By / Oct 27

At the leading edge of most cultural movements in our country’s history, you can find a single commonality, youth. The civil rights and anti-war movements were carried on the feet of passionate baby boomers; Generation X took up the mantel for the third wave of feminism; and my own generation, the millennials, made their mark during Occupy Wall Street and the #MeToo Movement. 

The current teenage generation is no different. In fact, Gen Z has already proven themselves to be a generation to watch. In March of 2018, Gen Z walked onto the cultural stage when they organized and led one of the largest youth protests to date, the March for Our Lives, in Washington, D.C. And this was only the beginning. The past two years have shown us time and time again the growing passion, power, and influence of this teenage generation.

And if history holds true, Gen Z will carry the torch of justice then pass it along to the generation following after them. This is why we cannot afford to stay silent with our teens on issues of race and racial injustice. However, before we dive into how to talk to teens about race, there is one other important note to make about this generation. 

Gen Z has not only been identified as a generation of justice warriors but it is also America’s first truly post-Christian generation. In his book Meet Generation Z, James Emery White unpacks evidence that reveals this generation’s biblical illiteracy. He describes Gen Z as a generation raised “without even a memory of the gospel.” 

When justice is found outside of the gospel, it is not true justice. And when the gospel we speak is void of justice, it is less than biblical.

So while Gen Z may be a generation consumed with the idea of justice, they are also a generation who knows little of its Author. This is why we, who know the God of righteousness, must speak about issues of justice with our teenagers. When justice is found outside of the gospel, it is not true justice. And when the gospel we speak is void of justice, it is less than biblical.

But where do we begin? 

First, we have to keep in mind that this will not be a one-and-done conversation. If we are going to  approach the conversation of race with teens, we must be willing to commit to walk the path of justice with them also. It will be a labor of love—a good and worthy labor—but a labor nonetheless. 

Second, the most common fear I hear from parents and leaders before broaching the conversation of race is their lack of knowledge. They believe they “are not the right person” to have this conversation. But this is exactly what our enemy desires us to believe. Praise God who has filled you with his Spirit and given you a stewardship. If he has placed you in a role where you have influence in a teenager’s life, then you are the right person for this conversation. 

Third, while conversations about race will necessarily involve a discussion of systems and structures, they are not primarily about those things. We should seek to do our homework so that we understand this world’s systemic brokenness. But conversations about race must always be, primarily, conversations about people—conversations about the beauty, value, and dignity of women and men made in God’s image. That’s what our students most desperately need to hear.

Finally, we must keep our conversations rooted in the Scriptures. Walking the full path of justice with our teens will mean seeking biblical, historical, cultural, and self awareness in the conversation. Each of these areas matter as we engage our teens in conversations about race, but their order matters as well. Our teens must see us view each cultural moment through the lens of the gospel, not viewing the Bible through the lens of each cultural moment. So be sure to begin there, by rooting your conversation in the storyline of Scripture. Allow God’s Word to do its intended work, revealing the dignity of humanity in light of God’s heart for his creation.

Step forward in faith. Be a learner. Focus on God’s love for people. And above all else, make certain that your conversations with your teen are anchored in the confidence you have in your own union with Christ and your belief in the gospel’s power for reconciliation. Reconciliation with God is the very message we are called to carry (1 Cor. 5:17–20). And it’s only with confidence in his redemptive work that we can freely grow in our own awareness of history, culture, and self, all the while inviting our teens to journey with us.

This post is the third in a three-part series by the family ministry staff team at Redeemer Fellowship Midtown in Kansas City, MO. Part 1 (on courageous christianity) and Part 2 (conversations about race with toddlers and preschoolers) posted at the Gospel-Centered Family website. 

