More Reporting on the Liberty University Alumni Returning Diplomas

Senator Bernie Sanders Speaks At Liberty University Convocation

Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr.

We have covered this story here and here and here.  Sojourners web editor Sandi Villarreal has talked to some of these Liberty University alumni.  Here is a taste of her piece:

Falwell was one of the earliest evangelical supporters of the Trump campaign and now serves on the president’s Evangelical Advisory Board as well as a White House education task force. In an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Falwell defended the president’s “many sides” comments on Charlottesville, saying Trump’s political incorrectness is one of the reasons he supports him.

A week before that interview, Dave Oldenkamp, associate pastor at Yakima Alliance Church in Yakima, Wash., and a Liberty alumnus, stepped to the pulpit of his church to offer a clear message: Racism is sin, and the church has the responsibility to be ministers of reconciliation who fight against injustice.

“Reconciliation is active. It’s alive,” he told his congregation. “ … I think for each one of us we have to ask ourselves some tough questions — not about the things that we’ve done, but maybe the things we’ve not done.”

Oldenkamp has three sons, one of whom is black. He said he felt the need to say something not only as a pastor, but as a father. Oldenkamp, who received his master’s degree in Christian Ministry from Liberty in 2009, said Charlottesville — including President Trump’s response, and Falwell’s defense of it — was a tipping point for him. He signed the letter to the board and plans to send his diploma back.

“When I look at my son, and I look up on my wall and see my diploma, I feel this disconnect,” he said. “… If I’m not willing to do this simple act, how can I call myself his dad? How can I call myself a pastor or Christian if I’m not willing to speak?”

The alumni group’s letter to the board focuses on a loss of Christian witness, calls out Trump’s “open disrespect for ostensible Christian ideals,” and criticizes Liberty’s leadership for failing to rebuke his positions.

“Mr. Trump is ‘a liar, and the truth is not in him.’ 1 John 2:4. He is a misogynist. He has disavowed the need for personal repentance and alleged that he is not a sinner,” the letter reads.

“The University has failed to rebuke these positions and has instead excused him, denied the obvious, or withheld condemnation. In other words, degraded its core mission and defiled its core beliefs, substituting the worship of power and influence for the worship of God. Ten years after Jerry Falwell’s death, the decades-long criticisms of the concept of a Religious Right have been proven true.”

Read the entire article here.

Robert Lee

LeeWe live in a very strange world.  I am sure by now you have heard about ESPN football announcer Robert Lee.  On Tuesday, ESPN decided to remove him from covering the season’s first University of Virginia football game because he shares a name with the Confederate general whose statue triggered racial violence in Charlottesville.  According to this piece at The Atlantic, ESPN wanted to protect their Robert Lee from “memes and jokes.”  I guess that didn’t work out very well.

So what about all the other people in the United States named Robert Lee?  Julie Beck is asking the same question.  Here is a taste:

Both Robert and Lee are extremely common names. According to the website HowManyofMe.com, which searches a database of U.S. Census data, there are 5,128,282 Roberts in the United States, 731,046 people with the last name Lee, and a whopping 11,518 Robert Lees…

Surely some of them were named explicitly for Robert E. Lee, but many—probably most—were not. Wattenberg says that there used to be many people named for General Lee, but nowadays, “homage names are just an endangered species.” If someone chooses to go by the full “Robert E. Lee,” you might reasonably presume that they are trying to play up the Confederate connection, Wattenberg says. But the sports broadcaster Robert Lee is Asian American, and “one knows that broadcaster is not from a family proud of its Confederate ancestry,” she says.

Lee is the 22nd most common last name in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the people who share it are a fairly diverse group. White people make up 40.1 percent of Lees, 37.8 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander, 17.4 percent are black, 1.3 percent are Hispanic, and 1 percent are Native American.

One Robert Lee, who lives in San Francisco and works as a business analyst, didn’t fully understand the significance his name holds in the United States until he went to college. He lived in Hong Kong until he was 18, and then went to Brown University.

Read the entire piece here.

Masur: Abraham Lincoln Salvaged the Thomas Jefferson “We Desire from the One Who Lived”

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Rutgers University historian Louis Masur argues that Abraham Lincoln took a document written by a Virginia slaveholder and used it to advance a free society.

