Our time in Windhoek and the LWF Assembly had come to an end. It was time to head back to the US. Graduation from seminary awaited in two days.
“We’re erasing history when we take down statues and remove the Confederate flag. Stop erasing history!”
This is the argument of the moment. It’s the idea that if we take down statues honoring Confederate personalities from Southern State capitals and non-battlefield locations (and in some places outside of the South – ie Maryland), then we are erasing their memory and erasing the memory of what the Civil War was really about.
Here’s are some things to consider regarding this argument.
1. Let’s talk about actual history. In my sermon this past week I quoted people who were alive at the time of the confederacy to show what the Confederacy was actually about – slavery. You really can’t do research on this and not find plenty of quotes from the era that shows that the Confederacy and the Confederate cause during the Civil War was really about preserving slavery and the structures and systems that supported slavery. Look up William Thompson, the man who designed the Confederate flag – read what he said the flag stood for. Read the Secession Statements from any of the Confederate State. Read the words of Jefferson Davis, the first president of the Confederacy. It’s pretty clear what these folks, who made up the actual Confederacy, believed what the Confederacy was about. That’s not twisting history – those are actual beliefs of the people who started and supported the Confederacy. For those who support the idea of maintaining the original intent of the Constitution, then we should use the same logic when it comes to the original intent of the Confederacy too.
2. While we’re talking about history, let’s talk about the history of the actual statues – when were they put up and why. Most of these statues went up in the early 1900’s and were efforts to keep alive the ideas of the Confederacy. They were placed in locations that were meant to send a clear signal of who was in charge and who was acceptable
3. What history are we actually erasing? – the fake history of the beautiful antebellum south that never existed in the first place, or the façade that gets thrown around as Gospel truth because we prefer to remember the Confederacy as something quaint and pleasant. Do we keep this fake history because the reality of slavery is just too difficult to deal with? And the fact that somewhere around a million people died because of the Civil War.
4. Does this mean that the only memory we have of the confederacy resides in statues and a flag? I don’t see a whole of statues and flags dedicated to Rome, or Greece here in the US – and yet, somehow, we manage to remember the history of those civilizations. Maybe that’s just too distant and on foreign soil. How about this instead. Are there any statues for the war of 1812, how about flags with the appropriate stars on the flag? Yet we still have a memory of this war. Statues and flags aren’t the only way to remember history. If it was, we’d be screwed. And frankly, the internet would have disappeared as something powerful for human memory too.
5. What is the real fear? Is the fear that we’ll talk about the truth of the history and that we’ll feel guilty that we’ve been honoring a lie this long?
6. So if we extend the logic that is being argued here originally, then we should have forced the Iraqi people to keep up the statue of Saddam Hussein, lest they erase history. We should have highly encouraged the Russians to keep up the statue of Lenin when communism fell, in order to preserve history. We should have left the “whites only” and “blacks only” signs up in order to preserve history. Or maybe that’s different, although I’m not sure how.
7. Some times tearing down statues and laying flags to rest isn’t about erasing history at all. Sometimes it’s about remembering the actual history and the horror that goes with it and deciding that there are better ways to remember history, and it’s not by erecting or keeping statues that tell a skewed history. Instead, let’s tell the full history. Here’s a pretty good article that asks an important question that relates to this very issue – http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/20/why-there-are-no-nazi-statues-in-germany-215510 Why are there no nazi statues in Germany?
I’ve been to one of the locations that keeps the actual history of Nazism alive and well – Dachau concentration camp. There, they keep the actual history of what happened alive. It’s not a façade. It’s real. When we start actually keeping history of the Confederacy, then I’ll be happy to go to a monument that shows what it was about. I will walk the grounds of a plantation – especially the slave “residence” and learn about the life of the slave and see monuments dedicated to slaves who died at the hands of their masters. Why do we erase this portion of history? Because it’s uncomfortable? It’s our history and we don’t want to deal with it. It’s easier to tell a lie, then deal with reality. It’s not as painful. It requires no change. Until we acknowledge the actual history of the confederacy, we aren’t going to move past it.
Many thanks to Mitch Teemley for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Mitch has a great blog and is a great and interesting person. Mitch likes to share his humor, inspiration, and tell us all what it’s like to produce movies – really interesting stuff. You should check out his blog you won’t be disappointed.
- Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog (check!)
- Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you (check!)
- List the rules and display the award logo (Ok, so I used a different logo look, but the name is there)
- Nominate 11 bloggers to receive this award and ask them 11 questions
My Answers to Mitch’s Questions
- What would you like us to know about you? Here’s a few fun facts. 1. I’m color blind. 2. I’m a Lutheran pastor who likes to shake things up a bit (which causes some churchy folks to be uncomfortable). 3. I still consider myself a runner even though I haven’t run in about a year due to foot injury. 4. I have a long background in politics which has caused me to conclude that both parties in the US are wrong, and sometimes one or the other will get something right, but your hope and salvation doesn’t rely in them so stop making them our savior. 5. I love to travel. Love it so much that when we had the opportunity to live in Finland for a year during seminary, all six of us went. It was one of the best years of our life!