By / Aug 28

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss Hurricane Laura, Jacob Blake, the Republican National Convention, Liberty University, and COVID-19. Lindsay also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including a piece by Jason Thacker with “How pornography is preying on the vulnerable in the midst of COVID-19,” Alex Ward with “Explainer: Report of the Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board,” and Josh Wester with “4 Lessons from Carl F.H. Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Meredith Leatherwood for a conversation about life and ministry.

About Meredith

Meredith Leatherwood is the Founder of Leatherwood Promotions, a business that promotes Christian records and singles in the music industry. She has been working in the music industry for nearly two decades as a record promoter. She holds a Masters in Theology from Liberty University. She and Brent have been married for eight years and they’re busy raising three children in Nashville, Tennessee. 

ERLC Content


  1. A massive hurricane, named Laura, made landfall early Thursday morning off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas
  2. 2 killed during Jacob Blake protests in Kenosha
  3. Justic Dept. to open investigation on Kenosha shooting
  4. 17-year-old charged with homicide after shooting during Kenosha protests, authorities say
  5. Republican National Convention took place
  6. Falwell resigns as president of Liberty
  7. Coronavirus cases fell by 15% this week


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By / Aug 28

This week marks the 57th anniversary of the original March on Washington. This event, held on Aug. 28, 1963, helped to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).

Here are five facts you should know about the landmark civil rights protest march.

1. The event—officially known as the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”—was organized by the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement: A. Philip Randolph, Whitney M. Young, Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, Roy Wilkins, and John Lewis. Bayard Rustin was chief organizer of the march. 

Although the organizers disagreed about the purpose of the march, the group came together on a set of goals: passage of meaningful civil rights legislation; immediate elimination of school segregation; a program of public works, including job training, for the unemployed; a federal law prohibiting discrimination in public or private hiring; a $2-an-hour minimum wage nationwide; withholding Federal funds from programs that tolerate discrimination; enforcement of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by reducing congressional representation from states that disenfranchise citizens; a broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to currently excluded employment areas; and authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when constitutional rights are violated.

2. The event took a staggering level of logistical effort. Organizers and officials planned for a crowd of about 150,000. But on the day of the march over 250,000 gathered together on the National Mall. To get to Washington, D.C., protesters took more than 2,000 buses, 21 chartered trains, 10 chartered airliners, and uncounted cars. All regularly scheduled planes, trains, and buses were also filled to capacity. On the National Mall, over 100 portable toilets were set up along with 16 first-aid stations. Eight 2,500-gallon water tanks were set up, which fed some 21 portable water fountains. Additionally, spouts were attached to fire hydrants so marchers would have access to drinking water. Volunteers prepared some 80,000 boxed lunches—sold for 50 cents each—consisting of a cheese sandwich, an apple, and a slice of cake.

3. Event organizer Bayard Rustin recruited 4,000 off-duty police officers and firemen to serve as event marshals, and coached them in the crowd control techniques he’d learned in India studying nonviolent political participation. The official law enforcement also included 5,000 police, National Guardsmen, and Army reservists. No marchers were arrested, though, and no incidents concerning marchers were reported.

4. Representatives from each of the sponsoring organizations addressed the crowd from the podium at the Lincoln Memorial. Speakers (dubbed “The Big Ten”) included The Big Six; three religious leaders (Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish); and labor leader Walter Reuther. Along with the speakers, the marchers were entertained by celebrities, including Ossie Davis, Joan Baez, Mahalia Jackson, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Jackie Robinson.

5. King was the last speaker because no one else wanted that slot, since all of the other speakers assumed the news media would leave by mid-afternoon. King agreed to take it and planned to speak for four minutes, but ended up speaking for 16 minutes. He improvised the most recognizable, memorable part of the speech for which he is most famous, according to his speechwriter and attorney Clarence B. Jones. Although King had spoken about a dream before two months earlier in Detroit, the “dream” was not in the text prepared by Jones. King initially followed the text Jones had written but gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!” King nodded to her, placed the text of his speech aside, and veered off-script, delivering extemporaneously what is referred to as the “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most famous orations in American history.