Here is a taste of his piece at The American Scholar:

It took Lincoln to salvage the Jefferson we desire from the one who lived. Lincoln grounded his understanding of the nation on the Declaration of Independence and argued time and again that the phrase all men are created equal included blacks. “All honor to Jefferson,” proclaimed Lincoln. The Declaration “set up a standard maxim for free society . . . constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere.”

Lincoln embraced gradual, deliberate change and exemplified that approach. He too had believed in white superiority: “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. … There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together.” Lincoln supported colonization, though he realized it was not possible on a large scale. He always hated slavery, but as president refused at first to act against the institution or make provisions for whites and blacks to live peacefully in freedom.

The Civil War compelled Lincoln to bring Jefferson’s maxim of a free society to fruition. We can watch him change his mind over time. He moved from saying he could not attack slavery where it existed to freeing slaves in Confederate areas not under Union control, and then advocating for a 13th Amendment abolishing it throughout the United States; he shifted from embracing colonization to authorizing the enlistment of black soldiers; he stopped believing that blacks could not attain political equality and, in the last speech he ever gave, publicly endorsed black suffrage. Thinking about Lincoln, civil rights activist and historian W. E. B. Du Bois exclaimed, “I love him not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet triumphed.”

Read the entire piece here.

An Architectural Historian Weighs-In On Confederate Monuments

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Back in the days when I was a post-doctoral fellow with the Lilly Fellow in Humanities and the Arts, I had a Valparaiso University office next to a young architectural historian named Louis Nelson.  (Actually, we were also next-door neighbors on Valparaiso’s “famous” McIntire Court).  Nelson left Valpo after a year in the program and headed off to Charlottesville to become a faculty member in the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia.  Today he is a Professor of Architectural History and the Associate Dean of the school.  Nice work.

Over at the website of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, Nelson argues that Confederate monuments should stay and be contextualized.  Here is a taste of his interview with the website:

The national debate surrounding confederate monuments is often presented in very narrow terms – as a battle between those who want them to stay and those who want them to go. Is there another approach?

I have consistently argued that we need to situate these monuments as the historical objects that they are. What often gets lost in this discussion is the fact that these are not Civil War monuments; these are Jim Crow monuments, largely a product of the 1910s, not the late 1860s. We need to understand and interpret them in this context. They were erected amid the apex of lynching in the American South. They were erected as localized instantiations of Plessy vs. Ferguson, the so-called “separate but equal” law, which upheld state racial segregation for public facilities and which triggered thousands of local-level actions against minorities throughout the country….

How can these monuments encourage such dialogue?

The landscape around them needs to be curated thoughtfully, with this historical framework in mind. Such statues cannot stand alone in the middle of a square with azaleas. I have argued that we need to transform these open spaces into open-air museums, where we can learn about the simultaneous histories of lynching, Confederate monuments and Jim Crow policies. These are powerful objects so they will need powerful recontextualization. Many argue that this is not possible, but I have great faith in architects, landscape architects, and public historians to effect profound change. I’m also an academic, so I can’t help but suggest some reading. What Can and Can’t Be Said: Race, Uplift and Monument Building in the Contemporary South by Dell Upton is a great read. We need to educate ourselves about this history. It should not be erased.

Read the entire interview here.

Andrew Young Thinks The Removing Of Confederate Monuments Is Not Worth The Time Or Effort

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Andrew Young (second from left) with Bayard Rustin, William Fitts Ryan, James Farmer, and John Lewis (Wikimedia Commons)

As some of you may recall, I spent some time this summer exploring the history of the Civil Rights Movement on a bus tour through the South.  It is hard to visit Civil Rights museums and sites without encountering images of Andrew Young.  For those who are not familiar with him, Young was part of Martin Luther King Jr.s inner circle.  He served as the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a congressman from Georgia, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and the mayor of Atlanta.

In several public statements in the wake of the recent events in Charlottesville, Young has argued that we should stop spending so much time debating monuments and get to work on more important things that will help all Americans.  Below are a few Young quotes from a recent post by Jim Galloway at the Atlanta Journal Constitution‘s blog “Political Insider.”

“I think it’s too costly to refight the Civil War. We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together…

“I personally feel that we made a mistake in fighting over the Confederate flag here in Georgia. Or that that was an answer to the problem of the death of nine people – to take down the Confederate flag in South Carolina.”