- What inspires you? When people try something they have never tried before, push the limits, change things up in order to experience a more vibrant, thriving life.
- How long have you been blogging? I’m blogging here for just over two years, but I have blogged for several years before that.
- What is your goal for your blog? To test out ideas and thoughts, start conversations, get people to see things from a different perspective and think about things they might not otherwise think about.
- Would you share one of your favorite quotes? “The man who cries out against evil men but does not pray for them will never know the grace of God.” Saint Silouan the Athonite
- What has been most rewarding for you since starting your blog? To find out that there are other people who care about deep topics and ideas and want to talk about them. It’s rewarding to know not everyone only goes to blog to be entertained and read “top 7 things you can do to….”
- What are your hobbies? Being a pastor, the lines get blurred. I love to read. I love to write. I love to travel. I love to run. Thankfully I get to do all of those (except for run right now) in my calling.
- If you were starting all over with your blog, what would you do differently? I haven’t got the slightest idea.
- If you had to live in any time in history other than this one, what time period would you choose and why? That’s really difficult to answer. It’s so much easier to answer what time would I visit – I have lots of answer for this. But when would I live, that’s far different. If I were forced to answer, I would say the 1500’s. I would want to experience the Reformation first hand.
- If you could give a new blogger one piece of advice, what would it be? Be yourself. Stop trying all the little tricks and the “so-and-so does this and it is why they are so successful.” Good for that person, but you aren’t them. Figure out what works for you and do it. Be authentic in your writing – there are plenty of fakes who are only interested in getting clicks and views.
- What has been your most useful life lesson? That our past is a huge help and prepares us well for the present. It’s an ongoing education for us in what works and what doesn’t. Where else can you get first hand knowledge about failure and success that is specifically tailored just for you?
Questions for My Nominees
Ok, so some of these are the same as above, but I have a few others too.
- Why do you blog?
- Tell us something unique about yourself?
- What’s your favorite quote?
- What inspires you?
- What are your hobbies?
- Why do these hobbies interest you so much?
- If you could do anything (and money wasn’t an issue) what would you do?
- Favorite movie?
- What is really important to you in your life? Not just the things you say are important but the things that you invest time, money, energy, and attention on.
- What is the one thing that you have learned is way overrated and pretty much useless?
- Would you rather be able to gain more and more power so that you could make any change you wanted in the world but be really unpopular, or would you rather empower as many people as possible leaving you with no power and no say in changes in the world?
- Thoughts Alone – inspirational and real thoughts and pictures.
- The Snow Melts Somewhere – A travel blog that posts some great photos from around the world.
- Sartenada’s photo blog – A Finnish blogger who travels around Finland and shares pictures of his adventure.
- Traveling the world solo – A young single female world traveler to goes to amazing places all by herself and has amazing adventure.
- Lutheran Schreff – A fellow Lutheran pastor who gives us glimpses into history.
- The Shameful Sheep – If you want a good laugh about life, go visit.
- Jesus without Baggage – Another Lutheran blogger who unwraps Jesus, theology, and the church in a way that shows how God is approachable.
- Tanssitytön blogi – Another Finnish blogger who gives a unique perspective on Finland and Finnish stuff.
- Huisjen’s Philosophy Blog – An American who lives in Finland and writes about philosophy, politics, theology, etc. You might not agree, but that’s not the point.
- Beatravelling – a travel blogger who goes to incredible places and shares the experience with us.
- Rethink – a Christian blogger who writes about Jesus and Church in the 21st century. I just started following this blogger and really like what they write about.
Let’s play a game for a moment. Pick a controversial issue. Any issue. Try picking something that are pretty adamant about.
Now imagine being on the other side of that issue. After you get past the initial feelings of anger or frustration or whatever, go past that to something deeper.
Think about the argument of this opposing position. Get past the memes and one liners that you are used to seeing. Start to think about what supporters of this position are actually arguing for.
Think through how you could come to a conclusion that makes sense. This is important, because I can guarantee that people come to their conclusions for reasons that make sense to them. When we can start to see how the opposing side comes to their conclusions, it changes the way we interact. We start to discover that we’re not as far separated as we thought. In many cases we even discover that there is overlap and similarities in what we both want. Often, the difference come out in how we get there.
This is a good exercise, but it’s not easy. It’s never easy to let go of what we think is the only logical and reasonable way to look at any issue and consider an alternative. That’s doesn’t mean you have to agree with the decision or even like it. But I know that you’ll come away with a little more understanding of your opposition – and maybe even see the humanity in them.
(This is an edited version of what I preached yesterday – close, but not exact. I’ve added in some things after some reflection).
Matthew 5:1-12 – The Beatitudes
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
This past week and a half, I’ve been taking a January term class at the seminary on science and religion. It’s been fascinating. We’ve covered every major scientific topic you can think of. The professor is very engaging – he’s a theologian who has been in conversation with scientists for over 30 years and he know both science and theology very well.
