History in the Breaking
June 25, 2020
"Destroying history will not make you feel good about the present... Learning from it might." -- Victor David Hanson
When the Taliban burned down churches or destroyed artifacts, we called it barbaric. But when angry mobs tear down our statues and vandalize monuments, it's "justice?" There are things this country has witnessed over the last few weeks that will take a lifetime to understand. And even longer to get over. The image of great American heroes being toppled and cracked into pieces on the streets is just the latest chapter in this story of chaos the radicals are writing. But if the outrage from the White House is any indication, this administration is done letting cities feed the monster.
More than 400 U.S. marshals are on their way to national monuments across the country, the new guardians of centuries of history. "Enough is enough," Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fumed on the House floor. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, "Genius statesmen who helped begin this grand experiment that has brought freedom to hundreds of millions and saved the world a few times for good measure. And yet a crazy fringe is treating their monuments like vanity statues of tinhorn tyrants. Our founding fathers are being roped to the ground like they were Saddam Hussein... Ulysses S. Grant, the general who crushed the Confederacy. The president who used federal force to fight the Klan. They, too, have been placed on the historical hit list for this new Red Guard that nobody elected" -- while a Seattle tribute to Vladimir Lenin, a Soviet mass murder, stands quite untouched.
This is no longer about racial justice or even the Confederacy. This is about erasing American history. And Christians, of all people, cannot afford to sit by and watch it happen. "The mob will keep marching," Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) warned, through all our cultural institutions until every American whom the woke crowd deems unjust is cancelled." Don't think for a moment that appeasement will come when mayors and governors step aside and allow the destruction of every statue or historical landmark at the demand of the mobs. If anything, placating them will only whet their appetite for more.
Are there legitimate concerns here? Absolutely. Slavery was a tremendous blight on the American experiment of freedom. The peaceful protestors recognize that. But there are far more who are exploiting this racial tension to pursue something else: the destruction of our country. "The United States of America can and should have nuanced conversations about our complex past," Senator McConnell agreed. "We can and should have discussions about our future. We can and should have peaceful protests. But this lawlessness serves none of that. It is just an alliance of convenience between angry criminals who think it's fun to wreak havoc... and a slice of elite society that profits off saying our country is evil and deserves the abuse."
Real, honest history includes the good, the bad, and the ugly, which isn't just the story of America -- but all of humanity. Mankind is a testament to redemption, not perfection. The Bible bears that out. It doesn't sugar-coat the history of God's people. In fact, throughout Scripture, there's almost an emphasis on man's failings. Look at King David, an adulterer and murderer. Or Jesus's own lineage of prostitutes and sinners. Consider the apostle Paul, one of the most revered followers of Christ, who got his start by killing believers. Or Peter, who denied Jesus three times and then abandoned him to a violent death on the cross.
Scripture doesn't tell these stories to celebrate them -- it tells them to remind us: we are fallen. And only God in his perfect plan of redemption can save us. "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect," Paul said in Philippians 3:12, "but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own."
Very seldom do statues like these topple without governments falling with them. It's time to acknowledge the failures of our past, not pretend like they didn't exist. That's the only way move forward, to find promise and hope in the future. America isn't perfect. But Senator McConnell is right. Our "imperfect union is still the greatest nation in world history." And we have to protect it, even as we work to perfect it.
Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.