Righteous in their time

We live in a time when it has become politically correct to destroy statues of such historic figures as Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Christopher Columbus, Andrew Jackson, and others. A lesson about such statue-tory destruction can be learned by comparing the Jewish Bible (sometimes called the Old Testament) with the Christian Bible (New Testament) and Koran. The latter two books present perfect heroes: no one could be better than Jesus, and Muslims believe that Mohammed is beyond criticism. The Jewish Bible, on the other hand, presents all of its heroes as deeply flawed—that is, human. King David sinned mightily by sending Bathsheba’s husband to the front line to be killed so David could marry her. Abraham lied, claiming that his wife was his sister, and came close to slaughtering his son. Joseph framed his brothers by planting a valuable item in their baggage. Moses lost his temper and struck the rock. And on and on. I have always loved the Jewish Bible, precisely because of the imperfections of its heroes. It teaches its readers not to expect or to aspire to perfection, but only to improvement. It also judges people by their times. For example, it describes Noah as a ‘righteous man in his generation.; We should think about that phrase as we watch statues being promiscuously destroyed, Taliban-style, without balancing the good that imperfect humans achieved against the deeds we now correctly judge as evil. Washington and Jefferson were righteous men in their generation—a generation plagued by the unrighteousness of slavery. Although Washington freed his slaves upon his death and Jefferson tried to condemn slavery in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, both could have done more to end the scourge of enslavement. For this they should be criticized, but their lives should also be viewed holistically, comparatively, and with a generosity of spirit. They did much good that cannot be ignored in any reckoning.

From Cancel Culture.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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