The reference here is to 1956 George governor Roy Barnes’s decision to retire the Georgia state flag because it contained a confederate battle emblem.  Galloway writes that Barnes’s decision “was a primary reason he lost bid for re-election, split the state Democratic party, and ushered in the current season of Republican rule.”

Young adds:

“I think it’s too costly to refight the Civil War. We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together…

“I personally feel that we made a mistake in fighting over the Confederate flag here in Georgia. Or that that was an answer to the problem of the death of nine people – to take down the Confederate flag in South Carolina.”

Read the rest here.    Later in the piece Young says that the removal of the flag and the political changes that came with it also resulted in Atlanta’s current infrastructure problems.  The bottom line for Young, if I read him correctly, is that we only have so much time.  Is and has the fight over monuments and Confederate symbols really worth it?

And here is Young on Sunday’s Meet the Press

And here is Young talking about the Stone Mountain monument:

Some activists will say that Young has probably grown too old and too irrelevant. He represents an older liberalism and non-violent approach to combating racism that has been long forgotten in American political life. As he told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, “turn down the emotions and turn on the mind.”

I will let the Civil Rights historians decide whether or not Young is best representing the spirit of  his own movement here and, perhaps more importantly, if this approach is still useful today.

Some Local Coverage on the Liberty University Grads Returning Diplomas

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We reported on this over the weekend. Some Liberty University alumni are returning their diplomas to protest Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr.’s failure to openly condemn Donald Trump’s comments in the wake of Charlottesville.

Here is some local coverage from Lynchburg’s The News & Advance:

Rebekah Tilley, a 2002 LU graduate who now works in higher education in Iowa, is one of a number of alumni who intend to return their diplomas in protest of Falwell’s ties to the White House.

“We are doing so to protest Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s continued efforts to act as a spokesperson for President Trump even after his profound lack of moral leadership following the events in Charlottesville. Falwell’s vocal support of President Trump has made it such that you can’t think of Liberty University without associating the institution and its alumni with President Trump.

“When David Duke and the current president of your undergrad program are both applauding the President’s comments in his press conference after Charlottesville, returning our diplomas was the only thing that seemed appropriate,” Tilley wrote to The News & Advance via email.

In a phone interview Monday with The News & Advance, Falwell described the plan by alumni to return their diplomas as “disingenuous” and “political grandstanding” that was “not to be taken seriously.”

Falwell noted if alums do return the physical copy of their diplomas, they’ll still have LU degrees.

“They earned a degree from Liberty University, they’ll still have a degree from Liberty, they’ll still be able to use it on their resume when they seek employment, so it’s really dishonest for them to say that they’re returning their degree. It’s not possible to do that,” Falwell said.

Falwell described the alumni speaking out as having a “political axe to grind” with him.

“They’re trying to drag their school into it because they don’t like the fact that one school employee, namely me, supports the president. It’s very childish of all of them, I believe,” he said.

Read the entire article here.

Liberty University Responds To Diploma-Returning Students

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On Sunday we reported on a growing Facebook group of Liberty University alumni who are returning their diplomas to the Lynchburg, Virginia Christian school because the president, Jerry Falwell Jr., is a court evangelical and has remained a court evangelical in the wake of Charlottesville.

Yesterday Liberty University responded with this statement:

Liberty University strongly supports our students’ rights to express their own political opinions, including any opposition they have to their school leader’s relationship with this president of the US, just as other students may have opposed leadership of liberal institutions supporting previous Presidents. The tactic of returning diplomas has been used by students of many other schools to draw attention to various causes, but let’s also remember that those same diplomas are quite helpful in helping these graduates secure well-paying jobs.

Snark: “an attitude of expression of mocking irreverence and sarcasm.”

On a Fox News podcast Falwell Jr. called the protesting alumni “a joke.”  I wonder how long Falwell Jr. will get away with describing his university’s alumni this way.

JSTOR Daily’s Charlottesville Syllabus

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If you want to understand what happened in Charlottesville and hate in America, this is a good place to start.

Here is a taste of Catherine Halley‘s introduction to JSTOR Daily’s Charlottesville syllabus:

It has been a difficult week in American history, and a lot of educators have been wondering how to speak to their students about the white supremacist rally that took place on August 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the violent aftermath. JSTOR Daily, which offers scholarly context to the news, seems well-positioned to provide help in this regard.

