In Honor of Kanye: Historian Kevin Kruse Explains the History of Political Parties and Civil Rights

Princeton University history professor Kevin M. Kruse is a Twitter Ninja Warrior. He can slice and dice and bring the facts with a devastating wit.

Kevin M. Kruse – From Twitter page

In this Twitter thread he educates and illuminates a topic which has been muddied by Christian nationalist history writers such as Dinesh D’Souza and David Barton: The history of political parties and civil rights advocacy.
This thread is a wealth of information all in one spot and as such I highly recommend it. About the only thing I would add is a link to information on Lily White Republicans which he implied but didn’t name when he wrote:

That said, both parties in this period had their share of racists in their ranks.
When the second KKK rose to power in the 1920s, it had a strong Democratic ties in some states; strong GOP ones elsewhere.

As Kruse documents, the story of the evolution of the Democrats from Jim Crow to Civil Rights is one of the major stories of American political history. Thanks to Kevin for this thread.

Trump Religious Advisor Robert Jeffress: Nothing Racist About Restricting Immigration by Race

Trying to defend President Donald Trump’s comments preferring immigrants from Norway over Haiti, El Salvador and Africa, First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress told the Washington Post that race is an acceptable reason for the government to discriminate in immigration.
According to reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Jeffress told her that the U.S. has the right “to restrict immigration according to whatever criteria it establishes, including race or other qualifications.” He claimed that there isn’t anything racist about such restrictions.* I would like to hear an explanation for that. What else besides racial prejudice would lead the U.S. to prefer whites over non-whites? I would like to hear Rev. Jeffress’ answer to that question.
Jeffress’ blatant defense of racial discrimination is reminiscent of opposition by other Southern white men to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. INA struck down immigration quotas and increased immigration from Africa, Latin America and Asia. INA was opposed by those who wanted to maintain discrimination in immigration policy. Essentially, the policy prior to 1965 favored European immigration with limits on people coming in from elsewhere in the world. Now in 2018, Trump’s preference for white Norwegians over dark skinned Africans and Jeffress’ defense of his position sound like the same rhetoric used by opponents of the INA in 1965.
One of the most vocal opponents of INA was Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC). During Senate hearings on the bill, Ervin expressed that race and country of origin should be used in immigration discrimination. Ervin said:

The people of Ethiopia have the same right to come to the United States under this bill as the people from England, the people of France, the people of Germany, the people of Holland. With all due respect to Ethiopia, I don’t know of any contributions that Ethiopia has made to the making of America.

He wasn’t alone in his views.
As Tom Gjelten documents in his book A Nation of Nations, Spessard Hollard (D-FL) asked during debate on the bill:

Why, for the first time, are the emerging nations of Africa, to be placed on the same basis as are our mother countries – Britain, Germany, Scandinavian nations, France, and the other nations from which most Americans have come?

Without the profanity, Ervin and Spessard raised the same questions in 1965 as Trump and Jeffress are raising now. Why do we want these people from Africa? We should have more people from Europe.

Blinded by the White

A sign of white privilege is the distortion of reality it promotes. Ervin and Spessard seemed oblivious to the fact that citizens in their states had African heritage. As Gjelten points out in his book, “In the 1960 census, Americans of African descent out-numbered Scandinavian Americans by a margin of two and a half to one, and there were more African-Americans in the United States than there were Americans whose origins lay in Italy, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Switzerland combined.”
Apparently, as Gjelten notes, Ervin and Spessard didn’t consider African nations as “mother countries.” Of course, that is absurd. One would have to look at U.S. history through the lens of white privilege to think people with African heritage have made no contributions to American life and culture.
Some of Trump’s defenders have said Trump just said what some people are thinking when he expressed his preference for Norwegians over people

Robert Jeffress - from Twitter page
Robert Jeffress – from Twitter page

from “shithole” countries. Perhaps some white people are thinking those things, but a look at the history of the Civil Rights struggle shows that some people always have. In the 1960s, those views were shown the door legislatively. Now they are front and center in the White House, with evangelical religious leaders to defend them.
As a religious advisor to the president, Jeffress claims that the United States has the right to engage in racial discrimination in immigration policy. His evangelical peers should not let that stand without condemnation. Racial discrimination was evil in 1965 and it is evil now, wherever it occurs. There is no national interest in that kind of evil.
Tomorrow we remember Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. King, Jr. lamented the silence of the white church during the fight for civil rights. The church should not be silent now.
 
