What good will it be for someone if they gain statues and forfeit their souls?
Maybe that seems like a dramatic introduction. But is it?...
For many, the question in Matthew 16:26 seems alarmingly relevant: "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"
When it comes to the Alt-right, we shouldn't have to ponder the question too long. This klan definitely needs to do some soul-searching.
But what about the rest of the statue-staying-callers? They may not be holding torches and doing the Nazi salute, but could they be bowing down to these statues in other ways?
Unity Gone Bad
Not that they weren't protesting the statue-removal also. But it was sadly much more than that. In their own words, "The Alt-Right is growing stronger and stronger. Our ideas dominate the internet... Now it's time to dominate the streets. From there, we will begin to dominate politics as well because all power ultimately flows from the streets. A fight lies before us... a fight for action... for vigor... for vitality... for manhood. You might think it's just a rally, but really, it's so much more" (Altright.com/"The 'Unite The Right' Rally Is Going To Be A Turning Point For White Identity In America"). And if you're not aware of these "ideas" of pure-white-blood-and-soil dominance of the alt-right, you can find more blunt speak in that article, as well as from their other proselytizing posts, tweets, interviews, speeches, etc.
Ironically, people, including our nation's leader (I use the term loosely), have often chosen to not even recognize this as a "rally"; instead it has been coined "a peaceful protest over a statue". I'm not sure how we got confused on that. Last May, Richard Spencer (one of the main speakers for the rally) led a parade of torch-bearing white nationalists around the park. On July 8th, the local KKK that was scheduled to be a part of the rally held a gathering there. They called for weaponry and violence to be brought to the rally; sent death threats to counter-protesters in the weeks before; had a militia force armed with assault rifles march through the town ahead of the rally; and advertised the rally like this:
And in a plethora of other nauseating ads. My point is this: The Alt-Right did not hide their intentions and flavor of the Unite the Right Rally. So why now do we? Did the Alt-Right actually show up peacefully protesting? Or did something else happen on August 12th to change our minds?
Hate the Left
No, the Alt-right showed up as brazenly as they had planned. They encircled and beat up the counter-protesters on Friday night, beat a black man in a parking garage, beat more people than I can list here. Their chants were horrendous, their signs despicable, and then to top it all off- one drove over a group of counter-protesters, killing one lady and injuring 19 more in a domestic terrorist attack.
And yet that was even softened to be a "crash". The events of those two days shocked and pained me, but the dialogue of the following days further sickened me. We blamed the "many sides" and even often went so far as simply blaming the counter-protesters for "instigating" and engaging the violence. We allowed there to be room for "peaceful protesters" and "good people" to be a part of the Alt-Right rally; and yet the counter-protesters (which included clergy groups and many peace groups that specifically called for non-violence) was labeled as the enemy of the "Alt-Left" (the foolishness of that term is layered, not the least of which is that you just handed the entire anti-white-supremacist campaign to the left. Guess what that leaves you on the right? All those white-supremacists that are already claiming your name).
What happened to cause so much of society, including our administration, to go soft on this? Surely, if the driver of that car had been Muslim our outrage would have been much more measured and the word "terrorism" would have been flying. If BLM had put on that "rally" the judgments and damning would be relentless. If the Unite the Right had been Unite the Left the fury would never mention "all sides", "peaceful protesting", and the real zinger- that "permit". If President Trump were a democrat (still) the right would have lost their outraged minds over his lies, insults, poor behavior, and lack of leadership in his handling of Charlottesville. The bias abounds.
What happened? The left happened. Anti-fa. BLM. Never mind all the clergy, peace groups, and the many others who just plain think NAZIS ARE WRONG. The mantra became about the violence of the left, the progressiveness of the left, and the debate on statues and liberals stealing our history. One could not speak out against the atrocities of the Alt-Right without immediately being countered with the left-blame. People would post passionate, painful, personal pleas on Facebook regarding Charlottesville and it was like a race to see which Republican could refute it with a "but the left" comment first. Deflections, downplays, and denial ran rampant, because... the left. As long as the right is able to say the words "Hillary", "Obama", "liberal", and "media" they have all the ammunition they think they need to rebuke any criticism of the right- even if you're criticizing Nazis.
I feel like I should qualify this with more proof, but here's another idea: if you understand what I'm saying here, you already get it. If you don't, you've quite possibly already mentally come back against a lot of what I've said with a "but the left" argument.