Here, we often find ourselves telling origin stories or pointing out historical precedent to current events. That’s because we believe, we hope that there are lessons in the past. We trust in the peer-reviewed, fact-based, careful thinking and writing that scholars do to help us understand everything beautiful and ugly about our world.

The essays and articles below, published over the course of JSTOR Daily‘s first three years, demonstrate this. We join in the tradition of N. D. B. Connolly & Keisha N. Blain’s “Trump Syllabus 2.0” in seeking to illuminate the cultural, economic, and political currents that led to the present moment.

Read the entire syllabus here.

National Museum of African American History and Culture Issues Statement on Charlottesville

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It’s been out for about a week now:

We, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, are saddened by the tragic events in Charlottesville, Va. Our hearts are with the families of the victims—the three who lost their lives, the 35 injured and the millions across the country who are traumatized by this dark chapter in our nation’s history. The violent displays of racism and anti-Semitism are reprehensible. These heinous acts are an assault on our nation’s values and threaten to move our country backward to a time when many had little regard for the principles of fairness, liberty and equality.

Throughout America’s history, we have seen racism and anti-Semitism at work. The terror that shook Charlottesville over the past weekend is the most recent example in a long legacy of violence intended to intimidate and marginalize African Americans and Jews. It is crucial at this time to understand the history of white supremacy as a political ideology and the role of the Ku Klux Klan and other groups in using violence to promote that ideology. 

In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan counted between 3 and 6 million members. It advocated “One Hundred Percent Americanism” by attacking Jews, Catholics, African Americans and recent immigrants. Acts of violence and intimidation have been their staple strategies. The Klan has been associated with some of the most infamous murders of the 1950s and ’60s, including those of Henrietta and Harry Moore, Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo and the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in which four black girls were killed. In the 21st century, Neo-Nazis and other anti-government groups have joined with the Klan in promoting white racial superiority and terrorizing blacks and other minority groups.  

Recognizing the history of violence in support of white supremacy is only part of fully understanding the events of recent days. The white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville announced that they were there to protect a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. We should consider the political context in which these Confederate statues and monuments have been erected.

According to a recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be seen in public spaces in 31 states and the District of Columbia. These include more than 700 monuments and statues on public property (often courthouse lawns) and at least 109 public schools named for prominent Confederates.

Since 1894, there has been a concerted campaign to commemorate the Confederacy through memorialization and education. Organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy, founded in 1894 to “perpetuate the memory of our Confederate heroes and the glorious cause for which they fought,” promoted Confederate monuments, museums and educational activities that emphasized states’ rights rather than slavery as the cause of the Civil War.

It is not surprising then to find that the dedication of Confederate monuments spiked in two distinct time periods: the first two decades of the 20th century and the 1950s and ’60s. The first encompassed the years when states were passing Jim Crow laws disenfranchising African Americans and the second corresponds to the modern civil rights movement. These monuments are symbols that tell us less about the actual Civil War but more about the uncivil peace that followed.

It is often easier to take our attention away from the harsh realities of history. At the National Museum of African American History and Culture, we are committed to bringing history—with all of its pain and its promise—front and center. Only when we illuminate the dark corners and tell the unvarnished truth can we learn history’s lessons and bridge the gaps that divide us.

Annette Gordon Reed: Why Jefferson Matters in the Wake of Charlottesville

The Rotunda with a statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia.I have been trying to say something like this throughout the week, but I can’t say it as well or with the expertise and authority of  Annette Gordon-Reed:

Today, a time of intense focus on the personal and of misplaced faith in the importance of sincerity, we question whether Jefferson really believed the words “all men are created equal,” as if ideas are only as important and powerful as the personal will of the individual who utters them. The Confederates knew better than that. Ideas can have a power and life of their own. They weren’t taking any chances. They saw Jefferson as a public man who had put ideas into popular discourse that could be used in opposition to the society they hoped to build. The Confederates took him at his word, thinking it important to mention him by name and repudiate what they took to be his views. Alexander Stephens’s famous “Cornerstone Speech” said that Jefferson was wrong, insisting that blacks were not the equals of whites and, therefore, slavery was A-OK.  