*I confirmed this conversation with Washington Post reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey. Jeffress told Bailey that the United States has the right to restrict immigration according to whatever criteria it establishes. She then asked him, “Would you include race?” He said, “Whatever criteria we deem necessary.” She asked him a direct question about race which he agreed to.

W.H. Chief of Staff John Kelly Can't Get the Confederacy Right

no Confederate flagAs has been widely reported, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly last night on the Laura Ingraham Show said Robert E. Lee was an honorable man and the Civil War was fought because the North and South couldn’t compromise. Kelly was brought into the White House to keep Trump from stepping on verbal landmines. However, he has stepped on a few of his own in recent days.
The unforced historical error comes amid two indictments and the revelation yesterday of an even more damning guilty plea from a former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos relating to the Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Some historical matters arouse little passion, some are critical to get right. Anything involving slavery and the Confederacy and understandably critical to get right. And it isn’t difficult. Lee fought for the South in the Civil War which was fought to keep African slavery as a moral good. All the compromising took place before the war and was evil. See, not hard.
A good social media place to look at for a response to Kelly is Ta-Nehesi Coates thread on Lee and the Civil War.
For more from past posts, see below:
Robert E. Lee on slavery – This post contains a letter from Lee to his wife.
The Vice-President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens on slavery as the reason for the Confederacy – This post contains the words of a speech by Stephens declaring slavery as integral to the new Confederacy.
Unfortunately, it appears that Kelly may have read too much history from David Barton. Barton believes Lee was a good guy and isn’t in favor of removing the Confederate statues. Even though Barton correctly attributes the cause of the Civil War to slavery, he falters on many other alt-right talking points.
UPDATE:
And of course, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, W.H. Spokesperson came out and defended Kelly’s comments.


The heads of thousands of sane historians explode.
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Question for Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration: What Does Indigenous Mean?

President Trump’s immigration policies have split the evangelical world. Many called on Trump to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program while others applauded the president for rescinding it.  Now that the matter is in the hands of Congress, lobbying for both sides is fierce. Some evangelical groups have promised an intense lobbying campaign to pass legislation favorable to illegal immigrants while others, such as Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration, promote a more exclusionary approach.
The EBI group recently wrote a letter to President Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them to put Americans first. The view of the world espoused by EBI sounds similar to positions espoused by segregationists during the era leading up to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Historian Paul Matzko illustrated this connection by citing a 1960 sermon by segregationist Rev. Bob Jones. Jones said, “[The Apostle] Paul said that God ‘. . . hath made of one blood all nations of men . . . .’ But He also fixed the bounds of their habitation. When nations break out of their boundaries and begin to do things contrary to the purpose of God and the directive will of God, they have trouble.”
To further illustrate, let’s compare the EBI letter to Caroline County Circuit Judge Leon Bazile’s 1959 rationale for Virginia’s law against biracial marriage in a case which involved Richard and Mildred Loving. That situation ultimately led to the Supreme Court’s 1967 landmark decision in Loving v. Virginia which struck down those prohibitions. First, the EBI letter’s statements about people and nations:

While some faith groups use selective Bible words for open borders and amnesty, we consider the whole counsel of Scripture. We find that the Bible does not teach open borders, but wise welcome. We are to welcome the lawful foreigner, who, like a convert, comes as a blessing (eg.s Ruth and Rahab). We also find Nehemiah building walls to protect citizens from harm. In Isaiah 1, we see God condemning the destruction of borders and indigenous culture.
All lives matter. The lives of North, Central and South Americans matter. The lives of Africans, Asians, Europeans and people from the Middle East matter. In Scripture, we learn that God placed us each in a family, a land, an epic story of creation, the fall and redemption. The Bible envisions a world of beautiful and unique nations, not a stateless ‘open society’ run by global oligarchs. Each of us is called to be a blessing where God has placed us in the world. (emphasis in the original)

Now read Judge Bazile’s rationale for keeping the races separate.

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

The EBI letter is not as nakedly segregationist as Bazile’s claim but contains similar reasoning. According to the Judge and the EBI letter writers, God made the borders and put the people in them. Our job is to smile, stay put, and deal with it.

