were fighting for States’ rights! Isn’t that a good thing?!” And yes, I agree with States’ rights. But can we be honest; what right were they most worried about losing? Their right to own slaves. It made them rich. You cannot serve both mammon and God. And the way they acquired their great mammon was literally on the back of people they considered their own property.
To quote from Dr. Russell Moore, “The Confederate States of America was not simply about limited government and local autonomy; the Confederate States of America was constitutionally committed to the continuation, with protections of law, to a great evil. The moral enormity of the slavery question is one still viscerally felt today, especially by the descendants of those who were enslaved and persecuted.”
So, if I have a brother or sister in Christ, or a neighbor who is in need of Christ, and every time they drive past the bust of Robert E. Lee in Downtown Fort Myers, or see the portrait of Abraham Myers hanging in our city hall, or their children have to attend Jefferson Davis High School in Montgomery, Alabama (whose student population is 93% black, by the way) and they see a symbol for hatred and a way of life that made them less than a person, then I’m totally okay with removing that stain from our history.
No amount of Southern pride can overshadow the feeling of hate, bigotry and racism that is felt by our fellow countrymen, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and fellow image-bearers of God who must hear the good news of the gospel. The gospel that says all men are created equal. The gospel that says God has come to set us free from the slavery of sin. The gospel that says one day a multitude of people of every skin color, ethnicity, language and nation will gather in the throne-room of Heaven and proclaim the goodness of God. A gospel that is a white-supremacist’s worst nightmare.
We have Holocaust museums in this country. Not to celebrate the Holocaust, but to preserve the memory of a time when evil was fought and defeated. We obviously can’t erase our past. But we certainly should learn from it. We shouldn’t celebrate it by putting up giant statues and portraits for all to see. We don’t have any statues of King George or Kim Il-Sung or Ho Chi Minh anywhere that I am aware of. Why? Because they were on the wrong side of history. We’ve moved on. And we’re better for it.
Let me close with one last thought. There is a New Testament idea of living our lives in a peaceful manner for the sake of our brothers and sisters and their conscience. In fact, if we can go without a little bit of personal freedom or Christian liberty, then we should if it means that our brother or sister will have a clear conscience and sounder mind.
The Apostle Paul says that we should not prize our freedom to the point of destroying those for whom Christ died. We should instead “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19).
He says elsewhere, “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Cor. 10:23-24).
If that means removing Confederate monuments that are nothing but a reminder of a black eye of our country’s history for the sake of the gospel, then I’m all for it. For the sake of my brothers and sisters in Christ. And for the sake of my neighbors who need Christ.