By / Aug 25

Each August, we take a break from our usual policy focused conversations and host interviews with leaders we admire. This week, Jeff Pickering sits down with retired NFL player Benjamin Watson, who is now an author, activist, and documentary filmmaker. Watson is also a man of deep Christian faith and a faithful family man.

Guest Biography

Benjamin Watson and his wife, Kirsten, are the parents of seven children as well as the founders of One More, a foundation aiming to spread the love and hope of Christ by meeting real needs, promoting education, and supporting local charities. As a retired tight end, Watson is now an ESPN and NFL Network and a prolific media cultural commentator. Watson’s illustrious football career included being the 32nd overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, a Superbowl 39 champion his rookie season, a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. Watson has also authored two books, Under Our Skin and The New Dad’s Playbook, and is the producer of a forthcoming documentary, titled, Divided Hearts of America.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Jul 23

It is a strange time when you are able to reference Lord of the Rings and prophetic signs (a symbolic demonstration meant to release the power of God in the Word of Faith tradition) in the same sentence. But such are the times in which we live. Recently, a clip from a church service began to circulate online in which members of the church performed a prophetic sign that was said to bar racism from the church (You can watch the full section here starting at 2:05:00). These types of signs are common in charismatic movements. For example, Kenneth Copeland performed a similar act when he declared in April that COVID-19 would soon end

However, what was unique about this event was that it involved not the words of Scripture or a sign of the cross, but a quote from Gandalf the Gray, the wizard from Tolkien’s trilogy, and a replica of his staff. In a reenactment of the infamous scene where he fights off a fire demon, the church leaders declared that the spirit of racism “shall not pass.” 

A few caveats

First, this is not the place to get into a discussion of apostolic authority, the spiritual gifts that are most often associated with the movement, and the differences between evangelicals and the charismatic movement. There are historical and theological differences for separating them, as scholars such as Grant Wacker and Thomas Kidd have noted, but that is not the point here. Also, it should be noted that Pentecostalism and its offshoots have traditionally been more racially integrated than most traditions within American Christianity (The moment at the church in this article involved leadership who were African American, Korean, and Caucasian). 

The leaders correctly affirm that combatting racism is an act of spiritual warfare against demonic forces. They are correct to call out this form of satanic worship of the flesh. But there is also a need to recognize that it is not through movie quotes, but through the power of Scripture and the Holy Spirit that we combat this spiritual darkness.

The power of a word

To return to the event, where church members gathered onstage to dramatically portray the scene from Lord of the Rings, let us consider what this means. What took place there hinges on their collective declaration and the sealing of the prophetic sign. And as Christians, we recognize the power of a word. James tells Christians that they should control their tongues (3:1-12), and the Proverbs tell us that life and death are in the tongue (18:21). But are the words of a movie, inspiring as the scene is, sufficient to drive out racism—or any sin—from the church? As Christians, do we not have a better word to offer than a declaration that “You shall not pass!”?

Sadly, the white American church has frequently offered no word better than that. And in the past our words have in many instances not stopped racism but actively supported it. While there were many who fought and worked against the culture around them, all too often it was not the unity of a multiethnic kingdom that guided us but the cultural norms of prejudice and superiority.  For this, only a word of lament and repentance is the appropriate response. 

But there is more to say. The word that we offer to the world is not a declaration alone, but a person, the Word made flesh (John 1:14). And this God-man did not just destroy the wall between God and man, but he also destroyed the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14). The moment of the Incarnation, when God took on flesh and entered the world, gives hope and shape to the command from James that faith must be evidenced in works. For God was not content to merely declare that all nations would be blessed through Abraham, but he took on flesh and made true the promise (Gen. 22:18; John 1:14). 

