Growing up I observed a curious thing in funerals. People after their death became saints, upstanding members of the community, great spouses, great parents, and beloved by all. Even after getting shot robbing a liquor store. Even when they had not been inside a church since 5th Grade Vacation Bible School. Even when they were most of the audience was there just to make sure they went in the grave. Trust me, I am even related to some of those people, it didn’t matter who they had been, dying gave everyone amnesia.
The same thing happened on a grander scale after the Civil War. A war fought because rich white people wanted to own human beings somehow got transformed into “State’s Rights” and noble genteel figures fighting off the rapacious barbarism of the North. Birth of Nation gets shown in the White House. Confederates have schools and statues erected in their honor. There are still states that have Robert E. Lee’s Birthday as a state holiday. I see the Confederate Battle Flag in Fort Wayne, Indiana almost as often as I did in rural Alabama. Celebrations of traitors, terrorists, and slavers that are disgusting and indefensible. Trust me, I am even related to some of those people.
The Bible makes it clear that the sins of the past continue to haunt us. Not just our own but those of our ancestors. They taint us and out culture and nation. We can hide it, we can deny it, and we can try to forget it, but it is always there.
Unless we are willing to the very difficult work of learning out past and repenting of it we will never get past it. We should not get past it. Every single racial issue in this country, every injustice, every act of violence, all stem back to a dock in Jamestown in 1619 when people who could have said “no” to evil did not. We have been living with that day ever since.