I cannot help thinking that the menaced people standing around the statue, no doubt holding many different views about Jefferson the man, symbolize the fragility of the idea of progress and aspirations for the improvement of humankind: the ideals that animated Jefferson in the Declaration, his insistence on the separation of church and state, his belief in public education, religious tolerance, and science. It must be said, they also animated what Jefferson knew by the end of his life to be the pipe dream of solving the slavery question, and wiping away the transgression of slavery, by giving blacks their own country—whether they wanted one or not. When he wrote his will freeing five enslaved men, he requested that they be allowed to remain in Virginia “where their families and connexions” were (an 1806 law would otherwise have required them to leave the state within a year). That is, of course, why all blacks in America should have had the right to stay in the country. He did this while other slave owners were freeing enslaved people on the condition fdaa8-gordonreedthat they be sent to Liberia. The simple fact is that as brilliant as he may have been, Jefferson had no real answer to the slavery question. Although  historians do not like the concept of inevitability, legalized slavery was destroyed in the most likely way it could have been destroyed.

American ideals have always clashed with harsh American realities. We saw that clash on the grounds of UVA. But how do we continue in the face of depressing realities to allow ourselves to hold fast to the importance of having aspirations, and recognize that the pursuit of high ideals—even if carried out imperfectly—offers the only real chance of bringing forth good  in the world? In many ways, grappling with that question is what being a scholar of Jefferson is all about. Perhaps coming fully to grips with the paradoxes that Jefferson’s life presents is what being an American is about. Even if one rejects that formulation, there is no doubt that he remains one of the best ways we have of exploring and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the American experiment displayed so vividly last week in Charlottesville.

Read the entire piece at the New York Review of Books

 

This Irresponsible Historical Thinking Has to Stop!

Read Jennifer Kerns‘s recent piece on politics and Charlottesville at The Washington Examiner.  Kerns is a GOP communications strategist who has worked for the California Republican Party and Fox News.

Here is a taste:

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, an awful lot of awful things have been said about Republicans and race relations.

However, the Left’s accusations of racism couldn’t be further from the truth that has played out in the halls of Congress over the last 150 years.

It is shocking that as talk of statues and historical racism is being bandied about, no one has mentioned the Democrats’ utterly shameful treatment of African Americans throughout history.

Over the last 100 years, Republicans have stood up for African Americans while Democrats not only stood on the sidelines, but in fact served as obstructionists to civil liberties.

Here are at least 12 examples in which Democrats voted against African Americans, and Republicans voted to free them:

Democrats voted against every piece of civil rights legislation in Congress from 1866 to 1966 – a whopping 100 years. That is a dismal record for today’s Democrats who would like you to believe that history has been on their side on this issue.

It hasn’t.

Democrats voted to keep Africans Americans in slavery, opposing the 13th Amendment which officially freed the slaves. Only four Democrats voted for it.

Republicans also passed the 14th Amendment which granted slaves U.S. citizenship; Democrats voted against it.

Republicans also passed the 15th Amendment which gave slaves the right to vote. Not a single one of the 56 Democrats in Congress voted for it.

Shame on them.

Furthermore, Republicans passed all of the Civil Rights laws of the 1860s — including the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Reconstruction Act of 1867 following the Civil War.

And it goes on

I thought we were done with this kind of stuff after CNN fired Jeffrey Lord.

As any of my liberal or conservative students will tell you, one of the key components of historical thinking is change over time.  In the case of Kern’s article, let’s remember that political parties change over time.  They are not frozen in time, as she suggests.  The Democratic Party of the 19th century is not the Democratic Party of the 21st century.  The Republican Party of the 19th century is not the Republican Party of the 21st century. Things changed in the 20th century, particularly as each of these parties addressed the questions of race in America.  A political realignment took place.

The facts of Kern’s piece seem generally fine, (although I have not checked them thoroughly).  If they are accurate, they might make for a nice Wikipedia entry. But when you are trying to make the past speak to the present, as Kern does here, there are a set of historical thinking skills–such as change over time–that must be considered. Kern is not writing history here.  She is using the past irresponsibly to make a political point.

I think I will use this piece in my Introduction to History course this semester at Messiah College.

Want to learn more about historical thinking?  Try this. You can read it along with my students this semester.

Or watch this for starters:

 

 

 

The National Park Service Responds to Charlottesville

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In the days following the events at Charlottesville, the National Park Service made a change to its description of Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s pre-Civil War home that now looks over Arlington National Cemetery.  Here is a taste of Russell Berman’s piece at The Atlantic:

As of August 4, according to a cache of the page accessed through archive.org, the Park Service described the Lee Memorial this way:

The Robert E. Lee Memorial honors Lee’s military and public leadership in pre- and post-Civil War America. Congress designated the memorial to recognize that “the desire and hope of Robert E. Lee for peace and unity within our Nation has come to pass.” From the portico you can contemplate our nation’s fate as you gaze across the river that once divided us.