The promises of Scripture find life and form in the actions of Christ and the church. So we have a better promise to declare to the world than shouting from a stage that racism will not pass. We have a promise, evidenced in the life of a Middle Eastern Jewish man who befriended Roman centurions and Jewish rabbis, fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots, that the kingdom of God is not limited to one ethnicity, and that God will be glorified by those of every skin color and language. 

Rather than looking to a vision of a wizard facing down a fire demon, we look to the vision given to an apostle on a Roman island: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes” (Rev. 7:9). Rather than the declaration from a character in a book that “You shall not pass!” we have the cry from the Savior that “It is finished” (John 19:30). And more than a fictional monster defeated only within the confines of a novel, we know that the great serpent has been crushed and defeated in reality (Gen. 3:15; Rev. 20:10). 

A time such as this

The fight against racism is a fight against demonic forces and an act of spiritual warfare. In this way, it is fitting to compare it to Gandalf’s fight against the monstrosity in Tolkien’s novel. But the act of war against racism is not something that will end because of simple words or a reenacting of a moving scene. It will end because the people of God, empowered by the Spirit and driven by the Word, recognize the truth of their own story and work to make “justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). It will happen when the unity between ethnicities in the church is a sign—and a better sign than anything drawn from fiction—of the future kingdom of God. It will happen when all of us repent of the way that we have overlooked injustice against our neighbor and seek to make it right. 

In one conversation between Gandalf and Frodo, Frodo says that he wishes the calamity would not have come during his lifetime. Gandalf responds that all have the same desire, “But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Even today, the American church is offered that opportunity to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God as we serve all our neighbors and seek their welfare (Micah 6:8)—not by our own might or power, but by the work of the Spirit through the Word (Zech. 4:6). 

By / Jul 9

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.

By / Jul 1

My family always looks forward to the Fourth of July. I grew up on the east coast only a few hours from our nation’s capital. Many times when I was a child, my parents would take us to see family outside of Washington around the Fourth. To celebrate Independence Day, we would venture into the city to watch the massive fireworks show near the Capitol. And looking back, I can still remember the sense of awe and wonder I felt in those moments. To me, those songs and fireworks in that city on that day, that was America. 

But it is little wonder I grew up believing I lived in the greatest country in the world. My dad has always been an American history buff. And every time we visited the district, he made sure my siblings and I learned all we could. I remember being mesmerized by the city’s stunning monuments and memorials. And in addition to spending countless hours in the Smithsonians and other Washington museums, I also traveled many times to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s homeplace, and stood at the feet of the much-larger-than-life statue of the Great Emancipator in the heart of the city. There was so much to take in, and each visit left me overwhelmed. And as I grew, I fell in love with America’s story.

Learning to see differences

But something else happened as I grew up, too. 

I’m from a majority-minority city. Like many places in the South, my hometown is divided, not merely along figurative racial lines, but literally by railroad tracks. In our city, there was a white part and Black part of town. And the railroad tracks marked out the boundaries.

I went to public school. From elementary school, I had always kept a pretty diverse friend group. That became even more true by the time I made it to high school, when as a freshman I was the only white student in the drumline. Up until that point, I had never really paid much attention to race. I knew about slavery and a little bit about Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, but I mostly assumed that all of that was settled and behind us. Growing up, I knew that I was white and some of my friends were Black and others Hispanic, but I never recognized any real differences between us. 

By the time I made it to high school, I began to notice that some of my friends had a much different experience than me, which showed up in a lot of ways. Some of my closest friends lived in real poverty. Others lived in homes without a father. Many of them had encounters with police before they were old enough to drive. And those are just a few of the more obvious things.

Over the last several weeks, our country has been thrown headlong into tumult over racial injustice in America. By now, we all know and recognize the tragic events that brought us to this moment. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are but the most recent in a decade-long, high profile series of Black Americans losing their lives from clashes with police, or, in some cases, armed citizens. And it seems we’ve reached a tipping point.

