I wonder how you feel about statues- torn down, kept up or otherwise. My first degree was in history so I had to get used to the idea of our past being written and rewritten as time went by- one moment a particular person was a hero in every book, ten years later rewritten as a villain. Someone proscribed as a terrorist in the 1970s might well be hailed as a freedom fighter today. And the converse is true. The whole of our history is a journey through good and bad decisions, and our monuments reflect that. Our perceptions are constantly shifting and I, for one, am profoundly thankful that nobody is asking me to decide whether we should “take down” or “put up” a memorial to any particular individual…
But whoever you choose to build a statue in memory of, and whatever amazing work they have accomplished, they will have failings. They may be truly terrible failings or what we would regard as fairly trivial ones but, as St Paul says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. One of the ten commandments given to Moses forbids the people of God from “bowing down before any graven image”.
We idolise people at our peril- whether we raise statues in their honour or not. Like the statue dreamed of in the book of Daniel, the head may be of gold, but all too often we find that the feet are made of clay. Nobody can remain completely perfect, spotless, ethically pure. We are human- and we make mistakes. It will plainly be wrong to raise any memorial to some people, and it might plainly be a good thing to remember and memorialise the life of another- but the areas of uncertainty in between are wide indeed. Our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters allow no statues in their places of worship- and we could do worse than reflect on the reasons for that.
As followers of Jesus, there is only one name we should constantly raise high. The name of the one who was raised on the cross out of love for us and for our broken world.
As many councils and educational institutions are now considering their memorials and statues and what to do with them, lets pray that they are blessed with true wisdom, and let us resolve, ourselves, to offer our praise and worship to the name that is above every name, the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.