A Nod To Confederate History Month, From Frederick Douglass

By now, most of you have read of the Virginia State proclamation regarding Confederate History Month, and I’ve spared you the entire text here. It’s what you expect — a call for the importance of studying the past; remembering the context, which for me would be the “sin is sin, racism cannot be excused” context of Scripture; appreciating tradition; and an acknowledgment of what some in Moscow can’t quite grasp, that slavery was an unequivocal historical evil. As a review of history, it’s forgiving; as an analysis of society, it’s tepid; as a call to repentance, it’s just what you expect from the State — no call, no repentance.

I was hoping for a wholesale condemnation of neo-Confederates and their attempts to whitewash history and, worse, integrate Christianity with the Confederacy, but the more “Christian” the State and the more Southern its location, the less likely that would be. Still, it’s not just the paleo-, neo-, and historical Confederates who claim that their corner of the United States was the “Amen corner” of the Lord’s. Constitutionalists exalt the founding documents as God-inspired in intention if not rhetoric, and Christian homeschoolers gorge themselves on stories of the founders’ fervent evangelicalism, which was neither fervent nor evangelical. The fundamentalists who revere the Bible as the revealed, inerrant Word of God and who would consider the deism and immorality of the Founding Fathers an affront to Christianity now embrace for the Constitution what they proclaim of Colossians and elevate Deists to a historical diaconate they’d deny most of their neighbors.

(Last year even saw the publication of the American Patriot’s Bible, “a version of the Bible targeted the spiritual needs of those who love our country.” This is an embarrassment of revisionism, idolatry, and wishful thinking that ought to cause mature believers to retch at the interweaving of the Gospel of our homeless, Semitic, itinerant Jewish Messiah with the interests of slaveholding patriarchs, but with mid-term elections coming up, it should be a monster seller. It’s already a monster shame).

So if the United States isn’t now and has never been a “Christian” nation, and the Confederacy even less so, it seems good to inject some context here. I was profoundly moved by Greg Boyd’s “The Myth of a Christian Nation,” and I’ll be commenting on it more, but I think the words of Frederick Douglass, the Christ-following former slave, should tide us over until next year’s Confederate History Month, or whenever the next outburst of patriotic piety seizes the Right:

“Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked . . . I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity.” (1845, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself”)

Let God be true, and everyone a liar who would dare align him with the sinful kingdoms of humankind.

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