A cultural tipping point

Each one of these deaths was a tragedy. But for years, each one has been litigated and debated in the court of public opinion. And rather than empathy and compassion, often the response has smacked of tribalism and self-protection. That was before we watched a young man named Ahmaud Arbery lose his life on video, due to some kind of deranged vigilantism. His death shocked the nation. And only a few weeks after the release of that video, the footage of George Floyd’s death began to circulate. Seeing George Floyd die under the weight of a uniformed police officer’s knee as he begged for mercy was simply too much for too many.

For years, Black Americans have been crying out about issues related to racism and injustice in America. Decade after decade, they’ve begged for a response to police brutality and for criminal justice reforms aimed at correcting a system that deals out unduly harsh punishments in cases where it is hardly warranted. And in the aftermath of these most recent fatal tragedies, we’ve seen crowds of thousands descend upon urban areas across the United States, in cities large and small, demanding justice.

Those cries have not fallen on deaf ears. In ways I never anticipated, we are watching not only individuals but institutions respond to these demands for change. And in the last several weeks, I’ve seen many white Christians take the opportunity to listen, to seek understanding they’ve never had before, and to ask what they might do to make a difference. Likewise, I’ve seen many of my Black brothers and sisters take the time to share, speak, and educate others about what it’s like to be Black in America today.

Not everyone, of course, has done this well. Unsurprisingly, some of the loudest voices (on both sides) have proved the most unhelpful. And some, in their zeal, have taken certain efforts or ideas too far. Others have used this moment as a cover for other kinds of subterfuge or wickedness. That is both regrettable and predictable. But to focus on those things is to miss the point. To perceive the best in what’s happening right now is to note both the church and our society making strides in order to see all people treated equally before the law, with the rights, dignity, and opportunities they deserve.

A more perfect Union

Christians in the United States are called to be good citizens (1 Pet. 2:13-17). And ideally, that means Christians will enjoy and have a deep affection for the nation to which they belong. I’m grateful to God to be an American. This country has been good to me and has afforded me incredible opportunities. But over the last several weeks it has become even more obvious that not only has America not always been good for everyone, but there are many people for whom it still isn’t.

And it’s okay to say so. 

Being a Christian means recognizing that our ultimate allegiance does not belong to any earthly nation, but to the kingdom of heaven (Phil. 3:20). That means we don’t have to mask America’s flaws. No earthly government will ever perfectly manifest the righteousness of heaven. And when our nation and its laws fall short of the ideal, we never have to pretend otherwise. Our nation is fallible; our Savior isn’t.

Being a Christian means recognizing that our ultimate allegiance does not belong to any earthly nation, but to the kingdom of heaven (Phil. 3:20).

One of the best ways Christians can celebrate our nation’s independence this year is by renewing our commitment to seek “a more perfect Union.” This Fourth of July, we not only remember the past, but look toward the future—a future free of racism and injustice, a future where all Americans are truly free and equal, and a future where one’s skin color isn’t regarded as a liability. And we not only look, but as Jesus taught us, we ask God even now to make the earth look more like heaven, and to use us to do so (Matt. 6:10).

And as we move forward, the words of Abraham Lincoln are as appropriate for this Independence Day as they were when he uttered them some 150 years ago in his Second Inaugural address, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

By / Jun 26

What just happened?

Recent protests centered around racial injustice and the killing of African American, like George Floyd and many others, have led to a renewed debate over the meaning and significance of historical monuments. Over the past three weeks, over 100 monuments across the United States have been torn down or scheduled for removal. 

Which monuments are involved?

The removal efforts fall into two broad categories. The first category includes the use of legal and legislative means of removing statuary, and has focused primarily on Civil War-era figures (such as Confederate generals and the Emancipation Statue in Washington, D.C.) and Christopher Columbus (19 memorials to the Italian explorer have been removed so far).

The second category includes the vandalism or use of illegal means to remove memorials, often done spontaneously as part of protests. The targets of these efforts have been more haphazard and include anti-slavery activists, feminist iconography, and Christian missionaries

Why are Confederate statues the primary focus?

