by Dr. Stan Hudson, who served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 38 years and is currently the Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference
There is a nationwide movement currently to tear down certain monuments. Mostly, it is because they are considered to have negative ramifications in the ongoing debates about systematic racism. Statues of Confederate war generals, representing a large part of America that endorsed and practiced slavery, are coming down. Images that included stereotypical representations of African Americans or Native Americans are also coming down. Product brands such as Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, or Lady of the Lake are being rebranded, in an attempt to clean up such dated views. These are all genuine attempts to move on from the past into a more positive future.
Some years ago, I was part of an “Operation Bearhug” evangelistic team that went to the then newly-opened Russia. This was the era of Glasnost, and the country of Russia was in the middle of a complete shaking of their national image. They had given up the “Soviet Union” (not much was really unified) and they were moving into a realization that they were NOT the superpower they had thought they were. And in that insecure period they were very open to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Shaking a secure nation is not always a bad thing.
It is also a part of human history that when a new culture or power takes over a nation, sometimes it includes removing old images of the previous rulers. Ancient Egypt serves as an example. You will be hard pressed to find many images of Moses’ Egyptian adopted mother, the “daughter of Pharaoh” named Hatshepsut. Her statues were defaced as were many other representations, apparently done by the successor Thutmose III and his son. The new rulers wanted to move away from that past.
In the Biblical record, monuments were erected to mark events of God’s grace. For instance, when Israel marched into Canaan over the dried-up Jordan: “Then he [Joshua] spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” Joshua 4:21-24. I suppose remembering how God had led them out of Egypt would include memories of resistance to His leading? Nevertheless, they were to remember God’s power in deliverance as foremost.
Here in America the idea is to remove reminders of the painful past, especially when the reminders seem to glorify those most responsible for it. I think we all should listen carefully to these voices calling for a new view of the past. For some Americans our national history is mostly positive, which is where we wish it would stay. For many others that history is not so positive and images that recall that part of our past should be removed.
Perhaps some images should be left, if for no other reason than to show how the past really was and to learn and grow from it. Perhaps.
I am personally grateful that the monument to my painful past, the record of my sin, will forever have been removed and buried “in the depths of the sea.” Oh, but that’s not entirely true! For the reminder of my sin will be preserved in the only physical remembrance of this rebellious planet that will endure: the scars of Calvary on the hands, feet, side and brow of my loving Savior. These He will bear for eternity. They are monuments to God’s grace, pictures to remind us of His patient leading of us over the River Jordan. But instead of drawing tears of regret from millions of sinners it will draw “hallelujahs” and praises from glorified saints..
So, here’s a statement you can take to the bank, something I’ve preached for decades: “God is far more interested in your future than He is in your past.” Amen!