Love the Right
Ironically, I think one of the reasons the right hates the left so passionately is because they're the "competition" to beat. And if there's anything a right wing-er loves it's the right winning. But the irony is this: The right isn't winning. The right is committing political suicide by obsessively pointing fingers at the left. Too many are so busy constantly gawking at the errors of the left, that they can't even see that their party is being poisoned by the Alt-Right. They cannot admit the Alt-Right is evil (without qualifying it with a but-the-left-comment) because that would be admitting part of the right is inexcusably evil. And the right is quite loved. But true love corrects. If you cannot self-criticize you are on a slippery slope. Many Republicans are sold out, no matter what (one example: they hate the "fake news" yet then with itching ears [2 Timothy 4:3] they "seek lies" [Psalm 4:2] that fit their agenda from extreme-right-tabloid-sensationalism). And you can come at this with whatever "but the left" line you want, but these are the facts: One side has a long, deeply dark history. One side organized and planned a hate rally. One side took a life. One side represents the goal of erasing people groups. And one side did it using our President's name. And he should have swiftly and strongly and solely condemned them. For what they did, and especially for doing it with his gear on and with lip service to his name. But he then handled the condemning-of-Nazis-lines so well that Heather Heyer's mother won't even speak to him.
So, right, it may be time to examine thyself. You are patriotic, party-loving fellas. And if you love this country and your platform, then please put your side under the microscope for a change. It's past time to turn the pointing fingers your way. To point to the left over Charlottesville is an example of pointing out the speck in one's eye while your stuck with the log in yours (Matthew 7:3). Your party is log-filled and imploding, and that will indeed be a victory for the left.
Love Your Self
Maybe another reason for the denial over the Alt-Right is because one loves oneself too much.
Pride keeps us from admitting wrongs. Maybe we are too proud of our political identity, or too proud of our vote to admit error?
Or maybe... maybe we are, dare I say, racist. Maybe we gave that car attack a softer hand because the driver was white. Maybe we have spent our time criticizing the other side because they're often different than we. Maybe the Alt-Right doesn't threaten us as much because... they're white.
Love Your Statues
And sure, maybe we really do just suddenly love statues this much. Maybe we love them so much that in the d.a.y.s. following a white supremacist terrorist attack, by someone losing their mind over losing the statue, our hearts were all "Aw, I don't want to lose the statues either. These guys have a point." Maybe our love of statues is what caused us to be so calloused to all of this. That's possible. But quite frankly, just like it wasn't just about the statues to the Alt-Right, I don't think it's just about the statues for most others.
Lose Your Soul
Are we bowing down to graven images? No, I'm not talking about statue-loving. I'm talking about nation-loving. I've blogged before about the area of idolatry with patriotism. Is Charlottesville an example of this? It seems to me the only lens that's being used by many Christians in all of this is the political lens. But when it comes to racism, murder, oppression of the weak, white supremacy, our sinful history, and God's chosen people being attacked, these require more than our political passions. When it comes to compassion, love, equality, and taking care of the vulnerable these are not left or right issues. These are Christ-commanded issues.
Statues don't have souls. Last I checked, they would fall under the "earthly things" of Colossians 3:2. Why are our hearts and minds so set on them then? To the point that we can't weep with those who weep over them? To the point that we're siding with the KKK? I'm not saying don't have an opinion on the statues, but when you're more worried about them then you are people groups, there's a problem there. When you allow yourself to gloss over the attacks in Charlottesville but then cry out about stone, there's a problem there. Anything that we love more than Christ and others needs to go. So maybe these statues need to go if for no other reason than they seem to be our "high places".
Have we lost our eternal perspective when it comes to the right and the left? Have we forgotten God's definition of "great" (Mark 10:43)? Would we really stand with Daniel and his friends and refuse to bow down to the statue with all the others? Placing ourselves in the parable of the good Samaritan, do we think we're revealing that we would indeed be the one to prove to be a neighbor? Or are we walking right by the broken and wounded to continue our own agenda? Are we confusing compassion for compromise? Imposing godless qualifications for empathy?
When we pray "Your Kingdom come" to our Father, know this- that is praying for these statues to go. That is praying for the confederate flags to go. Not just because they represent things that are oppositional to His ways, but because when His Kingdom comes all of America goes. We are citizens of heaven; even now, we are exiles here in this strange land (1 Peter 2:11). And it's fine to be a patriotic American, but we must, we must, we must be Christians first and foremost.
Have these statues become an idol to you? Has your love of the right become an idol to you? Has your hatred for the left become an idol to you? Do pride and politics need to take a back seat in your worldview? Do we love the right so much that we're willing to forfeit our souls on the altar of hating the left?
Maybe we've buried our heads in sinking sand, and that's why we're landing where we are. Or maybe we've misplaced our hope, and that's why we're fighting the way we are. Whatever the cause for our misconceptions and indiscretions, it's time to tear down the high places.
When His Kingdom does come, it will be with a question: How did you treat the least of these? Because that is how you treated Him (Matthew 25:31-46). And when He asks you that question it will do no good to say "But the left..." or to wax eloquently about statues.
This country needs true revival. But it doesn't need more politics for revival to come. It needs something different. Something pointing up, instead of left or right.