The language now is different. The description lessens the focus on the memorial as a celebration of Lee and places it in a slightly more neutral context. It makes a new reference to “the most difficult aspects of American history,” including slavery:

Arlington House is the nation’s memorial to Robert E. Lee. It honors him for specific reasons, including his role in promoting peace and reunion after the Civil War. In a larger sense it exists as a place of study and contemplation of the meaning of some of the most difficult aspects of American History: military service; sacrifice; citizenship; duty; loyalty; slavery and freedom.

In a statement, the Park Service acknowledged it made the change this week but did not directly attribute it to the events in Charlottesville and the ensuing public debate over Confederate memorials.

“It is our mission to provide historical context that reflects a fuller view of past events and the values under which they occurred, and the update was made in that spirit,” the Park Service said. “The National Park Service is committed to sharing our nation’s history inclusively and holistically, and we have elicited scholars’ advice on how to present, more completely, the experience of those who were enslaved at Arlington House. Their stories will be prominently featured when the rehabilitation of the house, slave quarters, gardens, and exhibits is complete.”

Read the rest here.

Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress: Trump Should Not Apologize for Charlottesville Statements. “He Did Just Fine”

Here is court evangelical Robert Jeffress on Fox Business News last night.

He rightly condemns racism, as he has been doing all along.  This is good.  But he also defends the POTUS,  saying that Trump wants to condemn “all racism.”  I’m not sure what he means here by “all racism.”  Is he somehow referring to “racism against whites?”  Is he suggesting that there was racism on both sides in Charlottesville?

Jeffress again takes on the “axis of evil” (Democrats, the media, Republicans, and the “religious establishment”) that wants to “take this president down for various reasons.”

Then he begins suggesting (with the help of the host) that the members of this “axis of evil” want to erase American history and the “Judeo-Christian foundations of this nation.”  He repeats the historically dubious claim that “no president in history has done more to stand of for religious liberty than Donald Trump.” (See my comments on this claim here).

Finally, he advises Trump not to apologize for his handling of Charlottesville.  According to Jeffress. “he did just fine.”  It looks like we are finally getting a sense of what the court evangelicals are whispering to Trump in those secret meetings.

“He did just fine.”

The Landscape of the Lost Cause and What To Do About It

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Everyone is a historian these days.  Or at least they think they are historians.  Just check your Facebook page or Twitter feeds.  Every pundit–real and imagined– seems to have an opinion on what to do with Confederate Monuments and not all of them are very informed.

So it is always good to hear from someone who knows that they are talking about.  I was pleased to see University of North Carolina historian W. Fitzhugh Brundage weigh-in. (Two of his books on the Lost Cause were recommended here).

Here is a taste of his recent piece at VOX:

A crucial step in many Southern states will be to repeal laws constraining the removal or alteration of historic monuments, such as North Carolina’s two-year-old Historic Artifact Management and Patriotism Act. Let there be no doubt about the intent of this or similar “heritage preservation” laws: They “protect” and perpetuate the racist commemorative landscape that currently exists. Why shouldn’t the citizens of Durham have had the choice to preserve, move, or remove the Confederate monument there? Local choice may allow some communities to keep “their” Confederate monuments. So be it. Let them defend their decision if they do so.

We are also sure to hear calls to add monuments (honoring African Americans, for example) as an alternative to removing those we find offensive, and thereby “erasing” history. But removing — or moving — Confederate monuments is not historical erasure. The same logic could have been used to justify maintaining, after 1964, signs that identified “Negro water fountains,” “Colored waiting room,” and the other markers of Southern segregation.

In an ideal world with unlimited resources, a proposal to add monuments might make sense. But given the vast number of monuments to the Confederacy across the United States it would take decades, and millions of dollars, to add enough statuary to create a more inclusive commemorative landscape. And is there any reason to believe that state legislators are going to appropriate sufficient money for that purpose? Perhaps the defenders of Confederate monuments will demonstrate their good faith by pressing for funding for new monuments to Southerners, white and black, who fought on behalf of the Union or otherwise opposed the Confederacy. Until then, I will view their devotion to heritage preservation with skepticism.