What Does Indigenous Mean?

Without apparent awareness of our own history, the EBI writers say God condemns “the destruction of borders and indigenous culture.” If that is always true, then God must condemn America. The Europeans who came here obviously didn’t stay where God placed them.  Instead they came to this land and destroyed the indigenous culture. Not only did the white European take this land from the native people, the “settlers” forced the native people to leave their lands time and time again, most notably between 1830 and 1840 in what became known as the Trail of Tears. Not only were borders destroyed, but thousands of native men, women, and children died during the march from the Southeast to Oklahoma.

Indian school, Carlisle PA. Public domain
Indian school, Carlisle PA. Public domain

They were punished for using their native language, wearing native dress and for any positive reference to their indigenous culture. If the EBI signers really believe that God condemns such destruction, then they should fall to their knees in repentance and fear.
The EBI letter is a confusing hodgepodge of nativist talking points baptized with references to the Bible used out of their historical context. It is understandable that the Breitbart alt-right crowd likes it.
There are practical reasons for limiting the number of people coming to the country, but I can see no reason, biblical or otherwise, to limit people by race, religion, or national origin. God as a prop for political xenophobia does not reflect his whole counsel, but rather reflects the worldly counsel of the writers.

Faith Leaders Hold Press Conference on Racism After Charlottesville; Fail to Call Out Arpaio Pardon

UPDATE: A video of the press conference and follow up Q & A is here.
I watched the video of the press conference. Some of it I couldn’t hear due to audio problems.

What Should We Do?

Generally, the suggestions from the panel were what one might expect from a group of clergy: pray, fast, trust God. Several Trump supporters were there but Trump’s mixed messages and hurtful actions were not called out (thinking specifically of the Arpaio pardon and his ambiguous reaction to Charlottesville). On the other hand, several said the job to bring reconciliation wasn’t Trump’s but the church’s job.
In response to a CBN reporter’s question, Bishop Harry Jackson said the concrete steps suggested by the panel are a fast, a call to prayer for 40 days starting tomorrow, an affirmation of the Justice Declaration written by Prison Fellowship, and rallies in 25 cities.  Alveda King added that the committee wants to educate the public that America repented for lynchings and slavery via Congress.
On balance, the panel favored taking the monuments down. I agree.
The World Magazine report asked Trump supporters how they felt about his response to Charlottesville. Day Gardiner who sits on Trump’s diversity council said Trump loves all people and blamed “an entity” who is intent on demolishing Trump’s work. She believes he’s “on track.” Apparently Ms. Gardner has no concerns worth mentioning.
Frank Amedia the head of something called POTUS Shield took the “righteous left” to task for complaining about Trump.
None of them had anything to say about Trump’s statements or his pardon of Joe Arpaio.

What Was Missing?

Over and over the leaders declared that only God could heal racism. While I believe in the power of faith, I also know that the racist believes that the Christian God is on his side. The League of the South’s Michael Hill thanked God for their successes at Charlottesville. The racist and the anti-racist both claim Christianity. This must be confronted by Christian leaders. While they all condemned racism, I believe they also need to confront the racist theology in specific terms.
As I listened, I also wondered about how people of other religions or no religion fit in. If healing racism in America requires prayer and fasting to the Christian God, then what part do non-Christians play? I don’t think a broad movement can be led by calling on people to participate in religious dogma they don’t believe in. I don’t know if this exclusivity is a side effect of Christian nationalism but it seemed exclusionary even at the same time some of the rhetoric embraced inclusion.
Perhaps, these leaders were more correct when they addressed their comments to each other. In other words, they were right to criticize racism in Christianity. My reaction to listening to this 2 hour presser is to hope the good intentions lead to change in the church. I don’t think the church is ready to lead the nation in some political way. If these folks can’t even criticize Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio (as Martin Luther King, Jr. called out Bull Connor and police brutality in his Birmingham jail letter), then they are not ready to lead a broad coalition toward equality and justice.
At least, that’s my opinion. I could be wrong. I hope for better.
Reconciled Church presser
 
(Original post)
This morning at 9:30am EDT at the National Press Club, The Reconciled Church Initiative will hold a press conference on “The Church’s Role After Charlottesville.” The event will be webcast live on the organization’s website.

