“All are welcome. No exceptions,” reads the cheap, blue sign zip-tied to the wrought iron fence between brick pillars outside Christ Church in Alexandria.
“All,” that is, except George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Or, anyone who reveres either of the two great generals. Or, even the memory of them.
“No exceptions,” unless you are someone who believes history should be studied, remembered and learned from. Unless you are someone who cringes in despair when you see Islamic State fighters swinging sledgehammers against antiquities they wish to obliterate today for political purposes.
Nearly 250 years after Washington helped found Christ Church, the vestry decided last week to tear down the memorial to the great American founder and first president.
Along with it, they are tearing down another memorial marker to Lee, who also attended Christ Church back in the day before it became hijacked by political peacocks more interested flaunting their own self-perceived virtues than just sticking to Scripture.
By their own definition, then, the congregants of Christ Church for two centuries have happily bumped along as white supremacists celebrating slavery and exhibiting open hostility toward outsiders, especially “people of color.”
It is true that Washington had slaves. And it is true that Lee fought for the Confederacy.
But, as one patriot might say, our peculiar history is “full of contradictions.”
“So is independence,” another might reply.
The vestry of Christ Church in Alexandria, however, is not capable of grappling with such complexities. Truly, pearls before swine. After all, it is so much easier just to obliterate painful history than to understand it and learn from it.
“Today our country is trying once again to come to grips with the history of slavery and the subsequent disenfranchisement of people of color,” the vestry wrote, so boldly.
OK, fine. It’s a free country. It’s your church, though it is anguishing to think of the many good, longtime members of Christ Church who are heartbroken and will be left spiritual orphans by this cruel and selfish decision.
But, truly, Great Vestry, why carry out such meaningless bleating of a sacrificial lamb that already been slaughtered? Have the true courage of your convictions.
Taking down a monument means nothing. It helps no one in any real way. Just makes some people feel better for a minute.
Isn’t that, after all, the very meaning of “white privilege”? Paying restitution with fake money? How about real reparations to show real repentance for your two centuries of sinful hatred toward “people of color”?
How much money did Washington donate to start the Christ Church in 1773? You are not really going to keep that blood money, are you?
And what of the personal Bible that Washington’s family left the church after his death? Such a priceless artifact would go for millions and millions of dollars today. Are you going to keep the massive proceeds of that slaver bounty?
Perhaps — at least in your dull eyes — even more odious is the $10,000 Lee’s daughter left you in 1918. A quick inflation calculation pegs that at more than $175,000 in today’s blood money. Will you return that to the Lee Family, thou Great and Virtuous Vestry?
And one other thing. The vestry complains that the markers to Washington and Lee are the reason they have so much trouble attracting “people of color” to their congregation. I look forward to performing random inspections of the church in the months and years to come to learn if the monuments to Washington and Lee really are what repels “people of color” from Christ Church in Alexandria.
Or, is it something else? Something deeper? Guess we will find out.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter via @charleshurt.