This is hardly the first time that a society has confronted the issue of dealing with art harnessed to objectionable causes. Art museums are filled with medieval and early modern Western art that is offensive to many of our contemporary values — depicting rape, the slaughter of Muslims, or demeaning images of non-Europeans. Like those works of art, those Confederate monuments that have aesthetic significance can and should be preserved in museums where they can be properly interpreted by curators and docents. In such settings, they will serve as historical artifacts rather than civic monuments.

But many Confederate monuments were essentially “mail order” sculptures mass produced by Northern and Southern foundries during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Whatever value they have as historical artifacts, they were not the work of some latter-day Michelangelo.

Before any Confederate monuments are removed, they should be carefully photographed and measured so that the historical record of the monuments in situ can be preserved and made available for historians and art historians in the future. Then they can be transferred to the archives, museums — or the trash heap of history.

Read the entire piece here.

Crowdsourcing Report: Best Books on the Lost Cause

Van WoodwardYou asked and the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home delivered:

David Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

Ed Blum, Forging the White Republic: Race, Religion and American Nationalism, 1865-1898

W. Fitz Brundage, The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory

W. Fitz Brundage, ed., Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory, and Southern Identity

James C. Cobb, Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity

Karen Cox, Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture

Gaines Foster, Ghost of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865-1913

Gary Gallagher,  ed., The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History

Caroline Janney, Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation

James Louwen and Edward Sebasta, The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The Great Truth About the “Lost Cause.”

Ann Marshall, Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

Micki McElya: Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in Twentieth-Century America

Kirk Savage, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America

Ron Rash, The World Made Straight (Novel)

Anne Sarah Rubin, A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861-1868

Charles Reagan Wilson, Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920

C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow

A.R. Bernard, Ex-Court Evangelical, Speaks Out: “I Wanted More Than a Photo-Op”

Earlier we reported that A.R. Bernard, pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, has resigned as an evangelical adviser to Donald Trump.

Shortly after our post, Bernard went on Don Lemon’s show on CNN to talk about his resignation.  No video yet.  I will post it tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are my tweets.

This Court Evangelical WILL NOT Resign

This comes from Mark Burns, one of the more outspoken court evangelicals and the pastor of Harvest Praise & Worship Center in South Carolina.  You may recall his prayer at the GOP Convention last summer.

A few thoughts about this rambling video attached to the tweet:

  • Trump names some court evangelicals: Michelle Bachman, Ronnie Floyd, James Dobson, Tim Clinton, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Jerry Falwell Jr. Janetzen Franklin, Jack Graham, Harry Jackson, Johnnie Moore, David Jeremiah, Robert Jeffress, Robert Morris, Tom Mullins, Ralph Reed, James Robison, Tony Suarez, Jay Strack, Paula White, Tom Winters, and Sealy Yates
  • He mentions that A.R. Bernard has resigned from the “faith initiative” and praises his Christian leadership.  He never addresses why Bernard resigned.
  • He addresses those who think he (Burns) should resign from the advisory council and says “If God has called me to be a spiritual ear…to the POTUS, if God has anointed me and called me…to walk in that assignment regardless of whether or not we agree with everything our President does…then how in the world can we resign if God has appointed us to do this.”  Not sure how to argue with this.
  • He adds: “For me this is not political.  I would never abandoned a church member of mine…. no matter how many times they don’t understand something….The only time I would abandon them is if they have renounced that Christ is the Messiah and they denounce that there is not God and they become a wolf in sheep’s clothing and they become what we need to separate ourselves from [and] they refuse to believe and receive that Jesus Christ is Lord. At that point there is no need for me to continue if in their mind they believe what I am saying is no longer going to help them.”  I will let you decide if Trump fits the bill here.  Think about the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” line.
  • He is “proud” that he has a “Daniel’s anointing.”  Such an anointing, he says, is given to those “called into government” to be an “ear to the King.”
  • He talks about the Gospel. But he fails to see that his association with Trump tarnishes the Gospel message and undermines his own witness to that Gospel.
  • He says that attacks on Trump are coming from the “pits of hell.”
  • He never denounces racism, white supremacy, or Trump’s message of moral equivalency.
  • Once again he mentions the phrase “unprecedented access.”
  • Reaffirms that Trump “loves God” and “loves Jesus Christ.”

