Of extreme importance to a culture are its landmarks, boundaries and monuments. A culture’s past, the good as well as the not so good, must not be forsaken or forgotten. The good, the bad, the ugly are all important to the understanding of where that particular culture has come from and why it is what it is today.
But, to our dismay, our American culture of freedom is taking it on the chin these days. There are deep divisions of thought, from sea to shining sea, and someone has remarked that we are now two nations within one border. I once heard a quote by the late theologian/pastor Francis Schaeffer, in which he essentially said that we would reach a place of antithesis in our culture. It seems we have arrived at that place. What will the final synthesis look like?
Today our landmarks are being attacked and, quite literally, being removed by angry people who proclaim to be “threatened.” These are people whose own personal agenda are placed above the importance of preserving the integrity and strength of our moral and free society. It is painful to observe the anger, threats and violence that accompany the situations today. Many say we are witnessing paid protestors, simply doing what their paymasters desire.
A major focus today is the destruction of anything that has a Civil War, Confederate connotation. Education institutions’ names have been changed because they were named after Confederate officers; monuments of Confederate soldiers are being protested and removed and the Confederate flag is an anathema today.
Come on, are these folks really so insecure that they will go to all lengths to attempt to eradicate history? The Civil War is part of our history. There were many good men, on both sides, who fought valiantly for what they believed in. It is certainly a blight on our past, but it is still a part of our great American history nonetheless. All of history is to be learned from. President Ronald Reagan said, “If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are.”
Landmarks and monuments in the North and South alike were placed by those that grieved for the fallen and desired to honor their memories. The ones in the North were erected mush faster than those in the South. But the landmarks of the South are the ones under protest and being attacked and destroyed today. The South takes the rap for the slavery era.
For the record, the South was not solely to blame in this conflict. It wasn’t all about whether the South should own slaves or not. Only 25% of the population in the South were slave owners. Many people in the North were also slave owners. The war was more about the economy of slavery than just about slavery. The northern states drew great profit from the economy of slavery.
Cotton was King and Wall Street was its broker. Ships that brought slaves from Africa were from the North and northern states profited either directly or indirectly from the cotton industry and the slave trade, which was a multi-billion-dollar industry at the time. Historians tell us that America supplied three fourths of the world’s cotton and without this export, America would have become a third world country.
Both sides were guilty of atrocities against the black man. It was certainly a sad and confusing time in our history, to say the least. But that time in our history is a definite part of our history and we should preserve it and learn from it. The radical, brazen term “Fundamentally Change America” comes to mind. That is a slippery slope that cannot be re-scaled. One that we are teetering over and possibly even have begun the treacherous journey down.
One of my World War II veteran friends, whom I wrote about, told me of the tremendous unified national effort during that war. All sorts of products were rationed and the entire nation gladly joined in the effort, not complaining about their inconveniences. American citizens were united and totally behind the war effort. Then he sadly added, “That will never happen again.”
If he is correct, we will lose much more than a few statues and monuments. We will have given away the most precious commodities that America has to offer. We will have given away civility, common sense, a decent, law abiding society of the self-governed and above all, the loss of individual freedoms to speak openly, worship openly and be the productive example and bastion of freedom that the world has depended on.
Abraham Lincoln, in 1838, at twenty-eight years old and a new citizen of Springfield, Illinois, delivered one of his earliest speeches, which was titled The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions. The speech put him on the map as a public speaker. Not knowing that he would eventually lead his beloved country through the terrible days of the Civil War, he voiced his heart for America’s future.
“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! …At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time or die by suicide.”
Lincoln knew that America was too powerful and too far removed from other nations to be conquered by them. But he also knew that America is not necessarily secure within its borders. If it is to be brought down, it will be by “suicide.” He continued:
“Whenever the vicious portion of [our] population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision stores, throw printing presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure and with impunity, depend upon it, this government cannot last. By such things the feelings of the best citizens will become more or less alienated from it, and thus it will be left without friends, or with too few, and those few too weak to make their friendship effectual.”
Today we are witnessing “the vicious portion of our population” ransack, destroy, injure citizens and totally disregard the welfare of their fellow citizen’s property, freedoms, rights and personal well being. All of this smells of civil disobedience and civil war and has properties of anarchy. Is this the beginning of suicide for the America we know? May it never be!
The Bible tells us that we should not move the landmarks of our fathers. “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.” (Prov 22:28) “You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark, which men of old have set…” (Deut 29:14) Why? These landmarks were from Israel’s past, showing a way of life and boundaries for living. I understand that the context here is Israel and her descendants. But the principle still remains true.
Our landmarks, our monuments have been set for us to remember a pattern of living for our culture. They have been placed with pride, dignity and reverence. The principle from Scripture is that we should reverence, respect and honor our past and not be hasty to change what God has blessed. Moving boundaries, landmarks and monuments in anger is disrespectful of the ones who have lived their lives before us and arrogantly declares that their lives and sacrifices do not matter.
In his blog, Dr. Ken Baker says, “Man has always been tampering with boundary stones, moving them one way or another to suit his whims, sometimes removing them altogether. The cultural and intellectual elite purport to know best and so many of the undiscerning masses follow.”
Again, we remember Abraham Lincoln as he took the office of President in 1861. His inaugural speech was no less than moving and inspirational as he now faced the inevitable war that would set brother against brother.
“We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
I pray that the “better angels of our nature” will be struck by the “mystic chords of memory” and win the day again for our great country. These chords of memory must include our decency as a people, our desire to worship and serve the God of Heaven and the continuance of America’s goodness and generosity throughout the world.
Yes, we have a blemished past, but no one escapes that. Every person that has lived in this broken world, except One, has been broken and needy of care and forgiveness. And every nation has a dark past. But America’s goodness over 241 years has overridden her failures and she has stood for freedom and justice and has reached out to any who needs her help.