Most Influential Pastors in America

The press conference follows a meeting of what Morris called “some of the most influential pastors in America.” This meeting was held on August 21 in Los Angeles.  Listen to Morris describe the meeting during the first three minutes of this August 19 sermon:

Transcript:

Alright before we, before I get to the message, I wanna make a couple of comments about what’s going on in our nation right now.  We really need to pray uh, for our nation.  Because there’s an incredible attack of the enemy against us.  I spent over an hour on the phone this last weeken- week, with pastors, Christian leaders, Senators, uh, about what we could do in our nation right now.  Monday, I’ll be with um, some of the most influential pastors in America.  We’ve kind of called an emergency meeting.  And so I’ll fly to Los Angeles actually and Monday morning and fly back Monday night.  And we’ll spend the day in prayer and talk about how we, as pastors of some of the largest churches in America, how – what we can do to help, uh, our nation right now.
But, I want, I think it’s time for us to take a stand.  And I think it’s time for us to make it clear.  (applause)  As Christians.  As Christians, we need, to make it clear, so, so Imma  gonna make it clear for ya, alright?  The KKK, white supremacy and racism are straight from the pit of hell.  They are from the pit of hell.  There is no place for racism in Christianity.  None.  God created us equal when he created Adam and Eve he creates us one and then he does another oneness in Christ.  But we are no better than someone else and what’s going on right now in our country is, is the Enemy attacking and we need to stand up.  And we need to say something about it.  So, I want us to take a moment and pray for our nation. Will ya, will you agree with me?
So Lord we come to ya, as your sons and your daughters and God we say to you, ‘we need your help’.  Lord only you can do it  Only you can fix it. And you told us what the answer is and that is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.  And love your neighbor as yourself. And so Lord I pray for revival in this country.  I pray God what Satan means for evil, you will turn it for good. And I pray God the hatred and the racism that has been present for years will end, with this generation,Am that we will take a stand and we will end it in the name and the power and the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen and amen.”

Morris described what happened at the August 21 meeting in his Saturday sermon on the 26th. The answer? Love and prayer.

Transcript:

I just want to give you an update because many of you were praying. Uh, about fifty ­pastors from very influential churches in America came together this last week to talk about the problem of racism in America. And, um, there were about a third white pastors, about a third black pastors, about a third, uh, Hispanic and Asian. Of that third of Hispanic and Asian, about two-thirds of those were, uh, Hispanic; about a third Asian. Uh, but we had a tremendous prayer time before the Lord. We talked. We talked about what the church can do. And um, there was just, uh, there was one main conclusion. And that is that racism is, evil, and we need to call it evil and we need to preach love. (applause) So, I just want you to know that I am committed to continue to take a national stand in this area. And so, continue to pray for us. I believe, obviously, the pastors and the body of Christ, we have the answer to this. And I, I believe that God could bring a healing to this problem in this generation. And that’s what we’re praying for.

The answer? Call racism evil and preach love.
Morris and the “influential pastors in America” could start with themselves and Trump’s evangelical advisory board. Although it would be a powerful statement, I have a hunch Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio won’t come up at today’s presser. I hope they prove me wrong.

An Open Letter from Christian Scholars on Racism in America Today

Although my name won’t show up for awhile, I just added my name to the signers of the letter below. It appears to me that the letter is clearly aimed at Donald Trump, his evangelical defenders and particularly Trump’s ambiguous response to the racist protests in Charlottesville.

The letter was posted this morning at the Gospel Coalition blog and reblogged by John Fea, which is where I saw it. Below the letter is reproduced in full and I have taken the liberty of adding my name to the list of signers. Other profs who want to sign should contact Mark David Hall using the instructions below.

An Open Letter from Christian Scholars on Racism in America Today

​Like many Americans, we are grieved by recent events in Charlottesville. The white supremacist rally there showed that overt racism is alive and well in America, and that it can turn violent and murderous. As Christian scholars of American history, politics, and law, we condemn white supremacy and encourage frank dialogue about racism today.