Burns says he is making this video because he does not want to be misunderstood.  No misunderstanding here.  This is perfectly clear.

Monuments Present a “conflict that cannot be resolved”

c18bd-jefferson-memorial

Should we rename this monument?

David Bell, a historian of revolutionary France who teaches at Princeton, offers some solid perspective on the ongoing debate about Confederate monuments.  He focuses particularly on Donald Trump’s remarks comparing Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Here is a taste:

In the end, if we are to have any confidence in our own moral standards, we must believe that these standards are universally applicable, across time and space. And so, we must be ready to criticize figures in the past for attitudes and practices we consider abhorrent. If our moral standards are to have any meaning, then they don’t simply apply because we believe in them. They apply because they are right.

Yes, we also need to acknowledge that an overly rigid application of this principle would soon leave us with very little history to honor and celebrate, because few, if any, prominent figures of the past lived up to the moral standards of 21st-century Americans. Taken to the extreme, it would, indeed, mean tearing down the Washington Monument, and perhaps even the Lincoln Memorial.

But countries need their history. They need heroes and leaders to venerate, to inspire new generations, and to act as a source of unity. National unity can be a very fragile thing, as Americans today know all too well. Revolutionary movements have sometimes tried to consign their national pasts to the dustbin of history and to start over. The French revolutionaries famously introduced a new calendar, numbering the years from the birth of the French republic in 1792 and condemning nearly all of what came before as darkness, feudalism and superstition, unworthy of veneration. It didn’t work. Such attempts at erasure go against the deeply human need to feel a connection with the past.

The conflict, then, is one between two principles. On one hand, we should not honor people who did things and held beliefs that were morally objectionable. On the other, we need a common history we can take pride in as a nation. It is a conflict that cannot be resolved with cheap sound bites of the sort uttered by the president and his backers this week. They can be resolved only with careful, reasoned judgments, backed up by logic and evidence.

When it comes to particular figures in the past, such judgments involve, above all, looking carefully at their entire historical record. In the case of Washington, it involves weighing his role as a slave owner against his role as a heroic commander in chief, as an immensely popular political leader who resisted the temptation to become anything more than a republican chief executive, and who brought the country together around the new Constitution. Calhoun, by contrast, devoted his political career above all to the defense of slavery. The distinction between the two is not difficult to make.

Lee’s case is clear-cut. Whatever admirable personal qualities he may have had, he was also a man who took up arms against his country in defense of an evil institution. In my view, he doesn’t deserve to be honored in any fashion.

Read the entire piece here.  This is one the best short pieces I have read on this issue.

 

This Is Not “Distancing”

Trump Graham

Yesterday the Charlotte Observer ran a piece proclaiming “Franklin Graham appears to distance himself from Trump remarks on Charlottesville.”

Here is a taste:

Just days after coming to President Donald Trump’s defense in the wake of Charlottesville, Franklin Graham sent out a new Facebook post Thursday in which he appeared to distance himself from the embattled president’s continued attempts to say blame for the violence in Charlottesville should be shared by white supremacists and by those who showed up to protest their presence in the university town.

In the new post, the North Carolina-based evangelist didn’t mention Trump and he also didn’t single out the KKK or neo-Nazis by name. But he quoted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has emerged as a more forceful figure than the president in condemning the violence by white racists. Sessions early on called it domestic terrorism and quickly announced a federal civil rights investigation.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions is exactly right – ‘in no way can we accept and apologize for racism, bigotry, hatred, violence and those kind of things that too often arise in our country.’ One race is not superior over another. … The venomous hatred we saw displayed in #Charlottesville should repulse all Americans….”

…But in his Thursday post, Graham sounded like his father Billy Graham, the Charlotte-born evangelist who got death threats in the 1950s for speaking out against racism and refusing to preach at segregated events.

“God created mankind in His image and He loves us. The Bible tells us that, ‘He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth,’ and ‘God does not show partiality.’ … (Charlottesville) should take us to our knees in prayer for hearts to be changed.”

I applaud Graham for all of this.

But Graham will truly “distance” himself from the President when he condemns the POTUS’s decision to draw a moral equivalency between white supremacists in Charlottesville and people protesting white supremacy in Charlottesville.  Graham is good at naming the name of Jesus.  Now he needs to name the name of Trump.