What is the difference between remembering history and celebrating division?

July 9, 2020

Charleston, South Carolina, is a place of deep aesthetic beauty, a rich culture, and a complex history shaped by piracy, race-based chattel slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow. The iconography of an era gone by still influences life and culture today. As a history buff and local pastor, it is interesting to see the impact of Charleston on American history. However, there comes a point in time where we have to not only recognize history but also to reckon with it. The current nationwide protests and discourse regarding race and justice is bringing that reckoning with our history to a head.

While the discussion of monuments and symbols is not new, the last five years have been catalytic as we deal with the racialized history of Charleston. Five years ago on June 17, nine people, including the pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, were murdered during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by a white supremacist. This event forced the state of South Carolina to reconsider the public role and place of the cultural icons of the “Old South.” Then Gov. Nikki Haley had the Confederate Flag removed from the statehouse grounds in Columbia, and concurrently, there were calls to take down other symbols of our racialized past including the statue of John C. Calhoun, the seventh vice president of the United States and staunch defender of slavery. The 115-foot statute was a symbolic yet visible reminder to the Black residents of Charleston that you may be free, but you are still inferior. 

Fast forward to 2020 and the current cultural climate has caused us to reevaluate how the sins of the past continue to affect us today, and how we as a society deal with the tension between the accomplishments of the heroes of our past and the expressions of their moral depravity. Since 1896, the statue of John C. Calhoun stood tall in Marion Square, overlooking Mother Emanuel—until now. Five years to the date of the “Emanuel 9” shooting, the mayor of Charleston called for the removal of the John C. Calhoun statue, and with the unanimous vote by the city council, it came down on June 24. 

Remembering and celebrating

While many are concerned about erasing history, we must consider that there is a difference between what we remember and what we celebrate. Historical lessons must encompass the good as well as the bad to provide a context of what we have become as a nation as well as providing a trajectory for the ideals that we pursue for the common good. So understanding history and remembering our past is important. Institutions like museums and libraries assist us in that regard. 

As Christians think about this moment in time, we need to consider our place as a distinctive people in a specific culture, called to be a reflection of our identity as citizens of the Kingdom of God over our national and ethnic identities. We do not lose our national or ethnic identity, but as followers of Christ, we are to subordinate our national and cultural identity to the authority of Christ. In other words, if we place supremacy in our cultural identity, then we will adopt its idols, and our affections will be drawn to the idols of culture rather than the Lord. 

We do not lose our national or ethnic identity, but as followers of Christ, we are to subordinate our national and cultural identity to the authority of Christ.

The specific issue of Confederate monuments or symbols being debated in our society today is not often about remembering but about reexamining what we celebrate and value as a society. These statues reveal the direction of our affections and loves as a community.

This is not a call to take down every monument or memorial. God uses imperfect people for the common good within a specific time in national history. For example, protesters in San Francisco, California, tore down a statue of General Ulysses S. Grant, who owned a slave then released him, won the Civil War as the commanding general of the Union Army, thereby securing emancipation through military force. He was also president during the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment and used his executive office to take on the Ku Klux Klan. Removing his statue fails to take into account his accomplishments that should be celebrated. I am not advocating for a slippery slope of taking down historical monuments. Instead, this is a call to evaluate what these monuments are memorializing and whether or not they denigrate our fellow human beings. 

Confronting culture

As we examine today’s moment, we have to understand that many of these statues, monuments, and flags have become attachments of the heart that divide not only society, but the body of Christ along racial lines. They become relics that a particular society draws its identity from and subtly lead people to worship at the altar of division and white supremacy. As believers in Jesus Christ, examining our faith in light of these monuments should cause us to reexamine the direction of our deepest affections and loves and repent where needed. 

As followers of Christ, we are called to confront both the idols of our heart and the culture. The gospel of Jesus Christ confronts the idols of culture while the idols of culture confront the gospel. When we revere the iconography of culture, whether it is a statue, a flag, or a name that belittles the inherent dignity of any person, we revere a heritage of idolatry that originated at the fall. Removing statues that are symbols of division, hate, injustice, and ultimately sin is to make a collective call of repentance. The people in these statues and monuments need to be remembered, but they do not need to be celebrated. They need to be examined not just within the scope of regional or national history, but redemptive history as well.

The day the John C. Calhoun statue came down was a day that many Charlestonians have waited so long for and will never forget. It will no longer look over Mother Emanuel AME Church. A few hours after the statue came down, a multiethnic, ecumenical group of pastors, ministry leaders, and fellow believers throughout the city gathered together at Mother Emanuel and neighboring Citadel Square Baptist Church to worship and pray to the Lord in repentance, remembrance, and ultimately rejoice in what he had done and is doing in bringing his people together for his glory and the good of Charleston and abroad.

RaShan Frost

RaShan Frost is the pastor and church planter of The Bridge Church in the Charleston area and is the director of 1Charleston, a collective of pastors and Christian leaders committed to helping equip the local church to see racial reconciliation as an implication of the gospel. He is also a … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24