An important point he made during the class was that there are different models for how science and religion interact with each other – some are based on a warfare model seeing that the two are at odds with each other. Other models start with an assumption that science and religion are not at war with each other.
Also during the course we talked about digging down to actual science. Often the debate that occurs is not even about science, but rather, other things. Take evolution for example. There’s the science evolution, and then there is a whole lot of other things that claim evolution as a foundation that have nothing to do with science. A good example would be Social Darwinism. The difference is that science deals with what is. Ideology, philosophy, and even theology deal with what ought to be. Social Darwinism is not dealing with what is, but rather what ought to be by its proponents.
Social Darwinism isn’t really talked about directly in our culture, but it’s been around for some time. It’s an ideology that claims survival of the fittest as its mantra. It believes that might makes right, that the unfit don’t deserve anything and we shouldn’t care for them. I think you could even make an argument that the Prosperity Gospel message is related to Social Darwinism too. The Prosperity Gospel is a message that says that we can see who God has blessed based on the amount of wealth they have.
This whole mindset proclaims a message of what the world blesses – wealth, power, strength, might, force, ruthlessness, conquerors. Want evidence of this? Look at who our statues and monuments are dedicated to – generals and politicians – the “leaders” of our world. We pay the powerful and the mighty a lot of money because our culture tells us that worth and value is measured in monetary terms. And so our VIP’s are worth more than other people.
That’s the world outside the doors of the church. Yet we come inside and hear a counter cultural message today – the Beatitudes. This is Jesus’ sermon to his disciples and those that overhear it on who God blesses. Jesus’ sermon calls us to take this message with us when we leave, and to bless those the world finds unblessable, worthless, not valuable, unfit, and not deserving life.
Do you want to know who these people are that the world has deemed unfit? You don’t have to go far. Head over to one of the local food pantries – there are plenty of “unfit” people in the world’s eyes. There is plenty of judging and condemnation to go around. “why don’t they get a job, or work harder?” “They have it so easy – they are given food.” Let that sink in for a moment – do you really believe that being poor is easy? Do you think anyone in that line really wants to be there?
If the food pantry isn’t your cup of tea, how about a visit to a hospital. The world says that the terminal ill are unfit – they are only sucking up resources that could be used for healthy people. They cost too much.
How about a children’s hospital? I was working out at the Y the other day and the TV’s were on. One station had politics – all the VIP’s making decisions. Another station had sports – all the VIP sports figures making millions. And the third TV has a commercial for a children’s hospital. The children imaged were in wheel chairs, had disabilities, and were deformed. You can bet a politician’s salary that these kids are considered a drain on society according to the world’s standards.
Too sappy for you – how about you head on down to the local nursing home. There are plenty of people who are just sitting around waiting to die, are lost, forgotten.
Don’t like that – how about finding homeless people in any city large or small. You might want to check some of the storage facilities – there are usually some homeless vets who survive in these.
How about the handicapped who can’t work?
The list can go on and on – I’m sure you can add to it if you think about it, especially in light of this past week’s events.
The problem with Social Darwinism, the prosperity gospel, and all of these ideologies that place human value in terms of financial resources or other immaterial things is this – at some point every single person becomes unfit, unblessable, and costing more than they are worth. Every person! This includes those who adopt this ideology. There are no exceptions because are all going to either get sick, get old, get injured, or something else that knocks us down from our prime. That’s the reality of life for everyone.
Thankfully, this false message is not the only message we have. Jesus presents an alternative message – one that is available right now, not sometime in the distance future.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” – meaning the poor – those having nothing. To be poor in spirit is to recognize that there is nothing we can do or have that will earn us God’s love or salvation.
“Blessed are those who mourn” – You mourn because you have lost something or someone dear to you.
“Blessed are the meek” – Another word for meek is gentle, or not using force.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” – or justice.
“Blessed are the merciful” – those that are compassionate to others.
“Blessed are the pure in heart” – or clean in heart. This is a whole being thing, not just the organ in your chest. It’s the idea that every part of who you are moves towards being pure, not just going through the motions.
“Blessed are the peacemakers” – Those making peace. Again, this is a way of life, not a destination.
Jesus presents us with an alternative, a counter cultural message today, feeds us, and sends us out to bless those whom God blesses, to love those whom God loves and favors. To be a fool in the world – according to St. Paul. Because the beatitudes are foolish if we listen to the world.
But if we listen to the world, we better be prepared to be declared “unfit” or a drain on resources at some point.
Jesus opens his arms to us, calls us in, and blesses us, regardless of our abilities or what the world thinks of us. Because our value is not in what we have or even what we do. Rather our value is in who we are – blessed Children of God. Thank God for that. Amen.
We started our tour of the nationality rooms at the Cathedral of Learning. Each day, I’ll take you inside for a quick peek at each room. You’ll get one view. There’s a ton a details that you won’t get – hopefully this just whets your appetite so you will go see the rooms for yourself.
First stop – the Yugoslav room
The Yugoslav room has lots of wood, as you can see. And the gentlemen on the wall are all famous and important figures in the Yugoslav cultural past. I love the dark wood.