​As Americans, we love our country. As Christians, we know that no individual, people, or nation is perfect. Among the most grievous sins committed by early Americans was the enslavement of and trafficking in Africans and African Americans. Slavery was formally abolished in 1865, but racism was not. Indeed, it was often institutionalized and in some ways heightened over time through Jim Crow legislation, de facto segregation, structural inequalities, and pervasively racist attitudes. And other persons of color, including Native Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanic-Americans, have often been subjected to official and unofficial discrimination. What we have seen in Charlottesville makes it clear once again that racism is not a thing of the past, something that brothers and sisters of color have been trying to tell the white church for years.

​Racism should be denounced by religious and civic leaders in no uncertain terms. Equivocal talk about racist groups gives those groups sanction, something no politician or pastor should ever do. As Christian scholars, we affirm the reality that all humans are created in the image of God and should be treated with respect and dignity.  There is no good moral, biblical, or theological reason to denigrate others on the basis of race or ethnicity, to exalt one race over others, or to countenance those who do.

​Even as we condemn racism, we recognize that the First Amendment legally protects even very offensive speech. Rather than trying to silence those with whom we disagree, or to meet violence with more violence, we encourage our fellow citizens to respond to groups like the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the Ku Klux Klan with peaceful counter-protests. (Indeed, this has been the approach of the vast majority of counter-protesters in recent weeks.) No one is beyond redemption, so we encourage our fellow believers to pray that members of these groups will find the truth, and that the truth will set them free.

We also recognize that white-majority churches and denominations have too often lagged in discussions of racial injustice and inequality, or have even been sources of the perpetuation of white cultural dominance and racial injustice. Because of that history, we pray that America’s churches and Christians will renew their commitment to practical, proactive steps of racial reconciliation and friendship in our cities and towns.

Respectfully,
Mark David Hall, George Fox University
Thomas S. Kidd, Baylor University

We, the undersigned, are Christian scholars who endorse this letter.  Institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.  [If you would like to add your name to this letter, please send an email to Mark David Hall at mhall@georgefox.edu.]
Scott Althaus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Bryan Bademan, Anselm House
Richard A. Bailey, Canisius College
Scott Barton, East Central University
David Beer, Malone University
Daniel Bennett, John Brown University
Thomas C. Berg, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Amy E. Black, Wheaton College
Edward J. Blum, San Diego State University
Bradley J. Birzer, Hillsdale College
William S. Brewbaker III, University of Alabama
Margaret Brinig, University of Notre Dame Law School
Matthew S. Brogdon, University of Texas at San Antonio
Thomas E. Buckley, Santa Clara University
Sean R. Busick, Athens State University
James P. Byrd, Vanderbilt University
Jay R. Case, Malone University
Justin Clardie, Northwest Nazarene University.
Robert F. Cochran, Jr., Pepperdine University School of Law
Elesha Coffman, Baylor University
Kimberly H. Conger, University of Cincinnati
K. Scott Culpepper, Dordt College
Michelle D. Deardorff, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Michael J. DeBoer, Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law
Jonathan Den Hartog, University of Northwestern-St. Paul, MN
Daniel Dreisbach, American University
W. Cole Durham, Jr., J. Reuben Clark Law School
Mark Edwards, Spring Arbor College
John Fea, Messiah College
Joel S. Fetzer, Pepperdine University
Nathan A. Finn, Union University
Kahlib J. Fischer, Liberty University
Matthew J. Franck, Witherspoon Institute
Beverly A. Gaddy, University of Pittsburgh
Edward McGlynn Gaffney, Valparaiso University School of Law
Loramy Gerstbauer, Gustavus Adolphus College
Naomi Harlin Goodno, Pepperdine University School of Law
Christopher R. Green, University of Mississippi School of Law
Jay Green, Covenant College
John G. Grove, Lincoln Memorial University
Darren Guerra, Biola University
Barry Hankins, Baylor University
Rusty Hawkins, Indiana Wesleyan University
Gail L. Helt, King University
Nicholas Higgins, Regent University
Lia C. Howard, Saint Joseph’s University
Andrew Kaufmann, Northwest University
Lyman Kellstedt, Wheaton College
Douglas L. Koopman, Calvin College
Wilfred M. McClay, University of Oklahoma
Gerald R McDermott, Beeson Divinity School
Tracy McKenzie, Wheaton College
Ron Miller, Liberty University
Christopher D. Moore, Bethel University
Lincoln A. Mullen, George Mason University
Miles S. Mullin II, Hannibal-LaGrange University
Paul Otto, George Fox University
Mikael L. Pelz, Calvin College.
Jonathan R. Peterson, North Park University
Daniel Philpott, University of Notre Dame
Otis W. Pickett, Mississippi College
Richard Pointer, Westmont College.
Charles J. Reid, Jr., University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Sosamma Samuel-Burnett, G.L.O.B.A.L Justice
Shelley Ross Saxer, Pepperdine University School of Law
Gregory Sisk, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Corwin E. Smidt, Calvin College
Brian A. Smith, Montclair State University
Gary Scott Smith, Grove City College
Sarah A. Morgan Smith, The Ashbrook Center at Ashland University
Chris Soper, Pepperdine University
Andrew Spiropoulos, Oklahoma City University School of Law
Susan J. Stabile, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Justin Taylor, Crossway Books
Boz Tchividjian, Liberty University School Law
H. Paul Thompson, Jr., North Greenville University
Warren Throckmorton, Grove City College
Benjamin Toll, Lake Superior State University
Noah J. Toly, Wheaton College
John Turner, George Mason University
Andrea L. Turpin, Baylor University
Patrick Van Inwegen, Whitworth University
Robert K. Vischer, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Jennifer E. Walsh, Azusa Pacific University
Micah Watson, Calvin College
Virgil Wiebe, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
John Wigger, University of Missouri
Daniel K. Williams, University of West Georgia
James E. Wren, Baylor Law School
Paul D. Yandle, North Greenville University
John C. Yoder, Whitworth University

