One of President Abraham Lincoln's chief concerns toward the later part of the American Civil War was to heal the deep wound caused by the national division of Union and Confederacy. Something that was understood in the 18th and 19th Century was that state rights would take priority over federal rights. If the President and Congress passed laws that violated the rights of a state, then that state had the right to secede from the Union. In the case of the Confederacy, thirteen states seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. They elected their own President, Congress, and Senate. Just like then, states today have the right to secede from the Union if they so choose. The military leaders, as is memorialized through the various monuments throughout the nation, both North and South, often chose to remain faithful to their birth states. General Robert E. Lee chose to remain faithful to the state of Virginia over the United States because that was his home. His elected officials chose to secede from the Union, even though General Lee did not necessarily view the issue of slavery as his elected officials did. General "Stonewall" Jackson, another Confederate military genius, also did the same. General Jackson prayed that God never allow him to taste defeat on the battlefield. General Jackson was shot by one of his own men by mistake, killing him, before his unit ever lost a battle. When General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Court House, both he and his men were treated as brothers and not enemies. The Union troops rendered a salute to General Lee as he rode off on his horse. This supreme act of respect by the Union troops, under the order of President Abraham Lincoln, ensured that Virginia was not a major problem in the post-war era. Lincoln ordered that there be no court martial for treason, and no retribution of any kind. For the most part in the summer of 1865, this was the case. However, when General Sherman began his scorched earth campaign against the South, including the burning of Atlanta, this Presidential order to end the war and heal the nation was complicated. Out of the scorched earth campaign, and others like it by Union Generals, the Ku Klux Klan rose from a deep seated hatred for the treatment of the South by those who held to the concept of white supremacy, slavery, and the old Southern idea of culture.
Working to block President Lincoln's Thirteenth Amendment, the Democrats fought tooth and nail to preserve slavery in America. They nearly rioted over the Emancipation Proclamation, and were humiliated by the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. What history tells us, and many left wing schools of thought do not, is that Republicans were the driving force behind the abolition of slavery in America. Republicans have always stood for equality between races and gender. President Lincoln himself was a Republican. The Democrat Party has taken a huge swing from being pro slavery and against Civil Rights, to being the group that wants minorities to have more rights than non-minorities, thus upsetting the balance of equality between races, religions, genders, and so forth. It seems, thought the causes have changed, the inability to understand true equality remains.
Since 2012, with the Black Lives Matter group to the pulling down of monument commemorating Confederate Generals, the left has been busy violently protesting all they find against their ideas of socially acceptable thought. In all honesty, it was only a matter of time before the far right white supremacist groups decided to make their stand. After years of being prodded, the extreme right has stood up. The problem is that they are racists, extremists, and vile people who have a very twisted concept of human life, equality, and ideology. When these two violent groups come in close proximity with their hateful rhetoric, somebody is going to do something incredibly stupid, and blood will flow in the streets. Adding fuel to the fire are left wing leaders paying to bring professional protestors to different hot spots. These people are paid nearly $20 per hour to protest. They come ready to brawl! What is just as upsetting is seeing clergy taking sides in the act of protest rather than bringing the Gospel to both groups!
Shame on clergy members who chose one side over the other. Yes, you may personally find a measure of righteousness in the cause of the counter protestors standing against racism and hate, but at what cost? Will you, o clergy member, reach over to the racist white supremacist to share with them the love of God in Christ Jesus, or shout in their face that they are evil doers destined for Hell fire? Will you, clergy member, encourage counter protestors to hug a racist? Jesus was beaten and crucified, yet He did not hold grudge against his killers, rather He prayed for them, and asked Father to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing. What would happen if Christian leaders decided that the best approach to the racial violence in America is to stand between the groups, and share the Gospel with them? What if we told them all that all of us need salvation, forgiveness of sin, to release forgiveness to others, and ask the Prince of Peace into our hearts? Clergy should not be reinforcing the strongholds of either group by their participation, but build alters to God in the midst of the chaos. When we get caught up in the social climate of any age, we lose sight of the Gospel message. Yes, we must stand against racism, sexism, and violence, but we also must never compromise the Word of God to appease societal norms of the day, which are ever changing.
Matthew 24:7 shows us that nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. The word nation here indicates cultures and races, whereas kingdom represents more so countries. Therefore we see a sign of the times and the end of the age to be racial violence and war between countries. This week's headlines have been about the protests and violence in Charlottesville, PA, and the threat of nuclear war with North Korea. We have seen Iran launch ICBM's, and reports of North Korea having nuclear warheads that can be mounted onto their ICBM's, as well as their threat to strike Guam. China and India are on the verge of war over the small nation of Bhutan. ISIS in Syria is nearly defeated, and the African Union is seeing very slow progress in their fight against Boko Harram and other terrorist organizations on the African continent. Indeed, the world is in a state of conflict, and racial tension continues to ratchet up higher and higher. Yet these things will only grow more violent, more fierce, and reach far greater than we can possibly imagine.
The biggest question to ask yourself is this: What am I doing to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those around me? Am I telling people about the saving grace of God found in faith that Jesus is the Son of God? Do I lead people to the Cross of Calvary through my life, words, actions, Facebook posts, Blog Posts, Podcasts, videos, mimes, Tweets, Snapchat photos, Instagram messages, and ministry? As darkness increases, then we must become lights to push back the darkness. In the absence of light, darkness reigns, but light casts out all darkness. This world is in chaos because Christians have stopped being lights in the world. We are lit candles hidden under a basket. We keep to ourselves in our churches but never leave the walls of our buildings. In this, we are exactly like lights hidden under a basket. But we are called to shine forth in a world of darkness outside of our four church walls, to be a lighthouse set on a hill beckoning the lost to land. Will you be a Pharisee attempting to remain relevant in the ever changing tides of social conformity and political correctness, or will you be like Jesus, who loved even His killers to show us that there is a far better way found in Him? The choice is yours every day. When you wake in the morning, determine to be an example of the Gospel. Make it a point to tell somebody you encounter in the day about Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross for them. This simple practice and execution is something that we all can benefit from employing daily, even me.
May you be richly blessed, and know the great love of God for you, in Jesus name!