In 2015, Dylann Roof murdered nine Black congregants at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. That mass shooting sparked renewed efforts—both legal and illegal—to remove Confederate memorials around the country. For example, the New Orleans’s city council voted to remove the city’s four Confederate monuments, and in Durham, North Carolina, protestors smashed a statue of a Confederate soldier that stood outside the county’s courthouse.

These statues have mainly been focused upon because of their connection to white supremacy and racial injustice. The majority of Confederate monuments were erected in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), when many state laws began reestablishing racial segregation, and from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, during the peak of the civil rights movement. As David A. Graham says, “In other words, the erection of Confederate monuments has been a way to perform cultural resistance to black equality.”

What prevents the illegal removal of monuments?

The Veterans’ Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003, makes it a federal crime to willfully injure or destroy, or attempt to injure or destroy, any “structure, plaque, statue, or other monument on public property commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the United States.” Similarly, vandalism and destruction of monuments on federal property is also already a federal crime.

To enforce the laws, about 400 unarmed D.C. National Guardsmen were put on standby at the Washington, D.C. Armory to provide backup to National Park Police to help prevent damage at key monuments in the city. An email has also been sent to U.S. marshals notifying them that they should prepare to help protect national monuments. Marshals Service Assistant Director Andrew C. Smith wrote that the agency “has been asked to immediately prepare to provide federal law enforcement support to protect national monuments (throughout the country).”

Why do we not immediately remove all controversial monuments?

The process of removing public monuments is often hindered by legal restrictions. Public monuments are protected by an interlocking web of international-, federal-, and state-level law intended to protect cultural property. As E. Perot Bissell V notes in the Yale Law Journal, modern cultural-property law emerged in the wake of the destruction and looting that followed World War II. “Because cultural-property law’s original purpose was to address the potential for wartime destruction of the world’s Treasures,” says Bissell, “its organizing principle is the preservation of historically or aesthetically significant heritage.”

Since cultural-property law developed in response to widely deplored acts of destruction, it is focused on preservation of existing monuments. This can make it difficult to remove statues and memorials even when the society’s values have changed and the subject is no longer considered worthy of honor.

Take, for example, the Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument, which was removed from a park in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2017. The monument to the founder of the Ku Klux Klan was protected by the 1954 Hague Convention, the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003, and a state law forbidding the removal of any statue from state property. According to Bissell, “Memphis ultimately removed its Forrest Monument through a clever work-around, transferring the park in which it stood to a nonprofit.”

How should Christians think about the removal of monuments?

A useful starting point might be to consider the historical circumstances of the monument’s erection and determine whether the motivation or cause for remembrance is a value that a Christian would consider worthy of memorializing. 

For example, Confederate statues are obvious candidates for removal from public spaces, since their purpose is to venerate a cause that celebrated slavery, segregationism, and white supremacy. In contrast, monuments related to the Founding Fathers were not typically erected to remember their accomplishments as slave-holders, but for their more noble accomplishments. 

The context and location of the monument should also be given consideration. Christians might ask if this exact monument didn’t exist, how likely is it that we would support making a new monument to this person in this way at this location?

For example, Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently called for the removal of 11 Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol. Two of the statues include Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, the president and vice president of the Confederate States of America. Whatever else we might think about remembrances of the Confederacy, it seems unlikely that we’d choose today to honor traitors to our nation in the halls of our legislature. 

Monuments are more than mere historical reminders. They become part of our historical memory, showing what we think is worthy of being honored and revered. As we become more honest with ourselves as a nation about the darker areas of our history, we should consider what is worth celebrating.  As Christians, we are called to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31), which might require rethinking how we memorialize our past.

