One of the problems I have with the culture warriors in our society who are intent on defining America as a racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally evil nation is that those who seek to erase from the public square all monuments to our past which offend them, have yet to persuade me that they are themselves morally superior to the past generations that they so passionately excoriate. I grew up in Ohio and was raised to admire General and then President Grant. I later learned after reading his biography and his memoirs of the war that, although he was an exceptionally eloquent writer and gifted speaker, he may have on occasion used the “n” word. Should we not demolish Grant’s tomb because of that? Given time, maybe our moral superiors will. And on that day maybe they will also for similar reasons demolish Jefferson’s memorial and while they’re at it tear down Washington’s Monument too. I would be okay with that. After all, Jefferson was an agnostic Unitarian who literally cut up the Bible and edited out all the supernatural parts of the gospel in which he didn’t believe. And despite the propaganda of Parson Weems, who portrayed our first President as a saint, we know that in reality Washington was not a particularly reverent or religious man. Since what matters most to me is the Christian faith, I see no reason to memorialize two men who were little more than liberal pagans. Let’s bury them in the dust bin of history, what do you say? And as we rid our society of the memory of men who fell far short of glory of God, should we not extinguish the eternal flame on Kennedy’s grave and abolish the national holiday to Martin Luther King Jr.? Both of these men were adulterers. Is their sin not an offense to married women and to family life? Are they really deserving of the nation's honor?
The answer, of course, is that they are, as are Jefferson and Washington, Grant and even Robert E Lee for that matter. Their monuments deserve to stand because even, if by our standards today, these men seem less than heroic to some of us, previous generations admired them, not for their sins but for the good they did despite their sins. And those previous generations who also built this country for us are allowed, in a civilized nation, to have a voice. That’s called preserving tradition. By allowing a memorial to Grant or Jefferson to stand, we are not condoning use of the “n” word or advocating for slavery. We are accepting the fact that there was a country here long before we came along, and we owe a great debt to those previous generations who gave us great nation despite their obvious imperfections.
I raise this subject with you, because I find the latest salvo in the culture war to be particularly noxious. The city of Arcata, California, is going to take down a statue to President William McKinley because of the cruel treatment that some of the native Americans faced during his administration. There is no doubt that that generation cheated and cruelly mistreated native Americans. There’s also no doubt that had we left the West to the natives and not moved out to Hawaii, (there’s even a statue to McKinley in Hawaii) that those primitive pagan people’s would have been much happier. But their joy would have ended suddenly in 1941 when the Japanese Imperial Army would have invaded and conquered them and taught them a real lesson in the nature of racism and cruelty. No one wins when we try to rewrite history. Communists do this whenever they take over a society. Where has it gotten them? Where is the perfect society that communism has promised to build? McKinley was a civil war veteran who put his life on the line in the effort to end slavery. That took courage. And then in 1901, three years into his presidency, he paid the ultimate price in service to his country. He was assassinated in cold blood. Are we really so small that we don’t get how great a sacrifice a man makes when he dies for his country?
Millions of people hated Lincoln and for good reason. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a war he pursed relentlessly that could so easily have been avoided. And many despised Kennedy for all kinds of reasons. We live in a fallen world and in a very messy democracy. No one in politics or the military is a saint. But we honor these men because they served us in the highest office, and gave up their lives in the cause of defending our constitution. And even if we don’t like them anymore and can’t see why anyone ever did, we let their memorials stand because previous generations thought it was important to honor them. If the people in California want to make a statement about their modern values, let them build a monument depicting Colin Kapernick taking a knee and then set it directly across the street from McKinley’s statue. I would find that repulsive, but so be it. This is a big country and big people find a way to deal with things sanely. Condemning our history by tearing down memorials to past heroes is not the kind of thing big people do. It’s what communists do. And they are the last people on earth from whom we should be taking lessons in morality.
Fr. Jansen String
Dates to Remember
Sunday April 22 Holy Eucharist 9 am
Sunday April 29 Holy Eucharist 9 am
I would like to reorganize our Bible Study group. My suggestion would be to meet on Sundays after church from 10:30–11:30. Once Ed Kopicki is fully recovered, we may begin again to have monthly breakfasts on the first Sunday. We could have Bible Study on the second, third, and fourth Sundays. In order to have a good class with enough give and take discussion, we need about six to ten people. If you would have an interest in this, please let me know.