Jesus And The Hysterical Historians

I love history.

And I hate it.

A few weeks ago, I took my family to Stone Mountain. We made the mile or so hike up the mountain, ate dinner on the grass in front of the mountain, watched the laser show where some kid named Johnny defeated the Devil in a fiddle contest, and complained about traffic on our way home.

We follow that same routine every year.

And every year I give my kids the same speech.

If you’ve never been to Stone Mountain, it’s hard to miss. It’s a giant chunk of granite in Atlanta with a carving of leaders of the Confederacy on it. Every year, my kids ask about the men engraved on that mountain.

Here’s a paraphrase of what I usually say.

“All you need to know about those men and any other person you see memorialized in an engraving or statue is that they aren’t God.”

It would do us good to hear that simple speech a few times a day. Maybe then we wouldn’t be so prone to worship men and identify with woefully imperfect movements.

I love history because I like knowing how we got to where we are. It’s fascinating.

I hate history because I don’t really like hearing about how we got to where we are. It’s often brutal.

I love history because I like learning about regular men and women who did amazing things. It’s inspiring.

I hate history because I’ve grown tired of those regular men and women being treated as gods. It’s hysterical.

What I am about to say is going to sound like something a preacher would say. Forgive me.

The more I study historical figures and movements, the more I am convinced that Jesus is enough. That goes double for contemporary figures and movements.

Dig deep enough into the life of any human being and you will find a mess. A real mess. So we shouldn’t be asking ourselves whether or not we need to remove certain statues and engravings. Rather, we should ask ourselves why we put them up in the first place. And when we’re done with that line of questioning, we should wonder why we choose to identify with them. If we’re honest, the answer has more to do with idolatry than legacy or heritage.

I was born and raised in a southern state that I love but I’m no apologist for slavery.

I’ve been a Christian for most of my life and I am the product of a conservative church where the Bible was taught faithfully. Now I am the pastor of a conservative church where I try to preach the Bible faithfully. But I don’t consider myself an Evangelical. Today, that term has more to do with a voting bloc than it does the body of Christ so no thanks.

I’m a proponent of an extremely limited government. But I just don’t have the stomach to call myself a Libertarian and certainly not a Republican. And when I come across someone who wants universal healthcare, I prefer not to look at them as an enemy. I’d rather view them as a human being I happen to disagree with but who has great worth because they have been created in the image of God. Sometimes my heart wants to go another direction but I’m a work in progress.

My skin is white. Well, that’s what we call it but it looks nothing like the pages in the book next to me as I write this. Either way, that’s not where I find my worth. I have no interest in the Richard Spencer’s of the world who want to use the power of the government to supposedly restore our European heritage. My two sons have Filipino blood running through their veins and I’m proud of it. My great grandmother’s blood was all Cherokee. If anyone wants to talk about preserving heritage it should have been her. But that doesn’t preach well to the crowd that wants to restore this country’s “European heritage.”

Hang on a minute, I’m about to say something else that sounds preachy.

The only cleansing I care about is the kind that comes from the blood of Jesus Christ. Every other human being who made a historic stand against something, even the great ones, to some degree became what they fought against. Through either compromise or a moral compass that never was really set to begin with, even our best heroes are very unworthy of our granite carvings, statues and worship. Not so with Jesus, he touched the untouchable and remained clean. He stood against the great Accuser and remained perfectly holy.

The more I study history, the more my love hate relationship with it grows.

I hate it for how dirty it is.

But I love it for how it serves to highlight the supremacy of Jesus Christ over all other men and movements.

I’ve never gotten a call from a pollster. But if I ever do and they ask me if I’m a Caucasian, evangelical, southern, Libertarian who likes to visit Stone Mountain once a year, at the risk of sounding too preachy, I’ll just tell them that I’m an imperfect follower of the only perfect man who ever lived.

Any other label would just be hysterical.

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The Terribly Offensive Truth About Our Monuments

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Every American, it seems, is offended by something. It’s our new national pastime.

Each day, someone new wants to do something to Stone Mountain. Last week the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP announced that they wanted the image on the side of the mountain sandblasted off or somehow torn off and sold to the highest bidder.

This week, Michael Julian Bond, an Atlanta city councilman, has joined in on all the fun. He suggested that other famous Georgians should be added along with the image that is already there.

Some call the image of Davis, Lee and Jackson offensive. Others call it downright racist. One commenter who relocated to the south from the enlightened city of Chicago called it “backwards.”

Here’s the thing we forget about our monuments and statues. All of the men they honor are terribly flawed. All of them. Terribly.

Consider just one of those terribly flawed men.

He imprisoned thousands of citizens, clergy and journalists from his own country simply because they spoke out against his policies.

He censored communications between private citizens.

He used the military to interfere with elections.

