Recently, a number of southern cities have been removing statues and monuments that pay tribute to some of their “heroes” of the Civil War. It is reminiscent of the tearing down of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. As it came down, many voices proclaimed victory over his tyranny. We are still fighting that war, as we are still fighting the Civil War. I have mixed feelings about these actions – while these people should not be glorified for their part in trying to keep Africans enslaved, they are also a reminder of the facts of our nation, that we were founded on inequality and built by the sweat and labor of enslaved people. Our ancestors separated families, physically abused, raped, and terrorized these folks, and we need to remember the facts as well as the truth of those heinous crimes.
As I was driving this morning I listened to a historian from Harvard who spoke about the disconnection from truth that Americans have become so fond of. She said that this began in the early 1970’s and has escalated in recent decades. If a fact does not jibe with our particular world-view, we say it is not true. She used Thomas Jefferson as an example of a target of what she called “conservative” historians. Jefferson championed the wall between church and state, and this, many Americans believe, is why we are not as great a nation as we can be.
The Civil War, from the writing of its own leaders, was fought by poor white men to protect the property – slaves and plantations – of rich white men. The Constitution was not founded on the idea that all men and women are equal. White men with property were the only people who had rights. Women and slaves and children were property. Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant man – he was also a rapist. These are facts, not opinions.
America was, for a very long time, a nation of tolerance (although I don’t like that word, this is who we were). People may have had different religions and perspectives, but they got along to get along – mostly. Since the rise of equality and the legalization of abortion, we have become increasingly divided over what is true and what is not. We have demonized each other to the point of not being able to hear any opinions but those who agree with our own. This is why America is not as great as it could be – and this could change, if we chose to change ourselves. Peace.
Pastor Steve Ohnsman has served Calvary United Church of Christ in Reading, PA since 1999. He receive a BA in Religion & Philosophy from Wilmington College of Ohio, a M. Div. from Drew Theological Seminary (NJ), a D. Min. from United Theological Seminary (OH) in Christian Ethics , and a PhD from Alvernia University (PA) in Community Leadership.