Wheaton College Faculty Issue Condemnation of White Supremacy

I commend the Wheaton College faculty for this public statement condemning white supremacy. Over 140 faculty members signed it. You can read it here. In contrast, some alums of Liberty University have returned their diploma to the school in protest over president Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s support for Trump’s response to Charlottesville.
Wheaton Cville Statement
I agree with my professor brothers and sisters at Wheaton and add my support.
Hat tip to Jim West
 

David Barton Says Lee Wasn't a Racist and Likens Statues of Stalin to Confederate Statues

David Barton
David Barton

On the Joe Pags Show last Friday, David Barton likened Confederate statues as historical icons to the Holocaust ovens and Gestapo headquarters in Germany. In response to my critique of this analogy, Barton gave extended remarks to Austin American-Statesman reporter Jonathan Tilove in an article published today.  In his remarks, Barton said Confederate statues were celebratory at the time they were put up  in the same way statues of Stalin were celebratory. He also said Confederate General Robert E. Lee was “not a racist in any way, shape, fashion or form.”
Before I critique Barton’s statements about Stalin and Lee, let me observe that Barton clearly declared the evils of slavery and the Confederacy in this interview. While I disagree with his analogies and reasoning, I don’t think Barton intends for his defense of Confederate statues to encourage white supremacist Confederate sympathizers. Having made that important observation, I will say that his reference to Stalin doesn’t work and his defense of Lee is in line with the Lost Cause sanitizing of Lee’s life.

Stalin and Confederate Symbols

Tilove asked Barton about his comparison of Nazi atrocities and Confederate symbols. Barton didn’t address that point but pivoted to a new analogy involving Stalin. From Tilove’s article:

TILOVE
I [Tilove] asked if there wasn’t a difference between the maintaining of Nazi sites in Europe as a grim reminder and the heroic glorification of Confederate memorials.
Aren’t the Confederate memorials celebratory?
BARTON
They were for that period of time, in the same way that the Stalin statues that are still up in the Soviet Union were celebratory for him, but now you point at them and go, “Look, look at what they represented”, but that was in a period of time. They are up because they  were celebrated at the time.
And there’s no doubt in my mind that every one of those Confederate heroes was celebrated at the time because of where they were, the part of the country they were in, the people that supported them, but they were racist. That’s an easy teaching lesson at this point. Or it should be.

Stalin is not a good illustration for Barton’s case. In Russia currently, Stalin is returning to a position of esteem. According to USA Today, ten new statues of Stalin has gone up since 2012. Recently, Vladimir Putin criticized the “excessive demonization” of Stalin. Stalin is a respected figure in Russia as indicated by recent polls there.  Statues of Stalin were celebratory when they were put up and they are still celebratory in Russia. Barton isn’t correct that Russians look at the statues and derive some lesson about the evils of Stalinism.
Surely, Barton would not want the same result for Confederate symbols here. The Confederate statues were celebratory when erected and since the Confederacy shouldn’t be celebrated, it is past time for the monuments to come down.