He confiscated firearms from citizens.

He had a political opponent deported.

He said this. Read it very carefully.

“I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary.”

And, finally, you can ask any surviving members of the Santee Sioux Indians how they feel about this man and his monuments. But good luck finding any because he had a few hundred of them killed.

There appears to be quite a significant difference between Abraham Lincoln and good old Honest Abe that you learned about in school. Even still, I’m not expecting the Lincoln Memorial to be removed from Washington D.C. and sold to the highest bidder anytime soon.

Robert E. Lee was flawed. So was Honest Abe. So is your grandfather. You are too. And so am I.

Scratch deep enough through the bronze, clay, granite, plaster and mythology and, just as sure as the devil, you’ll find the dirt. It appears as though no human being can live up to the allegedly high standards we have set for our monuments.

Well, there is one human being worthy of such honor. One who lived his whole life without sin.

But we could never put up a monument devoted to him in front of the capital building.

It might offend someone.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

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Hypocrites!

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I’m staying out of the Confederate flag debate.

But, I must admit, it’s kind of hard to with news about it being all over the Internet, television and radio. TV shows have been taken off of the air because of it. New laws have been passed because of it. The Atlanta chapter of the NAACP is talking about sandblasting Lee, Davis and Jackson off of Stone Mountain. The president has even weighed in, saying that the confederate flag belongs in a museum, not on a pole outside of a government building in South Carolina.

All of this in response to the racist who killed nine blacks during a church meeting.

Earlier this week we learned that Planned Parenthood is not only killing babies, we’ve known that for years, but that they are selling their body parts and performing the abortions in such a way as to keep the desired body parts in tact. No one wants a damaged liver, you know.

What has been the response to that?

From many Christians, it has been what you might expect. Outrage. Righteous indignation. Anger. Disgust.

But what about the response from the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP? Have they weighed in on the fact that babies, many of whom are black, are being murdered and sold to the highest bidder? Are they asking for Planned Parenthood to be sandblasted from the United States budget?

And what about President Obama? Has he said anything about this? Has he shown any disgust at the woman slurping wine while talking about selling the organs of infants as if she was an auto parts dealer?

Crickets chirping.

Tumbleweed.

Nothing.

Here’s the painful reality. Most Americans don’t care about justice. Yes, even the ones who talk a lot about it. What they really care about is what the media and the social engineers behind the media tell them to care about.

So they’ll wear a bracelet for this cause.

And they’ll sign an online petition for that cause.

And they’ll walk from California to Maine to raise money for some other cause.

Just so long as the cause is socially acceptable. That’s why a lot of churches are devoted to ensuring that the coffee out in the lobby is fair trade while remaining silent about the babies being killed down the street. Sadly, in the eyes of the elites currently ruling this country from both sides of the political aisle, putting a stop to the murder of babies and the selling of their body parts is not an acceptable cause.

As a pastor, this is the part where I’m supposed to say that this country is at a crossroads and that it’s time for the church to speak up so that we can win our nation back. I’m not going to do that.

The crossroads was passed a long time ago.

But it is time for the church to speak up.

In his excellent book on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxes tells the story  of prisoners who were loaded on trains headed for concentration camps. At some point along the way, the train always passed a church building. Sometimes the train passed while the church was meeting. Everyone in the church building knew what the train was for, where it was headed and who was in it. So what did they do? They sang their hymns louder to cover the sound of the train and the screams of the passengers on it in hopes that it would make them forget about the reality that was in the shadow of their steeple. They did nothing to help. They just sang louder.

Our culture is the same way today.

We sing loud, pretty songs about justice, freedom and love.

All so that we can pretend that the real crisis, the federally funded one right outside of our door, isn’t happening.

Well, it is.

History, and more importantly God, will remember us for our response to this crisis. Not for our bracelets. Not for our rhetoric. But for our actions (James 2:14-26).

So far, our nation really is on the wrong side of history.

Even worse, it is on the wrong side of God’s wrath.

Before we start patting ourselves on the back for the images we sandblast off of mountains and the TV shows we pull from the air, we should consider how we respond to the torture of the least among us.

Sadly, our leaders are no different from the woman in that undercover video.

Slurping wine.

Eating nice food.

Making a lot of money.

All at the expense of tiny, involuntary organ donors they call fetuses.

So the next time you hear the president say something about justice, tune him out. Tune him out until he calls Planned Parenthood what it is. A government funded homicide syndicate. Tune him out until he stops making you pay for it all. The next time you hear the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP talk about change, just keep on moving. Keep moving until you hear them tell Planned Parenthood, “Not in our city.”

Anything less is hypocrisy in its truest form.

And trust me on this.

You don’t want any part of a so-called justice or hope or change that views babies as commodities rather than individuals created in the image of God.

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