dateline: August 17, 2017
Why Defend Confederate Monuments?
As the president Trump continues the defense of Civil War statues honoring Confederate Army officers, it is worth noting that General Robert E. Lee, who led the confederate troops from 1861 to 1865, thought no such honor appropriate.
In December 1866 he responded to a former Confederate general who had queried him about a proposed commemorative monument. "As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated; my conviction is, that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment; & of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour. All I think that can now be done, is to aid our noble & generous women in their efforts to protect the graves & mark the last resting places of those who have fallen, & wait for better times."
And on August 5, 1869, Lee declined an invitation from the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association to help mark the positions of the troops in that 1863 battle with granite memorials.
" . . .My engagements will not permit me to be present. I believe if there, I could not add anything material to the information existing on the subject. I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered. Very respectfully,
Your obedient servant, "
Both very reasoned statements and both showing what be considered, a Christian World View.
So why do so many on the Christian right argue for maintaining Confederate statues? Why do so many on the Christian right personally maintain some form of Confederate memorabilia? It just canít be answered unless we assume they are merely the right.
A real pity, but perhaps we are past it mattering.
Say about forty or fifty years ago a local church pastor speaking out against wrong, had power and influence within the community. With Scripture, he rallied Christians for or against actions of the local jurisdiction (government or civic) that impacted his congregants. He was the only community leader who actually knew the people and represented them. In some cases he also held public or elected office being at risk of being co-opted by the seduction of government power. But just as often he has shunned any public office to serve as God's gift to the church1.
But that was then. The Christian right is now firmly entrenched in local churches and is regularly consulted by pastors looking for a cause, or topic for Sunday morning. (A poor substitute for actually hearing from God.) A pastor speaking out on any issue today would just be pitted against an opposing pastor, of the same denomination or fellowship no less.
General Lee did not consult the politicians with regard to his position on Confederate monuments. He took the position of one who had fought back an armed aggressor (recognizing that he was that armed aggressor). Why should we honor a vanquished foe? He took the position of one who wanted to get about the business of strengthening this nation. He took the position of one who sought peace2.
1Ephesians 4:11 (KJV) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
2Matthew 5:9 (KJV) 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.