Robert E. Lee

About Lee, Barton said:

TILOVE
What do you think is the appropriate approach to the Confederate memorials?
BARTON
It is kind of a case by case thing. With Robert E. Lee, I totally dislike the Confederacy, I have no sympathy for them at all. But Robert E. Lee is not a racist in any way, shape, fashion or form. He fought for Virginia, and there’s no indication of racism on his part. Now you want to go to Nathan Bedford Forrest, you bet, he’s a founder of the KKK. I’ve got all sorts of problems with him. What those guys did at Fort Pillow, the massacre there of black Union soldiers is unbelievable. So it is a case by case basis in some ways.

Barton’s statement about Lee is astounding. While some of Lee’s biographers have whitewashed his racism, other primary source evidence calls into question such a positive account. Surely Barton has read Lee’s letter to his wife dated December 27, 1856:

The views of the Pres: of the systematic & progressive efforts of certain people of the North, to interfere with & change the domestic institutions of the South, are truthfully & faithfully expressed. The consequences of their plans & purposes are also clearly Set forth, & they must also be aware, that their object is both unlawful & entirely foreign to them, their duty; for which they are irresponsible & unaccountable; & Can only be accomplished by them through the agency of a civil & servile war. In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly interested in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is Known & ordered by a wise & merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy. This influence though slow is sure. The doctrines & miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years to Convert but a small part of the human race, & even Christian nations, what gross errors still exist! While we see the Course of the final abolition of human slavery is onward, & we give it the aid of our prayers & all justifiable means in our power we must leave the progress as well as the result in his hands who Sees the end; who Chooses to work by slow influences ; & with whom two thousand years are but a single day. Although the abolitionist must Know this; & must see that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means & suasion, & if he means well to the slave, he must not create angry feelings in the master; that although he may not approve the mode by which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same: that the reasons he gives for interference in what he has no Concern, holds good for every Kind of interference with our neighbours when we disapprove their Conduct; Still I fear he will persevere in his evil Course. Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others.

Lee’s version of Christianity required him to fight for African slaves stay in bondage because God willed it. God may take thousands of years to correct the situation but, for Lee, that was preferable to the work of the abolitionist. He called the abolitionist’s work an “evil Course.” Lee’s viewed African slaves as needing “painful discipline” before they could be free. This can only be described as some “shape, fashion or form” of racial superiority which Lee justified with Christianity.
Furthermore, there is primary evidence that Lee was not kind to his slaves, especially those who were caught trying to escape. On such slave, Wesley Norris, told his story in 1866.  Lee was executor of the estate of his wife’s deceased father and as such administered the treatment of slaves. Norris described the beatings ordered by Lee for him and his sister. According to Norris, Lee told the overseer to “lay it on well.” I encourage readers to consult Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s book on Lee for a fuller picture of the Confederate General.
While I agree statues should be evaluated on a case by case basis, I think Barton’s view of Lee is informed more by the Lost Cause than accurate history. If Barton has evidence that Lee was not a racist nor a supporter of slavery, I encourage him to produce it.
Tilove’s post is fascinating and advances the discussion surround the monuments. I encourage you to read the whole piece.

Trump Calls Confederate Monuments Beautiful and Says Culture Ripped Apart by Removal

Trump court evangelical pic
In a series of tweets, President Trump this morning lamented the movement to remove Confederate statues from American cities. Trump doubled down on his remarks at the press conference two days ago when he said there were good people among the Nazis and white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville.


With this rhetoric, Trump echos what the League of the South and other white supremacist groups have been promoting. The movement to preserve Confederate tributes have been led by secessionist and white supremacist organizations.
I maintain that Christians should take the lead in removing these symbols from the public square.
These tweets are certain to inflame the passionate debate surrounding these symbols and encourage the white supremacist and alt-right element of his base.
This issue might get a rise from some of his evangelical advisors. When New Orleans removed Confederate statues from the public square, a former Southern Baptist Convention president signed a petition to have them removed. Fred Luter was a part of that effort.