The Bible makes it clear that we are all hopeless before God. No matter how many “good works” we do in our lives, we are damned before the Creator. We have sinned, and we are more deeply stained with sin than we realize. This eternal truth from Scripture has special relevance today as we debate tearing down statues, including of our founding fathers and other great men in history.
Of course our founding fathers were sinful men. Every single person born since Adam consumed the Forbidden Fruit has been stained by sin. Not just lying and stealing, but the most horrifyingly evil things imaginable… and many evils that some of us cannot even imagine. The question is not whether these men were flawed, because they obviously were. The question is whether they accomplished great things and whether those we should have memorials to those great things.
This brings us to Thomas Jefferson and others who owned slaves. American chattel slavery was evil, and was founded on “man stealing.” The Bible commands that this act be punished by death in Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7. Not only did Jefferson own slaves, but he raped one of his slaves and fathered children by her. This is the same man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, one of the most important documents in all of human history. But he did not apply those good principles to his own life.
It is easy for us to look back and say we would have opposed slavery in 1800. I am sure some of us would have, because there were abolitionists at the time. The vast majority of us would not. An even bigger majority of people living today would have seen blacks as less than human, or at least far inferior to whites. This is because we are all products of our time. This is not moral relativism. This is a call for humility and an understanding of our own sin nature.
A statue of a historical figure does not mean we endorse every aspect of someone’s life. The greatest men and women of history are all deserving of eternal Hell Fire. We can condemn Jefferson’s wicked personal life while recognizing how important he was to the founding of our nation, and how important he was in defending liberty by opposing the tyrannical Alien and Sedition Act. Jefferson was a great man who was critically important to the founding of our nation, and he also engaged in great personal wickedness.