Tear Down the Statues

Guest Post by my brother, Dave Bongiorno

Many people are waking up to the fact that our “heroes of old” weren’t perfect.  There is outrage and demand to tear down statues of confederate generals, the founding fathers of the United States, Christopher Columbus, and pretty much any other historical figure with a marked past.  Anyone who supports these people or their ideas should be canceled, censored, and erased.  One can understand the idea behind this. Some of these men did some bad things. They were evil, right? If they’re bad then we should certainly not honor them with a statue.  Recently there was a call to rename Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco – Abraham Lincoln, the man who signed the Emancipation Proclamation to free all slaves.  Well, it turns out he wasn’t perfect either. In fact, held up to scrutiny, you will find that no man or woman in the world who has ever lived was free of stain – except for one.

In modern western society there is an understanding that people should be good – that people are generally good.  Anyone who’s bad should be erased, ignored or canceled.  So who does that include? We understand the injustices that have taken place by “evil men”, but in general, people are good, and if all the really bad people in the world were gone, we would be in a utopia, right? If we just have the right laws, or the right education, or the right leadership, then everybody will live happy and fulfilled lives.

I’m reminded of the song “Imagine” by John Lennon.  He says if we just live for today, we will all be happy and live in harmony with each other.  Is this true? Do we just need to get rid of religion, tear down the statues of confederate generals and those who set up this system of oppression? What does it mean to live for today? Do people naturally help their neighbor, give freely of their finances, and live selflessly – or are people naturally self-seeking?

What is this systemic oppression? Why does it exist? Are most people good – is it enough to rid the world of the evil people and systems of oppression? Will that fix it all? Do we simply need to eliminate white supremacy, find the right economic system, and have enough social programs?

I have found only one worldview to bring any clarity to this perplexing situation we find ourselves in.  This view starts in a garden – the garden of Eden.  It starts with a man and woman who were given everything.  They were perfectly content, innocent, and had everything they needed to enjoy a beautiful life together.  Nevertheless, they were deceived into sin by a wise and crafty serpent, breaking their innocence and bringing sin into the world. After some deceptive words and an appeal to their pride and ego, Adam and Eve gave in. 

Genesis 3:6-7 states:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

God set Adam and Eve up in a beautiful garden. They walked around naked, feeling no shame, enjoying life and soaking up the sun, day by day.  Still, they wanted that one thing they couldn’t have -injustice and oppression were born the moment they ate the fruit.

Romans 3:23 states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We honor heroes and role models of the past who did amazing things, but the truth is that all of them sinned.  None were perfect. None will hold up to scrutiny. Alexander Pope said it simply when he stated, “To err is human.”  Only one person will hold up to scrutiny – Jesus Christ.

Through one man, Adam, sin entered the world.  Through one perfect man, Jesus – God made flesh – man was redeemed. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t fight for social justice.  Evil men wrapped up in their own ego and pride exist.  Systems of oppression exist. However, most of us are just human – flawed people doing the best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt.  No matter how hard we try, we will never have true justice in this life.  No amount of reparations, removal, erasure, cancellation, or censorship can right the wrongs of this world.

In Deuteronomy 32:35, God tells us not to worry about vengeance or repaying evil.  He says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” This isn’t to say we should let people trample on us and maintain a life of pacifism. We are to fight for justice, knowing that we may never see it fully realized in this life.  Don’t lose heart in the fight for justice.  Though this world will never be perfect, it doesn’t mean we won’t see victory. We just may not see the fruit of it here on this Earth.  God’s ways are higher than our ways. We see a tiny sliver of His plan during our lifetime. He sees the big picture.  He has the 30,000 foot view. He has the master plan. Sometimes, trying to understand His plan is like watching a 10 second clip of a full-length feature film and trying to make sense of it all.

So I end with a plea: fight for justice, do your part, but don’t forget that God has the final word.  Jesus Christ came to this Earth not to condemn it, but to save it. So, while this life can bring pain, this is not the full story.  Jesus Christ, God’s son, came to this Earth to die for all of our sins – the injustice, the evil, the shame, the shortcomings – all of it.

John 3:16-17 says:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

So the next time you see a post on social media or a news article about an injustice or a tragedy – pray, do your part to help and get involved, but don’t be discouraged!  We know death and pain are a part of life on this Earth and until the day we meet the Lord we will bear this burden.  However, Jesus says in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

When all the statues are gone, all the buildings renamed, all the evil men erased, only one will be found worthy: Jesus Christ – God incarnate, the one who takes away the sin of the world.

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