It is the final weeks of summer in 2017 and the racial tensions have flared up anew. This time in Charlottesville, Virginia. Where nineteen people are injured and hospitalized, and one has died: 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Here is how one journalist describes what lead up the tragedy: “This spring Charlottesville’s ultra-liberal city council voted to remove an equestrian statue of General Robert E. Lee that’s been standing in a park in downtown Charlottesville since 1924 and to change the park’s name from Lee Park to Emancipation Park.” Historian Arthur Herman
Rolling Stone reports the events this way: “’Just a few blocks from Emancipation Park, where the white supremacist rally had been scheduled, the marchers appear nonviolent but raucous, chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and holding signs like, “Nazi carpetbaggers go home.’”
“’This town has grown from its sometimes great but often difficult history and is marching toward an inclusive future,” DMB writes of “hometown.”
Moments later, the crowd hears a loud, sharp thud. People start screaming and running north, up 3rd and 4th streets to Main Street, a seven-block pedestrian-only stretch of restaurants, shops, and bars. On a typical summer Saturday, this historic Virginia city would be teeming with families and tourists, but today it is filled with police officers in riot gear, who form grim lines to block pedestrians’ access to various points along the mall.’”
As enticing as it is to plunge in and demand that we tear down all offensive statues and mistakenly believe that will start to heal our land. I want you to think deeper than what is only a best a surface and band-aid solution. Something lies beneath the surface that no matter how we try and bury it keeps resurrecting itself.
The Issue with Statues
The psalmists give us a very clear warning about the nature of images.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them. (Ps 115:4–8)
I will risk here people reigning down fury on me here. Because people will fire back that, “We are not worshiping these statues.” Before you attack this point, we should identify and define what is idolatry? Idolatry is any “Man-made images or representations worshiped as deities; any natural or manufactured objects worshiped as deity; anything receiving worship other than the one true God.” – Carl E. DeVries. We tend to think of idols tiny god-like figures that we bow down to and offer our worship and praise. However, it is any object that we place above the one true God. In the time of Isaiah, the prophet, he described idols made in human form (Is 40:19, 20; 44:9–17).
The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. Isaiah 44:13
I lay all this out to ask us to take a step back and examine the passion we are putting into this debate. It is not about the statues, nor about the history, we are trying to preserve. The deeper under the surface issue is what Satan is doing to our democracy.
As the racial tensions escalate it is fitting for us to address the heart of the conflict. Who is the enemy we are fighting? On the surface, it appears that we are fighting against people who have an issue people of different skin color or nationality. But are we fighting people with radical beliefs and an ideology that is outside of mainstream America? You would not believe how many people I have had to unfriend on Facebook because of the toxic political posts. The solution to healing racial divisions is not as simple as spending more time in authentic, vulnerable, and transparent conversations? The solution to acknowledge and realize we are in the middle of spiritual warfare. We are fighting Satan and his minions for the soul of America. We are not blacks people, white people, Hispanics and Latino people, nor Asians people, first. No, first we are humans, created by the same Almighty God and labeled by that same God, as good when we were created. Unfortunately, sin has distorted that once perfect creation, but sin distorted it for all humanity equally. The enemy who lurks in the darkness who have you believe somehow that your sinful life is not as bad as your neighbors.
Read the words of Paul in Romans 3, “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:9–18
As the young people might say so don’t get this twisted, we all stand before God the same way. We appear before Him broken, flawed, sinners, all in need of forgiveness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As much as share the same fallen condition, we also share the same redemption. To fight what is ripping our country apart point to the real enemy, Satan. Call him out in public, in your churches, on your social media pages, in print don’t let his devise actions go about unrecognized because that is where he has the greatest influence. We have the weapons to win this fight in our country, the power is found in God’s Word and putting on the full armor of God.