By / Jun 23

All at once, our collective hearts were broken. We watched as his last breath left his body. These days, my tears are always right there, ready to be unleashed. Ahmad Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and then George Floyd. 2020 has us reeling. Resonating with so many around the world, we’re connected by an undeniable ache. Grappling as a culture with the fallout of the sin of racism, we’re being forced to recognize the countless indignities that have always been inconsistent with God’s design for humanity. Loss, weeping, mourning, agonizing, demonstrations, passion, anger, unrest—this newly emerging landscape is almost unrecognizable. We must accept that who we are as a society has already been changed. 

Acknowledging the pain of the generations before us—abused, dismissed, and denied justice—we can’t forget that they labored for us. Despite their hard-fought movement toward “liberty and justice for all,” they’ve had to witness that effort hindered in its progress. Their requests weren’t idealistic, and MLK’s dream wasn’t silly, because they reflect God’s vision taken from his Word. So then, we ask, “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” because today, the losses appear insurmountable. 

We hear God’s calls for us to comfort, but we choose to cross-examine instead. Christian infighting and finger-pointing bombards our timelines while calls for justice go unheeded. Unbelievers watch and wait for our response. How do we as Christians choose the gospel above all while doing the hard work of consoling and serving those who are hurting, those who we may not even agree with? Why is unity so hard? How do I, as an African-American woman and a mother to a young man in the South, inoculate myself against the bitterness, fear, and rage all around me? Where do I place my hurt? 

The psalmist wrote, “Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber” (Psa.121:1a–3). Returning to these words many times through the years, I again find comfort for today and renewed hope for tomorrow. God is awake. He is active. With his omniscient view from his throne, he sees all. And with his intimate knowledge of our hearts, he has a purpose for all. God didn’t do this, but he can most certainly redeem it. 

Glimmers of hope 

Amidst these hard months, we’re watching positive shifts take place. Good things are happening, gifting us with glimmers of hope that peek from the shadows. Within my own processing, the sting has been tempered by this hope. For so many of us, our pain has been a catalyst offering the opportunity to look past ourselves and to recognize others and their suffering. Others have experienced a fresh boldness, compelling them to donate their resources and influence to affect necessary change. Arising from the tragedy created by racism, many are experiencing an unprecedented connectedness to others. The gospel is being preached, and scales are falling from once-blinded eyes. Hearts are being massaged, and ears have been primed to hear.

Hope has been the currency that has sustained me in this heavy-hearted season. This currency has investment value for my community, my work, my home, and my soul. Hope can bring healing and resilience to broken situations, and it has pressed me to pursue peace even as we pursue justice. I’ve learned there’s no peace without a storm, no victory without a battle. Pain has a way of guiding believers right into the center of God’s purposes for us. Within God’s plans, pain has worked as a refining fire that he’s used to reshape me. Using our struggles, often he produces in us passions with which to pursue him while blessing others. 

What we’ve been seeing is the hand of God moving despite the backdrop of evil and brokenness. I’m having conversations with many who’ve never had to confront the realities of the harsh systems their black and brown brothers and sisters have had to endure. Hearing from those around me, we’re using this moment in history to educate and then walk through beautiful discipleship conversations in our homes and with our families. Leaders are being forced to acknowledge their ignorance, indifference, and even complicity. This generation of future leaders, including my own, are being enlisted, identifying injustice, and are empowered to use their voices, minds, and communities to broker change. 

More work must be done. Inspired by Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Mamie Till, Harriet Tubman, and others, I aim to be a person of peace, a part of the solution. I’m compelled by Christ to be a bridge-builder while the soil is tender, seeking to “act justly, love faithfulness, and walk humbly” with him as an active calling. We’re still broken, but God doesn’t slumber. And so, we don’t lose heart.

Growing up in the African-American church has steeped me in this rich theology. Our songs so often challenge the hurting to endure weariness, placing their hope and trust in God. Written as a poem, these words from “Lift Ev’ry Voice” became an anthem. Not one of war, but of struggle. Not of division, but of unity. Not solely of lament, but also of inspiring hope. 

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.