Putting up and tearing down statues has been part of American history from its beginning. In July 1776, New York City patriots held a public reading of the Declaration of Independence in front of an equestrian statue of King George III. Then they pulled down the statue, melted it, and used it to make bullets.
Soon the British defeated George Washington’s army in New York, however, and occupying British soldiers made an alternative vandalistic statement. They tore the head and arms off a Manhattan statue of the pro-American British politician William Pitt. Both statues had only been erected in 1770.
Statues tell people stories about their history, but the fate of a statue can change fast.
Just think of the golden calf in Exodus. While Moses was away, the Israelites worshiped the calf as the god who brought them “out of Egypt.” When Moses got back, he ground the calf to powder, dumped it in water, and made the people drink it. Statues don’t have a sterling reputation in Scripture, given the prohibition against them in the Ten Commandments and the trouble over Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image in the Book of Daniel.
What should Christians think about the new effort to take down American history monuments and symbols, such as the Confederate banner that was part of the Mississippi state flag?
The topic has personal stakes for me. I was born and raised in South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union in 1860. In my circle of friends and family, there was a strong streak of neo-Confederate sympathies. I would once have bristled at the notion of taking down Confederate symbols and monuments because I figured they were an indication of respect for Southern history and heritage. When I became a born-again ...1
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